The Carcass founder was one of the key players in the evolution of death metal, but versatile Bill’s playing rock ’n’ roll in Gentleman’s Pistols, too...
I got my first real six-string…
“My first guitar was a Kay - they were the cheapest, nastiest instruments you could lay your hands on. But, if you did a paper round and you’d saved up £18 you could buy one second-hand. So that’s what I did, and I couldn’t even describe the shape because it’s not really recognised as a legitimate electric guitar shape. But it got me started.”
Friday I’m in love…
“I was listening to The Friday Rock Show with Tommy Vance when I was young and that introduced me to a world of music - from Saxon to Atomic Rooster and everything in between. And then seeing Hendrix, Rory Gallagher or Alvin Lee on television, that was impressive. I thought it would just be fun to play, because they looked like they were having fun.”
Exhume to consume
“I’m not a collector, I don’t want to own stuff I don’t use, so the guitars I have are working guitars. I have two Melody Makers and two Les Paul Juniors. I use the Juniors with Gentleman’s Pistols because that’s basically a rock ’n’ roll band, so it’s perfect with the P-90 and the simplicity of that instrument.
“I have a 1961 Melody Maker, modified by Andrew ‘Scrim’ Scrimshaw, who installed Monty’s pickups [GT500 humbuckers]. He works for Chandler Guitars and he’s an amazing luthier.
“He basically made it playable in a band like Carcass. And it works beautifully. It’s really good for my shoulder, too, because I had all kinds of problems with the nerves in my hand from injuries I’d sustained in my neck and shoulder from playing a Les Paul Custom.”
Heat of the moment…
“Playing outside of metal made me slow down a bit. When I was doing Firebird, in particular - that’s a three-piece and there’s loads of space. When you take a solo there’s no guitar behind you so there’s enough time to be in the moment and improvise a little.
“So I got to focus a lot more on feel and I guess I’ve carried that through to what I’ve tried to do with Gents as well. I think it has affected how I play in Carcass, just a little. But let’s be honest, there’s not much time to manoeuvre, the music’s so dense. There’s not much breathing space.”
I got my gun at the ready gonna fire at will
“Gentleman’s Pistols is very simple; I use an early 70s Marshall 50-watt head with a Junior. That’s it. Those heads are magnificent because once you get them past six and there’s this fantastic harmonic warmth.
“So you’ll hit a note and it will feed back in a really beautiful way. It’s just a different kind of distortion. I link the channels up and depending on the venue I might crank it up to 10 to really push it hard.”
“You need to focus on your own identity. There are so many resources to learn about other people’s playing and it’s fantastic, but you can also get lost in it, and before you know it you’re chasing what someone else has achieved.
“It’s good to be aware of those things and I’ve done it too, where you sit down and learn someone’s licks because you need to feel it under your fingers. But that’s not the end of it. For a band, you’ve got to get lost in your own little world. Practice your arses off, play wherever you can and gradually you’ll find yourselves.
“Because sometimes it’s a little bit sad to see people who are good players, but haven’t actually gone beyond the thing of imitating. At some point you figure out what is you, and it’s not just about what you do but what you don’t do; the things you avoid.”