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HARD ROCK INTERVIEWS 2013 - JEFF WALKER OF CARCASS
Pioneers of the grindcore and melodic death metal genres, British legends Carcass are considered undoubtedly one of the greatest band's in the extreme metal world who not only helped shape extreme metal but influenced countless number of bands over the years and which later spawned Arch Enemy with former guitarist Michael Ammott. When the band disbanded in 1996, it left a big hole in heavy metal but after years of fans protesting for the band to reunite, the band reformed back in 2007 to perform a number of live shows. 17 years after their last album "Swansong", the band are back with a new album entitled "Surgical Steel". I spoke to vocalist/bass player Jeff Walker about the new album which is due out September 13th.
Andrew: First of all, thanks for the interview, it's a huge honour to be speaking to you. 2nd, I've been listening to the new song "Captive Bolt Pistol" off the new album and I love the song, it's great and I'm glad you got this as the first single. Was it a conscious decision to make this particular song the first single off the album?
Jeff: Well from my point of view the label insisted on a track that gained interest but Bill (Steer) the guitarist and Dan (Wilding) the drummer were in favor of that song. Me personally it's not my favorite on the album, I don't really think it represents the album. In fact I would rather the album just came out and people listened to it in it's entirety. It's pretty difficult to pick and choose, any single person is gonna prefer one song and the other guy is gonna pick another song. You can't please everyone at once so I'd rather people just listen to the body of work.
Andrew: So the rest of the album, how does it compare to the other albums?
Jeff: It's as strong as any given 2 or 3 depending on which is your favorite album. The problem with our back catalogue is that all 5 albums, although they all sound like Carcass, all sound bold and different and I think this album is no different than that. It sounds different but it still has all the elements of Carcass. I mean it sounds like Carcass, that's all I can say really. It's extremely aggressive especially compared to Swansong, our last album. What does every band say, a return to form.
Andrew: Just listening to that one song alone, it's definitely heavier and more aggressive than the last couple of albums that you have put out. It kind of reminds me of your 2nd and 3rd albums in a wierd way.
Jeff: Yeah we definitely got the fire back because as Carcass continued over the years we got a bit...even though we were still a heavy band, the albums got less and less aggressive over the years. But this is back to our roots kind of thing.
Andrew: So was the recording process the same as it always had been over the years or was it a bit different?
Jeff: It was different as all the other albums were done on 24 track. Obviously when you record on tape that's it, what you get is what you get and what you put down you keep, you got no other options. With digital, it can also be a hindrance. You have so much storage space you can have so many takes, you can get bogged down with a lot of materials and that's kinda what happened on this album. The drama with the guitars, at any given time there would be 8 rhythm tracks and that would be whittled down to the 4 that made it on the album. There's a lot of information to sit and go through. Some of the vocals, I probably did 4 vocal takes at least and then that would be whittled down to 2 vocal tracks. I think only one was used on the mix for the most part but it's very time consuming. It was definitely quicker in the past, we just got on with the fucking thing. In the old days studios were so expensive you just had to get in there and knock it out and get the fuck out of there. Nowadays with digital technology it's quite cheap and you can probably spend too long to be honest. you can spend too much time, you can lose some spontaneousness.
Andrew: So obviously technology has played a part on this album, it probably had more postive effects than negative I guess?
Jeff: Positive. I mean collectively we discussed the engineer and producer avoiding the use of the click track which is kinda what most bands do these days and it's kinda destroying heavy metal because it sounds too mechanical. We wanted it to sound like a performance, we didn't want it to sound perfect. We like the non-perfect nature in the drums and the human elements. Hopefully this sounds like a band playing and not something that's being composed on a computer.
Andrew: With the producer on the album, was it Colin Richardson or did I hear that he actually left and that Andy Sneap took over? What was the story there?
Jeff: Colin Richardson produced it and then Andy Sneap mixed it. Colin was meant to mix it but he elected to bail out and he asked Andy Sneap to take over which from a production point of view was an important decision. Colin did tell us that he was one of the few people he would trust so Andy Sneap mixed it. It was kind of a dream team to be honest.
Andrew: Yeah Andy Sneap is definitely a good choice, did you see good things come from working with Andy at all?
Jeff: Yeah we got a good mix! haha!
Andrew: Yeah it sounds really good from what I've heard so far. With the album cover, what's the story behind it and how did it tie in with the album?
