Intervju med Bill Steer i Carcass.
Carcass såg dagens ljus i mitten av 80-talet och höll sedan ut i 10 år innan de la manglet på hyllan. 2007 uppstod så bandet igen och i september i år kom ett nytt album, "Surgical steel".
Carcass besökte nyligen Stockholm tillsammans med Amon Amarth och Hell och jag fick nöjet att sitta ned en stund med gitarristen och grundaren Bill Steer.
The album ”Surgical steel” has been out for a couple of months and you´ve had time to reflect on it. Do you feel that it came out exactly the way you wanted it to?
Bill: Not exactly, because they never do. I´d say we are reasonably happy with it because we spent a fair amount of time on the whole thing, looking on the whole process from the beginning of the writing thing to completing the mixing. We worked hard. Once I had a bit of distance from the thing and didn´t listen to it for a while, I actually started to enjoy it.
Working yet again with Colin Richardson, was that the way it was supposed to be?
Bill: That´s what we felt at the time, but by the end of it, it felt a bit different. We love the guy, but you can´t deny that times have changed. We were trying to have as many elements of the past as possible, so Colin was the natural guy. He´s been on all but one of our albums and there´s still the same camaraderie but in terms of how he works and how we work, it´s like a fork in the road. His taste in music… I think it says a lot that he stopped working on our album to work with Trivium. It´s a taste thing and he clearly thinks that that band is more significant metal than our band. We´re bias so we disagree. (laughs) Nothing against Trivium because they´re nice people. In our minds it was a strange choice, but in Colin´s world it makes all the sense.
Bill: Yeah, at first that really felt like the way to go and there were definitely beneficial aspects to it because some of the Colin kind of qualities did shine through. He´s very good at certain things, usually just sonic things and very small details. He´s not as concerned with a player´s performance, it´s more the sound he´s making. He can be incredibly precise, like if somebody´s doing a solo and it´s not quite in that position, he´ll just stop recording it, even though he could be wailing and playing beautifully, it doesn´t matter. He´s missing some sound, which most of the time is really useful. I think he spent a lot of time working with bands that work on the grid, so that´s the real issue. He was losing patience with us because we did everything naturally. Our drummer did not play with a click, so everything we played had to be done from start to finish. I think he liked it at first, because he hadn´t done it for so many years, but towards the end of the recording sessions, you could tell he was really annoyed. Luckily for us Andy (Sneap) came in and rescued us on the mix.
Are you already now thinking about the next album, even though this one is fairly new?
Bill: Yeah. There´s a mutual agreement between us that we´d like to do one. There´s an awareness that if we can get through the next seven months of touring and festivals and still like each other and feel good about this, we definitely want to do a record. There´s loads of lessons we learnt on this one and while I´ve still got it fresh in my head, I want to build on that. It´s fun, but it´s a really challenging thing to do because I haven´t done anything creatively in this genre of music for so long, but it suddenly felt very fresh. I had escaped it because it was too limited in my mind and after a few years of doing other styles of music, I found there were new limitations with that and I wanted to go back and do extreme music again. (laughs) You can never be 100% happy, but right now this is what I like doing. As I said, it´s a challenge and probably more so now than ever, because it´s hard to be innovative in this music. There´s a lot of incredible players out there. Especially the American guys, they´re treating it like a sport and the drummers especially and you have to admire the dedication and tenacity, but I also think this music has to have a little bit of soul and maybe some swing.
The competition must be so much harder these days? There are just tons of bands out there.
Bill: Yeah, it´s more than ever and it´s almost illogical… there is a big metal market in general but there are more extreme metal bands than ever for a certain number of people, whereas in the old days I can remember a time where you could probably name 10-15 death metal bands in the world and that was it. It´s so different now.
Since you´re on tour with Hell now and I guess you see Andy (Sneap) every day, would he be a potential producer for the next album?
