Carlo Regadas (Monstrance, ex-Carcass) Overcomes Necrotized Organs, Cheats Death

For many, Carlo Regadas has largely elicited associations with the grossly polarizing, literal swansong of grind/death’s feudal lords, Carcass, via his role as second guitarist in place of the recently departed Michael Amott. What many punters couldn’t help but to appreciate—regardless of their antipathy for the release—was the overt sophistication of Regada’s attack despite the seeming liability of his youth. As a mere teenager, Carlo—along with longstanding ally/abettor Tony Glover—had already captained grimy death metal host Devoid through a short lived but notable term, (their full length album, supplemented by two demo recordings has recently been rereleased by Dark Blasphemies Records,) well before he’d ever reeked of putrefaction. Shifting gears smoothly to post-Carcass syndicate Blackstar, Carlo had found himself at a tipping point that should have neatly deposited him into the fraternal order of guitar heroes. Everything was in its place, the stars were properly coordinated; he’d ‘made it.’ But that’s not how this story goes. Rather, this chronicle happens to contain an unexpected seventeen year intermission between acts. And though the narrative ultimately leads us to Carlo’s current outfit, the killer, unassuming supergroup Monstrance, its arc is startling, harrowing and profoundly stirring.

A question ladies and gentlemen: when witnessing the dissolution of your heart’s dearest aspirations; when thwarted by life-fucking illness and saddled by unfathomable physical pain; when staring down the mute, indifferent barrel of your own mortality, how do you respond? The choice for many is to concede and simply allow themselves to be eaten alive by bloody circumstance. Yeah, you can certainly do that. You can roll your eyes up to the ceiling above your punch-clock, your office desk or hospital gurney and meekly allow the last of your very marrow to be throttled from you. Or you can ask yourself yet another simple question: Goddamnit, what would Carlo do? The answer to that one’s found by sheer dent of Monstrance’s continued existence and your field-guide is the band’s debut EP, Injustice for All, due early September. You’ll find all the gory details below.

This interview’s been a long time coming and a whole, whole lot has changed in your life in the last year. Can you sum that up?
Yeah, basically I got rushed into hospital in early September… it was September the 3rd [2017]. I’d been sort of… I knew I wasn’t well for a few months. I couldn’t put my finger on it but it was a typical male thing, you know? It was something I ignored or just presumed would go away but it started to get worse and worse. And then on that 3rd of September I basically collapsed on the floor and that was essentially the moment when the ‘light’ went out on my pancreas. It stopped working, so it was basically, you know, the stopwatch starts then; you’re in serious trouble. You don’t get medical help, you’ll be dead in a short space of time.

So, I got taken in and it became [even more] apparent then that I was seriously ill. They found out that I had ‘necrotizing pancreatitis,’ which sounds like a Carcass song, but… [laughs]

It could be, yeah.
You know, what happened to me could provide Carcass with lyrics for the next 10 years. It was pretty horrific. My entire pancreas rotted or dissolved—’necrotized’ inside of me—and that immediately gives you problems; I became a diabetic instantly. I don’t make enzymes to digest my own food anymore so I have to take synthetic enzymes with everything that I eat. I had fifteen surgeries while I was in the hospital. Which…they were [ultimately] able to remove all of the necrotic material from inside my abdomen.

So, while I was in hospital, three-fifths of the band—well, one of them left before I went into hospital—but when I went into hospital, another two members decided that they couldn’t do it anymore either. It wasn’t a case of them not wanting to because they wanted to do it but they just couldn’t fit it into their lives logistically. It’s different when you’re in your forties compared to when you’re an eighteen year old and joining bands and you’ve got all this freedom… I realized that I would have to put a new lineup together, so I asked three people who I really respect and like very much and fortunately they all said yes. From there, I was able to get the two recording contracts—one with Transcending Records  for compact disc and digital release and one with Cosmic Key Creations handling the vinyl release. That’s for the Injustice for All EP, that’s going to be out in September [of 2018.]

That sort of brings you up to date. That’s a very brief version.

Sure. But in terms of your personal ability to perform: was that ever in question? I mean, how did you feel about the potential that you had to get back into the game, so to speak?
Well, we actually had a couple of gigs that were planned for October. As I said, I got sick in September and I was in hospital for four months, so obviously anything to do with the band was completely on hold. I was wired up to drips. I developed sepsis while I was in there as well. That was when, it was about 10 days, my organs were starting to shut down, one by one and it was looking a bit touch and go…

Holy shit, man…
Yeah, there were times that they thought that I wasn’t going to make it; a couple of the doctors actually implied that I wouldn’t. I remember when I had sepsis, I said to my mom, ‘If this is what the rest of my life’s going to be like, I don’t want to do it.’ I was vomiting approximately three liters of bile a day. It was just round the clock vomiting with a 40-degree plus fever. And of course I still had to have the surgeries while I was in that state. It was a hell of a battle, mate.

