The War Inside My Head: An Interview with Japanese goregrind beast Pharmacist
To some grindcore may seem like a rushed, haphazard version of hardcore or death metal, and to some degree it is. Defined by manic energy and impossible speed it is an outburst of unadulterated power. Yet in my mind grindcore functions more like a challenge: Will said band be able to compress the level of creativity, dynamics, and songwriting that goes into a song into minuscule capsules of sound? That's what has always set apart the greats – Insect Warfare, Carcass, and more recently Internal Rot, Cloud Rat, and Obliteration – that they write impeccable, beautiful music that just happens to be played at 900 MPH.
And thus we arrive at the subject of this most recent installment of the The War Inside My Head interview series, Japanese goregrind/death project Pharmacist. Since bursting onto the scene last year with their dazzling Medical Renditions of Grinding Decomposition (a proud member of our 2020 best of list) and previous EP Forensic Pathology Jurisprudence Pharmacist has consistently released a dizzying platter of incredible, creative, and, yes, exquisitely written grind. Not only are they keeping up their incredibly high standard despite releasing every other week (that's what it seems like sometimes) they're somehow getting better, with their most recent couple of EPs consisting of an almost pop levels of death metal catchiness.
For all these reasons and more we are delighted to present this new interview with Pharmacist mastermind Stefan about the band's gory influences and surprisingly progressive musical tastes.
Before we get the interview with Stefan this is just to say that you can check out our other interview series (Albums of the Decade, Pillars of the 90s) and, you haven't already, please follow follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Spotify and support whatever it is that we do on Patreon, and check out our kinda-sorta podcast, MATEKHET (YouTube, Spotify and all that). On to Pharmacist.
What was the first album you bought with your own money, and where did you buy it?
I think it was Pantera's Reinventing the Steel on a licensed cassette tape. I got introduction for heavy stuff like AC/DC and Metallica, and I was all about "let's go the last one." The opener "Hellbound" played on huge volume set the mark in a way, for me personally, especially around that age.
What 2-3 albums did you hear the most growing up?
There was plenty of music experience in my teenage years, it's really hard to pick up even top three genres I listened to the most. For the most extreme part, I'd go with Mental Demise Disgraceful Sores, Dead Infection A Chapter of Accidents and Last Day of Humanity's Putrefaction in Progress. But for a long time I was a total thrash metal head and probably in this way it would be Kreator's Terrible Certainty and Destruction's Release From Agony.
What two albums taught you the most about making music (mixing, production, performance)?
The first time when I started to notice nuances about these things is probably when I was constantly listening to Genesis' The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. Not necessarily because of specific tricks, maybe just with listening over and over I gradually started recognizing more and more. Also the timing was right for me, as I started learn classic guitar, and there was actually something to recognize on that record.
The second one is probably Carcass's debut album. Until then everything I had listened to had more or less relatively good production, and you kind of take it for granted. But when I first listened to Reek of Putrefaction all was so different, good or bad/ it naturally made me curious what the hell is going on and why it is as it is. Is it snare low and cut mid EQ? Does guitar has more low end than bass? Or not? Why does the sound change around middle of the album? etc. Again not so much it told me how to do, but just forcefully turned my attention on some stuff I didn't notice before.
And in a way, to give another answer to your question – I learned from that record that there is not necessarily something needed be learned, even though they themselves were not happy with the result, it still sounds nasty and right to the point as for their material, the best way it could be done in my opinion, like many other classic debuts of that era.
What is the last album that absolutely shocked you?
If you mean in good way then it was a long time ago, and it was mostly hardcore influenceed (I guess?) records – Daughters Hell Songs, The Locust's Plague Soundscape, and first The Dillinger Escape Plan EP.
What album relaxes you or centers you the most?
Mahavishnu Orchestra, Visions Of The Emerald Beyond is first what comes to mind.
What are the 2-3 albums you’ve listened to the most recently?
Miasmatic Necrosis Apex Profane, Dead Infection's Brain Corrosion and Chris Poland's Resistance, but it's getting hard to get my hands on as much releases as I'd like to, as I am in the middle of few recording sessions. I still want to check out more of new releases, and will probably do in few months. There is constantly new great stuff popping up!
What album is grossly underrated?
I'd go with the second Pathologist album – Grinding Opus of Forensic Medical Problems. Though it does have fans around the globe, it has quite a unique vibe and riffing, and overall atmosphere. I think they took the early Carcass style further in the direction most bands did not even try, even though that was the very core of Carcass bizarre vibe, at least for me personally, more than just using pitch shifter on vocals and having bad production. But now more reissues are coming out for that album and it's easier to more people to discover it, I guess.
What album would you recommend from your local scene?
Among younger bands with a full-length under their belt I'd recommend to check out Invictus The Catacombs of Fear. They're an old school death-thrash with great riffs and vocals, all their songs are catchy and easy to remember. But of course, people who are aware of Japanese local metal scene, do know other great bands and albums, many need no introduction.