Q&A: Dying Fetus' Trey Williams on new album 'Reign Supreme,' tour and death metal
Editor’s note: This post contains some explicit language and material that may be considered offensive.
Death metal has always been about pushing limits to the extreme, either musically or lyrically. Naming your band Dying Fetus is a great first step in the right direction.
The extreme music trio, consisting of John Gallagher on guitar and vocals, Sean Beasley on bass and vocals and Trey Williams on drums, is currently on a headlining stretch across the U.S. They’re touring alongside fellow heavy metal heavyweights Cattle Decapitation and Cerebral Bore, among others.
Before Dying Fetus make their stop at the DNA Lounge in San Francisco Dec. 9, Trey Williams took the time to talk with the Xpress about the tour, their newest release, “Reign Supreme,” the extreme metal lifestyle and the band’s future plans.
Thanks for speaking with us, Trey. How’s the tour going so far?
It’s been great so far. Cattle Decapitation has been having a little bit of a hard time, at one point. On our way from Florida to Texas , their trailer blew an axle, but everything ended up being OK. They didn’t miss any shows, but, other than that, you know, it’s been great. The turnout’s been good, crowds have been very generous with their energy and we’ve been having a good time.
I heard Cerebral Bore had a little trouble with their lineup; that they’re front-person left the band on short notice? That didn’t mess anything up, did it?
No that didn’t mess anything up either. Yes, their previous vocalist, Som, she bailed on them and they got Shawn Whitaker to come in to do vocals at the last minute and he’s been doing a pretty good job.
Yeah, Shawn is pretty amazing. So how have your tourmates been, traveling with Cattle Decapitation and Cerebral Bore?
Yeah everything’s been good with Cerebral Bore and those guys. Everything’s cool, this has been the second tour in a row we’ve done with Cerebral Bore so we know those guys pretty well. And Cattle Decapitation, we have some friends in that band and it’s nice to see some old friends again.
So there are no other crazy stories on the road of blown axles or anything?
No. No wild craziness going on. Except for the action in the pit and that’s about it.
So for a little back history, you joined Dying Fetus in 2007, right? How did that come about?
Correct. I was playing in a band called Covenance and we were touring with Dying Fetus and at the end of that tour with them, they asked me to come and try out. Five years later I’m still in the band, so, I think it was a good tryout (laughs).
Have you guys been getting a good response for your new album, “Reign Supreme?”
Oh yeah, yeah. People have been diggin’ it so far, and we’ve been selling some CDs, and that’s a good thing, you know. People are calling out song titles at the shows, and it’s been good to know that they’ve been listening and what songs they like. So far the album’s been received very well, I think. And that’s good.
The album is a bit more dynamic compared to your last releases. “Invert the Idols” sounds like a straight-up death-metal song, it’s very intense and very aggressive, while “In the Trenches” sounds like a hardcore song. Is that something you guys were going for in writing the album?
Yeah, without straying too far from what we do, we wanted to put out an album that had a little more groove in it, had a little more hooks in it. Songs like you mentioned, “In the Trenches,” like you said, pretty much it’s a hardcore song. Hardcore, the style, is a part of what Dying Fetus does, so it’s not too much of a departure. I think the main departure from that song is there are no blast-beats.
The new record sounds tighter and cleaner than the last one as well, whereas that one sounded cleaner than the one before it. Is this something that you guys are conscious of in the studio in trying to make each release sharper than the last?
I think every band wants to do that, you know. They want to have a better production each time, and if we’ve been able to achieve that then that’s a good thing, I think. I’ve been progressing as a musician myself, in my playing ability, and I think that shows within the album. It’s just an evolution of any band’s sound, you polish your style up and you refine it to a degree that it becomes more precise.
What’s the songwriting process for you guys? Does John write all the music or does Sean write as well?
Well on this album, John wrote all the music. On “Descend into Depravity” (2009), Sean wrote two songs. As far as lyrics go, John and Sean both split the album kind of in half, and did half the vocals for the album, each one. I think that’s a big departure for us too because typically John has just stayed behind his guitar; he’s never really put his thoughts to paper and this album shows him actually taking part in the lyric writing process, which is a big change for him.
So it was Sean who predominately wrote the lyrics on your last two releases?
Who are some of your drumming influences? Whether it’s death-metal or other genres?
Oh man, all the guys who are really good out there, man. One of my biggest influences is Dave Wittie. He’s the current drummer for Municipal Waste but I like the stuff he did in the past with bands like Human Remains and Discordance Axis. Before I was in Dying Fetus I was a big fan of Kevin Talley’s drumming when he was in Dying Fetus. John Longstreth from Origin and George Kollias from Nile; all those death metal guys, I admire and look at those guys and I try to take as much as I can from them.
Did you know growing up, playing the drums, that this was the kind of music that you’d want to be playing?
Um, yeah. Once I started playing drums I knew that this is what I wanted to do, pretty much. I wanted to play extreme metal.
How would you describe the sound of Dying Fetus to people who don’t listen to death metal, or extreme metal of that sort?
