An Interview with Travis Ryan

Travis Ryan
Travis Ryan

Travis Ducsay  • Feb 16, 2023

1. The full touring plans for “Death Atlas” were interrupted during covid. Did you find the recent Amon Amarth tour a proper coda for that album touring cycle? From an audience perspective, I thought it was awesome that it was all “Atlas” songs with a bridge to the new album in the new track “We Eat Our Young”.

My answer to this might sound disparaging to that tour but that’s not at all my intent. I kinda feel it was a shame to end the cycle of such a dense and emotionally heavy album like Death Atlas was with a 30-minute set. A set that got cut down to 20 minutes in arguably the most important show of our lives, the Los Angeles Forum, due to everyone having to cut their sets because of a rather last-minute change in the day’s proceedings.

Don’t get me wrong, I love playing short sets! It was a nice change of pace to open a tour, play a shorter set and have the rest of the night to hang out and unwind. You can go up there and give it you’re all for 30 mins in a way that’s harder to do for say, an hour and fifteen or so.

Death Atlas was such an expansive album that I think it would have been better to end with a much longer set where we could really dig into some of those tracks. But it didn’t turn out that way and that’s OK too. That tour is one for the extreme metal history books, I believe we were the first ever extreme metal band to play the Forum’s stage. I’m not proud about much, but I’m proud that as it breaks the barriers of what I thought was possible for this band.

2. The Decibel Magazine Tour coincides with the release of “Terrasite” which features an incredible and diverse lineup. What new songs are you most excited to play live for the first time?

To be very honest I don’t even know what we’re playing on that tour yet! When I listen to the new songs, they all sound like they’d be pretty fun to play live, but there are some that will be tricky as we did some stuff with the vocals we haven’t really done before and so I’m not sure at this point how they will be done live. We’ll see I guess! Part of the excitement.

3. You mentioned that the idea for “Terrasite” has been around for about 8 years which was quite interesting. Was it difficult to hold back the concept when writing for “Anthropocene” and “Death Atlas” or was this just a natural progression from the previous two albums?

So, the deal with that is I’ve come to start coming up with ideas for the next album even when working on the one before it. The concept for Terrasite was actually what I had in mind for what we would do coming out of The Anthropocene Extinction. But one day, I had the idea for Death Atlas kinda pop into my head, the guys liked it and I’m glad we made that change because what this did was allow me to conceptually tie Death Atlas to Terrasite via what we call the “Pompeii bodies” and it has a more cohesive flow, conceptually.

There’s a method to this madness for sure. It was an incredible pain in the ass to sit on this idea for so many years. Mainly because I didn’t want to lose sight of it and have the next album turn into something completely else like what happened with Death Atlas. I wanted to equate our species to that of a cockroach, something most people have an aversion to.

4. The merchandise has always been an integral part of the band, whether it’s on tour or to complement an album release. What is your favorite Cattle Decapitation design?

There’s this one Mike Hrubovcak did for us that I really liked, the “Diarrhea of the Mouth” design. It was back in like ’06 or so and it was an image of us mutilating and eating a scene kid which was funny because the guy pretending to be the scene kid totally looked like one but was into more experimental and electronic stuff. Mike does this thing where it’s like he takes photos and adds to them, not really like Photoshopper, but draws or paints onto the images. So he made this really gnarly string of intestines and organs coming out of him and we’re feasting on him in this weird alleyway. When really, I had the guys pose in certain positions in my fuckin kitchen and just sent him the photos. It was hilarious. The end result was absurd and just worked so well. That lineup didn’t last though so it never got reprinted.

5. You have shared some of your impressive and diverse music collections in the past (Slayer’s “Reign In Blood” played on a h’arpeggione!?) Do you have any sought-after grails you have saved on your Discogs wish list?

Maybe someone out there reading this can help me with this: I’m a very intense collector of the band Bethlehem. Over 20 yrs ago I got in touch with their guitar player and he sold me some stuff that was super rare and only got more and that kinda kicked off a really sick collection that only got better over time. I also became friends with the bassist and main guy in the band, Jurgen Bartsh, so he answers questions for me regarding authenticity, etc. I’ve managed to get super crazy rare stuff like test presses, things there are only 5 or so off in existence. Rare editions of things there’s only 20-something of, etc.

I somehow managed to score an original Dark Metal VHS on Discogs for like $40. There are only like 66 of those or something like that. There’s one sale history on Discogs of it at the time I write this and that was me who bought it. They have another VHS I’m trying to track down called Gepreiesen Sei Der Untergang. Can’t seem to find that anywhere. Quite literally, if I can get my hands on that and their Demo ’93 cassette then I will have everything they’ve done. I believe there are a few CD import pressings that I haven’t grabbed yet but I’m not too worried about that, I will eventually.

6. The voice work for Unicron in the “Transformers” mini-commercial you did was killer! Can you walk us through a bit of that experience? Do you have aspirations to pursue further voice work in the future?

Yeah man it was bizarre. This guy I know has been doing stuff with Flint Dille for a bit and they finally got the green light from Hasbro to do these short vignettes for their 1986 Transformers the Movie line that I’ve been a fan of since I saw it in the theater as a kid. I think he had seen me posting about how Orson Welles’ Unicron was one of my earliest inspirations for my vocals.

I remember hearing Bill Steer for the first time and I was like “Holy shit, it’s Unicron!” So I had already been practicing by the time I got into death metal by walking around growling Unicron lines from the movie and didn’t even know it! Then, 35 or whatever years later I’m doing it for some Hasbro commercials in a studio with two people who were in the movie – the guy who voiced Grimlok and the guy who voiced Blur. Not sure its gonna get cooler than that, although I would still like to do more voice-over work. My sister does it professionally and so I definitely have the resources to do it.

7. This is a selfish question because I go down there a lot, but give me your best vegan/vegetarian spots in San Diego!

Kindred is probably the most popular spot and for good reason… it’s really good. I love their BBQ jackfruit sandwich. There are many other good spots but we eat a lot of Mexican food so as long as there’s no lard in the beans or chicken stock in the rice, that’s most likely what I’ll be doing most times.

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