Magazine: Aardschok / Netherlands
Article: Als het noodlot toeslaat

Written by: Robbie Woning
Published: January 2000



At the end of June 1999, Chuck Schuldiner made public, through an open letter, that he is seriously ill. The shocking news is brought quite rational by the Death frontman. During the recordings of the debut album of his new band, Control Denied, he was already experiencing pain in his neck, and a brainstem tumor was discovered through an MRI-scan. When writing the letter he already had some weeks of radiation behind him. Positive is Chuck's speaking of "recovery", telling his trained patience will be tested severely once again. Yet, actual information about the character of his tumor and his further life expectations he doesn't give at the moment. A long period of radiosilence follows, and fans speculate about Chuck's health. Mainly rumors because it stays ominously quiet from the official side.

In the beginning of November, Nuclear Blast, for the first time, sheds some light on the darkness. In the meantime, Chuck should be recovered enough, to do some interviews with some magazines. Aardschok is one of the happy few. However, the phone isn't ringing at the spoken time.... On inquiry it appears "new complications occured of which it is not clear whether they are caused by the illness itself or by the treatment". Eventually, the Control Denied interview takes place weeks later. Conversation partner isn't Chuck Schuldiner, but Steve DiGiorgio. The Control Denied bassplayer can talk, from experience, about the wild rumors going around. His email-box was flooded the last months with mail from worried fans, asking about the state of Chuck's health.

"From one day on the other, I suddenly became "Chuck-Central" and got hundreds of emails. I do understand the concern, if there would have been something like this happening to Ozzy of Geddy Lee, I probably would have reacted likewise. However, I found the most bizarre questions in my email-box: "Is Chuck still alive?", "Is he dead?". I tried to answer all questions as honestly as I possibly could. Although I had a lot of problems with people thinking Chuck was pulling this off merely for the publicity."

Excuse me?

"Yeah, you won't believe it...... Statements like: "Chuck is faking it!" or humiliating remarks like: "hahaha, how appropriate, somebody wrting songs for the band Death, will die himself!" This kind of mail made me far more sick than Chuck's call telling me he had a tumor in his head."

Ironically, of all people, the singer of Death is in this situation. After all Chuck used to sing about several severe diseases in a less respectful way (?/YK). Remarkably, even some of his nowadays lyrics and titles are applicable on his current situation. For example, the album title "The Fragile Art Of Existence", unmistakably pointing at the mortality of men. Through what happened, even the band's name got an extra meaning. After all, humans have no control over their lives.

"Well, I think that's a bit far-fetched. After all these things can happen to all of us. Of course it's ironic when your band is called "Death" and you're all of a sudden in a situation in which death becomes closer. I know for sure Chuck would never sing about these things. In my opinion, he always keeps his lyrics rather vague, so they can be interpreted in different ways. If there should be a link at all between his lyrics and his personal situation, the next album title for sure would be: "I'm a fucking true warrior", for the fighting spirit with which Chuck is heading the recent set backs, it truely is impressive."

How are things with him at the moment?

"Let me put first that I don't get a daily update. I'm regularly on the phone with Chuck. It seems the radiation he underwent in New York was succesful. The tumor slowly is falling apart, although things are going slower than they wish. Unfortunately, his physical condition is leaving little to be desired. He is not paralysed, yet his arm and his leg aren't doing exactly what he wants them to do. Which of course is very depressing. Chuck always has been very healthy and very active, and all of a sudden he is being hampered in his doings. I am expecting he will recover though, but how long it's gonna take, nobody knows.

Hence a Control Denied tour isn't gonna happen soon?

"No, I don't think so. Besides, it wasn't certain from the beginning whether we would tour after the release of "The Fragile Art Of Existence". Chuck wanted to await the reactions on the album first. It would have been difficult to tour anyway, with only one album. It would have been impossible not to play Death songs, which we all didn't want to do."

Chuck was clear the past years, Control Denied was the successor of Death. A band with which he finally could escape from the musical "straitjacket" -- although created by himself, and above all he would be delivered from his obliging task as a singer. I believe the last Death album would never have been released if Control Denied would have been a success right away in 1996.

"That certainly is a point. Far before 1996, Chuck already had plans about founding a new metal band, in which he only would play guitar. It already was an issue when "Individual Though Patterns" was recorded. I still remember how enthusiastic Chuck was about his new material, and how depressed he got when the vocals had to be recorded."

Sounding quite logical, yet the knowledge that Chuck doens't experience much fun with Death, will come as a cold shower for many die-hard fans.

"Chuck does like the Death music, he just hates the singing part. Of course the success of Death made it extra hard for him to cut the knot. "The Sound Of Perseverance" fortified his self-confidence. After the release of that album he was sure there was an interest for his music no matter with what band name. Personally, I believe most Death fans will see the quality of Control Denied."

What's the main difference between both bands for you personally?

"Control Denied is much more, musically considered, closer to my favorite kind of music. I have a big metal collection. But I prefer the more traditional, melodic bands. Bands like Solitude, Symphony X, Psychotic Waltz, they all play very good and they all have a great singer. As far as the vocals, I really like Control Denied. The first time I heard Tim Aymar, I was sold right away. Actually, Control Denied is the best of both worlds. Chuck still writes awesome riffs, but now has a great singer on top of them!"


I was somewhat surprised when I heard you were gonna play on the Control Denied album. Although you were a part of Death during "Human" and "Individual Though Patterns" , you went your own way afterwards.

"It may have seemed that way, yet I participated on 6 of the 8 Death albums Chuck wrote until now. For the last two albums I was involved during the pre-production, but wasn't able to play on the actual CD. Which I regret deeply, because especially "The Sound Of Perseverance" is an awesome CD. Normally, Chuck always was so kind to attune his schedule around me. But there were all sorts of deadlines with TSOP, like the Dynamo gig. Chuck always wants to tour with the album line-up and therefore prefered Scott at that time."

What was your part in creating the Control Denied album?

"Actually the CD was all finished when I was called by Chuck. He wasn't satisfied about Scott's parts and wanted me to play them again. I had less than a week to rehearse the material, but Jim Morris gave me all the space I needed in the studio to experiment. It was very luxurious for me during the recordings. Mostly as a bass player , you play your parts only when the drums are recorded. This time everything, even the vocals, were recorded already. Very inspiring."

Is Control Denied a band? You are living in California, Tim has his own studio in Pennsylvania and the rest of the band is living in Florida.

"In the meantime Chuck got used to flying people in, and seems to attache mainly value to the quality of the music. Chuck knows Tim and I really like playing with him, but when we're not around he still has a great base with Richard Christy and Shannon Hamm on drums and guitar, to work with."

What's your schedule looking like the upcoming time? Does Sadus still exist?

"The upcoming weeks I'm gonna play some American shows with Testament and after that I'll try to take up the thread of Sadus again. The band still exists, but due to my absence all the time, the plans we make mostly don't work out. Darren & Jon got used to that in the meantime. They just wait till I come home again and then we will fanatically work again right away."

Robbie Woning


to talks

Translated by YK/CM for EmptyWords-Published on January 31 2000