Interview

w/Scott Ian Lewis of Carnifex

                                                                                                                                                                                                                   (Sanchez/2016)
Lisa Sanchez

I had the chance to speak with Carnifex vocalist Scott Ian Lewis during the band's Summer Slaughter date at the Cleveland Agora. Carnifex will release their fifth full-length album, Slow Death, on Friday, August 5th and I was excited to hear about how a long running band like Carnifex kept their albums interesting.

​​Summer Slaughter has been in full swing for a week. How have your shows been so far?

Lewis: The shows have been huge, they’ve been great. It’s pretty much all the biggest, active metal bands that are on tour. Tonight should be pretty good, just hopefully Cleveland brings it.
 
Absolutely. We usually do pretty ok. Of course, this isn’t your first rodeo with Summer Slaughter. How does it feel to be back on the tour with some of the most exciting acts in metal?

Lewis: Doing summer tours, there’s really not too many options. And with Mayhem being gone now it’s pretty much Warped Tour or Summer Slaughter or you go to Europe and do the festival run. Last summer we did the festivals in Europe and this summer we’re back in the states…It’s good to be with other bands in the summer because everyone just sort of wants to go to one show.
 
You guys are right in between starting Summer Slaughter and releasing your new album on August 5th, how stoked are you for Slow Death to drop?

Lewis: We’re really excited. We worked on the album for two and a half years and being able to set up a proper release while we’re out on the road is pretty important. The fans have been really responsive and I’m glad that they’re coming out to the tour and they’re having a good time. We don’t normally tour with just straight death metal bands so it’s cool…
 
I’ve watched your record progress videos and it seems like you’ve done a lot of very specific instrumental and musical tweaks to get the effect you want on Slow Death. What made you want to take that route for this album?

Lewis: On the previous albums we always had that extra element there and we just wanted to see how far we could go with it. I really like what it adds to the music, that layer of atmosphere. And having the extra time to record and taking all the time we need to write really allowed us to experiment with that stuff. It was just a fun experiment more than anything else.
 
In your videos, you show that you have an 8 string guitar tuned to drop F. Does that deliver that dark, grimy but still atmospheric sound?

Lewis: Yeah, but the thing is, I think that’s something people kind of don’t think of when we say, “we’re tuned to drop F” that’s as low as we can go, but that’s not where we are the entire time. We just have that option to go down to that scale. That was the main reason that we did it, is that we wanted the option to use those scales, but we certainly didn’t use them exclusively or at the expense of all the scales in between.
 
How would you compare the album to your previous releases?

Lewis: We took our favorite elements of that album and pushed it. We took the programming, the symphonic aspects, that dark atmosphere on Die Without Hope and really just ran with it and tried to go further down that path we started on creatively with all the different modes we were using and sort of established that darker tone from the beginning of the album to the end. 
 
You said you’re occupying a space in the genre that no one else has touched. How does it feel to be at that level?

Lewis: I think when you start out as a band, you look to the bands that inspired you for ideas. Which is totally normal. Then I think once you write a few records and really learn your own creative process and develop your own style that’s when you start really spreading your wings as an artist. For us, that started to happen on the second or third album and now that we’re on album number six we’re really just writing for ourselves. If you’re watching the whole tour tonight, if you were looking for the band that sounds the most different on this whole package, I would say it’s us. I think a lot of people would have a hard time disputing that. We occupy the metal space with a lot of other bands, but nobody is going to mistake a band for Carnifex.
 
Do you anticipate Slow Death to influence future metal releases?

Lewis: I think we’re already starting to see it, honestly. I think a lot of other bands are really seeing what can be done by using those extra layers of atmosphere and incorporating those different genres in beyond just death metal. Once the record is out and really permeates through the scene, I think a lot of people are going to be taking cues from it.
 
Imitation is the greatest form of flattery.

Yeah, we’ll see. Maybe someone will do it better than us.

Carnifex as a band has maintained consistency and quality for more than 10 years now. With all of the new acts that are constantly coming into the scene, how do you feel about your place in the genre?

Lewis: I suppose there’s always going to be new bands coming out. The sad reality of the music industry is that almost nobody makes it. It’s real hard, there’s no money, and you give up a lot. If you’re in a metal band, it’s a life sentence of touring and that’s the only way to sustain it. I pretty much just let the weak weed themselves out. We show up, we play our show, we write what we want to hear, and I don’t really worry about anything else.
 
I think you guys have definitively branded the style of “new death metal.” Is it surreal to imagine you’ve inspired up and coming bands?

Lewis: I definitely know that we hear from fans a lot, telling us what our music means to them and telling us how we’ve inspired them. It definitely is exciting to hear that, at the same time if you let all that go to your head I think it changes the way you write. So when we write we’re still hungry, we’re still trying to accomplish something, we don’t feel like we’ve made it. I feel like we’re still a struggling metal band. I’m appreciative of it, but I take it with a grain of salt at the same time.
  
As a band, Carnifex has always focused on dark lyrical content that comes from your own personal situations. Is that a theme that’s continued on Slow Death?

Lewis: Absolutely, and it kind of always will be. I feel that writing from personal experiences is really the only way you can connect with people. I think if you look at a lot of lyrics or themes in the death metal scene it’s just about murdering people or what have you and it’s like “I’m never going to murder somebody. I can’t relate to that at all.” To me there isn’t authenticity in that it’s just kind of fiction. For me, when I write, the whole point is to make somebody feel something. I think that’s part of the reason that we have the fanbase that we have is because those songs really mean something to them.
 
And you always hope to make that little connection with your fan base.
 
Lewis: That’s the whole goal. I think an artist, regardless of the medium, whether it’s music, T.V., or painting…the whole point is for someone to see what you’ve done and have a responsive reaction. If you’re a painter and people look at it and just shrug their shoulders and walk, what have you accomplished? It’s about trying to create that response. 
 
Metal has always been labeled as a niche genre, but with everything going on in the world, from violence, to politics, to social movements, do you think people are feeling more aggressive than ever?

​Lewis: I think it’s always going to have its place, but the peaks and valleys based on the world, I don’t know.
 
Do you think after the ultimate collapse of society occurs we will see a golden age of metal music?
Lewis: I would say no, probably not. If there’s a collapse of society, I don’t think anyone is playing any music.  
 
 Is there anything else you want to say about the record?
If you buy the record, that means we can keep touring.