It’s very rare that I get to sit down and have a face to face interview with a genuine musical legend, and someone who is partly responsible for some of the most ground breaking and influential music in metal. Today is one of those rare occasions, where I had the pleasure of sitting down to talk with Bill Steer, guitarist of death metal legends Carcass. During our brief chat we were able to discuss playing Sonisphere festival, the ever changing face of the music scene and the future of the reactivated band amongst other things.
Carcass at Sonisphere. How did the show go for you guys?
Fairly good. I was rather surprised. We were anticipating some problems reaching people because this is not our typical crowd. We had some partisan folk in the crowd which helped us, and it seemed like we won over some people as well, which is great. Nobody really wants to go on at 3.30, that’s not the best time to play this music, but I’m just very relieved nothing went really wrong, we seemed to get a good reaction.
As you mentioned about this not really being your audience, when you returned in 2008, you played Wacken, Bloodstock and some of the more extreme metal festivals. When you toured last year it was with Amon Amarth, that seems like it would be more up your street.
You just mentioned one with Amon Amarth, it was amazing how it was not our audience. I think some people on our team went into that expecting us to have a sympathetic vibe from the audience, and it wasn’t like that, it was very very hard work. Every German show we played, it was almost like we shouldn’t be onstage, they hated it.
Really? That really surprises me.
Yeah, well it’s a different vibe, and it’s very different out there. I don’t even want to try and analyse it, but it wasn’t the most obvious tour for us to do. Some people in our crew thought it was a good tour for us to do to reach new people, and we definitely did, although I’m not sure how many we really won over. Out of 6 weeks of touring there were certain shows that were fantastic, Italy is one that was amazing, Glasgow as well, Manchester was pretty good and Helsinki. There was a lot of passive hostility, really indignant that we were playing, they just wanted to see Amon Amarth.
Do situations like that force you to change the set up, and change your game a little bit?
You just realise you can’t do anything right, so you just get up there and be yourself for 45 minutes, don’t talk to them, just play some songs and then leave.
How has everything been in the world of Carcass since the release of Surgical Steel? And how is the feeling within the band presently?
Really good. We’ve been really fortunate, as we’ve had generally favourable reviews for the album. I guess the label’s happy because they’ve already made their money back. We never expected this situation and we’re getting to go out there with a fairly lively new lineup. I’m really enjoying it and you have to be grateful for this situation because we did all this stuff…not festivals, but we played eternally in the late 80’s and early 90’s and the band wasn’t particularly popular back then. We had a presence but it was never big, so to come back and get more recognition is just beautiful and you can only feel blessed about that.
I speak for myself as a fan who never got to see you back in the day, that it’s amazing that I can see you now, with new material and as you said renewed energy. Do you find that with the audiences now, when you look out there, the crowd is a little younger now?
Absolutely, yeah. If you are looking at the front row of the festivals and even the club shows you see people that were far too young to have ever seen us in the old days, which I suppose is a massive compliment and it’s lovely. You still see some of the older folk from the generation me and Jeff (Walker) come from, and they are lurking there at the back, but they would be the exception I think. I have to bear in mind that life moves on, and some people are settled and music doesn’t mean as much to them as it did back then, but christ to me, it says that our music has stood the test of time with the fact that it’s reached this new audience, because they don’t have the nostalgia thing because they weren’t there to be nostalgic about it.
You guys would be classed as a classic band nowadays, and for you to return to the sound you made famous and seeing it influence a whole other generation of bands must be incredibly flattering for you.
Yeah, it’s nice. Everybody wants that, to be cited as an influence, so it’s killer. It’s like a continuum really, because there’s loads of artists that inspire us and continue to, and to think we’ve done that for someone else is fantastic.
For you guys, when you stepped back out there, onstage for the first time after you reunited, was it like taking yourselves off pause and just slotting back into it.
I have to be honest with you. It was very different, so different in fact for many different reasons. Naturally, Ken wasn’t playing drums because of what he’s been through, so that was a big change. The places we played onstage were different, because the core of the band was Arch Enemy really, it was Michael and Daniel, great players, lovely people to be around, and because that was the axis, and we were using their rehearsal room. I do think it got off on that footing. This particular lineup has been quite different, because we’ve had the chance to rehearse a lot, and we just spent a lot more time together, socially it’s a real gang. I’m guessing that comes across onstage, and it feels more organic because we spend so much time together and we play so much more together.
Seeing the way the music industry has changed with digital platforms and especially the rise of illegal downloading, how has that affected you as a band, as that is something that wasn’t there the first time.
It doesn’t appear to have affected us massively. I mean I’m not the kind of guy that watches sales figures carefully. I would say that we are around about the same place we were in the old days, with a little bit more profile maybe… People tend to give you a little bit more time and a little bit more respect because you’ve been around as a band for a while. With the downloading thing, we’d completed the album, and before it was ready for release, naturally somebody somewhere leaked it. That’s just the way of things really, it was hard to tell if it was a leak out of animosity, where somebody wanted to mess up our plans or if they were a fan that just got overexcited, but it didn’t affect anything really, if anything it probably helped really.
I have to ask this, selfishly as a fan. Is this a permanent return? Are Carcass back now and back for good?
Yeah, for the foreseeable future, sure.
I know there was a sense that this may have been a nostalgia run, and then you guys may disappear again.
Yeah, certainly all those early festivals we played in 2008-2009 prior to the release of “Surgical Steel” was nostalgia because we didn’t have any new material. But when that lineup folded, me and Jeff decided we were going to try and write new material, and instantly it felt right, and we felt like we were back. It’s very different when you have a new record out, because its almost like you’re a valid contemporary band, and yeah, it definitely affected our energy, and I love playing the new tunes. The more the merrier as far as i’m concerned, you just don’t wanna piss off your audience too much.
In closing. Do you have a message out there for all the Carcass fans out there, both old and new?
Thank you, obviously. Yeah, we feel very lucky, we can feel that love from the audience when we play and that gives us a little kick up the arse really and it’s lovely.