Last time I spoke to any of you guys it was Ken in the run-up to Swansong coming out. Is it your turn to do the press this time around?
Yeah, it’s usually Jeff but it’s just so busy and he needs a break. Back them when an album came out you’d do maybe four or five interviews and that’s it. Nowadays it’s so different. It’s a deluge – it never stops. But someone in the band has to say “yes” otherwise you get all those bad vibes – the band being negative or unapproachable.
You’ve been with the band since it first formed.
The original version of the band started in 1985 when we were still at school. That was Ken and myself and a couple of schoolmates. That version of the band lasted about three months, folded and then – when I got to know Jeff a year or so later we were in a band we weren’t so happy with. So we decided to go and do something we really wanted to do and bring back the name Carcass. That’s when Jeff got involved and that’s the Carcass that people know now.
How do you think things have changed in the music industry since Swansong?
I can’t even make a comparison – it’s completely different. At the height of the Surgical Steel press, Jeff and myself were doing more interviews in a day than we did for a whole album cycle in the old days. The label would block book you for days and you’d spend the entire time from waking to sleeping on the phone or Skype. I’m not an online person, I don’t get involved in that culture. I do emails, but not social media so I’m a bit out of touch with the way things are in the metal scene now, so I probably needed that education! A very rude awakening!
If you have to name one thing that’s changed, it’s the Internet and it’s affected everything. People can hear a band instantly, now, if they want to check it out. On the other hand people can push things so hard on the likes of facebook that the impression I’m getting from the outside is that it’s too much. I think you should be more discrete about who you aim your promotion at rather than just everybody… because this music isn’t for eveybody. That’s why we started doing this – because we’re oddballs on the fringes of society!
You mentioned that you guys were “oddballs”, and back at the beginning Carcass were certainly something different. A band that can rightfully claim to have begun a whole genre and who influenced so many more acts. What were your influenced back then? How did you come up with that sound?
One thing I’ve definitely learned about music is that it’s very difficult for someone to create something new just out of thin air. There’s always a forerunner. Even with the birth of rock and roll you could point to Elvis Presley, or Little Richard or Bill Hailey and the Comets, but there was something that led up to that. Every piece of music bleeds into the following piece of music. Everybody is influenced by something no matter how much they pretend otherwise.
In our case there were tons of influences. The really early crude Carcass material, that came from the tape trading scene that we were involved in. Bands like Repulsion, Death, Master… None of those bands had record deals back then. We just liked trading tapes with people around the world and when we heard those groups it really sparked something in us. We’d been playing for a year or so around that time and Jeff, for instance, came in from the punk scene – Crass and so forth. Ken and myself came more from the metal scene and we met in the middle.
Once the band was up and running I guess some of my old influences started to creep into the music. That would be old heavy metal, NWOBHM and maybe even some of the seventies’ hard rock like Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy…
Carcass began incredibly heavy and grindy, but as time went on the sound became more… “listenable”.
It genuinely did and that was the intention. I know some people are very fond of the first album, but they have to understand that we didn’t know what we’d created there. That album was a glorious accident! We wanted it to sound different, we wanted to play better, we wanted it recorded better… it just didn’t happen as we were inexperienced. If you’re looking at records where we achieved what we wanted sonically, it took us until the fourth album where we left the studio with the sound we wanted.
At the time some people thought it was too soft. In my mind that is heavy – it’s heavier than the first record. If you all hit a downbeat at the same time, the chord is in tune and there’s a good feeling behind it… to me, that’s heavier than being all fuzzed up. It’s attitude against musical content. That argument could go on forever.
I saw a quote from a recent interview with Jeff saying that he hadn’t yet made the “classic” Carcass album. It sounds like, for you, Heartwork was as close as you’ve managed.
I’d not use the word “classic” about anything I’ve worked on. I think it’s a foolish term for anyone to use when referring to their own material. I think what’s Jeff’s saying is that he’s never been satisfied with any of the albums and I totally get that. But from the original crop, Heartwork would be my favourite because I just remember for the first time being happy with the guitar sound, and I know Ken was with the drums, too.
Surgical Steel was a big achievement for us on a personal level because it was a huge challenge to do something after such a long layoff. But I agree with Jeff – you’re never going to be 100% happy with a record; I’ve never met anyone in a band who is. If they were, I’d be very suspicious! It’s weird. People listening to their own material at home – that’s so narcissistic. I only listen to our stuff when we’re doing it. Once it’s finished, it’s behind me.
Surgical Steel is still the album you’re touring on and probably one of the most anticipated albums of 2013 once it was announced. Was there pressure on you to do a new album after the reunion dates, or did you just feel the urge to create something new?
