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Jeff Walker und die Flüffers

Jeff Walker is terug van weggeweest! De voormalige frontman / bassist van de legendarische Britse grindcore band Carcass was het afgelopen jaar al met Napalm Death, Brujeria en To Separate Flesh From The Bones op het planken geklommen, en bracht onlangs zijn eerste solo album uit, met country en blues covers… uitgerekend!

Door: Dennis | Archiveer onder death metal / grindcore

The last album that Walker recorded dates back to 1997 when he formed Blackstar out of the ashes of Carcass, which featured drummer Ken Owen, guitarist Carlo Regadas and Cathedral bassist Mark Griffiths (who used to be a roadie for Carcass) on guitars. Blackstar only recorded one album, 'Barbed Wired Soul' and then disbanded. What have you been doing in the meanwhile?
I guess I thought I had retired, I mean the problem with Blackstar was it kind of imploded. I was burnt out, tired of trying to hold the band together. I guess I have a strong put personality and always felt as if I had to carry a lot of weight. To a certain extent I retired, I just figured that there was nothing more left to do with the bands I've been involved with. The fun had gone I guess, and I kind of took a sabbatical and stepped away from it. Recharged my batteries.

I was actually a little bit surprised when you joined Napalm Death on stage during their cd presentation for "The Code Is Red, Long Live The Code", at the Club Matrix in Bochum in January 2005.
I think a lot of people where surprised, they where certainly expecting Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys) or Jamey Jasta (Hatebreed) haha (who also contributed to Napalm Death's most recent album –ed.). I was the baby prize haha.

Was this also the first time that you were back on stage again?
The first band I was back on stage with was H.I.M. the other year. They were doing a Halloween show and they played the beginning riff of 'Ruptured in Purulence', so I walked on stage, gargled and walked off again haha. Yeah, it was quite an introduction being on stage in front of 3,000 goth kids. And even before that I had done a couple of gigs with To Separate Flesh From The Bones, so I have been on stage before the show with Napalm Death.

To Separate Flesh The Bones is another Finnish band with guys from Amorphis if I am not mistaken?
Yeah, that's with Pasi (Koskinen), their ex-singer and Nic (Etelavuori) and Gas (Lipstick) who plays with H.I.M. To Separate Flesh From The Bones sounds like a hybrid of Carcass and Napalm Death and maybe S.O.D. or Misfits, that kind of catchy thing. They are really good at what they do, but obviously there's a million grindcore bands out there that are just boring, doing nothing interesting. Good music is still good music. I was just listening to 'Shift' by Nasum on the way home and that's a really good album, so yeah, there is some good stuff out there.

You seem to be hanging out a lot with all these Finnish musicians. Where does this connection between you and these Finnish musicians come from?
It's a strange one, we are friends, we played some gigs and one time we had some drinks in a bar and I said “if you want any help in the studio I'll come with you”. So he (Gas) bought me a plane ticket, went over there and met a lot of cool people and I ended up recording the album there. I have been there quite a lot last year actually. And unfortunately, I still can't speak Finnish, it's too complicated haha.

'Welcome To Carcass Cuntry' is your first solo album. How did you get the idea of releasing a solo album? And moreover, a an album full of country and blues songs?
Well, I have never really bumped into musicians again that I could be in a band with, to a certain extent, back in the UK. So I couldn't see myself getting a band together you know, advertising, trying to hang out with people I don't know. For me being in a band is all about being able to get on with people, having a good time, having fun, having a laugh. I saw this as a project that I could do, and take control of and see through. To be honest, the idea of doing a solo album is a joke, to a certain extent. I am not very artistically, it's more kind of tongue and cheek, it's kind of who the fuck do I think I am, you know, and that's the irony. I mean, originally the project was going to have a band name, but in the end it's much more funny to say it's a solo album, because I guess, ultimately it is. It's what I wanted to do, I picked the songs and asked people to play on it. I was really into some country stuff and I thought some of it would really lend itself to be done in a kind of, for lack of a better term, metal style, in a kind of Trouble, Black Sabbath kind of thing. Because I wanted to do a really miserable album, like the first Cathedral record and I really love Trouble, so I wanted something really soulful and morose and something with a lot of pathos, and I think a lot of the old classic country songs have a lot of soul to them. I thought it was kind of a neat idea, so that was it really. And then I got a message from Lee from Cathedral saying that Ville Valo from H.I.M. was asking whatever happened to me. There was talk at one point that maybe we would do a band together or so. I remember I made a joke, “well if it doesn't sound like country done in the style of Trouble or Electric Light Orchestra then let's not bother”. I mean that was a joke. And the funny thing is, it just sounds like it, it's kind of a hybrid of that kind of stuff. Funny how it turned out.

