Goatwhore’s Ben Falgoust Talks Influence of ‘Paradise Lost’ Poem on ‘Vengeful Ascension,’ Band’s 20th Anniversary + More [Interview]
Goatwhore vocalist Ben Falgoust was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie’s weekend radio program. The hulking frontman spoke about how the band switched up their recording process on their latest album, Vengeful Ascension, the influence of the iconic Paradise Lost poem, the band’s 20th anniversary and more. Check out the chat below.
We’re here to talk about the new Goatwhore album, Vengeful Ascension. The album was recorded to tape with your sound man actually overseeing things in the studio. Why were you that diligent about making a studio album sound live?
Well, it, it’s not necessarily like the full live experience for sure. And we weren’t really dead set on like getting like — let me see how do I explain this … I don’t think we could ever duplicate how we are live. I don’t think it’s ever gonna happen. That’s just a personal experience for everyone there, and for us when we’re playing, you know?
But we want to try to get closer to the sound that we have in a live setting. And our sound engineer, Jared, he’s has also done records by 1349, Gruesome, [he’s] currently working on a new Exhumed record, so he has studio knowledge as well. Before we started doing anything with this record, we were kinda on the fence on what we wanted to do. Zack [Simmons] wanted to do something different with his drums, you know, maybe in a different kind of room. Sammy [Duet, guitar] wanted to try some different things, so we just decided altogether to do something different and go with a completely different engineer, different mixer. Just a whole different setup in general.
And, I mean, our sound engineer, he’s got knowledge in so many different areas as far as this goes that it was a good, really cool idea to have him involved and be like the engineer kind of producer to be on the forefront of this because he knew what we sounded like live. He was the one that was bringing the element of what we sound like through everything come out through the PA.
So, we just kinda put that whole agenda into place and then he worked it out, you know, getting Chris Commons to mix the record, and then Mara Appelbaum to master the record, and so we had like this trio of dudes that worked out really well to get closer to the element of what our sound sounded like in a live setting. Not necessarily the live experience, but the tones from a live setting.
John Milton’s poem Paradise Lost is a source of thematic struggle on the new LP. It’s not the first time he’s inspired Goatwhore music. What about his writing is so in sync with this band?
I just think that there’s a lot of elements involved within the story and the idea of Lucifer is kind of like an anti-hero in the story. He’s this element, you know, that’s been thrown out, cast out of this situation that he’s been involved in and then he has to fight his way back to the top. Knowing that any moment, any given time he could be struck down and destroyed by the “higher entity” above. But no matter what, the cycle is a story of perseverance and trying to move upward. And as goes with people’s lives, too. It goes with being in a band and progressing forward, moving forward no matter what’s going on or the struggles you go through.
I mean, in this band we’ve had a lot of different things from emotional pitfalls to physical pitfalls. I was in an accident back in 2001 and I had to work hard to get back to a point as well. I think there’s elements within the story that you reflect on and that whole idea of you could fight your way to the top, no matter what, but there’s always a point where that could be just be faulted and stopped. But still, there’s that idea of perseverance or the enlightenment of sort of an ascension to get above things.
Sometimes certain emotions play a role from once you hit the bottom and you start working your way back up, some of them are – vengeful, revenge, retribution kind of ideals and then as you’re making those steps back up, you start to see other aspects that are helping you and forcing you to the top to get to where you need to be again.
The top doesn’t necessarily have to be this financial outbreak and you get there and you have money, gold and riches. It’s not necessarily that, I think it’s more of a point of getting back to a point where you were once before or at least something might be slightly higher, depending. It’s all a part of a goal thing and we all have goals and we all want to get to those points and goals in our lives.
Over the years there’s been some hardship for Goatwhore like surviving Hurricane Katrina and a severe accident that left you badly injured. How has adversity made you all more dedicated to this band?