Obviously, when I started to feel slightly better, I was able to devote, you know, some of the little energy that I had to trying to put this new lineup together. But of course, the whole four months that I was in hospital and even at this very moment, I wouldn’t be playing live on stage. That’s definitely something that’s going to be later on this year. We’ve agreed as a band that we’re not going to be doing any shows until the EP’s been released. So September at the earliest…

But yeah, health-wise, I get tired very easily. Everyday things can be a bit of a struggle. On the whole though, I actually feel better in some ways than I did when I went into the hospital, given that there were months of basically building up to that serious illness.

When the band had to be rebuilt, was that done from your hospital bed or had you been released at that point?
That was done from my hospital bed.

That’s fucking amazing… So how do you manage that and how did you feel during that period of time, going through everything physically that you were going through?
To be honest, up until I started to show signs of improvement, the only focus of my family or my friend’s focus was on whether I was going to survive or not. That’s obviously the first and foremost…

Of course!
And, to be honest with you, if I hadn’t had the support that I had from family and friends, or my friends that cared about my music on Facebook…. I just had a lot of love and support. It gave me the strength to push through it, really. There were moments where it was definitely down to my own mindset, really. I was determined to push through it. And once I started to show signs of improvement, I thought, “Right, this is time where I’m going to address the lineup situation,” and I decided to put a shout out to Rik Simpson (vocals; also Austerymn.) I’d done a guest solo on his last album, [Sepulcrum Viventium.] He was the first person I thought of. And Rich [Mumford; bass; Godthrymm/ex-Malediction]. I’ve known Rich a long time through the scene. I also play in another band with him called Bastardised, which is sort of an old-styled hardcore punk kind of thing.

Cool man, I love classic hardcore. But I want to back up just a little bit because one thing that I think is really captivating about this portion of your story, and essentially what you’re living right now, is that you’d taken such a long hiatus after Blackstar [Rising]. You seemed to have lost interest in pursuing a musical career and then your friend Tony [Glover, vocals; ex-Monstrance; ex-Devoid,] encourages you, correct me if I’m wrong, to get back into the scene. You choose to do that, move your family back to Liverpool from the Canary Islands, very quickly become ill afterwords and then despite all the odds, essentially maintain an intense passion for pursuing this dream after letting go of it for so long… You maintain that level of passion and commitment and [re]assemble a band from the hospital. So… shit, I don’t really know what the question is! Can you just talk to me about that? Because I find this point really fascinating.
Hmm. Once Blackstar had gotten off the ground, it was fun for a while. There’s a lot of misinformation online that implies that Blackstar ended because Ken Owen (drummer; ex-Carcass) became ill; that’s not true. I actually left Blackstar and they chose to disband because I left. Then Ken got sick…

I’d just had enough of it. To be honest, the whole experience—Carcass going into Blackstar—I just didn’t want to do it anymore. You’re right: for 17 years, I think it was, I just wasn’t interested even one iota in it [playing in a band.] But first and foremost, I’m a guitar player. I’m a guitar nerd. I’ve played since I was seven years of age, so that’s, what, thirty-six years? Something like that. So, I’m always going to be a guitar player and throughout those seventeen years, I was still coming up with riffs and ideas and a lot of the time. My head’s just so full of music that I have to get it out by recording it so that… I don’t know, so that I can make space for more things, really. So these songs that are being used for Monstrance, I actually recorded them at home, sometime between 2005 and 2007. That was when Tony persuaded me after many years of saying, ‘You should do something with this material. It’s too good not to do something with it.’ So yeah, I decided… I mean, there were other people telling me that it was good. The likes of Nuclear Blast, Century Media, Metal Blade… For a long time I’d thought, “Oh yeah, it’s just okay,” you know?

