Erik Rutan – “Cannibal Corpse has been such a huge part of my life and career”

A friend of mine once said “everyone who’s into death metal has a favorite Cannibal Corpse record, and you can’t argue with any of them”.

Even after 33 years and 14 albums, Cannibal Corpse has yet to release a record that’s even just ok, and their new record, “Violence Unimagined“, is showing no signs of bucking that trend.

Having had a stable lineup since Rob Barret came back into the fold in 2005, the band has just announced a new guitarist in Erik Rutan, former Morbid Angel guitarist, Hate Eternal frontman, and the guy who’s produced five out of the last six Cannibal Corpse records.

We caught up with Rutan ahead of the April 16th release of Violence Unimagined to talk about joining the band, classic Cannibal Corpse records, and the gear that went into Violence Unimagined.


Cannibal Corpse - Inhumane Harvest (OFFICIAL VIDEO)

Congrats on going official with Cannibal Corpse. Can you tell me about the moment the band asked you to stay on as a permanent member? Was it something that had been under discussion or did it come as a surprise? 

Thank you very much!

We had a discussion in late Summer of 2019 in regards to me only producing and mixing the new record, starting to record in April of 2020. Then in Feb 2020 I got a phone call and that is when we discussed me joining.

Obviously once we all decided I was going to join the band as a permanent member I got to writing and learning songs right away!

Cannibal Corpse has been such a huge part of my life and career. We have recorded 5 albums together, we have all been friends for 30 years or so, toured together numerous times, I filled in playing guitar for a year and now a member.

It has been and continues to be an honor to be a part of Cannibal Corpse in everyway. 

You obviously go way back with the band including having produced several of their records over the last 15 years. Was recording Violence Unimagined a very different experience having the additional role as as a member? 

It was definitely different experience, mostly because of Covid and the ensuing protocols, mandates, lock downs, travel bans and curfews. There was an added anxiety and stress due to that.

Of course, my new role in the band, writing music and lyrics, learning the songs, producing, engineering, mixing, doing pre pro, etc. It was a lot but nothing I can’t handle and something I truly embraced.

Doing all of my Hate Eternal albums with many roles certainly has given me a lot of experience in how to handle multiple duties as well as all the experience of working in the studio with so many different and unique bands has helped me so much. I always feel I am up to any challenge life throws at me.

Playing guitar in Cannibal Corpse and producing the record simultaneously, what an amazing challenge and was so rewarding. One can only dream of doing this. Was a fantastic experience! 

Were there any things you felt like you couldn’t get the band to do as a producer that you pulled off on the new record as a member? 

Honestly not much has changed, our relationship has always been very open and communicative. The guys work so hard and are so dedicated and focused.

We all have always been willing to do whatever it takes to make the best album together. Now with me being in the band I still feel like I am the producer in the band if that makes sense.

Our relationship, individually and collectively has always felt very natural and connected on all fronts which are some of the essential keys to success in any facet of life I believe. 

Cannibal Corpse - Evisceration Plague (OFFICIAL VIDEO)

As far as the three songs you wrote for the record, were they songs you maybe already had but made more sense for Cannibal than Hate Eternal, or were they written specifically for the record? 

These were all songs I wrote from scratch for Cannibal Corpse. I ended up joining the band permanently in Feb 2020 and we started to record in mid-April 2020 so I was playing all day and night writing the music, working on lyrics on top of learning the other songs to track and doing pre pro at Mana.

Writing for CC is very different and unique and I am the type of person that hyper focuses on whatever I am doing so I was living and breathing in the Cannibal Corpse universe lol! I had a lot of fun writing songs for this album! 

Did you have a goal of writing songs for the record at all, or was it something that came about naturally?

Everything just flowed very naturally. The fact that I came in late to the writing and a lot of the songs were written already certainly helped me in feeling out what dynamics I would like to add to the album amongst the killer material we had already. I really wanted to contribute songs that added to the record and complimented the other songs.

My goal really was to just write great Cannibal Corpse songs. Songs that fit the vibe and mold of Cannibal Corpse but also expand the boundaries a bit by adding my own feel if that makes sense but keep it true to Cannibal Corpse.

I wrote 3 songs of music and lyrics and I am very pleased with the outcome.

I also know all the CC albums very well. Having produced 5 albums with the guys, owning all of the records and now playing the songs live I have a great understanding of the various styles and writers that have been a part CC from the beginning. It felt very natural to write CC songs. 

How was it putting Violence Unimagined together with the country on lockdown? Writing and recording the record without Alex being able to fly into Tampa must have been challenging? 

It was very complex.

Everything started to kick in with Covid-19 a month or so before we were getting ready to record. Alex had flown here to practice and do pre production in late Feb-Early March. As Alex was here they were starting to lock stuff down and impose travel restrictions so Alex went back home before he would not be able to. Luckily we took band photos when Alex was here in March!!!

Alex was not able to come back to record his bass so he recorded at home and we reamped at the studio. Alex is always at the studio for every record we do so it was really weird without him here for sure. But we communicated well and went back and forth on things.