I think it’s because, you get closer. Being in a band you already have a group of guys or girls, whatever you have going on within the band. You all work together, you tour together, you’re in a vehicle together or months on end and you create music together. At some point, sometimes the members change. Sometimes somebody’s not getting along in the group, somebody’s sometimes not on the same path as writing and things like that.
So usually that person exits or the band decides that they need to move on without that person. But through that duration of time, bands build this family community camaraderie kind of thing. They stick together, and then when you go through these elements of the thing that happened with the hurricane or when I was injured in the accident —people that you’ve jammed with, they come to you and they’re supportive of you.
Not just that, the fans end up being supportive and they all step in. Then you start to see the element of the entire community within this style of music. Extreme metal in general, everybody from the outside looks into it and they think of this big negative regime that’s going on. But it’s not even. It’s actually pretty unique and the community is really strong and it flows with such mental strength, it’s not even funny.
So I think it’s the element of all those things, of being in a band with these people for such a long time and building this longevity and building the longevity with the fans and everyone around you. I think all those elements add up and when you’re in your [most down] moment, all of a sudden those things pop up and that you reflect back on everything that you worked with within it and you see. You see this element and this is what helps you and drives you, from when you’re on stage and the way you feed off the crowd and the crowd feeds off you to the point of somebody writing you a letter saying, how much you might have helped them through a tough time in their life. So in return, that all kind of tumbles back to you and it helps you as you’re kind of moving forward through maybe troubled times. Some kind of injury, something like that.
Goatwhore have always strived to evolve. What’s the most prominent musical and creative development you hear on this new album?
I would say, I think there’s a lot of different aspects within it, but definitely the way we’ve evolved in creating a song or the entirety of a full record. I believe that every song on the record is its own little individual aspect and we all play a role in each little part of that little aspect. But then when you put them all together for a full record they all kind of make such a huge impact, but it’s definitely the idea of us being together and how we’ve evolved at creating the song, putting things together for the song, the way the parts flow into each other, the way the lyrics fit in spots, whether they need to be over certain elements or kind of let the elements of the music breathe a little more without any vocals.
I think our ability as songwriters has evolved greatly over each and every record. I think it’s continuing to evolve and I think that point is probably the greatest point for us at this time. Sammy has always been this riff machine. He has tons of riffs from back in the day when we were working on stuff and we still keep older riffs around because you never know about a spot. Now we’re just more tedious about the way we put songs together and the way they flow together. I think that was one of the biggest elements in the evolution as far as the newest record goes.
It’s the 20th anniversary of Goatwhore this year. What do you think about most when you reflect on the history of the band and all the music you’ve made?
Twenty years already. Man. [I’m] starting to feel old all of a sudden. It’s funny because you look back at some things and I don’t ever look back at the first things we ever did from the demo to the first record to even the last record and think of anything in any negative sense. [I] totally appreciate everything we’ve done through the duration of this band. But sometimes I do look back and I’m like, ‘Wow I wish I had the knowledge I have now when we were doing that. I wish I had this aspect more in focus when we did that.’
But that’s all part of the growth and the evolution of the band; it’s why I really appreciate all the older stuff all the way up until now because then you can see that process of how we grew in so many different aspects and how things have evolved and stuff like that. I think the greatest things out of the 20 years is the actual knowledge I’ve gained in doing this and being involved in it and being involved with the people that I’m in the band with and how we’ve worked with each other and we’ve bounced ideas off of each other. The influence has shifted in that kind of pattern because each member has a different influence but yet at the same time that influence rubs off on the other members. It all starts to get really intertwined. So I think it’s the knowledge and the experience and the influence with each other and the overall thing with being in a band, I think is the biggest aspect of being around for 20 years.
Thanks to Ben Falgoust for the interview. Grab your copy of Goatwhore’s ‘Vengeful Ascension’ at Amazon or digitally through iTunes and be sure to follow the band on Facebook to keep up with everything they’re doing. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie’s weekend show at this location.
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