I guess the heart of everybody who has been following the Grind and Death Metal scene for a while will start to pound a little faster when he or she hears the bandname CARCASS drop. CARCASS was a pretty unique and legendary British band which caused quite some uproar with their first two records “Reek Of Putrefaction” and “Symphonies Of Sickness”. With the album “Necroticism”, a very successful tour together with ENTOMBED, CATHEDRAL and CONFESSOR and the marvellous album “Heartwork”, the band succeeded in a rather big breakthrough and started to reach a big audience. After the somehow disappointing “Swansong” album in 1995, the curtain fell over the band but the legend of CARCASS kept living on and the call for a reunion started to get louder and louder throughout the years. This summer, CARCASS will play about ten reunion shows all over Europe. Earache also recently re-released most of their albums as a special digipak. More than reason enough to hook up with CARCASS-guitarist Bill Steer
In September 2007, Michael Amott anounced that he had been secretly practicing CARCASS-songs together with Jeff Walker, Daniel Erlandsson and you for a possible reunion. Who’s idea was that?
“That idea actually goes back already a few years. We’ve discussed about this matter already a few times. Michael and Jeff were never against the idea, it was actually mainly me who always had some serious doubts. I had the feeling that CARCASS was a closed chapter. We had recorded a few albums, we had toured and played gigs all over the world for a few years and that was that. I didn’t really see a reason why we would resurrect CARCASS. But one evening, after I had sat together with Michael and Jeff, I started to change my mind. And the idea to play a few shows together somehow also seemed like good fun to me.”
When was the last time that all of you saw each other?
“We never really lost touch with each other, we always kept in contact one way or another. We’ve always been very close. I see Jeff a couple of times each year just as Ken. I see Michael maybe a little less. It was actually quite exciting to be in the rehearsal room with them and play those old songs again. Those CARCASS-songs are not exactly easy to play, especially the “Necroticism” material is pretty complicated. But I was actually quite surprised myself to see how easy it all came back, considering the fact that I didn’t play those songs in over thirteen years.”
For the reunion gigs which you’re planning for this summer, you apparently rehearsed many songs from the “Heartwork” album. Do you see that record as the ultimate CARCASS-album and your strongest record?
“Well, let’s put it this way: “Heartwork” was the album where we were most satisfied with as a band. But of course it’s spretty logical that the fans who will show up at the gigs also expect songs from the other albums. That’s why we practiced tracks from every CARCASS album. But it’s right that the main part is coming from “Heartwork”. The problem is that everybody has his or her own favorites. For some people, “Necroticism” is the ultimate CARCASS record, there are others who even just like “Reek Of Putrefaction”. When it comes to “Heartwork”, we really took our time there to do the things right. I can still remember very well how intense we worked on that album in the studio. For the first time in my career I had the guitarsound I wanted. The songs were also much more ‘to the point’. We really dropped all the unnecessary details there which in the end just make the listener lose the attention.”
The list of bands which got together again within the last couple of years is starting to become pretty big. Recently bands like for example AT THE GATES, PESTILENCE and FORBIDDEN also got back together. CARCASS has a legendary status. Fans are without any doubt going to have very high expectations.
“(thinking) It all depends of course of the expectations of the fans which will come to our shows. We have all become a lot older. If they hope to see some teenagers playing on stage who barely can play or know what they’re doing, I’ll have to disappoint them. Michael and I never stopped playing music and we are both much better musicians then thirteen years ago. On a musical level, our gigs are without any doubt going to be strong and good. I must say that I’m not thinking too much about these expectations. We do this mainly for fans who have never seen us play live before.”
Have you seen any reunion-shows yourself which really impressed you?
“(enthusiastic) Oh yeah, absolutely! I saw ROSE TATTOO several years in Australia when they were just back together again and that was a great gig! As long as you go on stage with the right attitude, I don’t think much can go wrong. Angry Anderson of ROSE TATTOO is of course a fantastic frontman, at least as long as he’s not drunk. I’ve seen them play again later on and that time, it was really not good. But that one time in Australia was really great.”
The chemistry between Michael, Jeff, Daniel and you seems to be very good. Do you think that – if these reunion-shows go well – there’s a possibility for a ‘real’ tour later on this year?
“It’s a possibility. But to be honest, I have serious doubts that this will really happen. There are many reasons for that, especially on the practical side. We all have our own lives, our own bands, and all kinds of things which we have to take care of. This playing at festivals is already a very big step for me. We can still have a look at all that once we have done all these festivals. I think that after those gigs, everybody will probably like to have some time off anyway. In the beginning of our career, we played so many gigs. We’re not going to plan such a hectic tour schedule like we had in the past, that would ruin everything. We’re going to have a look at everything and then we’ll see. Somebody already proposed a tour of two weeks through the States to us. Something like that is somehow realistic.”
Do you think there’s also a possibility of a new CARCASS-album?
“I would be very surprised if that would really happen. But never say never, I’m always the last one who needs to be convinced. Michael and Jeff are much more busy with those things than I am. I’m also not very much involved in the planning of all the festivals which are scheduled. At this moment, I barely know in which countries we’re all going to play (laughs).”
Daniel Erlandsson will replace original CARCASS-drummer Ken Owen at these reunion-shows. It’s rather wellknown that Ken had a hemorrhage in the brain several years ago and has had some rather serious health problems since then, something which you can really notice during the interview you can see on the re-release van “Necroticism”. He talks very slowly and you can see that he really has to concentrate in order to get some things said.
