The first time I attempted to contact Jeff Walker, he couldn’t come to the phone because he was vacuuming. I left him a message, quickly composing myself shortly after hearing his outgoing answering machine message, which was the George Costanza “Believe it or not, George isn’t at home” song. For someone who grew up as a death metal kid worshipping at the blood-stained altar of genre classics like Necroticism and Heartwork, my image of the then-former Carcass frontman was shattered pretty quickly. That was early 2002.
I’ve gotten to the now-current Carcass frontman pretty well over the past 17 years. I’ve been on the receiving end of countless cranky, acerbic, hilarious, generous and genuinely thoughtful comments and actions. So have so many others in the underground metal scene over the last three decades. A few of them are gathered here to share some of their favorite memories involving our birthday boy and to wish Jeff a happy Big 5-0!
But, me first: Happy birthday, Jeffers! I’m sorry Taco Bell doesn’t deliver to Liverpool, otherwise I’d hook you up!
Bill Steer: Carcass
It’s hard to know what to write about a man I have avoided working with for so many years. A man that strikes fear deep into the hearts of so many. Musicians, stage crew, audience members, promoters, airport check-in staff, rival frequent flyers—all have felt his wrath at one time or another. To the uninitiated, he cuts an intimidating figure. A man who, when in America, actively seeks out the food of Taco Bell. And claims to enjoy it. A man who will saunter through a blizzard in flip flops. A man who gave up listening to Crass because he found their message too uplifting.
Some might say that he’s a bit contrary, but he’d surely disagree with that. For those of us fortunate enough to know and love the reality of this man—rather than the myth—it can be stated unequivocally that he is a complex character and one should not be swayed by initial impressions. That’s what’s so beautiful about the great mysteries of our time. They can never really be solved, nor should they be. Happy 50th, JW!
Danny Lilker: Ex-Brutal Truth/Nuclear Assault
In 1992, on the Campaign for Musical Destruction U.S. tour with Napalm Death, Carcass, Cathedral and Brutal Truth, we played a theatre in Las Vegas that was owned by a Mormon. We were all told that there would be no drinking, smoking or swearing in the venue that night. We reluctantly agreed, knowing very well it would be impossible anyway, so Jeff took care of that little issue quite well. After their first song, Jeff said something like this: “All right! So, I’m told that it’s forbidden to drink, smoke or swear tonight! So hit that flask you snuck in, spark up a joint and let’s have a great fucking time!”
And that’s how you deal with being booked somewhere that just doesn’t make sense.
Ester Segarra: Photographer
There’s no one like Jeff. One minute you love him dearly, the next you want to punch him in the face… and I did! A few years ago, at the Black Heart in Camden Town, London, I randomly bumped into him and Tina Korhonen, a common friend and fellow photographer who had introduced us years ago. As usual he was trying to cause some mischief and rife about what was said and what had not been said, so I just said to him, “you deserve a slap!” To that he dared me, and I obliged: he got a slap, to which he answered, “Is that the best you can do?” It was not a good slap I must admit! But I know you are still smiling about it so here it is a good birthday slap! Happy Birthday, my friend!
Nick Holmes: Paradise Lost
One thing that springs to mind is that I recall seeing Carcass at Queens Hall Cellar Bar in Bradford, probably around 1990. Jeff used to take his shirt off in those days (didn’t we all?) and also his boots, He must have been worried they may get stolen, because I remember seeing his big crust punk biker boots neatly placed near the drum riser during the gig, as though he’d left them in a porch whilst visiting a friend’s house for dinner.
Scott Carlson: Repulsion
It sounds strange to say it, but I’m not sure where I’d be at the moment if Jeff hadn’t orchestrated the release of Repulsion’s aborted LP on Necrosis Records, three years after it was recorded. It opened some interesting, life altering doors for me that I’ll always be grateful for. So, in honor of his 50th year (godDAMN) on this planet, I wish him a Happy Birthday and I hope Carcass’ recent success had ensured that he’ll never be “Repeniless” again.
Amy Gallick: Long-Suffering Wife of Decibel’s Editor in Chief
I am not in a band. I am not a Carcass super-fan [gasp!]. I have a different perspective—I have spent a good deal of time with Mr. Walker outside of those situations. Sometimes this is at concert venues—I have seen Carcass three times and enjoyed some backstage banter—but also other places: his home or our home, on trips together, or helping him carry an extremely heavy steel guitar—that he just had to buy for that damn country album—down about 60 steep steps. I’m the one he leans over and asks whether someone’s girlfriend might be knocked up or whether someone just acted like they don’t like him. The bands will and should tell “Carcass Jeff” stories, but I’d like you to know there is a real person in there (somewhere)… who loves cats, can be incredibly kind, generous and sweet, and is as funny when he is off stage as on.