An intense punch to your gut. And, we want to bring the intensity to the public in as a direct way as possible without any frills, without any magic tricks. We just come out there and we play heavy metal. We play heavy metal as best we can. And that’s what I would tell somebody who’s not into this stuff, because I can’t use references like “Oh, we have, like, grindcore and hardcore influences,” because if you’re not into metal, you’re not going to know what it is. You can understand the term of “punch to the gut,” so, you know, that’s what we do (laughs).
What do you think are some of the bigger misconceptions about playing in a death metal band or being in a death metal band?
Well, I mean, they just think it’s a joke, you know. Most people who aren’t into this scene, they just think it’s a joke. They think “aw, that’s cute, you have a hobby, when are you gonna grow up?” And what they don’t understand is, this is our life. This is how we make our living. We make our living by doing this and we are dead-fucking serious about this. You know, we have fun with it too but we’re serious about this stuff. For somebody who doesn’t understand it, they’ll never understand it, unless they want to. If they want to understand it and they have an open mind to music, they can sit and listen and find some merit in it, whether it be the song writing, or in the technical ability of the players playing the music. I think that if somebody has an open mind in music, they can find something interesting in any style of music. If you’re shut down to it, there’s no change in you. There’s no change in their opinion.
A lot of people don’t understand how much work goes into being in a touring band these days. Would you say that another misconception lies in the amount of money to be made? I mean, you guys make enough money to eat, but you aren’t exactly rolling in cash.
You’re right. It’s not like… we’re not selling Gold records. We’re lucky to sell 3,000 albums in the first week. Which I know to maybe a local band sounds like an insanely high number, but when you think about what guys like Lil’ Wayne and Jay-Z sell, (laughs), that ain’t crap. I remember when I was just a fan, and I would see these bands and I would be like “Oh my God! They’ve got it made! They don’t have to work for shit!” And that’s not the case. I mean, now, being a peer to some of these bands who I used to look up to, you know, like Suffocation and Deicide and Morbid Angel and all these other bands it’s like, some of these guys, man, when they’re not playing music, they have to go back to work, which is the case for me. You know, if I’m not on the road constantly I’m not making money. So, I have to work when I go home, and that’s the case for a lot of these guys, man. A lot of these guys out here, you’re seeing us, and you might be thinking “you’ve got it made,” but to be honest, we’ve still got bills to pay just like you do too, and we’re people too, you know? The only thing that makes a little more special is we wrote a song you might like (laughs), that’s it.
Going back to the hazards of the road, there seems to be a theme of tour buses and vans trying to blow up and kill their owners this winter. The Acacia Strain, for instance, their van flipped over a couple weeks ago and they had to cancel the rest of their dates with Veil of Maya. What’s going on here?
Yeah I heard about it. There’s a band I like, they don’t really play around anymore, called Canderia, and they put out an album called “What Doesn’t Kill You…” and the cover of the album is a picture of their van after they got, like, hit by a semi. The guys, they got pretty hurt in it and they got a good settlement out of it but I mean, yeah, it’s treacherous out there, man. I mean, hell, Metallica lost a bass player that way, with a bus accident. In fact, I think I even heard that Baroness got into a wreck on that same road that Metallica got hurt on back in the day when Cliff Burton died, you know, their tour bus in Europe went over. I think that even if you’re in a bus, stuff can happen. Hell, man, stuff can happen to you anywhere, you know, it doesn’t matter. You can play the odds, the odds are greater of you dyin’ than of you livin’.
Since the year is drawing to a close, are there any releases you’ve been listening to and recommend? Not necessarily death metal?
The new Cattle Decapitation is really good. I actually haven’t listened to much new metal recently, so I’ve been, listening to a lot of old grindcore, so I really can’t comment too much on what the latest-greatest release is. In fact I don’t really have my ear to the ground, so to say, to know what’s hip and new out there. Most of the time whenever I heard something new it’s at a show, and we’re playing with that band, and I’m like “Oh, damn, this is really cool, let me pick up that CD.” I really don’t listen to much stuff that comes out. I remember I got asked to do a top 5 albums of 2012 and I’m like, uh, I haven’t got any new albums in 2012 (laughs).
That kind of goes back to the idea of how busy it is to be in a touring band. You guys are traveling the world hundreds of days out of the year.
Yep. That’s true. That’s when I’ll get introduced to something new, by somebody else that’s in another band and we’ll see somebody live and be like “Oh shit, that’s awesome.”
What are the immediate plans for Dying Fetus after this tour?
Well, we have a few weeks off and then start up a tour with Hatebreed and Shadow’s Fall. We’ll be doing some touring in N. America and in the United States with them. For the rest of 2013 we’ll, um, be doing a lot more touring. We’re still working on some plans. Hopefully we’re gonna hit Australia and Southeast Asia in the spring, and I think we’re going to do a little bit of stuff in Mexico. We’re going try to do a lot of touring support for this album, “Reign Supreme,” and go out there and play this music for the people. Play it right to their face, punch ‘em in the gut (laughs).
Thank you for your time, Trey, good luck with the rest of the tour.
And I thank you for your time, I appreciate it.