Carcass’ Jeff Walker Talks ‘Surgical Steel’ Album, Touring + Musical Influence
Carcass frontman Jeff Walker was the guest on Full Metal Jackie’s radio show this past weekend. He spoke with Jackie about the band’s ‘Surgical Steel’ album, the rush of touring and the influence his band has had on music. If you missed the chat, here’s Jackie’s full interview with Carcass’ Jeff Walker.
Full Metal Jackie coming at you with two full hours of metal each and every weekend. On the show with us, vocalist and bassist from Carcass, Jeff Walker. How are you, Jeff?
I’m good, thank you. Only on my second cup of tea of the day, which is a travesty.
Carcass, of course, are part of this year’s Decibel Magazine tour that’s running through April 13th. Carcass, The Black Dahlia Murder, Gorguts and Noisem. A great lineup. ‘Surgical Steel’ is the result of revisiting the music that excited you and Bill Steer as kids. That’s what you’ve said. What do you hear differently in the music you loved growing up that maybe wasn’t obvious when you were a kid?
You make it sound like we’re musical pedophiles. I think maybe as you get older, you get a nostalgia for the past. I think when we were teenagers, we were very hot headed about what we liked and what we didn’t like. I think there’s the possibility that we overlooked or forgot some music at the time, you know, that has progressed our own bounds and sounds, that on reflection, we need to pay some service to and not just lip service. The problem with being my age now, is of course there’s great music around, but I tend to, and Bill’s definitely guilty of this as well, of looking to the past rather than the present to get inspiration, because music runs in cycles as you well know and I think we’re at an age where we think we’ve seen it, and done it, and bought the t-shirt. Let’s be honest if you put me in an Asking Alexandria concert, people would probably think someone’s father had come to pick up their son or daughter.
Jeff, when you re-formed the band, it was said that a new album was unlikely. Several years later, ‘Surgical Steel’ is released. What aspects of the album have lit a fire in you to make you want to make more Carcass records?
I think it’s just unfulfilled ambition. I mean, as much as people have given a positive response about this album, I don’t necessarily share those feelings. I could still hear room for improvement and that’s the only thing that would drive me personally, is to better what we’ve already done. I’ve got that kind of competitive edge in me if you like, or you might want to call it dumb arrogance, but I think as a supposed artist you should always be trying to better yourself.
I can’t be as objective about my album, even though I have tried to be, because I’m involved in the band, but I don’t really consider anything we’ve done to be a classic or a great album. I’m still searching to fulfill that self gratification from this, as selfish as it sounds, so that’s the thing that would drive me to make another album. And that’s what I hear in ‘Surgical Steel.’ I think it’s good, but I don’t think it’s great.
Jeff, what changes about the adrenaline rush of being onstage when you’re a veteran of so many tours and shows?
I never feel that, because I’ve probably drunk too much Jack Daniels by the time I hit the stage. It’s funny, you know me personally, I only get that kind of high or rush when the gig is over, because as soon as the intro tape comes on, it’s heads down, let’s go, and I’m kind of almost caught in a trance. Anything I do is almost on automatic.
I know musicians who, and even in my own band, they’ll say, “Oh do you see that person in the front row and this person and the other ends view.” Me, I’m quite oblivious, because I’m just in that zone, in what I do. My head’s in quite an aggressive space, zone, you know what I mean? I don’t have time to think. I’m very busy playing the bass, doing the vocals, trying to remember the lyrics in my senile, old, frail age. It’s after, when you sit down in the dressing room. If it’s been a good show, and you’ve had a good reaction, then yeah, you feel really good. That’s when I get the adrenaline rush. For me personally, it’s hard on stage, because I’m just too damp is all.
Where do you hear the influence of the band the most? What makes you the most proud of how the band has affected heavy music?
Well, there’s some pride, some bitterness and some kind of anguish. You know, we can be held responsible for the state of some of metal because of the whole down tuning thing. I mean obviously, we don’t claim to have invented down tuning, but back in early ’87, late ’86, we made the decision to down tune our guitars to play and most modern music you hear now, that’s become standard tuning. That literally was such a long period in the past that we don’t get the blame for this. It’s the bands that we kind of inspired that inspired all the new bands, so we don’t necessarily take the blame, but I hear and see a lot of Carcass influence in what’s going on.
But, to be honest, we’re a product of our influences, so I’m not trying to totally take the credit, because we just took other people’s ideas and embellished then, so we’re just a link in the chain of what happened in music historically, you know? I think with Carcass, we absorbed a lot of different things and we’ve managed to, not deliberately, but we’ve managed to pass it off as our own and Carcass is perceived as having some certain sounds.
Jeff, really appreciate you taking the time being on the show. See you out on the Decibel tour.
This coming weekend, Full Metal Jackie will welcome Gary Holt of Exodus on her show. Full Metal Jackie’s weekend show can be heard on radio stations around the country — for a full list of stations, go to fullmetaljackieradio.com.
Watch Carcass’ ‘Unfit for Human Consumption’ Video