The death metal legends dish on their weird, slapstick exposure to the mainstream.
Screencap via YouTube
If any death metal band is a household name these days, it’s Cannibal Corpse. Since forming in 1988, they’ve released 13 ultra-brutal studio albums with names like Eaten Back to Life, Butchered At Birth and (most efficiently) Kill, becoming the top-selling death metal band of all time in the process. Of course, that success hasn’t come without controversy. Former U.S. Senators and renowned prudes Bob Dole and Joe Lieberman have expressed their disgust with Cannibal Corpse out loud in campaign speeches—Dole famously going so far as to claim that the band “undermines the national character of the United States” with “mindless violence and loveless sex,” even as an aide acknowledged that Dole had not actually listened to any of Cannibal’s records. Meanwhile, free-speech-loving governments across the globe began banning Cannibal albums because of graphic cover art by Vincent Locke and song titles like “Stripped, Raped and Strangled,” “Meat Hook Sodomy,” and “Entrails Ripped From A Virgin’s Cunt.” In fact, the band couldn’t play anything off of their first three records in Germany until 2006, and Australia lifted its ban on the sale of Cannibal albums the same year. As recently as 2014, Cannibal Corpse were kicked out of Russia for “inciting religious division.”
All of which makes it even more incredible that Cannibal Corpse were hand-picked by multimillionaire comedian Jim Carrey to appear in his 1994 slapstick blockbuster Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. Granted, this was before most of the aforementioned pinheads started moaning about the band—Dole didn’t denounce them until the following year—but it’s entirely possible that the movie is what brought Cannibal to their attention. After all, pretty much everyone in the First World saw Ace Ventura. And while it seems like every Cannibal Corpse article written in the 21 years since the flick came out has mentioned the band’s Hollywood cameo in passing, we decided to go in-depth and dedicate an entire interview to the topic. Despite having a complete douchebag for a tour manager, Cannibal Corpse drummer and co-founder Paul Mazurkiewicz was kind enough to humor us backstage at a recent show in Santa Ana, CA.
Continue reading below.
Noisey: How did Cannibal Corpse end up in Ace Ventura?
Paul Mazurkiewicz: It was very bizarre how it all went down. We were still living in Buffalo, New York, at the time. I believe Tomb of the Mutilated had just come out. We got a call from our record label, Metal Blade, saying that they’d got a call from Jim Carrey’s people saying that he wanted us to be in this movie he was making. Of course, that’s not a call you’re expecting to get. It just didn’t compute, you know? But it was a phone call, simple as that.
Did you think maybe someone was just fucking with you?
Sort of, yeah. We were very skeptical. I mean, we’re a brutal death metal band and Jim Carrey wants us in his movie? He’s a funny guy—we knew him from In Living Color, which was a show that I watched all the time. So it was very bizarre, but we figured if our label is calling us about it, it had to be legit. But at that point, we got worried about how we would be portrayed. They didn’t initially say what they wanted us to do, so we wanted to make sure that we weren’t gonna be portrayed in a comedic way. We’re a brutal death metal band, and we’re serious about what we do. This seemed like it would be a cool opportunity, but we didn’t want to be made to look like fools or to be laughed at. But they assured us that we were going to be portrayed as Cannibal Corpse—they weren’t gonna make fun of us.
Was there anything specific that convinced you to take their word for it?
Well, I remember we turned it down at first because we had a European tour lined up during the time they wanted us down in Florida to shoot our scene. We’d had the tour lined up for months, and we’re not the kind of band that goes back on deals that we make, so we had to decline. But a few days went by and we got another call saying, “Jim Carrey really wants you guys. They’re gonna rearrange their schedule to accommodate you.” That just blew us away, because this is a major movie production, you know? I mean, Jim wanted us that bad. So of course we agreed to do it. We were just kids from Buffalo, so it was very exciting for us to be wanted in that way.
How long did it take to shoot your scene?
They wanted us for two days, so we went down there for four days altogether. We flew down to Miami on one day, spent two full days on the set, and then flew home on the last day. I remember we brought a friend of ours who was also our roadie. Maybe we brought our guitars with us—I can’t remember—but I was using a rented kit that they had.
Cannibal Corpse wasn’t nearly as well-known back in 1993, when you shot your scenes, as you are today. How did Jim Carrey know about you guys?
Well, to go back a little bit prior to all this, I guess Jim was on The Arsenio Hall Show. This must’ve been a couple of months before his people called us. I’ve still never seen the footage, but apparently he went on the show and started talking about how he liked bands like Carcass and Cannibal Corpse and Napalm Death. We heard about it through our friends and other people that saw it and we thought it was killer. Here’s this Hollywood actor who’s really intrigued by this kind of music. On the day we flew down there, they picked us up at the airport and took us directly to the set to meet Jim and the director, Tom [Shadyac]. They were filming at this house that was supposed to be the house of Courteney Cox’s character. We’d never been to a movie set, so we were pretty impressed. They took us over to the [actors’] trailers, and Jim comes over to us wearing his Ace Ventura garb, going, “Oh my god! Cannibal Corpse! It’s so great to have you guys here!” Then he starts rattling off lyrics and tells us he wants us to play “Hammer Smashed Face.” It was insane.
So that song was his choice? I figured you played “Hammer Smashed Face” because it was a new song that was becoming a fan favorite.