band imageHow did you pick the songs for the album?
Some of them I wanted to do as in 'You're Still On My Mind' and 'I Can't Help It If I'm Still In Love With You', but originally when I went to Helsinki I thought the recording would just be used as a demo or something, but some of the stuff we were recording we were kind of forging ahead without stopping and I just took songs that I love or my girlfriend loves or other people like. Again, it had nothing to do with thought or trying to be cool, I could have picked the really obscure country songs, to be like really cool. But these songs are quite popular and well known and it was also important whether it would work or not. For example the songs 'I Just Dropped In To See What Condition My Condition Was In', the original is kinda very bizarre, off the wall, it's not even country at all. I was in Helsinki wondering how the hell could we do this song, and it just kind of came to me. Yeah, we'll do it Candlemass speed. It was a real organic process, it wasn't that well planned or thought out. Literally, I was here in England on a Saturday and thought “Fuck it, I am going to go to Helsinki and do it”, I called Gas and he was free, so I was on the plane to Helsinki on Monday, it was as simple as that.

You have used a couple of high profile musicians to record the songs on the album. How did you get the guys from Amorphis and H.I.M. involved in this project?
I had to pay thousands of dollars haha. No, I mean anyone that's involved in the record is because I know them. It's just people I bumped into, you know, like the Anathema guys, I know them anyway and I live close to them, the Amorphis guys I just really got along with, and Gas, I met him when he was doing To Separate Flesh From The Bones and I asked him and he seemed keen to play. So it's was just a lot of chance, a little bit of luck and a little bit of me and my charm and general persuasion and blackmail. You know, there's not anyone on the album I don't actually know or have not known from years ago. Like Nicke from the Hellacopters, I mean, I know him from when he played in Entombed, and the guys from Paradise Lost, again I've known them from years ago. I think at some point I just started thinking, from my generation of musicians, who could I ask to play. It's not an ego thing, it's not about selling records, I just figured, if this is the last record I will ever make, who would I like to play on it, you know.

Even though this is a solo album, you are not even playing the bass on this album…
Yeah, that's kind of a funny story. Gas told me that Nic from Amorphis really wanted to play on it and I was kind of stuck, because Jamie from Anathema was interested and obviously I wanted to play, and I was thinking “how am I going do this without upsetting anyone?” Luckily god sorted it out for me, my bass got broken on the way to Helsinki. So I said “fuck it, that's gods way of telling me not to play”, and I just let loose and let everyone else do it. I ended up playing acoustic guitar and pedal steel and some keyboards. In the end of the day it's like being a child in a sweetshop.

Did you practice before recording at all?
No we just went in straight, basically it turned up, started the tape. Nic suggested Tomi (Koivusaari) from Amorphis to play the guitar. I had never met Tomi before, so he came down and him and Gas really tore through the material. Gas was actually in the middle of practise with H.I.M., but he would come down and I played them the originals. I also had recorded the demos on a drum machine to give them an idea of the tempos. The most of the time I said “okay Gas, this is Candlemass speed, this is the speed of Black Sabbath, this is the speed of Trouble”. Those guys really clicked on to it really quickly, and that's impressive, because a lot of the songs they had never before. They had to get their heads around, me bullshitting them, it has to be played at a certain different tempo, or the arrangements had to be slightly different. It was great, it was a real organic fun way to record, very spontaneous.

