Magazine: LotFP
Article: Control Denied

Lametations of the Flame Princess

Written by: Jim Raggi
Published: February 2000



You should all know about the band called DEATH. Chuck Schuldiner has been unleashing the metal fury since 1984 or so, starting off with primitive death metal, and being one of the first and defining bands in the genre. They progressed into being a technical metal monster. 1991’s Human and 1998’s The Sound of Perseverance were absolute gems of intelligent, yet extreme heavy metal art. But throughout it all, Chuck wanted something that would recall his heroes growing up. Judas Priest, Exciter, Iron Maiden, etc ad infinitum. The answer? New vocals. Enter 1999, CONTROL DENIED’s first album The Fragile Art of Existence hits the shelves, featuring music strikingly similar to DEATH’s last album, but featuring the vocal stylings of one Tim Aymar. Steve DiGiorgio returned to the Schuldiner fold on bass, with ten armed drummer Richard Christy and Shannon Hamm returning with Chuck for the twin axe attack. Highly technical, definitely progressive, yet still balls out heavy metal. I rang up Tim Aymar one fall afternoon and this is what we talked about…


Hi why don’t you tell me a little bit about yourself and how you got into the metal scene.
There was a guy I sat beside in algebra class, and we used to talk about the bands out at the time. AEROSMITH, LED ZEPPELIN, LYNYRD SKYNYRD, BLUE OYSTER CULT.

How old are you?
36. He heard me singing in the hallway with my boom box and he asked me if I was interested in singing in a band. I had just gone to see AEROSMITH and I was impressed enough by that that I didn’t hesitate. We started practicing and that band turned out to be pretty good. We were 15 year old rock stars. That was a band called SWEET DESTRUCTION, we changed the name later on to OVERBOARD. This was about 1979.

I wouldn’t have any comprehension of what the music scene was like back then.
Yeah, most of the people coming up were still shitting yellow when I was getting started.

What happened with all of that?
I moved. The employment situation in Pittsburgh was really bad. The mills were all shutting down and all the training I had in school was no good. There were all these guys in their 30's and 40's released from their jobs at the mills. They were all retrained in the same fields I was. What jobs there were were crap. I moved down to Orlando to get into construction down there. I took a little break, played with a few bands down there. That was the longest I was out of a band, about 6 months.

I lived there for a few years.
Ironically years later I run into Chuck and he’s living in Altamonte Springs at the time when we first did the demos. That’s right down the road from where I was living.

The first I heard of your name was in PSYCHO SCREAM. How did you get involved in that and when was that?
I met Jim Dofka around 15 years ago. He had a band at the time called SCREAMER. He’s from Wheeling, West Virginia, I was living in Pittsburgh. What we would do is share shows. We’d go down and open a show for them, they’d come up and open a show for us. We got to be friends that way. Years later I was singing for a band called TRIPLE X, which was a pretty popular band up here, the most popular band in town for about 5 years. We had a sponsorship from Budweiser. The thing about TRIPLE X is it wasn’t heavy enough for me. It was just too happy. I wanted metal! Jim had called me when he started doing his DOFKA album Toxic Wasteland. I had to pass on that. I regretted it. I wish I could have sang on that album but Scott did great. Jim went on to Dofka, BRICK MISTRESS (?), 1369 was the other band. Mostly the same guys, there are only so many good musicians and you have to recycle them. So there’s maybe 10 or 12 guys that make up 5 bands. I hooked up with Jim when I got tired of TRIPLE X. He had the music ready for me, I didn’t have to do anything except rehearse and get ready. We got the band out and it got over well. The album got out in Europe, Japan, South America, Micronesia, weird places. Places we didn’t expect it to go to. One of the people who got ahold of it was Chuck Schuldiner [shul-dinner, by the way]. He called Dofka and asked to borrow me. I was working with another band at the time. It was a side project of NARITA and ROYAL HUNT, there were international players involved. It didn’t work out because I went over there and got bronchitis. When I got back, Jim said ‘Guess where you’re going now? You’re going to Florida to work with Chuck Schuldiner.’ That was late 96. That’s when we did the first demo. That was awesome! The first demos went great. I got down there and Chuck and I immediately clicked. I wasn’t worried about that, Chuck is a great guy. We’d have our coffee and bagels in the morning, play a little basketball to warm up and then go slam out a couple songs. We spent about 4 or 5 days and we did all the demos for 3 songs. That was Believe, Cut Down, and one other one. The police showed up for the first official CONTROL DENIED practice.

