Carcass interview with Jeff Walker: From the Vault

D.U. had the fortune to interview Carcass twice in the old days of D.U. zine, once in 1992 when I talked to guitarist Bill Steer in 1992 (cleaned up and posted on the blog), and once more in 1994. A cleaned-up version of that second interview, which first appeared in archive zine issue #11, is below.

Carcass came around to the 9:30 Club in Washington D.C. again, this time opening for Life Of Agony. After Carcass finished an amazing set, which included “Empathological Necroticism” [from second album Symphonies Of Sickness], “Corporeal Jigsore Quandary” and “Incarnate Solvent Abuse” [from third album Necroticism – Descanting The Insalubrious], and several tracks off the new album, Heartwork, and “Rot ‘N’ Roll” off the Heartwork 12″, I went outside to get an interview with Jeff Walker, the bassist/vocalist for Carcass. On with the interview.

D.U.: So who’s the new guitarist now?

Walker: His name’s Carlo Regardas. He was in a band back in Liverpool called Devoid. They had an album out just on a local label.

What happened with Mike Hickey?

It just didn’t work out. Nothing personal, but he’s an American, he’s a bit older, and his attitude towards music and everything was totally different. I mean, he’s a really nice guy and all that.

It seems like you’re getting into a ritual of changing second guitarists.

Not really. I mean, you know, we were a three piece, and then [Michael] Amott joined for, whatever, three years, and we kind of by choice separated from him before the album came out, and Hickey was in there straight away, and then when Amott joined, [Regardas] said, if it didn’t work out he’d do it, and when we got Hickey he said the same thing. [Regardas has] come of age now, ‘cause the first time he offered, he was 15, so he was probably too young.

I thought the set tonight was really interesting. I was shocked you played anything off Symphonies.

Well, there you go again. I mean, the last guitarist wouldn’t bother learnin’ anything. And Carlo to an extent was a fan before he joined and he knows what people want. I always wanted to play stuff off Symphonies. Obviously it’s difficult because Bill [Steer] won’t sing anymore, so it’s limited.

Is the next LP written?

There’s riffs, there’s lyrics. I mean, usually, you know Carcass, we start writin’ music as soon as we finish the last album. I think it’ll be refreshing this time to just do it in one chunk.

What’s it going to look like based on what you have so far?

It’s hard to describe. All I can say is, it’s gonna be better than the last one. Obviously at times we sit there and think, we’re so bored of people sayin’ Heartwork’s like a guitar wank album, bla bla bla. It’s really kind of depressing. I mean, people have described it as, like, being some kind of heavy metal record and all that kind of thing, and it really weakens us, you know, ‘cause, don’t get me wrong, we don’t think it’s the most alternative or whatever album ever, but we’re still heavy and there’s melodies in there. But the idea that we’re just a rehash of Judas Priest is bullshit. I mean, our influences are a lot more alternative than a lot of so-called alternative bands that are out there. Obviously, ‘cause we’ve got long hair and we play Ibanez guitars and Bill and Carlo and [drummer] Ken [Owen] can play, that’s a handicap nowadays. People want really simple music, mosh riffs, you know.

So we’re in two minds. Part of us wants to say we want to throw away all the leads and stuff ‘cause we’re sick of people goin’ on about it. But having said that, Bill and Carlo are good guitar players. And don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s gonna be like the last album where there’s just, like, leads all over the place, but we’re still gonna push the musicianship.

I think the songwriting’s even stronger. We’ve grown up a bit now, and it’s gonna be stripped down a bit, straightforward, choruses and things. We’re tryin’ to be more accessible at the end of the day, you know. We don’t wanna be some kind of Watchtower-type band. I think it’s gonna be interesting, the next album. Maybe there might be some singing on it. I don’t know, but it’s still gonna be heavy, it’s still gonna be downtuned, and I guess it’s gonna be Carcass fused with some better sense of songwriting. But we want to keep the interest there as well.

What kinds of crowds are coming to the gigs these days? Some people are going, “Let’s hear some Napalm,” and others were screaming for “This Mortal Coil” all night, and some people are responding to the stuff off the last LP.

