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Artist on Artist: Chris Reifert of Autopsy talks to Scott Carroll of Cianide

"It's not like we're making a fortune off the stuff—you gotta really love playing this"


Bay Area death-metal band Autopsy, founded in 1987 and split in 1995, have been reunited full-time since 2010, and their 2011 LP Macabre Eternal landed on plenty of year-end best-of lists. Influential but hardly famous in the 90s, Autopsy are now revered as pillars of "old-school" death metal, alongside the likes of Possessed, Terrorizer, Obituary, and Chicago's own Master. Among other things, "old-school" metal preserves the raw, ragged energy of humans playing instruments in a room—no songwriting in Cubase, no drum triggers, no quantized blastbeats. And because these bands developed their styles before the "death growl" hardened into a template, their vocals have more personality—Autopsy drummer and singer Chris Reifert sounds simultaneously enraged and agonized, delivering lyrics whose stubborn, gleeful fixation on mayhem and gore seems just as perfectly engineered to trigger a moral panic among the humorless as 50s horror comics did. This winter the band released the compilation All Tomorrow's Funerals, and the DVD Born Undead is due in June. For this week's Artist on Artist, Reifert is interviewed by guitarist Scott Carroll of Chicago death-metal stalwarts Cianide, who've been active since 1988 but are only now beginning to earn their due as pioneers. This online version of their conversation—more than five times as long as the one in print—touches on the worthlessness of MP3s, the beer-for-remodeling barter economy, why the Devil Wears Prada makes them feel old, and plenty more. Autopsy plays Sat 5/5 at Reggie's Rock Club with Cianide, Bones, Cardiac Arrest, and Reign Inferno. Tickets are $25; a $60 VIP package includes dinner, a poster, early entry, and a "possible" meet and greet. —Philip Montoro

Q Phonewise I haven't talked to you since 1993 or some shit.

A That sounds about right. I remember we saw each other in—must have been Milwaukee, probably like '99 or something like that. Long time ago. How the hell is it going?

Q It's going all right, you know, just getting older and wiser, right?

A Forget the wiser part. Just getting older and dumber. What's happening, man?

Q Just opened a beer and talking to you.

A How's Cianide going, man? You guys are playing with us pretty soon.

Q Fuck yeah. We weren't gonna play, but you know, the club asked us, and we were like, fuck it, you know? Might as well.

A No good shows on TV, might as well.

Q It's all reruns of Walking Dead, so . . .

A I dunno, that could be worth it too, though. I don't think I'm gonna play, now that I think about it.

Q So what have you been doing, man? You been busy?

A Yeah, yeah, pretty much. Busy but not going mental—no more than usual. Trying to pace things a little bit.

Q I guess I got some basic questions I gotta ask you, I suppose.

A Lay it on me, brotha!

Q This is all kind of retarded for me. The Reader's like our local arts paper, it's been around for 50 years it seems like, since I was a kid. So it's like the big paper, the free local paper—I'm sure you've got one out in Frisco that's the same.

A Yeah, for sure.

Q It's insane to me that, from what they say, they're going to put you guys on the cover. It's the first time I'll have seen a metal band on the cover of the Reader, put it that way.

A That's pretty wacky. [Editor's note: Autopsy was in fact the intended B Side cover subject for the 5/3 issue, but Michaelangelo Matos's feature on Chicago house music ended up running that week.]

Q Let alone an underground death-metal band from the past.

A Yeah, a good way to scare the faithful readers off.

Q Maybe it'll be a picture of handsome guys on the cover for a change. The handsomest guys in death metal.

A We are an attractive band—that's what we're known for.

Q So basically, I guess, the first question out of the gate is the one that everybody's—you've probably answered a thousand times, but I don't read anything, so . . .

A That's cool, reading's lame. Unless you're reading the Reader! Then it's great!

Q Then it's kick-ass, of course. So, understandably, I think it was Maryland Deathfest [in 2010]—is that what got you guys back together?

A That was the first big thing, yeah.

Q Was it an offer that you couldn't refuse?

A Yeah, I mean, yes and no. If we didn't really want to do it—I mean, we said no to everything for 15 or 16 years, so it's not like we hadn't had offers before, but the timing was just one of those things. We did a couple new songs in 2008, and people started asking about us again. "Hey, so you're back doing stuff!" Like, no, not really. And then we did start talking to the folks over at Maryland, and, I dunno, we kinda got excited thinking about it—like, this could be cool, let's see what happens here. We all agreed amongst ourselves that, fuck it, we're definitely not getting any younger, so if we're going to do anything, it's probably now.

Q It seemed like growing from the underground. I mean, the name Autopsy, I think—the Internet kept the name alive so well for a whole different generation of people who want to see you.

A Yeah, it's crazy. We didn't expect anything. We're just, all right, let's see. We ended up talking with the Maryland people and figuring, let's do this. I don't know—we had to definitely want to do it, because no amount of money could make us want to do it.

Q Yeah, that's cool.

A But we absolutely got paid well for it and all that stuff, but it had to be fun too.

Q Rightfully so for a fucking change. Jesus Christ.

A Yeah, but man, we just ground ourselves to a halt on that last tour, so we didn't want to do anything for the longest time. It was brutal. And after we booked Maryland, we kind of got this excitement again, like—

Q That's what I was going to ask about, that spark that really—holy shit, this feels good, playing with [guitarist] Danny [Coralles] and [guitarist] Eric [Cutler] again.

A Exactly. It was fun when we did the two-song thing in 2008—not meant to be anything but that one thing. That was exciting too, but then we kind of put it down again. Then we ended up working something out with Maryland, then we got other offers—like, OK, while we're at it! So we go to Germany and Norway and do a couple of things over there, and then, that's it—we're really done, no more. And then without even thinking about it, we're like, well, OK, I seem to have written a handful of songs for Autopsy. What's going on here? Three years later, we're still slugging away, you know?

Q So it sounds more like, kick-ass, we're having fun, let's do it—and then it's just, like, this actually does kick ass, why don't we do it some more.

A Yeah, we're having fun again, we're not at each other's throats or anything. The other thing is when we started book a couple of things—

Q Right, and it seems like people are actually caring, right?

A That's nice too—that's more than we can say from the first time around. We were going to keep Abscess going at the same time, and our guitar player Clint [Bower], he said he wanted to quit the band. He's got stuff going on in his life, and it looked like it would be a good window for him to work on his home life. We totally respected that and tried so hard to talk him into keeping the band going, but he had his mind up—so that really opened the door all the way for Autopsy to keep going, because we were getting along and having fun making music. Like, fuck it, let's keep doing stuff until we don't want to anymore.

Q Yeah, 'cause it's like, well, the three of you guys are back on the same page, and it's like a full unit again. You've got the Abscess bass player [Joe Trevisano], though.

A Yeah, we did, that was weird too.

Q You've been with him for years too, though.

A Yeah, since '98. That worked out pretty good. Like, OK, well, we don't have to look for a bass player.

Q Because that was always the age-old thing with you guys, the bass player.

A Yeah, the curse. Spinal Tap had the drummer and we had a bass player. Like, "Aw, man." The curse appears to be lifted. That's good too, something off the worry list.

Q Fuckin' A. What else we got here. Of course these questions came together yesterday.

A No, that's fine, that's great.

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