Dan Greening -- alias Lord Worm -- is one of the few true mavericks in death metal. Worm is best known for his work with Cryptopsy; Decibel Hall Of Fame inductee None So Vile and potential inductee Blasphemy Made Flesh are genre classics. Worm's work with Cryptopsy is inimitable; his lyrics are crazed poetry as notable for their humor, wordplay and puns as for their over-the-top violence. Consider the opening line to the classic "Defenestration": Oh what a gal!/She seems such a perfect victim/This I can tell, for if beauty by guilt/she's guilty. And while some consider Worm's voice an acquired taste the only real competition for extreme metal screams in the past two decades is Dave Hunt of Anaal Nathrakh. Worm rejoined Cryptopsy earlier in the new millennium and appeared on the underrated Once Was Not. Since leaving the band he has worked with Rage Nucléaire, a Canadian industrial death metal hybrid. Rage recently released their second album Black Storm Of Violence via Season Of Mist. Worm talked to us about the new album, teaching English and why songs about serial killers have gone stale.
You recently participated in an academic conference in Canada on extreme metal (Grimposium). What was that experience like? Could you ever have imagined something like this when you started playing metal?
I never would have imagined anything like it. Here you have all these people with doctorates and masters. You know the sitcom Big Bang Theory? I was Howard. I was the guy at the symposium without a doctorate. So it felt weird. They got a hold of me from Jason (Netherton) of Misery Index -- he suggested me.
How did the whole weekend roll out?
It was supposed to be a Friday and Saturday and kind of grew from Wednesday to Sunday. There was a bunch of shows: Carcass, Gorguts and Voivod. They got a bunch of tickets for people who wanted to go.
Well, you’ve made your living as a teacher, right? So it probably didn’t feel alien.
The situation wasn’t alien but – how can I put this — I work with a language center. I get contracts and I go to these student’s workplaces by schedule as opposed to a classroom. Someone from the language center in Quebec gives me a call and says: “we have a bank president that’s only at a certain level of expertise with English and needs more for whatever reason.” It might be a 30 or 60-day contract for twice a week. It’s government people, company people, CEOs, even secretaries. But it is rewarding when they get that little light in their eyes.
Has anyone ever been a death metal fan and noticed you?
A couple times and one really threw me. It was a middle-aged lady who decided to Google her teacher. She came to me about halfway through the year and said: “I hear you have a pseudonym.” And I’m thinking: “uh, oh.” I told her to just ignore it and get back to class.
When you aren’t making music and teaching what are you doing?
Drinking, of course, is a huge part of my life. I live for my liver. I’m the quintessential half drunk English teacher. The best way to teach is halfway sober. And I’m a cinephile and I collect movies.
Don’t you worry that any stuff you buy will get replaced with a new format?
I should start saving for whatever copy is next because I can’t be without my movies. There’s one I watch about every six weeks: Spinal Tap. Cryptopsy was kind of like Spinal Tap; we really are that stupid.
There’s a fine line between clever and stupid.
We straddle that line and it hurts our ball sacks.
Had you always imagined doing something like Rage Nucléaire ?
I was approached by the guys in the band to do a four-song demo but I still wasn't done with Cryptopsy. It ended up being about three or four years before we could get anything done. By then it grew to a full-length album. I really liked what I heard; they gave me the album (Unrelenting Fucking Hatred) complete but instrumental. I just had to add my bits. This new record wasn’t the case. I got to sit down with the guys and compose.
Did that make you feel more a part of the whole process?
Well, the first Rage Nucléaire album actually felt a lot like the last Cryptopsy album Once Was Not. In both cases I was handed a instrumental full-length album and asked to put my stuff on top of it. So I much prefer the second Rage album.
When you have to work like you did for the first record how do you put your thoughts together?
I’ve done for years and this goes back to the late 80s before Cryptopsy. I’m always in the process of writing lyrics. My journal is an old green thing with a bunch of lined paper. I don’t do anything on a word processor; I’m old school. There are cocktail napkins, matchbooks, and bits of paper. I’ll write a bunch and some words will come and I need to jot them down immediately.
Do any of your songs come fully formed or do you usually work with pieces?
The best songs -- if they don’t come all at once -- it’s nearly all at once. "Goddess Of Filth" on the new album came while we were in a basement, literally under the stairs. There’s just room for two chairs and computer. We were trying riffs and drum programming. We put "A Sino-American Chainsaw War" aside because "Goddess of Filth" was so good we had to stop what we were doing.