So, I played music for many years myself; it’s something that I miss very much. But I remember at the time being exhausted by thoughts of loading out again, these late god-damned nights in a filthy bar somewhere, being trapped in a van with squabbling bandmates, oftentimes people you don’t trust… It’s easy to romanticize the memory but that was the reality. When you stepped out of the scene for that long and had decided that you were done with it, was it due to associations with all the irritating minutia I just mentioned?
Well, that’s certainly part of it. Going back: my son was born in 2001 and so I was bringing up a child and my priorities were elsewhere. I wouldn’t have gone on tour when he was young. It just wasn’t the right time in my life during that hiatus. And yeah, I became pretty disillusioned by the whole thing, really. Band politics, all that stuff… But it never detracted from my love of playing. That’s what it’s always been about for me. The most important thing for me boils down to the fact that I’m a guitar player and I like writing songs. At the age we all are now, there are a lot more things that have to be taken into consideration: people need to arrange for time off of work, people have kids. You can be a lot more free and easy when you don’t have kids…

Tony [Glover] successfully encourages you to get back into the game. You two have been very, very close for a long time… It really surprised me after all that that he would decide that he couldn’t follow through [with Monstrance] at this point. Was that difficult for you to wrap your head around given that he was such an integral part of your reemergence and such a close friend? For me that would be difficult to process emotionally.
It was. But mine and Tony’s friendship is more important than any of that stuff. I think I was fourteen when I met Tony as part of the local tape-trading hardcore scene. We’ve been best friends since we met. I could see that the band was becoming more and more difficult for Tony to be able to fit into his life. With his home life and his work life… traveling to and fro from rehearsals. I know him well enough… I could sense that it was becoming difficult but I also know that he cares about me too much to want to hurt my feelings. So, I approached him and said, “Are you having problems fitting this into your life?” I didn’t mind if he needed to step down; the friendship is always going to come first. Tony said that regretfully he didn’t have the time to commit to and put as much into it as he would like. But, the replacement [Rik Simpson] that we’ve chosen…we actually went to Rik’s home studio to record Tony’s original vocal tracks, so Tony thought that having Rik replace him was a great idea as well. Me and Tony are still best friends.

As for the rest of the guys: our former bassist, Aleksandar [Kokai], moved to London. He’s working as an architect down there so, again it’s simply a career/logistical thing there. And we had a guy called Jay Pipprell. He’s currently the drummer for Venom Prison.

I didn’t know that he’d ever been involved with Monstrance.
Yeah; he was helping us out on drums, just for rehearsal purposes. But he got the call from Venom Prison and of course we said, “Go for it; that’s great!” So, that basically left me and Steven Hargraves [on second guitar.] I was in my hospital bed one day and I thought, “Who can I ask? I need a singer, I need a bass player, I need a drummer. And they need to be three cool guys who I really get on with. Three guys who are great at what they do and, for lack of a better word, have a certain pedigree within the scene.”

So, you have an almost entirely revamped lineup now. Rik Simpson’s got a very distinctive approach, vocally. Almost like a more unhinged Chuck Schuldiner; I really enjoy it. In other interviews you’ve talked about the contrast between your melodic sensibilities and the extremity of the vocal delivery. I think Rik’s voice highlights that contrast even more than Tony’s did.
Well, I have a really good relationship with Gerardo Martinez from Nuclear Blast. I’ve been talking to him for a few years about where I see Monstrance going. I remember him and others attached to the label saying they could hear the music having this old, classic style, Chuck Schuldiner/Blessed are the Sick-era David Vincent approach. I know Rik has got a really powerful voice in the low and mid-ranges and I wanted to see how it would sound if we really pushed it, basically to give us a full palette to work with. [I don’t want the vocals] to be constantly in same register. You’ve heard it; the enunciation and articulation of the lyrics remains just as clear in any register he sings in. Rik’s got a really powerful delivery.

And again, that contrast plays so well off of your riffs, because you could absolutely have clean singing over much of your work right now. It would totally work but it wouldn’t provide that textural contrast. So you carry this classic metal flare while still appealing to an audience that tends towards more extreme fare.
I guess that [extreme style of] vocal delivery isn’t really shocking anymore. It’s still not the kind of thing you hear on mainstream radio or television but it’s largely been normalized. People have more or less accepted that it’s part of extreme music. In respect to Monstrance I’ll say that I don’t like the prefixes before the word metal anymore. Like ‘death metal’ into ‘melodic death metal’ or ‘melodo-death’ or whatever they want to call it. To me, it’s all metal. Call it whatever you want but to me… I guess Monstrance is ‘extreme metal.’ Really, the only things that we have in common with death metal are that our guitars are tuned down to B and we have these extreme vocals. If we were to tune all these songs up to E standard, it would sound like classic heavy metal.

