An interview with guitarist Bill Steer
by Joe Hacking
“None of us are actually that interested in or excited by real blood and guts,” says Carcass guitarist Bill Steer. “Obviously there are certain things we like that probably are a little bit on the morbid side, but for a band of this ilk, we’re not particularly turned on by violence.”
Looking at the titles of the songs from Carcass’ previous albums, you’d never know. “Vomited Anal Tract,” “Feast On Dismembered Carnage,” and “Crepitating Bowel Erosion,” don’t exactly bring visions of peace and love. But who cares? Since 1985, the members of Carcass have been channeling their hostilities and fears into creating their own brand of savage, cruel, viscously brutal metal. Their new release, Heartwork, is the most recent product of their angst.
Carcass’ sound generates chills up the spine, and listening to Heartwork keeps the spine mighty chilly. Mike Hickey (a Boston native) and Bill Steer’s guitar sound is reminiscent of the mid-’80s metal sound, only much more unforgiving and unforgettable. Raunchy, snarling, and sludgy, the two guitarists pretty much drive Carcass’ wonderfully dreary, droning-Sabbath sound. Drummer Ken Owen smashes and pounds around at the bottom of the frenzied chaos while Jeff Walker’s bass fills wherever possible or necessary. As far as Walker’s singing ability goes, he sounds like a demon the morning after a drinking binge. His voice is a cross between sandpaper and gravel.
But believe it or not, these guys have melody in their songs. Unlike their previous albums, Heartwork has some structure. “Melody has been important to us for quite some time, but we didn’t stress it enough in the past,” says Steer. “With this record, we wanted to have clearly recognizable songs. We didn’t just want nine or ten freak bursts of energy with a lot of different riffs going on and some weird changes. There are a lot of bands doing that and it’s really superficial. We wanted to do something that would still be valid in a few years time.”
From their grindcore/death metal beginnings, the Liverpool, England-based band rose to cult status with their Reek of Putrefacation album. Once Bill Steer decided between Napalm Death and Carcass, the band tightened their sound and improved their production, resulting in 1989’s Symphony of Sickness and 1991’s Necrotism – Descanting the Insalubrious. The two later albums got them out of the ghettos of metal and brought them into the light. Heartwork follows the trend towards refinement which the band is pursuing.
“With the music,” Steer has said, “we try to catch the impossible: Sophisticated brutality. Carcass is a band full of paradoxes.” Steer’s comment is validated by the fact that among other things, the members of Carcass (save for Mike Hickey, an American, of course) are strict vegetarians.