After years of performing monumental incisions on the cadaver of musical extremities, Carcass has criss-crossed their circulatory system, and ingested mainstream's coronary artery, splattering their way into a new epoch of malpractice.
Charged by Heartwork's relentless palpitations, Carcass's Jeff Walker tells about the band's latest bypass.
Pit: On Heartwork there was a tremendous musical progression. How would you compare Necroticism to Heartwork?
Jeff Walker: All the albums have been a transition, or progression from our first album Reek of Putrefaction, to Symphonies, to Necroticism. There has been as big a change between every album. I think the main difference between Necroticism and Heartwork is that Necroticism has a lot of time changes, and it's a bit more complex. On Heartwork, the production is a lot better, it's more accessible, the songs are structured better and it's straight to the point. We tried to concentrate on writing more straight ahead material without too many complex time changes. I think it's a lot easier to understand than Necroticism.
Were there things that you were able to accomplish writing wise, after you added a second guitarist, that you couldn't have achieved as a three piece?
For the live situation it filled things up, and it looked better on stage because when either guitar went into a lead the rhythm guitar would be there to back it up. In the writing situation, it just enabled Bill or Mike to write more guitar harmonies, I think as a result, there is a lot of lead playing on the album. Kind of a showcase of the talents.
What did you try to focus Heartwork's lyrics on, as opposed to previous lyrics?
I think there's a depth and maturity that was never there. The lyrics are a lot simpler to understand, like the music. The lyrics in the past were kind of hidden and covert, and this time it's in your face and a bit more obvious. I think these are the hardest lyrics I've written.
Are you musically inspired differently now than you were in the past?
Yes, I think in the beginning we were a lot more conservative. We were just into bands like Repulsion and Siege, but now I think we're just into music in general. We just don't have the same attitude that we did when we started seven years ago when we were young kids. We're still into the same things, the hardness, the aggression and the heaviness, but we want to put it across in a different way now. The bands that we listen to would probably make most people vomit.
What are the things that interested you when writing songs for Heartwork?
I write songs to please myself, but I want to write lyrics that people can relate to. I want to write lyrics that if people just want to look at it for face value, then people will think it's morbid and dark, but at the same time put things that will please me more. On stage it's like an exorcism for me, getting out my aggressions. So I'm going to concentrate on topics that piss me off. It's kind of sociological; it's about people's attitudes and people's hatred within. That's the kind of things I was writing about, the real world. The way everything relates through death.
Why did you choose H. R. Giger's sculpture "Life Support" for the cover?
It's the antagonistic elements in me; I knew it would freak a lot of people out, seeing a kind of peace symbol on a Carcass sleeve. People wouldn't understand why. I think the main thing is it's emetical as a symbol for what's going on in the lyrics. It's not necessarily a peace symbol; it could be a very negative image as well. So it's kind of an equilibrium of two things, which is what I try to inject in the lyrics. It's a hard image, it's not really pleasant. It's cold, it's metallic, it's still things that people connect with Carcass, like the IV bag from a hospital. It makes a transition from what people expect of Carcass, and new things.
To you the sculpture represents a type of Yin and Yang concept.
Yeah definitely. You can look at it as one big peace symbol, or a negative image, the way the arms are almost crucified on it. Even if it is a peace symbol, it's peace at some price. It is called "Life Support" after all.
This time you made a video, that was a big improvement from the previous one, where you played around in garbage bags.
That other studio video was done for about $2000, very cheaply. This time there was a big budget and cameras. It was a lot more organized; it wasn't just some junkie who's getting stoned making us do embarassing things (laughs).
Did you get to choose the song that was used for the video?
Kind of originally, then we kind of lost interest. (laughs) There were no objections if that's what you mean.
What was the concept behind the video?
You'd have to talk to the director, really. It was someone else's interpretation of that song. I think you can read into it whatever you want.
How does it feel to be on Columbia?
It was never about having a career in the music industry, so I think it's very fortunate. We just feel very good about what we do, to make us a valuable asset to Columbia. We're just crusing around doing our own thing. It's like a big snowball; the further it gets down the hill, the bigger it gets. We are prostituting ourselves because every musician is a prostitute, but we haven't sold ourselves as much as other people.
Are you still fond of your Symphonies of Sickness material? I know in the past you haven't played much of that stuff live.
On the last tour we didn't do that many because we were on tour for Necroticism. We still are going to be playing stuff off of Symphonies. Personally I'm proud of everything we've done, even our first album, as terrible as it sounds. I think it's still a classic in its own way. On this tour we'll mostly be playing stuff off Heartwork and Necroticism. That's mainly because we've got a new guitarist, and he really doesn't know stuff off the other albums. But I think next time we're here we'll be playing stuff off of Symphonies and maybe one off Reek. The reason why we don't really concentrate on those albums is because no one has really bought them. They're really hard to find anyway because of the covers.
How has your vocal and musical ability developed over the years?
I think I've gotten worse as a bass player, (laughs) and better as a vocalist. I've given up trying to compete on the level of Ken and Bill in the musicianship. So I've kind of simplified things and concentrated more on the vocals. I'm the Tom Araya of grindcore (laughs). No, it's just a joke, don't print that. I think the vocals on Heartwork are a lot stronger than they ever have been. I still think they're a lot better live, a lot more aggressive.
You have completely eliminated the second voice, and the vocal effects.
That was kind of split between me and Bill, and he no longer wants to sing. The vocals were so terrible; we used to disguise them with pitch shifters and stuff. So many bands copied that anyway, there's no point anymore.
What do you think of all those bands, like General Surgery, that sound like old Carcass?
That's actually Matti from Dismember, a good friend of mine. It sounds better than we ever did. They do a better version of Carcass, but there's just the fact that we did it seven years ago. So it kind of makes it irrelevant, but I was flattered that someone is into it that much. There are loads of bands, from Finland, fucking hundreds in Europe. If people ever complain that Carcass doesn't sound like it used to, then they can go listen to those bands; it's as simple as that.
Do you think Carcass will be more generally accepted?
We have not fulfilled our sales capacity. This album will have a large crossover appeal to a rock audience. With a lot more exposure, and a lot more records, we're not trying to be Metallica.
Does your music have a wider acceptance now than five years ago?
We definitely write better stuff now than we did a few years ago. Obviously if we sound better and have better production, then people are going to like it. We have tried to make the material a bit more accessible as well. There is no point in being this cult, underground, noisy band.
Tell me about your two new songs.
We wrote and recorded them pretty quick. That isn't detrimental; it's actually really good. They're actually better than the songs off of Heartwork. They're a lot catchier, and a bit more straight to the point. More a kind of rocky, almost heavy metal sounding songs, where as the others were kind of mechanical sounding. I think it's very important to write good songs, with the Carcass recipe, the aggression and the heaviness.