Magazine: Aardschok / Netherlands
Article: Herinneringen aan Chuck

Written by: Robbie Woning
Published: March 2002




The American vocalist/guitarist Chuck Schuldiner is generally regarded one of the founders of the death metal genre, which -of course- was named after his brainchild Death. Even though, in the early 80's, the young guitarist from Orlando took the microphone out of pure necessity, soon after, a lot of new bands started imitating Chuck's deep growling 'grunt', having heard albums like 'Scream Bloody Gore', 'Leprosy' and 'Spiritual Healing'. Yet the guitarist always kept mixed emotions towards his reputation as a death-metal-godfather and prototype 'grunt' vocalist.

After all, Schuldiner grew up with more melodic bands such as Maiden and Priest. Influences he would, on later albums, expose more and more. With the arrival and departure of renowned musicians such as Gene Hoglan, Steve DiGiorgio, Sean Reinert, Andy LaRocque and Paul Masvidal, Death became more and more synonymous with high-grade, technical, extraordinary, anti-commercial metal. Music that a lot of people have since called 'Schuldiner Metal'.


In the mid 90's Chuck at long last rallied around a stable line-up. In an attempt to break away from the restrictions of the death metal genre, he started a new band, Control Denied, in which he handed the microphone over to Tim Aymar. The 1998 Death release 'The Sound Of Perseverance' might be regarded as a final goodbye to the old Death-sound. Although Chuck handles the vocals for one last time, the CD was recorded with the Control Denied musicians Shannon Hamm (guitar) and Richard Christy (drums). The most distinctive track on the album is a surprising cover of 'Painkiller', where Schuldiner shows great vocal similarity of Judas Priest vocalist Rob Halford.


While recording the first Control Denied album, Schuldiner received some terrible news about his health. It would be the start of a long battle against an unfair disease, from which the vocalist/guitarist recovers considerably for a short time. Yet, he would never be able to tour with Control Denied. 'We'd rather wait until we have released a second album, so we won't have to play any Death songs live', explains bass player Steve DiGiorgio early 2000 in Aardschok. It was a statement that turned out to be mainly 'wishful thinking'. In November of 2000, Control Denied starts the recording of a second album, but unfortunately Schuldiner never saw the completion of it. Regarding that matter, at the January memorial service the other Control Denied members and producer Jim Morris agreed that they will do whatever it takes to get the album released.



On December 13th 2001 Chuck Schuldiner died from the brain tumor, which was discovered two and a half years earlier. After the IM by Dennis Verboven in the last issue, Aardschok spoke with several people who, throughout the years, worked with or were in one way or another connected to the Death/Control Denied guitarist. The memories below were distilled from a series of long, often impressive phone calls. Above all appears an image of a calm, conscious musician, with an undeniable passion and a limitless love for heavy metal.




As the owner of the Morrisound studio in Tampa, producer Jim Morris witnessed the birth of most Death albums firsthand.

"Straight from the beginning I considered Death to be special. The band wrote good guitar parts, but above all Chuck's vocals were something completely new. The power of Death was the combination of the two. 'Leprosy' was the first Death album recorded here. Chuck worked with Dan Johnson on that album, and the next three CD's he made with Scott Burns. The first Death album I produced was 'Symbolic'. I found it to be a really wonderful CD. It was the most melodic death metal I had ever heard. I really like heavy albums with a lot of melody, and from then on I started meddle with his music more and more. Chuck was a musician who went into the studio very well prepared. He made very elaborate demo's, which most bands wouldn't hesitate to release on CD. As for producing, I was mainly concerned with the technical side of recording on a Death album. Getting sounds etc. Sometimes we changed the compositions a bit, but overall we just did whatever was in Chuck's head. He usually knew exactly how he wanted everything to sound and generally he didn't rest until he came pretty close. On the first day of the recordings of the first Control Denied album, we noticed something was wrong with him. Chuck had trouble with his 'vibrato' and couldn't play his own riffs anymore. We joked about it, because we thought he was stressed because of how the world would react to Control Denied. We visited several doctors, who all diagnosed him differently. Until we found a doctor who discovered what was really going on. It's very sad that Chuck wasn't able to finish the second Control Denied CD, and I sincerely hope that all what was inside his head can one day be heard on CD. Chuck was a devoted musician and a real metalhead. But privately he was very committed to his family. In that way a lot like myself, and that's probably why we got along so well."






Although bassist Steve DiGiorgio officially swells the Death ranks on 'Human', he also played with the band for quite some time in the 80's. At that time Schuldiner lived in California and recorded some demos with Steve.

