Carcass interview with Bill Steer: From the Vault

The first time D.U. interviewed Carcass was for archive zine issue #5 in 1992. D.U. is always up to push out Carcass content, even if it’s just a cleaned-up version of that old interview, below. (And D.U. did another interview with the band in 1994 and that one is likewise posted at the blog.)

I first saw Carcass on its Nauseating North American tour for its second album [Symphonies Of Sickness]. Back then I’d barely heard a song from the mostly English band, but I still was blown away. Now I had the pleasure of catching the group on the Campaign For Musical Destruction tour, on which the band was promoting its new one, Necroticism – Descanting The Insalubrious, and the Tools Of The Trade 12”, and I was able to talk with [guitarist] Bill Steer.

D.U.: Is there a feminist movement in England, and do you support that sort of thing?

Steer: Um, I don’t know whether you’d describe it as a movement, but there’s definitely feminist literature in England. There are definitely a lot of women who feel that way, but, I mean, they’re still a minority. As for whether or not I support it, I definitely do, provided that it doesn’t involve, y’know, hatred of men simply for the sake of it. I mean, I can understand any woman who’s suspicious of men, because she has every reason to. But I think it’s a little imbalanced to kind of put all the blame for the oppression of women purely on men, because [pause] women have to assume some responsibility for them, as well as men. But yeah, I do definitely support feminism, in the broader sense of the term.

Is the video for “Incarnated Solvent Abuse” getting any airplay?

Yeah, in Europe it’s had a fair amount of airplay. I can’t say I’m particularly happy about that, because I think the video is terrible. It’s just, y’know, anything but what we wanted.

What’s wrong with it?

Um, as soon as we got into the place to do it, we knew it wasn’t going to work out the way we wanted, because the guy we were working with was totally uncooperative. He had really narrow ideas about what to do. He was just difficult in every way, really. So at the end of the day we were all totally depressed because we knew we had a crap video on our hands. And when it was finished, we were just sitting there watching it and realizing that we would have to put it out because we’d spent some money on it.

Were there any gore shots and stuff in the video?

Oh, no. No, uh, it’s impossible to describe. All I can say is, practically all of the ideas in the video were his, because he didn’t want to listen to our ideas. I mean, we’ve done a second video now, for “Corporeal Jigsore Quandary,” and that’s really just, y’know, clips from live footage.

How do you like that one?

It’s better. I mean, it isn’t really edited in a very sympathetic way, y’know. The person who edited it clearly doesn’t understand the music.

So when you’re doing a lead, they’ll be showing [guitarist] Mike Amott and stuff like that?

Well, not quite that. They’re showing me, but it’s not in synch at all, really. But it’s definitely preferable to the first one.

Are you going to do more videos in the future? I guess with the experience you’ve had, you’d say no.

Well, y’know, if we want to get across in that medium, then we have to. And we do, because we can reach so many people. I mean, it’s far more effective than radio now.

How do you think the 12” is being received by the fans?

I mean, really it’s just some extra tracks that we’d done in the album sessions, and, um, it was intended to be received as that as well. We didn’t want people to think that this was something in between one album and the next one. It’s not that at all. It’s one track that we didn’t put on the album because we didn’t feel it really belonged on it, two re-recordings of older songs, and then there’s one track taken straight off the album. We intended to have it released virtually to coincide with the album, but it didn’t really work out like that.

Have you heard any comments about “Hepatic Tissue Fermentation II”? Because if a fan hadn’t heard the demo…

Yeah, well, we’ve had a few reactions. We’ve had generally good responses to the 12”. Nothing really extreme in either direction, to be honest.

The same thing as the album, basically?

Well, with the album, yeah, I mean, we got some quite differing reactions, really. Um, a lot of people were telling us that they hadn’t been able to stomach our previous material and that this was the first time they could actually listen to us. Y’know, they were surprised at how we’ve improved musically and how the production improved. On the other hand, we had people who were telling us they were disappointed. They expected something more like Symphonies Of Sickness and that was something we couldn’t and wouldn’t have done, really.

Why is that? Progression?

Yeah, completely. Um, there were two years between the two albums, and it would’ve been impossible for us to try and duplicate what we’d done two years previously. We didn’t want to anyway. I mean, there were loads of things we thought that were wrong with that album. Not, like, as in wrong at the time, because that album represented what we were about at that time.

Like in hindsight.

Yeah, in hindsight, yeah. We know how to make a better album. It’s the same with Necroticism. Looking back, we know, um, the things that we could have done differently, and we know what we want from an album next time.

At this point I gave Bill a printout copy of the latest Carcass review which ran last issue [archive zine issue #4], in order for Bill to comment on it.

Steer: Well, interesting review. I mean, to be honest, this isn’t the first time we’ve had these comments. Um [Steer looks at the review again] yeah, to me, all of this is pretty meaningless, really, because this is one person’s opinion, and clearly we haven’t done the kind of album he wanted to hear from us. And that’s unfortunate, because he obviously misunderstands what we’re about.

Reek Of Putrefaction sounds the way it does just because we didn’t know any better. Y’know, we were totally inexperienced as far as studio work went, and it really showed in the end result. I mean, the album is completely sloppy. We hated it at the time and now we just look back on it with amusement more than anything.

