George ‘Corpsegrinder’ Fisher: “We pick on everyone… There’s some sensitive f*cking people out there and it seems to be getting worse”
Few people from the more extreme depths of the metal pond are as instantly recognisable as George ‘Corpsegrinder’ Fisher. Having spent more than a quarter of a century fronting death metal legends Cannibal Corpse, the vocalist has cemented his place as an equally legendary frontman with a superbly distinctive growl, a constantly windmilling neck, and the stage presence of an already belligerent bear chewing a wasp’s nest.
He’s earned his metal merit badges not only with Cannibal Corpse but also side-projects Paths Of Possession and Serpentine Dominion, alongside numerous guest appearances with the likes of Suffocation and Suicide Silence. He’s metal to the core, but there’s another side to the man who can regularly be found onstage delivering the lyrics to songs like I Cum Blood and Hammer Smashed Face.
George is also a devoted husband and father and – when time allows – a full-on gamer nerd who’s been immersed in World Of Warcraft almost since it began. His Instagram account torpedoes any concept of rock star mystique and perhaps only the dark lord Abbath has been the subject of more extreme metal memes.
Here, we get a look at the real George Fisher, garnering his thoughts on everything from questionable lyrics to family life and the internet’s strange obsession with his neck…
What first got you into heavy metal?
“Black Sabbath, of course. They were definitely the first heavy metal band and anyone who says otherwise is an idiot. When I heard them, my life changed and I was pretty much into metal very young. At eight and nine it started to come in more and once I got into my teen years it was just full-bore.”
What drew you to the more extreme side of the genre?
“I went from Black Sabbath to Priest and Iron Maiden, but when we discovered the heaviest shit it was Slayer and Venom and Celtic Frost and Voivod and Possessed – it all hit us at once. We were listening to heavy metal and then they dropped a fucking building on us. One of my earliest memories is my friend Steve playing the Mercyful Fate EP and I’d never heard anything like it. King Diamond is my favourite singer of all time and when we first heard that EP it was, ‘What the fuck was that?’ I started getting demos and exploring more underground bands. When the Cannibal Corpse demo came out I believe I was already in my first band, which was called Corpsegrinder. We named the band after a Death song.”
Did you come away from that band keeping the name Corpsegrinder for yourself?
“When we formed the band that would become Monstrosity with Lee [Harrison, drums] we did the demo and when we put the names of the band in there, we just put ‘George Corpsegrinder’. I hadn’t met [Cannibal Corpse guitarist] Rob Barrett yet and when Lee introduced us he said, ‘Hey, Rob The Murderer – they called him Murderer for some reason – meet George Corpsegrinder.’ And it just stuck. When we put out [debut Monstrosity record] Imperial Doom, Nuclear Blast put George ‘Corpsegrinder’ Fisher and I didn’t want the last name in it. Like, ‘What the fuck is this?’ It was supposed to be old-school, like Sodom with Tommy Angelripper.”
Was it difficult stepping into an established band like Cannibal Corpse who already had a cult following?
“I don’t mean this disrespectfully, but The Bleeding is the biggest-selling record they did and I’ve sang those songs probably 10 times more than Chris [Barnes, original CC vocalist] did. He recorded them, he wrote the lyrics and he did a great job of them. I’m not trying to take away from him, but I helped make them classics. So was it hard to step in? I was 25 years old and I was a little arrogant asshole. There’s a thing called LSD, lead singer’s disease, and you have to have that arrogance. I was going, ‘I’ll show these motherfuckers.’ When I walked on that stage I had a chip on my shoulder. I knew I would be under the microscope but honestly, I can’t say I was intimidated.”
There are plenty of clips of you ripping into hecklers onstage – was that fuelled by that chip on the shoulder?
“I remember those first tours we did on Vile. I had fire in my balls and I was ready to breathe it out, from my balls through my mouth and right in your face if you mentioned [Chris]. It wasn’t anything personal towards Chris but it was me saying, ‘I’m here now.’ The Barnes thing eventually stopped happening but then people shouted things because they want the reaction, because I’ve been famous for chewing people out onstage. Someone threw a quarter at me in San Diego – there’s a video of that online and I hope my mother never watched it because it’s pretty crazy. I threatened to kill their dog and everybody they knew. The crowd went crazy but I think most people started to realise that I’m full of shit. I’m not some super-sick fighter guy that’s going to come offstage and do some Mortal Kombat moves. I detest violence. I watch boxing and that’s all good, but I’d rather never be in a physical altercation ever again. I’m not saying I’m some pacifist. If you come up and smack me in the face you’re going to have a problem, but I’m not a violent person.”
You do sing violent songs, though. Have you ever had a problem with the content of songs like Stripped, Raped And Strangled or Entrails Ripped From A Virgin’s C*nt from the Chris Barnes era?
“No. Look, it’s horror movies. Stripped, Raped And Strangled isn’t something we invented, it’s not something Chris invented when he wrote the lyrics. I can’t speak for him, but to us all of our songs are basically the soundtrack musically to a horror movie lyrically, and that’s all it really is. We don’t have an agenda, we don’t sing about religion, we don’t sing about politics, we don’t go there, it doesn’t interest us as far as this band goes. Politically we’re probably at either end if any of us even give a piss at all. For me personally, I have two daughters. Obviously Stripped Raped And Strangled [and] Fucked With A Knife, they’re testy subjects, but I’m comfortable singing them because it’s not who we are. They’re just songs. Don’t take it like that because if you take it like that then you need to sit and look in the mirror and think to yourself, ‘Why am I so upset at that song?’ Because if you think it’s us promoting violence towards women, you’re totally missing the point.
