Magazine: Grind Zone / Italy
Article: Still Alive

Written by: Cristiano Bianchi
Published: October 1998
Translated by: Vincenzo Chioccarelli


Surviving in the merciless world of music business ain't easy, but when you join tenacity and lot of class you can overcome even the most extreme difficulties: Chuck Schuldiner has lots of class and tenacity, so don't be surprised that we find him again leading the legendary Death, ready to prove that passion for music is stronger than all those goddamn marketing laws that rule our daily living! 'The Sound Of Perseverance' is the title of the new album. Melodic, powerful and technical like never before, Chuck has presented it in a preview to our Cristiano Bianchi…

If persistence had a name, it would be surely Chuck Schuldiner! In the music business it is hard to find another person who demonstrated so much devotion to his own creation (Death) and to the metal cause. Much has been written about Mr. Schuldiner, and most of it negative, showing that, maybe, no one (fans apart) ever really cared to comprehend how much this ingenius artist wanted to convey in all these years. To this Floridian boy who plays guitar divinely, trends and compromises always meant nothing, and we know all too well how such an attitude can cause troubles for those who are looking to lead the shabby rock 'bandwagon' towards lands ruled by 'Godmoney.' They called him 'dictator', labelled him stubborn, and lately they even accused of going insane, leaving death metal to play power, which is currently considered trendy now. How much bullshit… Fortunately, Chuck has always remained quiet, very down-to-earth and maintained one obvious goal: to give to his own fans a new record, better than the one before. The target was hit perfectly with 'The Sound Of Perseverance', the seventh studio-album by Death. Offspring of a new line-up (Richard Christy on drums, Shannon Hamm on second guitar and Scott Clendenin on bass) and of fresh deal with the respected Nuclear Blast, and with little delay in time-table, Chuck contacts me by phone and shows from the very beginning the willingness to have a nice chat…

So, to start, would you like to make clear all that happened around Death in the period after 'Symbolic' tour?
"Well, in short, at the end of that tour I decided to take a break to reflect, so that I could comprehend what was the best to do with Death: I want to say explicitly that I never thought of splitting the band up, I just felt the need to…pull the plug for a while. The misunderstandings with Roadrunner had already become incurable and it made no sense to continue collaborating with a label that no longer believed in the band: so I decided to take up an old idea I had some time ago, which was to create a band that was not so different from what Death already play, but with the difference of having a classic metal singer (Rob Halford/Bruce Dickinson style) behind the microphone…"

So were all the rumours about your 'conversion' to Helloween-like heavy-power metal false?
"I never said I wanted to play power metal or even 'alternative' music, like I read in some magazine! Control Denied (this is the side band's name) was born of the same spirit that generated Death and took the same energy, the same use of guitars, the same attitude: the only difference is having a singer, that, sings instead of screaming or growling. Besides, while I was dedicating myself to this new project, I always kept on writing new material for Death and from this too you can clearly understand that I was never meant to give up the project that gave me so much satisfaction in my decade-plus career. What I really wanted was to take the time needed to lead Death to a further evolutionary level: our fans always appreciated the fact that every album contained something more than the previous one, and with 'The Sound Of Perseverance' it's the same too. We know there is a lot of people out there still eager to listen to our music and, personally, I think this is the right moment to get back on the scene with a new record."

And what will happen to Control Denied?
"Definitely will be out an album for this project too, but surely we'll not return to the studio before having finished the supporting tour of 'The Sound Of Perseverance': the tracks for Control Denied album are already done, the band is almost the same (except, obviously, for the singer), so as soon as we'll have a couple of free weeks we'll record everything."

