Chuck Schuldiner: Lust for Life
He called his band Death, but Chuck Schuldiner loved life, family and of course, metal.
By now, he was nearly 18 and close to graduating high school. Though he’d been a good student, Chuck was bored by school and anxious to pursue a record label contract. As always, he turned to Malcolm and Jane for guidance. “We talked with his school counselor, who urged us to let Chuck pursue his dream,” says Jane. “Which we did after getting his promise that if, after a year, he did not get that contract, he would finish school and go to college.”
Though he had only a handful of independent cassette releases to his credit, Chuck clearly felt ready for a professional career. He’d been practicing at every possible opportunity, and on increasingly better instruments. At some point in the early Eighties, Chuck switched from his yard-sale electric to a Peavey T25, a two-humbucker model manufactured in 1982 and 1983. A photo from this time shows him posing with the guitar, a young teen practicing his attitude for the camera. Eventually, he would move on to a B.C. Rich Mockingbird before choosing the B.C. Rich Stealth model, a rarity offered through the company’s Custom Shop. This became his main guitar throughout most of his professional career.
Chuck’s first act as an emancipated musician was to head for San Francisco and its burgeoning pool of metal musicians. His search was unsuccessful, but in January 1986, shortly after returning home, he was invited to join the Canadian thrash act Slaughter. He accepted and moved to Toronto but left two weeks after arriving, having recorded just one track with the band. By now it was clear to Chuck that he had to follow his own musical goals.
“Of course, his father and I were involved the first year, from afar mostly,” says Jane. “After that, Chuck discussed his plans, but his decisions were always his own. We trusted him to do what was best for the band, with the inferred promise that it would, above all, be the best for himself, also.” That March, back in San Francisco, he met drummer Chris Reifert and struck up a friendship.
The following month, the duo entered a Bay Area studio to record the three-song demo Mutilation, with Chuck doubling on bass. Mutilation was by far the most professional sounding of Death’s demos, and like its predecessors, it was circulated through the underground tape-trading circuit.
Which is how writer Don Kaye first came to hear it. “I was big into trading tapes on the underground scene, and I had been aware of Chuck’s music since the first Mantas tape was released. The Mantas tape was pretty primitive, but right from the start with Chuck, you could tell that he had talent on the guitar and with writing pretty catchy stuff within that genre. There were so many bands coming out of that scene, but as always, the problem was that they were trying to be as heavy and brutal as possible and weren’t able to write anything that sounded like a reasonably coherent song. Chuck was good, and he just got better as he moved closer to making the first album.”
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