German Carcass article

from Visions #22

The old albums belong to the past, but they are points which I wouldn't miss in my development, bassist and bawler Jeff Walker says, looking back. They are classics that set a whole scene afire at the end of the 80s, and - along with Napalm Death's Scum - can be counted as the most extreme releases ever. In 1988, Reek of Putrefaction shocked with its cover artwork, for Jeff thumbed a number of medical books, cut out all imaginable unpleasantnesses accurately, and created through hard work the most insane collage in musical history. The latter one underlines most impressively how disgusting and nauseating human flesh in the right condition can be. At the same time, the hobby-pathologists roared and snarled absurd, abstruse lyrics, whose themes one could only partially formulate. Titles like Vomited Anal Tract or Oxidised Razor Masticator speak for themselves, and seem to be impossible to understand without proper foreknowledge in medicine.

Similar can be said of the sequel Symphonies of Sickness (1989). Again, half the world cried out in indignation over the product of advanced tastelessness and unbridled enthusiasm. In 1991, Necroticism - Descanting the Insalubrious raised the first Cassandra cries, because the supposed Grindcore Gods now displayed distinct metal roots. Regardless, this record sold more than its two predecessors combined. Their newly emerged Heartwork will most probably enter the charts, but whether it can provoke a revolution like the other albums have remains doubtful.

"We never had the intention to shock anybody or to revolutionise anything, so we didn't even ask ourselves that question. What does one actually expect from us? We can't and don't want to continue in our old style - it was something special in 1987, but nowadays there are a million such bands around. We will probably sell more units of the new record than we did with any before, yet we are not interested in the financial aspect - we're more interested in bringing our music to the people to be appreciated by them."

While until recently they displayed a fierce resistance to being labeled metal in any form, Jeff now has a totally different view. Of course, there wouldn't have been any sense in denying a relationship, because Necroticism as well as Heartwork both feature distinct metal solos... What else could they be?, intervenes the ca. 160 cm tall bundle of energy. "Maybe they don't sound like Judas Priest, but they are definitely metal. Eventually, it's the music we grew up with; that means, personally I come from a punk background, while Bill and Ken are definitely influenced by metal and rock. Only since the mid-80s did our interest in more extreme underground metal grow, like for example, Siege. And finally, the Carcass cocktail emerged."

"Meanwhile, we can handle our instruments better, and can afford expensive production, and have become a little bit wiser. Unfortunately, I have to admit that we never wanted to confess to our roots. If somebody misunderstood us, it's probably our fault as well. Is Heartwork at least a little bit more metal than Reek? It's more melodic, catchier, with a better production, and is in general a thousand times better, but yet Reek is definitely metal. But I have to admit that it's more of a fusion of metal, punk rock, and hardcore, that's heavily influenced by beats and aggressions, like, for example, Discharge used in their songs. The first two albums may have sounded original and modern, but were basically an extended form of the rock idea."

With the typically knowing Jeff Walker smile, he adds: "Metal isn't just the early 80's sight with Spinal Tap, spandex trousers, and leather clothes."

If one still doesn't know Carcass, one might, especially from the first two recordings, imagine a wall of infernal noise that preaches the decomposition of all structures. But that's a far cry from the truth, because even there, the first, though vague, signs of their current sound can be found. To sum it up: this band never betrayed itself - quite on the contrary, because Necroticism and Heartwork should rather be considered as the logical consequences of the old days.

"The record Reek was, at the time when it was first released, a small revolution," the long-haired venomous toad gives me for an answer. "Though there existed extreme bands before us, like Big Black, we followed the death metal idea to its logical conclusion. That doesn't mean to only create ridiculous pictures of droll skeletons. And I don't even want to retain that we're the world's most original band, because we were influenced by other bands as well. The difference is that we always took the trouble to reach the boundary regarding what's possible. Maybe we just created classics this way."

