Goatwhore 2021: (L to R) Zack Simmons (Drums), Robert "TA" Coleman (Bass), Louis B. Falgoust II (Vocals), Sammy Duet (Guitars, Vocals)
Photo by Peter Beste
With COVID-19 vaccinations now underway, there unfortunately remains a small but vocal minority who generate skepticism of the vaccine with extreme conspiracy theories. However I’m sure they weren’t counting on people like Goatwhore guitarist Sammy Duet, taking their message a bit differently.
“It’s supposed to have a microchip in it, and the mark of the beast,” he says.
“I’ve been waiting for this!”
Duet has also been patiently waiting for the return of live music, both as a musician and a fan, and tomorrow (Saturday, January 9th) Goatwhore finally returns to the stage for a special livestream performance. Streaming from an undisclosed location in Florida, Duet promises more than just a jamspace set, with professional lighting and multiple cameras. But I had to make sure that he was going to strap on his trademark spikes for the occasion.
“Of course, man!” he exclaims.
“You think we’re gettin’ lazy in our old age?!”
Goatwhore has been steadily working on a new album since 2019. Their most recent release was 2017’s Vengeful Ascension, and it was around that time that Duet (also a veteran of acclaimed bands Acid Bath and Crowbar) really started to notice the band’s increased popularity. For over 2 decades the New Orleans outfit gigged hard and spread their signature black/death/thrash blend city by city, town by town, and they now find themselves regularly in the headline slot.
“It only took us 25 years!” says Duet laughing loudly.
“Especially after Vengeful Ascension came out I started realizing, looking back on when we first started, how far the band has come. If you would have told me when we first started doing Goatwhore that I would be where I’m at right now as far as the fanbase and the touring, I would have told you (that) you were fucking insane.”
The band won’t be playing any new material during tomorrow's show, as Duet thinks it’s possible the songs may not sound the same once they get into the studio. Recording sessions for the new album are set to begin February 15th, with the band looking to pick around 10 of the 16 songs they’ve written. In the meantime Duet has been busy hanging out with fans on his Instagram livestream. Although Duet has always been friendly with fans, regularly chatting with them before and after sets, I was a bit surprised as to how much he's embraced social media.
“I was just basically gonna post pictures of my guitars and my cats, I wasn’t gonna do anything beyond that,” he says.
“It kinda blew up from there (laughs). It got a lot bigger than I thought it would. I thought it would only be a bunch of guitar nerds. I have to do a livestream every Sunday. People wanna hang out and talk, just bullshit, and listen to tunes. It’s a good thing for me to have because I love our fans, and I love communicating with our fans, and meeting (them) as much as I possibly can. I’m not on tour and hanging out with everybody, so this is the best I can do for now.”
"These 2 certain things that make my life very amazing, it was either keep them or keep the alcohol."
Before the pandemic began Duet was already a homebody, so with the exception of not being able to attend the occasional show, his routine hasn’t changed much. The biggest event for him in recent memory is celebrating 1 year being completely clean and sober. Not being on tour during a crucial time in his sobriety ended up being helpful, and he’s ready for the challenge of returning to the road.
“I feel that (because) I wasn’t able to be around that temptation, it actually worked out (in) that I’m becoming a lot stronger within my willpower, rather than if I’d been on tour 6 months ago,” he says thoughtfully.
“I might not have been able to resist. (When) I’m playing a show, people are offering me drugs and alcohol, and there’s a bar right there. The temptations when playing a live show if you’re an alcoholic or a drug addict are tremendous. I feel pretty strong and pretty confident that I can do this without having to get fucked, y’know! (laughs). It’s all about what I can do besides drinking to kill time. You can get really creative if you want to, or, you can do what you’re supposed to and practice your instrument. You only… how can I say this?.. You’re only as good as you think you are. There’s always room for improvement. That’s my plan. Right now, where I stand, I’m completely infatuated with my instrument again. Completely, 100%. I have a new found love for it, you might say. Not that I ever didn’t, but I feel like my love for the guitar has come back to where I was like 14 years old again. That’s all I think about now!” (laughs)
I mentioned to Duet that I’d noticed that many people I know had given up alcohol during quarantine, with my own intake dropping drastically. So when I first heard of his sobriety I made the assumption that the downtime was his catalyst as well, when in fact he got sober a few months earlier.