With Symphonies Of Sickness, we actually got a result that we were reasonably happy with. But again, I mean, even in that period, we were listening to different kinds of metal, and we didn’t see ourselves as a grind band. We were just playing, y’know, the music we wanted to hear.

I know you like to shy away from those labels.

Yeah, exactly. I mean, when I hear or see people use the word “grind,” I’m always a bit confused anyway because it seems such a vague term. Um, I dunno. A lot of people get really preoccupied with labels and so on, and at the end of the day all we’re into is making music. And y’know, I guess it’s someone else’s business if they wanna describe it a certain way or whatever.

But yeah, I mean, really all of these remarks are pretty familiar to me, and like I said, obviously he has misunderstood what the band’s about, because we like to make progress.

Do you think you’ve lost any fans with the new album and the 12” as compared to picking up new ones?

Uh, no, we’ve picked up slightly more, definitely, or so the sales would suggest. And so the attendances at gigs would suggest. But definitely, we have lost fans. To be honest, I don’t care because as I just said, I mean, they were bound to leave us sooner or later, because they’ve misunderstood what we’re about. There’s, like, 25 albums we could prob’ly mention right now that they can go and pick up if they want to hear, y’know, what we were doing two years ago. To me, concentrating on simply heaviness and fastness and nothing else is a little bit pointless.

Right, if Symphonies came out now, it would be a different album, really, because, I dunno, when we released it in 1989, there wasn’t anything around that sounded like that. The stuff we did hadn’t really been heard before. I’d like to think we covered new ground with it. If we were to release exactly the same music right now, it wouldn’t mean anything at all because there’s all these bands that’ve been, y’know, purely obsessed with conforming to death metal, grindcore, whatever label that they seem to respect so much. And I can’t believe that people pay so much attention to such superficial things.

There has to be some substance to what you’re doing. And, um, unfortunately, we’ve tried to find new ways to innovate in this small area of music, and naturally, some people with slightly more narrow conceptions of what can be done with this are bound to be a little bit disappointed. But, I mean, we’re not disappointed with them. Well, I’d like to put it this way: we’ve made different progress from them.

Y’know, if this band’s gonna survive, we have to break out and cover some new ground. I mean, we’ll always keep our identity. I don’t think we’ll ever do anything that sounds out of character to us. But at the same time, it’s just, like, vital for us to maintain some individuality or else everything we do has no meaning.What is the most fulfilling for you—composing the songs, recording them, or playing them live?

Um, that varies, really. It’s impossible to compare the three, really. They satisfy different parts of your personality. Putting them together is great because, y’know, there always comes a point when you can sense that you’re doing something that the band hasn’t done before, and that’s a really exciting feeling.

In the studio, again it’s a similar thing because you’re creating something new, and just actually hearing it that clear on tape is really satisfying too.

Does the response to the band live, either positive or negative, affect the band’s performance?

Definitely. Um, I think it does with every band, really. You know, if we’re playing to a crowd of 50 Nazi skinheads, Sieg Heiling, beating up on other people and so on, then that’s gonna affect our performance. If we’re playing to a crowd that’s going completely berserk and is clearly 100% into the music, then that affects us in a positive way. Also, you can be playing to a relatively mellow crowd, but if you sense that they’re listening to what you’re doing, you can also enjoy that too.

What activities do you do to keep your creative juices flowing?

Uh, none of us do anything that unusual. We all do fairly normal things, y’know: reading books, listening to music, seeing friends. I suppose listening to music would be the main one, actually. None of us have any hobbies that would surprise people, to be honest.

Do you worry about not listening to any metal so you won’t end up writing a riff that sounds like anyone else?

Not really. We like to keep up with [death metal] to an extent because that’s important to us, y’know. Say you hear five new death metal albums in a day. Pretty quickly you begin to realize what the latest clichés are in this form of music, and that’s something you can avoid.

That’s an interesting way of looking at it.

Yeah. I mean, that’s the only way we can look at it now anyway. If there’s something we hear in that vein that we like, then we would listen to it. But really, there isn’t anything I can think of offhand in that category that really satisfies me musically. I think that’s the case for a lot of bands, really. Because, y’know, if you last more than four or five years playing this style, then you’re gonna look outside of this area for different kinds of music to listen to.

Do you have a last comment?

Um, not really. We’re working on new material. We have about five or six songs completed. We’re hoping to record a 10-track album. I don’t know when yet. There are a few problems we have to sort out, for example who’s going to be distributing or releasing our album in the States.

Are you renegotiating album to album?

Well, not quite. I mean, we’re stuck—[laughs] Sorry, that’s a bad choice of words there. Um, we’re with Earache for another year [laughs]. Oh dear, God, that was a Freudian slip. Yeah, we’re contracted for one more album, and—

Right then, [drummer] Ken Owen came and said something about the time, and Bill had to get going.

Related:

– Collection of Carcass’ promo videos related to Surgical Steel
– Back in 2012 we ran a poll about Carcass’ upcoming album, Surgical Steel

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