"Chuck was huge, he was 'larger than life'. And like with all the musicians who passed too soon, Chuck first seems to get full recognition after his death. I met Chuck for the first time in 1986. Chuck and his drummer at that time, Chris Reifert, heard the Sadus 'DTP' demo. They called the number that was on it and it was our guitar player Darren who answered the phone. He told us: I just talked to a guy from a band called Death. We thought that was a cool band name and met up with them that evening. We were all 17, 18 years old and basically just had fun together. We drank and smoked a bit, and listened in the car to their 'Mutilation'-demo. Everyone got along great, but I just happened to play the instrument that Chuck was still looking for. I played quite a while with Death until Chuck suddenly returned to Florida. Later I played on several Death albums, and worked on the pre-production of the first Control Denied album. It wasn't until recently that I realized that Chuck was totally different from other musicians I have worked with. He really cared about every single note in a song. I got total freedom from him and even then he used to incite me to make my bass playing even more intense. He didn't mind sharing his place in the 'spotlight'. Chuck wanted us to give it all, because he knew his album would only get better by it. Within Death there were never any ego problems. We just wanted to write the best possible songs. It was all about the music with Chuck, and that inspired me. The most beautiful thing was this 'wink' you got when things were really going well musically. You're familiar with the goose bumps you get, when you hear a piece of really cool music? Well, Chuck got that from his own music, when other people did something cool with it. He encouraged us constantly. And that's why I felt so in place with Death. This crazy cancer year, since James Murphy and Chuck Billy were also struck with this disease, changed my whole outlook on life. It put all 'normal' problems into a different perspective and made it easier to deal with certain things. Look what Chuck Billy did, sharing the proceeds of his benefit concert with Chuck's family. He came up to me one day and said: I'm sick and tired of hearing about those money problems and denied treatments. I am going to send that friend of yours a lot of money". He didn't even know the Schuldiners, yet he transferred a huge amount to them. This impressed me very much. In fact it left me speechless. If a person that is suffering from cancer himself, does that. What could I do? I talked a lot with Chuck last year. He even played me parts of the new recordings through the phone and that music sounded really cool. Chuck finally realized that everybody would compare Control Denied and Death anyway, so he said: lets just make a real intense, and ultimately extreme CD." Therefore, the music sounds pretty complex again, with a lot of 'crazy' drums. It's quite in tune with Death as well."

Steve is still playing in Testament and he's also working on other projects, Sadus and Darkhall being the most well-known of course. Steve is also involved with Eric Peterson's band Dragonlord and along with the other Sadus members he's working on a solo-album by Chuck Billy.






The former Dark Angel drummer paid his respects on 'Symbolic' and 'Individual Thought Patterns', but has known Chuck since his teenage years.

"Chuck and I were pen-pals. Way before I joined Dark Angel, I was a fanatic tape trader. Everybody wrote letters with each other and exchanged demos. I was in close contact with Katon of Hirax, Kerry of Slayer and Jim of Dark Angel. And Chuck was also among these people. In fact, I even played 'Infernal Death' with my first band. We met for the first time in L.A., where he recorded 'Scream Bloody Gore' with our producer Randy Burns. We toured together in 1988 and afterwards we even had a temporary fall out. Dark Angel split up in September 1992 and in October I heard Chuck was searching for a drummer. I knew 'Human' and was impressed with the progression Death had gone through. My first reaction back then was: 'imagine you have to drum this'. And yes, less than a year later I had to. Chuck sent me a tape with the guitar riffs, which he taped with two ghetto blasters. What he did was: He recorded one guitar part on the first ghetto blaster. Then he would rewind it, play it back and meanwhile play along a second guitar line. These two guitars he recorded with the second ghetto blaster. After listening to these tapes for a week, I flew to Florida and we started jamming. During the 'Symbolic' days Chuck bought a drum machine. But because since he was thinking as a guitarist, he programmed very impossible drum parts, that only could have been played by an octopus. Still, I figured it would be a challenge to play those parts. We took a lot more time with 'Symbolic' and jammed a lot. That's why those two albums are so different. With 'ITP' we hit the studio within a few weeks. For 'Symbolic' we jammed for a long time in his garage. We even recorded some demos with just me and Chuck playing, that sounded pretty cool. I really would like to hear those again. Although I co-wrote for about four songs on 'The Sound Of Perseverance', Chuck eventually opted to work with Richard Christy. Whereas I want to go for a more solid approach, I guess Chuck had a different idea. It was my opinion that we'd proven ourselves as far as technical music goes. I just didn't want to sound like I was throwing my drumkit down that stairs anymore. My time in Death was great. Chuck often used the word 'magic', and that's exactly what that period was. We had a perfect working atmosphere and everybody could play their instruments quite well. Therefore I really regret that we never toured with the 'Symbolic' line-up. To play with Steve, Bobby and Chuck, would have been the ultimate band. Working with Chuck was wonderful, especially from a creative point of view. He always encouraged me to push back my bounderies and to do all kinds of extra things. 'Go sick' is a thing he used to say often. 'Play whatever you want. As long as I can play my riff with it, it's okay with me'. I really loved that freedom and the way we fed off each other. Although we all lost our metal brother, I tend to think mostly about his family. His mother is one of the kindest ladies I have ever met. Imagine losing two sons. That must be extremely hard. Therefore my thoughts are really with her."

