Chuck Schuldiner: Lust for Life
He called his band Death, but Chuck Schuldiner loved life, family and of course, metal.
At the time, Kaye was dividing his time as a journalist for metal magazines, including Kerrang! and working part time as a publicist for Combat Records in New York City. The heavy metal record label had formed in 1984 and quickly found success when it signed Megadeth and released their 1985 debut, Killing Is My Business…And Business Is Good.
Aware that Death had a good buzz on the underground scene, Kaye urged Combat’s chief, Steve Sinclair, to sign them. “I said, ‘They’d be perfect for the label. They’re definitely a band that’s getting a lot of attention from people.’ He was very hesitant, but I just kept badgering him to do it. Until, finally, he agreed.”
That summer, following an abortive attempt to record their debut in Florida, Chuck and Reifert nailed down a dozen tracks in five days at the Music Grinder in L.A. The band, such as it was, still didn’t have a bassist, and Chuck once again handled four-string duties. Titled Scream Bloody Gore, Death’s debut was released upon an unsuspecting public in May 1987. Its songs were little more than an extension of the pile-driving riffs and blood-and-gore lyrics that had populated Death’s demos. But the professional production, coupled with Combat’s extensive distribution capabilities, allowed Scream Bloody Gore to have an impact that Death’s home-brewed releases never could achieve.
Slowly, the metal community was beginning to buzz about Chuck Schuldiner, the wild death metal guitarist from Orlando, Florida. Don Kaye had been proven right about Death’s potential for success, but his victory was anything but sweet. Recalls Kaye, “When Steve Sinclair agreed to sign Death, he said to me, ‘Somewhere in the credits, I’m gonna put, “This record is Don Kaye’s folly.” That way, if it’s a big bust, I’m gonna blame you.’ And I said, ‘Okay,’ thinking he was joking.
“But Steve was a ball breaker. And sure enough, when we got copies of the album in the office, right there on the inside sleeve, under the lyrics and credits, it said, ‘This record is Don Kaye’s folly.’ I just thought, Oh god.”
Kaye’s reaction was nothing compared to Chuck’s. “Now Chuck was a guy who was very passionate and very serious about what he did, and he could be a little bit abrasive,” recalls Kaye. “But he saw this, and he called me, and he was just livid. He said, ‘Who’s gonna take this record seriously when it says it’s somebody’s folly?’ He was really pissed off.
“But it showed me that, although sometimes to his detriment, Chuck took his music really seriously. He was really interested in death metal and going as far as he could with that.” Any animosity Chuck felt was short lived. “Death certainly had a good run with Combat. They did five records with them.”
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