The County Medical ExaminersInterview by Lucifera
1. Two of the band members are actually Medical Examiners, Dr. Putnam and Dr. Fairbanks have completed ME training and are certified by the board of pathology. Do you practice?
Yes, I practice, though under my real name, of course. I have been apprenticing for a very long time now, and I am finally reaching a point where I'm handling some forensic pathology cases on my own. My past instructors and senior ME's have been great, and I've learned a lot from them, but it's nice to fly solo for a change. My last boss actually works in the same building as I do right now, so he checks up on me and makes sure I'm not fumbling anything too severely!
2. This band started as an inspiration by Carcass and the grindcore scene. How did this marriage of metal and Medical Examiners come about? Who was the mastermind behind this creation?
I started this project; it was my idea. I really missed the late '80s and early '90s Carcass style, and I'd adopted the other clone bands that were dabbling in that style, but they just weren't close enough to the originals for me. I decided that I would make the music that I was missing. That is the pure distillation of what this musical project is: making the tunes that we miss so badly. I know many consider it bad form, and I respect that. The County Medical Examiners isn't executed with a cynical megalomaniac flippancy, it is carefully crafted with the utmost respect to CarcassÖa living, breathing homage and nod to the originators, and we have tried to convey that every step of the way. Iím glad there are people out there who feel as we do, and just want the same type of music again now that Carcass is no more, but while we do it for those die hard pathological grind fans, weíre mainly doing it for ourselves. Iíll admit, I pop in our CD from time to time. Iím not ashamed to say that I get a kick out of it. Thereís a certain satisfaction when beholding the realization of your efforts. The County Medical Examiners will continue to create this Carcass brand of music until the urge to listen to it passes, or we simply become too busy.
3. How do you find time between the band and your profession? Studying medicine is often seen as something that requires time and total concentration.
Medicine DOES garner my total concentration. I'm wary to call TCME a "band" because we don't do the things most bands do. We don't get together and practice. We don't play shows. We don't socialize as a band. We don't have that band identity that most musicians wear on their sleeves. I think of this as our little project, a fun hobby at best. I write songs and lyrics; we schedule a time to rehearse for a recording; then we record. It's a quick process, and takes very little time out of our lives. So it's not a question of "how do we balance the profession and the band," but a matter of "can I take this week off as vacation to record this new album?" It's a totally different mindset.
4. Tell us a little about your music. We've heard it described as postmortem death/grind. What would you describe it as?
I'd call it heavy metal, or more closely: death metal. The proliferation of subgenre titles makes me tired. If you really want to narrow it down and link it to Carcass, you could call it "pathological grind" or maybe "gore grind." I don't know. There are kids out there who make it their business to label metal into tiny cubbyholes, complete with orders, genus, phylum, etc. Their enthusiasm borders on obsessive-compulsiveness. Postmortem grind is a catchy and colorful description, but so as not to confuse anyone, and to avoid sounding like an elite scene dwelling child, I'd call it death metal, just to be safe.
5. Why the name, The County Medical Examiners? Couldn't you pick a longer name? ha ha.
Just avoiding the commonplace one word band name. Most are taken, anyway. Fledgling bands mine dictionaries page by page for that. Our name was an obvious choice: it represents our profession, which is what the lyrics are mainly about, as well. And I like the punk feel of the name starting with "The" sounds like a club, or something.
6. I realized from checking out your site, that although humorous, you are also serious about the way people into this kind of music are depicted. You don't take too lightly the stereotype of the "useless" metalhead or the "airhead." Is there more to your reason for making the site so professional? Are those actually your hobbies?
