InterviewsOctober 10, 200710,372 views

Cephalic Carnage interview

By Devin Braden
Lambgoat's Devin Braden caught up with Cephalic Carnage frontman Leonard "Lenzig" Leal late last month prior to a show in Denver, Colorado.

I met Leonard from Cephalic Carnage about an hour before the start of their first headlining show in Denver – their hometown – since the release of their latest album, Xenosapien. The Rockies were for the first time ever contending with other National League teams for a potential playoff spot, so the Lower Downtown area of the city was flooded with fair-weather fans and diehards alike. After finding a cheap meter with a 1-hour limit, I made my way across a few crowded blocks to the Marquis Theater, where I found Leonard waiting for a slice of pizza. He was wearing a Rocky t-shirt and had a custom-made Blue Öyster Cult medallion hanging from his neck. He had me follow him back to the band's prep room, where Steve (Guitar) was changing out his strings and the echoes of Ascaris' soundcheck were rattling to hell the Marquis' paper-thin walls. After a few repeated questions and some intermittent yelling, Leonard had me follow him back into the bathroom so we could escape the noise, and so he could prepare for the show by getting as high as humanly possible. Two truths, at this point, became abundantly clear: the guys in Cephalic Carnage love their weed, and the guys in Cephalic Carnage love playing their music. Our conversation – about Blue Öyster Cult, among other things – went as follows:

So, this is the first headlining show you guys have played in Denver since you released the new album, right?

Well, yeah – we came here on the "Summer's Laughter" tour, but we weren't headlining.

How did you like the Summer Slaughter tour?

We thought it was great. We call it the "Summer's Laughter" tour because we laughed every day. It was quite gleeful.

I know the show here had an awesome turnout – I think it was close to maybe 1000 people. I know for sure they sold 500 presale tickets.

Leonard: There were probably 600 people...

Steve: They were four away from selling out. That's what they said.

[Note: the capacity of Cervantes – the venue that hosted the Summer Slaughter tour in Denver – is officially 700, though I'm sure it has been oversold in a pinch.]

Yeah, well – we played quite a few shows like that. Except for maybe one or two shows, every night it was insane. It was brutal – an incredible experience.

It was a really strong tour package. It really doesn't get much better than that. Personally, I thought Decapitated was really cool.

Yeah, Cattle Decap and Decapitated are the bands we really bonded with and hung out with the most on that tour. We had a killer, killer time – fuckin' with a lot of bands, and just being assholes in general.

You guys have become sort of notorious for putting on high-energy live shows, which gives you a sort of unique stage presence when compared to other grind/death metal acts. It seems your live show is more on par with bands that fall outside the genre – like Dillinger Escape Plan, for instance. Is that something that has evolved for you over time, or did you make a conscious decision to bring a lot of energy to your live show?

That was something we were striving for right from the get-go. I mean, you don't open for Suffocation and just stand there. There's a motivation factor to it – if you're not motivated yourself, you're not going to motivate a crowd. Your music may be brutal enough, but if you add that extra heart and soul to [your performance], it shows that you really give a shit about your music and your fans. That's why we do it. That's what the plan was from the beginning – turn you insane and put your fucking heart and soul into it. People see it and they say "wow – that was nuts!" Of course, other times people see it and say "wow – that was a bit much," so I guess it's got its pluses and its minuses.

Well, that's what really stood out to me at the Summer Slaughter show. It was actually good to see a band with so much energy that late in the day – it sort of reinvigorated the show.

[Laughs] Well, you have so many bands now that learned to play from Myspace.

How do you feel about the so-called "Myspace Generation" of metal bands?

Oh, I think it's cool. I think it's killer. I just wish there weren't bands out there claiming they invented the style. I mean, there are others who [are willing to] say, "we were inspired by Suffocation," or by this band, or that band, or whatever. I'm glad it's making metal bigger by adding that extra [promotional] tool, but in some ways it's becoming less personal. I guess it's awesome that it's promoting bands and music like you wouldn't believe, though.

