On paper, Skeletonwitch’s hyperactive thrash-revival metal might sound a bit familiar—rife with blast beats, nihilistically fierce guitar riffs, and gritty yelps—but live and on record it's ferociously challenging. Last year’s Breathing The Fire boasts a particularly explosive clothesline of death-infected riffs, and the band’s rise has been spurned on by no less than Pantera frontman Phil Anselmo and Glenn Danzig. But the band isn’t all doom and gloom, evidenced by vocalist Chance Garnette putting down the goat horns and picking up a fluffy tabby kitty not only for the band’s MySpace photos but also for a Decibel Mag photo shoot. Skeletonwitch, flanked by Cannibal Corpse, plays the House of Blues on April 29. Before coming to town, The A.V. Club talked to Skeletonwitch guitarist (and fellow cat enthusiast) Nate Garnette about what makes feisty felines so damned metal.
The A.V. Club: What’s with the cats?
Nate Garnette: They’re so independent. You can go on tour for months at a time, come back, and they don’t give a shit that you've been gone. Dogs act all hurt. My brother [Chance] and I have had [cats] as long as I can remember. If you can get two kittens at the same time, it’s going to be the best year of your life, guaranteed.
Right now, I have three cats: Stanley, Eugene, and Tilly. Stanley’s a 17-pound orange longhaired. He’s very into getting petted, then biting you. He’s got a pretty good death-metal growl to him when you piss him off enough, and compounded by all that hair, he’s pretty mean. Eugene, we found in the driveway. He’s a little shy, but when he meows, it’s a short high-pitched wail, more like a raccoon than a cat. Very metal. Tilly’s extremely sweet, but will also just rear up and bite you, then lick you after. She’s metal because she’s angry, but she’s supposed to be.
AVC: What do you mean?
NG: Cats are as friendly and housebroken as they can be, but they’re still really primitive. They’ll kill for pleasure—because they think they’re supposed to. They don’t play by any rules, just like Metallica: “No rules but Metallica rules.”
If cats don’t want to fuck with you, they just get the hell out of there. It’s also pretty metal to shit in a litter box, walk away, and let everyone look at it. It takes a pretty big set to have that kind of freedom.
AVC: What can a Skeletonwitch fan do to make their cat more metal?
NG: Nothing. If your cat’s going to be metal, it has to be born that way—just like people. You can’t make a rock-cat metal. You can't make a country-cat metal.
AVC: Why is Skeletonwitch a cat band?
NG: Well, we’ve all had cats forever. At the risk of sounding like pussies, if we stay at someone's house and they tell us they have a cat, we turn so un-metal: making total girl noises, asking what the cat’s name is, what kind it is, whatever. We talk about cats constantly, and have pics of all our cats on our phones.
AVC: What are your cats into, musically?
NG: My cats listen to King Diamond exclusively.
AVC: Garfield or Heathcliff, and why?
NG: I’m going to go straight Garfield. When I’m not on tour, I'm very much a Garfield. The first week home, I find my spot on the couch, eat my ass off, and lay there. Plus, Bill Murray did Garfield’s voice for so long, and you can’t beat that. Healthcliff ran around with all those weird thugs in the junkyard like Mongo and the cat on roller skates, and that's not metal.