Jeff: That was a design that we first used on our 3rd album on the label and we always used it on backdrops and merchandise. It's kinda almost like the Carcass corporate logo so it's simply been updated and it's actually a photograph and not photo-shopped. It's just something that ties into the past like a reassuring image, definitely trying to invoke the past, trying to invoke the feelings of the artwork from "Necroticism" and "Heartwork". It's a nod to the past, I think it's important to be able to trace your roots and to trace your lineage and your heritage and not to go too far left field.
Andrew: When you sat down to first record this album was there a strong sense of nostalgia and any of those old feelings come rushing back again?
Jeff: This album is very nostalgic in that it's roots are based on music we enjoy which is stuff in the past, 80's and 70's classic rock and 80's extreme metal. It's nostalgic in that sense but we tried to update the Carcass sound for the 21st century. We like to think we brought new things to the recipe but I guess we chatted a little about the old days but that's more from reminiscing, there's no crying into our pillows over our past.
Andrew: I heard there was a couple of extra songs that were left out of the album, is that true and if so are there any plans to release those at all?
Jeff: There was 15 tracks from the session. On the standard album there is only 11 tracks, on the digipack I think it is 12 so that leaves 3 tracks. They will surface at some point but we didn't want to interupt the flow of the album. The other tracks are a bit more kind of almost bordering on the "Swansong" territory, more groovy rock stuff and we wanted to keep the album aggressive but they will surface at some point.
Andrew: OK cool. You are also touring with Amon Amarth later this year, what's the plan after that? Any plans to come back to Australia?
Jeff: Yeah it's been talked about, we're looking at April. It's not set in stone but that's the general idea at the moment, to come back in April.
Andrew: Have you played much live if any off the new album at all?
Jeff: No not yet and noone noticed! We have new members in the band so that's kind of enough attraction at the moment to keep people's interest. The thing is with new material on a new album, you need to give it time. We need to have the album out there and released in the public conscience. You can't just go out and play the whole new album cause it will be just alien to people. People always expect certain songs that they are familiar with that they hold dear to their hearts, that they consider to be classics or whatever so people wanna hear that stuff. You gotta keep it mixed, we always play stuff from all 5 albums, now we're gonna play stuff from 6 albums.
Andrew: Yeah obviously the hardcore fans would love to be hearing the older songs again but do you think the newer stuff will fit in really well with those songs in a live set?
Jeff: Yeah because if we play the old stuff it sounds in a live environment, sonically it stands along side anything from "Heartwork" to...I mean when you play live you don't try to emulate production from an album... you just play live, you play those riffs. It just sounds like the same band just playing different songs. With the Carcass back catalogue each albums sounds totally different just cause of the production values.
Andrew: Obviously you guys reformed a few years back but what made you decide to only put out an album now as opposed to earlier on?
Jeff: Because there was never an intention of making an album. We got back together because people wanted us to perform live and after a few years of doing that I guess we just got the fire again. We just felt we were in a position and capable of pulling off a cue. I think we've actually pulled off a great album after 17 years that artistically sounds valid and interesting and not do something as a cash in or sound like a bunch of old farts but actually sound like a bunch of kids again.
Andrew: Was there anything in particular that influenced you or inspired you to start recording again or was it just something you wanted to get back into again?
Jeff: It was Bill Steer our guitarist who got the fire again. He got the excitement and wanted to do it. I had already expressed interest, I was waiting for him to say finally that yeah he's ready.
Andrew: Ken Owen (original drummer) also does a guest sot on the album, which songs does he appear on?
Jeff: He's on a few, he's on "Thrasher's Abattoir", he's on "Unfit for Human Consumption", possibly 3 more tracks. He's just on backing vocals. Actually he appears and another vocalist a guy called Chris Gardner so yeah you talk about nostalgia; it's nice to be able to go back to the roots of the band.
Andrew: Obviously he couldn't do the drums but you had to have him onto the album in some way I suppose.
Jeff: Yeah I think it gives it credibility because there's always gonna be arseholes who say 'oh it's not Carcass cause Ken's not drumming on it' but Dan Wilding did a killer job of playing in style and Ken's on the album so they can shut the fuck up haha!
Andrew: Rightly so! Well I think I will leave it here. Again thanks for the interview!
Jeff: No worries, have a good evening!
By Andrew Schizodeluxe 25th July 2013
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