I have spent many a fun morning, afternoon and evening with Jeff.
Morning: Once spent a morning hungover at a Denny’s in Philadelphia with Jeff, who sometimes feels a nostalgia for such places he had to visit while on tour in his youth. If you ever have a reason to cook breakfast for Jeff, and you plan to make him an omelet, he does not believe cheese belongs in there. Just don’t make that mistake…
Afternoon: Spent a LONG sleepy afternoon at his favorite hangout in Liverpool. One of the many times I’ve tried to get Jeff to stop talking about “the biz” (bands, labels) because I was bored shitless and trying to wake up after a long bus ride. He tried to get rid of me by asking, “Don’t you have some shopping to do?” So, that’s not a happy memory… just a funny Jeff one. In retrospect, I should have asked for the Carcass corporate card and taken him up on that.
Evenings: Probably the best one was on my birthday many years ago. He gave me a rare “I Reek of Putrefaction” shirt with pink lettering as a gift. He had been with his significant other on the Philadelphia duck tour earlier that day and proceeded to blow his duck call during that night’s Napalm Death show at the Trocadero. Between songs, a British accent yelling “Hey, Barney!” [quack!] was clearly audible.
Yes, Jeff can be a bit much. But he is still one of my favorite people in the world… when he’s in a good mood… and not talking too much about bands. And I really do think he should try to get that Just for Men endorsement someday.
Mitch Harris: Napalm Death
After knowing Jeff Walker personally since 1988, I can honestly say that he’s one of the most genuine, good-hearted, unique characters you could hope to call a friend.
Anywhere from watching the first Carcass Trio shows in Bradford U.K., Grindcrusher and Campaign tours, Parr Street shenanigans, veggie barbecues at my mom’s house, buffets, Harpo’s insanity—the list goes on.
The best time had to be when Jeff visited us at a remote studio in Wales called Foel during Napalm Death’s The Code Is Red… Long Live the Code session. Jeff came down to lay some vocals on a song called “Pledge Yourself to You.” Turned out great and the coolest part was that he stayed a few days. Foel was like an extended-barn split studio/residential environment set in deep fields, nearby pub and not much else around.
It was the first session without [former Napalm guitarist] Jesse [Pintado] in the picture so also glad Jeff was there for moral support and reflection. Fun was had. We connected on higher levels thinking outside of the box—way past Walker’s sense of humor [laughs].
The  Carcass/Slayer show in Vegas was also a blast! I’m proud to call Jeff a friend beyond the pioneering, talent and authenticity he’s known for.
Congrats, man! Reaching 50 is an achievement, not just a positive milestone! Many more to come and the most important thing I can say is: Happy Birthday, stay healthy, cherish love and life.
Dan Wilding: Carcass
Anyone who knows Jeff is aware that he is partial to wearing flip flops. Come rain, shine or inclement weather he can be seen wearing them. When we toured with Slayer back in 2016 our driver parked the bus next to a very high and potentially dangerous curb. To make matters worse he covered said curb with a black non-slip mat, so on exiting the bus it was hard to tell where the bus ended and the sidewalk began. Either way, Jeff got out of the bus one morning and due to his inappropriate floppy rubber footwear and the mat/curb confusion he slipped and fell hard hurting his leg pretty bad. After a trip to the doctor it turned out he’d fractured something in his leg and needed to have a leg brace and crutches for a few weeks. Ever the stoic bull, Jeff refused to cancel any of the remaining shows and he ended up playing until the end of the tour sat on a stool whilst singing and playing bass, it was quite a sight and if you search hard enough on YouTube there is footage of it. I loved this as it was testament to his “get on with it” attitude and also his stubbornness. He still wears flip flops all the time to this day.
Also, back in 2013, we were in Liverpool filming some promo stuff for Surgical Steel, Jeff showed up with a pretty serious looking plaster/surgical dressing on his wrist. After some questioning it turned out he had tried to feed a stray cat. Said cat had gotten very defensive and attacked him. The wound got infected and he had to go to the hospital to get it treated. The best part is, in the pictures on the “Captive Bolt Pistol” 7-inch single, the hand in the surgical glove holding the pistol is Jeff’s. And just out of shot, cropped out nicely is Jeff’s plaster from his cat attack. Always makes me chuckle. Jeff loves cats.