In a recent interview, Steve DiGiorgio (the phenomenal bass player of Sadus, ex Death) nearly took for granted his presence at the recording of "Symbolic's" successor, and then nothing happened. Were the many commitments of your bands to prevent the reformation of the great 'Individual' line-up (which included the amazing Gene Hoglan too) or was it something else?
"Unfortunately our obligations and deadlines would not to allow us to play together again: I saw Steve recently and he'd have been very happy to give his class and technique again to Death, yet for reasons outside of our control it was impossible. However Steve will remain my favorite bass player, besides a very dear friend of mine! The same is true for Gene: last time we met was during Dynamo festival…Gene is really a super-busy person: his note-book is full of obligations from now up till 2005, so there was no possibility to do again something together this time."

Because you couldn't count on Gene Hoglan, you did well to replace him with a drummer who didn't let him be missed: but can you tell me where you found such a technical 'monster' like Richard Christy?
"I was really lucky to find a guy like him, wasn't I? I remember I met him in a store: we were both leafing through some magazines and common friends introduced us to each other. He told me he was a great Death fan, and naturally I was happy about this, though at that time I was nearly totally concentrated on Control Denied project: on that occasion we chatted a bit and it finished there. Then I met him again at a party and we made our acquaintance a bit deeper: he confirmed his passion for albums such as 'Human' and 'Individual Thought Patterns', he told me he was a drummer and wanted me to consider him when we began auditions for the new Death drummer. I thought it over for a while and then, considering the boy was nice and seemed self-confident, I called him and invited him to the studio for a rehearsal: in the executions of 'Suicide Machine' and 'Overactive Imagination' he was absolutely superlative and I was really impressed by that performance. It did not seem possible to me to have found a person who saw things with my same point of view and that, at the same time, was gifted by an instrumental technique close to perfection: hey man, yes, he was just the man I was searching for!"

Let's begin to talk about new disk: it is for sure the most complex and, at the same time, melodic work Death ever recorded…
"I totally agree with your statement, also because the perfect mix between technique and melody was just what I wanted to achieve with 'The Sound Of Perseverance': in some way, this album is the natural synthesis between 'Individual Thought Patterns', for feeling, and 'Symbolic', for songwriting's aggression. Beyond, this time we recorded faster than we ever did in the past, so that to catch the spontaneity of songs…"

Your way of singing too has changed a bit and your voice sounds less guttural and eviler…
"It's true, but if you think it over well, for some mysterious reason my way of singing has always been changing album by album: for 'The Sound Of Perseverance' I wanted to use a vocal style more…cleaner and so I concentrated principally on high tunes, leaving a bit the old grunts! To be honest, the change was a lot more natural than it seems, also because when I sing I try to express the vibe I feel in a certain moment, without caring too much about what we can call 'vocal technique': in fact, my way of singing is very instictive, sometimes primitive, and definitely I'll never win a prize for my singing qualities! Ah ah!"

Do you feel more at your ease behind the microphone now?
"Well, I'd say yes…as far as you can feel at your ease screaming like a madman! Ha! This way of singing is really exhausting and it's not easy to always be extreme: but this is what fans expect from Death's singer…guys want to hear me scream, scream, and scream more, and I try to please them…"

Are the album lyrics still dealing with themes linked to reality surrounding us?
"Yes, like on 'Individual…' and 'Symbolic', it's still daily living at the center of my lyrics: the last three Death albums were centered on one great theme, human life. Everybody has dreams and alternate moments of happiness and periods of distress and this is what I talk about in my lyrics: emotions, joy, injustice, sorrow…"

Where did you get the idea of covering 'Painkiller' (Judas Priest) for the cd? Was it originally considered for the Control Denied album?
"Well…we began to play 'Painkiller' almost as a joke, during rehearsal: personally, the Judas record from which that song is taken is absolutely one of my favorites, because it is one of the most aggressive and progressive works ever done by the historical English band. That song has the same elements which characterize the music of Death: power, aggression and melody. In the beginning we thought to use it as bonus track only for the Japanese market, but in the end of recording we realized that was really good and so we decided to include it in the final track-list. It was really funny to play the part of Rob Halford! Ha ha!"

