Carcass vocalist and bassist Jeff Walker turns 45 this month. And after returning last September with Surgical Steel, the U.K. grindcore outfit's first album in 17 years, he offers a blunt explanation for his return to the spotlight.
"I have no wife. No kids. And maybe that's why I make interesting music," explains Walker. "Because people who are married with kids and who are rich don't normally make interesting music — they don't have that drive, I think. They get too comfortable, they lose track of what propels them, what motivated them in the first place."
Walker learned these lessons first-hand, by punching the clock with the British government after Carcass disbanded back in 1995. He won't reveal which branch — it's classified, he says, half-jokingly — but it was a posh office job that had no dress code and required zero contact with the public.
"I could go in in a Slayer T-shirt if I wanted," he explains. "You could do a week's worth of work in an hour, and then spend the rest of the week just going to the pub. It was like being at school and then just playing truant all the time and then trying not to get caught by the teacher. And even if you were caught, they couldn't sack you anyway because it was civil service!"
Carcass tentatively re-formed in 2007 for random festival dates. "I'd bugger off to Bogota on the weekend, play for 100,000 people, and be back in the office by Monday, and no one was ever the wiser. But I realized my life was in a rut when I wasn't in a band, just doing the 9-to-5 thing," says Walker. "It was nicer to be onstage, playing to a few hundred, or possibly a few thousand, people than it was to sit in a fucking office, doing some shit job, like a drone."
Carcass launched in 1985 and was initially linked with the cutting-edge Earache Records scene that included fellow iconoclasts (and often tourmates) like Godflesh, Bolt Thrower, and Napalm Death. But theirs was an unusual approach, part melodic speed metal, part gruesome, medically inspired lyrics on anthems like "Reek of Putrefaction" and "Embryonic Necropsy and Devourment."
Surgical Steel picks up the same sonic scalpel, with "A Congealed Clot of Blood," "Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System," and the especially snarly "Unfit for Human Consumption."
Walker chuckles, recalling the early apocryphal stories surrounding Carcass, which they didn't exactly dispel — that the members were all, in fact, failed medical students who'd found a new channel for their intricate knowledge of human anatomy.
"That was made up by a journalist who wrote for NME or Sounds," he swears. "And it kind of got out of hand. It was an urban myth that ran off with itself, and I guess we were never clever enough to exploit that. But it sounds better than the fact that we're just ill-educated fuckwits, doesn't it?"