Metal fans are always divided in front of one of their favourite bands sudden evolution. Some automatically reject experimentation, saying this is pure betrayal. Some others always look for bands which evolves each album after each one. But when a band induces enough new elements and different structures without losing its primal aggressiveness, you can be sure it will become huge. Skinless is one of these bands. From their very beginning, Skinless plays Brutal death metal and now they fight against mediocrity and ambient conformity. Hereís an interview done by email with Skinless guitarist Noah Carpenter in september 2003, question by Jean from IN EXTREMIS and Gab
For those morons who don't know SKINLESS yet, can you summarize your history as a band until "Foreshadowing Our Demise"?
I started the band in 1992 with some friends from school. I'm the only original member left since the first few years were plagued with line-up changes. We recorded a few demos and in 1998 we had a solid dedicated band to head into the studio to record our first full-length cd "ProgressionTowards Evil". "PTE" helped Skinless make a name in the underground death-metal world and we played shows and fests all over the USA including tours with Mortician and Incantation. From our hard work and energetic live performances we caught the attention of Relapse records and signed the deal in late 2000. "Foreshadowing Our Demise" was released in march 2001 and we continued to tour heavily including tours in Japan and Europe.
Now your third album "From Sacrifice To Survival" is just released on Relapse this month. I find this one really different from "Foreshadowing...": SKINLESS evolved a lot in the composition point of view. Your death-metal sounds really more complex and fluid than ever before. What did you want to reach or achieve this time?
We didn't want to be just another death-metal band. We wanted to find a way to make Skinless stand apart from the stale death-metal masses who all sound the same. We spent a lot of time in the writing process for this album and we had a checklist of what we wanted to achieve. We were more open to experimentation with this album and challenged our musical and writing abilities. Sherwood and Joe contributed more riffs to this album than usual too so there was more diversity. Bringing in a new drummer (John Longstreth) really helped spice things up a bit too and we were able to do things that were previously not possible.
What did happen to motivate this change? Were there some musicians' changes, or did something special occur in your life?
Well, I mentioned John coming over from Origin to join the band just in time to help us finish writing and to beef up the tunes we already had completed. I've been listening to mostly classic 80's metal so I wanted to incorporate some of that style into our sound. The other guys had some new ideas they wanted to toss into the mix also. We just didnít want to write another album that sounds exactly like the other two. As a musician it's important to keep things fresh and try new things but to also keep the strong points of the band. It's not easy.
Your new album also includes a bunch of more melodic touches, some guys even calling it "gay" (Ah ah, fuck them!). How would you define the musical style of your new album? How would you compare this new release to your 2 previous cds?
People get sooo pissed off sometimes when a band changes a little. I think the album is still heavy as hell and a little melody never killed anyone. "Sacrifice..." is a solid mixture of brutality and melody. It's hard to put a certain label on our sound. It's just brutal death-metal with groove and melody. I think it's better in every way than our older albums. The production is much improved, as well as musicianship, songwriting, layout, flow, originality, etc.....We are very proud of "Sacrifice...". We've matured as writers but we can still go out there and act like we're 17 years old though.
Inside the cd booklet, there's a picture from the band with Neil Kernon who produced the new album. It seems the experience was very pleasant to immortalize the moment in such a way. Which kind of production were you looking for? How did you spend the recording sessions with Neil?
We knew that Neil was a great guy because we had talked with him a few times previously. We didn't really know what to expect when heading into the studio. We didn't know if he would be one of those guys that trashes our songs and makes us rewrite them or whatever. As it turns out it was a great experience. The song structures remained as we had intended but he helped us get the right sounds for each instrument and to make them all compliment each other. He also told us some helpful tuning secrets for certain parts where it sounds better to flatten the note a bit depending on how hard you play. Anyway, his patience really helped us all get through the tracking process without getting too frustrated. We ended it getting a sound with more clarity and punch which is what we wanted. Our old albums are a bit muddy. Time was short in the studio because we had to head out on a European tour so we really didn't get to go out and have some beers and shoot the shit with Neil as much as we wanted but maybe next time.
My english is not good enough but it seems your lyrics are very different from the average US death-metal bands. What kinds of texts do you write? What are the subjects you're interested in? Are your lyrics an important part of SKINLESS?
Sherwood writes most of the lyrics but this album certainly has a theme of war. With the build-up to the Iraq war, terrorism, religious tension ...etc, there was no shortage of lyrical inspiration. The title track explains that war is part of human nature, always has been. There are too many things inthe world to fight about and there will never be total peace. Sad but true. Our lyrics have improved much over the years and we take them seriously but mainly Skinless just likes to play live and have fun and that's the most important aspect of the band.
This is John Longstreth from Origin who's the drummer on your new album. Is he only a session drummer or will he be a permanent member of the band?
John is now a member of Skinless and he is no longer with Origin.
Your new cover artwork looks really special. Who did draw it? Is there a meaning, a message behind it?
The artist is Mike Sutfin and the cover is open to interpretation. Even the members of Skinless have different ideas of what it means. It's the culmination of ideas from all of us and the input of the artist too. We also wanted a cover that didn't look like a typical death-metal cover with gore or whatever. Take a look and decide what it all means to you.
The American brutal-death scene was very strong few years ago, then a bunch of bands of the style split up, and nowadays one could see some purely American brutal-death bands emerge from the deepest pits of the American underground. The style seems to gain more strength nowadays. In your opinion which American bands will become more important in the following years?
Dying Fetus is a band that never lets up. I think that they're one of the best in the world right now in this style. We hope to keep rising too. It's really hard to say, any band that stays together and is hard working and smart has a shot at bigger and better things.
Do you run your own label? Apart from the SKINLESS' stuffs, I saw you sell some Traumaside / Wasteform split-cds in your merchandise section. Can you tell me more about this split?
Sherwood works for an Albany, New York based label called Step Up Presents. This label supports several area metal bands including Traumaside and Wasteform. The split was put together to get some exposure for these bands : www.stepuppresents.com
What do you think about the position of French government during the Irak crisis?
Don't even get me started on this... really!
Do you think you will tour Europe soon? Which are the bands you would like to play with?
We have plans to tour Europe in early 2004 with Six Feet Under.
Why did you choose SKINLESS as a band's name? It may have sounded more brutal to use a word showing the fact of shredding skin than one letting us imagine the past action of skin shredding, wouldn't it? What do you think about names such as Fleshless, or Fleshtized? What about Skintized?
The name came from a grocery store flyer advertising boneless, skinless chicken. The original name for the band was Gorebag but we decided that there were already too many bands using "gore" in their name. I'll keep in mind that it's better to name a band after a current action rather than an action that has already come to pass.
Argh, do you hate interviews or was it involuntary not to include your bio on your website? It makes the task a bit harder... Does it happen that you receive so common and "cut and paste" style interview that you couldn't answer it?
Ummm, as far as I know we've always had a bio on the site.
Ok, thanks for your time, do you have something to add for our readers?
Thanks for the interview. Check out our website. We hope to see you all on tour. Drink a shit load of beer and buy a Skinless shirt. Thanks! Metal!