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In Words: Circus Of Dead Squirrels

- Pancho Ripchord - March 2011 - Claudia Ehrhardt -

Circus Of Dead Squirrels
© Circus Of Dead Squirrels

Pancho Ripchord - March 3rd 2011 (by email)

Circus Of Dead Squirrels is one of the bands who don't follow any trend and who aren't afraid of criticism, with Operation Satan they presented an album which lyrically won't please everybody. But they stand their ground and even try to do something - even if on a small scale - to change the world. Time to get a few answers! Thanks to Pancho Ripchord for answering my questions!

Even if your recent album was my first encounter with Circus Of Dead Squirrels, I don't want to get back in history. Just one question, what's the story of the band's name?

The name was kind of random except for the fact that I knew I wanted squirrels in the title. It's funny because the previous bands I was in also included animals in the title (KOWZ, Toilet Duck) long before I realized just how important animals were to me. I think that the name Circus Of Dead Squirrels is a perfect way to describe the dark humor that we present in our songs.

Your current album is called Operation Satan, and it's about the way we treat animals. Was there a certain event which inspired you to do an album about it?

I was actually watching a documentary called Brother's Keeper and a scene in which a pig was slaughtered initially got me thinking about things. I was so pissed off at this guy who was brutally murdering a pig, swearing at it as he wrestled it to the ground and stabbed it. I was really bothered about it, enough to make me look further into the abuse that all animals endure. I came to find out that as horrible as that situation with the pig was, it was unfortunately somewhat humane compared to how most of our meat is produced in factory farms.

Are you vegetarians? Or do you even live vegan? Straight edge?

I can only speak for myself, I am not straight edge and I am not completely vegan or vegetarian. I would say that I am very close to being a vegetarian, only eating chicken or fish occasionally (less and less by the week). It is something that I've given serious thought to and one day I may very well be a vegetarian or vegan. I like to call myself a 'responsible consumer'. I don't eat pork or beef and when I do buy chicken or seafood I consider the source. I don't buy products that have been tested on animals and I don't wear leather. I am not perfect by any means, but I am trying my best to apply this harsh knowledge to my life and make the necessary changes to do my part to attempt to save a little bit of this dying world. I know that the dairy and egg industries are terrible as well, but for now I at least try to buy from better companies. Keep in mind that a year ago I was still stopping by McDonald's to eat dinner off of the dollar menu and purchasing products from Procter and Gamble. I feel proud of the changes I've made.

To talk straight forward about animal abuse, etc which won't please everybody. Did you get criticized for it?

As of now, we've received very little criticism for how we presented the album. We have had a few ignorant people make comments like "well, I like meat and I have no problem killing animals", but they have missed the point and are not intelligent enough to care about anything that is actually important in life. This album is not about making everyone a vegan, it's about being responsible and caring about the way other species, who have just as much of a right to be here as we do, are treated. It's about realizing that if you think torturing, not killing, animals is acceptable and you will throw down your money to a place that does this, you are a sick fuck who shouldn't be allowed to take up space in this already over crowded planet. Most of our fans have embraced what we are doing and I knew that they would. Our fans are open minded people who have come to know Circus Of Dead Squirrels as a band that calls out the wrongs of the world and is not afraid to verbally ridicule anything unjust.

At Inferno you transferred the nine levels of hell of Dante Aligheri's Inferno into the world of animal abuse. Do you remember what inspired you to write the lyrics?

Originally I wanted to base the six instrumental interludes on this poem, but decided to use the toy recordings instead. I then decided to write an entire song based off of not only Inferno, but Purgatorio and Paradiso as well. The album's cover art was loosely based off of some of the art related to Inferno and with the album being called Operation Satan I thought that the poem worked well with the overall theme of the album. I thought it would be interesting to display a whole separate hell, purgatory and heaven based upon people's treatment of animals, especially to be included towards the end of the record. It was also challenging but enjoyable to write the lyrics in the terza rima rhyme scheme just like the original.