When you went from Devoid to Carcass, your style seemed to change pretty dramatically, I assume to suit the sound that Carcass had adopted. That time seems like it was incredibly informative for you. Your playing style seems to have remained relatively consistent ever since. Do you agree with that?
I wouldn’t say that my style changed when I made that Devoid to Carcass switch. You know, I’ve been friends with Bill [Steer] since I was 14. I used to hang out at Bill’s house a lot in those times around Symphony of Sickness and Necroticism. Me and Bill were into exactly the same things guitar-wise. We were both into a lot of NWOBHM stuff, classic eighties stuff. We were hugely into the whole shred thing—Bill’s not remotely into it now but I still love it!

I guess when I joined Carcass, it was more about getting into a style of playing that I was really interested in and wanted to explore more anyway. I suppose it was just part of a gradual improvement as a guitar player and joining Carcass was just an opportunity to build on that.

And moving on into Blackstar, that quality remained but you could can hear those Regadas hallmarks, all these years later, whether it be how you approach composition or voice a riff. It’s almost like, in terms of the style that you want to express, it’s akin to that same bullheaded stubbornness that got you through this experience at the hospital and rebuilding your band from the ground up. I think your tenacity has probably served you very well.
Absolutely! I’m thinking back now to say ’96-’97 when we did the Blackstar album and it was right in the middle of the whole Machine Head, Pantera—whatever you want to call it—movement. It was huge then. What we were doing was completely out of step, musically speaking, with everything else that was going on at the time. It was all Machine Head, Pantera and post-grunge. Nobody wanted to listen to heavy metal anymore. It was laughed at and ridiculed at the time. We were told that metal riffs and guitar solos were done in 1997. I didn’t care because I play guitar a certain way. I’m not somebody who hops from genre to genre. Everything goes ’round in cycles though and it took a long time for ’80s metal and such to become de rigueur again. I’ve never stopped listening to the music I was brought up on—NWOBHM, classic ’80s metal and shred, punk and hardcore. I’ve never moved on and stayed stuck in that magical window from 1985-1992. I guess I have to wait for when the cycle comes back ’round each time to be hip again! Anyway, what we were doing with Blackstar was just the complete opposite of what people were looking for at the time. It was a heavy metal album with screaming guitar solos. [laughs]

Yeah it was!
But that’s my grounding. That’s where I’ve come from. I’ve not listened to that much new music since ’92, ’93 or so.

Jesus! A lot’s happened since then, you know…
[laughs] Well, metal is bigger than it’s ever been but I feel that a lot of the quality has been very mediocre in the last twenty or so years. Good riffs disappeared and metal is about riffs! Syncopated chugging on an open E string isn’t a riff to me, it’s a pattern. It leaves me cold, really. I want to bring back a much-needed return to good riffs and not being quantized to death and having the life ‘Pro Tooled’ out of it; essentially wringing it of all the stuff that makes metal good and exciting to me. Occasionally there might be something new that floats my boat but it doesn’t happen often.

Well, I can’t really see a time where the style you’re describing won’t be relevant. Certainly spells where its less appreciated but that always passes.
I could never adapt to trends because it’s just not who I am as a musician or a songwriter. It wouldn’t be honest of me to do anything else. I play what comes naturally to me. Maybe it’s not the most original thing on the planet but it’s something I’m drawn to do and I feel comfortable doing it.

The Monstrance material that I’ve been able to hear is really banging stuff and also incredibly well recorded, especially when you consider that much of it was recorded as a demo…
Well the irony with that is that everything you’re hearing, barring the vocals, I recorded on my computer sometime between ’05 and ’07.

That blows my mind!
Well, when I was recording those demos, I had no experience with recording demos. I’ve had some people tell me that the recording sounds as good as some people’s albums and I’m thinking, ‘I did that with the cheapest equipment that I have in my house and no experience using it; just winging my way through it.’ But I’ve always said -and this is not to sound arrogant- ‘You can’t buy a good set of ears. You’ve either got a good pair or you haven’t.’ If people think those demos sound good, wait till they hear what it sounds like recorded professionally with a full band. I’m excited to hear that myself!

Alright, I wasn’t entirely aware of this element. So what you’re saying is that the demos I’ve been able to check out are essentially fleshed-out recordings that you were doing on your own, not really thinking that anything was going to happen with them? I was under the impression that what I was hearing were re-recordings…
Yeah, that’s pretty much correct. I got a new piece of equipment, I think it was around 2006, and one of the songs [on the demo] I actually wrote, on a Boxing Day morning in about half an hour just to try out this new equipment. Songwriting’s not something that I’ve ever struggled with. But yeah, these songs were never intended for any band or even for anyone else to hear them. At the time, it was just something I felt compelled to do because, like I said, I have these ideas. [Recording] was just a way to download them from my brain onto another format but they were never meant for anything else. I decided to dust them off all these years later when Tony finally persuaded me to change my mind.