I wasn't aware that we were coming off so judgmental on the site. We aren't trying to. We basically know who our audience is--the small percentage of pathological grind and Carcass worshipping fans--so we can direct our band to them without trying to canvass the rest of the scene for listeners. We really don't care about the "brutal" scene, or whatever moniker it goes by these days, and we know that most of those type of fans don't enjoy the style of music TCME plays, so we can just avoid them completely. I know that sounds foolish: most bands try to get as many fans as possible, but remember...we're not in the "band" mindset. We're playing to a niche market, and that's fine with us. Most of the people I've met over the last 15 years who have been admirers of the old style of grind, such as Carcass, Napalm Death, etc., and more precisely--the people who are into pathological grind, have been more down to earth and sensible than the typical pit meandering brute (though I've met some great metal brutes, too). I'll put it to you plain and simple: we're directing TCME to a niche audience, and that audience enjoys being dealt with in a mature manner. And of course those are my hobbies! Why wouldn't they be? I love fishing! I've been tying my own flies since I was 13 years old. I love my daughter to death, but I really wanted a son so I could take him fishing! Well, the wife and I are thinking about having another child, so maybe I'll get my fishing partner, yet.
7. Women are actually making themselves known in the metal scene and it's great to see a female with intellect and dedication. How did Michelle Hayes become involved? Especially in a scene where very few women are known for even being fans of the grindcore scene.
Michelle had a run in with the law, and part of her probation was to visit the morgue with a class and view first hand what happens when people drive intoxicated. She was attending med school anyway, and thought it would be a good experience to volunteer at the morgue, so she helped for a few months. That's how I met her. She loves Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Napalm Death, Carcass, etc., so we immediately had something in common--metal. She's in Massachusetts attending med school now, so I haven't seen her in a long time. I remember those days quite well, and I know she has her hands full with school. Not much time for music now, I suppose. She probably won't be playing with TCME in the future. In fact, we're about to record for an upcoming release, and she can't get anytime off from her studies, so we're going to have to replace her, which makes me a bit sad, but was ultimately inevitable. I'm trying to convince one of my fellow pathologists to fill in. He's an incredible jazz bassist and pianist, and a great friend, but he's not into metal. He's over 60 years old! I think it would be fun to see a sixtysomething man grind out some Carcass worship on the bass, and if I can get him to agree to go into the studio with us, I'll have to video tape the session and post it to the website.
8. You have two releases, "Fetid Putrescent Whiffs" demo and "Forensic Fugues and Medicolegal medleys." What differences did you note from the demo to the full-length album? Can you tell us what we might expect of your future project?
Oh, they sound very different. We have electronic drums on the demo, and it isn't mastered or mixed very well. It was a bit too clean sounding, too, as I like things more gritty and dirty; homogenous and evenly mixed all around--I don't like instruments to stand out from each other. We're largely keeping the Forensic Fugues and Medicolegal Medleys sound for our future recordings. You know what I really dislike? When bands betray an early sound that they're loved and known for. I don't want to do that. I understand the urge to progress as a musician and band, but I don't consider myself much of a musician (!) and after all, we're not trying to emulate Carcass' fall from grind grace, so don't expect our albums to get any cleaner or nicer. We actually make things nosier than they need to be in the studio, and we do it all on warm, fuzzy analogue tape, too. Noisy and slightly sloppy is so charming to me, for some reason.
9. How did you become involved with Razorback Records? How has your relationship with them been so far?
Razorback Records is a godsend. They only sign bands that they like and respect, and I'm honored that they've decided to make The County Medical Examiners part of their family. We couldn't be happier, and as far as I'm concerned, we'll release all our albums on Razorback as long as they let us. Not many labels would trust a band to have complete control over everything, from their albums, to their entire image, but Razorback has shown us that respect the entire time. One look at their roster and it's easy to see why they are so admired. Everything they put out is wonderful. Getting signed to Razorback was effortless and organic, more of a mutual respect and an agreement between friends. I sent them the demo, they liked what they heard; we started recording the full length and from advanced tracks, they signed us and released the album.
10. What merchandise is available to the readers of Endemoniada zine?
Our full length album "Forensic Fugues and Medicolegal Medleys" is now available from your local distributor or Razorback Records. We have some t-shirts available through our site: www.thecountymedicalexaminers.com, and we're making more with a new design in a few months when our next recording comes out on Razorback.
11. Any last words?
Thanks for the interview, and thank you everyone for reading my rambling diatribes about metal!