By Joshua Bulleid
Back in the eighties, before extreme music was really a thing (and before your interviewer was even born) there was a bunch of totally pissed of dudes called Napalm Death and they invented this totally pissed of kind of music called grindcore. One of those pissed off dudes was guitarist Bill Steer, who went on to form the mighty Carcass and invent a whole new slew of subgenres along the way.
Steer and his former band will be reuniting (somewhat) with his former band as Carcass and Napalm Death hit the major cities for their ‘Deathcrusher’ Australian/New Zealand tour, prompting the guitarist to look back at a scene he long ago left behind.
“I’m never quite sure what people mean by grindcore,” he admits, “In the ‘80s there’s only one person I knew who ever used that phrase, and that was (former Napalm Death drummer) Mick Harris, –it’s a phrase he created. As the years went by I noticed some other people using the phrase and by then they were using it to describe all of these bands, like Carcass for example, but we never named ourselves ‘grindcore.”
Carcass made a valuable contribution to grindcore’s development (and the later subsection that would come to be called ‘goregrind’) with their first two albums, – 1988’s Reek Of Putrefaction and the minor classic Symphonies Of Sickness in 1990 – before they went onto pioneer yet another genre in melodic death metal with 1993’s seminal Heartwork. However, just because they’re touring with Napalm Death again don’t expect a return to the glory days of grind.
“It’s hard to get back to that,” says Steer, “You’d have to unlearn a lot of things – not just with playing and writing, but also how you dial-in tones on your amplifier and you have to ask the engineer to unlearn some of his skills, it’s just not practical.”
“Of course, right now there’s probably a grindcore band out there that sounds really authentic, but it’s just not something I believe Jeff (Walker, Carcass bassist and frontman) or myself would be able to do wholeheartedly,” Steer says, and he’s not too interested in what the other bands of the grind era have gone on to do either.
“To be honest I haven’t (been keeping up with Napalm Death). I’ve heard the first album after me and myself left (1990’s Harmony Corruption), and I think around the time Mick Harris quit the band (1991, after that record) that was when I sort of moved away,” and it seems like those bands from that era that have stuck with Steer are few and far between.
“As far as what people tend to call ‘extreme music’ I still like the same influences we had in the beginning, the same three or four names; bands like Death, Repulsion and Master,” he tells me, but even then he’s not big on the follow-up, “As for the way that genre developed, I haven’t found anything interesting in particular. Now and again you hear something and you think the band is quite good, quite proficient, but as for weather it’s something I’d listen to at home or do with (Carcass)? Probably not. …It’s safe to say that neither Jeff or myself are really fans of a lot of what’s going on.”
Last time Carcass toured Australia was in 2008, as part of their reunion tour, and, as much as this was a monumental and unexpected event for fans, it was a time when the band’s future seemed again to be uncertain.
“In the initial reunion phase of the band (recording a new album) wasn’t even an option, because we had Michael Amott and Daniel Erlandsson on board, from Arch Enemy, and because of their priorities elsewhere they just wouldn’t even entertain the idea of making new music. So the subject was closed down really, really quickly,” but it was always a priority for Steer.
“I always thought ‘we’ve got this far, we’re playing again, why would you not want to create music?’” he says, “Around 2010, or whenever it was, Michael stepped out of the band and I was talking to Jeff and I, if we wanted to continue, could do whatever we wanted to from then on.”
“Whatever we wanted” turned out to be 2013’s lauded Surgical Steel, and it won’t be the last we hear from Carcass either. “Daniel (Wilding), our drummer (also of Trigger The Bloodshed, presumably one of those more “authentic” and “proficient” bands Steer has come across) and myself have got together a few times and slammed through some tunes,” says Steer, “It’s very early days but we have every intention of making a new album.”
April 16th – Perth, Capitol, 18+
April 17th – Melbourne, Prince Bandroom, 18+
April 18th – Sydney, The Factory Theatre, 18+
April 19th – Brisbane, The Hifi, 18+
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