Legendary death metal act Carcass are deep into the writing process of their seventh LP, the follow up 2013’s well-received comeback album Surgical Steel. On the eve of preparing for their first U.S. show of 2018 at Decibel Metal & Beer Fest, bassist/vocalist Jeff Walker provides an album update.
Rumor has it, you’re going to write another album. If this is the case, why?
Walker: Got to pay the rent. Joking aside, I can’t speak for the others, but let’s put it down to being “restless” and never being satisfied—you always think you can do better, and let’s be honest, music is like an “arms race” and you’re trying to outdo or impress your “peers” …unfinished business maybe? Bill [Steer] still has a bunch or riffs, and they’re better than everyone else’s (meow). Else I wouldn’t bother. Believe me, I question why bands make records nowadays—music’s been recycling itself since the birth of rock ‘n’ roll. I still think we’ve got something in us, and I don’t mean just recycling the verse/chorus bullshit just to justify touring and selling t-shirts as we approach the age of 50 ‘cause we can’t get real jobs. I still think we can bring something to the table before we end up bussing them.
The style of Surgical Steel was kind of an amalgamation of Carcass’s work to that point. And the previous five Carcass albums were all fairly different from one another, stylistically. With those two points in mind, how do approach record #7 in manner that fits in with what came before it but also manages to keep it interesting and exciting for you?
Walker: Thing is, Mr. Steer still has some riffs in him, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s good enough for me. He was there at the beginning of this so-called “extreme” scene, so if he has something to express, then count me in. We now have a human drum machine in the band also in Dan [Wilding]. As for me? I don’t work for the USPS and don’t have a firearm, but I need to get some shit off my chest. That aside, I’m like a kid in a sweetshop: Bill Steer and Dan Wilding playing and I get to coerce their ideas into my lyrics? Count me in.
Citing “burn out,” Colin Richardson famously bailed on the mixing process during Surgical Steel. Would you still consider him to produce the next LP, or are you similarly “burnt” on that relationship?
Walker: Just texted him, actually—coincidence? Color me drunk. Heartwork STILL sonically kills it after all these years…as I know he fell out ‘cos of me—I was under some pressure around Surgical Steel—but the reality is we don’t need a “producer,” per say. But I trust his ears 100% and I still love the guy. After he fell out with me, I sent him a copy of “Eyes in the Nightmare Jungle” 12-inch, a crappy goth record he sang on that I bought off eBay from Germany, to kiss and make up. All this said, it’s not my decision, but I’d work with him again—I just wouldn’t expect him to mix it within budget!
Surgical Steel was the first record Carcass released in the internet area. In the old days, you’d have to wait for a review to run in order to receive feedback. Now you can get (largely unsolicited) critiques in real time. Evidence suggests you maintain the band’s Facebook profile. Surely there’s a temptation to engage with people trying to get a rise out to you. Do you ever indulge in that, or do you steer clear of comments?
Walker: Sometimes (when hammered). All I can say is the world is lucky that Mr. Steer does NOT have a Facebook profile; he’s asked for access to the page, and believe me, if he was let loose on there, it would get VERY ugly. He’s—don’t laugh—not as “diplomatic” as me in his old age!
Our friends in At the Gates are recording their new LP as we “speak.” They’ve made the process extremely public via social media. Conversely, Surgical Steel was largely tracked in secret (or least without seemingly daily updates). Do you intend to “lift the veil” a little more with the recording process of the next album? Or is it best to keep that out of the studio?
Walker: We can never recreate the “shroud of mystery” that we had on the last album, All I will tell you is that Dan and Bill have jammed some riffs. I’ve gone to a couple of rehearsals after being underwhelmed, not by the quality of the riffs, but how much of a mountain we had to climb. BELIEVE me I have NO problem with songs like “Heartwork” getting dumped on my feet! There’s some serious work done. It’s all a work in progress, some of the material—maybe seven songs—clock in at 45 mins in total so…we’re gonna go to [James] Atko [Atkinson]’s of Gentlemans Pistols studio this December after we get back from Israel and do some “preproduction.” It’s time for a change after hanging around in London after six years. For me, as the lyric writer, I want a change. I want to hear all the finalized ideas for the music rather than me dictating where the lyrics go as we did in the past. Am I excited? Not really (poker face), but when am I ever? I’m a realist—the stuff sounds extremely promising—but I know the task in hand it’s gonna take to “realize’ it. I’m not gonna bullshit you and say it’s the “best thing since…” All I can say is I’m involved ‘cause I know after 30 years, we can make a better album than Reek… [laughs].
Carcass headline the second of day of Decibel Metal & Beer Fest, along with Mayhem, Repulsion, Dream Death and more.
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