Once again in the news,
Death mainman Chuck Schuldiner has now officially confirmed that the forthcoming
fifth Death album (tentatively titled "Individual Thought Patterns")
will feature the services of former Dark Angel skinbeater Gene Hoglan,
who replaces Cynic drummer Sean Reinert while the latter completes work
on the Miami quintet's long delayed debut album for the Roadrunner label.
This comes only months after Death's aborted UK tour, which was followed
by a host of rumours and unsubstantiated statements regarding the reasons
for the band's early departure from the European continent and Death's
on-again-off-again relationship with estranged manager Eric Greif, who
is currently involved in a lawsuit with the act. Scheduled to be recorded
during March at Tampa's Morrisound Studios with producer Scott Burns (for
a summer '93 release), "Individual Thought Patterns" is an important
album for the group, who are in final stages of their recording contract
with Relativity Records in the States (the label that's issued all their
products this far). A couple of weeks ago, I had the following chat with
Schuldiner himself. Chuck, at the end of your last European tour, you
were scheduled to return to the UK for more shows, but you never got that
far. What caused the early termination of the tour?
"Beyond horrible financial status, position that we were in, due
to management problems, which was another big part of other problems,"
begins Schuldiner. "Let's put it this way: there were a lot of things
that were unaccounted for, and we were surprised with a $14000 bus debt
at that point, which we were unaware of – meaning, the bus payments
were not made for five weeks while we were on tour thinking that everything
was getting paid for, like it should be. See, I'm not in charge of the
business, I'm a musician. I trust people that they're gonna be doing the
business properly for me. Unfortunately, I'm in a very shitty business
that's full of very fucked people who can swear on their lives that they
did the right thing, and this and that, but that's not how it always is,
and people have got to understand that."
"A lot of things were not done properly by a certain individual,
or certain individuals that were hired to do business, and unfortunately,
when that happens, it comes crashing down on whoever is underneath it
all, and that's me. So, I had to make a huge, mega-fucking-huge financial
burden upon myself. I wanted to get back to the States to start clearing
things up, that's what finally led us to terminate the tour two weeks
before its end. You know, a lot of things were just not right. Unfortunately,
or should I say fortunately, the shows were going great as far as the
response from the people and the press, everything in that department
was great, but you have to have the money to survive. I'm not saying,
buy extravagant things, because that's not how it is at all on tour, you
just need to be able to survive, and at that point, people were just not
being paid, and I was not receiving a salary whatsoever throughout any
of the tours that we had done in order to make sure other people got paid.
So, I was definitely trying my best to keep things going, and if anything,
that was my dream to do a great tour for Europe. I wouldn't have come
out to do a weeks worth of press before we even went to Europe, you know,
I wouldn't have gone through all that trouble. Actually, it wasn't trouble,
it was my pleasure, because I enjoy doing press when the chance is there,
and especially for Europe at that time, because there was a lot of making
up to do." So, basically, you're saying that the cancellation took
place because of misappropriation of funds?
"Exactly," responds Chuck. "Things were blatantly mishandled
behind everybody's backs. Everyone was outraged on that tour, not just
me – I'm not the only one that lost my temper a couple of times,
because things were fucked. Everyone that was with us saw what was happening.
It's not my imagination. And, unfortunately, certain people out there
are paranoid and have to make up very horrible, atrocious fucking stories
that definitely should win an award for inventive, creative stories, 'cause
that's all they are – lies, and people should not look at what's
going on out there, all this negative shit, and absorb it for being the
truth, 'cause that's not how it is." There were various reports circulated
regarding the reasons for openers Pestilence being thrown off the bill,
the official reason being that visa problems and Pestilence inability
to make it to certain shows made them an unreliable act.