I've got a few questions about the lyrics that appear on the new album, Xenosapien. One recurring theme seems to point to the evolution of the human species as being the result of extraterrestrial influence. It actually sort of reminded me of a Terence McKenna theory I had read awhile back. Are you familiar with him at all?

Does he write books?

Among other things, yeah. He could be compared to Timothy Leary – his ideas were more on the fringe-end of things. Anyway, he had a theory that was sometimes called the "Stoned Ape" theory – it said that our primate ancestors at some point started eating Psilocybin mushrooms, which in turn changed the path of human evolution.

Well, if there was such a thing as Adam and Eve, that – to me – is what they would have looked like: you'd have a little alien, and you'd have the host. Now, I'm an older dude, so I grew up watching stuff like "Challenge of the Super Friends," and they always introduced these weird dudes on there that Superman and Batman and Aquaman would all have to fight. To be honest, a lot of that record is based upon watching "Challenge of the Super Friends" – like watching Aquaman settle a war between the Greys and the people from Atlantis. I just exaggerated it all a little more. Back then, there was this guy who had a weather machine, and he was controlling everything. The Super Friends had to save the Earth and restore it. Basically, it's all just my childhood of watching "Challenge of the Super Friends" on a record. Well, except for "Vaporized" – they were always against smoking marijuana. As far as the alien thing [in the album artwork], we wanted something strong – like that Today Is the Day design [for In the Eyes of God], that's how we wanted our Devil Jesus design to look. Some people are like "what the fuck's up with that?" It's just a strong visual to help try to get the lyrics across. It worked out for me. Some people ask me "do you believe in aliens?" You know, maybe a little bit, but I just think it's a cool topic to write about. I can't write about gore. I'd rather write about aliens abducting a human, and then maybe doing all the gore and slash on that shit [laughs].

Since you mentioned it, let's talk about "Vaporized." You guys are obviously pro-legalization. A few years ago, Denver passed a ballot initiative that legalized the possession of an ounce or less within the city limits, but it's still trumped by the state law that says its illegal. In the last election, the state failed to pass an amendment that would have legalized it statewide.

It's because of the wording. In the book, they put it to where 15-year olds could, like, carry an ounce for an adult. Like some dude would be like "here, kid – carry this for me!" They're idiots. Some day it will be legal. We'll just keep weeding out the old dudes, putting in other guys [in their place]. Finally, one day, one of those guys will be like "You know what? I smoked weed and I never beat the fuck out of anybody. I got stoned, I got laid, I fuckin' ate food – I had the greatest time of my life." It's not for everybody, but think how many people drink alcohol just because it's legal. I'd rather be stoned than drunk. That's just my choice. Most people are embarrassed to say they smoke weed. You see a dude at a party and he's like "I smoke cigarettes, I drink beer!" It's like "cool, man – I smoke weed." There's no difference – it's all about the same in terms of [toxicity]. I mean, me? I don't fight when I'm stoned. When I have any alcohol, any hard liquor, I'm an asshole. It's just one of those things where somebody's paying money to keep it down. I mean, if they were smart, Philip Morris would start developing their own weed joints, and they would be at the forefront of trying to legalize it.

I also want to talk about the song "Heptarchy," where your lyrics incorporate the names of various U.K. bands. I thought that was pretty cool idea.

That [song] is a tribute to the British metal scene that inspired me – you know, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Tygers of Pan Tang. I was going to write the song about how England was saved by these seven colonies – the Heptarchy, the rule of seven – but I thought it would be cool to put names in there. Maybe not their whole names – [the words] "venom" and "priest" - just trying to include these bands I love, to try to cleverly write a song praising the British metal scene. You're probably one of the few people that got it. Kudos to you, man. That's fuckin' awesome.

[Laughs] That's good to know.

