With their last record, Heartwork, Carcass were finally able to break through on a wide basis. That's not surprising, because that was the first record of the ex-hobby-pathologists in which melodies achieved major importance compared to the hyperspeed massacre. The logical consequence would be that the new musical output would continue that way - or maybe not? Frank Albrecht investigated in between recording sessions in London's Battery studios.
Newfound Carcass fans can be satisfied. The four Brits' new record takes things a step further in every way: the arrangements are catchy and easy to survey, everything hammers on really well in the midtempo range, decorated by a number of killer riffs and a massive production, courtesy of Colin Richardson.
But let's look back first: after the recording of Heartwork, the band parted ways with second guitarist Michael Amott, and on the following world tour ex-Venom guitarist Mike Hickey took over. But he's also gone now.
"Somehow, the sparks never really flew between him and the rest of the band", Jeff says. "We weren't on the same wavelength, whether in terms of music or humanity. Maybe our British mentality differs too much from his American one. Someday, while our US tour was going on, I spoke to him very frankly, and explained that I couldn't imagine him playing on our next record. He must have seen it the same way, but was fair enough to complete all remaining tour activities in America and Japan together with us. Our new guitar player, Carlo Regadas, lives not even five minutes away from my place. I've known him for quite some time, and have continuously observed his development."
Thank god the new man didn't cause a major change in the way Carcass sounds. Nearly all archetypal Carcass elements can be found on the new record; Jeff's vocals haven't changed at all, but the music is catchier, though, and could be enjoyed by both death/thrash fans and people into traditional metal music."We thought that we changed drastically on Heartwork", says Jeff, "but looking back, that record was just the next logical step. It's nearly the same with our new one. We're just not a band that completely changes overnight; instead we improve our style every time. But you are right: the material tends a bit into the classical metal direction. One can surely find influences like Trouble or Thin Lizzy - at least in the guitar department. There are a lot of emotions in the new songs."
Though the band could surely have had a large recording budget thanks to the deal with Columbia/Sony Music, they decided to continue to work as before. At least, the Battery Studios aren't typically used by the top metal bands, as far as I know, though it is obviously well equipped.
"Oh, you're wrong on that one", Jeff explains to me. "Per day, this studio costs 2,000 DM. We get it a bit cheaper, because we've signed a publishing deal with Zomba Music, and they own this studio. But we don't spend unnecessary money here, like some other bands signed to majors do. They enter the studio without having a clear picture of what they're supposed to do there. In our case, nearly all the songs were completely finished prior to entering the studio, and so we could fully concentrate on the recording process and finish this relatively quickly. Sure, we could have recorded for six months, but that would have destroyed the basic feeling of the songs. The recordings would then have been done in a very relaxed atmosphere, but our sound isn't relaxed but aggressive. We simply need a certain amount of pressure to get the result we want."
On the other hand, I'm not even sure if a major deal is the right thing for Carcass, because even if the Brits can sell more units of the new record (planned title: Corporate Rock) than before, that would be peanuts compared to the amount pop and soul giants on Columbia sell - and therefore totally irrelevant for an industry giant. Jeff sees it realistically:
"We know very well that we will be dropped after this record unless some miracle happens. And in that case, there's still Music For Nations... but seriously: we had to take this step, because we couldn't move on any further with Earache. Such experiments make the whole thing more interesting, and we're interested to learn what a major company can do for a band like us. We're the only real metal band on this label. All others like Cathedral, Entombed, Napalm Death and The Obsessed were fired. That might be a bad sign, but we wanted to take this risk."
But the advantage seems to be that Columbia can, by means of its giant financial background, send a band like Carcass permanently on the road. Heartwork was already released by Columbia in the USA - with the result that the band could/was allowed to/had to tour, even multiple times, in the land of unlimited stupidities.
"Columbia had that strange idea that we were touring following the Metallica tour, and always played one day before them in the same city, combined with a larger promo campaign. We simply did what they told us to do - of course, not without our own ideas in mind. Because their promo ideas didn't work satisfactorily, we can now force them to do it our way. We would like to support, in America as well as in Europe, a big band, and hope for the support of our label. Sure, the costs of such a tour will be taken away from our royalties again afterwards, but then we can at least say that we tried. The only problem is to find the right tour partner..."
But weren't you fed up by the permanent touring through the States? Most European bands I know that are, in terms of sales, on the same level as you are, don't even want to tour over there anymore, because generally one gets treated like shit by club owners with attitudes like, "you should be glad to be allowed to even play here."
"Well, we played four times in the USA, and had various experiences. On the first tour with Death, we drove around in a fucked up camper which broke down on a regular basis. But we took that with humour, considering that to be some sort of holiday trip, because we didn't believe that we'd be allowed to play over there a second time. When we played with Cathedral and Napalm Death in America, we even had to travel in a mini-van. So we went through the hard lessons and, thanks to the support of Columbia, we were able to afford a regular tour-bus the last two times."
"Of course, there are a number of unpleasant aspects to tour life in the USA, but Carcass is in some sense a job, because we make a living with that band. And although there's a lot of shit sourrounding it, it's a very decent job, which is more interesting than sitting in an office or baking bread for sure. But I have to admit that sometimes you can lose your interest when you have to enter a stage more dead than alive at two in the morning, because five local bands played before you. Or when you get booked in a club located somewhere in the middle of nowhere, and like fifty people show up. On the other hand there are experiences like in Japan, where everything is absolutely perfect, and where you get treated better than anticipated. The only thing that annoyed me was the record label always tried to separate us from our fans, because they're said to be very fanatical there. They probably pay a lot of attention to the rock star image. Of course, we didn't give a shit for that and walked through the audience anyway..."
One has to credit to them anyway that they've always stayed true to their roots at all times, and don't take everything too seriously. These guys know that they will never be one of the top sellers, and they don't lose their way when something doesn't work as they want it to. Okay, they're now on a major label, but they don't seem to care too much for that. They're happy that they recorded the album they imagined, but that's it in terms of enthusiasm about their new business partners.
And therefore they won't give up when the success the record label wants doesn't come, and they get kicked off the label.
Final question: did you know that the german TV station VIVA uses a part of your song Heartwork as the title melody for its metal show 'Metalla?'
"Yes, I was told about this. I have a lot of friends in Germany, and spent my last holidays there together with my girlfriend. But I haven't seen that show yet. I hope that this accelerates our record sales again. I should pay attention to my next payment and talk to our publisher if the GEMA money wasn't paid, ha ha..."
Translated and transcribed by Stefan Raspl, firstname.lastname@example.org.