"Yeah, there were... me and Eric (Greif, former manager) came to
that conclusion together, and if there's anything printed otherwise, let
me just make it clear that that's a lie," insists Schuldiner. "First
of all, you don't talk shit about a band that you're gonna be touring
with, especially when they're headlining over you – regardless if
we're headlining. They were talking shit to our booking agency before
the tour even started, about this and that, they don't have to look up
to Death, or to deal with this shit and stuff, and... I'm not a hard person
to deal with on tour. If someone's nice to me, I'll be the same way back,
if someone's gonna talk shit about me, I'm not going to fucking tolerate
it. And on top of that, there were a lot of things that were just not
done quick enough on their part, and that's all I really have to say about
the subject." There was nothing personal there?
"Oh, there were a lot of underlying things, sure." No petty
little differences on your part?
"If something came down to a band being taken off a tour, there was
a very good reason for it," claims Chuck. "I do everything for
a reason, I don't do anything for frivolous reasons." Why do you
think Pestilence all of a sudden developed this attitude when there seemed
to be mutual respect between the two bands just several months earlier?
"I don't know," responds the guitarist/vocalist. "I have
no idea. Why are people assholes? I don't know. Why do people have to
rip other people off? I don't know. Maybe someone should ask them. I don't
know. It's really none of my concern at this point. What's done is done.
It's in the past. I'm living right now, and for what I'm doing, and for
what I'm planning. Pestilence is not my concern. That's their problem,
not mine. I don't create problems, people create problems for themselves."
After you got back from Europe, there was a talk about you forming another
project with a slightly different musical direction to what death is going.
Why did you feel the need to get that out of your system at that point,
and why did you eventually change your mind about it?
"Well, I haven't changed my mind about anything," insists Chuck.
"I definitely still have on hold that idea. By all means, I still
feel the same urge to get out something on the side, something different
that has nothing to do with Death. I still want to do that. I'd love to
get a great singer, like Christian Augustin, formerly of Sortilege (most
recently in French dance band Squatter), and do something really different.
I really have that creative urge inside me, and definitely one day I'll
do it." So, in what way do you feel limited by what Death is doing?
Is it just vocally, or do you feel that way when it comes to the instrumentation
"Actually, pretty much vocally," responds Schuldiner. "I
enjoy hearing melodic singers, people who are convincing in that department.
I just would like that put to the music I have. It's really just something
that can't be done, really, as far as... you know, in this band, Death-wise,
I think it would be too shocking for people. You know, Death is Death,
and this other thing would be a totally separate thing, and that will
allow me a lot things that really, maybe can't be totally expressed through
this band." So why did you eventually decide to do another Death
record before getting the other project off the ground, as you were previously
intent on doing?
"Because actually, the things that are going around me, I need to
get a lot of things that are on my mind out through this band," explains
Chuck. "I decided I really didn't wanna get off track as far as this
band goes. This is definitely what I've worked for, and I really can't
risk putting it on hold. There are a lot of things that need to be said
and done, and this album will definitely help me do that." I remember
that at one point right after you returned from Europe, you mentioned
that you were seriously considering retiring the name Death and using
another moniker, mainly because you felt that Death began having overbearingly
negative connotations that you no longer felt comfortable about.
"Well, once all this shit with the tour started hitting the fan,
I just felt like, «Goddamn, another album, another year, another
fuckin' chaotic episode breaking out.» I felt like the name of the
band and my name, as a person, was just getting trashed by people who
had the reputation of a piece of shit. I've been in this business longer
that all of these people have. I don't know were the fuck they come from.
Obviously, from dark places. But now my attitude is, fuck everyone, I'm
gonna do what I do and if people out there enjoy it and like, then I'll
keep doing it. This is what I've worked for. I'm not gonna let anyone
stand in front of that. People can take away my money and rip me off,
but they can't take away my ability to do what I'm doing here, and I'm
gonna continue to do that." Eventually, once you'd realized you wanted
to do another Death record, you began writing material for the album,
and for a while it appeared as if Sean (Reinert, drums) and Skott (Carino,
bass) would be involved with you again, but not Paul (Masvidal, guitar).