And, you know, the title "Heptarchy (in the U.K.)" is a take on [the Sex Pistols'] "Anarchy in the U.K." It's the metal version. You know, to me, that's what chased all the punk rock to America ("Babylon" in the lyrics), which embraced it and made it huge. At the same time, Iron Maiden and all these other bands where turning out, ready to fuckin' come and take it over – just like they took over England. That's what it's about – seven bands that kicked punk rock out. And Napalm [Death] – I just had to work them in. Carcass would have been too obvious, anything like that would have been too obvious. It was a really challenging song. The opening line is actually from a Jimi Hendrix movie. Some chick says, "who are you, and what do you do?" He says "I'm Jimi Hendrix. Some of us are put here to wake up people from their sleepiness, and that's what I do with my guitar." I was writing that, and boom – once I wrote that, I wrote the rest of the song in, like, twenty minutes. The song is really technical, man. The guys really threw down on it.

There's a lot of diversity in terms of the types of bands you mention in that song – you go from UFO to Saxon to Napalm Death. You're wearing a Blue Öyster Cult medallion. Steve is wearing an Intronaut shirt. It's obvious that you guys listen to a lot of different types of music.

Yeah, this shirt – this is from one of my favorite bands. Rocky. They're from Philly, and their singer talks like "Yo, Adrian!"

[Laughs] Nice. Seriously, though, do you think that the metal scene in recent years has become too myopic, or do you think there's still a lot of diversity in terms of what people listen to?

Well, we all like a lot of different things. Steve's more into the Mr. Bungle edge. Zac's more into the Queens of the Stone Age edge. I'm into heavy metal. John's more into jazz-techy-drums sort of thing. And Nick is just into a lot of really good bass players. We just try to blend it all together. When we're on tour, we'll sit and talk about writing a song like this, or like that. That's one of the really good things about touring – we may not carry our guitars in the van and play, but we talk about so many things that, when we come home, we reflect on that shit. It comes back to [us] and we start writing. [Our writing process] is also a reflection of all the bands we tour with. You're influenced by them and you don't even know it. You can subconsciously be influenced by your surroundings, which [for us] is all these different bands. It's kind of hard to really understand – you have to pull away from it, you know what I mean?

Yeah, definitely. What about the rest of the metal scene, though? Do you think that, over time, it's become too focused on just playing or listening to metal? Or do you think that people in the scene still have a diverse taste in music?

I don't know, man. I think people can be influenced by anything and everything. Sometimes, you don't even need to be inspired by music to create music. With metal, I think people are actually going back to their roots. People are actually more interested in the old Mötley Crües, and the Dios. I went to the Heaven and Hell show the other night.

Yeah – me too!

Yeah, it was awesome. There were a bunch of kids there, and they were actually singing the Dio [-era Black Sabbath] songs. Before, everybody was all "Ozzy! Ozzy!" Now, they're going back to their roots and finding even more music. I think the metal community it pretty strong right now – death metal, everything is rising. It's crazy. It's a good thing. It's good to see that extremity is back in the picture again. Even if it's a deathcore band doing death metal with breakdowns – as long as they're promoting heavy music to their fans, their fans will tell their friends, and it all just keeps growing. I just keep praising it. It's a good time to be a metal band... well, unless you sound exactly like someone else who's doing what you do better.

Now, there was recently some controversy over a rerelease of your first album, Conforming to Abnormality. What was the story behind that? Did you guys not want to rerelease it?

