Revolver has teamed with Carcass for an exclusive white vinyl variant of their new album, Torn Arteries. It's limited to 500 — get yours before they're gone!
Whether culturally, artistically or politically, it's not unfair to say that the music we listen to often makes a profound imprint on us and how we live our lives. That's how it was for Carcass bassist-vocalist Jeff Walker when he was an impressionable, pre-teen punk fan growing up in Liverpool, England.
Through the grimy lens of early Eighties anarcho-punk bands like Crass, the young Walker started going to anti-nuclear demonstrations; the outwardly vegetarian stance he absorbed through Flux of Pink Indians records put him on the path to a cruelty-free lifestyle; the pointed, anti-authoritarian ferocity of U.S. hardcore aggressors Millions of Dead Cops greatly influenced the direction of Walker's early work with Electro Hippies, a crusty band that ultimately connected him with future Carcass bandmate Bill Steer. The impact of punk on Walker's life is quantifiable. Nevertheless, the musician is still more than a little confounded at how bands of literal strangers shaped his mind with sometimes little more than three chords and a thought-provoking chorus.
"It's kind of bizarre to admit that you've been influenced by a piece of bloody plastic, you know?" Walker says with a laugh. "To get your politics [from music]? But, culturally, records had a huge impact on my generation, because we didn't have as many distractions as we have nowadays. Music was obviously a large part of my life — and most teenagers' lives — because there wasn't that much going on."
Carcass has undoubtedly had a hand in shaping generations of metalheads, too. For some, the appeal is perhaps strictly sonic — whether they're gravitating to the early, primal grind of 1988's Reek of Putrefaction, or the melodic, yet texturally mordant death metal of "Kelly's Meat Emporium" from the band's forthcoming new full-length Torn Arteries. For others, Walker's mixture of surgical textbook narratives and viscous, meat-rending wordplay (sample "Intenacious, intersecting/Reaving fats from corporal griskin" from "Incarnated Solvent Abuse" as one of myriad examples) has had long-lasting implications.
"I've met people who have become doctors, pathologists, or veterinarians — or have stopped eating meat — after listening to Carcass," Walker explained to Revolver.
While somewhat hesitant at highlighting hits from his youth ("I'm not encouraging people to go out and listen to these albums," he says, "because in all honesty I probably haven't listened to some of these for 20-30 years"), Walker nevertheless reminisced on some of the more hardcore elements of his musical upbringing.
This is such a lazy cliché, I'd guess. I think I was nine or 10 when I heard this, which may sound great, but that doesn't mean I was listening to it in the summer of '77. It was more like 1979, 1980. We're talking a few years after ground zero, but I was at an age where my mind was very fertile. It had an impact.
It's such a great rock & roll record. Sonically, it's still fantastic. To put it into context, my brother and I used to share our record collection, because we were pretty broke as a family. We didn't have money to spend on albums. The only albums I can remember prior to this would've been maybe Kiss' Alive II, Dynasty by Kiss, and the Peter Criss solo album. When you hear Bollocks compared to that, it's like a tank. It was so powerful. It really made me want to be in a band and play guitar like Steve Jones.
For me, that album was brushing away the old guard. It pushed me in that direction of more exciting music, I'd say.
It's not a very rock & roll record; it's weird! The drumming is jazzy and militaristic. I can remember that when I first heard it, I thought it was crap. "These guys are just trying to be punk by constantly swearing!" But then, obviously, I read the lyrics.
I totally bought into the kind of world that they put across. I got into that kind of a cult by getting into Crass — the whole anarcho thing and wearing black. They had a dark, overpowering shadow upon my teenage life. Nowadays, it's totally irrelevant. Any kind of mythos has been totally swept away because I know more about the band, and have read more about it. I know that they're human beings! But at the time it was almost like a religious thing. Unless you were into that band then, you wouldn't understand what I was trying to say. It wasn't just a band and music — it was ideas. It had a definite impact on my politics.
I got involved in anti-nuclear stuff. And because of them, I got into other punk bands like the System. When I was 13, I got to meet people who were actually making records. I actually met [Crass vocalist] Steve Ignorant at the CND [Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament] rally in London. I think I've still got the flyer he was giving out that day. That was kind of cool, like you met someone famous. In all honesty, it just makes you realize how small the world is.
There's a Carcass link further down the line because Gee Vaucher, who did the artwork for Crass, did the painting for [1996's] Swansong.
I have to mention them because that was the first gig I went to. It would've been 1982; I would've been 12 or 13. That was a real [feat] to be that young and try to get into a gig at a club. You're underage; there's no way you're allowed in because of drinking [laws]. The funny thing is, I was hanging around outside and I remember one of the barmen coming out and going, "What are you doing here?" I told him about the gig, and he said, "There's no way you're coming in here, son." And then at the end of the night, some guy made me go to the bar to get him a drink, and the same barmen was at the bar, like, "Jesus Christ." I was so young, then. My mom had to come and pick me up. You know how embarrassing that is, your mother turning up in her slippers and dressing gown?
So the album's called Strive to Survive Causing the Least Suffering Possible, which is a very good philosophy to live by. What's important is that this is the band that explains why I stopped eating meat. I knew Crass was vegetarian, but they never made a big song and dance about it; they weren't trying to push it down anyone's throat. Credit to Flux of Pink Indians, they weren't either, but they were more overt about [vegetarianism]. They're probably the reason why I don't meat — which, again, that's a bit sad, isn't it? Being so influenced by a record?
They had an EP called Neu Smell, which was on Crass Records. Funnily enough, the songs themselves weren't [all] about [not] eating meat. I think it might've also had some sound effects from an abattoir.
The reason I have to pick MDC is because with the second real band I was in, the Electro Hippies, Simon, our drummer, was heavily influenced by this album. So was I! I could've mentioned Dirty Rotten Imbeciles, or Crucifix, but MDC was the massive influence on Electro Hippies. I sung in that band.
Being in Electro Hippies changed my life. It was the first band that I was in that I made a record with. It was because of this band that I got asked to play in Disattack, which Bill played guitar in. That kicked off the whole Carcass thing. It took me on this journey that I'm on now.
There's a lot of proto blast beats on that MDC record. If I went back to listen to it now, I'd probably realize they were not blast beats, but at the time it was an incredibly fast album. That was the direction I went in; I wanted to play in a band that played extremely fast.
This will probably start a debate and piss off some people. It might sound like heresy, because people aren't traditionally going to see Motörhead as a punk band, but I beg to differ. Kilmister never said Motörhead was a heavy-metal band! That guy was hanging around Covent Gardens [and the early London punk club the Roxy] around the same time as all the punks. He was friends with those guys. He always saw Motörhead as a rock & roll band.
Around the age of 12 or 13, I had a friend that bought all the Iron Maiden stuff, and Judas Priest. I loved the artwork and all that, but the only record I borrowed — the only album I bothered to copy or could get behind — was No Sleep 'til Hammersmith. I saw more of a punk ethos in what they were doing, you know? Motörhead obviously had a massive influence on punk itself — bands like Discharge; the d-beat, and all that.
I didn't have much time for people with long hair when I was that age. I've got long hair [now], or what's left it, but at that time I couldn't stand the denim and longhair thing. But Motörhead looked fucking cool in all black with the bullet belts. That period of Motörhead is classic. I don't consider it heavy metal. They have an influence on the music that I still play to this day.