Charles Schuldiner was 16 years
old when he established the band Mantas in co-operation with Frederick
DeLillo and Barney Lee in 1983. The band released a demo tape
in 1984, "Death by Metal", which was spread around the
underground community and created a small stir. That very same
year the boys changed the name to Death and recorded a second
demo, "Reign of Terror".
In 1985, they had recorded yet another tape, "Infernal Death",
but things were still going slow for the band. Chuck didn't manage
to keep the band members for long, and the fact that Chuck was
moving all over the USA didn't make it any easier. In 1986, Death
was more or less a duo consisting of Chuck and drummer Chris Reifert
and their debut was recorded in Los Angeles. "Scream Bloody
Gore" wasn't released until march 1987, but Death marked
themselves as a band to reckon with in years to come. Chuck did
move back to Florida and got several of the Massacre members to
tour for Death, and thereby Rick Rozz (Frederick DeLillo) was
back in the band. A year later the band released "Leprosy",
which to many is looked upon as one of the most definitive death
metal records of all time.
After a while, Chuck Schuldiner
and Rick Rozz got on bad terms and Rozz was replaced by James
Murphy (who later became known for his performances in both Obituary
and Testament.) At this point Death also consisted of Terry Butler
(bass) and Bill Andrews (drums), both whom had actually been with
the band since the "Scream Bloody Gore" tour. It finally
seemed as if Chuck had regained some sort of stability in his
crew, but it wouldn't last for long: After the release of "Spiritual
Healing" in 1990 the band was supposed to tour Europe with
Kreator, but Chuck went home after a few gigs and the band had
to continue touring with a roadie performing the vocal parts.
Everything was rather quiet around the band until the fall of
1991, when Chuck a sealed a new record deal with Roadrunner (Relativity
/ YK) which resulted in the majestic "Human". Chuck
had an entirely fresh crew, consisting of Cynic members Paul Masvidal
(guitar) and Sean Reinert (drums) as well as Sadus bassist Steve
DiGiorgio. "Human" displayed a whole new Death, as the
music was far more technical and intricate than before - from
the youthfully naive and raw death metal to far more sophisticated
tunes. And perhaps even more brutal than ever before. Once again
trouble arose on the European tour which ended up with Pestilence
never joining the tour.
The band played at Alaska (now Betong), Norway, supported by Loudblast
and Norwegian act Cadaver. In 1993 Chuck managed to recruit Andy
LaRocque on guitars and Gene Hoglan on drums. "Individual
Thought Patterns" is definitively my favorite Death album,
and the combination of Chuck Schuldiner and Andy LaRocque is hard
to surpass. After 1995's "Symbolic" things quieted down
around Schuldiner, until he suddenly turned up with "The
Sound Of Perseverance" in 1998.
Once again a new crew was introduced:
Shannon Hamm (guitar), Scott Clendenin (bass) and Richard Christy
(drums, now playing in Iced Earth). At the same time Chuck was
'pregnant' with his long awaited project, Control Denied, which
soon became his main priority. In addition to Chuck, Shannon and
Richard, Steve DiGigiorgio was now back together with vocalist
Tim Aymar. "The Fragile Art Of Existence" was released
in 1999, and this was the last album that Chuck Schuldiner had
the chance to experience being released.
At this point he was aware of the difficult times he had ahead
of him and he did only a very few interviews. I was one of the
lucky few that had the chance to talk to him about this album.
But one can not deny the fact that there was a dark veil hanging
over the phone line at the end of the conversation. "Right
now the days are spent on waiting. In December I will return to
New York for several examinations, and there will be performed
x-ray scans of the cancer, which hopefully has decreased (...)
I need a lot of peace and quiet these days but I write a lot of
music. Even if the situation is far from good, one has to cross
the fingers and hope for the best.
Chuck - a difficult person?
I was supposed to make
a phone interview with Chuck after the release of "Individual
Thought Patterns". He told me to call back in five minutes,
and then he put the answering machine on.
A few months later I met him in Ludwigsburg, Germany. As I arrived
at the Rockfabrik I met a stressed out tour-manager. The time
of the interview did not at all match what was agreed on beforehand.
He begged of me to accept it, and that's the way it became. Fifteen
minutes later I met Chuck, I introduced myself and asked why the
interview was moved several hours in advance. He didn't know anything
about that and if it was ok by me, he would perform the interview
right away. After a thirty minute interview, I was invited on
a flipper tournament. Certainly no bad feelings there.
Several journalists had problems with Chuck, amongst others the
German Rock Hard had a bad conflict going on for years. Anyhow,
it's nothing new to us that a person has both good and bad periods
in his private life and in the interviews I had with him there
were no problems at all. I don't know Chuck Schuldiner as a private
person but I do know him as a musician, where he is in a league
of his own. Experiencing Death on the '93 tour is one of the best
concert memories I have, and the fact that I missed them on Dynamo
'98 is one of my biggest mistakes. I guess it's a situation where
one has to treasure the things one did get to experience.
In the same way, there is no reason for us to look into the abyss
- Chuck Schuldiner is dead, but it is not him we should feel sorry
for any more - it is his family, friends and fans that are struggling
with the loss. But why focus on the loss when the reward of Schuldiner's
music and personality will be standing for all time to come? Chuck
crossed his fingers and hoped for the best and after two years
of radial and chemical treatment, medicine at the experimental
stage and alternative medicine, maybe it was all for the best
the he was relieved from his pain.
I talked to Richard Christy at Wacken in 2000 and he told me that
quite a lot the second Control Denied album was in construction.
And there is probably a lot of other material lying around in
drawers and closets that Chuck never had the chance to realize.
Let's hope that someone handles it with respect and make a decent
box etc, so that Chuck's family may collect some more money and
thereby pay off the enormously large bill that the American hospitals
demand from them. Rest in peace, Charles Schuldiner, and thank
you for the many years of immortal music! I will do my part so
that you will be mandatory knowledge for future generations to