Bible Thumpers is about hypocrites, but what surprised me is the variation of Michael Jackson's Smooth Criminal. I think it's cool, but I guess not everybody likes it... Just provocation?

Nothing better illustrates hypocrisy than the death of Michael Jackson. These segments were used deliberately in direct relation to the rest of the song. Michael Jackson was quite possibly one of the most hated entertainers, especially in America. But when he died all of a sudden everyone loved him again and it's all you saw on the news for what seemed like months. The point is that both the news media and the general public are nothing but hypocrites. Horrendous animal abuse takes place every single day, but gets little to no major media attention. People were so damn upset about the death of Michael Jackson even though he was labeled a child molester by most of society long before. If real news like animal abuse got the attention it deserved then obviously more people would be exposed to it and make changes. Also, it was just hilarious to include samples of Michael Jackson screaming "WOOOO!" from the Sega Genesis game Moonwalker.

Puppy Maul Madness seems to be the perfect soundtrack for a horror short movie... Would you like to do a short film for it?

Absolutely! The song was written to be somewhat of a B horror film (much like the song Sea Monkey Kill! from our first album, Indoor Recess). We used a few samples from Orson Welles' War Of The Worlds to help create that old radio broadcast feeling that opens the song and comes back towards the end. This would be an amazing video and it is something I'd really like to do at some point.

Who did the cover artwork? Who had the idea for the horned Uncle Sam who looks like Bin Laden? Tell is more about it!

The cover and back cover was done by artist John Kolbek ( John has been a friend of the band for years and it was such a honor to finally have him involved. I came up with the concept for the cover, including the Uncle Sam bin Laden. John actually had the idea of having the character slaughtering an American eagle… brilliant. The cover shows animals suffering in a hell that the Uncle Sam bin Laden (representing America and the 'face' of terrorism that we have been provided with) is controlling. The cover makes the statement that we are terrorists to the animal kingdom. The angel squirrel looks on from above, shedding some light on the situation… and that is where the album begins.

You donate 2$ of every copy of Operation Satan which you sell via your website to an animal rights organization. How do you choose the organizations?

We wanted to choose a variety of different organizations that deal with different types of animal abuse. We want to help all organizations, whether it involves educating the public, protecting farm animals from unjust laws, providing shelter for unwanted cats and dogs, finding alternatives to animal testing, etc. I wanted to start by donating to the organizations that helped educate me through the writing process. However, we are definitely open to any organization, both big and small.

Nature seems to fight back, we hear about natural disasters every other day - at least it seems to be that way. We all think about the people, should we also care more about the animals?

Without a doubt, it's simple... we can't survive without them. But that is still a selfish response. We should care because it should be in our hearts and souls to have feelings for other species and care about the greater good of all things. I think we should be at that stage of evolution by now.

What are your musical influences? How would you describe your sound?

KMFDM, GWAR, Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, Nine Inch Nails, Front Line Assembly, Fear Factory, Skinny Puppy, Ministry, and Crash Test Dummies are among my biggest musical influences. I would describe our sound as circus-industrial. Our music is a mix of industrial, metal, punk, and even some elements of synth pop. Ministry meets Mr. Bungle would be a good way to describe it to new listeners I suppose.

Do you have an idea what topic you'll tackle next time?

I've given some thought to what we will do next and I'm still not sure about what that will be exactly. I've considered writing a more personal album as well as writing another over the top humorous album similar to The Pop Culture Massacre. It's too early to tell. I spent quite some time working on Operation Satan without knowing that animal rights was going to be the subject. It all depends on what happens in my own life along the way.

What are your plans for 2011?

We have lots of new merch on the way and a possible tour within the United States. We are planning on beginning to write new material and may release a Christmas song at the end of the year as a download exclusive. We may be releasing a few remixes from Operation Satan as well which would be available for free to our fans. Thanks so much for the interview, great questions!

I have to thank Pancho Ripchord for the interview and I hope more fans will support CODS and the cause they fight for. It's absolutely true that we need animals and if everybody would just do little, even if it's just a veggie day a week, it will make a difference!

Claudia Ehrhardt


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