After his departure from Death, Gene wasn't exactly unemployed. He shortly sat on the throne for Testament and next moved to Vancouver. Besides his job with his new employer Devin Townsend, he also drums with Leeway, Just Cause and Daemon. In addition he has a brutal band of his own by the name of The Almighty Punch Drunk and he's the permanent percussionist with the female vocalist Frygirl.



After 'The Fragile Art Of Existence,' Chuck's contract with Nuclear Blast ended, Schuldiner threw in his lot with the Dutch label Hammerheart. In October of 2000 label manager Guido flew to Boston to personally meet up with the bandleader in order to speak about the Control Denied contract. Guido cherishes the memory of that meeting, but also hopes that next to that he will be able to release the second album 'When Machine And Man Collide'.

"I started out as a fan and I still consider 'Leprosy' to be a monument within extreme metal. It was very cool to meet Chuck and even cooler to sign him to our own label. At the time, in Boston, Chuck seemed 100% okay. He was fully recovering, was able to play guitar again. A week before my arrival he even recorded a very good demo with Richard Christy. In those few days, we walked a lot together. We went to record stores and even tumbled drunk out of a pub. Chuck appreciated the personal contact very much. He was very happy with our deal, that compared to previous contracts, was very clear and simple. The band indeed started the recordings at the end of November last year but, as you know, Chuck never was able to complete them. But because there are very complete demo's, on which he even sang the vocal lines, I think it won't be a problem for the rest of the band to complete the CD properly. Besides that, other musicians such as Erik Rutan have already offered to, if needed, contribute a solo. I still assume that the CD will appear on Hammerheart. I have a contract with both Chuck's and my name underneath. It's legally valid, although the family's creditors might have their own ideas about that. The fact that the family doesn't name Hammerheart anywhere anymore, is a little frightening indeed. But when people start to alter agreements made between Chuck and me, then that's it as far as I go. I made a deal with him back then, and paid him quite an advance. I don't feel like fighting all sorts of legal battles over the back of such a famous musician. The fact is that I don't want to be accused of being a vulture. Hammerheart is going to release a lot of beautiful things in 2002. Let's hope Control Denied is one of them."







Guitarist Shannon Hamm has been playing in Control Denied since 1995 and is also to be heard on Death's last album 'The Sound Of Perseverance'.

"I came with the band thanks to Chris Williams (RIP12-12-2001/YK), the original drummer of Control Denied with whom I played in a band at that time. Chris drummed on the first demos of Control Denied, but eventually Chuck decided to go with Richard Christy. That was right after the 'Symbolic' tour. Chuck gave me some demos to sort out and after that we just stayed playing together. Oddly enough he never told me I was in the band, we just kept making arrangements for every next time. Chuck and I clicked instantly, musically but certainly also outside the band. We practiced three times a week, here in Orlando, and in between we often barbecued or played basketball. I was quite surprised that Chuck was struck with this disease. Since he didn't smoke, he didn't drink and even during tours, in the middle of the night at a place like Waffle House, where everybody was eating greasy stuff, he would sit there with an orange juice and something healthy to eat. Deep down I of course realized that Chuck eventually could die. The doctors gave him six months at the most after the first diagnosis. That he held on so much longer, is only because of his tremendous fighting spirit. After the first operation he recovered so well. We were practicing again, recording demos and even started working on the new CD. When next Chuck had another setback, he took the recorder back home to work there at his own speed. Even a half year ago he still was talking about the new album all day: "We just have to finish that CD, that CD just has to come out". He kept thinking positive until the very end and just didn't want to simply be beaten by a tumor. We will finish the CD definitely. Chuck already played all his guitar parts at home. Whenever the paperwork is done, we are going to copy those parts onto the main tape where Richard's drums are. Then I will have to play my parts, and then we can get Steve DiGiorgio and Tim Aymar to Florida to complete the music. Compared to other musicians Chuck was very organized. He had a clear vision of what he wanted to achieve and could bring that across quite well. The atmosphere within the band was perfect which certainly attributed to the music, because it always came very natural. It's quite ironic that Chuck had finally found a stable line-up. We were a real team and everybody felt that way."

