JEFF WALKER UND DIE FLüFFERS
TARTAREAN DESIRE WEBZINE
This interview with Jeff Walker of Jeff Walker und die Flüffers was done face to face by Audrey Dujardin on July 2nd, 2006.
After a busy career being the singer and bassist in Carcass, designing the famous cover artwork for the Napalm Death album ‘Scum’, appearing in a television series, performing with Brujeria and with the finnish grindcore formation To Separate the Flesh from the Bones, Jeff Walker returns with a fresh new concept: Jeff Walker und die Flüffers. This project, coordinated by Jeff Walker is nothing else than a pot-pourri of covered country songs performed by artists and friends, most of which have carved the face of metal as we know it. Performers include members of Napalm Death, Finntroll, Amorphis, HIM, Anathema, Carcass, etc. With such an atypical line-up, I asked Jeff Walker to answer a few questions about the making of the record and the future of the project, in Kaisaniemi park, outside of the 2006 Tuska Festival in Helsinki.
Hi Jeff! First of all, I’d like to know where the idea came from to do this record in the first place?
I dunno… I just was on a country trip, watched a few documentaries, went onto a Gram Parsons trip, that kind of thing, just thought those guys are really cool.. You know something more than just being in bands, playing… I guess I wanted to pay tribute to what they were doing…Yeah, it was from a couple years ago, I watched a couple documentaries and just thought that I’d like to do a heavy album, not do metal. That thing is so cliché and boring… I just wanted to do something new with it so… I thought I’m going to take their songs and try to make them heavy and update them… But I don’t think it turned out like that but that was the original plan.
Well was it a joke thing or a serious project?
I don’t know why people think it’s a joke, I mean … is it that bad that some people think it’s funny? It’s not irreverent. It’s not meant to be NGWK album or anything. It’s tongue in cheek but it’s not paying any disrespect to the initial artists or songs you know? I think that people think that because the cover is a cartoon that I must be funny and hahaha… there’s humor in it, but there’s a lot more dark undertones than people would imagine though. I mean even the cover. The character’s Cherry from an American sex comic so it’s not just some cute thing you know…
Well I was thinking that people might think it’s not a serious project because of your previous activities …(Carcass)
People should never take me seriously! What’s so serious about Carcass?
Well people might have expected it to sound like Carcass…
People shouldn’t expect anything. I haven’t done anything for 10 years I mean…. How long does it take for people to forget, you know? I mean Carcass’s last show was in 1994 so that’s 13 years ago isn’t it? Maybe people should expect that I’m always going to do what I want to do, you know. That might piss people off. I knew this would piss people off. I haven’t done it intentionally to piss people off… But you got to turn on a few toes it’s tough, you know. You can only please yourself. Because yeah if I wanted to please everyone, I’d just be in some band that sounds like the first couple Carcass album, now wouldn’t I ?
Haha that’s true. Now how long did it take you to put everything together, from A to Z?
Err, 11 months. We started to record it in August 2003, and we finished last September. No August to August, it was nearly a year. But it was done on and off coming to Helsinki so it took that long only because there’s a long gap in between the sessions. I think in real time it was probably 3 weeks. But I was doing it every time I was travelling to do shows with To Separate the Flesh [From the Bones]. Actually any time someone would pay for my plane ticket! So we’d do a show and then we’d work on it.
How did you convince everybody to take part in it? I mean I heard that no one got paid for taking part…
Well it wasn’t about money! Obviously I asked people who would want to do it out of … some kind of respect! I mean you know, some people who seemed to like me and maybe I just asked some people until they go so annoyed that they just agreed to do it rather than tell me to fuck off !… [laughs]
Did anyone refuse to take part?
Well yeah. Lee from Cathedral. He didn’t really refuse he just kind of never made any time to do it. And then when it was finished he just said he never wanted to do it but he never told me he wasn’t going to do it… Well he told me ‘I don’t want to do it’, but I thought he was joking. And then other friends told me he was going to do it so.. there are a couple people more like Mike Patton, he just wasn’t interested. And even Björk … I did a remix of her years ago so I thought she owed me a favour but…Obviously not, you know! [laughs]
Now let me go back to the making of the record. Now since the record is made of bits and pieces of different songs all with different people, I was really surprised when I listened to the record to see how coherent it was. I knew ahead of time how it was recorded and that so many people were involved and that there were many different recording sessions and I was expecting every song to sound different and incongruent one to the next… And I was surprised to see that it was really smooth altogether. So how did you manage to do that?
Well the original session was the drums, the rhythm guitars, some keyboards… I mean the first session that we did was maybe 60% of the record… All the drums were done at the same time, all the rhythm guitars, so most of the people that played on it was mainly overdubs. The main crops of the songs were done in one session so basically everyone just came in maybe to play bass or do vocals, they were doing that on what was already recorded so… That’s why it sounds smooth.
