In a new interview with Bass Player magazine, CANNIBAL CORPSE's Alex Webster opened up about his battle with focal dystonia, a rare neurological disorder that involves involuntary spasms in small muscles in the body.
"Focal dystonia is essentially an injury, but not the kind of injury that people would normally think of — it's not carpal tunnel, or a tendon problem, or something like that," he explained. "It's essentially a neurological problem, and it happens in a lot of disciplines that require precise, repetitive movements, and not just in music."
Asked what the symptoms were, Alex said: "The normal fingerpicking that I would do would become very strained. It seemed as if my pointer finger would be going left instead of down. When I first noticed something was going wrong, it was very confusing and frightening. I was, like, 'What's going on with my right hand? Why isn't it behaving the way it's behaved for the past 30 years?'"
He continued: "Basically, the signals from your brain are going wrong on the way down to your fingers. Imagine your legs walking. What if the signal from your brain was telling both legs to go forward at the same time? That's not exactly what was happening with my picking fingers, but certain signals were definitely getting through and certain signals weren't."
Webster went on to say that he solved the problem by embracing a natural therapy based on cutting-edge research in neuroscience.
"I saw a specialist named Joaquin Farias, who helped me out very much, and I also spoke with a classical guitarist, Apostolos Paraskevas, and the bassist Scott Devine, who gave me tips on their bouts with this," he said. "It's something that can often be resolved, which is good news for anyone who gets it. You just have to work through it, learn what you need to correct, and then take the time to correct it."
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, dystonia affects as many as 250,000 people in the U.S. and is the third most common movement disorder behind essential tremor and Parkinson's disease. Focal dystonia, a specific sort of dystonia, affects an estimated 7 to 69 per million people, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
CANNIBAL CORPSE released its 15th studio album, "Violence Unimagined", in April via Metal Blade Records. Erik Rutan, one of the death metal's most acclaimed guitarists who is known for his time as part of MORBID ANGEL throughout the '90s and early 2000s, as well as handling vocals/guitars for HATE ETERNAL, lent his guitar as well as production skills to the effort, which was recorded at his Mana Recording in St. Petersburg, Florida. Rutan previously produced four CANNIBAL CORPSE albums (in addition to "Violence Unimagined"), alongside the likes of GOATWHORE, SOILENT GREEN and BELPHEGOR. Filling in live on guitar since 2019, in 2020 he became a full member, contributing to the writing process.
Photo credit: Alex Morgan