Over four decades, the iron forged Carcass have been unknowingly, yet consistently raising the bar and refining the sound within the extreme metal playground, wherein they reign as Alpha. Fresh out of band prac, Sentinel Daily caught up with Bill Steer, guitarist for the Liverpool brutes…. Having been guitarist for a band for as long as I have been alive our chat was extensive. Honing in on Download 2020 (which is still going ahead at press time – Ed), the negative, cynical reviewer and the element of surprise.
2020 looks to be another mammoth year for Carcass, with the band teasing an August 2020 release of a new album. Can this be confirmed? CAN THIS BE CONFIRMED, BILL? BILL!
Now 2013’s Surgical Steel left fans blown away – not just material wise but it just came out of nowhere after such a long hiatus, so what can you tell us about the new album at this stage? “It’s difficult because obviously we are very close to it, and we haven’t had enough time away from the thing to get a perspective, but I can confidently say it’s a different album from the previous one; stylistically. It still sounds like us but the dynamics are very different. You’re really going to hear a band who have been touring for a few years because when we made Surgical… we hadn’t played a single show with Dan (Wilding, the then fresh drummer) As great a drummer as he is, we hadn’t locked in the same way as we have now, which is inevitable with all the travel and so many shows under your belt”
The band have toured extensively over the last few years off of the back of Surgical Steel, with a momentum that hasn’t waned, did you anticipate just how successful that album was going to be? “No, I don’t think any of us did. We were quietly confident about the quality of the album but we didn’t have any high hopes for a warm reception to it because it’s kind of a cynical world out there, and I wouldn’t blame anybody having expected that album to be a load of crap especially after such a long time away. People were surprisingly kind. There was the odd review that went to town on us but it was remarkably positive for the most part. For me, I’ve got less energy for reading stuff about the band in general, just because it can kind of mess your head up, negatively especially but sometimes even positive stuff – you just want to be clear on what you want”. It is a hostile environment. The artist is presenting something and the reviewer has nothing to lose – obviously music is interpreted in so many different ways. Critique is not gospel, it isn’t ironclad. “I think that’s it, I think it’s fine – in a sense this is what’s it’s all about, how well someone can put their opinion across. I’m all up for bad reviews, just if it’s a well argued bad review and not just some young fella trying to score underground points by slating an older band – ‘the first demo was better’ [Laughs] -obviously not well argued [Laughs]
How do you approach writing for Carcass, as opposed to your beginnings “It really hasn’t changed much. It starts with someone coming up with a bunch of riffs in their bedroom and bringing them into the rehearsal space where we all have a crack at it. What I work on at my place is just the beginning because the other guys are very good at arrangements, so sometimes I’ll have what I think is a good nugget of a song and it turns out I haven’t even begun because they’ve got different ways of expanding the song into something more interesting, so it’s very collaborative I guess you could say”.
This album announcement, be it as loose as it is; can you state, with conviction – that this is Carcass, in it till the end? “Yeah, I don’t look too far ahead, I like to stay in the present day though this record in particular means a lot to us because it was always going to be a bigger challenge than the previous. With Surgical…, we had the luxury of putting all the music together, recording all of it without anybody knowing. So it felt very pressure free. We had the enviable position of the element of surprise, where of course a lot of the metal public would have anticipated a weak album, that’s a fairly understandable position. So when it turned out to be strong, that was another prize but we can’t play that card again – even if this record is far, far better; and I believe it is, there is going to be more weight in negative reviews just because we can’t surprise people the same way again”. It will be compared to Surgical…, to the point it will be painful. “Naturally, everyone of us would like to receive great reviews, but it’s just not realistic especially now with online culture – there are more critics than ever. People with positive opinions generally just go about their day whereas the negative comment is favoured and that’s just how it is unfortunately”.
Is it a little more relaxed playing live without having to showcase new material – is that a more enjoyable aspect? “During what we call ‘the reunion phase’ of the band which involved [Michael] Amott [Spiritual Beggars, Arch Enemy] and Daniel Erlandson [Arch Enemy, Brujeria] the whole thing was very enjoyable. Perhaps more so than when we were kids, I think because we had been away for awhile and you appreciate the things that happen a lot more – you’ve got something to measure it against. So, the live side is always intended to be fun. One thing, I will say, which I’m sure lots of bands say, is that YouTube has lead to a tendency for a lot of bands to play it safe and not debut new material prior to the release of an album because they’re afraid it’s going to be represented poorly – with a crappy quality mobile phone clip and that could incite more negativity. We’ve got one new song out there at the moment, which is circulating but I’d like to see bands including us break out of that trap, it’s just too restrictive I think”.
The band play Sweden very shortly and of course heading down to Download in Australia at the end of this month – how do you all prepare for a tour and what are your anticipations for the crowds of Australia “With the later part of the question, that’s easy – we love Australia! Every time we’ve been there it has been a lot of fun. Aside from it being a beautiful place, when you’re looking at city life, obviously so much of how much you enjoy it is down to the people and Australians are just a lot of fun, we share the same humour and it’s just great getting down there. Preparing; with this band we don’t rehearse an enormous amount and that’s just because we can’t – everyone lives in a different place so because we’ve had a break lately, we’ve rehearsed a lot [Laughs] once we’re up and running and doing a lot of festivals and touring, it would be unusual for us to practice. I can imagine quite a few people will agree with that when they see us [Laughs] bad shape or whatever, but for the most part there is some flow to what we’re doing, and the momentum is there”.
Carcass’ proposed Australian tour has now been cancelled. Dates will hopefully be rescheduled for later in 2020.