So you did the mixing? I can’t remember….
Yeah, me and Santeri Kallio from Amorphis. Obviously he was the main guy doing the mix but [I had a part in it too].
I’ve told you before that I heard that some metal magazines refuse to review your record because it’s not metal enough….
That’s fair enough! It was never meant for those magazines anyway.
So do you think that you should send promos to people who may not know you, more mainstream magazines maybe?
Yeah, I mean I’d like to cross over to that kind of audience… I don’t think they’re going to get it either.. You know it’s a difficult thing, it’s not to everyone’s taste. I mean let’s face it, people who are into real country music, country rock, they’re not going to like it because it’s too nasty sounding and obviously it’s not a metal album… So it’s for people who have got an open mind.. People of my generation.. I mean I’m 37 and I still like metal but I also like a lot of different things, so it’s for people who maybe have grown up a bit; and don’t have this mentality of being a 17 year old metal head, you know? Who all they can listen to is extreme metal. It’s not for that audience. They will probably catch up in 20 year’s time and listen to it!
You were the mastermind for this project, but did anyone ever give you suggestions like ‘maybe we should do this, or maybe we should cover that’?
Yeah.. The songs are all my decision but the actually recording and playing and what we did there was a lot of input from Gas [HIM], Tomi and Bill [Steer, Carcass] or Ville [Valo, HIM]… you know it’s kind of … everyone walked into the room and added something to it. I never really had to tell people what to do. With a basic drum track and a guitar, Tomi and Gas, they really clocked into it, you know? They really understood what I wanted them to do . It wasn’t very torturous, it was very easy. I just say ‘do this at the speed of Trouble or Candlemass’ and they just did you know? Like ‘oh we’ll do this in the style of Trouble’ and ‘Black Sabbath speed’ they understood instinctively what I was trying to do.
So is there an official ‘Jeff Walker Band’ thing or is it just for the record?
Just for the record. I mean, I talked to Tomi and Sante, I’ve asked them before would they play live and they said yeah, so… I can imagine if we ever do shows it would be … I’m sure if it ever happened - and I’m not sure it ever will – but I’d imagine that it would be Tomi [Amorphis], Nicke [Hellacopters] , Sante [Amorphis], I’m not sure about the drummer, I’m not sure if Gas [HIM, To Separate the Flesh from the Bones] would be free to do it, I dunno if he’d want to do it, I know Danny from Anathema would do it. I think I’d be quite an interesting band you know?
So why are there live dates on your myspace?
That’s for Brujeria.
Oh… Well that’s not clear.
Because no one reads! [laughs] people are so fucking lazy! If you click on it it says who I’m playing with! [laughs]
Well it’s the Jeff Walker und die Flüffer’s page with your songs playing in the background, so you’d expect the live dates to be related to that!
Well that’s my page, for me! It’s related to whatever I’m doing…
How did you get in touch with everyone in Helsinki? I mean even before To Separate the Flesh? How did that all happen?
Well I met Gas through Ville [Valo] and then Gas used to be in a band with Tomi and Nicke so we became good friends. And they’re on the To Separate the Flesh from the Bones album I guess just from knowing Ewo… I mean Helsinki’s so small and incestuous anyway, I mean everyone’s in each other’s bands and everyone’s fucked the same girls! [laughs] You know what I mean, it’s like a really small town, everyone knows each other anyway you know?
But there’s not much competition or whatever, all the bands seem to get along so… If you need someone to play something, someone always knows someone who can do it….
Is it deliberate that there is only Shane from Napalm [Death] on the record? Do you have a special relationship with Shane, or what?
Well I did that Napalm [Death] album didn’t I? so it thought he owed it… [laughs] the main reason all these people are on this record is because I’ve known them for most of my life… I’ve known Shane since I was maybe 16 years old! But he’s the only guys from Napalm that I could see fitting in on the record… Because I couldn’t imagine Barney doing any vocals, I didn’t need another drummer, didn’t need any more guitars…
It could have been interesting to hear Barney sing in a clean voice!
Yeah and he kind of entered at the time but I never figured he could do it, but I heard some of the new Napalm stuff and he’s doing clean vocals on that so I know he can!
Tell me know about your choice of a record label for this disc? [Cargo Records]
Because no one else was interested! Well there’s an American label, they’ve released it , but here I’ve done it myself because I couldn’t get any label be interested.
There’s no manager for this project?
Is there going to be another record?
Maybe. Because like I said earlier this album was meant to be a lot darker it’s turned out because everyone thinks it’s a comedy record. So maybe I want to do another one but make it a lot more dark and heavy and depressing…
Yeah some more of those songs, some original ones… But it’s not really a country album, is it, because some of the songs are, but….
Well it is!!
Well yeah, you’re American, aren’t ya!… [laughs] Maybe it’s the Eagles, gone death metal. Wait, the Eagles ARE death metal!