How familiar were you with Death at that point?
I’m not a huge fan of death metal, but Chuck’s stuff is so progressive I can’t help but like it. I’m into all kinds of jazz and classical stuff and a lot of fast technical metal. There’s other technical things out there besides metal. Jim Dofka used to drive home from band practice and listen to Chuck’s stuff and laugh our asses off. Not that there was anything wrong with it, we weren’t laughing at the music, we were laughing hysterically because he had to have been beating his drummer over the head with something to make him play so hard and so fast!

He’s had the good drummers over the years. Then there was the drama after the demos that Chuck wasn’t getting any bites.
I don’t think that’s true. It’s not that he wasn’t getting any bites, it’s that he was getting stronger offers to put Death back together. When you’re shopping CONTROL DENIED around and you say ‘I’m Chuck Schuldiner of DEATH and we’ve done 7 albums, here’s the sales records’ they say ‘Why don’t you do a DEATH album then?’ Nobody wants to try anything new these days.

With the deal with Nuclear Blast, it is my gut feeling that CONTROL DENIED was only going to happen if there was a Death album first. A proven commodity for them first.
I’m not sure. I’ve kept my nose out of the business end of things. I was called in to work on this project. This is Chuck’s baby. It’s his band, his dream. I can respect that. He hired me to do a job, which was to sing on this record. As far as handling the business, it’s up to him. I don’t poke into it too much. I’m concerned that there have been delays but that’s mainly to do with his health. What they would like to do is release the album around the time Chuck recovers. But there’s no telling when he will so they postponed it and postponed it. They’ve had personnel changes at the label too. That makes things interesting too. You think you have this great deal set up airtight and something like that happens.

I know one of the publicity people he’s worked a lot with before took off. And then they just changed the publicity department again which has to be great for people releasing records right now. Considering the material is similar to the last DEATH album, Chuck in interviews has been going on about how there’s been absolutely no mixing of material between the two projects. That’s a little hard for me to swallow because again they are very alike as it is.
There are some differences. But we’re not going to cheapen CONTROL DENIED by doing covers of DEATH or vice versa. Chuck did use a couple of the songs but they’re his songs. He wrote them. If he wants to sing them and use them for DEATH that’s fine. He did catch some flak for putting some songs on the last DEATH album that were on the CONTROL DENIED demos. But he wrote them! What gets done with them is his business!

I don’t have a problem with it, I love his writing style. It’s all intellectually stimulating to me with the progressive writing. It doesn’t make a difference to me, I can deal with the melodic vocals, I can deal with Chuck’s growling. Whichever. There are people out there that have a problem and I don’t get it. If there are differences, it’s the same style anyway, it’s not like he’s gone off and done a GAMMA RAY.

How much control did you have over the vocal patterns and melodies?
He wrote all those lyrics and he sent me demos of himself singing. I had to really work hard to pick up on the way he phrases things. Totally back asswards from the way I do things. Which was cool. I don’t think I’ll have writers block for a long time after doing this album after seeing all these little tricks. I didn’t write the lyrics, I didn’t write the melodies. Just some of the backup vocals and I tweaked some of the melodies here and there, pinched a word here and there. It’s 99.9% Chuck.

I did notice at least some of the stuff, you could tell it was his style and in my mind I could hear him growling those parts!
The way he explained it, the melodies are things he’s had in mind all along since the early days of DEATH. He’s always wanted to be melodic but he didn’t sing well that way. That’s not his strong suit.