Damn, that’s something that I’m grateful for as well: that Tony was so adamant that you get drawn back into the scene. And then life took this complete U-turn on you and tried to cut your legs out from under you and you didn’t allow it to happen.

And on top of it, your music happens to be really fucking good. You know? It’d be inspiring and a cool story even if Monstrance wasn’t so enticing but it sounds great, dude! It sounds timeless. So in terms of recording and releasing the debut EP itself… what’s the time-frame there?
The release is set for September. That was the earliest time that both labels had a window that would sync up. And sometime in July, we’ll be recording the songs. Our drummer Dan Mullins (ex-My Dying Bride, ex-Bal-Sagoth) has access to Academy Studios (Paradise Lost, Anathema, My Dying Bride). It’s a Peaceville Records connection.

That’s got to be pretty exciting to be staring down the barrel of recording again in an actual studio after all these years. It’s been a long time since you’ve been in that environment, right?
I can’t fucking wait! I love being in the studio. I love playing live. I haven’t done it since 1997!

Getting into the studio for me is what it’s all about. I see going into the studio as the ultimate challenge and I like to challenge myself. A lot of people hate the laborious nature of stacking up rhythm guitars and such. I love the whole process. Just hearing something built from nothing… I’m really looking forward to it.

I bet. So what about playing out? What are the immediate plans?
Like I said, we did have a couple of gigs that were planned for sometime in the summer but we’ve all had to make an agreement between us that it’s probably best to wait until some time after we release the EP. It gives me a bit longer to recover.

So, are you physically able to play right now? Not on stage. I mean at home. Can you plug your guitar into your amp and…
Oh yeah, yeah. Nothing would stop me doing that! [Laughs] I jam with my girlfriend because she plays guitar as well. It keeps my chops up. That’s something I’ve always done and it’s something I always will do. When I was incapacitated and simply couldn’t, it was… difficult. Often, when I was in the hospital, I was dying to play guitar. That’s who I am.

In terms of playing live, what do you foresee in regards to the precautions that you have to take at this point in your life in order to deal with the rigors of travel and slogging through a set?
Oh, that’s a good question. Umm… I think if it was a case of having to do what I was doing at sixteen/seventeen years of age, through the length and breadth of the U.K. in a transit van, in ridiculous temperatures… could I do that at my age after what’s happened to me? I don’t think I could endure something as rigorous as that. With being a diabetic and all, you have to be careful with these sorts of things.

Keeping your insulin at the proper temperature…
Exactly. Going out on the road, I’d have to make sure that all of my medications are with me. I take a lot of tablets each day. But I never see these sorts of things as obstacles. It’s just a different regimen. I’m a strong natured person.

Yeah, no shit!
I can’t really picture it being a problem. I do get tired very easily at the moment but everything’s gradually getting better.

What does that regimen entail? In terms of getting your fitness and your endurance back up…
To be honest, it’s more of a waiting game as opposed to it being some kind of fitness program. I wouldn’t really be able to do that right now. I was told by the doctors that it would take anywhere from six months to a year to get back to… Well, honestly, I wasn’t in such great shape in the first place! [laughs] I smoked and drank too much. But I can feel things getting back to where they were and I’m coming to understand the diabetes better. It’s a big change, especially in middle age. It basically flips your life upside down.

I smoke a lot of weed as well, so I tend to forget stuff. And considering that I have to keep track of my injections and stuff, I have to be really on the ball!

Know what? Sometimes it’s good to forget. Sometimes it helps you get back up the next day and push the boulder back up the hill because you don’t remember how hard it was the first time. That axiom definitely doesn’t apply to your insulin though…
Sure! That’s how I live life in general. Every day’s a school day; there’s always something to learn. This is has been difficult you know, but I’ve shown myself a strength of character. I’ve proved it to myself.

Fuck yes, you have! Again, your tenacity is so impressive. There are no excuses for people who are just sitting on their hands, sitting on their dreams after hearing your story and knowing that you’re continuing to soldier on. It’s like that Winston Churchill quote: “When you’re going through hell, keep going,” you know? You don’t double back at that point, you have to keep marching forward.
Absolutely, thats all you can do. If you have a negative mind-frame, you’re never going to achieve anything. If you don’t have a positive outlook, there’s no point even bothering with the competition.

As of the time of this writing Monstrance are in the studio and have committed to performing at 2019’s Eradication Festival in Wales.