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An epic interview with George ‘Corpsegrinder’ Fisher, a hero for our times

George ‘Corpsegrinder’ Fisher
(Image credit: George ‘Corpsegrinder’ Fisher)

George ‘Corpsegrinder’ Fisher is a god amongst men. Yes, he’s most famous as the bull-necked singer with death metal juggernauts Cannibal Corpse (heads-up: they have a killer new album, Violence Unimagined, out April 16). For that alone, he deserves entry to the halls of Valhalla.

But there’s another Corpsegrinder, one the world doesn’t really get to see. This Corpsegrinder is a family man who spends his free time nerding out over World Of Warcraft and posting pictures of himself on Instagram with armfuls of stuffed toys he’s won on claw machines. This Corpsegrinder kicks back and listens to the Cranberries and country music and gets to hang out with Cher. Yeah, that’s right: Cher.

Fact is, George ‘Corpsegrinder’ Fisher is winning at life on every single level. So we figured we’d grab him to find out just what it’s like being the hero the world needs right now.

Metal Hammer line break

Before we start, what do I call you? George? Corpsegrinder? Corpsey?

Whatever you prefer. Most of the fans call me Corpsegrinder. [Cannibal Corpse guitarist] Rob Barrett calls me Grinder, but I've known him for twenty-five plus years. My wife calls me Georgie. People have called me Georgie on stage, but I'll make it clear: [mock-malevolent] ‘Nobody calls me Georgie but my mother and wife.’

I love claw machines. It could be a cartoon character that I don't like in there – I’ll get ’em anyway.

Corpsegrinder

So, there’s a new Cannibal Corpse album, Violence Unimagined. Imagine I’d never heard Cannibal Corpse before. Give me the hard sell.

I’d normally just say ‘death metal’ but if you’d never heard Cannibal Corpse before, you wouldn’t know what death metal is. So, I’d just say, it’s fast, it’s heavy, it’s got some catchy parts. Some people frown on the word ‘groove’ in the death m metal world, but you can definitely slam to it. I don’t want to say the clichéd thing, y’know, ‘It’s our best record to date’, but it feels fresh. I don't hate Hammer Smashed Face and Devoured By Vermin, but we've played those songs a ton of times. This is fresher.

It’s your 11th album with Cannibal Corpse. When did you stop feeling like the new guy?

I don't know if I ever looked at it like that, but probably after we did all the tours for [Corpsegrinder’s first CC album] Vile. I was just concentrating on playing the shows, so I don’t know if I ever felt like the new guy. I was just, like, ‘OK, I’m in the band, I’m gonna show everybody what I do, it’s gonna be different to Chris [Barnes, original CC growler]. I was an arrogant little asshole. I was not worried if people wouldn’t like it: ‘If you don’t like it, you’re a fucking idiot.’ I was just trying to show the world, ‘Hey, I'm here, and I'm not fucking going anywhere.’

Can we talk about your Instagram account?

Sure.

You post lots of photos of you with your wife and kids looking really happy. That’s not very death metal, is it?

[Laughs] Not compared to the things we sing about, no. I didn’t have an Instagram for a long time, cos I’m just an old fart. But our sound guy/tour manager is younger and with the times, and he said, ‘Dude, you need to get an Instagram!’ He went, ‘Let me see some pictures on your phone and he pretty much showed me how to do everything.’

You know that meme? It says ‘Make Them Suffer’, and it’s a picture of myself with my oldest daughter when she was a small child. They got that from my wife’s Facebook page, and she was pissed. She was, like, ‘They’re our kids - if anyone’s gonna find out about them, I’d rather people found out about them from us than from some other source.’ So I started putting pictures of me and my wife and kids out there.

It’s not a perfectly crafted thing. If I take a picture, I'll just put it out there. If we’re out I’ll take a selfie and just put it out there. Or I'll do an anniversary post for the wife or birthday pictures for the kids. There's a lot of negativity out there, and trust me, I get mad about things too, but I don't want to be all over my page bitchin’ about what I think is right and wrong. And I don't post all the time - I'm not posting five or 10 pictures a day.

But when you do post, you post good.

It takes me forever to do a post. I will screenshot my post before I put it out and I'll send it to my wife and go, ‘What do you think?’ She'll be sitting right next to me and she’ll go, ‘Yeah, it looks good, keep it simple.’ When people ask me why I don't write lyrics, this is why – because it would take me a year to write one song.

Do you read your comments?