“We can go back to Vile and the song Orgasm Through Torture and there’s a line that goes, ‘She rips my cock off with her teeth.’ That’s not us being violent towards women; the woman is dishing out the punishment. We’re mean to everybody, we pick on everyone. I’m sure eventually, somewhere in this world, zombies will be offensive. We have songs that are about monsters, science experiments gone wrong, zombies of course, real people doing things to other people that are real. I don’t have a problem singing those songs because we’re not saying, ‘Do this’. It’s fucking horror movie stuff. There’s just some sensitive fucking people out there and it seems to be getting worse.”
Would you have let your daughters listen to Cannibal Corpse?
“My oldest is going to be 17 and my youngest 15, so they can hear it. But first off they could never tell what I was singing and anyway, they just never wanted to hear it. ‘This is what dad does.’ Noise.”
Does your Instagram account show a very different George Fisher to the Corpsegrinder we know from Cannibal Corpse?
“The Instagram thing… at first I was leery about posting things with the kids. There’s a famous meme of me with one of our songs Make Them Suffer changed to Make Them Supper, and it’s a picture of me with my wife and daughters. They took it from my wife’s Facebook I think and she was not happy. We talked about it and when she wanted to post some pictures at Christmas time we went, ‘Fuck it, they’re our kids and it is what it is.’ I’m not going to sit here and try to shield them from the world. So I started posting pictures with the kids and there are pictures of me winning stuffed animals and playing claw machines. I’ve got this teddy bear persona now that does not fit the name Corpsegrinder at all! If you look back at those videos of me sounding like I’m going to murder anyone that’s looking at me wrong, it doesn’t work right. But it’s not like I tried to reimagine myself, I just posted what was going on in my life. And the wife now is saying, ‘You’ve gotta post this, you’ve gotta post that.’ I’m a lazy son of a bitch though. I’ve got over 200,000 followers but I really don’t post that much.”
Does the internet have an unhealthy interest in your neck?
“Yes, a hundred per cent. Everyone’s always asking about my neck and any person doing any neck exercises, I get tagged in it all the time. It’s crazy. There was a meme: ‘No Valentine this year, maybe necks year’, which I thought was brilliant.”
Tom Araya ended up with a metal plate in his neck through constant headbanging. Do you ever worry about potential damage from windmilling?
“I’ve had pulled muscles in my shoulder but, knock on wood, I’ve never had a problem in my actual neck. My neck has gotten bigger over the years and there’s no doubt it’s because of the headbanging. I must have been building muscle somehow with the way I do it but it’s just become second nature to me when we play shows. It’s funny you mention Tom Araya because when we toured with Slayer that was a lifelong dream. I cornered Tom one night when I was drunk. He’d said in an interview that not being able to headbang kinda took the fun out of it for him and that touched me. I had to tell him he was the main reason I headbang the way I do. His style is that side to side infinity shape, but it made me see headbanging like an artform.”
How did it feel having a cartoon character in the form of Dethklok’s Nathan Explosion based on you?
“For the first round of Metalocalypse voices I did I went up to California and they showed me the cubicle where they were working on Nathan Explosion. They were all pictures of me and Conan The Barbarian, so I’m honoured that the character was made of that mix. I grew up reading the Robert E. Howard Conan books. They told me I was the inspiration for Nathan Explosion and that cartoon did a lot for us. They referenced our songs and I’m sure some people looked us up and we got a lot of new fans out of it. Plus, when I went I got to meet Mark Hamill, so that was awesome.”
You also had a World Of Warcraft character named after you, didn’t you?
“That was awesome. Warcraft has been a big deal for me so for them to put a character in the game was unreal. They do put pop culture references in from all sorts of music but even so, I remember when I got that quest to meet Gorge The Corpsegrinder. You fly this magic carpet down and there’s this big ol’ orc. I was like, ‘Get the fuck out of here!’ I lost it, I couldn’t believe it. I’ve been playing for 16 years or so. It hadn’t even been out a year when my friend got me into it. I’ve met people through Warcraft, made friends through it. The game has been great to me, there’s kids who come to our shows and that’s what they want to talk about.”
You’ve been doing this music thing even longer though. With Cannibal Corpse’s 15th album Violence Unimagined out, is there any sign of you slowing down or mellowing out?
“No, it’s not possible. I’ve had some dips and there are times on a long tour when you want to go home. I’ll still be giving it everything I can but maybe inside I’ll be feeling shitty. But we’ll play three songs and the crowd will go insane and that’s what the fans give us. I’ve had my ups and downs and any musician will tell you that, but with the way things are now and not being able to tour, I’m seeing it in a whole new light. It’s one thing to step away and another to have it taken away from you. And being 50 years old, I can tell you mortality and death starts staring at you. I try not to take anything for granted and I can’t wait to get back out there.”
Violence Unimagined is out now via Metal Blade Records
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