"Topics like necrophilia are just kind of ‘whatever’ at this point." Gore-loving death metal veterans Dying Fetus are bored of trying to shock people

Dying Fetus
(Image credit: Tracey Brown)

Maryland death metal veterans Dying Fetus have been grinding out their particular brand of gore-drenched noise for over three decades now. In that time they've helped define the US death metal scene as we know it, appeared in South Park, gone viral through unlikely hashtags and gatecrashing hardcore festivals and played the main stage at Download. We recently caught up with frontman John Gallagher to chat about their entertaining career, censorship and why shocking people is just a little passé

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Your latest album, Make Them Beg For Death, continues the rich tradition of brutal Dying Fetus titles. Have any of your song or album titles had to be changed because they were too violent?

“Not the title, but I wanted the artwork for [2017 album] Wrong One To Fuck With to be more gory. We were kind of censored by the record label, like: ‘No, you can’t have any naked people on the cover being murdered.’ That’s the first time we were censored so I just didn’t push anything on this album.”

Do you think it’s possible for death metal to truly shock people in the modern age?

“I think everyone now is past that. It’s all been done now, right? Unless you’re brand new to death metal. It’s been done over and over again a million times, so topics like necrophilia are just kind of ‘whatever’ at this point. We’re not trying to be offensive, because I don’t think you can really offend anyone anymore.”

Your song Second Skin was featured in South Park a few years ago. Was that something you enjoyed?

“Of course, that was a big moment for us – one of our shining achievements! As a fan of comedy and not taking things so seriously, it was an honour to be involved with that.”

Did you know in advance what the plans were for that song and how it would be featured in the episode?

“I had no idea. I was on vacation and received a text message from our manager, saying, ‘You’re on South Park!’ It was a shock to me! They contacted [Dying Fetus’ label] Relapse, I think, but it was very quick and last-minute. I wasn’t butthurt, it was killer – I hope somebody else uses our music. Put us in a new movie, or something!”

It’s now been 10 years since #WhyNotDyingFetus [a tongue-in-cheek campaign to get Dying Fetus on the Download festival lineup] first started trending on social media…

“Yeah! I think the industry and youth of today have loosened up and aren’t terrified of Dying Fetus anymore. So many more people are attending our shows now: we’re getting a thousand people in places where we once only got, like, 250 or 300. So, that movement, #WhyNotDyingFetus, I think it worked! We’re playing Download again [in 2024], and Download are including other death metal bands and kind of embracing that scene.”

What was your reaction when you first saw that hashtag?

“I was like, ‘Wow! That’s cool!’ We saw that our fans have our back and are pushing for us to be included where we should be included. But still today, in America, there are festivals that turn their backs on us, and they’re like, ‘No, we’re not gonna have Dying Fetus, only because of their name.’ There’s still some prejudice, but #WhyNotDyingFetus encouraged people to put their foot down. If you want us at a festival, I encourage people to email promoters, make a stir.”

Have you ever seriously considered changing Dying Fetus’ name because of promoters not liking it?

“Ha ha, no – at this point we’re stuck with it! In the very, very beginning we considered it, because there was a band called Gorefest who changed their name to GF. I thought that was lame. You started something, so finish with it, you know? We could be DF or Fetus, but that’s not what death metal is about.”

Dying Fetus have been going nonstop for 30-plus years now – is there anything you want the band to achieve that you haven’t already?

“I feel like, going back to what I was saying earlier, there’s this new movement with the younger generation. [Our future] is really in their hands: are they gonna stay into this form of music? I think, if the momentum stays with us, the possibilities could be endless. We could end up supporting larger bands, getting into small arenas – our trajectory is improving. We could be on some late-night TV shows or movie soundtracks or something!”

If you were to soundtrack a film, who’d be the dream director to work with?

"Steven Spielberg!”

'Why not’, right?

“Ha ha! Let’s get to the top, I don’t wanna short-sell anything! Let’s go for the big guys!”

Originally published in Metal Hammer #383

Matt Mills
Contributing Editor, Metal Hammer

Louder’s resident Gojira obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.

With contributions from