I do read my comments, and sometimes there's bad ones. Some of them I won't tolerate, but that’s very rare; you’d have to say something that's flat out too ignorant for even me and I sing with Cannibal Corpse. But I do read a lot from people that say, 'This makes my day', and that makes my day.

Have you seen that meme of you and Jon Schaffer, where he’s ranting in the Capitol Building and you’re smiling and carrying a bunch of stuffed toys. It says: ‘In a world of Jon Schaffers, be a Corpsegrinder’…

[Looks embarrassed] Yeah. At first, when all that happened, I was just like, 'Wow, dude what are you thinking?' I understand if you think some things are not right in the country, but I would never go that extreme.

I think my wife saw the meme first and she showed it to me. I was like, well that's good, I'm glad some people think that highly of me. I think it's justified at least on the basis that I would not be doing anything like that. But listen, I'm not trying to judge him.

There’s a lot of posts on Instagram of you with stuffed toys you’ve won from claw machines. What’s all that about?

I love claw machines. It could be anything in there - it could be a cartoon character that I don't like - and I’ll get ’em anyway.

I saw this YouTube video of a guy who got kicked out of some arcade, and he had a system that to win - somebody had told him where to touch the sides of the claw machine, or a certain area on it, and you will always win. Like the sensors treat it as a test run or something. That‘s like stacking the deck of cards or cheating at Monopoly. You didn’t really  win. I know I have legitimately won every damn thing I’ve got out of a claw machine honestly.

George ‘Corpsegrinder’ Fisher

(Image credit: George ‘Corpsegrinder’ Fisher)

What’s the secret?

[Enthusiastically] I play the claw. I'm like a kid at Disney; I'm looking what's in there, and then I'm looking at how it's sitting inside of there. Is there something on top of it? Do I have to move that?

As soon as I see how the claw reacts, I'll know if I'm gonna win. If the actual hands of the claw are set really loose, or maybe the machine has been used a lot, the sometimes stuff will just slip out.

If there's a humanoid figure or a creature with arms or legs, I will try to get the claw in between the legs and the shoulder. If I can't do that because it’s laying at an angle, then I’ll try to move it to a spot where it will be in the right space. But if I pick up something up and you are around watching me, you are not allowed to say anything. When it drops in the hole and it’s down in the bottom where I grab it, then you can say, ‘You got it!’ But if you say anything while it’s in the claw… that’s when you see me mad.

Really?

I swear to you, I yelled at a kid once. We were in Texas at a claw machine. I picked up this car, it was a Dale Earnhardt Sr, No.3 car. My mother watched Nascar forever, and that was her car. I wanted it for her.

Anyway, this kid is watching me. I’d told everybody that they couldn’t say anything until it was in that hole. So I get it in the claw, and the machine is picking it up, and he goes, ‘You got it!’ And sure e-fucking-nough, that thing drops.

I turned to the kid, and said, [malevolent stare] ‘Go away right now.’ He was, like, ‘Oh, I’m so sorry.’ I said, ‘I fucking told you, why would you do that?’ [Grits teeth] I’m getting mad again just thinking about it.

I can't be jealous of my neck – what would I do without it?

Corpsegrinder

Be honest, how good are you really?

So one time we were at a Flying J truck stop, and they had Disney characters in the claw machines - it was one of the bigger ones. I swear to you on my children, I won four of them in one shot - it was some UFO one. I walked away and people, were, like, ‘Holy crap!’

Another time, we were in Walmart around Christmas time. I’d won some stuff, but there was this kid who hadn’t. I was, like, ‘Here, you can have mine.’ The parents were, like, ‘Really?’ The mom was tearing up. I was, like, ‘Don’t do that, you’re gonna make me do it too.’ She was, like, ‘Why would you do that?’ I said, ‘Well, because I’m gonna donate them anyway.’

So you win all this stuff and give it charity?

I just like to play the claw machines. I save up quarters, and when I win we gonna donate them for kids for Christmastime or whatever. We played somewhere in Michigan once, and the club we were playing had a sign saying, ‘“On such and such a date, we're doing a toy drive.’

So I found out who was in charge of the club and said, ‘So you're in charge of this toy drive? I got a whole bunch of stuffed animals I won on this tour, I'll give ’em to you.’  And they’re, like, ‘Don't you want to give them to your kids?’ If there’s any they might want, I put them in a separate bag, but they have enough stuffed animals anyway.