PHARAOH, where does that fit into all of this.
I did a couple songs with them for the IRON MAIDEN tribute album. We’re planning on doing their first album and from what I heard from Matt, he’s got all the music ready for me and we’ll get started recording the vocals now.

How did you get in touch with them?
Through Jimmy Dofka. He seems to be the gateway to the outside world here.

I remember emailing Chris Maycock and he had this grand master plan of releasing the PHARAOH album at the same time as the CONTROL DENIED album to get the publicity rub but obviously that’s not happening. What’s the holdup?
I don’t even know. That’s just something I’m doing on the side to help those guys out. I’m not concerned with a timetable for that. And I just hooked up with PSYCHO SCREAM again to do their second album. You can hear my voice is a little bit tired today.

What’s the timetable for that?
We’re going to take our time. There’s no rush here. What I’m tired of is hurrying up and getting things done. I’ve never been able to do what I’m able to do. The label always gives this deadline and it has to be sent to them Tuesday. Well my vocals get started Monday night. How long does it take to mix this thing? I would like to take my time with PSYCHO SCREAM.

The one thing about CONTROL DENIED that everyone is unfortunately focusing in on is Chuck’s health problems. The title The Fragile Art of Existence, was that created before or after he was diagnosed.
Before. The other part of it is my brother died during this album. I had to fly back to Pittsburgh and bury my brother and then come back and record the album with the guys. He title meant a hell of a lot more to me when I came back. A month after the sessions I get a call from Chuck. I was down in Jacksonville and I had been trying to get ahold of him. Nobody would answer the phone. When I got back to Pittsburgh there was a message, six of them, from him. ‘I have to talk to you.’ ‘Tim, where are you, I really have to talk to you.’ ‘Tim, when you get in call me, I really have to talk to you.’ The last message was ‘OK, I’m going to have to tell you this way because I’m going to New York and you won’t hear from me for six weeks. The headaches I’ve been having, I got diagnosed with a brain stem tumor and I’ll be in radiation treatment.’ I about hit the floor. I just lost my mother, my aunt, my grandmother, and my brother in within 5 month. In the past year I’ve lost 5 family members and 2 friends of the family. That title means a hell of a lot more to me than anyone right now. And to Chuck. He has to deal with. It’s really hard. I wanted to be there for him, but at the time I just couldn’t. Things were just so screwed up here from the family tragedies. On the same group of answering machine messages as Chuck telling me about his brain stem tumor, I think it was one or two messages after that, it was my father telling me his friend had committed suicide. That wasn’t a very fun weekend. I’m still trying to hang in there.

And here I thought I was having a crap few weeks.
Hey, anybody who thinks their life’s tough can come talk to me for a few minutes. I’ll play my little violin for you. What can you do? Life is life. All you can do in this situation is go on! Chuck might have a long time left. He might not. Either way he has to get the most out of it. He can’t be worried about CONTROL DENIED and all these stupid little details. Whatever’s going on here, he doesn’t need to be bothered with that right now. He’s focused on getting better. The fans need to realize that. I know everybody wants to be out touring but he has to get better.

How is Chuck doing?
Last I heard things were looking pretty positive. What I heard from Shannon is that the doctors gave him his checkup a few weeks ago. It was positive, it looks like the radiation is doing it’s thing, the tumor is receding or whatever they do. He’s going to have another checkup in December.

Even if he does make a recovery, will he be in good enough health where down the road he can tour again?
We’ll see. That’s what he wants. It has to be killing him to not be able to play these songs. Your whole life, your whole identity, you’re that guitar player. Then one day you pick it up and then you can’t play it. Who are you now? His whole identity is messed up. No, it’s not. This experience has made him see things he’s never seen before and to take the time to appreciate things he’s never appreciated before or had the time because he’s had his career. Now he has the time to spend with his family, time to talk walks and just be Chuck. He doesn’t have to be Evil Chuck the heavy metal guitar player, he can just be Chuck.

