Published Aug 27, 2008Never say never.
It always comes back to bite you in the ass as Carcass bassist/vocalist Jeff Walker has recently learned, admitting that hes growing terribly accustomed to the taste of his words.
In the world of extreme metal, Liverpool, Englands Carcass are legendary. Formed in 1985 by guitarist/vocalist/former Napalm Death-er Bill Steer with drummer Ken Owen and completed by Walker in 1987 (guitarist/future Arch Enemy founder Mike Amott was brought in on second guitar in 1990), their amalgamation of inhuman speed, grinding distortion and guttural/banshee-esque vocals relating disgusting tales of eating rotting corpses and general gore spawned a new faction of death metal/grindcore dubbed "gore-core. To this day, Carcass are often imitated yet never duplicated.
Over the course of the next nine years, Carcass went on to release five full-length albums, helped define Earache Records as an independent label to be reckoned with, and elevated the status of extreme music to the point where even major labels came a-knockin. Disbanding in 1996 and vowing to never take up their instruments under the Carcass banner again, they went on to create new projects such as Firebird, Blackstar and Arch Enemy. The improbability of a reunion was further stressed when Owen suffered a severe brain haemorrhage circa 1999 that all but eradicated his ability to play drums.
However, due to continual pressure from fans and a change of heart, Carcass have finally reformed. Utilizing Amotts fellow Enemy Daniel Erlandsson as skinsman yet keeping Owen in the loop, Carcass have reunited to have one potentially last kick at the can. Walker reveals his thoughts on eating his words through a dry, dark sense of humour.
Its nice to see you up to something high-profile again. We havent heard from you since Welcome to Carcass Cuntry. That was a great album.
Another fool, one of two or three. Are you calling from a sanatorium or something? I enjoyed making it at the end of the day. I found some kindred spirits. If only one or two people like it, theyre the ones with really good taste.
Would you do a solo album again?
That was three years ago so my head was in a different place... stuck up my ass, probably. Some of the guys I worked on that album with get drunk and say they want to do it again so maybe theyll get drunk or my ego will have to be massaged again and Ill get back to it. Theres definitely some stuff Id like to do again but for now Im busy so Ill put it on the backburner until Im 50 and fully grey like Kenny Rogers. That can be my second career, playing Vegas or something.
I take it the Carcass reunion has kept you quite busy?
I say that but my kind of busy is doing something one day and getting drunk for the other six.
What was the thrust behind reforming Carcass since youve all been quite vocal about it not being an option for almost 15 years?
Just to shut them up. Ive spent a good part of the last ten years until Im blue in the face telling people why it would never happen or why we cant. At some point, I realized that I was the one preventing it from happening. It took Bill longer to learn but he did too. To a lot of people, its an important band so were spoilsports if we dont. Its only music. I said Id never do it if Ken couldnt but I found a moral loophole to make it justifiable to myself. We can give him an equal split of the money. Im not trying to go to heaven or anything but it gives it a cool angle. Its Kens band and hes important so getting him to play is a big obstacle to overcome. We found reasons or excuses to do this and not look stupid.
Its admirable not to do this without him. Most bands would just find someone else.
I find that morally repugnant: hiring and firing people. I like the gang mentality where a band is made up of certain people. As soon as someones gone, I lose interest. Im anal about a lot of bands. I only like specific periods where certain people are in the band. A band is a group of people, not just about hiring and firing. Its about chemistry. I have weird loyalties.
Are you pleased to do this again despite saying you never would?
Yeah. The last few years of doing other projects had me starting at the bottom again, which Im happy with but Ive never taken this Carcass legacy that seriously. Ive only just realized what we just have on tap, going straight to playing big shows and getting paid decently. Bills been doing Firebird for ten years and hes trying but now he can step out of that and back to a different level.
It must feel strange to come back to Carcass years later and the band are bigger than ever. Its like when Turbonegro broke up. They only had a handful of fans but during their dormant years, they became almost legendary. More people discovered them, which forced a reunion. When they regrouped, they were far more popular.
That was great but some people would argue they overstayed their welcome, which is something we dont want to do. I was just kidding myself for years. Im really just lazy, which is another reason for not wanting to do it. I havent been playing this stuff for so long, Id have to learn it again [laughs]. At the end of the day though, its a lot of fun and I never equated Carcass with being fun. It was but not the musical side. Its technical death metal, not rocknroll. But modern musics so extreme nowadays, we sound like Thin Lizzy compared to most extreme bands. Suffocation blew us away in 1992, so well sound like old farts playing hard rock compared to younger bands. But at least we have the riffs.
How does reforming alter internal expectations? Young bands are always pushing forward on hope and can be easily disappointed while those that reform dont seem to have that anticipation anymore. They can relax and do it for personal enjoyment again.
