Interview: Mark Heylmun and Chris Garza of Suicide Silence
Suicide Silence guitarists Mark Heylmun and Chris Garza discuss riffs, songwriting and the band's new album, The Black Crown.
Many death metal musicians try to write challenging songs that are hard to follow. No matter how many rhythm and tempo shifts you guys have, it seems like the music is still primal and raw.
MH: For us, it has always been about not trying to go over people’s heads. We’re musicians that are semi-lazy. We don’t want to go up there and have to think too hard. The way I always thought of music was that musicians shouldn’t have to think. You should just go with it and just play.
There are more guitar solos on this record than you’ve previously played.
MH: I’ve always been able to play leads, but we never rely on them. If there’s something cool that we write that calls for one then I’ll play it. It just seemed to come out more on this record because we were trying to do more diverse stuff on it.
Machine produced your last album, No Time To Bleed. Steve Evetts produced the new one. What did he bring to the table that Machine didn’t?
MH: Steve is just a completely different kind of producer. He’s real good at getting a feel for the bands he works with and doing everything real organic. Machine had everything computerized and digitized. It was cool, but with Steve we only used real amp tones.
Everything that’s on the record is all amps that we had at our disposal, and it was mainly our live rig. That was a relief and something a lot of bands in our genre aren’t doing right now. Everyone’s got their Axe-FX or their Pods, or just goes straight in Amp Farm or whatever they’re using to make a tone that sounds good for a recording. But we did it and used all of our actual live tones, which felt really good when we recorded it and made it easier to reproduce live.
Any obstacles along the way?
CG: There were times I would play something completely perfect and Steve would say, “No, do it again,” because it didn’t feel right. That was frustrating. But when you got the take you wanted, you heard how much better it was when it had more feeling. Also, during the last five days of tracking my head started being a little more quiet and then it just blew. But the day it blew out was the day we finished tracking.
Were you guys all getting along during the writing and recording of The Black Crown?
MH: We always get along to an extent. Whether or not we’re extremely mad at each other we can still be rational and talk to each other about it. But I don’t think any of us really like to be mad at each other. We don’t like to let it get out of hand like it sometimes does.
When was the last time a situation got out of hand?
MH: [Vocalist] Mitch [Lucker] and Dan Kenny were really drunk and they ended up getting in a fight. But they didn’t really punch each other. They just wrestled and threw shit at each other. And then Dan went outside punched the trailer and sprained his hand. It was funny because around the same time I sprained my thumb really bad so during the last two weeks of Warped Tour my right thumb was so swollen I could hardly grip my pick.
Dan and I were playing with our right hands like wusses. I couldn’t do pinch harmonics. I could hardly do anything. I don’t know how I came through it, but it taught me a little bit more about being consistent in whatever way I’m playing. I hadn’t played lightly and keep the consistency in my playing going. And once my thumb got better I thought, “You know what? That actually helped me a lot ‘cause now I can not just get super agro and hit the guitar really hard, but I can also he heavy with a light touch.
How did you sprain your thumb?
MH: I was air drumming to that Rammstein/Meshuggah mash-up “Benzene.” And I was drunk on [malt beverage] Four Loko, and I was air drumming out of control and then I started using our guitar tech as a symbol. My thumb was poking out a little bit and I caught his kneecap with the tip of my thumb and it jammed it and bent it back. It swelled up and turned all purple.
So, can we still call Suicide Silence a deathcore band?
MH: It doesn’t matter to me anymore what people call us. It kind of was weird at first just ‘cause it doesn’t sound cool and where we come from isn’t just straight death metal and hardcore. we will outlast the deathcore genre just as Korn and Deftones and Slipknot have outlasted the nu-metal genre.
This month, Guitar World invites you to ask Suicide Silence's Mark Heylmun and Chris Garza anything you want! Just email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and put "Suicide Silence" in the subject line. Remember to include your name in the e-mail body, so you can get credited in the magazine -- and impress and annoy your jealous friends!
For more about Suicide Silence, check out the September issue of Guitar World, on sale July 19.
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