There’s a certain magazine that can’t really be seen as good friends of Chuck Schuldiner nowadays.
    Magazine: Heavy Oder Was!? / Germany
Article: Gesichter Des Todes

Written by: Kai Becker
Published: May/June 1995


“How do you know?”

Well, I followed that whole history closely and read all the articles about it.  

“Do they still write about that?”

No, the subject seems to have been dropped around a year ago. Since then I haven't read anything about your battle.


“Yeah, they write very nice things about me every year. Those guys have a problem. They don’t know how to be professionals in their business. They rather choose to make fun of people instead of writing about the music. It’s about time they get a grip on their problem. I don’t like those methods at all and therefore I’d rather talk with people who are interested in my music. After all, I’m a musician playing in a band.”
Sounds reasonable. I just wanted to ask because I didn’t have any problems with you in the previous interviews and I actually remember you as nice to get on with and a decent conversation partner.

“I only have problems with people who make problems for me. I like talking about music, the band and all that goes with it. That should be the content of an interview. Nevertheless, it’s not clear to some magazines. In the States there are also some, as I would like to call them, “black sheep” that only want to publish dirt about bands, far from the truth. Those things unfortunately happen from time to time. In America there’s one magazine I do have problems with. The case is, that you have to learn to deal with those people. I try to avoid them completely and not do interviews with them. I don’t want to talk about shit with them.”
I can imagine you still have hard feelings towards this magazine.    

“I don’t even think about this magazine anymore, as long as nobody comes close to me. They hopefully live their own lives. I don’t respect human beings who want to make a mug out of me, or try to drag my name and band through the mud. My life means very much to me, after all I only have one. My obvious goal is to play music for life. Whenever someone tries to meddle with it, I have a problem with it. I always thought magazines were supposed to support bands, take them by the hand. They might have a problem, but I’m not a part of it. I’m here because of the music and I hope to be able to enchant listeners. As a fan I would certainly not be pleased when a magazine published shit about my favorite band. I would boycot them immidiately.”
Do you think that after all the annoyance about the cancelled tours and the stress with the magazine, that the reputation of Death was affected by it?
(Chuck about his fans)

“No, but it did affect the image of certain other people. I put my name back into the real light again. I don’t care very much about the press, because the fans are in power. Actually the magazines should be run by fans, but unfortunately they’re not in reality. They are being published too often by people who abuse the power of the press all too eagerly. It isn't often that I have problems with the press though. And if it happens I avoid them and concentrate on my music. When I would play along with them, I would be the same. Are you good friends with them? You seem to be very curious.”
Yeah, that’s part of my job. I just try to understand both sides and to maybe give you the opportunity to straighten some things out.    

“There’s no other side. They are slanderous, which is not a magazine characteristic that is to be praised. As a fan you don’t joke around with a band, if you do, you’re not a fan but an authoritarian asswhipe. I don’t like that at all. My life will go on without this piece of paper. I owe them nothing and they owe me nothing. We both can live perfectly without each other. I only have problems with those who make problems for me. That’s why it’s so important for me to be a musician. Music is my way to express myself. I often wonder who raised those people. However, I don’t want to start a war between us. They live their lives, I live mine. There are dozens of other bands that they can write about.”
Do you believe that the press is too powerful?    

“No way! It’s known that the press has a certain power. It’s just that some don’t know how to handle that power professionaly. You can either use or abuse power. No matter whether you write for a magazine or you’re the owner of a restaurant. The way you relate to people is decisive. I try to respect people and I don’t hurt them. That should always be the way. It would be woeful if some day a magazine came on the market that would only make fun of all the other magazines. That would be completely crazy. I’m a musician and not a part of a soap opera. It’s easy, too easy to judge others. It takes more strength to create than to criticize. Unfortunately too many people only criticize instead of creating something new. We, as a band, created a new album this year. I don’t know what others did, but we can subscribe an absolute killer album with “Symbolic” to our account. Therefore I’m very, very happy and satisfied. I can tell by all the letters we get that our fans are behind us and believe in DEATH. We have a very personal thread to our fans and they know it. We answer all letters, we’re not assuming the airs of a rockstar. I still visit concerts, buy albums and t-shirts. I didn’t change, yet in the meantime I’m in the middle of a complex business.”
Did you notice some loss of your reputation on both European tours after the release of “Individual Thought Patterns”, or were your fans loyal.
(Chuck going crazy about ANVIL)

“In any case they were, more as ever before. When the press came on to me, it was proved to me how loyal the fans really are and how little power the press has to influence the minds of the fans. As I told before, I read a lot of fanmail, as much as I can. I often write back and therefore I know what they think and they know from my lyrics what I think. The fans know that we’re very common. After the shows they can talk with us. I really like to give interviews, because a lot of press guys still are fans. That’s how it should be. To me, only the fans are important. The writers are behind their desks, receiving dozens of CD’s for free. I know how it goes. They get it all for free and criticize whether they like it or not. I don’t need that…”
Despite of all the annoyance, the bands reputation seems to be established. Having its origins in the awesome live shows and the brilliant songs. You can say that despite all criticism DEATH came out stronger, more mature and grew as a band.


"I can relate to that opinion 100%. People can do whatever they want, to damage my name, but they don’t stand a chance, because I know the truth. So do our fans, they alertly read our lyrics and listen to our music. I don’t mind to take up a challenge. It hasn’t always been easy to bounce back from all the shit that is to be read for two years already in press country. I know that the fans are behind the person Chuck Schuldiner 100%. I have their letters at home proving that. That motivates me to continue with the band.”

The question rises how Chuck would describe himself. What kind of human being he is to his opinion.

