Interview: Mark Heylmun and Chris Garza of Suicide Silence
It wasn’t being tagged the forerunners of deathcore that inspired Riverside, California, band Suicide Silence to step up their game for their new record, The Black Crown.
It was more of an internal awakening, a realization that in order to remain satisfied as musicians, they had to spend more time on their songwriting and step outside their comfort zone.
Sure, there are plenty of tremor-inducing breakdowns and blowtorch death metal riffs on the new album, but it’s what’s between the blast beats and the mosh parts that makes The Black Crown a developmental leap over 2009’s No Time To Bleed.
Not only did guitarists Mark Heylmun and Chris Garza spend more time writing riffs, they came up with an abundance of material during that time and only kept the best.
In addition, they weren’t afraid to wear their influences on their tattooed sleeves, combining everything that’s inspired them as players into their own demolition soundtrack.
Guitar World talked to Heylmun and Garza about the creative process for The Black Crown, the raw power of simplicity, the challenges and rewards of working with producer Steve Evetts and the physical obstacles they’ve encountered over the past year.
GUITAR WORLD: When did you start working on songs for The Black Crown?
MARK HEYLMUN: For me, it really started in December 2009 when we were on tour with Megadeth. That’s when I started really thinking about riffs and how I was picturing the record. Even though it wasn’t even started, I thought about how it would be when it was finished and what we were gonna do to start writing.
I suggested to the guys that we go up to a cabin and rent it for a couple weeks and be away from everything and get all of our idea on the table whether they’re good or bad and see where everyone’s head is at. And that happened between December of 2009 and February 2010
CHRIS GARZA: We were all pretty fresh. I didn’t have any riffs. We would just jam all day. A lot of it turned out to not even make the record, we were just jamming to get the juices flowing.
MH: Yeah, at the time I didn’t have even 30 seconds or a minute of actual music. It was more the idea of how the songs would be and how the structures would be and how we were gonna grow from the last record. I had some riffs I thought were cool. We wrote a couple songs but none of ‘em made the final product. It was more of a thing to get back in the groove of writing, since we hadn’t written anything together in a year and a half. And it was also the first time we were writing with our new bass player [Dan Kenny]. So we just went in and jammed to see what came out spontaneously which is the way we wrote the first two records.
How was the writing process different this time?
MH: We wrote in a completely different way. Dan was in San Francisco, so whenever he was down south in Southern California where the rest of us live we had a writing session together, but it was mostly Chris and I jamming out hours a time at his house. We knew what we were writing had less filler and less fat. There was definitely less overthinking and more just doing it and being happy with what were doing.
Were there different influences at play this time?
MH: Well, we weren’t afraid to show where we have come from so you can see the influence of Korn, and things like Suffocation, Morbid Angel and Pantera. And even the lead playing that I do, there are slight little slivers that come through that are kind of like Opeth -- just things we would have been more afraid to do previously.
There are still plenty of breakdowns, but they feel more inspired.
MH: I think we want to do breakdowns because they’re really fun, and at the end of it all the music has to be fun or else it’s not gonna be cool to go on tour and play every day. And it still is. If we went in to write and not much was happening, we could still go on a half-time drumbeat and jam on that for a half hour and listen to what we’d played, and something in there usually turned out to be a good breakdown or it would morph itself to something that would be a good breakdown. We just still want to write stupidly heavy breakdowns that just give you the feeling of, “What the hell!” Or, “Oh my God, this is so simple and heavy, why didn’t I write this?”
Breakdowns are not necessarily a way to showcase your skills, it’s just a way for the band to come through and show how heavy we can be.
CG: Yeah, whenever we were jamming to a simple groove, the way it seems like best ones came out was when Mark or I would play something and then we’d just start laughing because it was like, so heavy.