Although Shannon was devoted to Control Denied the past few years, he also wrote some music of his own and after the Iced Earth tour he wants to record a demo with Richard Christy. His commitment to finishing the Control Denied CD stays undiminished.






Former Acheron/Incarnation drummer Richard Christy was brought into the band as the successor of the initial Control Denied drummer Chris Williams and automatically ended up on 'The Sound Of Perseverance' too.

"I had been a big Death fan since 1989. So when I moved to Florida I of course knew that Chuck lived in Orlando. One day a friend and I saw him in a book store, where he was reading a magazine. He was very kind to us and we talked quite a while. Later I met him at a few parties and when I heard he was looking for a drummer, I auditioned. We played three songs off 'Human' and one track from 'Individual Thought Patterns', and actually it clicked right away. A few days later I was hired. It was quite an honor to play with a musician I admired so much. And it also was a big honor to succeed drummers like Sean Reinert and Gene Hoglan. Chuck turned out to be very nice and we very quickly became close friends. We went to bars together and had a lot of fun. I believed for a long time that Chuck would recover, because it was so hard to think of the worst case scenario. Chuck was a strong personality and faced his fate unbelievably bravely. The fact that he died had a large impact on me. It really hit close to home. Musically there absolutely was a certain chemistry between Chuck and me. When we were writing for the new Control Denied CD, we wrote a new song almost every evening. The material that we wrote, evolved from the first album; good melodic music, with technical parts reminiscent of Death. I really hope the album will be released, because that is what Chuck certainly would have wanted. During this Iced Earth tour it's sometimes pretty difficult. We play almost the same venues where we played with Death a few years ago. So every time I walk inside a venue it all comes back to me. I remember what happened that day and the good times we had. My period with Chuck was the most beautiful time in my life. I will never forget him".

Richard is currently touring in Europe with Iced Earth. His band Burning Inside still exists as well and just released the album 'Apparition'.






Out of frustration about the lack of correct information about Death on the internet, at the beginning of 1999, Kees and Yvonne Kluitman started the EmptyWords site. Because of its informative character and the cooperation of Chuck's management, the site quickly developed into the most consulted source of information about Death and Control Denied. It was a process that, sadly enough, was considerably hastened by the message about Chuck's illness. Kees and Yvonne opened a European bank account to raise money for the unfortunate musician and they started functioning more and more as the 'portal' for the news from the family and the management. The message of Chuck's passing also reached the metal world through the opening page of on December 15, 2001.

Kees: "Very unreal news, which we carried around for a day and a half. There were signs that things were getting worse. We had not heard from Chuck's mom in a few weeks, contrary of the regular contact in the months prior. We immediately opened a book of condolences on the site, and the amount of messages that came in was overwhelming. Meanwhile there are around 14,000 entries and that number is still growing. Messages from fans from all parts of the world and even famous bands like Slipknot, Opeth and Cradle Of Filth. Chuck's family takes a lot of comfort from these condolence books, which we are working on making visible on the site. At the beginning of January we went to Orlando for Chuck's memorial service, which was very impressive. Besides Chuck's family a lot of (ex)-band members were there, and also people like Jim Morris and Chuck Billy. There was a lot of walking down memory lane and the family made a special film that gave a beautiful impression of Chuck's life. In that week we also visited a few special places, such as Chuck's studio and the garage were the band has practiced for years.
Unfortunately we never met Chuck before his passing. Very sad, because he appreciated what we did and told us he was looking forward to meeting us both. It just didn't happen. In spite of it we oddly enough have the feeling as if we already knew him for years. We will certainly continue with Empty Words and try to keep everybody posted with the last news, i.e. about the new Control Denied CD that still has to be released. Next we already have a lot of new interviews and stories that need to be translated. Especially Yvonne has been very busy the past weeks with answering emails and bringing people in contact with each other. But the most important thing is that we want to keep the memory of Chuck alive through Empty Words".





As the vocalist/bassplayer of Gorefest he toured the States in 1993 with Death, and also did several European tours with Schuldiner.