I work in an office and there have been people who have worked in offices their entire lives and they’re nearing retirement, and it’s the same with putting the career before families. Everybody thinks musicians have these glamorous lives and when it comes down to it they have the same concerns with their lives doing their music.
What’s wrong with giving that kind of attention or that kind of respect to an ordinary person anyway? Nothing. Face it, when that magic is there, everything is a lot more fun. If you’re just Bernie Schwartz and his Band in regular clothes, if you don’t have that image, it would be silly. Imagine a baseball team, the Pittsburgh Pirates coming out without uniforms and playing baseball. There is an image, there is a uniform we wear to be amongst the ranks of the heavy metal guys.

This is the most exposure you’ve had on a record. Do you think this will help PSYCHO SCREAM in getting their stuff out?
Absolutely. It’s one of the benefits for all of us. Shannon has a band, Richard has one going on, we all do. That’s one of the great thing about this project is it’s brought all these musicians together. There will be offshoots of this project.

The tagline from Chuck is always ‘trend free heavy metal.’ Which I agree with and I can hear he’s still doing his own thing. But of course coming out on Nuclear Blast in this musical climate, he’s been going on about CONTROL DENIED for years now, and then of course now this is coming out and some journalists are already complaining ‘Oh, this is another Nuclear Blast power metal thing!’ If you could say a few words to that…
This was never intended to be power metal. Whoever is saying that must not know much about music. They don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground if they’re saying this is a power metal band. I’ve been a metal vocalist for god knows how many years. I’m a melodic singer, I’m not going to stop being melodic for anybody! I can sound awful damn ugly at times, when it’s appropriate, when it’s called for in the music, but I’m not limited to that like a lot of these frogs are. Oh, was that a derogatory remark? That’s what I don’t like about death metal is the vocals. It turns me off, and it turns a lot of people off. They love the music, but when the vocals kick in they say ‘Ah, I’ll listen to something else.’ The whole Satanic thing has gone out. It was cool when SABBATH was doing it, I was a fan of ANGEL WITCH, a lot of Satanic bands. But it’s gotten absolutely stupid! Barney for Satan or something! DIMMU BORGIR, dressed up in makeup, they can’t even play! What is this, a puppet show? And then they’ll knock guys who are busting their ass like Chuck just for doing something different. They’re mocking everyone but themselves. Where did they get the idea for the makeup? It’s already been done. The ideas with the blood and everything. I don’t know what makes them think they’re so original and say ‘Oh, CONTROL DENIED’s not a metal band!’ They tried to make this out like it’s an alternative band! Imagine Chuck Schuldiner playing ALICE IN CHAINS songs. I don’t think that would work. And if he made me sing that I’d blow my brains out!

<needless to say I’m been laughing my ass off since the word ‘frog’> I got the CONTROL DENIED promo about the same time my friend got the new DREAM THEATER…
Jim Dofka came to me after he heard that and said ‘I’m in love!’ The last couple have really sucked and have been stale and boring. They’re getting very clinical. He said there was a lot of soul in this new one. I have the new MARK BOALS CD, did you hear that?

You know Mark Boals, he sang for Yngwie?

He’s on Yngwie’s new one, it’s good. What’s the solo album like?
Very, very weak. Extremely poser metal. A sad attempt at metal.

Where would one go about getting a MARK BOALS CD? It sounds like one of those you pay $30 for to get from Japan.
I got it from Dofka. He’s a record store manager. It’s very bad metal.

Life being what it is, PSYCHO SCREAM is going to go into full gear and start doing stuff and you’re going to get a call from Chuck saying ‘I’m ready.’ What will you do?
Drop everything I’m doing and go. Hopefully I won’t be in the middle of anything. I have some things to do to keep my life going. The release was supposed to be in July. I’ve been just hanging in there waiting to do this. It is my job, I get paid to do this. When something happens, I have to change my plans instead of waking up and not having a job.

