Interview with guitarist Will Putney
By Nicholas Senior
Fit For An Autopsy is the undead deathcore zombie that only grows stronger with each new record. The New Jersey-based act’s deft interplay between punishing groove, melodic death metal riffs, and a haunting post-apocalyptic atmosphere has never been sharper than on their latest – The Sea of Tragic Beasts, out now via new label Nuclear Blast. Despite the simmering musical suspense and neck-snapping brutality, the head and heart of Fit For An Autopsy is what stands out the most. This is a band that has always led with an empathetic heart and aimed to improve the world, even if their lyrical despair is basically unmatched in the scene. Through continued charitable giving to worthy causes, guitarist Will Putney’s excellent work outside the band as a leading producer, and the continued upward evolution of the band, Fit For An Autopsy aim to leave the world a better place – or at least a heavier one.
Putney’s lyrical themes are interwoven with the plight of man, and have tended to shy away from the fantastical. That said, The Sea of Tragic Beasts leads off with a fantasy-themed title track – but that’s got to be a metaphor, right?
“It’s about the duality of people having to be this alpha-wolf animal, and this aggressive state people live in,” he says. “We’re these beasts that kill each other and have to get ahead of each other. At the same time, it’s tragic that we’re all like that. The title came from thinking about how the human condition is, and how people react to and treat each other. We’re forced to be like animals to exist in the world today.”
It seems that we’re inundated with the bad parts of that duality, and either numb the human element as much as we can (the cycle of drug addiction in “Mirrors”), or scream at each other (the cycle of political addiction in “Warfare”). Five years ago, it felt like we could live without politics taking over every single element of every day, but not anymore. Everyone has to have a fully-developed political opinion the second an event occurs – facts or logic be damned. Putney concurs.
“I stopped talking about politics completely because, like that song says, everyone has become their own sort of politician,” he says. “Everything became so polarized where you have to choose. You’re almost forced to pick a side, believe in it, and argue it with the other side. It creates this hostile culture. I literally don’t even talk to anyone about politics anymore. My voice just isn’t important in that conversation anymore. It just adds to an ongoing argument.”
The lyrics talk about how no one listens anymore. No one soaks anything in anymore. The way these tragic beasts can grow is to stop acting and reacting, and start listening, thinking, and being kind. That existential frustration is central to what the band conveys. There’s almost a reckoning with the human spirit, and it’s not necessarily a good thing.
“I definitely don’t write about this stuff and try to pull a positive about it to feel good about it when it’s over,” Putney says. “I’m not looking for anything positive to take out of it when I’m finished. In those introspective songs, I’m never looking for a happy ending, because I’ll never find one anyway. All I ever want people to do is just think about what we’re trying to say, and reflect on what it means to them. For me, it’s a source of relieving frustration, and I think a lot of people relate to that with our band.”
There’s definitely no happy ending to this fairy tale.
“No, it’s like, we’re all fucked,” he agrees. “But we can be fucked together. That’s cool.”
One song that doesn’t hide its message is the cathartic, heart-wrenching “Your Pain Is Mine” – which also contains one of the band’s best breakdowns to date. So, what’s this pain about?
“That song was written in the middle of the immigration crisis [that] was teeming over here. We’ve talked about that before. ‘Heads Will Hang’ from the last record touched on the refugee crisis a bit. That issue has hit a little closer to home. We had some friends and people we knew who were tied up in that. I just thought it was an important idea to write about. ‘Heads Will Hang’ comes from the perspective of not really taking for granted what you have. It paints a picture of how this situation could be you one day. On this one, it was about our inability to do anything or help at this time. That whole bridge and the end of the song is an attempt at saying, even if you feel for these people and want to try to help, there’s not really much you can do other than throwing money at a charity. That doesn’t necessarily take care of it for you. We’re just embedded with that right now. I was just really feeling for those people. It [turned out] great because Joe [Badolato, vocals] really brought an emotional element to it.”
Aside from despair, Fit For An Autopsy are renowned for their work with charities and giving back. They went about it a bit differently with this record, as Putney explains.
“We’re running a pre-order where you can donate if you want a copy of the record. We obviously have to pay for the record, but our money and any extra [laughs] will go to that charity. We’re giving away whatever profits go with the sales of that. We just collected a bunch of different charities. You select which one you like or want to donate to, and it covers a good variety of things. It’s all the way from animal rescue to cancer research and environmental stuff, ocean cleanup. We tried to spread it out.”
Of course, in the Year of Our Lord 2019, even good things can piss people off.
“It’s funny whenever we post something, or do something for a charity. We’ll get comments from kids that are almost mad we’re not raising money for something else. We’ll raise money for immigrants, and people will go ‘well what about the veterans?’ Well, we did a PTSD charity already, so…? So, we were like, let’s just throw everything at the wall, and people can choose. Everything you can choose is a group we agree with and think is doing good work – they come as some of the charities where your dollar goes the longest way. We have some more ideas brewing, based on songs from the record.”
Everyone’s a politician, right?
“It’s crazy to get yelled at because we’re giving money to people in need, because it’s not the people in need they care more about. It’s just insane.”
With Fit For An Autopsy, more so than other deathcore bands, the influence from the old metal gods is evident and excellently executed. This all started when the band came upon a realization while touring years ago.
“A few years ago – I don’t remember what song or moment it actually hit – but I remember I ended up going into Absolute Hope,” Putney says. “I remember when we were done with Hellbound, we were touring more full-time, and the band was the most active it had been so far, we realized we were doing a lot of stuff with bands we don’t like [musically]. So, we thought, what do we like? We really started thinking about why we were writing music, rather than thinking about what we originally defined ourselves as. I realized I could write whatever I wanted and not have to be boxed in by what I did before. Especially when we switched singers, and I knew we had some more tricks in our arsenal with [Badolato’s] voice. We realized we could refresh our style – [our sound] is what came out, to be honest with you.”
“I didn’t really plan to do this drastic shift,” he continues. “I just started writing stuff that I enjoyed and noticed it was going that direction on Absolute Hope. When I saw that it was better received than what we had done before, it gave me this extra motivation to realize ‘this is what I do now.’ Now we’re really there, and it feels really good. I don’t have to consider what outside influence is going to have [an effect] on our music now. I feel freer to play around. It’s a great headspace to make music in.”
This somehow culminates in Fit For An Autopsy’s heaviest and most diverse record yet. It’s like Putney and company have given the riffs space to breathe and exist. Those aforementioned old metal gods did come up when it came to writing this record.
“I did go back and listen to a lot of older metal stuff [from] when I was growing up that I really loved. I did make a conscious effort to bring that back to the band. There are some timeless records from that era – At The Gates, The Haunted, and Soilwork – when those bands were in their prime and making crazy records. That’s something everybody in the band shares – we all have that influence. Those songs hold up and still kick ass. We loved the idea of riffing on that stuff again, because it’s fun, but also because we don’t want our music to live and die by one trend in music. [We don’t want the situation] where we put the record on in a few years and it’s unlistenable.”
That influence is very clear on this record – those melodic death metal riffs are cool forever, and they totally kick ass in 2019. With Putney’s steady mind and hand, Fit For An Autopsy have released one of the year’s beast metal records, and one that will stand the test of time.