Some time before they disbanded in 2013, I was fortunate enough to get in touch with Zell of Cellgraft for some questions. Cellgraft was a Floridian grindcore act that put out a number of high calibre records, such as their External Habitation demo and the Deception Schematic EP. Not too long before they played their last show (but after this interview was conducted), the band released an excellent LP to mark their contribution. Take a walk down memory lane or become acquainted with one of the better grindcore bands over the last few years.
S4D: Hey Zell, what's new over in Florida? Have you heard any impressive records recently?
Z: A whole lot actually, lots of amazing fests and tours coming through this year. We usually don't get a lot of that so when we do it's something to be excited about. I've personally been trying to listen to all 80s heavy metal lately, especially at work. Been listening to Sacrilege - Within the Prophecy a lot, shit's so tough.
What are the bands in Florida like? Is there a quality vs. quantity debate or is the underground music scene fairly strong?
It's actually a really strong scene all over the state. Incredibly tight bands and incredibly tight scenes. The thing about Floridians is if there's a sweet show that's around 5 hours north or south of them they'll make the drive out. Mostly because Florida was starved for good shows from bigger bands that usually don't make it down here. I think that's also why there are so many great bands as well. We figured that if we weren't going to get the bands we liked come through we would just make the music we wanted to hear. I think Florida is just recently getting the attention it hasn't gotten it a long time, and for good reason.
What bands from your area would you recommend to a fan of Cellgraft?
Devout, Ives, Morphic Lapse, Maruta, Shitstorm, 440, Meddling Kids, No Qualms, Rotting Palms, Nunhex, God Harvest, Bastard Deceiver, Radiation, Vomikaust, Flying Snakes, Knife Hits, Panzram, Devalued and a bunch more I'm probably forgetting. Seriously, great bands from all over.
I don't know too much about the background behind Cellgraft - care to fill me in? How did it all start, who's in it and what brought you guys together to play music?
Before Cellgraft was Piles Sufferers. It was a way more death metal sounding band. After the original guitarist stopped showing up to practice Matt and Chris asked me to fill in. Eventually we made the decision to change the focus and the name of the band. A lot of the songs on the Revenge demo were songs from those days.
Are any members of Cellgraft involved in other bands or projects? Are there varied musical backgrounds amongst the band or do you all share similar tastes?
Matt and Chris are actually in a few other bands together. Morphic Lapse, Faith Addiction and Final Doctrine which are tech-grind, hardcore punk and black metal respectively. I'm in a crust/grind band called Bastard Deceiver. Cellgraft and Bastard Deceiver will be touring together in August as well which should be fun.
Is the composition a collaborative effort or does most of groundwork come from one or two inviduals?
Me and Chris write the song either together at practice or on our own. Matt writes most of the lyrics and puts them to the music afterwards.
Cellgraft hints back to old school grind but with a lot of modern elements too. How influential were bands like Insect Warfare on the formation and sound of Cellgraft? What other groups were pivotal in determining Cellgraft's style?
Insect Warfare was actually a very big influence on us early on. Them and Assuck. Besides that old school bands like Napalm and Terrorizer obviously had a part in the direction we wanted to go. Occasionally we'll pick out small parts from different death metal and black metal and d-beat bands we listen to and mix it in but for the most part we just go by the general rule of "add blast beats. Then add more".
There is a strong DIY element to Cellgraft's music, with the rough recording in my opinion adding levels of urgency and depravity to the sound - was this intentional or was it simply the easiest method to record on? Do you plan to stick to DIY recording in the future?
At some level we actually try to be DIY but usually it's just us being broke and not wanting to ask for help. Grindcore isn't very big in Tampa and this is the first band any of us have worried about putting out releases and how we're going to get recording out. With that said, no one was going to do it for us so we just got it done the way we could. I don't see elaborate studio recordings and gate fold double LP releases in our future so it shouldn't change too much from here.
Has the band's recording process changed across releases?
Usually we just ask around amongst our friends and see who wants/has the ability to record for us. We're not super picky, haha.
The band self-released the first two tapes, the self titled and External Habitation. How was the reception towards these recordings? Do you feel that they made an impact on listeners at large?
