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INTERVIEW: Bill Steer – Carcass

Photo Credit Katie Needham
Photo Credit Katie Needham

CARCASS are arguably one of the biggest bands in extreme metal. From their early material setting the grindcore movement in motion to their behemoth of a record, HeartworkCARCASS have been at the forefront of extreme metal. Currently the band are still touring as part of the Deathcrusher tour, featuring OBITUARYNAPALM DEATHVOIVOD and HEROD. We caught up with guitarist Bill Steer to talk about the tour, the difficulties of playing at a festival and the importance of CARCASS in extreme metal.

You are still doing the Deathcrusher tour, how is the tour going for you?

Bill: Yeah it has been pretty good so far, we’re about half way now so we have got just over two weeks left. Really there has hardly been anything to complain about, all of the bands and crew are working together which has been great, the logistics that were involved were potentially very chaotic. Trying to put five bands together in a club, even if it’s a big club, can be quite problematic. There’s all kind of gear in every possible corner of the place but somehow every night we’ve been able to make it work, all the bands are able to play their full set and it’s gone down pretty well!

Has there been any dates that have been a particular highlight for you?

Bill: God let me think! Well for us, specifically I guess, London was surprisingly good. There’s always stress attached to that one for so many different reasons. Obviously it’s home turf and it was the big one. I don’t know exactly how many people were there but it was well over 2000. I thought we played very well musically in Gothenburg but the reaction, it was one of the worst reactions we have ever had for an audience, it was quite amazing to be honest.

What was it? Was it just subdued or?

Bill: It was a mixture of indifference and maybe a bit of mild hostility.

The tour has been with OBITUARY, NAPALM DEATH, VOIVOD and HEROD, all old-school bands. How did the idea for this tour start?

Bill: If I remember correctly, we had toured with OBITUARY in the US and that gone very well, we got along as people and we liked each other’s bands and probably the best thing is we don’t step on each other’s toes musically. Both bands are part of the death metal genre but stylistically we are very different. So we can play back to back and it doesn’t get boring for the audience because we just do different things up there. So that’s how it began and I guess at some point our agency came up with the idea of making it a package where there are five acts so before you knew it we had NAPALM DEATH and VOIVOD and then a little later down the line HEROD from Switzerland got involved. I think they wanted to make it an event, it’s not just a couple of bands on tour, it’s almost like a travelling festival.

The tour comes off the back of festival appearances like Download Festival for example. Do you prefer playing festivals or your own tours?

Bill: Yeah, I much prefer playing inside a building. I just really don’t think this is festival music, I mean it is lovely when we get invited to do those kind of things and occasionally it goes well. It’s a very random thing, very rarely you come off stage thinking you played well and the sound is usually diabolical. For me, it is all about playing clubs.

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That way you can get up, close and personal with the fans?

Bill: Yeah you just got a lot more control over your environment and I think really there are only a handful of artists in the music world that are better playing outdoors. Being outdoors in daylight for this kind of music is really odd.

Surgical Steel came out after a 17 year wait since Swansong, will fans have to wait that long for another Carcass record?

Bill: Well I doubt it, Christ…I can’t really do the maths but we’d be very old people if that was the case! So yeah we might do another record, I can’t really speculate as to when, we need to stop playing live to be able to do that and it’s been two and half years of this. I’m really up for the challenge, it would be a fun thing to do. We have a few tunes tucked away but it would involve a lot of work so that would mean we would have to get off the road.

So for CARCASS at the moment, it’s just about touring?

Bill: Well I really hope not as it’s been two and a half years of this! It wouldn’t be a bad thing to slow down a bit.

Heartwork is considered to be a really important record in the development of melodic death metal. Do you think CARCASS have been pivotal in the expansion of extreme music?

Bill: Well it wouldn’t be for me to say really, I think the answer would depend on who you would be speaking to. There are some people who do credit us with being a huge influence and making music develop a little. But then there are people who are completely unaware of anything we have done, they get into metal at a later stage and CARCASS would be a name they may be familiar with but they wouldn’t know any of the music. You would have to be deluded thinking we had made the same impact as METALLICA or SLAYER.

One thing I’ve always wanted to know is why did you shift your sound from the early grindcore sound to a more melodic death metal style?

Bill: It is kind of tricky as when people ask questions like that they are making the assumption that this was pre-meditated and we discussed and planned it. We were just kids doing what you felt like doing at any given point, so when you hear the first album it is a bunch of lads, 17-18 years old, with very little studio experience and very little playing experience. The album was the result of that. It’s verging on pure noise. And then I guess by the time you get to album three we are maybe a little bit better at playing our instruments. We were just aware of the fact that bands that weren’t doing what we were doing, it wasn’t such a fresh thing to play super fast all the time and having overtly gory lyrics and so forth. I think we just wanted to stay ahead of the pack, your whole identity is questioned when you see groups in other countries doing similar stuff. So with each record we just tried to keep forging ahead but I guess the opposite of that is stagnation. We weren’t really into that.

So really to close this interview off is, what is next for CARCASS once you finish the Deathcrusher tour?

Bill: For this band nothing. I get back and maybe have a day at home before heading off on another tour with GENTLEMAN’S PISTOLS, that will take me up to Christmas. Jeff is going to be off with BRUJERIA, and next year there’s going to be a few dates in the diary. The odd festival appearance and stuff, not too much that I can speculate on, as I mentioned earlier it would be nice to have some quieter time where we can actually get into the rehearsal room and become creative again.

Well I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me, take care Bill

Bill: Thank you

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