We never really negotiated anything on it. They were just like "we're going to put this out." We wanted a certain amount of money. It was our first label that put it out originally – Headfucker [Records]. They changed their name to something else, and one of this guy's friend is running it. We just told them that we had to agree on everything before it comes out, and we need to be compensated. We don't just want 200 CDs – we want the actual cash for it. It's been dead for awhile. It doesn't exist, pretty much, and they put it out anyway. One day, they were like "where do you want us to send your CDs?" We think the artwork sucks. The audio sounds like shit. Why did [they] put it out? We told him to send us some stupid amount of money – send us $10,000. You obviously agreed to our terms, so send us the money. It's bullshit. At the end of the day, he just put it out and sold what he did. We're reissuing it on Relapse Records, and it'll have the songs we did for our split with Anal Blast as bonus tracks. It'll be cool. We don't want part bad[ly] with anybody, but why are you trying to make money off of us now that we're actually doing something, when before it was such a hassle [for us] to get CDs? That's why we moved on, man. We didn't ever want to go back to that page in our life, and here we are having to fuckin' demean somebody about it. It's just not cool.

While we're on the subject of releases, what ever happened to the Halls... triology?

We're still working on it. It took awhile to write that one, but we already have our new one, which we're going to be calling Anarctica. It's going to be brutal – freezing cold, blistering doom.

Cool. I love the first release. Is it totally out of print now?


Is Willowtip going to do the second release, too?

We don't know yet. It may be a Relapse/Willowtip [joint] release. We don't know – it's up to Relapse. They're clamping down on a lot of that stuff now.

Makes sense.

But, yeah – it's going to be called Anarctica: Journey to Amenti, and it's going to be about being reduced from a planet to a block of ice. People are building skyscrapers down into the ground, and some people have never even seen the sun. Finally, the sun melts the ice enough to where these people, who are allergiac to the sun, are confronted by it. It's going to be a fun song. That's all we've been talking about on tour. Hopefully, in December, we can start tracking some of the riffs. It'll be cold, and that's what you need.

Sounds good. One final question for you: what are your top 5 albums of the 1970s?

Man, that's tough. I'd have to say, first and foremost, Black Sabbath – Volume 4. Then, Black Sabbath – Heaven and Hell. I'd have to say UFO – Phenomenon. Kiss – Love Gun. Man, such a tough call from there. Deep Purple – Fireball. I could say a lot more – number 6 would be anything Blue Öyster Cult. Anything they put out.

Secret Treaties is my favorite.

I would have to say Extraterrestrial Live for me. Fire of Unknown Origin would be the 80s, but that's my ultimate favorite. There are nine super-brutal songs that, as a kid, that dark shit they're singing about – it's like dark pop. "Joan Crawford," or "After Dark," any of those of songs. They're amazing.

Yeah, definitely.

Oh, and Alice Cooper - Love It to Death. I'd have to rank that right up there with Black Sabbath – Volume 4 as a tie for number 1. Those two records are incredible.

Alice Cooper was great at the Heaven and Hell show. That was the first time I'd seen him live.

I've seen him four times. This was the only time I'd seen him play "The Ballad of Dwight Fry," though. It was amazing.

Any final thoughts?

Thanks to Lambgoat for the support.


Post Comment
wannaseemenaked_ 10/10/2007 9:06:38 PM

first post

anonymous 10/10/2007 9:34:17 PM


Nick_ 10/10/2007 9:44:14 PM

So yeah, that was an excellent interview.

1234567hate_ 10/10/2007 10:25:22 PM

cepharic calnage and anar brast sprit!

fk_ 10/10/2007 10:30:58 PM


thetowerofrome_ 10/10/2007 10:45:50 PM

wonderful interview... wonderful band

whitelambpowergoat_ 10/11/2007 12:55:29 AM


frank_ 10/11/2007 4:48:37 AM

yes, I'd agree.. awesome interview.

Coldchain_ 10/11/2007 7:40:00 PM

Sounds like the best kind of person to interview

chris_ 10/13/2007 5:29:02 AM

i'm sure the show was sick. ascaris is bad ass

hybrid_ 12/18/2007 11:09:34 PM

Good to see that Conforming to Abnormality will be re-released and the way the band wants it to be. I can't find that album on Amazon and I've never seen it sold anywhere. I saw it for sale when I saw them on Summer Slaughter but I only had enough money for a shirt.