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Steel for Brains

Exploring the Brains behind the Noise

SfB’s two-part interview feature with Coffinworm's Dave Britts (vocals) concludes with this installment.  Click here to read the first part of this revealing conversation.  

What is it specifically about heavy music, for you personally, that makes it the perfect medium for you to channel those emotions, experiences, and memories?

I would say it’s a little ‘Column A’ and a little ‘Column B.’ In my youth, once I got turned on to punk and hardcore…it’s weird, because I grew up listening to punk, metal, hardcore, and rap in addition to shit like Billy Idol and Duran Duran.  So at an early age I was introduced to all this stuff, but there’s always been something, and I think the same holds salient for all five of us because we all like tons of different styles of music, but metal just seems to fit hand in glove with the style that’s conducive to us creating what we do, if that makes sense. 

And I would say that as far as me as a lyricist, it’s really weird because I’ve been in tons of different bands and done tons of different shit, but it was never until this band that I really felt like there was this intrinsic link between being in a band and actually aspiring to create something and aspiring to confide in the listener, so to speak, thoughts about myself, thoughts about how I view the world.  And it’s the same with those dudes – writing the types of riffs and sequencing the way we do, it just seems to be natural.  I think metal, when played with heart, which is the way it should be played, I feel like you can immediately tell those who do it out of the love for it and for the passion as well as for the absolute catharsis that can only come from that style of music.

That’s why I think people who are over the age of thirty – I think that’s why they continue to play it and do it.  I think that’s why the term “lifer” exists is because those are people who are kind of not only addicted to the adrenal rush of playing live with your best friends and just locking into the groove and just doing what you do, but also it is the most compelling catharsis.  When we play a show, when I’m done, my body is like a hollow shell.  I feel like I’m components to a spell that has been cast, my body is burnt up, and it usually takes me about three days to walk straight or to even bend my fucking neck, and that’s just something that I’m not gonna get playing any other style of music. 

I’m not gonna get that playing with any other people but these four dudes.   It’s just a perfect conduit for that.  You couldn’t sing about the shit that I sing about in another style of music and not have motherfuckers being like ‘What the fuck is this person fuckin’ doin’?’  If some rap group had a song called “Spitting Into Infinity’s Asshole” or if Lady Gaga’s new record had a song called “The Sadistic Rites of Count Tabernacula” people would look at her like she’s even weirder than she already fucking is.  And there’s still people who scratch their heads over that shit with us, but it’s the perfect trick. 

I think metal, fundamentally, is about catharsis.  It’s about creating, immersing, and doing not to be seen but just to do.  It’s not something you do to get laid.  It’s not something you do to look cool.  It’s something you do because you feel you have to, and nine times out of ten it’s been my experience that that compulsion is because there’s something inside of you that you have to let it out.  You can do it safely with some metal music, or you can become a serial killer and go open fire at a shopping mall.  It’s what keeps me sane. 


When you talk about catharsis and that cleansing agent that heavy music provides, it makes me think about the possible reasons that the genre is appealing to a broader fanbase now.  Extreme music is experiencing a kind of renaissance in a way, to me at least, and there’s something incredible special about that.  How have you seen that growth and what’s your take on it?

I’m an old motherfucker.  I’m 38, so I’m not older than most, but I’m old enough.  When I discovered death metal and black metal and grind, it was over.  I mean, we’re talking eighth or ninth grade, and it was over.  I had found the thing.  I remember sitting on Christmas Day when all my relatives would be like ‘What do you want for Christmas?’ I’d say “Money,” and I remember Christmas Day that’s what I’d do.  I would have stacks of zines with addresses highlighted or bent pages.  I’d have a stack of envelopes, a stack of stamps, a pen, and a pad.  And I would write letters and stuff cash and colored paper like newspapers and advertisements and order demos from all these countries where I couldn’t even point out where the fuck they were on a map. 

