American grindcore luminaries Pig Destroyer had the roughest slog of their career to arrive at new record Book Burner, but you wouldn’t be able tell when you listen to the twisted grind monster.
“It was the toughest experience we’ve been through.” Pig Destroyer vocalist J.R. Hayes says of the process of writing and recording their first long-player in five years, Book Burner. “Usually when we do records, that’s when we’re in out element, we’re inspired, having a good time… no worries as you guys would say. But this time we didn’t really know whether we were even going to continue.”
Even though Book Burner has eventually seen the light of day, there was a moment in its gestation when the band lost the services of long-time drummer Brian Harvey and had to consider whether they were going to continue. The part-time nature of Pig Destroyer meant that Harvey had to bow out for concerns for his day job, and the decision left the Virginia four-piece considering whether it was time to call a day on what has been one of the most revered underground metal bands of the last decade.
“We liked the material that we had been working on with Brian, but you never know if you’re going to find another person that fits what you’re doing. But luckily we found Adam, and once we found Adam it was like we were 100 per cent back on track and I felt like we were as good as we had ever been.”
“You can always find another drummer, but you’re not necessarily going to find somebody you’re going to get along with. And you need to find somebody who you have that chemistry with. It can’t just be anybody, because when you’re in a band with somebody you’re working off of a feeling. And we were really lucky to find Adam because he’s got a great attitude and tones of chops and he just feels right.”
After a brief stint jamming with Municipal Waste’s Dave Witte, Hayes, guitarist Scott Hull and sampler/hype man Blake Harrison settled on Misery Index’s blast machine Adam Jarvis as the band’s permanent drummer (Hayes assures that the part-time nature of Pig Destroyer has made it possible for Jarvis to juggle playing in both bands). The front man reflects on the process of bringing the new drummer into the Pig Destroyer fold.
“The interesting thing about this record is that we wrote about a third of the material with Brian a few years ago, and then we wrote another third of the material when we were playing with Dave Witte from Municipal Waste because he was the first person we called when Brian was out. We jammed with him for a couple of months and wrote some great stuff and he definitely has his own style and his own element as well, but then we brought Adam in, and, he’s 10 years younger than me, and he’s got this youth and this enthusiasm and he wants to blast all the time and a lot of the songs on the record that are really fast came out of working with him. Those songs that sound like extended blast beats, that’s Adam’s effect on us, he just wanted to be a speed freak and blast all the time.”
The effect Jarvis had on Pig Destroyer is immediately recognizable upon first spin of the record. Where Brian Harvey drummed with a punk-ish fury, Jarvis plays with death metal precision. So I ask Hayes, was the decision to bring in Jarvis, whose style is so different to Harvey’s, a conscious decision to subvert some of the expectations fans had about what the band could do to follow-up their 2007, bona fide, extreme metal masterpiece Phantom Limb?
“I try to stay away from people’s expectations because everybody’s got different expectations. Somebody’s going to want us to do more long songs, more slow songs, somebody’s going to want us to play more fast songs and there’s no way you can make everybody happy. So, I feel like when I’m trying to get into a creative place, you’ve just got to go with what feels right for you. And if people latch onto it then that’s great, but I can’t outguess people. I don’t know what they want and I can’t force myself to write something for somebody else.”
That sense of creative independence has served Pig Destroyer well on Book Burner. The record has the guys at the top of their game, doing things with the traditionalist grindcore feel of Prowler in the Yard that also showcases the jaw-dropping dexterity that riff master Scott Hull perfected on Phantom Limb.
Now that the record has been released to a swarm of rave reviews, there’s only one question left to ask J.R. Hayes: When’s the next Australian tour going to be?
“We will be back. I can say that with certainty. But there are still some places that we haven’t been before and we want to get to them before we come back down to you guys this year.”