"When we heard that Chuck had died, our old guitarist Frank and I drank a beer to honor him. The first time I saw Death was at "Het Beest" in Goes, during the 'Leprosy' tour. That night I even traded t-shirts with Chuck. When I gave his white skull shirt back, years later, he still remembered our trade. He always cared very much for other people. When we did the 'Full Of Hate' tour in the spring of 1993, we saw Chuck watching our drummer Ed Wardby every night. Because Chuck was always in need for new musicians, we feared the worst. Eventually it turned out that he was going to invite us for their American tour. Everybody had warned us that Chuck was a very difficult human being, who regularly cancelled gigs. But we shared the bus on that tour and we had no problems. Maybe it was because we never asked for that much. We sometimes had to put our drumkit in front of Death's, but apart from usual small things like that, Chuck didn't seem to fear the competition of his support bands. Death was different from other bands anyway. They had a relatively limited show and Chuck usually didn't speak between songs that much. He clearly was in this business for one reason only: the music. And that music was very special. I found 'Scream Bloody Gore' and 'Leprosy' very good and I was also very impressed with 'Human'. Actually Death played a kind of 'guitar-hero-death-metal'. We did two more European tours together, but after that the contact quickly disintegrated. I saw Chuck for the last time at D.O.A. 1998. It struck me that he already announced to his new band members that 'the guys from Gorefest' might drop by. Which to me was once more a proof of his caring for other people."

After Gorefest split up, in October 1998, Jan-Chris went 'low-profile' for a while. Meanwhile his new band Cold Pop Culture is on the rails, also featuring former Orphanage drummer Erwin Polderman. But, warns Jan-Chris, "it has nothing to do with metal at all. I sing with my normal voice and when performing live I only play bass on a few songs. It surely has a dark edge, but other than that it's cold, electronic pop."





As guitarist and later vocalist of Pestilence, Patrick Mameli toured Europe twice and America once with Death.

"A hate-love affair? Yes, you could definitely put it that way. In the beginning Death certainly was of major influence to us. I found their rawness and pureness really brilliant. I still remember very well how we listened to those old demos. Songs like 'Baptized In Blood', where the drums were totally besides the guitars, but which still sounded super cool. And also the roughness in his voice on 'Scream Bloody Gore' was never equalled by anyone. In the days of our second album, 'Leprosy' absolutely was a frame of reference for us. Although I at that point already realized that there is no point in gratuitously imitating other bands.
Our tours with Death were very disappointing to me. We got the typical support act treatment, which I took very personally back then. In those touring days there have been occasions where I was very angry with Chuck. I've almost punched him in the face once. Even though we split with a fall out in Belgium, at the end of our last joint tour, the news about his death did really strike me. Despite all I had always been very impressed with their professionality and passion. Chuck was not a showman, yet Death always had a great live sound and never made many mistakes. They made sure, like most American bands, that at least their part of the concert was a 100% perfect. On the later CDs one noticed that Chuck started to feel more and more musically restricted. Obviously this eventually led to the formation of Control Denied. Chuck never got carried away by trends to play faster and louder. On the contrary, through the contacts with those Cynic guys, he started to think more and more melodically. He always tried to be distinct from other bands, which I admire very much. Next to that I always have been very jealous of all the musicians he managed to gather around him."

Eight years after Pestilence, Patrick new musical project 'Spheres' is slowly starting to get some shape. For the lack of a suiting drummer, the guitarist still works out his music at home on his computer. Although Mameli's definition 'a one guitar situation with heavy parts, but still in a groove' sounds very mysterious for the time being, Patrick reveals that the music will have little to do with Pestilence. Something that is being confirmed by Mameli's announcement that he's still searching for a 'gangsta-grunge' rapper and top drummer who has feeling with 'metal/fusion/gangsta'.




The Swedish guitarist Mike Amott did three different tours with Death in his Carcass days.

"In 1990 we toured America for two months with Death. I got to know the members pretty well back then. I still remember very well that I even rode on their bus for a change for a couple of days. Just to have fun, drink a beer, talk about music, chat and smoke pot. Back then I thought it was very cool to tour with Death, because they were a bit older, but mainly because it was such an incredible band. Since the mid 90's I unfortunately lost touch with Chuck. The message of his death made me very sad nonetheless. I think that everybody who loves extreme metal felt the same. That night, after years, I took the videos of that tour out of the closet. Although the images brought back many good memories, they made me above all very sentimental. I all of a sudden remembered the day on which I heard that Carcass drummer Ken Owen had a stroke. Things like that happen to a lot of people every day of course, but it seems to have a lot more impact when you know somebody a little better. You all of a sudden realize how vulnerable life is. That you can end up in a wheelchair as a 28 year old just like that. And that you have to cherish every day that you live. Don't let negative forces guide you, be creative."

Robbie Woning
With thanks to Kees & Yvonne Kluitman


to memorial

Translated by YK/RW/MM for EmptyWords-Published on Februari 23 2002