Carcass' Jeff Walker

Carcass' Jeff Walker
Never say never.

It always comes back to bite you in the ass as Carcass bassist/vocalist Jeff Walker has recently learned, admitting that he’s growing terribly accustomed to the taste of his words.

In the world of extreme metal, Liverpool, England’s 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 Amott’s 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.

It’s nice to see you up to something high-profile again. We haven’t 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, they’re 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 they’ll get drunk or my ego will have to be massaged again and I’ll get back to it. There’s definitely some stuff I’d like to do again but for now I’m busy so I’ll put it on the backburner until I’m 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 you’ve all been quite vocal about it not being an option for almost 15 years?
Just to shut them up. I’ve spent a good part of the last ten years until I’m blue in the face telling people why it would never happen or why we can’t. 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, it’s an important band so we’re spoilsports if we don’t. It’s only music. I said I’d never do it if Ken couldn’t but I found a moral loophole to make it justifiable to myself. We can give him an equal split of the money. I’m not trying to go to heaven or anything but it gives it a cool angle. It’s Ken’s band and he’s important so getting him to play is a big obstacle to overcome. We found reasons — or excuses — to do this and not look stupid.

It’s 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 someone’s gone, I lose interest. I’m 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. It’s 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 I’m happy with but I’ve never taken this Carcass legacy that seriously. I’ve only just realized what we just have on tap, going straight to playing big shows and getting paid decently. Bill’s been doing Firebird for ten years and he’s 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. It’s 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 don’t want to do. I was just kidding myself for years. I’m really just lazy, which is another reason for not wanting to do it. I haven’t been playing this stuff for so long, I’d have to learn it again [laughs]. At the end of the day though, it’s a lot of fun and I never equated Carcass with being fun. It was but not the musical side. It’s technical death metal, not rock’n’roll. But modern music’s so extreme nowadays, we sound like Thin Lizzy compared to most extreme bands. Suffocation blew us away in 1992, so we’ll 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 don’t seem to have that anticipation anymore. They can relax and do it for personal enjoyment again.
Yeah, or we wouldn’t do it. It’s not for the money. The main motivation is to please the people that keep bugging us. Mike can’t travel anywhere on this planet without people harassing him about Carcass and neither can Bill or I. We’re just finally delivering what people have been demanding for a long time. It’s them creating the demand, not us. If you’re aware of what we’ve said for the past 15 years, we said we don’t wanna do it; it won’t happen but now we’re doing it. That must say something. It’s not that we’re so sad and washed-up that we’re clamouring for attention. There’s genuine demand or desire for it. This won’t set us up for life. We just want people to be happy. We don’t have to do it. We’ve never been desperate for shows, ’cause we’re just awkward people. I’m happy we’re doing it now. We’re doing it the right way. It’s not gonna be overkill. We’re so charitable aren’t we? We’re just doing it for the kids... [Laughs]

You really have no clue as to the reverence for Carcass, do you?
I’m such an egotistical shit that I’ve 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. We’re 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 it’s common now. We haven’t been given credit for that stuff though.

I’d say you’re given credit by the bands that adore you.
We’re 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. It’s about riffs. There are no gimmicks on Kill ’Em All.

What prompted Carcass to utilize gore in your lyrics? You’re often considered the first extreme band to do something of that nature.
We weren’t. We were just influenced by Repulsion, Death, Sacrifice and Slayer. I’m more from the punk/hardcore background. When the other guys wanted to push for this apolitical gore thing, I was like, "Oh, for fuck’s 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 wasn’t 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. It’s great that people still care after all this time. It’s 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 don’t think he’d take back what he said about it at the time though. I don’t 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 it’ll be a different audience. They’ve got a younger crowd where we’ll 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 didn’t get to back in the day or want to see again. It’s like nostalgia is the new rock’n’roll. 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 doesn’t sit around listening to the new 20 releases on Century Media but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t still love the classic stuff that influenced Carcass. It’s still fun to play and remember where we stole the riffs from. I keep on top of what’s going on but I don’t listen to this stuff all day. Do I still enjoy Carcass? Yeah or else I wouldn’t be doing this. That would be hypocrisy. We’re not doing this to line our pockets. You can see us smiling, having a laugh playing this stuff. I know it’s complete anathema having a death metal band smiling but...

Toward the end of our earlier incarnation, we weren’t enjoying it so we stopped. Now it’s obligation. We’ve 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 don’t come out playing some new style like funk.

The reality is that Mike, Bill and myself are all pig-headed now. We’ve all led our own bands or projects so we all think we know better than each other. When you’re younger, you’re 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, we’ll only do it ‘cause it’s gonna be good. We’ll see. I’m tired of saying it’ll never happen ‘cause I said that about Carcass playing live so what’s the point?