Talkin’ Meat and the Future with Bill Steer of Carcass
Carcass is… well Carcass. They are the one and only, the first and the last, the greatest in the world and the oft forgotten. They are unfuckwithable in the purest sense of the term. I got a chance to see them back in August (yes I know I’m behind!) and had the unique opportunity to sit down with Bill Steer and talk with him about everything from vegetarianism to the nature of being in a band. While 15 year old Matt quietly peed his pants I couldn’t help but to be amazed with how collected and downright intelligent Mr. Steer is – a sort of death metal pioneer and visionary who still very much fits in the modern age.
How the hell are you?
I’ve been worse! It’s a short tour really, we’re right around the three week mark and we only have a few dates left. It has kind of blazed by. It’s mostly been very positive. I didn’t know if we could justify doing another US tour since we have done several on the back of this album but I’m not too familiar with the business side. Between our agent and Jeff, they felt we could come back. The turnouts have proven that. I can’t complain about any of this. I’m just looking forward to getting some sleep at the end of this thing.
I heard you were partying hard!
I wouldn’t say that much. Most of us in the band drink, that’s standard for a lot of bands. It’s easy to do it every day in this line of work and after a while that’s the standard practice!
One thing I wanted to get into with you is obviously you’re a vegetarian and have been for a long time, and I’m a vegetarian pretty much because of Carcass and Napalm Death and I have a dozen friends who have the same story – what is that like to be this weirdly influential person because of your dietary choices?
I’ve never thought of it that way but it’s come up twice on this tour! People come up and say that my band is why people have stopped eating meat! That’s great to hear! On the other hand we never went out of our way to preach. To me it’s just a lifelong habit. I haven’t eaten meat or fish since 1986, I think. It’s just something I do. Personally speaking, I find it to be a big turn off when people get too self righteous or sanctimonious about a personal choice they’ve made. Each person is a different set of values and no one will see eye to eye about every moral issue. But for Jeff and myself that was a personal thing. It was easy for me because I wasn’t too keen on it to begin with.
It’s strange to be influential in that way though. Especially because on the surface, the early stuff is underground grind. It doesn’t scream ‘we are militant vegetarians’ but it’s true that many people who got into the band started to see something beneath it. It didn’t take too much effort to see that we had, not an agenda, but we are definitely not pro meat.
My best friend growing up was also a huge Carcass fan and his favorite Carcass records were the first two and my favorites were Decanting and Heartwork. That was kind of how we branched out. How does it feel to be a sort of father to both grindcore and melodeath?
I kind of feel fortunate to be honest. We were around at a very good time. This music was just beginning to happen and it’s easy to innovate when there is all this fresh territory to invade musically. Nowadays it’s a lot harder to do something fresh and new. With every genre there is a time when it is cutting edge and dangerous and shocking but then there comes a time when it’s assimilated and almost safe.
Do you think there’s any truly dangerous music left today?
There probably is, but I’ve never heard of it! I’m sure there’s an underground scene bubbling away somewhere that will get a reaction from people. I’m out of touch with a lot of stuff that’s going on.
It’s weird because now we are seeing people selling Carcass shirts for $80 in fashionable outlets…
I didn’t know that! That’s crazy! I mean, I knew about models wearing Maiden shirts and stuff. I don’t like to get bent out of shape with that. It does make it amusing definitely. If you’re a hardcore Iron Maiden fan it must feel weird. You can’t assume you have a connection with someone wearing a band shirt anymore!
How do you feel about the Noisem dudes?
Great people! We always enjoyed playing with them. They are very sincere. They are doing it for the right reasons. You can see ambition in their eyes, a sort of desperation to be a star. There’s nothing wrong with pursuing those aims but to go in straight away demanding that stuff is hard to relate too. Whereas the Noisem lads will do whatever to get out and play. Slumming it but thoroughly enjoying it. It was inspiring being around them. They knew their music and not just metal!
You said you saw they were doing it for the right reasons, what are the right reasons?
I shouldn’t use the word right. For everyone it’s a slightly different story. For some musicians it’s purely the love of music. For my part I would say I was so into music and so excited by it I really wanted to be involved in it. I started playing when I was quite young and kind of drifted into it. I didn’t have any grand aspirations, I couldn’t see it happening living in a small town. Before you knew it though I was hanging out with older guys and I was in bands and I realized I could do something! Once you get to that point you realize you could one day make an album or play out of town! That’s how I perceived it. There’s other people who love the lifestyle, other people are magnetized by the business end. You need to have those people. Our band wouldn’t be here now if it weren’t for the drive Jeff has. He enjoys doing that stuff! A band needs something like that!
It’s a weird balance to find!
It’s an uneasy balance. It’s never going to be perfect. I don’t think you can have a band full of introverts who are all about music. I mean you can but it’s a rare thing. Someone has to be a leader figure.
What’s fascinating about your partnership with Jeff is that it has lasted so long and seen you through so much…
It’s fascinating and remarkable but we did have a long break which keeps things fresh, especially with making the album. When you’ve been away that long then you have tons to say and loads of material to bring to the table, or at least that’s how it felt!
At this point Carcass has been a band for like 30 years, do you worry about what the future of the band will be? Will you still be doing Carcass when you’re 60?
I’d say it’s unlikely, but you just don’t know do you? I don’t want to assume I’ll get to 60. That’s a big assumption to make. I try not to think about the future, I find it unsettling. I’m not someone who likes to plan ahead. With this band I could imagine us doing another record, that would be nice, but beyond that I can’t say. It will be a feel thing. If we feel things tapering off the way they did in ’95 then maybe we would break up, but right now there is serious momentum, there’s still an urge to create new music.
So you think there will be a new Carcass album?
There will be, I think. We have tons more live work this year but it could be done!
What do you love so much about music?
When I first heard music I was tiny. I was exposed by television and radio and my parents’ record collection. I think early on I realized music is speaking to you and from you. It’s sort of accessing some really deep stuff within you that you can’t necessarily verbalize. It stirs up strong emotions in people. It’s big in metal at festivals in stuff but you see that in every genre. It might not manifest itself the same way but they are experiencing something that touches them deep inside. I’m biased as hell but I think it’s the ultimate art form. Sometimes you’ll see a guy playing on stage and you’re seeing a fair chunk of their life on that stage. Everything they’ve been through should be coming out. If you spent years playing an instrument that in itself is a big part of your life. I wouldn’t necessarily want to meet some of my favorite musicians, but I don’t need to because they’ve given me so much. When I put on their records their sounds come out and I feel a certain way that’s all the conversation I need!
Big thanks to Bill for talking with us! Stay up to date with Carcass on Facebook.