Features – CHRIS REIFERT Talks AUTOPSY’s Death Metal Staying Power: ‘It’s The Same Formula Since 1987’

By David E. Gehlke

Californian gore death metal originators AUTOPSY called it a day in 1995 after “Shitfun”, an album more known for its literal cover art than the music. Whatever one makes of the “Shitfun” artwork, by then, AUTOPSY had already produced two of death metal’s flagship records in 1989’s “Severed Survival” and 1991’s “Mental Funeral”, both of which championed crude, raw, primitive death metal with a slight doom touch. It became a formula that many death metal bands would copy decades later, showing that it could still be enjoyable without resorting to the tech-fest tactics that swept over the scene in the early ’90s.

AUTOPSY returned in 2009 to a far different scene, but one still thirsting for the band’s patented death metal style. Their recent output stacks up well, particularly 2015’s “Skull Grinder” EP and last year’s “Morbidity Triumphant” full length, which provides the perfect segue to the new long player “Ashes, Organs, Blood and Crypts”. It was the primary topic of discussion when drummer/vocalist Chris Reifert (who also played on DEATH‘s legendary “Scream Bloody Gore” debut) phoned up BLABBERMOUTH.NET.

Blabbermouth: Do you recall your expectations when AUTOPSY reformed in 2009? Has this 14-year run exceeded it?

Chris: “It has, for sure. Doing more records and these types of shows would have blown our minds in the old days. When we first started, we played to ten of our buddies at a show or party. But when we got back together, we played to 10,000 people in Germany and France. It’s been wild in all the best ways.”

Blabbermouth: Death metal was such an insular thing when you were doing it in the early days. Now, it’s grown beyond everyone’s imagination.

Chris: “It’s weird. Who saw that coming? I’m as surprised as anyone else.”

Blabbermouth: Why such a quick turnaround between studio albums? “Morbidity Triumphant” feels like it just came out.

Chris: “It used to be normal! Harkening to the early days of death metal, bands always put out an album a year. It was not weird at all. [Laughs] Going back earlier, this has nothing to do with death metal, but bands in the ’60s and ’70s were putting out a couple of albums every year. When I was a kid, there were a couple of KISS albums every year. It was how we grew up. That’s how bands conducted themselves, and that’s what we did when we started our own bands. We do it mostly because it’s fun and we like doing it. We’re not trying to impress anybody. No one sticks a knife to our throat, ‘Make a record, or you will die!’ It’s what we like to do. We’re doing it because we want to do it. That’s the simple answer.”

Blabbermouth: You, Eric [Cutler, vocals/guitar] and Danny [Coralles, guitar] have been the core of AUTOPSY for so long — since the beginning. Is that the secret sauce?

Chris: “We like each other. We still tolerate each other. [Laughs] Sometimes we get on each other’s nerves, but that’s normal when you know people for that long. We still get along. Actually, the three of us are going to see Alice Cooper together. They’re still fun dudes to hang out with and good friends. That carries over into making music. We like showing up in the rehearsal room together and working on stuff. It’s still fun, or we have no reason to do it.”

Blabbermouth: Will you still cling to the idea that AUTOPSY will never be a regular touring band?

Chris: “Yeah, that’s not us. There are a lot of bands and that’s how they operate. I’m friends with a lot of bands like that who are always touring. It’s great. That’s the cool thing about being in a band — you can do what you want or not do what you don’t want to do. We like playing and traveling here and there and seeing different people in different places. You won’t see us in a bus for two months rolling down the road. We’ve done that before. We know what it’s all about. Besides that, we have home lives that we enjoy. We like sleeping in our own beds. Being at home is great, but it’s good to get away, but not too long. A fun jaunt here and a journey there is always cool.”

Blabbermouth: Is it safe to say “Ashes, Organs, Blood and Crypts” picks up where “Morbidity Triumphant” left off? It’s a great album title, too.

Chris: “The title is like a bizarre shopping list. [Laughs] ‘Don’t forget the organs!’ I guess every album is a continuation from the last. We don’t try to do anything new beyond what we normally do. It’s another album from us. Hopefully, we’re consistent. Like, if you’re going to buy an INCANTATION album or MOTÖRHEAD album — you know what you are going to get, but not exactly. That’s how we see ourselves.”

Blabbermouth: You have gotten some of that out of your system with “Shitfun”.