“I’m probably just like everybody else, liking the simple things of life. I love my dogs and cats, I like to go to the beach, I like to spend time in the country, barbecueing with friends. I like all that others probably like as well.”
When you shut your eyes for a moment and think about your past, what do you see?    

“I see many highs and lows. People who try to bring my life out of order and people who choose to stand by me. I know that the latter know how much I appreciate their support. Besides I see a lot of people I don’t consider my friends after 12 years of DEATH. On the other hand I always had the opportunity to make new friends. Although my experiences certainly strengthened me, I still stayed a vulnerable person, after all life is quite often painfull, like with all the shit that was written about DEATH. I know for sure that DEATH will release other albums, no matter what is being written about our band. Who cares about the writings anyway? The fans are far more important, and there will always be DEATH fans. When they hear the next DEATH album they will know we’ve kept our promise. We will always be a metal band and never play grunge or anything like that. We’re musicians and honest guys and that’s certainly to be heard on “Symbolic”, because the music is straight from the heart.”
As you said before, DEATH as a band has already existed 12 years. It can be said that back then DEATH was one of the founders of a new music style. These years things have changed. A few years ago there was the glorious death metal scene in Tampa/Florida. That disappeared like snow in summer.
(Chuck about his reputation)

“The scene shrinks and shrinks. It’s cool that so many bands hooked up in this scene, but most of them unfortunately sounded similar. As soon as there is too much, the quality of the scene is endangered. Some bands split up, others go on. Those who continue aren’t afraid to try and walk new paths. That’s exactly what we’re trying to do. Try to change all the time. At the moment the scene is going through a major change and I hope traditional metal will revive soon. Because that’s where my roots are: VENOM, MERCYFUL FATE, IRON MAIDEN, JUDAS PRIEST, METALLICA, SLAYER, KISS, POSSESSED, ANVIL, EXCITER, ANTHRAX. The first ANTHRAX album was heavenly, a real killer disc. I still like to listen to those old records these days, because they can still inspire me. This music still came out of the heart. From traditional metal other styles arose.”
Did you ever had a chance to be on stage with one of your favorite bands.    

“Once I had the opportunity to play in a show with ANVIL. Meeting those guys was a great honor for me. It was a very good feeling to share the stage with one of the bands that influenced me. By the way, the name NASTY SAVAGE occures to me, they are from around here. We could open some shows for them in the early 80’s. I remember I totally freaked when I heard about it. For that matter I really like to look back on those old days, because things were more simple then. It was about music and not about things around the music. People were so excited that there wasn’t even time to write rubbish. Everybody was so fascinated about the new EXCITER disc, that it wouldn’t even occur to say: hey, did you hear already, what an idiot this guy from EXCITER is? Noone cared about it as long as his band made good music.”
And good music with DEATH anno 1995 is big, very big. On “Symbolic” Chuck was supported once more by drum God Gene Hoglan and newbees Bobby Koelble (guitar) and Kelly Conlon (bass). They replaced Steve DiGiorgio (ex-Sadus) and Andy LaRocque (KING DIAMOND).    

“Steve’s wife had a baby and he wandered more and more from metal. It was foreseen he would leave the band. We had a great time with him and we completely understand his position. In his place came Kelly, from Orlando and a killer bassist. He’s a very positive and easy-going person. Andy had to go back to his job with KING DIAMOND again, obviously I had to go search for a replacement for him also. I wanted to sign on Bobby, who I once met at high school. I asked some of his friends for his number and got Kelly’s number as well. The two already knew each other which made it easier and accelerated things. Besides we are all of the same age, around 26/27 years old and we have the attitude DEATH needs.”
Chuck can’t suppress to sound a thousand praises of his fellow musicians and the new producer Jim Morris, co-owner of Morrisound Studios in Tampa. I remember the previous interview when Chuck promised to work again with Scott Burns. After all, he was like the fifth band member.    

“Scott unfortunately wasn’t available because he was working with some other bands in the studio. Jim was the only reasonable alternative. He liked the idea and agreed to work with us. He had the experience to support us in our strive after recording an as natural sounding album as possible. I think considering the production the difference compared to our former albums is obvious.”
“Symbolic” is the perfect mix of brutal songs like DEATH just knocked them off in the early years and the more technical, progressive tracks like on the two previous albums “Human” and “Individual Thought Patterns”.  
(Chuck contra the press)

“I heard that more. I knew this album would be very special. I wrote the songs together with Gene, even before Kelly and Bobby joined the band. We were sitting at my house taping the songs on an 8-track recorder. We pottered the songs constantly. We took enough time, we did not hurry and out came a solid album titled “Symbolic”. This working process was very important to reach such a result. I can recommend every band to get an 8-track a.s.a.p. and use the same process.”
My favorite piece on “Symbolic” is “Crystal Mountain”, yet, what are crystal mountains?    

“They are synonimous for my over critical neighbours, which this song is all about. They believe they live a perfect life in a crystal mountain. Unfortunately, I live next door to this religious fanatics, who live unwordly and certainly not in the just described mountains. I’m sorry but those people are not that different from me. They have to pay taxes also and they should not be disturbed by looks like long hair. Although it’s not religious at all my neighbours are filled with hate and judge me. In this song there’s a cross changing into a sword, symbolic for the abuse of their religion. I have nothing against religion in general, but religion should not be directed against others. In “Crystal Mountain” I expressed my hate and anger towards these people. It’s easy to see that “Symbolic” contains very personal songs, i.e. “Empty Words”, every day you say things to people that later appear to be empty. It’s easy to promise mountains of gold, yet it’s hard to keep this promise. Spoken words should have a meaning and not just be hollow phrases just being said to be said. You should think about what you want to say and you have to be sure to say what you mean. I hope people can relate to this theme because it definitely is a very personal song."

to talks

Translated by YK/MM for EmptyWords-Published on December 6 2001