Yeah, that's definitely what the album sounds like…
So you mean it sounds drunken and shambled hahaha? No, it's really organic. I mean for example, the soundtrack of the album really only came together at the last minute, because until Tomi put down the guitars into the database, the vocals and drums, that things really grew, you know. The arrangements and the ideas, it was basically people would come in, play and then make the songs, you know. I am really happy with the way things turned out. It could have been a complete disaster, but fortunately everyone who played is so professional. I've been very lucky.

The title “Welcome to Carcass Cuntry” clearly refers to some piece of death metal / grindocre history. Where did the idea come from of calling the album WtCC?
That's kind of a funny story, Esa from Amorphis was just joking, because Bill plays on it, and he kept saying it was a Carcass record. It was just a cynical joke. And then someone I worked with said I should call it 'Welcome to Carcass Country'. And I thought I'd change the word to 'cunt', make it somewhat more punkrock, so that's the way really. It was going to have a really serious title originally, it was meant to be a very miserable record, but the record turned out pretty kind of upbeat. Even with so many really slow, miserable and whiskey-soaked, depressing songs. But I think it sounds more like The Pogues, like beer drinking music.

Now that you mention beer drinking music, I think these songs would do really good when played in a pub!
Well yeah, that was the idea, to get a band together and play this stuff. If there would ever be a demand for it, I'd do it. It would be great, because I love the guys who play on this record and some of the guys have said they would do it, and it would be great. Maybe on a ferry between Sweden and Finland, that would be cool haha.

Cartoonist Larry Welz drew the cover of the album, are you a fan of his cartoons or how did he get involved?
The female character is Cherry, which is a character from an American adult sex comic. I wanted a kind of cool, kind of almost sexy canon cover. I just contacted the artist to see whether he was interested in doing it. I had an idea for the cover and I found a collection of his comics and I thought it would be cool and I've only been privileged in that. I wanted a sleeve that people want to buy even if they hate the music.

band imageWhat kind of people will buy the record, do you think?
I have no idea. At the end of the day all I can do is, do something to please myself. Even with the first Carcass album, at a time when we weren't really good. Back in the day, when we did the album, what was popular were these glam metal bands, you'd be a fool to come up with that shit if you wanted to be popular or do something commercial. But you can only go with the heart you know. So this record, who should buy it? I have no idea. I've done it to please myself.

What kind of media have paid attention to the album so far, mostly metal press?
Mostly, the alternative, rock and roll press. It's mostly rock at the moment, but I do get a big kick of looking on the internet and seeing the album listed on these American country and western websites, you know in these sales charts. It's not been released yet, but I doubt it will do well there haha. I am waiting to get sued to be honest haha.

Have you not asked permission to record these songs then?
Well technically you don't have to I guess, unless you change the arrangements a lot. But it doesn't really matter coz it's so under the radar…

You have most probably already read a couple of reviews for the album. How are the fans and press reacting on the album?
I've only seen two and I've read some of the reactions on Blabbermouth from some fourteen year old kids in the States saying it is gay haha, but that doesn't bother me. At the end of the day I am doing this to please myself and it's not a Carcass record. It's a record for people my age who still appreciate extreme music, but at the same time like all kind of music. The irony is, I am still involved in heavy shit, I mean I just came back from Mexico playing bass for Brujeria and I'm kind of still involved with To Separate The Flesh From The Bones. I am still involved with doing heavier shit, you know. But I just can't exist by recycling the same old stuff. I could go back to playing in the style of 'Reek of Putrefaction' and I could back to playing in the style of 'Heartwork'. I am very privileged in that every record that I've ever been on sounds completely different. I think there's a lot of bands out there whose albums all sound the same.

Yeah, there certainly is a huge difference between the first Carcass records and the last ones.
Yeah, someone who likes 'Swansong' is most probably not going to like 'Reek' and someone who likes 'Reek' probably hates 'Heartwork'.

But isn't that called natural progression?
Or regression.