It was kind of stumbling. We did reform with Michael and Daniel from Arch Enemy and did that reunion cycle which lasted at least a couple of years. At that stage it was impossible for us to do a new album because they wouldn’t entertain the idea. Naturally, they had divided loyalties. Arch Enemy was their priority and Carcass was a side-thing. They just weren’t up for the idea of doing a record.
Further down the line they step out of the band and Jeff and I have the choice. Do we continue or do we fold? If we continue then suddenly the doors open to make a new record if we want to. And for once it turned out that the pair of us agreed on something! We wanted to do a record and it was fun to do. We didn’t feel any pressure because at the time of writing and recording, nobody knew we were making an album! It wasn’t until some… questionable individual leaked the information on the last day of our recording session. Up until that day it was bliss!
Going back to that internet culture, it’s a shame that bands feel the need to share everything. “I just finished rehearsal”, “I just came up with a new riff”… is it really worth posting that? Maybe it’s just me but I prefer when someone just produces a body of work and puts it out there.
What do you think of the lineup for this tour?
It’s extremely impressive in terms of the weight of it. It’s a pretty heavy investment for anyone thinking of going to this gig! This is only the second date of the tour, but last night as anticipated by the time we hit the stage, the crowd was just flayed. It’s not so much that we’re headlining – we’re closing. I would say the audience peaks around Napalm… maybe early Obituary. There’s nothing left by the time we hit that stage. [The Glasgow crowd is obviously made of sterner stuff, as that definitely wasn’t the case at Barrowlands! – Mosh]
Would this have been an occasion to swap headliners on alternate nights?
We did ask, but for various reasons it wasn’t an option, which is a real shame for us!
The last time you were touring the UK was as part of Hammerfest with Amon Amarth. But the last time I saw you before that was opening for Body Count in 1994, I think. Any memories of that tour?
It was a Body Count tour and they were looking for a support. I think the acts hitting them up were all UK-based white hip-hop artists. Naturally, being a bunch of black guys from the LA area, that was alien to them. If they were going to have a UK band opening for them, they wanted to have a rock or metal band – not somebody trying to do a very pale version of hip-hop from the US.
I’ve no idea if the tour did us any good. I don’t recall us going down well at any of the gigs! Just a fun thing to do.
Did you get to meet Ice-T at all?
He literally wouldn’t turn up until the band had started playing. Then the fire exit would open, he’d appear with a minder or something and go straight to the stage, then once he was done he was off.
Ken did actually meet him. Ice-T found out that Ken had a fairly rare album by his hero Iceberg Slim. I think it was a spoken word album or something. He offered him £100 on the spot for it. Of course, Ken didn’t have it so he called his flatmate back in Nottingham, got him to another gig where someone stuck him in a taxi to Ice-T’s hotel where he handed it over.
Have you heard any of Body Count’s new stuff?
I’ve not seen or heard a note from that band since the tour!
Jeff was up here a few weeks ago with Brujeria. Do you have any side-projects going?
Yes, the last few years I’ve played in four different bands, really. Now because of the relentless Carcass activity I’ve only been able to keep one band going and that’s Gentlemans Pistols from Leeds. The album’s just come out [Hustler’s Row – Mosh] and between this tour and the Asian tour that Carcass just did, we managed to squeeze in an album release show. When this tour finishes, I think I have a day off and then we start a two week tour around the UK with Orange Goblin.
No, not at all. I’d say it’s more like that now. I think one thing people are forgetting about us being on the road again after all that time, is that how different the scene is. It’s open to a much wider group of people. Back then you had a very narrow demographic, just the people who knew and liked your music. You certainly wouldn’t have females at a gig! That’s new in the last few years as far as I’m concerned! There are just more people. We never did festivals in the old days. I don’t remember there being extreme metal festivals in the nineties so when they got me on board to do the reunion thing, it just melted my brain with 40,000 plus people there.
You played on a boat as well, didn’t you?
70,000 Tons of Metal, yeah – that was last year. That’s one thing with being a “vintage” band with a bit of history, you do seem to get treated with a bit of respect these days. When we were first out, we were just a joke wherever we went in Britain.
If you met a young band today who are in the same position now that you were on the cusp of signing that first album deal… what advice would you give them?
That’s difficult because I don’t know what I’ve learned… if I’ve learned anything at all! I guess it would be very vague advice. Along the lines of “don’t lose focus” as that can happen very easily. For us, forming the band in our teens and then hitting the mid-20’s mark, that was the ruin of us because we were sick of each other. Everything went at the same time: the personal relationships, the musical aspect plus the lack of interest from labels and the press. Of course we were going to break up because there was no reason to continue. The fact that further down the line, people would remember the records didn’t even enter our minds. We thought we had a record that would be out for a couple of years and then it would fade.
Once the recording had stopped, we chatted a little bit more and found that the band had met H.R.Giger around the time he did their cover for Heartwork. Apparently he was a nice guy, lived modestly and had a record collection consisting of nothing but Miles Davis LPs!