How has your lyric writing changed since Cryptopsy?
It’s a bit different. In earlier Cryptopsy – the first two albums – I hadn’t done much before. We’d jam once a week on Friday and get a bunch of beer. (For example) one day the band came with something totally inspired. We listened to it and I flipped through my lyrics and we turned it into a song you might know called "Abigor." (laughs). The process took about twenty minutes. Sometimes things click together and it works and other times it’s extremely painful; when we were doing "Orgiastic Disembowelment" it was painful and it took me like four months to complete.
So on this record was it more things coming together or pain?
There’s no pain with Rage. We also gather on Fridays. We never use the word "no." Everything is worth trying. There’s no "that sucks" – there is mutual respect. We try everything and when something fits we know it. When it works like it did with the song "Black Storm Of Violence," which took a few weeks, it works out well.
You have to explain the song the "A Sino-American Chainsaw War" (which premiered earlier this year on the Deciblog).
It’s a title that came to me one day. Back in 2006 we were in Europe touring with Grave and Aborted. We were in Belgium and Sven (de Caluwé) from Aborted had all of these song titles -- songs he hadn’t finished. He always writes the title then the lyrics. I thought that was interesting challenge. For this album the challenge was "A Sino-American Chainsaw War." It’s a “what if?" scenario. What if there were no explosives and war had to be fought with bladed instruments, but they could be gas powered? (laughs). It’s basically medieval warfare with gas!
One thing I’ve noticed that’s different between Cryptopy and Rage is that with Cryptopsy you wrote about individual moments of horror and terror – like getting thrown out of a window. Now the focus is terror on a global scale. What changed?
So, the switch from personal to global terror? It was the logical choice. When I was writing for Cryptopsy in the early days like one or two bands were doing the whole serial killer motif: Cannibal Corpse and maybe two others. I was one of the few and the proud. Then, everyone started doing it, even grindcore and black metal bands. Everyone was doing the serial killer thing. I needed a new shtick.
Have you heard a good new serial killer song in recent years or has that been spent?
The music might be interesting now. Lyrically, though, no. I haven’t read any interesting serial killer lyrics. They are torture porn, aren’t they? We get that already in cinema.
I think you presented it with a certain artistry and verbal flair and now it’s like an audio version of the movie Hostel.
Fair enough. I try to keep that flair going. Even when I use second person singular I try to make it something anyone could potential feel.
I can’t think of anyone else in metal who started a song "pardon, please"...
Ah, the old "Slit Your Guts" thing. Oddly enough, on one of their tours during my first Cryptopsy hiatus early in the millennium they found themselves on tour with Cradle of Filth and Flo (Mounier, Cryptopsy drummer) was hanging out with Dani Filth. Mr. Filth confided that he actually managed to rip off "Slit Your Guts" in one of his songs. I saw it in a lyric book and, yeah, he borrowed. It’s a compliment. Dani Filth borrowed from me – what are you going to do?
What song is it?
I don’t remember. I only have their first album. They got too vampiric for me. Vampires are too sexy and I’m asexual. Give me zombies every time.
What do you like to hear in death metal lyrics?
There has to be a back end of black, black humor. It needs to be the same type of humor Clive Barker is guilty of, or the band Nuclear Death. They are the metal Clive Barker. The black humor turns me on every time.
Cryptopsy at the end was taking a toll on your health and our voice. Considering that are you done with that sort of lifestyle?
I won’t state categorically that it’s over but Rage just can’t tour. Fred (Widigs, drummer) plays with Marduk so we don’t have a drummer. Flo actually agreed to play but Alvater and Dark Rage can’t tour for different reasons so that would leave it as a one man band with a drummer and I’m not going to do that. I’m not so addicted to this that I’m just going to do it for the sake of doing it. Any live tours would have to be with a live band.
It’s sort of nice to even be able to choose between Fred and Flo Mounier.
It’s an honor. We’re very pleased to work with Fred. Even though we’ve never met the man he seems like the kind of guy we could hang out with.
Did touring make you not like music for a while?
No. I don’t like touring but for different reasons. As for music, any time you become creative it sticks with you forever. I can’t not make music or not write. It becomes like a zit that turns into a boil when you don’t scratch it. So, I have to create. That will never stop.
Do you ever think of your place in the death metal genre?
I’m too busy creating to worry about it. People can go online and argue about it, but I need to work.