As we started recording drums, curfews were being implemented, counties were being locked down, businesses were being locked down, it was bizarre. We did not know if we would be able to record or when we might have to stop.

It was all pretty intense and radical but I feel like some of that energy and uneasiness is captured in the album we made. That edginess translates into the music I believe. Part of what makes this album very unique in one of many ways and an unforgettable experience. 

Cannibal Corpse - Code of the Slashers (OFFICIAL VIDEO)

Gear wise, what’s being used on the record? I know you were touring with your custom red Ironbird going through Mesas, was the record a similar setup or did you pull out the Marshall you use in Hate Eternal? And Rob? 

We have always used a Mesa as the main rhythm tone for the 5 albums we have done together but in the past it was a Mesa Triple Rec.

This time Rob and I ended up using the Mesa Dual Rectifier as the main amp with a Maxon ST-9 Pro Plus pedal in front. Since we quad track rhythms we always blend amps with a secondary tone, usually around 5-7db underneath the main tone to add dynamics and texture and depth and width to the overall sound. The secondary amp is not about how it sounds on it’s own but how it complements our main tone. We always try out all of our amps which are a ton!

For the secondary tracks we used a block letter 5150 with an Ibanez 30 Year Anniversary Tube Screamer pedal with both amps into a Marshall Cabinet with Greenbacks in it. That sounded the best to Rob and I.

For solos we used my Marshall JCM 800 amp with a boost pedal and the Maxon OD-9 I believe. We tracked the rhythms with Rob’s Dean Caddy with Fishman Fluence Modern humbuckers and Gibson Les Paul with EMG 81’S. For solos we used my US custom made BC Rich Red Ironbird with a Gibson Dirty Fingers in the bridge position and a Bill Lawrence L-500 in the neck position and Rob’s Charvel with a JB pickup set.

Rob and I have always connected when it comes to guitar tones so it is always a great process. We make a great guitar team and we love to add different colors and textures with different tones to each album we do. 

Was there any talk of holding off on the record until you guys would be able to tour it?

Actually, back in July/August 2020 when we finished the album we had planned on releasing the album in Nov 2020 and touring for it. As we realized that touring was not going to be an option we pushed it till April 2021 thinking we would be able to tour by then. Then once we knew we would not be able to tour in April 2021 we had to make a decision if wait and push it till we could tour or release it. All of us agreed we wanted to usher this album into the universe and not wait any longer.

We are so excited about the new album and knew people would be elated about it. I think we all could use something new and fresh these days and certainly some good news during these difficult times. Just the response to the one song we released so far and the album info has been awesome so it refortified that we made the right choice. 

Is there anything going on with Hate Eternal, or is that on the back burner while you roll out Violence Unimagined? 

JJ and I started writing material for the new Hate Eternal album before all of this happened with me joining Cannibal Corpse. We are in the early stages of writing the next HE album with a few songs done but a ways to go. We will record another Hate Eternal album when the time is right absolutely and it is coming along great. But certainly Cannibal Corpse is my priority right now. 

Everybody has a favourite Cannibal record – if the band was to talk about doing a show or tour where they play one record front to back, which record would you vote for? 

Man, that is tough. There are so many albums that would be awesome to play from beginning to end of course including “Violence Unimagined” I would love to play “Kill” from beginning to end or “The Bleeding”, that would be fantastic also! Two different eras of the band, both amazing albums!

Hard to choose, all the albums are awesome and one could argue we should play each one in it’s entirety!!! 

On the recording side of things, do you have any tips for the home recording guys to improve their guitar tones? Any common mistakes that you hear on demos and other home recordings? 

A lot of guys at home now a days are using a Kemper or amp simulators so that certainly makes things easier to get good guitar tones at home but nothing beats micing up a real amp and cab in my humble opinion.

But if you are micing up a cabinet with an amp, move the mic around and find the sweet spot for the best sounding speaker and best position. Do not be afraid to think out of the box.

If using multiple mics make sure that everything is in phase, that is key!

Get the tone as close to how you want to hear it straight from the source first before doing anything in your DAW like EQ or processing. Let that be the icing on the cake.

Focus on definition and articulation to compliment the heaviness and fullness of the tone. 

Out of your songs on the new record, is there any one passage in particular you think would be badass for people to learn? 

Solo wise, my solo in “Follow the Blood” is one of my favorite solos on the album and is multi layered and textured with 2 melody passages and then a solo right in the middle of it all. It would be a fun passage to learn and play.

Rhythm wise, “Condemnation Contagion” is a super fun song to play and just is super heavy and driving. Out of my 3 written songs for the album it is my favorite song that I wrote.

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Main image credit: Alex Morgan

Brian Kelleher

I'm the main guy at KillerGuitarRigs.com and I want to tell you all about guitars. I've been playing music since 1986 when my older brother taught me to play "Gigantic" by The Pixies on a bass with two strings. Since then, I've owned dozens of instruments from guitars to e-drums, and spent more time than I'd like to admit sitting in vans waiting for venues to open across Europe and the US.