I was just wanting zines, seven inches, demos, CDs, tapes, records – whatever the fuck I could find.  Back then, even then that style of metal wasn’t popular, but you could still go to the mall and find Slayer records or Exodus records or Anthrax, Metalchurch, and shit like that.  I think the thing with popularity and metal is that while it would seem very divisive, it’s always been popular in terms of a) it’s lucrative for the record labels that have been doing it.  I mean, look at Metal Blade or even Relapse.  Metal Blade, in particular, because they’ve been around far longer, but they’ve always exposed people to new bands and new ideas, and obviously it’s been profitable or they would’ve quit doing it. 

So I think that it’s a cycle where everything will be cool then it’ll be uncool then cool again then uncool, but the people who listen to it, because it has importance to their life, will always be there.  But then again, you’ve also gotta make way for the new people.  I wasn’t born with the first Fear of God seven inch in my hand or the new fucking Grave Miasma in my hand.  I was drawn to that, and so a lot of people can hate on metal’s popularity or hate on the fact that you might be on NPR, and you hear somebody talk about Deathspell Omega or talking about shit like this, but I think that we sometimes get jaded and forget that we were once young kids who were very passionate and excited about something, and we got led to that revelation by other bands that, odds are good, weren’t as extreme looking back as we thought. 

Now we think ‘Oh man, that shit was weak.  I can’t believe I liked that,’ but for every kid who buys an Avenged Sevenfold or any stuff like that, I may not personally enjoy it, but that kid may turn around and say ‘Whoa, let me listen to Skeletonwitch now,’ and then they’re going back and checking out Exodus from there or Dissection.  It’s all a path.  I don’t think there’s anything fundamentally wrong with bands getting exposure.  It doesn’t really impact me.  I looked at my fucking Paypal account the other day, and I spent $1400 on records in a month.  A month.  And I’m just like ‘What’s wrong with me?’  But then I think about it, and I listen to music.  I don’t collect it to look cool.  I don’t collect it to get laid.  I listen to it because it speaks to me. 

It’s all kind of a self-selecting choose your own misadventure.  If you’re the type of person that you’re drawn one way, and this is your conduit to exposure to new music or new ideas, then that works for you.  You might be someone who digs deeper.  You might be someone who’s archaic in your ways.  But there’s room for us all to sit at the dinner table.  It’s not a popularity contest.  We’ve seen that come and go.  Metal itself is divisive and prone to conflict, and that’s fine.  It is violent music, and appeals to and is played by maniacs, deviants, and derelicts.  I understand that, but it’s funny when you see these same people like I was reading the other day where someone was complaining about how Wolves in the Throne Room are doing a new record without drums and with no vocals.  And it’s like who gives a fuck?  They did their best records.  They did some good records, but the records I don’t like?  I didn’t not like them because it was cool to not like them or cool to like them.  They just didn’t fucking speak to me.  

This whole armchair music criticism of dwelling on a message board with people who have so many opinions on every minute aspect of every band’s lineage and who they are and how the demo was better or how they liked them better when they had that guitar player – these motherfuckers should spend more time listening to music that they actually do like instead of whining about shit they don’t.  If you’re a fan of metal or just fucking music period, then listen to what you do like and ignore the shit that sucks.  I think motherfuckers just wanna be the cool kids on the playground.  They wanna be the ones who look cool liking the music that no one knows who are mysterious and edgy. 

If you really like a band, why would you want to doom them to working a series of terrible, go nowhere fast food jobs, or retail jobs instead of supporting their vision and letting them make a fucking buck or two and continue making music that speaks to you?  It’s poisonous thinking, and I don’t think it makes any sense to anyone who lives in the real world or who doesn’t live with their parents.  It’s insular and self-rewarding.  That’s the only reason.  You can be passionate and say shit like ‘So and so’s new record sucks.’  I get that.  We all do that about bands that we adore and bands that we just don’t care for.  But don’t shit on it just because it just so happens that only you and your necrobuttbuddy know about it.  Who fucking cares?

Thanks to Dave for his time.

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7 months ago
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