Why did you decide to look for another second guitarist at that point
in time considering that you appeared to be working so well with Paul
"I just felt, 'cause of different circumstances, it would be a good
idea to find someone different, and I still feel that way (i.e. Andy LaRoque
of King Diamond), some people that may seem far-fetched to get into this
project as session lead guitar players, but I'm trying. I think it would
be really cool. It would definitely turn some heads." The latest
development, of course, is that Sean will not be involved with the project,
and that former Dark Angel skinsman Gene Hoglan will lend a helping hand
during the next albums recording sessions. How did that come about?
"Well, that is something that's definitely a drag. It mainly comes
down to Sean being very involved with his own band (Cynic), and not having
our equipment for five months after we got back from Europe didn't help
our schedules at all. (Death's equipment was impounded by the group's
UK promoter as a means of alleviation the aforementioned debt incurred
during the tour – BK). So, we all kind of were put on hold, and
their stuff was put on hold. They're just really behind in their schedule,
and I really just can't wait around, I've really gotta keep busy here.
So, he's gonna do this with Cynic, and I'll definitely try to get to mine,
on my schedule that I'm looking at. It's a drag. I really enjoyed having
Sean on the record and on tour, and he's a drum-god, he's an excellent
drummer." I know that you had some past differences with Dark Angel,
which I presume you've now worked out if you're gonna be working with
Gene on this new project...
"Oh, definitely, yeah, by all means," states Schuldiner. "Everything's
fine. It's really cool, because I've always known about Gene since the
early days of the underground. When we used to correspond and talk to
the same people, and we were all in the same circle. So, it's really cool.
I've really got a great feeling about this, definitely." How do you
think Death's sound will change as a result of Gene's involvement?
"Well, Gene's a very energetic drummer, which is great, and that's
definitely gonna bring out elements of the music, just like Sean did,"
says the Death mainman. "They're both very energetic drummers, very
precise, and I think Gene's drumming will definitely go very well with
the material that's written for this next album." Aren't you concerned
at all about going through yet another line-up change, which is the one
thing you've been criticized for more that anything else?
"Not really, 'cause it's never hindered my ability to get the music
out. It's a drag, but the way I look at this is, this is gonna be a really
big album. Definitely, having Gene on it is gonna cause quite a few heads
to be turned." So, this is strictly a one – album collaboration,
as far as you see it right now?
"I don't know," responds Chuck. "I'm leaving it open. We
haven't jammed together yet. I really admire Gene as a drummer, he's a
really cool guy, and I think things will work out really well. No one
knows what ever is definite in this life, so I just take it day by day."
But there's a clear possibility that Gene will at least tour with you
in support of the album, correct?
"I hope so," Chuck states. "Right now, we're scheduled
to do some festivals dates in April in Europe, which I'm really psyched
about, I think it's great. Gene seems really like he's looking forward
to it. I think those will be some killer shows, definitely. We'll have
to see how it goes. Hopefully Gene will be really into it. Right now,
it's really early, we haven't even started rehearsing, but I think things
will go really well." At the time of this interview, it also appears
as if Gene will be involved with the next Massacre effort, which is tentatively
scheduled to be recorded in England during February (guitarist Rick Rozz
and vocalist Kam Lee are the only two Massacre members signed to the Earache
label). Does this fact bother you considering your previous problems with
the musicians within that group (all of whom are former Death members)?
"No," claims Chuck. "Gene's his own person, definitely.
I don't go around trying to control people. I think it's great for Gene
to be able to do different things." But don't you think it'll be
somewhat comical having both records coming out roughly at the same time
with the same drummer appearing on both?
"No. Our album is gonna be serious. This is serious music. I'm serious
as far as the music is concerned, I take it seriously. Whatever happens
outside of the music, and whatever shit is talked, and whatever you wanna
say, has nothing to do with this happening. I don't really acknowledge
it. It's kind of ironic. I'm not gonna freak out about it, 'cause there's
nothing to freak out about. Gene's doing his thing, he made prior obligations,
and I totally understand that, and I have nothing against it at all."