Chris: “That was still AUTOPSY, but the cover threw people off. It was like, ‘Here’s our cover. Suck it.’ We had zero concerns about what anyone thought, but it was hilarious. Musically, it’s still us. There’s a handful of songs that are good little blasters. We did that on ‘Mental Funeral’, but there’s more on that album. It’s a heavy, death metal album that makes you feel gross. We stand by it one hundred percent.”

Blabbermouth: Can we talk about “Well Of Entrails” from the new album? It’s supremely heavy, maybe because it’s doomy.

Chris: “Some people can’t handle the doom stuff and get bored, like, ‘I only want the fast parts.’ We’d get bored writing and playing — as a drummer, if I played all fast and slow, especially all slow because I enjoy playing fast, but if it were all one-dimensional, it wouldn’t be as cool to play and listen to. There are a lot of bands who play only fast or slow and I’m a fan of bands who do that, but for us, maybe it’s our attention spans, but even going back to the first demo, we’ve always liked to include speedy and doomy stuff and some kind of weird shit in between. That keeps it interesting. We haven’t changed our formula since that first demo in 1987. It’s just one foot in front of the other. It’s the same formula since 1987.”

Blabbermouth: Speaking of consistency, you’ve been on Peaceville since the beginning. [Owner/founder Paul Halmshaw] Hammy is no longer with the label, but you’ve become one of their longest-tenured bands.

Chris: “We signed with them when Eric and I were 19. Now we’re in our ’50s! Get your head wrapped around that, which is bizarre. That was our first real offer. We only had one before that, but it was super dicey and lame. We turned it down, then Peaceville came sniffing around and we said, ‘Let’s do it!’ That was on the merits from the second demo in ’88. Later in the year, we signed and we’re still with them. They’ve been cool to us. We’ve been hopefully cool to them. There’s been no reason to go anywhere. We could probably get on a bigger label if we really wanted to. Maybe. We’ve never really tried. We know what we’re going to get with them. They know what they’re going to get with us. They don’t have a zillion bands, so we get a lot of focus and care. They do a really good job, so I’d be bummed out if we ended up on a bigger label in a stable with 300 other bands. Then our album would be a blip. It works for us. It suits our pace. They don’t try to make us do things we don’t want, like going on the road for three months or shit like that. [Laughs] They’re always at the ready when we say, ‘Okay. We’re ready to make an album.”

Blabbermouth: Who was the other label? Was it Combat?

Chris: “No, but Combat was a legit label. This was a label called Metal Other. They were weird. They were out of the U.K. and sent a record or two they put out, which didn’t look very good. You can probably search for them, but they are long gone. We didn’t feel good about them. But that was it. Then Peaceville came around and the rest was history.”

Blabbermouth: You’d think Combat would have poked around simply because you played on “Scream Bloody Gore”.

Chris: “Yeah, you’d think that, but they never did for whatever reason. That’s fine. We were happy with how things went down in the label department. Peaceville even has our demos now. They got the rights to those and put them out. They literally have every piece of our music in their catalog. It’s crazy. It works.”

Blabbermouth: Your first two albums have often been a template for more recent retro death metal bands. Is that the ultimate compliment?

Chris: “I don’t know what to say about that. It’s cool. We still play a lot of stuff off those albums. We still like those songs and people like to hear them. There’s no reason to throw them away or forget about them. It’s kind of mind-blowing. What’s weird about death metal is albums like those don’t sound like old people’s music. Like music that came out in the ’50s, a few decades later, in the ’80s, it was super-dated. It was like, ‘Oh, ’50s music?’ It’s kind of a trip that we get teenagers or people in their early ’20s or weren’t born when the first albums came out and they’re fucking stoked. How cool is that? It’s a whole new crop of people getting into death metal. Not casually getting into it — deep into it. We couldn’t ask for anything cooler than that.”

Blabbermouth: Did you ever wonder how things would have shaken out if you wanted to try Florida’s hot and sticky weather and made the move across the country with Chuck [Schuldiner, DEATH]?

Chris: “No. That’s ultimate ‘alternate’ universe stuff. I had the invitation to go back there and stay. It’s not just the weather; it is gnarly down there, but I’m a homebody. I like it here. I’ve always lived here in California and probably always will unless something weird happens. I cannot dig up my roots and plant myself elsewhere. As cool as it was to have that open door, it wasn’t something I was willing to do. I’m kind of boring in that way. I don’t do drastic things like that. [Laughs] I don’t move wherever unless life takes me down some weird path.”

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