Then you’ve got the usual die-hards that pretend they were into Symphonies at the time. We always get that. I think tonight there seemed to be a lot of people that are here to see Life Of Agony. We see a lot of Pantera shirts. And it’s surprising to sit outside. A lot of people come up to you and say, “I’ve never heard you guys before,” and that kind of thing, which is kinda good, you know. It’s what we want Columbia to get us, is a tour so we can play with whoever, Slayer or someone, so we can try and cross over instead of just playin’ to people who have the record anyway. But having said that, of course there’s only 400 people in there or whatever, and when I asked, “Who’s got the new album, Heartwork,” like, about three people said, “Me,” so we’ve got a long way to go.

So how’s the new album selling?

[To Jim Welch, Columbia Records]: How’s it selling, Jim?

Welch: It’s selling better than any other Carcass record by far. It’s probably selling better than any other Earache release, period, really. Pretty close.

OK, you have more fans when each LP comes out, but the old fans don’t like the new record you’ve got so they’re not going to listen to you anymore. But you’re getting new fans, so it keeps building.

Walker: Yeah, it’s like a cycle. But having said that, there still is a handful of people who were into Reek [of Putrefaction, the first album] and they’ve kind of stayed with us, which is kind of, you know…

Surprising?

Well, yeah, but it also makes you feel good, you know, because, since Reek, people have said, “You’ve sold out.” When Symphonies came out people were saying, “You sold out” because it didn’t sound like noise and all that sort of thing. We’re used to it. You’re talking about a handful of people there, and then there’s still, like, die-hard Carcass fans who’ve been there since the beginning, and it kind of makes it worthwhile.

But we’re just doing it to please ourselves. Don’t get me wrong, we can’t pretend that it doesn’t bother us when there’s a bad reaction, but, you know, we sell more albums than we ever have. We’re doin’ something right. Maybe we’re doin’ something wrong if people like us. It’s so weird that people can just see Symphonies and…

Dismiss everything else.

Yeah, it’s just kind of weird.

Is that happening with the new record? Like, everyone you picked up with Necroticism are expecting it to sound like that record, like it happened back then?

No, I don’t think so. I think anyone that got into Necroticism is gonna stay with us. You tell me. You’ve probably got your ear closer to the ground than I have.

The opinions I hear most are from people that want to hear the older Symphonies sound, so they already don’t like you anymore.

It has to be said as usual that there’s bands out there that still sound like that, you know. We’ve moved on, and there’s people that really need that sound. To me, that’s just, like, a bunch of posers, people who are into the fashion aspect.

You think so?

Yeah, it’s always the same in music. I just can’t see how that could touch anyone’s soul that much, that record. It’s not, like, not as though you can really relate to the lyrics or anything. It’s kind of weird.

I went through a lot of changes with how I liked everything. The first time I heard Symphonies was when Combat signed with Earache and they sent those five albums all at once, and I really liked that a lot. And I liked Necroticism a lot when it came out, but I don’t listen to it anymore. And when Heartwork came out, I didn’t like it either, but now I like it a lot.

So why didn’t you like it? What was it?

I guess it was just a lot more toned down, was my initial reaction to it.

In what department?

Just everything.

The guitar sound is more aggressive, and my vocals are definitely the strongest they’ve been. All right, Bill’s missing [on vocals], but, you know, it’s toned down in the sense that it’s not raw, maybe.

That sort of thing, you know, overall approach-wise, you could say.

All right then. We’re still tryin’ to keep an aggressive edge to it. It don’t think there’s anything clever about making it sound cheap, which is what rawness does at the end of the day. I mean, we’re not catering for anyone except ourselves.

I kind of agree to a certain extent. I don’t think we’re that raw a band, but that’s not what we’re tryin’ to do anyways. We’re not tryin’ to compete with the whole Relapse catalog or anything. I mean, we’ve never bothered what people think. If we bothered what people think, we would’ve never released Reek, so [laughs].

Live photos: Carcass live at the 9:30 Club. Framed photo: the D.U. offices.

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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