Yeah, or we wouldnt do it. Its not for the money. The main motivation is to please the people that keep bugging us. Mike cant travel anywhere on this planet without people harassing him about Carcass and neither can Bill or I. Were just finally delivering what people have been demanding for a long time. Its them creating the demand, not us. If youre aware of what weve said for the past 15 years, we said we dont wanna do it; it wont happen but now were doing it. That must say something. Its not that were so sad and washed-up that were clamouring for attention. Theres genuine demand or desire for it. This wont set us up for life. We just want people to be happy. We dont have to do it. Weve never been desperate for shows, cause were just awkward people. Im happy were doing it now. Were doing it the right way. Its not gonna be overkill. Were so charitable arent we? Were just doing it for the kids... [Laughs]
You really have no clue as to the reverence for Carcass, do you?
Im such an egotistical shit that Ive always thought we were a classic band but the rest of the world never agreed [laughs]. Carcass was in danger of being erased from musical history. Were not the pioneers of the things we introduced. We were influenced by the bands we grew up with, but Carcass are an important band in the history of heavy metal. I sound like a complete arrogant twat but I think we were one of the most important bands since Maiden or Priest. Most bands play downtuned now, but we were the band that introduced drop B tuning. It was an accident on our part but its common now. We havent been given credit for that stuff though.
Id say youre given credit by the bands that adore you.
Were credited for it amongst the people who take the credit but never mention us [laughs]. We just fucked around when we were young... at times we wore pseudo-corpse paint and masks. We did that but we never relied on image. Combat and Sony were trying to push us as vegetarians but we were never comfortable with that shit. The shit bands purposely do nowadays never the music but image we always went the opposite direction. We never thought it was important. Now, if we could change things...
Those things have overshadowed the music now: masks or bandying about some bullshit philosophy. Its about riffs. There are no gimmicks on Kill Em All.
What prompted Carcass to utilize gore in your lyrics? Youre often considered the first extreme band to do something of that nature.
We werent. We were just influenced by Repulsion, Death, Sacrifice and Slayer. Im more from the punk/hardcore background. When the other guys wanted to push for this apolitical gore thing, I was like, "Oh, for fucks sakes... But then I found it so amusing. I was always a fan of horror films and music is just another form of artistic expression: words and music as opposed to something visual like a film. I got into it but what we did differently from other bands was trying to make it less infantile or childish. Ken brought in a scientific approach, using complicated medical words and other bullshit. We started introducing ideas; a philosophy that was PC, embarrassingly enough to admit. It wasnt violence against any minority or sexuality. It was violence against everyone.
Is it frustrating that after 15 years, the Carcass legacy still overshadows your current musical projects?
Not in the slightest. Its great that people still care after all this time. Its strange how things have been re-evaluated. Swansong was pretty much maligned at the time. Now, people love that record and even Mike had to admit that he sees it in a different context. I dont think hed take back what he said about it at the time though. I dont think Bill is bothered, nor is Mike. He and Angela would hate me to say it but I think Arch Enemy plays for a different audience anyway. He admitted it himself when we talked about playing these gigs. He knows damned well itll be a different audience. Theyve got a younger crowd where well just have old guys with mullets and fat wallets. Our generation has grown up now. We have jobs and disposable incomes. They want to see the bands they didnt get to back in the day or want to see again. Its like nostalgia is the new rocknroll. They want to see these fat, old, grey-haired goons.
Well, some people were just too young to get into the shows back then.
I was 12 or 13 trying to get into punk gigs, so they get no sympathy from me.
Do you still appreciate this style of music after so many years?
Bill was never keen to do this kind of music (again) but once he got over to Sweden and Mike put a guitar in his hand, he rediscovered is a love of the music that influenced Carcass. He doesnt sit around listening to the new 20 releases on Century Media but that doesnt mean he doesnt still love the classic stuff that influenced Carcass. Its still fun to play and remember where we stole the riffs from. I keep on top of whats going on but I dont listen to this stuff all day. Do I still enjoy Carcass? Yeah or else I wouldnt be doing this. That would be hypocrisy. Were not doing this to line our pockets. You can see us smiling, having a laugh playing this stuff. I know its complete anathema having a death metal band smiling but...
Toward the end of our earlier incarnation, we werent enjoying it so we stopped. Now its obligation. Weve agreed to play these gigs [laughs]. To be honest, Bill and I both have part-time jobs. When we were in Carcass, we never worked a day in lives. Mike was smart. He went from shitty jobs to playing in a rock band. Me and Bill learned the hard way.
Generally speaking, the excitement of reunions even one-offs tend to beget new albums. Is there any chance of new material?
A lot of bands get carried away. With Carcass? There is a possibility as long as we find an old cassette with some riffs on it. Much to my horror, Bill was showing Mike a couple of riffs we never used back in the day. But it needs to make some kind of connection to the past. For example, people think the song, "Keep On Rotting In The Free World from Swansong was a new direction but I wrote those riffs around the third album as a joke rock demo. We found a way to incorporate it into Swansong. There has to be a connection to the past to show evolution; so we dont come out playing some new style like funk.
The reality is that Mike, Bill and myself are all pig-headed now. Weve all led our own bands or projects so we all think we know better than each other. When youre younger, youre all from the same page; pushing in the same direction. We grew up and went our different ways cause we wanted to do different things. It might be a case of too many chiefs and not enough Indians now. If we do it, well only do it cause its gonna be good. Well see. Im tired of saying itll never happen cause I said that about Carcass playing live so whats the point?