“You may not forget that Ken spent several months in a coma. Ken almost died, it’s really a miracle that he’s still alive. When he was still in the hospital, all the doctors told us that he would most likely never wake up and that we would never be able to talk to him again. Ken is obviously much stronger than they expected. It’s correct that he reacts much slower than in the past, physically he’s also not the same as he used to be. But his character is still the same, he still has the same kind of humour. His longterm memory is excellent but his shortterm memory is not so good anymore. Since Ken woke up from his coma, he played drums but he stopped with that recently. But he’s still very interested in music, he’s even studying recording techniques these days.”
What are your most font memories when you think back on the old CARCASS-days? The gigs and the life on the road?
“Personally, I always enjoyed working and recording in the studio very much. And all the small things and all the amusing stuff of course (laughs). Jeff and Michael were always the two jokers of the band, it was always pretty funny to watch those two. I remember a gig in Ireland in 1992 where the backstage area was behind the stage. There was no backdoor, you could leave the club only through the entrance so we had to leave until the audience had left. We had just finished our set when the audience started to scream for more and Ken answered that that would be slightly impossible as he had thrown all his drumsticks in the audience. Our roadie got on stage and asked the audience through the microphone if we could get two drumsticks back. After five minutes, one returned (laughs). And after searching for a long time, they also found another fan out on the street who also caught a drumstick. In the end, we still played two more songs. I was so utterly ashamed that evening, the only one who didn’t seem to have a problem with it was Ken (laughs).”
The popularity of Death Metal was definitely at its peak in the beginning of the nineties. Excellent bands like ASPHYX, BOLT THROWER, MASSACRE, DEATH, NOCTURNUS, MORBID ANGEL, UNLEASHED, GOREFEST and MORGOTH were really very successful and sold thousands of records. I saw a shitload of shows in those days and I must say that later on, I never really experienced the same enthusiasm and excitement as I did while watching gigs in those days. What is your experience?
“(thinks for a long time) It’s actually quite logical in a way that you have this feeling. In every genre of music, there are trendsetters who lead the way for the others. The people in those bands are maybe not the best musicians but they are the people who started up a whole scene. And therefor, there was also quite naturally a whole sense and atmosphere of excitement in that period. I don’t follow anymore very closely what’s going in the Death Metal scene but I know from others that nowadays, there are Death Metal bands who are technically very impressive. Very tight and excelllent musicians who are most likely much more focused and professional than we ever were. And at the same time, people say to me that they are by far not as exciting as CARCASS was. Which is again logical as you’re playing a genre which has been around for twenty years by now. As a band, we definitely did some quite interesting things. But with CARCASS, we also had the luck that we were at the right place at the right time. When we started to reach a bigger audience, the whole scene was still developing. Metal festivals like you have nowadays were simply non-existing, apart from the Dynamo festival in the Netherlands. The press and the bigger magazines didn’t have a clue what was going on. Everybody was still so naive back then.”
Besides the music, also the lyrics and the coverartwork of your albums – especially “Symphonies Of Sickness” – caused quite some uproar. Have you often felt misunderstood as a band?
“All the time (laughs). But to be totally honest, we barely knew ourselves what we were doing. Two members of the band were vegans back then, one was a vegetarian. People linked our album covers all the time to our lifestyle. I must say that we also did a lot of things back then mainly to cause a commotion. And not only the press but also some fans totally misinterpreted us. I still remember this courtcase in Georgia where some teenagers had digged up a coffin at a graveyard while listening to ‘Exhume To Consume’. That was a really good and typical example of incredibly stupid behavior which the press loved of course. I can really see it very clear: a few ‘tough’ teenagers who are getting drunk, who are listening to CARCASS and really get each other going to do something really extraordinary and stupid. The funny thing is that I got to meet one of them many years later in America. He was incredibly polite and nice back then, I was quite surprised by that (laughs).”
After the release of “Heartwork”, CARCASS switched from Earache to the much bigger label Columbia. Nevertheless several problems surfaced almost immediately and in the end, it was even Earache who released the last CARCASS album “Swansong”. Do you think that these problems with Columbia sort of ‘killed’ the band?
“No, not really. Columbia started to lose more and more interest in us while we were recording “Swansong”. We felt very quickly where things were going. Many people think that the relationship with Columbia is responsible for the demise of the band but that was actually a very small factor. To my opinion, the band was almost as good as dead by then. When we were in the rehearsal room, preparing ourselves for “Swansong”, there was one member of the band – I won’t mention any names – who didn’t even want to practice the songs with the rest of the band. I thought that was just not right and I think that you can also hear that on that album. The communication and the chemistry was really gone by then.”
After CARCASS split up, you continued your musical journey with the band FIREBIRD. Are there actually still many fans who come up to you after a FIREBIRD-gig and ask you about your past with CARCASS?
“Not that often to be totally honest, probably also because FIREBIRD attracts a totally different audience. Because let’s face it, most Death Metal fans are not exactly open-minded and hardly listen to any other music. Most of the FIREBIRD gigs are also hardly promoted or announced. If there’s still a future for CARCASS, we’ll know after the summer. I just hope that all these festivals will be fun because I barely know what I’ll have to expect. Michael plays these kind of festivals all the time, Jeff also did some pretty big shows with BRUJERIA. But for me, this is all new.”
Interview: Steven Willems
Live pics by Pär Kjellén