What do you think of all the bands that are copying the old Carcass style?
It know it sounds really vague, but I don't care either way. I'm not flattered and think “oh look how great we were”. A lot of the bands nowadays play it a lot better, but you can't change the fact that we were doing it a long time ago already. It's definitely not an arrogant statement, I think it's just very hard, there's so many bands out there and so many record labels, kind of over polluted in a way, not like when I was younger. It's hard for bands to sound original, but I think it's great. I mean, it's still exciting that there are Carcass influenced bands out there. They do it so much better than we did anyway. I mean, take Medical Eximiners for example, it's pretty good stuff, to be honest, it's not original because obviously it is influenced by Carcass, but it's good and they are doing it so much better than we did back in the day. It's definitely better recorded. What can I say, it's cool.

How do you loop upon the metalscene nowadays? What bands do you listen to yourselves?
I knew you were gonna ask that one haha. Obviously it's bigger than ever you know, it's a lot more popular then when we were around. Is it any better than when I was younger? I don't know. I am older and jaded, I'd like to think I've seen it and done it all. That doesn't mean I still can get a kick of some bands like 1349, or Rotten Sound or Nasum and I listen to The Hellacopters and Amorphis as well. There is still some great stuff out there, but there is a lot of shit to be honest. I think there are too many labels, to many bands. It's horrible to say, I am not being an arrogant conceited bastard by saying that, but there's not a lot a lot of original stuff that's been done anymore. As far as musicians go, they are a lot better than my generation of musicians. You've got kids now who practise in their garage and they can do blastbeats without even breaking into a sweat. You know, drummers like Ken (Owen) or Mick Harris from Napalm Death they weren't perfect drummers, but they did cool in those days. But you've got to bring something unique to the table, you know. You can't force it of course, but one shouldn't spend so much time copying your favourite band, just take the best bits of it, I guess, but without being too obvious. But then again, look at my project, it's a stupid idea you know, country, downtuned, heavy rockbeats, but at least I've tried haha. If people think it's shit, so what? At least I've tried.

And it's different….
Yeah, I think that's the point you know. What would be the point of me trying to do another 'Heartwork'? That album is what it is.

You were out on tour with Brujeria earlier this year. How was it to hit the stages again after such a long time?
It was cool, it was probably the most rock n roll thing I've ever been involved with. It's really kind of spontaneous no bullshit grindcore. We just turn up, plug in and play and have a good time. It's not taken too seriously, but I mean we try our best. It's just fun and it's what I've been wanting to do for a long time, just play bass, stand in the back and just concentrate on playing.

Can we expect a new Brujeria album or tour soon?
Well, we just played in front of 20,000 people in Mexico and we haven't released an album in five years, so we should! It would be about time for another record yeah.

And what about your solo project, can we expect you to play this material live someday?
We'll see, I am open to doing whatever comes along you know. I am not in control with my destiny, I am not in charge of my own band at the moment. But if a promoter said, “would you like to come over to do a couple of gigs with this album”, then I would certainly try to get a band together and do it. But I really don't see a big demand for it.

Ever since Carcass split up ten years ago there were rumours about you guys reuniting. You have most probably also been offered a lot of money to perform at festivals like Wacken Open Air. I know that some of the reuniting bands that play there receive astronomical amounts of money. Are you waiting for the market value of Carcass to peak or is there really no chance that you are ever going to come together again as Carcass?
Some people have approached us yeah, and I mean, Wacken have approached us this year, but no money was mentioned. But I remember Barney from Napalm Death, telling me he had heard we had been offered a million dollar to do a show haha. I was also talking to our old agent and another agent someone said we could do an excellent amount of money for a gig and we were kind of “what the fuck!?”, you know. But, at the end of the day, Bill is doing Firebird now, he still plays. I mean, I like to think that we could do it again tomorrow, you know. But Bill is not really thrashing at his guitar no more. That doesn't mean he couldn't do it, but he's not been doing it for so long now, he would have to retrain some of the stuff. We'd never do it for the money though. Bill has got to believe in what he's doing, so that's probably one of the reasons why Carcass won't reform. He doesn't want to do it. And I am not going to spend the rest of my life trying to convince him to do it. And if we wait another five years we'll be too old haha.

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