As soon as those were recorded I tried to push them online. I know that when there's a grind band I haven't heard of but I get a chance to listen to them I try to take it. I just hoped other people who are into grindcore shared my mentality. It being free and on the internet definitely helped it spread a little farther and faster. That and all the help we've gotten from the grind obsessed bloggers all over the world. Without them we would just be another local band.
The band has been featured on a couple of splits, the 4 way comp with Ives, Hot Graves and Nak'ay and more recently the excellent split with Drainland. How did both of these records come about?
Our friend Sam is in Ives and runs Primal Vomit so he just asked if we wanted to be on it and he put it out. I used to trade tapes with Jamie of Drainland for a long time then he brought up doing a split 7". I thought it would be cool to do a split with a band that wasn't a grind band, and to do a split with a band that's not from the US. Our friend Nevin from IFB records in Ft. Myers, FL actually ended up being one of the labels distributing the split so I think it worked out for both bands in the end.
You've mentioned to me that there was a split with Nespithe which was delayed/never came out? What's the story behind that?
Well Fex from Nespithe apparently made of a few of these splits himself and got rid of them quick. We never got any of them though but still wanted to release those songs on our own so that's where the Revenge demo came from. We only released that via download. There were two songs we left out from the actual split though, they were best left unheard, haha.
Each subsequent Cellgraft record seems to be doing its best to improve upon previous releases. Do you guys make an effort to remain fresh and exciting with your music? Can you see yourselves changing much in the future? The tracks on the Drainland split at times descended into noise which I thought was done superbly - is this a sign of things to come?
We're always aiming to be tighter both live and on recordings. I started learning guitar from the ground up for Cellgraft so as I learn more the sound naturally changes a bit. We won't devolve into raw noise as far as I can tell. The only thing we consciously aim for is to sound huge, stay tight, and not stray too far from grindcore.
What's a typical Cellgraft show like? I know you've supported bands like Dropdead and have a few big ones coming up (Magrudergrind and 305 fest with the likes of Iron Lung and Bastard Noise), but do you still play small house shows etc.? Is there much interest for Cellgraft within your locality?
When we aren't focused on writing we usually make a set list for a show and try to practice running through it as fast as we can. We never play the same set twice so it doesn’t get boring for us or the people who see us play more often. I live across the street from a punk house called Hold Tight! House so we play shows there sometimes. Other than that we try to wait for the better shows to present themselves. People in Florida (Tampa especially) have seen us so many times now I'm just worried about wearing out our welcome.
Cellgraft's lyrics seem very nihilistic and dystopian, certain lines bringing to mind the idea of oppression through ultimate technological control. Who writes the lyrics and what sorts of things (books/records/movies/politics) inspire them?
Matt writes all of the lyrics, I think Chris has written one or two though. Matt's kind of like a quiet philosopher, always examining everything. He's disillusioned in regards to politics, reads a lot about history and listens to a fuck load of black metal. He doesn't write songs all about one thing usually, just what he's thinking about or finds interesting at the time.
Are you familiar with Australian grind or underground music in general?
I know the Kill is from Australia, buts that's the only grind band I actually know of from there. Portal is too, that shit is intense.
As far as I can tell Cellgraft is in the process of recording its first LP - can you tell us anything about it? How will it be different to previous records, how are you releasing it and when will it be available?
It's actually done, we're just finishing the design for it now. RSR is releasing it for us along side a repressed and remastered External Habitation 7". The new record is a lot more frantic sounding then any of our other releases. Not as death metal or punk oriented I guess. Hopefully it isn't a major departure from what we've previously released, but it is definitely a little different.
Coming to the end now, here's a bit of fun - what would be your top 5 records to play when punching somebody in the face?
P.L.F. - Pulverizing Lethal Force
Mammoth Grinder - Extinction of Humanity
Terrorizer - World Downfall
Insect Warfare - World Extermination
Repulsion - Horrified
Thanks a lot for answering my questions, any final comments?
Thank you for caring about a band that's literally across the world and thanks to every grindcore nerd who has supported us in any way.