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Interviewed by
Craig Hayes
Thursday 16th April, 2015 11:34AM

Few bands could ever hope to disappear from the metal scene for a dozen or so years and then return as powerful and relevant as they ever were. But that’s exactly what UK extreme metal pioneers Carcass did in 2007, when the band was brought back to life for a series of celebrated live dates, after being presumed to be dead and buried since the mid-90s.

Early albums from Carcass, like Reek of Putrefaction (1988) and Symphonies of Sickness (1989), were hugely influential on the grindcore (and goregrind) genre. And when Carcass dug deeper into death metal in the 1990s, the band produced another classic album in 1993’s Heartwork. In 2013, Carcass released a brand new album, Surgical Steel, which was critically acclaimed and embraced by long-time and brand new fans the world over. This month, Carcass is touring New Zealand with fellow extreme metal trailblazers Napalm Death. A dream double-headed bill that’s set to smash minds and bodies with shows in Wellington and Auckland.

Before jumping on a plane and heading down this way, Carcass guitarist Bill Steer was gracious enough to take some time to answer a few questions for UnderTheRadar about the band’s return, their upcoming tour, and what the future holds for Carcass...

UTR: Do you ever stop and think about how influential Carcass has been over the years?

BS: Not really. We'd be the last people to try and estimate how much impact our band has had. Obviously now and then we run into people who tell us that our music has influenced them, and that's very flattering. But after that, it's all a matter of perspective and opinion. There are plenty of people in the metal world who haven't even heard of Carcass, so it wouldn't be wise to get carried away with the whole thing.

Coming back together in recent years, was there a moment where you felt sure that reactivating the band was going work both creatively and personally?

If there was such a moment, for me personally it would have been when we began recording rough demos of the new material. Dan [Wilding, drummer] and myself would put down a basic track, then within a few days Jeff [Walker, bass and vocals] would send it back to us with a set of lyrics and a vocal. At that stage, it seemed clear that the music we were working on was strong enough to proceed with.

The reaction to Surgical Steel has been deservedly enthusiastic. But were there any nerves with what you wanted to achieve with the album? I mean, there's always a little skepticism when a band returns from the wilds, and fans might want a spark of the past while you might want to be moving forward. So how'd you guys balance those tensions?

We just went with our gut feelings. If we'd paused to consider other people's expectations, we would have driven ourselves mad. It would have been too confusing. So we just focused on what felt right to us. You're right, somehow a band in our position needs to write new material that moves forward without losing the musical identity that is associated with us. It's not an easy balance to achieve and everyone has their own idea as to whether it has been achieved or not.

Carcass' return coincided with a rise in underground metal's popularity. Given the band was so formative in the early years of extreme metal, are there things about extreme metal's evolution that standout for you nowadays?

Well, I'm probably not the best person to ask about this as the other lads in the band tend to keep up with the contemporary metal scene far more than I do. But I'll try to answer! As you suggested, metal does seem to have enjoyed a surge in popularity over recent years. When we first reformed the band and began playing festivals a few years back, I was blown away by how much of an industry had built up around metal music. And yes, somehow much of what used to be considered "underground" metal is now almost verging on "mainstream". I guess that's natural to a degree - something can only be at the cutting edge for a while before it gradually becomes assimilated.

One of the best things about your upcoming shows in New Zealand is that they're going to be a real celebration for a crossover crowd. How do you see the audience out there for the band these days? A real mix of older and new fans?

Yeah, it's definitely a mix, but in all honesty it's probably more of the younger crowd these days. Some of the older lot have moved on. That's life - many people get to a stage where they have less time and energy for music. But of course there are still some characters like Jeff and myself who haven't lost the obsession.

What's in store for us when the band hits town? Do you have a setlist that's going to be covering all of Carcass' releases?

Hopefully. It's not that easy to compile a set that covers all the different albums adequately. But we do our best!

The reaction to Carcass' return has been really positive, and Surgical Steel's success was well-deserved too. So what does all that goodwill and enthusiasm mean for the future of Carcass?

It means we're still out there, doing this. And we're grateful. Who knows, it could also mean that we embark on another album somewhere further down the line. Here's hoping.


Carcass are playing three shows with Napalm Death across Wellington and Auckland early next week. Head over here for more information and to buy tickets.


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