After my review of their excellent comeback album Stranger, in which once again they prove how exiting old school death / grind can sound, here's the interview we did by mail with two members of Cretin, Matt Widener (bass and backing vocals) and Marissa Martinez-Hoadley (lead vocals and rhythm guitar). read it below :
- Cretin's back after a long time, how do you feel about it? were you a bit anxious (would the Cretin "alchemy" work as well as it used to be?) or was it just excitement about reviving Cretin and playing this music together again?
Marissa: I was definitely excited to get going again. This band really exists as an extension of our friendship. So, the chemistry between us is strong. It’s always a great time when we can get together. Even if we’re just arguing over the deeply held beliefs that a riff should have a blast beat behind it or not. Hahaha!
-Can you say a few words about the band members involvement in other bands during the time between the two Cretin albums?
Marissa: After releasing “Freakery” Matt went on to release “Olidous Operettas” for his band The County Medical Examiners in 2007, and then “Better to Die on Your Feet Than Live on Your Knees” for his anarcho-grind band Liberteer in 2012.
Col Jones recorded drums for Dekapitator on “The Storm Before the Calm.” He also joined Mortuous and recorded a demo in 2012. Throughout that time he played drums for Repulsion.
Elizabeth Schall started her band Dreaming Dead and released two albums: 2009’s “Within One” and 2012’s “Midnightmares.”
In 2011 - 2013 I played second guitar in Repulsion.
-The nightmarish lyrics are far more sophisticated and more "psychological" than usually it is in death metal songs. how was it written and what are the sources of inspiration? real stories, books or movies, or a mix?
Matt: I wrote them just as I’d write any short story. I had to be careful about length, but I eventually got pretty good at guessing how many words to write for each song. Then I’d carefully find ways to fit the words to the meter. My inspiration is literature. I went to grad school for fiction writing. I read a lot. I didn’t think about movies at all for the songs, I just wrote stories.
-The contemporary paintings on the cover and booklet are also very different from the usual death / grind art. did you wanted to have create a contrast between the more sophisticated lyrical and artistic elements and the "barbaric" music?
Matt: That’s an interesting way to frame it. That wasn’t really our intent, though. The paintings came from our artist friend. I saw him every week and told him the stories I was writing for the album, and he’d paint some of them. At a certain point, I couldn’t stop imagining the paintings as the album art. I asked him if we could use them, then talked to the band about it. Everyone liked the idea. We weren’t trying to be clever or anything. To me, many of the paintings are ominous. The figure of a silhouette is dangerous because you can’t see the detail of the person. This fit the theme of “Stranger” exactly.
-Seems to me that many riffs of Cretin sounds inspired by trash metal and especially Slayer, have you listened to a lot of trash metal or is it just a reflection of the fact that early death metal started as trash metal pushed to the extreme?
Marissa: Metallica was the first band to get me into metal. I was a thrash fan for a few years before Matt got me hooked on death metal and grind. There was definitely a period of time when I abandoned thrash for extreme metal, but I came back around to it eventually.
We’ve always bit from early Slayer in Cretin. Not only do we love a lot of their music, but for our first album we were trying to recapture Repulsion’s sound. Repulsion was heavily influenced by Slayer, and their goal was to make it faster and more extreme. So, if you’re trying to play like Repulsion and ignore “Show No Mercy” and “Hell Awaits”… I don’t know how close you’ll get...
For “Stranger” though, we really wanted to grow Cretin’s sound. We consciously cut down on the Repulsion worship in this album, and pulled in other influences we’ve always had.
Matt: I like the thrash classics because I grew up with them. I’m not a huge thrash follower these days, but Slayer is one of my favorite bands. Marissa kept bringing in those types of riffs, so I threw in some as well. It just sort of happened.
-Which are your preferred songs in Stranger, and why?
Marissa: My favorite song has changed a few times, but currently I really like “Knights of the Rail.” That’s the only song on the record where Matt and I both contributed riffs. On all of the other songs Matt or I wrote all of the riffs for each individual song.
I think the song rocks and has a good mix of grind, death, and thrash riffs. The breakdown sounds massive, and I really like the culture that Matt created in the lyrics. The song is about two warring hobo gangs. Matt found an online dictionary of hobo slang, and used it to write the lyrics.
Matt: Mine changes all the time. The lyrics were written at the very end, sometimes the night before we recorded vocals, and a song can change when you first hear vocals over music you’ve been rehearsing dry for a year. “The Beast and the Drowning Bucket” was like that. The song was a little tricky for me to play bass too and made me grumpy. Then the vocals just made everything click, and now it’s one of the best. Besides that, “Ghost of Teeth and Hair” is something I like to listen to. It’s about as epic as a Cretin song will get.
-Was the writing and recording / producing process very different from what you did for the Freakery album?
Marissa: Yes and no. The writing process has always been similar. Matt and I go off separately and write a song, and then bring it to rehearsal. The big difference is that last time I was really strict on how each song had to be played, what drum beat had to be behind each riff… I was really controlling. This time, I was way more open to collaboration. It was way less stressful this time, and a lot more fun.
Matt: It was way more fun this time.
-What does grindcore means to you? has your relation with it evolved with the time? and what do you feel about how grindcore is evolving?
Matt: Good question. I guess listening to grindcore for so long, I don’t really think of it in analytical terms. I do end up listening to as many new bands as I can find. I love old grind and I love new grind. There’s this band called Piss Vortex I just heard tonight that I love. I like all the technicality and jazzy chords, same thing for bands like Gridlink. But I love rougher more punk-driven grindcore, too. That last Death Toll 80K album was great. I’d probably say that my tastes in grindcore have grown along with all the experimentation. When I was young, I was a purist, a traditionalist. It’s a conservative mindset. Nowadays, I listen to it all, I love all of it. I can’t say that about any other style of metal. I only like some types of black metal, only some types of death metal. But grindcore, I like everything.
-Which bands from your area would you recommend?
Marissa: There’s actually a pretty good collection of bands in the Bay Area currently. Obviously, I’d recommend Autopsy, and Exodus always put on a fun show. But, definitely check out Necrot and Scolex. They play some sick old school death metal.
Matt: I’m such a hermit, I never leave my house so I don’t see many shows.
-Which evolution would you like to see happening in the underground scene?
Marissa: Nothing would make me happier than to see “Stranger” go platinum. Let’s make it happen!
-What is planned for Cretin in the coming months? are you already preparing a next release?
Marissa: We don’t have any plans for another release. The main focus right now is deciding on a setlist, so we can get out and play some shows.
-Something to add?
Marissa: 1+2+3+1+1+2+3+1=? (Hint: Title of our Decibel Flexi disc track)
Thanks to Matt and Marissa for answering my questions!