You collect comic book and video game toys yourself. What’s the most you’ve ever dropped on something for yourself?

I think I spent $500 on a replica of a sword from World Of Warcraft. It was called Frostmourne, the sword of the Lich King. [Turning to point at the shelves behind him] That’s the Helm Of Sauron, from Lord of the Rings. The wife got me that for Christmas. On this side, next to that, right behind me is the Hammer of Thor, that's a replica of the hammer from the comic books, not the movie one. She got me that, too. The Frostmourne I saw they were making and I paid for it myself, but the wife has bought me most of the collectibles.

Some guy made a one-off Corpsegrinder action figure. What’s more exciting: that or being an NPC in World Of Warcraft?

G: Well, the one-off action figure was heart-warming. That somebody gave a crap enough about me to make a figure, let along sending it to me and not keeping it to themselves. That’s just flattering, and obviously, so is the character being made of me. I’ve been playing World Of Warcraft forever - 16 years or something. One of my friends was, like, ‘Dude, they’re gonna make a character of you, I guarantee it.’ I was, like, ‘Why would they make a character of me? I’m just some douchebag in a death metal band.’

Then Wrath Of The Lich King came out, and you go down to do quests and they send you to talk to ‘Gorge the Corpsegrinder’. When I saw it, I was, like, [eyes widen] 'What?!’ The best part is that he’s an orc. If they'd have made him any other character I'd have been like, 'Come on guys'. But, no, they made him an orc, and they named him ‘Gorge’. They didn’t name him ‘George The Corpsegrinder’ because they would have probably had to pay me for that! [Laughs]. But I would have been, ‘Nah, go ahead’, anyway.

Are you ever tempted to beat the shit out of yourself when you’re playing?

If I played with the Alliance I could probably go and attack, yeah. [Suddenly serious] But anyone that knows me knows one thing: I never, ever play Alliance characters. I’m Horde forever. When it comes to World Of Warcraft, I’m racist: I don't like dwarves and gnomes and night elves. There’s no way I’m playing as any of those shitty characters. My friends all play Horde, but if they introduced me to a game and said, ‘We’re playing  Alliance, these are the characters you can be’, I’d be, like, ‘Fuck you.’

Is it true that you’re a big Cranberries fan?

Yeah. I mean, I don’t have all their music, but there’s a few of their records that I have and I like.

Cranberries aside, what does Corpsegrinder listen to when he wants a break from metal?

I listen to some soundtracks here and there. I love the soundtrack to the first Conan The Barbarian movie, by Basil Poledouris. The movie’s great, but that soundtrack makes it - if you listen to it and close your eyes, you can see the movie.

And I listen to a lot of old school country music. Me and our touring manager Johnny and our drum tech Chris are into old school country. We have a playlist we play on the tourbus: we’ve got some Dolly Parton in there, some George Jones, Waylon Jennings. Alex [Webster, guitarist] will sit and tolerate it. But the rest of the guys are, like, ‘Ugggh.’

So when can we expect the Corspegrinder country music solo album?

[Laughing] Well, you'd have to expect Corpsegrinder to get throat surgery so he could actually hold a note first. I mean it'd be great, but I don't think it's ever gonna happen.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever had thrown onstage?

Maybe a dildo.

I'm scared to ask, but what did you do with the dildo?

I might have been stupid and picked up and waved it about. I’m pretty sure the other guys were going, “What are you doing, you idiot?”

Have you ever faced a crowd that’s really hated you?

I don't know anyone that's really hated us, cos I'd have probably told them to fuck off, and I would think I'd remember that. We've had some crowds where nothing gets them going, no matter how much you scream at them. I think if you're there, with all the pent-up energy you’ve been storing for a week or however long you’ve been waiting for a show, there’s no reason to stand there playing with your pecker.

But going the other way, we played in South America one time, and kids rushed the stage. It was chaotic, things of ours were stolen. The show got cancelled by the police. And in Russia there was some shit that happened a few years ago.

https://youtu.be/qFiGYtX4ey0

(Image credit: Metal Blade)

What happened in Russia?

Just crazy shit. Shows were cancelled – a couple of them were cancelled just as we were about to walk onstage. One show was cancelled when we were in the middle of playing a song.

I'll never forget it. The cops had come in and they had riot gear and shields and shotguns, and there was this guy  who was telling me to stop playing. I could see the police, but I didn’t know what to do, so I just kept headbanging and singing – I think it was Dormant Bodies Bursting. This guy went, ‘Stop, cut the music.’ And he turned around and waved over this police guy, who was holding his gun and looking at me, like, “Yo, stop the music.” That’s when I was, like, “I don’t think they want us to play anymore…” [Laughs]

What was the problem?

