Now it's official: Carcass are dead once and for all. But, don't let us become depressed, because the follow up band is already on the line, and the Brits have left us a strong slab of metal with their last album Swansong, with which we can cope for quite a while. More about the background of the split and the future of the musicians from Jeff Walker...
There sits the sympathetic Englishman now with a cup of tea in his hand in my office, finding out that it's somehow weird to talk about an album that's been finished for more than a year now, and that will never be promoted with a tour.
"From the beginning on, our career hit unlucky circumstances", he looks back with a slight hint of bitterness. "We released good albums, and toured our asses off, but somehow no one ever took us seriously. The chaos seemed to take on some structure after the release of Heartwork, but after we recorded Swansong, it became clear to me that this band wouldn't exist for too much longer anymore. It emerged that our guitarist, Bill, didn't have too much interest in Carcass anymore. Nonetheless, it's important to me to go on this promo trip and tell everybody why Carcass is no more. I didn't want us to leave the scene on the sly."
The key to the end of Carcass is certainly the fact that the band signed a worldwide deal with Columbia Records after the release of Heartwork, but Columbia didn't want to release the new record for various reasons.
"We were signed by some guy who worked for Earache America for quite some time before moving to Columbia. He knew us, therefore, and also knew our music. He called us five days before we were supposed to enter the studio, and told us that we weren't ready to do a new record. Hey, we had written seventeen songs in a single month - we have never been so creative - and that guy tells us that the music isn't mature enough? Ridiculous! Fortunately, Columbia had already given us an advance payment, so we recorded the record anyway. If the record company had had its way, we would have never been able to record Swansong. I guess that guy simply got cold feet and realised that we wouldn't be the next Pantera or Metallica in America. We were probably one of his first signings, and he didn't want to produce a flop right at the start. Columbia already had other Earache bands like Napalm Death, Godflesh or Cathedral under contract, but those sold less records in the States than we did on Earache. Heartwork sold more than 70,000 copies in the USA. That's a good number, but only peanuts for a major label. We were probably too naive when we believed that a major deal would help us to move on, although everybody had encouraged us to sign there. But the $250,000 that Columbia offered us was simply too tempting. And we also were a little bit proud to be the first death metal band to be under contract on a major worldwide. Well, we probably got blinded by the big name. But somehow this was our last chance. We never had a big breakthrough like Fear Factory or Machine Head, and I'm sure that this record would have done well in Europe and Japan. But Columbia doesn't care too much for those markets, and only looks at what is going on in America."
The whole calamity ended with the responsible A&R Manager telling Jeff to change his vocal style to bring the record to a wider audience, and he was even encouraged by guitarist Bill and the band's manager.
"I don't need a singing coach who tells me that I can't sing. I know that myself. I have a certain style that established our sound, and I wanted to deliver an album that old Carcass fans could identify with, but despite that, could gain new listeners too. And Swansong is certainly not as brutal as the Heartwork record which was also released on Columbia. So we made compromises, but that was obviously not enough for the people from the label."
Because of that miserable situation, tensions inside the band arose that inevitably led to the band's split. But there was a positive result of the turmoil around the Swansong record, as Jeff describes:
"We got advance payments twice: once from Columbia, and again from Earache, when they bought the rights in the end. I can easily survive with that money for the next year without having to work a regular job. And we also got, with the help of our lawyer, a good deal with Earache - and though Earache work a bit unprofessionally at times, I can say that they always paid us correctly and on time."
After all those unpleasant business experiences, one might ask oneself where Jeff found the energy to form a new band directly after the Carcass split, and record a demo shortly after.
"It's simply a lot of fun again because I left the old chains behind. We do music for the right reason, and that's simply because we're friends and want to play together. When the trouble started, I asked our second guitarist, Carlo, if he wanted to leave Carcass with me. After Carcass were finished, I called my old friend Griff (ex-Cathedral - the author), with whom I had already composed some songs for quite some time simply for the fun of it. He, as well as Carlo, immediately entered my band, and all we needed then was a drummer. We thought about that for quite some time - to end up finding out that Ken was the right man. So, he smokes a little bit too much dope, but besides that, one can get along with him very well. So my band now consists of 3/4 of the last Carcass line-up, but we never thought about continuing under the name Carcass, because the music differs greatly from what made Carcass so unique. We left nearly all the technical parts behind, and play stuff far straighter, nearly rock'n roll style."
Strictly speaking, the material of Black Star - that's the name of Jeffs new band - is the next logical step after Swansong. So all who like said album and can renounce the technical parts will have a great time with Black Star - and it won't take long until this band signs a record deal.
That leaves us with one question: do the positive memories outweigh the bitterness over the inglorious end, when you look back at Carcass?
"Of course the positive memories outweigh the negative. Ultimately we released a number of records, toured America, Japan and Australia, had gigs in TV shows, which is, so to speak, everything that you dream of when founding a band. Who would have believed that around the time our first record was released?"
Considering the extreme sounds Carcass produced back then, nobody...
Translated and transcribed by Stefan Raspl, email@example.com.