Interviewed by Damian J. Cousins (Writer/Journalist/Contributor)
Bill Steer from CARCASS… A legendary guitarist in death metal? I think so. Bill was kind enough to give me a call just before they were to headline the DECIBEL Magazine Tour in the U.S. last week and let us know how the band’s doing and what the future potentially holds for CARCASS. Check it out:
Surgical Steel was on a ton of Top 10 lists at the end of 2013, and the praise has been pretty universal. So, how are things in the land of CARCASS?
Bill: Very busy, but that’s the way we like it. And we feel fortunate because a lot of offers are coming through for us to play in different places. And as you said the end of year results from various places were very favorable to us. It’s not what we expected at all.
Well, not that we didn’t think you had it in you, but you guys basically put out a record that knocked everyone on their asses.
Bill: Well that’s fantastic. We just didn’t want to get ahead of ourselves and try and anticipate any kind of particular reaction. We just knew WE believed in the material and we figured that maybe a small number of like-minded people and hardcore CARCASS fans would enjoy it. But beyond that we had no idea how it was going to go over.
What do you think is different about CARCASS now versus back then?
Bill: Oh it’s very difficult to compare now to then for a number of reasons. Firstly it is a very different band. Yeah Jeff (Walker, lead vocals/bass) and myself are still here but we’re older. Not necessarily wiser but we have been through a lot. You can’t get to our ages, I’m 44 he’s 45 without having experienced a few different things (laughs), you know? That’s gonna bleed into whatever you do creatively. I guess probably the biggest difference is how the band’s regarded. All of a sudden some people seem to respect the group and our history. When we were out there touring in 1990 it was a new band and maybe we weren’t being taken as seriously.
How have you grown and changed as a person and player in the interim?
Bill: I had enough time away from this band to reflect on what I would have done differently and I guess you’re hearing some of the results of that on this new record. It’s probably the same thing for Jeff. We’re just very lucky to correct some of those smaller mistakes of the past. You know, some of those things that might have annoyed you on repeated listens.
I think the riffs on this one are something fierce, though.
Bill: Oh good, I’m glad you like it. It was just a load of fun working on this material. It was a real dynamic vibe in the rehearsal place. There wasn’t a day that went by that we didn’t come up with something at the end of an evening. Just loads of ideas all over the place, and between the three of us all these different ways to arrange tunes. At a certain point we had to just stop because we reached about 15 songs and we realized we needed to focus on making an album.
The writing of Surgical Steel, how did that work out?
Bill: The same way the tunes always did in the old days, which is walking into the rehearsal place with a bunch of riffs, but that’s just the beginning of the process. Most of the raw material would be mine but often it would change drastically with the input of Jeff and Dan (Wilding, drums). And then you’ve got a song like “The Granulating Dark Satanic Mills” which is entirely Jeff’s. All those riffs are his. Obviously the lyrics are as well. But I would say that we just do it. I don’t really know WHAT we’re doing but at some point we have a song. It’s very similar to how we started when we were young.
What was it like to come back and record a CARCASS album in 2012 given all that had changed in music, metal specifically?
Bill: I think it’s safe to say we did our best to be oblivious to all of it. Because the metal thing is a bigger industry than ever and it has been carved into countless subgenres. I don’t really need that kind of confusion in my life, you know? So we just focused on the stuff that excites us. You can’t be all things to all people and you certainly can’t try and read the minds of whatever you think your potential audience might be so it’s easier to just work on music that comes from the heart or the gut and music that you can live with. We did our best to pay zero attention to current metal trends because I think that would have ruined this album.
After this U.S. run, what’s next?
Bill: Off the top of my head, a trip to Japan for a handful of gigs and then a short Australian tour. After that it’s the usual summer scenario where you’re doing a lot of European festivals so we’re pretty busy up until the autumn, it seems.
What does the future hold for CARCASS? Are you looking ahead or just enjoying the moment?
Bill: Just enjoying the moment, yes, and looking to the immediate future but no further than that. I don’t plan that far ahead. Jeff has a little bit more vision that way; he’s the business brain of the band and the ideas man. What I will say is that all four of us are up for doing another record, we just need a little time off to work on material. And I can’t really see that happening until the later part of the year.
What are you playing now and what are you playing through?
Bill: Oh I play a Seven Series Gibson Les Paul Custom and Fender EVH heads for amps. Pretty basic, really. I just love the thick sound of Les Pauls.
What would you like to say to all the CARCASS fans out there?
Bill: I’d just like to say thank you to everyone that supports us. Because as we mentioned earlier it’s absolutely exceeded any expectations we could have had. It’s just been really enjoyable getting to travel to places that we went so long ago and getting to meet new people as well as the older crowd. We’re very much looking forward to this U.S. run.
CARCASS is out now on the DECIBEL Magazine Tour with THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER, GORGUTS, and NOISEM. There are quite a few dates left, so get out and catch a show. You’ll be glad you did!