How did you get a deal with Nuclear Blast?
"After I broke with Roadrunner I swore to myself that I would never sign a deal with a label that was not totally busy promoting true metal and Nuclear Blast just works to this direction. I was tired of dealing with people not believing 100% in this kind of music and I didn't want Death's new album to suffer the risk of scarce support, like what happened for 'Symbolic': Roadrunner preferred to center its energies to promote Type O Negative and Korn clones, but that one is not heavy metal! With the guys at Nuclear Blast it was a near instant agreement, because they know who Death are and don't need someone explaining to them that we play metal!"

Do you like the contemporary metal scene?
"As far as I can see, in Europe and Japan, there's still a good thriving of groups and the audience at gigs hasn't diminished: the States, on the contrary, at least at this moment, don't seem very receptive to heavy music…Probably because the current scene lacks originality: quality isn't missing, but innovative bands are few, on the contrary, it seems that new groups are inspired by glorious early 80s' bands rather than by contemporary productions. Yet this is understandable, 'cause the so called 'godfathers' of metal had all their own definite and original style: Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Metallica, Slayer, Venom, Mercyful Fate, Raven, Anvil were (and still are) gifted by great creativity and strong personality, so it's normal that still today are teaching to new acts. A thing I can't stand in the scene now is all those stupid categories in which they try to lock bands up! Who is allowed to decide what an artist has to do? Why should I not to write melodic music? Perhaps because I'm the guitarist of Death? Guys, metal is metal and stop! Categories have always been an instrument to divide, while we have to try to stay unified to keep on listening to what we like! Metal is power, aggression, speed and melody, those are the elements characterizing Death's music as well as Maiden or Mercyful Fate!"

Personally, I always thought an open mind is a fundamental feature to comprehend every form of art, but unfortunately the media in general seem to go to the opposite way…
"And it's just this the real problem of the scene! In short, MTV says metal ain't cool, right? But when you talk about Korn or Type O Negative things are totally different! These groups enjoy incredible radio airplay, not to mention the broadcasting of their videos…that's something strange! I sincerely hope that heavy promotion organized by Nuclear Blast for the American market can give metal its longed-for offspring. I'd like very much to walk through the streets of New York and hear enthusiastic comments about new records by Meshuggah, Hammerfall, Primal Fear and, of course, Death! Yes, I'd like it very much…"

What are your three favorite ever metal records?
"Without any doubt, my favorite is definitely Iron Maiden's 'The Number Of The Beast'…a real classic! Then I'd say Mecyful Fate's 'Melissa', Exciter's 'Heavy Metal Maniac', Metallica's 'Kill'Em All', and Slayer's 'Show No Mercy'…uhm…they're five, is it ok all the same?

Yes, this time we'll make an exception…
"Ok, ha ha! Well, you see, there would be at least the same number to remember, yet these five are definitely those ones that strongly influenced my fate…metal fate!"

And now a banal question: do you think 'The Sound Of Perseverance' is the best record ever made by Death?
"Well, I hope so, though I have to admit 'Individual Thought Patterns' has been up till now the most important cd in my career…In short, I think I can clearly say that latest three Death records represent the best I could ever express myself artistically: in the future I hope there will be even better moments"

What does it mean to Chuck Schuldiner to be still 'on the road' after all these years and after all the controversy in which you were involved against your will?
"To me this is really a great accomplishment, something to be proud of: it's true, there were unhappy moments, but music gave me immense satisfaction anyway! This is a job I love and I always wanted to do, without feeling the need to follow the latest trends and never giving up on doing things my own way…I never liked safe and certain things, because when you play metal there's never anything certain…and I play heavy metal!"

Before ending, do you want to leave a message to your Italian fans, if possible making an appointment for next Death coming to Italy?
"With pleasure! The last concert we played in Italy was fuckin' incredible, so much so that I still talk about it! I'd like to take this chance to thank all those who were that night at Rainbow in Milan, hoping that next date will be as special as that one! About the new tour, we'll start in Greece in the end of September, so I think in the beginning of October we'll be on to you…don't miss it!"


to talks

Translated by VC/MM for EmptyWords-Published on December 3 2002