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Interview With Cannibal Corpse Bassist Alex Webster

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Chad Bowar: Was there a particular artist or song that made you want to get started in music?
Alex Webster: I just always liked music since I was a little kid. Music was always a soundtrack in my head to things going on in my life. I always wanted to play. I wanted to play drums when I was about three. I made a drum out of an old butter container and hit it with tinker toys. I was going to make music. Most people who are musicians didn't have to have anyone tell them to do it. I would never push music on someone, because it is something that doesn't need to be pushed. If you're going to make music, you're going to make it.

Did you start out playing guitar?
What I was six years old I took some acoustic guitar lessons. It didn't really work out because I was six and didn't really want to learn “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” and those were the kind of songs I was being taught. I wanted to play Elvis. I liked all the old 50s music. My dad had a bunch of old 50s records because that's when he was a teenager. Those were what I listened to, because when you're six you don't have the money to go buy stuff, so I just listened to his records. Nobody was going to teach me how to play the guitar like that, out in the country where I lived. I just gave it up until I was 13 or 14. I met a kid in school who played bass in the high school jazz band. He wanted to make some extra money and it was five bucks a lesson. He did a good job too. His name was Mike Hudson. I don't know if he plays anymore. I lost touch with him. He's the one that got me started. I always wanted to play in a band, and to learn how to play lead guitar was going to take like five years. But I really liked the sound of the bass. I liked AC/DC and figured I could do that. I thought I could learn Cliff Williams’ bass parts faster than I could learn to play Angus Young's guitar parts. It was motivation, because I wanted to be in a band. I never wanted to sit around and play music by myself. I wanted to play with other people, and the fastest route to that was playing an instrument that wasn't a lead instrument, and bass was that. Now I've learned to make it a lot more difficult. I've made my job a lot harder than it probably needs to be. But it's just fun. In the beginning my concern was playing in a band.

When you started out, who were the bass players that you admired?
I liked the bass player from AC/DC. I really loved the stuff he did. Peter Baltes from Accept was another. I liked the really good guys too, but that seemed out of reach at the beginning. Geddy Lee from Rush and Steve Harris were like gods to me. Billy Sheehan was from Buffalo, and we all knew about Billy before the rest of the country did. Billy has been a legend in Buffalo for a long, long time. He still one of my favorites. By the time I was listening to Cliff Burton I was getting a little better. I had been playing a year or so before I started listening to Metallica. I thought he was great. I always thought he could have been a little louder on those albums though. That's the thing. In thrash metal or any other kind of metal were the bass is playing exactly what the guitar is playing, automatically the bass went down in the mix. If you notice those older bands like Accept, the bass is doing something that's a little bit different from the guitar. It's more with the kick drum instead of playing the riff the guitar is doing. In thrash metal and then death metal, the bass player always wound up playing what the guitar player was doing most of the time. It's been a decade long fight for us to be heard in the mix.

What is the worst job you've ever had?
None of them were great. It wasn't the worst, but it sounds like the worst. I cleaned horse stalls for a couple months. That's just shoveling crap, but it's not as bad as people think. You used to it. Telemarketing sucked ass. I did that one summer between college. I got a job selling magazines on the phone. It was just miserable. Every person that picked up the phone was pissed at me. It was a horrible job.

What is your biggest fear?
I don't know. There are plenty of them, and I wouldn't say them in public. Some enemy of mine might use it against me. (laughs)

What is your worst habit?
I'm not very proud of myself if I lose my temper. That's something I would love to be able to change. I've worked on it throughout my life and hope to eventually have it conquered and react as peacefully as Gandhi in the worst situation.

What is the biggest misconception people have about you?
I think most people know what kind of people we are now. Maybe in the beginning people in general would have misconceptions that we were maniacs because we were in a band. We're pretty normal. We have some times when we are maniacs, but most of the time we are not. The times when we are maniacs is usually when there's been a lot of alcohol consumed. We're just like anybody else. For people to think just because you're in a band that sings about the kind of things that we do that you be any different from anybody else is a mistake. This is what we wound up doing and we love doing it, but we're just like anybody else.

What is the best advice someone has given you?
Scott Burns (who produced several Cannibal Corpse albums) told me one time you only fail if you want to fail. We have a different word for fail. We say funnel. That's one of the Cannibal Corpse slang terms for failing. You're only going to funnel if you make yourself funnel. We were so surprised our band was successful because we didn't compromise musically in any way. We were going to play brutal death metal that we love. We were shocked and wondered how long it would keep going. But Scott said you're only going to funnel if you make yourself funnel, meaning if you work hard to keep trying as hard as you can, you probably do all right because people appreciate hard work. Bands that work hard and put a full effort in might not get big, but there's always a market for good music. Maybe some crappy bands get huge and bands that work hard don't, but you'll always do ok if you work hard. That was good advice.

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