Carcass Vocalist/Bassist Jeff Walker Recalls The Making Of "Surgical Steel"
Band Photo: Carcass (?)
It's been almost a year since Carcass released "Surgical Steel" (reviewed here) — the band's first studio album in almost twenty years. The impact of this glorious recording, which mainly mixes within a modern context, classic elements from most of their past recordings, has been undeniable. This feast of relentless riffing/drumming, vicious vocals and provocative lyrics has even become a sort of new standard regarding how 'comeback' Metal albums will be judged in the future.
Given the global fascination "Surgical Steel" still produces, we decided to briefly interview vocalist/bassist, Jeff Walker. He helped us understand more in detail some particularities about the making of this extreme, 11-song metal marvel.
"Surgical Steel" has been labeled as a stylistic concoction of your past recordings. Certainly, it features familiar elements that could easily be part of albums like "Reek Of Putrefaction" or even "Swansong." Do you agree with that assertion?
Jeff Walker: I think it's a consolidation of the 5 previous studio albums. Ultimately, it's Carcass and I think if you look at our past albums they all sound differently. "Surgical Steel" sounds different but still sounds like Carcass and that’s how I view it. We don’t deliberately come back and plunder our past. We just wrote material that we feel its strong and that it’s that it’s going to sound like our older albums. I think it’s a mixture of the past with a new twist.
How the idea for recording this album came up?
Jeff Walker: It was the next logical step. We played reunion shows for 3 years. We couldn't continue just in nostalgia. If there’s ever was going to be a future for Carcass after 2010 then, the obvious thing to do was to try to make another album. We had some more gigs we could play but quite frankly, it was getting boring just playing the old songs. We needed to prove that Carcass was still relevant.
Do you remember how the writing process began?
Jeff Walker: As it always does, we are a Heavy metal band so it starts with a riff. Someone, in this case mostly [guitarist] Bill [Steer] came up with some riffs and we worked around it. We put the drums started stretching up some songs then we put the lyrics down. It’s how we've always worked . It’s a collaboration between Bill and [new drummer] Dan Wilding.
Talking about drummers... Much has been said about the absence of Ken Owen. Everybody knows this happened because of his delicate health issues. Was it difficult to do the album without him?
Jeff Walker: No. We did rehearsals with Ken. Ken had come on stage and had done some drum solos. So there’s no real baggage about if Ken is no longer involved because from 2008 to 2010 we included him as much as we could in Carcass. Bill actually went to see Ken to tell him that we were in the process of doing an album and Ken’s response was ‘’I thought you guys would have done it sooner” so as you can see we got a Ken's blessing to do this. We've included him as much as we could in the album. There’s still a Ken influence in this album even if Ken is not playing on it. It’s there in the drumming, it’s there in the lyrics, it’s there in the fact that he was a large part of Carcass and the fact that we managed to record an album after 17 years and it still sounds like Carcass. We were definitely aware of what makes Carcass tick and Ken was a large part of that, so we have done our best to pay homage to the spirit of Ken in this new album.
Producer Colin Richardson has been a crucial part in helping to define Carcass' sound. For "Surgical Steel" he was, once again, in charge of the production duties. Was it difficult to reconnect with him, both musically and personally, after all these years?
Jeff Walker: No, it was easy. We hadn't spoken to each other for years but we always had a good family relationship, so it was quite easy.
Initially, Colin was also in charge of the mix but eventually that was done by the equally extraordinary, Andy Sneap. What happened with Colin's mix?
Jeff Walker: We hired Colin to produce and mix the album I think maybe it was too big a project and he spent too much time on it. he was meant to mix it but he decided to bow out gracefully and he asked Andy Smith to mix instead. He always said that one of few people he would trust to mix the album would be Andy Sneap and we were quite happy with Sneap doing it so. We got the best of both worlds. Collins to produce it and Andy to mix it and I got an email from Colin says he feels that Andy just did a better job of what he or any other engineer could have done.
Is "Surgical Steel" a one time thing or is this indeed, the start of a new recording chapter in Carcass' career?
Jeff Walker: Ultimately, as long as we feel we got somewhere to go then we would create new material. We are not just going to do it just for the sake of it. We have to feel inspired. All I can say is I do see somewhere where we can take Carcass if we choose to do another album and personally I do want to do another album. I’m not completely satisfied with any album we've made so far. I don’t think we've made the classic Carcass album, that’s the way I feel.
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