Their principal reluctance to experience stagnation can be demonstrated by a banal fact. While until now, the dribbling, snarling Jeff (umbrellas in the first row of the grinding band's shows are a must) and the grunting Bill Steer duelled to the septic guts, the blond-haired guitar player steadfastly refused to move a single budge in the recording sessions for Heartwork. "He wanted to concentrate on his guitar playing", was the explanation. "At first I was a bit disappointed", confesses Jeff without much woefulness, "but now I'm very glad that we don't share the vocals anymore. If one should create something new in every aspect, the dual vocals would represent a clear stagnation. And if anyone misses them, he can still listen to our old records! He doesn't allow for any contradiction. I can really completely understand him, because it's pretty stupid to stand on a stage and bell around. Would you be happy to do that? Does it feel better to snarl like a cockroach? That nice crawler is said to snarl if touched. Sadly, the sharp tongued isn't quiet too long. I rather sound like Mille of Kreator! I get readywittedly beaten around my ears. He also probably didn't want to continue to grunt my lyrics anymore. Somehow that's pretty much nonsense." And he warns, smiling, "There won't be any singing on the next record..."

As a foretaste, he already reduced his abstruse lyrics. Astonishingly, one can understand them without the help of a forty eight-part dictionary and can sometimes even remember the titles. "Of course, we only move within a range of possibilities. I don't suddenly sing about sheep and colourful flowers, but, as always, death and morbidity. Personally, we are nice, rational people, but the lyrics reflect our dark interests. Our intention is to direct the resulting feelings in a positive direction, although the lyrics are pretty sick."

Is that coincidental to the choice of the album title? "It appears, in spite of said blood-and-infection concept, to be pretty daring to choose such a healthy title. The title is basically nothing but a nice little play on words. Our personal focus lies more on the section artwork - we wanted to create a work of art."

Notoriously, they are masters of the black, British humour. "We agreed on that name only after we named all the tracks. In terms of statement, it isn't very relevant, just like Heartwork isn't the title track. We just didn't have the time or desire to give detailed thought to complex song titles."

Was a cover like the one for Necroticism even necessary, in which Carcass literally put the Carcass in the trashcan, to come up with something abstract like the Giger sculpture on Heartwork? "I'd rather hold that the old covers were more abstract, especially that for Necroticism." (What else - the author). "While the first two albums detailed a grotesque blood-and-pus scenario, the third one was a harmless and more aesthetic version of Carcass. Because we know better than anyone else, that you can't score with the kinds of covers of the first two records. That's probably why Giger had to hold out for the cover, because said artist is in favour of nearly everyone. I was interested in his works for quite a while, but sadly, the use of his airbrush works became a cliche in metal circles. I found a sculpture in one of his books by random which immediately caught my eye. I could very well imagine it to surely be twisted enough as an album cover, to communicate the idea of our lyrics. Because, for example, it symbolises a peace symbol, it gives forth, in spite of the limb fragments, a thoroughly positive vibe. Nevertheless, the name Giger will, in commercial terms, not be disadvantageous. That's a very positive aspect, but not the only reason to use this artwork. Besides, just a small percentage would recognise it as one of his works. Wouldn't it be mentioned in every interview long and broad? Zap, and there it is again: the stinging side-swipe. As things are going, it's likely that Carcass will do the musical accompaniment of a Giger exhibition in New York. That was one of those nonsensical business ideas that Columbia came up with. It seems like our release part will be around the time when Giger does an exhibition in New York. But I won't comply, I can enjoy the vernissage and even meet him in person. But what has to be exaggerated concerning that, remains a mystery to me. The two art-heads therefore never met in person before. I guess he knows what we do, because we prepared for him a package with our works. But the question is how one gets a real Giger just like that? We probably surprised him with our request just when he worked on the silver versions of his black sculptures. Maybe he liked that we didn't want to use another airbrush painting,l but a comparatively unknown work. It appears that he still remained an idealist, because under normal circumstances his copyrights are very expensive. When we explained to him that we are not a multi-platinum band, he dropped the price drastically. If we were Bon Jovi, he might not have been so willing. Of course, he also tries to get as much money as possible. But it appears that he is also interested in the innovative ideas of young people. I know, for example, that Giger is interested in punk, although he's not a very enthusiastic follower of this music. Maybe, at least, he recognises his own character, such as a certain eccentricity."

Translated and transcribed by Stefan Raspl,