You haven't jammed as a band yet, but I believe that you personally have
already completed writing the music for the album. At this point how would
you say that the material is different, if at all, from the stuff on 'Human'?
"I think that it's definitely gonna be an extremely heavy record.
I've had a lot of material written for quite some time now, but recently
I've gone through everything. I've done a lot of rearranging and sifting
out, and I'm really happy with the recordings I have done of everything,
as of today. I think it's very catchy, it's got very heavy elements, it's
got a melodic edge to it as well. Hopefully people will really dig it.
I'm not gonna let people down, that's for sure, in my opinion." But
do you think that there'll be a noticeable different between this next
record and the last one? A lot of people felt that, with the exception
of Sean's input, which made the last record sound quite different from
'Spiritual Healing', a lot of the musical ideas in terms of the actual
riffing was in the same ballpark as what you'd done on your third album.
"Well, as a guitar player, I know for a fact that, definitely, it's
far more technical and has a lot of much more varied rhythm parts. I don't
know why people might think that, but that's their opinion. But on 'Human',
in my opinion, there were a lot of things guitar-wise, that just weren't
expressed on 'Spiritual...' – cleaner parts, more harmonizing, much
more emphasis on making the two guitars more apparent." Some of the
recordings of the new material that I've heard so far suggest that the
next album will be even more varied, as far as including different ideas,
like having clean guitar parts. Would you say that the next album will
provide more of a balance between the really heavy, aggressive stuff and
the more experimental material?
"Yeah, especially in the speed department, there's a lot a balance
on this album," comments Schuldiner. "This new material definitely
has its aggressive moments, but there's much more varied rhythms, moods
also. There will definitely be more variation in that department on this
record. Not so much speed, but there'll be those healthy doses, you know,
to make it more effective. When you don't overdo something, and add more
elements, then that one thing becomes more effective." So, looking
back on 'Human' now, is there anything that you feel didn't turn quite
well as you'd hoped or something you wish you'd done differently?
"I'm really happy with it overall. I think 'Human' is a really good
album, I felt really positive with it. It was great having an aggressive
drummer, and that's why I'm really confident with me and Gene jamming,
'cause he's really aggressive, and definitely I don't wanna go backwards,
I wanna keep going forward. 'Human' was definitely a direction that I
wanted to continue going in, and that's exactly where this album will
continue." Some people felt that 'Human' was a bit too technical
in places, particularly from the drummer's standpoint, especially since
this genre of music is supposed to be so stripped-down to its barest basics...
"Well, if people felt that way, they're listening to music that they
shouldn't be listening to," states Chuck. "Death is not a limited
band where I want the same, simple beat through everything. I'm inspired
in a lot of bands that aren't death metal. I've got influences that come
from lots of different types of music, lots of different types of metal.
My influences are definitely metal-oriented, but that's gonna come out,
and it's always been that way. On 'Human', I had better musicians, musicians
that I would have loved to have been able to play with even earlier than
I did. And to say being technical isn't proper in this type of band, I
just think that's a narrow-minded statement. It's coming from someone
who doesn't understand my direction. They don't have to like it. But if
you really wanna get into the reasoning of it, Death isn't a band that
I want to limit, let's put it that way." Do you have any song titles
you can give out?
"Yeah, some titles are "The Philosopher", "Human Form",
the title track "Individual Thought Patterns" and "Overactive
Imagination". Half of the record will have a concept about people
that I have to deal with, that affect a lot of people, stuff that I'm
sick of seeing, people's misconceptions, people's inability to think for
themselves, people out there that, in my opinion, are pure evil, that
are within this business. This business is fucked, and definitely these
lyrics reflect the people within this business, that's a good way to sum