Bill: Yes, no question about it! His work ethic on the mix was incredible. After three months of frustration waiting for something to emerge from Colin, as soon as he turned it over to Andy, we were hearing great results. It´s a fresh set of ears and I´m not gonna blame Colin for that aspect, because he felt very burnt out. It was just our thing. In between blocks of our recording, he was taking on other jobs and doing those things. He was just exhausted. As I said earlier, the Trivium gig for him, was very important. That´s one of his favorite groups to work with and they´re a lot easier to work with than us. I wouldn´t pretend otherwise. We´re awkward, because we´re old fashioned. We haven´t grown up with this digital stuff and we just wanna act like we use a two inch tape machine. (laughs)
Bill: You know what, that´s the elements of the whole thing. It was incredibly similar to the old days. We didn´t really discuss anything, we just got together in the rehearsal room and got to work. It was very much the same dynamic. We´d go into rehearsal and I´d have a bunch of riffs. Usually it will begin with Dan and myself working out the arrangements, the skeletons of the songs and then Jeff would alter it or sometimes tear it to pieces, depending on what he´s thinking as a vocalist. Sometimes I got it completely wrong. I´ve got a verse section that is just too short and he thinks it´s the chorus. He´s very useful on arrangements, so that vibe between the three of us was really felt. You had to bear in mind that we hadn´t told anyone that we were working on a record, so there was just zero pressure. We could´ve taken it as long as we wanted or actually never done anything. Maybe we didn´t like it and we´d just scrap it, but as soon as I got the first demos of guitar, drums and Jeff´s voice I knew, “Yeah, this sounds like Carcass.”. There was never any hesitation on his part or mine about that. We were quietly confident about what we were doing, but also aware of the fact that there´s a lot of people waiting to tear it to pieces.
Was there a lot of stuff that didn´t end up on the record or as bonus tracks? Stuff that could be used for another album?
Bill: Yes. I think we got to having written around 15 tunes and we recorded all of them because at that stage we hadn´t made a decision. Then right around the completing of the recording, was the discussion of which one had to go. I think most of those bonus tracks have been heard by people. There´s one and I don´t know if it´s out there, but I really hope it doesn´t get out because I can´t stand it. (laughs) That´s hind sight though. We worked on it and it was just at the end of the sessions when I had to complete the guitar work and looking back, I don´t like that one. I was just burned out and didn´t really have the inspiration. As a song, I don´t think it´s a great Carcass song. It´s called “Cattle market” or something. The other bonus tracks I really love, it´s just that they didn´t really fit as album tracks, but I still think they´re strong. We could´ve carried on writing much longer. We could´ve gotten to 20 numbers easily, because there were so many ideas there but we had to stop as it was gonna get really confusing. How can you focus if you´ve got too much material? There´s gonna be no shortage of ideas if and when we do a new record.
When you write, do you get into a flow and ideas are just popping up left and right?
Bill: There was a definite flow going on, I´m glad to say, and that went for all of us. I had no shortage of stuff to bring into the rehearsal room and Dan responded to it really well, because he´s a killer drummer and Jeff came up with complete lyrics so quickly as soon as we had a song up and running. We never felt any blockage, which you hear about with some bands. Looking on the other side, neither of us had been creative in this genre for ages, so it´s like going back to the well and it´s completely full again. We were quite lucky in that regard.
When you write, do you have to be in a certain place to get ideas or can it happen wherever?
Bill: There´s pretty much no rhyme or reason to it. Usually when I´m at home and I play a riff I like, I´ll just remember it, but occasionally it happens at an awkward time, like you´ve promised to go meet a friend for a pint and you just go “I have to record this!” and put it on your phone or whatever. There´s really no particular time or place when it tends to happen.
What got you into music in the first place?
Bill: I´d say it was a two stage thing. As soon as I was conscious, I was aware of the power of music to transport you somewhere else. I guess I´m an escapist kind of person. I love to just escape things and maybe there´s a part of me that´s still not living in the real world and music is ideal for those people. When I first started hearing music, if it was my mum and dad´s records or the radio or stuff on television, it definitely did something to me. But it wasn´t until I was 11 when I actually got very serious about music and started using my pocket money to buy records, like AC/DC, Motörhead, Saxon plus the old stuff like Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin. It has just kinda ruled my life since. I still consider myself a fan first and foremost and when we´re travelling like this, I hunt down second hand record shops. It never stops. You get into one artist and that´s the gateway to a related artist and I just love it. I don´t ever wanna lose the fire for that.
What´s the latest record you bought?
Bill: I bought three just the other day in Malmö. I found a killer record shop there. Two of them were blues records. Walter Horton, who´s one of the harmonica players and then another guy called George Harmonica Smith. The third one was a hard rock band called Silverhead. I bought their first album.
Can any of that influence your own music writing at all?
Bill: Well, I can´t say directly that it influences anything with Carcass, because it´s just so different, but I think in a general way it gives you perspective. If you are only listening to death metal, I think that´s claustrophobic. I always thought with any genre that the best artists are the ones that bring in some inspiration from outside and make it work in their genre. I like to think that´s what we do, at least with heavy metal and hard rock influences, or maybe I´m just talking shit? (laughs)