So when did it come out.. Was it May?
May yeah. In Europe.
So how’s it selling?
It’s alright ! it’s kind of seeping out, slowly.. I mean a lot of people don’t even know that it’s out, really! I mean I just met a guy from a French label and he’s asking me ‘well is it out yet’? And I was like ‘it’s been out for 2 months!’ A lot of people don’t know it’s out, a lot of people don’t care, I mean it’s selling. It’s done maybe like 30 000 in Europe now, which isn’t too bad, really, when you consider how hard it is to sell records nowadays, and for what it is as well… A lot of people aren’t going to like it anyway… It’s kind of slowly taking over, you know? It’s not flying off the shelves, but it’s not stopped selling yet so…
Well I think it’s the word of mouth mainly, and the reputation of Jeff Walker….
I would rather it be word of mouth, I think it’s cooler!
Still it was deliberate to use the word ‘Carcass’ in the title?
Yeah. But not as a cynical ploy to sell copies, that is a joke. As a joke Esa from Amorphis said ‘you should just call it Carcass’, but I said ‘come on that would be too cynical’. It’s more of a joke. I mean I can’t deny that I am Jeff Walker of Carcass!!
But I heard that you got censored or something in the USA…
Well they put a ‘Parental Advisory’ sticker on it… Because of the title.
Well that’s also publicity.
No it’s not. Everyone has a ‘Parental Advisory’ sticker on them in the States so… And also the American version doesn’t have the speech bubble on the back. They chopped that off too you know. It’s a bit gay you know…
Now can you tell me about your collaboration on the new Aborted record?
Well I haven’t done it yet. They asked me if I could do some vocals, whenever they do the album so I said ‘yeah’.
And did they come to you personally?
Email. But I’ve been in touch with those guys before….
So you’re going to Belgium to record it?
Belgium I think.. I think they said they are going to do it in October.. Why don’t you ask them? You should know, you’re on their video for fuck’s sake!
Well I wanted to ask you! I know that they’re pretty excited to have you and Barney [Greenway] on it….
Oh is Barney on it as well?
Yeah… That means I need to do an Aborted interview next… [laughs] So who did you enjoy working with most?
Hum, no one! [laughs] Well you know what I mean… All of it was enjoyable, nothing was painful. I think the first session in Helsinki was the most fun, when we were doing the drums because it was pretty spontaneous and Bill was there as well. It was cool, we were just drunk and stoned and doing it! And it’s great to watch Gas play and it’s also great to see the stuff coming together….
So why did you disguise his name into Pus Sypope, and Ville’s [Valo] name on the record?
Because they didn’t want to use their real names. I don’t think Ville was bothered really, I think it’s just a joke. And Gas… Well Gas is kind of really sensitive about these things… he would hate the idea that anyone bought it just because he’s playing on it… it’s cheesy. Like in America the ‘To Separate the Flesh from the Bones’ album came out with a big sticker saying ‘featuring members of HIM, Carcass and Cathedral’ and that really pissed him off , you know. He would say it’s gay. It’s true you know it’s stupid. It’s not going to sell more copies just because… well maybe it’s going to sell one copy but that stuff doesn’t work you know? Getting guest musicians on a record, to sell it? it doesn’t sell because of that.
I think some people still buy it because of that.
Not as many as people would imagine.
Now about Carcass, I keep hearing rumours of a tour… Someone is offering you guys a lot of money for you to come back and play.
Barney told me the other day that we’ve been offered a million dollars.
Yeah, I’d heard some insane things…
It’s all true!
Some English promoter….
It’s all true! Well if people think it’s true then one day we’ll get offered the money. [laughs] but so far no one has really made us an offer.
Well apart from the money, would you do it?
I dunno [mysterious voice]… Yeah. Maybe 2 years ago I wouldn’t have said that but now I would. I mean we never played these kind of shows so … it’s so big nowadays. I just realized the only people who are saying ‘don’t do it’, are me and Bill. The fans, they want to see it… Mike from Arch Enemy… he’s always going on about it but now he seems pretty serious about trying to get Bill to do it so…Obviously Ken can’t, but I’d like to do it to raise money for Ken, to give him a cut of the profits…
Now my last question is: did you actually rehearse before you sang ‘Rocky Mountain High’? because it sounds horrible.
No. Can’t you tell? [laughs] it’s not as bad as you make it out to be, I mean people like that song!
Yeah well you really killed it!
Hehe I want to hear YOU sing that.
Well I can! It just sounds like the Pogues, really.
I know, what’s wrong with that? I like the Pogues !
Okay well is there anything that I forgot to ask you?
No that’s it! Horray, we’re done! Thank you for the interview.
Thanks to Jeff for taking time off the festival for me to give him a hard time!
Links of interest:
Jeff Walker @ Myspace.com