Magazine: Aardschok / Netherlands
Article: Playmates

Written by: Robbie Woning
Published: November 1998



After mainly paying attention to new products and developements the last few months, we want to call upon some interesting musicians to speak the coming issues. During the recent Death-tour an exellent candidate was presented in the person of Chuck Schuldiner. Chucks gruntvocals will be a matter of taste forever but nobody can deny the musical products of the 31 year old american guitarist to be very recognizable and very progressive. Short before the gig in Leeuwarden (Netherlands/YK) there was an opportunity to talk with the Death frontman.

Chuck seems to be flattered by the extra attention for his guitar-play. In guitarmagazines he mainly got a chance in the more general articles about the death-metal genre. Schuldiner is regularly presented as the guy who invented the music style (of death metal) and the deathgrunt, but they mostly neglect his abilities as a guitarist. Is this the fate of a vocalist/guitarist? Chuck certainly doesn't parade with his talents but considers himself more a guitarplayer than a vocalist.

"I enjoy singing and writing lyrics but I actually started singing against my free will. In the beginning our drummer sang, because he got much too tired I was promoted to singer. In the meantime it's 14 years later and I'm still screaming my head off every day. When I started I only wanted to play guitar. It's always a bless to get some recognition in any way. I found out that the attention guitarmagazines give to the individual musicians are mainly being dictated by the big recordcompanies and comercial interests.It sometimes is very scaring to see which bands get their attention. Regular there are musicians on the cover with nothing special to offer. Guitarists that never have played a decent solo but by chance are in a popular band. Can anyone explain to me why Courtney Love is on the cover of Guitar World? How can such a person, being able to play only 3 chords, be of any inspiration to readers of such a magazine? As a guitarist you can learn nothing of this. Well allright, I'm used to it in the meantime, the music business gets away with everything. The only way to survive is do your best."

Can you tell which guitars and amplifiers you use? Do you have deals with certain manufacturers.

"At the moment I only have an endorsement with B.C.Rich. On this tour I have my most important black B.C.Rich Stealth with me along with a green "custom" Stealth, which I recently got from them. They are beautiful and good guitars. I used to play on a Mockingbird for some time. However it wasn't build by B.C.Rich himself but by someone in Florida.
As for amplifiers..... Since Individual Thought Patterns I've only been using Marshall Valvestates. The Valvestate to my opinion is the best amplifier for metal and hardrock. It has a good bite, sounds delicious heavy but stays very clear at the same time. To me that's very important. I love when you can still hear the plectrum touching the strings. I dislike too much overdrive and also don't like distortion pedals. On the first 2 Death albums I was using a distortion pedal from Boss, but now, using a Valvestate, I don't need it anymore. You can plug in your guitar directly in the Valvestate and still have a great sound. When we're in the studio it takes no more than about 20 minutes to get a good guitar sound."

Do you use other effects? In almost every Death song the characteristic double notes return. Sounds that since the well known intro of "Zombie Ritual" have become your trademark. Do you use a pitchshifter or harmonizer for it?

"We don't use harmonizers in the studio. We play the double sounding parts seperately. I'm a huge fan of harmonic solos. Live Shannon and I double a lot. I hardly use effects, just some chorus and reverb on some solos, further I love the "in your face" sound very much."

No effect-rack with the size of a fridge?

"No, I'm sorry. We are a very dull band for that matter. My personal opinion: when you need a whole rack to get a good guitar sound there's something terribly wrong with your amplifier. Those effect processors are really a waste of money when you just start to play the guitar. You'll be far better off buying a good amplifier."

Your stage act rather differs from the average metal band. Most musicians rant an rave on stage but you guys hardly move. A lot of people, for that reason, thought the Dynamo gig (festival in the Netherlands/YK) was quite dull. Was it the first show with the new line-up?

"Actually it was the third, but I know what you mean. Festivals are a good opportunity to present your music to a big audience, at the same time they are bad for the band, because a lot of people think you play bad and have an awful sound. You're pissed off but nobody knows how bad the conditions sometimes are for the bands. And I don't like playing during day-time, it's very uninspiring, there's no vibe and you can use no lightshow. You are an easy catch for malovent journalists on such occasions. But that's no reason to let go the chance of playing on Dynamo! Concerning the head-banging...... that's an intentional choice. It's not difficult at all to go on stage do some head-banging and rattle the guitar a bit. Those bands all look alike and often sound the same. I like to look my audience in the eyes. I take my fans seriously and like to be taken serious by them. I don't judge collegues playing headbanging all the time, I just have a different approach. The band Death is not about four heads of hair, but about four totally different human beings being aware of the fact hundreds of people are watching them. Besides, we have our hands full with the music. How would it be when the members of Rush were running around on stage headbanging while playing their fucking tight riffs, it would make no sense, would it? We play very intense music and are doing our very best. I'm sure of it our audience is aware of that."

Do you practice a lot?

"Before a gig I usually warm up with some scales and chords. At home I only practice when working on new material. I'm certainly not practising scales all day. I don't believe in it because it will only make you sound more mechanic. For me only the result counts. I mainly practice while writing and rehearsing with the band."

Writing good songs therefore is more important than being nimble-fingered?

"Many musicians are not aware of the fact the accompany of a solo is as important as the solo itself. The riffs underneath a solo are to my opinion as important as the chorus. When the accompanying party suddenly changes during a solo, a solo will sound al lot more dramatic. It's a kind of "victory"-feeling. Iron Maiden used to be very good at it, they also had a very good rythm guitar underneath the solo. I still can enjoy that very much."

Death is tuned in D for years now, Did you ever tried other, maybe lower tunings?

"No. D tuning is perfect for us. You gain some low without loosing control. By tuning lower you start to sound like the rest. I also refuse bying a 7-string guitar, it's a trend, nobody is being creative with the extra string, they only use it for an extra low tuning."

The Death compositions often contain intricate fusion pieces, which seem to be inspired by long forgotten technical metal bands like Watchtower. Why did they never make it and do you get away with such complex music?

"Maybe we had some more luck. Deaths music is an addition sum of my influences. Death sounds melodic for example because I used to listen to Iron Maiden and Mercyful Fate. Besides that I used the heavyness and plectrum techniques of Metallica and Slayer. And ofcourse I was enjoying Watchtower a lot back then. Actually I like to listen to any band that doesn't play by the rules. That was one of the reasons why I became a heavy-metal lover as a kid, there were no rules involved."

Are you aware of the fact your music is a symbol for a certain time in music-history? When I hear a Death song I immidiately think of the golden death-metal days in the early 90ties.

"That's one of the most beautiful aspects of music. Hearing a certain song you can immidiately bring your thoughts back to a certain period in your live. I'm a big music lover so I know the feeling. My parents still play Elvis and The Everly Brothers, for the fact it remembers them of a very happy time. When I can make this happen to some people I consider it as a big compliment."


to talks

Translated by YK/AS for EmptyWords-Published on March 31 1999