“(There are) a couple of things that are very dear to me, that I came very close to losing because of my drinking,” he says carefully.
“So it was time to kick myself in the ass. These 2 certain things that make my life very amazing, it was either keep them or keep the alcohol. I’m not gonna go in detail about what these 2 things were. Let’s just say I didn’t choose the alcohol.”
"I tend to lean more towards the devil worshipping side of things."
While Sammy’s life is more of an open book these days, he’s always kept his more personal beliefs shrouded in mystery. In one of our earliest interviews, I recalled asking Duet about the Satanic elements in the band’s music and artwork. His response at the time was to say that he didn’t talk about those things, because of the way he believes in them. Since then I had always wanted to know if he was being sincere when he said that, or if perhaps he was playing things up for a then-bright-eyed baby journalist.
“Yes, that’s absolute truth!” he says with a hint of enthusiasm.
“What I do with my spirituality behind closed doors, is my business. I have a very different outlook on the way people perceive… worship of the devil. I keep that very, very private, and it’s a very personal thing to me as far as going into the details. There is to me a difference between being a Satanist, and being a devil worshipper. I tend to lean more towards the devil worshipping side of things. I was into (Satanism) for a while, and it’s still cool. I would definitely take that over Christianity any day of the week. That was almost like a gateway to what brought me to where I am now as far as my spirituality goes. What I believe in and what I practice is very, very different from that. But we all love that Satan guy! It’s all in how you show him how much you love him!” (audibly smiling)
Sammy Duet's "Circle of Evocation"
This response, mixed with Goatwhore’s malevolent lyrical content and artwork, would make one think that Duet’s beliefs run throughout his creative work. But in fact, he keeps the majority of them out of it. While he approves of bands like Watain who put the spiritual aspect of their music front-and-center in their lyrics and live shows, it’s not something he’s interested in doing.
“I don’t want people to understand,” he says.
“This is my thing that I fuckin’ developed. It’s a mishmash of different ideas and philosophies. It’s for me, it’s not for everyone else. Very, very little of that stuff creeps into the lyrics. The way I kind of word it, it’s extremely abstract. You have to kind of know what I’m talking about to find it. When I’m writing lyrics I like to keep it a little weird and not straightforward. You can definitely see the difference between the lyrics that I write, and the lyrics that (vocalist) Ben (Falgoust) writes. Where Ben’s are almost like tongue in cheek, fuckin’ straight up, and I like to make it more clouded, where it kind of doesn’t make sense but it does make sense.”
This duality has always been the most intriguing aspect of Duet’s character. He’s incredibly friendly and warm, with a wicked old-school sense of humour. You always feel like you’re speaking to the real Sammy. While the music of Goatwhore is dark, seeing them play has always been about having a good time with a big smile on your face. So although Duet isn’t up for sharing the deeper aspects of his spirituality, he did share one insight into his practices that only served to cement the dualistic image of him in my mind.
“Something, gave me an idea for some of the artwork that was in (the 2014 album) Constricting Rage of the Merciless,” he says carefully.
“There are certain pieces of artwork (where) something was speaking through me that wasn’t me, that came up with the idea for this piece of artwork that’s on that record. It’s almost like a circle of evocation. I wrote those phrases inside the circle, I have no recollection of that. It’s like when you’re half asleep and but you’re half awake, almost like sleepwalking. Something that I was calling at that period of time, was definitely answering. That piece of artwork was some of the answer that this thing gave me.”
Goatwhore’s livestream concert airs tomorrow, Saturday January 9th, at 6PM EST. Tickets are $12 USD, and you’ll be able to watch the show for 48 hours after the broadcast. You can also stream the Vengeful Ascension album in full below.