I guess it’s cos the kids were all headbanging or something. I dunno. With some of these shows, they‘d make tell us at, like, nine o’clock at night the night before that we needed to get licences to play the next day, which was literally fucking impossible. Then another time, someone said they suspected there were drugs there, and they delayed the show while they searched: ‘Now you can go out and play.’ But we couldn't, cos there were only 30 seconds to the curfew.

At one of the shows that got cancelled, we got the promoter to go outside and tell the kids, ‘They can’t play, but if you wait around we’re gonna let you back in and they’re gonna sign things, like a meet-and-greet.’ It’s like, what else can we do for these kids?

I’ll never forget one girl. She was maybe 18, 19 years old, she was crying profusely: ‘I’ve waited four years to see you play, and now I think I never will.’ That made me mad - not because she was crying, but because of the reason why she was crying. It broke my heart.

Look, I know not everything is right here in America, and I know we got some issues we need to deal with, but when I see people bitchin’ about how bad things are, man, I think, ‘You don’t have a fucking clue.’ There’s a lot of improvement humanity could make.

Have you been back to Russia since?

No, we're not allowed to. I maybe could go to Russia on vacation, but as far as I know, Cannibal Corpse is banned from Russia.

Who’s the most famous person you’ve had backstage at a Cannibal Corpse gig?

Well, there’s an NHL player named Yanni Niedermayer, he’s a friend of ours now. We were blown away that he knew who we were. And we toured with Ice-T, and he’s pretty damn famous. We played that Mayhem tour, and Body Count were on it too., I'd see him on the side of the stage, him and his son Little Ice. He’d be, like, ‘Corpsegrinder, how the fuck do you do that shit with your head?’ He’s talking to me, and I’m going, [mouth agape] ‘Shit, this is Ice-T.’ And we did play a show for Cher’s son and we got to meet Cher.

George ‘Corpsegrinder’ Fisher

(Image credit: George ‘Corpsegrinder’ Fisher)

Wait, you got to meet the Cher?

Yeah. Cher’s son Elijah, who is in the band Deadsy, is a big Cannibal Corpse fan and he wanted us to come out to LA and play his birthday party at the Viper Room maybe 15 or 20 years ago. His birthday is two days after mine, so my wife and I went out a few days early: ‘Let’s just fly out there, hang around for a few days, then we’ll play the show.’

The day before the show, Elijah invited us up to Cher’s house. When we got there, she wasn’t there – she was out shopping. I was like, ‘Yeah, of course Cher’s out shopping.’ But I didn’t know that she came back. I was talking to Elijah, and my wife starts hitting me on the arm. I go, ‘What?’ And she just whispers: ‘Cher!’ I’m like, ‘Ok, that’s cool, but it’s not like meeting King Diamond or Chuck Billy’, cos I’m in awe of those guys.

She was super-nice. We’re there and Cher is making food for us, and stuff. She came to the show as well. I apologised to her for having to listen to Cannibal Corpse, but she was, like, ‘No, I liked it.’ I’m, like, ‘Come on Cher, do the metal sign.’ And she goes, ‘Honey, I was metal before you were born.’ I’m, like, ‘Damn – I just got owned by Cher!’

Cher’s still doing it in her 70s. Do you think you'll still be singing death metal when you're 70?

Seventy? If my voice lasts, maybe. That’s twenty years from now. First off, I gotta make it there. You know what, I would never say never. The way I feel now, sure.

If the voice gives out, you could always do a country music album.

If the death metal voice gives out and I can sing like Steve Parry, then I'll be doing that.

We’ve made it through an interview and I’ve not asked you about your neck. Do you ever get sick of people talking about it?

No, it's part of me. I can't be jealous of my neck – what would I do without it? Some women who in the adult industry have their money-makers. I sing in Cannibal Corpse, and my neck's my money-maker. I spin my neck to make my money.

If you do a George Corpsegrinder word association with people, the first things they’ll say is “neck”. “Neck” and “headbanging”. They’re not gonna say “‘He’s the greatest singer”, they’re gonna say “his neck”. But, you know, there are worse things to be remembered for. I could be remembered for being a complete asshole.

Cannibal Corpse’s new album, Violence Unimagined, is out on April 16.