For most Metal fans, the 2016 Slayer, Testament, and Carcass tour may just “reign” as one of the year’s greatest, as the month-long North American excursion not only includes two Thrash Metal titans, but also marks the first outing in many years for the legendary Carcass.
Since 1985, Carcass’ raw-edged aural assault has ignited Metal fans and influenced scores of bands. With six albums under the band’s belt, the most recent being 2013’s critically acclaimed Surgical Steel (Nuclear Blast), Carcass are set to shred with stateside performances starting on February 22.
I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to speak with Carcass’ lead guitarist Bill Steer about the tour, as well as Carcass’ musical legacy, and he was kind enough to share some details.
First I’d like to talk your upcoming Slayer and Testament tour – how did this all come about and why tour now?
“Well, it’s probably surprising to learn the tour was initiated by agents talking to each other! The word reached us that there was a possibility we could play on this tour, and we couldn’t say no—if it was anybody else, we would have said no, but Slayer was the one band in our minds in this area of Metal music that we feel we could tour with without upsetting the audience!”
“We’ve seen Testament several times live, and have done festivals with them, but the touring thing has not happened before, so it’s going to be interesting for us—we’re not sure how accepting audiences will be of us, but it will be quite fresh for us as well.”
Can we expect a follow-up to Surgical Steel any time soon? And if so, how will the music differ from that album or other previously recorded efforts?
“Hmm, interesting question, really, because the new music will have to differ from the previous record to a degree, because you have to feel like the music going forward. With Surgical Steel, we had the advantage where people didn’t know we were working on an album until it came out, and expectations were low, which was great, because when the album came out, it was actually great, and it was surprising to many people.
When [Carcass vocalist and bassist] Jeff Walker and I get together and write music through, we’re going to have to walk a tight rope— writing music that’s identifiable, as well as breaking new ground.
We do have a couple of songs tucked away—the momentum just picked up, and at the start of last year, we got together and worked on a handful of tunes, and we’re excited with some of the things we were working on. When we have a quiet time this year, in 2016, we’ll look into the stuff more carefully. “
Quite honestly, Carcass are legendary and helped shape and hone a sound—do you ever think about the influence you’ve had on other Metal and Grind bands?
“I’d rather just “grind” on with what we do, because thinking too hard about your place in the scheme of things…. that’s just confusing and a distraction—and, you can’t really stop being self-critical. In my view, if you get self-satisfied, it leads to complacency. That’s not good for anyone in any genre. “
“Occasionally, people are very nice to say those things to us—about being legendary—and that’s good to hear, but you’re only as good as your last gig and your last album.”
Are there any Carcass albums or songs you’re particularly proud of?
“From the initial phase of the band, I’d have to pick the obvious, which is Heartwork. I remember quite clearly feeling really delighted with the sound we got on the album, as it was the first time we got anything we were looking for in the studio that coincided with really good writing. The music on that record…that’s the most pleasing stuff we did at that time. “
“I’m quite fond of the two song songs on Heartwork EP—they were bashed out pretty quickly. We had a couple of B-sides, and I’m quite fond of those. As for other stuff, well, I’m still pleased with Surgical Steel. I can critique it, but it feels like a big achievement since we had so much stacked against us—doing something most people wouldn’t like—but we overcame the obstacles, and I just like the stuff on the record—it’s a hell of an album.”
On the forthcoming Slayer tour, will your set list focus on newer Carcass music, or include some of the older stuff as well?
“I would say this is a different situation for us than when we were a headlining act, where a large chunk of the audience is familiar with our music. On a tour like this one with Slayer, there’s going to be so many people every night who don’t know anything about us, so we need to comprise a 30-minute set that is hard hitting…we’ll be chewing that one over. But, the set is probably going to lean more towards the middle period of the band and music from Surgical Steel.”
How do you feel Carcass has evolved musically and lyrically from album to album?
“The lyrics remain Jeff [Walker]’s 100 percent from my perspective—he gets very focused on something, and I think the lyrics he came up with on Surgical Steel were brilliant—easily the best to date.”
“The music thing is definitely more organic—I just have bunch of riffs, and we take them into the rehearsal space. Surgical Steel was quite straight forward. We hadn’t worked on Carcass material for so long, but we decided the music was going to have styles from all eras of the band. I was hearing some stuff that harkened back to the very early Carcass days, and it wasn’t out of place. It was a cool thing to do because looking back it made sense, it was quite harmonious, but any music we write now has got to move forward.”
Anything else Carcass fans can expect from the band this year?
“We’ve got a few festivals in the diary—I’d like to keep up our live chops, which means playing from time to time. I’d like to have a large chunk of rehearsal space time—if we’re going to make a new record, I don’t want to waste anyone’s time.”
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