Pig Destroyer: The Story Behind Terrifyer's Disturbing Cover

On the 15th anniversary of its release, we look at how PxDx created one of grindcore's most unsettling album sleeves.

Pig Destroyer: The Story Behind Terrifyer's Disturbing Cover

It was hard to imagine how Richmond, Virginia-based grindcore trio Pig Destroyer could follow up their 2001 release Prowler In The Yard. The album featured both a discomfortingly ferocious approach to American grindcore and one of the most unsettling covers many metal fans had ever seen (courtesy of tattoo artist Paul Booth). Both catapulted the band to new levels of acclaim as one of extreme music's more menacing acts.

But it was 2004's Terrifyer that cemented PxDx as an artistic force within the scene. The album showed the band expressing their trademark savagery with even more nuance and variation; it came not only with a 21-song barrage of grind, but also a DVD featuring a 37-minute-long doom metal number titled Natasha that was deeply moving and proved the band could do more than just rage. What also struck many listeners from the onset was the album's cover, designed by Chris Taylor of Richmond grind crew pg. 99 and featuring a scabby, bruised woman with her breasts exposed and face obscured in shadow.

To celebrate the 15th anniversary of this unnerving masterpiece being released, we spoke to Pig Destroyer vocalist J.R. Hayes about the album and the creation of its iconic if horrific cover.

When you think back on recording Terrifyer, what immediately comes to mind? What are your gut reactions or memories?

It was a ton of work but also a ton of fun. Even by our standards, we were very hands-on with all aspects of the recording, art, layout, etc. There were so many ideas floating around that it was hard just to keep it all organized. Five of the songs from that session didn't even make the record and I still have a whole notebook of lyrics that I never got around to using.

Were Terrifyer and Natasha always a combined effort, or did you choose to couple one with the other later?

They were both conceived at the same time, and the lyrics are obviously from the same head space as the Terrifyer lyrics and the story in the booklet, so for me, they belong together. I kind of wish they were still packaged together, but it's also kind of cool that Natasha is it's own thing now. I guess it depends on what day you ask me.

Is there a song on Terrifyer that, 15 years later, you still think is as awesome as anything you've written?

Scarlet Hourglass is probably my favorite Pig Destroyer song.

How did the concept for the album cover come about? What was the concept you wanted to explore?

We stumbled upon it completely by accident. Chris Taylor is from my hometown in northern Virginia. He's one of my oldest and closest friends. We go back to before PD and pg.99 even existed. Chris is kind of a strange cat, and one of his (many) talents is that he can use a copy machine as an artistic medium. He'll take an image, darken it, use some white out, lighten it, combine it with another image... It's almost like he would play it like a musical instrument, it was fascinating to watch.

Anyway, we were at Kinko's one night, and he was messing with some porn mag that I had brought, and he darkened this one image down until the girl's face disappeared. We both looked at it and were like "Well, that's the cover." Obviously, he did a bunch of other work to it after that, but that was how we found it. I think the girl on the back cover came out of the same dirty magazine.

Was the cover tied into the Natasha story, or is the woman featured there an independent figure?

Yes and no. She is whoever you want her to be.

How deeply involved were you with Chris? Did he send you sketches, or did you just let him work?

We worked out the rough ideas together, but once you get him going it's best to step back and let him do his thing. I just try to encourage him and make sure he has everything he needs.

What were initial reactions to Terrifyer's cover like? Were people excited by it? Horrified?

I'm not sure, to be honest. As a band, we were super stoked on it, so I could give a fuck what anybody else thought.

Do you like the cover art? If so, what do you like the most? If not, what would you want improved?

It's perfect. Light years beyond what I had originally envisioned.

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