So why are you not on the list of people in the band Nuclear Blast is offering up interviews for? [He wasn’t at first, so I called him, but right around press time, sure enough, they’re offering him up… grrr…]
I don’t know. Maybe I made enemies with them in a past life. I will tell you this, there’s one person at the label that does not get along with Chuck and that’s the person in charge right now. There’s a lot of bad things happening simply because this person doesn’t like Chuck. And if you don’t like Chuck you won’t like me much either!

Don’t you love politics in record companies?
Oh, it’s great. You’re busting your ass to put out this great music somebody’s plotting to ruin your whole career. Great fun!

And if you went to the web, to go straight to the people instead of having a deal, even if there was this utopia of everybody having equal promotion, that means nobody would sell more than 50-75,000 records because there would be no trends or proven market strategies to breeze by on.
When the record business started, there wasn’t a whole lot of competition. The music world was so small at the time. When Elvis Presley came out, how many white blues singers were there out there? None. There’s a rumor that Roy Orbison was a candidate to do the same thing they picked Elvis to do. Roy is a much better singer but Elvis had that image.

I guess I don’t have to ask if there’s any new material in the works…
If Chuck pulls through whatever he does next will be the greatest thing he’s ever done.

You might be out of a job. I can imagine Chuck might want to be screaming his head off again after all of this.
He might want to sing for joy, you never know! He seems to change colors with every new album.

He can get together and tour with MORTIFICATION! [We go off on a HUGE tangent about lion surfing, lymph node donor survival, and DARK FUNERAL before getting back on topic… ] The one thing I like about DEATH and CONTROL DENIED is that the lyrics are so real.
Or surreal. You have to put your own mind into it to get something out.

But at the same time you can tell something really fucked happened to Chuck over the years.
It happens to everybody! If it doesn’t you’re not really living!

But that kind of thing is a lot more real than elves in the forest or Satan and hell.
Yeah. Talk about something else! I’m a big DIO fan. DIO has touched some pretty demonic subjects along his way that were really cool, but he wasn’t taking it that seriously.

Let’s start some controversy. Ozzy vs Dio, your opinion.
That’s like Superman vs Batman! Uh, god bless them both. Ozzy kicks ass, and look at the players he’s had!

That’s my thing, I’m not an Ozzy fan so I say look at the players he’s hidden behind!
But he writes the music. He can sing! [uhh…. –ed] And he has the character to play. Which is cool. He can’t be the same Ozzy offstage as he is onstage. You can’t survive that way. If I was the same idiot offstage that I am onstage, trying to live a normal life around normal people, it just wouldn’t work!

What was your reaction when you saw The Sound of Perseverance and in the thanks list Chuck lists you ‘…Tim Aymar (I lost your number)’?
I just saw that the other day! Jim Dofka has a BLACK SABBATH tribute band. The singer in that looks and acts like Ozzy, totally uncanny. I mix their sound. I stuck the DEATH CD in and a friend says ‘Did you see the liner notes?’ No, I’d never picked it up and read it! And he shows me… I move around so much from one end of town to the other it’s hard to keep track of me.

How’s the local scene there?
I haven’t been involved lately. It’s really tough for heavy metal shows. Some bands do well, some bands come over from Cleveland and do good. MUSHROOM HEAD has a really good sound SLIPKNOT really stole that whole MUSHROOM HEAD image. Scott Edgel, who sang on Jim Dofka’s Toxic Wasteland album, he’s with MUSHROOM HEAD now. Small world.

To really wrap this up, what are your top five favorite metal albums of all time?
Rage For Order [by QUEENSRYCHE] is my all time favorite. Heaven and Hell [Dio era SABBATH], CRIMSON GLORY’s Transcendence. Master of Puppets by METALLICA. AC/DC For Those About to Rock. Those are the albums as far as the writing and playing and production that have really influenced the way we look at heavy metal now.

Favorite newer bands?


to talks

EmptyWords-Published on October 20 2003