Yeah, he specifically asked for that one. It hadn’t been around that long, but it already seemed pretty close to a fan favorite. When we released Tomb Of The Mutilated, that song was a hit right off the bat. But it was still very new, and he already knew the song. I remember he also rattled off the lyrics to “Rancid Amputation,” which was on our previous album. So he knew what was going on. It was so surreal—we were freaking out because we’re on a movie set meeting Jim Carrey, and he’s freaking out because he’s meeting Cannibal Corpse.
Had he ever been to one of your shows?
No. He knew about us strictly from listening to the records. He and Tom, the director, were so cool to us. They said, “Whatever you guys want, let us know.” We were treated like kings. It was so crazy.
How many times do you think you had to play the song while they were shooting?
That was another weird scenario. We weren’t used to the whole “hurry up and wait” thing, and we weren’t used to having to pretend to play. We’d never even made a video at this point. So we were up there faking it, air-banding. I don’t think we ever played the song start to finish. There were a lot of stops and starts because someone would make noise. They’d cue the music and we’d pretend to play for like ten seconds and then they’d stop it because there would be dialogue between Jim and someone else. So all the fans that were pretending to go crazy had to pretend to go crazy very quietly. And we had to be quiet, too. So you’d just hear a bunch of shuffling around and we’d pretend to play and the fans would pretend to go crazy even though there was no music. It was very bizarre. But we were there for two days, and a lot of it was just sitting around and waiting.
The band has an extra scene in the network version of the film that wasn’t included in the theatrical release. What’s the story there?
Yeah, we filmed a bunch of extra scenes that didn’t end up in the theatrical version. When we saw it in the theater for the first time, it was cool to see ourselves up there, but we were like, “Man, they cut that whole other scene we filmed!” But when it finally hit network television like two years later, people were calling us to tell us about the extra scenes, which were basically us playing again later in the movie while Jim is being chased by these thug guys and he comes up onstage with us, pretends he’s our singer and does a stage dive. I remember shooting that scene and just trying not to laugh. And they didn’t include that extra scene on the DVD, either. It was only in the network TV version. They actually added a lot of stuff to the TV version—it’s almost a totally different movie.
Did you hang out with Jim much on set?
Here and there, briefly. He had a lot more work to do than us, obviously. But I remember sitting next to him in the makeup trailer once and we talked a little bit. I can’t remember what we talked about—I was probably pretty nervous. So yeah, we’d see him here and there onset, but there was no hanging out at the hotel or anything like that.
Did you go to the premiere?
No, we bought tickets and went the night it came out in Buffalo. I think we went to the late show on Friday—not all of us together, but a couple of us did.
What kind of impact did the movie have on Cannibal Corpse’s popularity?
Dude, we got so many fans out of that. Since that movie came out, I’ve met at least one person at almost every show that tells me they found out about us from that movie. It’s dwindled a bit over the last few years because it was so long ago, but if you worked out an average, it would probably be one person a day. We get people who say Ace Ventura is the first time they even heard death metal. But if you think about it, it makes sense. If you’re some 11-year old kid who goes to see a funny movie and then you see this crazy band, you might be like, “What is this?” We were doing pretty well at that point—we were already an international band—but that movie really gave us a shove. I think it brought a lot of people into the death metal world, into the Cannibal world.
That movie was huge when it came out.
Yeah, it’s not like we were in some movie that tanked. Everybody in the world has seen that movie. I mean, President Obama has probably seen that movie—which means he’s seen Cannibal Corpse, whether he liked it or not! And that was our big thing talking to the normal folk who would be like, “Cannibal Corpse? Never heard of you.” And I’d always say, “I bet you saw us and don’t even know it. Ever see Ace Ventura?” And they’d always say yes. Millions and millions of people saw that movie, so if you get a few thousand fans out of that, it’s pretty big.
Did you get any more movie offers after it came out?
What’s funny is that we were offered another movie right after we’d shot our scenes for Ace Ventura, but before it was out. When they found out we’d already done Ace Ventura, they decided to go with another band. That movie was Airheads, which White Zombie ended up getting. Airheads is cool, but it’s not Ace Ventura. It didn’t do what Ace Ventura did.
At this time, Cannibal Corpse was even more controversial than you are today. It seems almost subversive that you were in a totally mainstream, PG-13 comedy in 1994. Did you have a sense of that, like you snuck in under the radar somehow?
Kind of, yeah. Like I said, we’re this death metal band in a slapstick comedy. It just doesn’t make sense. That’s why a lot of people were blown away by that, I think—they weren’t expecting to see a band like us at all. We were using some very controversial imagery at that time, and we were in a movie that was basically for kids. So we’re very grateful to Jim for putting us in there.
You were credited in the film as “Cannibal Corpses.” Did someone just make a mistake, or is there a story there?
I think they did that as a play on words—the band is Cannibal Corpse, so the guys in the band are the “Cannibal Corpses.” I’m not sure, though.
Do you know if Jim Carrey is still a fan?
We have no clue. There’s been no contact, nothing. We haven’t even heard anything secondhand or anything like that. So it’s very strange. I wonder if he’s still into it or if he looks back and thinks, “What was I thinking?”
J. Bennett thinks Jim Carrey should start a death metal band and go on tour with Cannibal Corpse. He is not on Twitter.