Magazine: Metal Maniacs / USA
Article: Only Human

Written by: Borivoj Krgin
Published: December 1991



"I have learned a lot of things the hard way, but I've bounced back, and in my opinion, everything that happened to me, whether it be good or bad, in the past few months, happened for a reason," states Death vocalist/founder/mainman Chuck "Charlie" Schuldiner. "I'm not saying that to make excuses for what I did, but I truly believe, and I think when people hear this record, they'll know also that things happened for a reason, 'cause I would go through it again in order to come out with the record that we're about to come out with."

Sitting in the main recording room at Tampa's Morrisound Studios, Chuck appears sincerely interested in putting the past behind him and concentrating on what he's best known for: creating some of the classiest, most tasteful death metal to ever be put on tape. Currently the sole remaining member, Chuck has assembled an impressive collection of studio musicians (Cynic drummer Sean Reinert, Cynic guitarist Paul Masvidal and Sadus bassist Steve DiGiorgio) to aid him in the recording of the fourth Death album, Human. Still in the mixing stage at the time of the interview, the record benefits greatly form the instrumental prowess of the musicians involved, making it easily the group's most advanced yet brutal offering to date. "It's such a big step forward, it's killer," explains Charlie. "It's much heavier than Spiritual Healing, in my opinion, but it's also a lot more technical, which came about as a result of Sean's involvement with the album. When I hear (the record), I hear so much energy coming across from it, 'energy' being the key word. Even vocal-wise, my vocals are more aggressive, yet you can still make out the lyrics."

As with Spiritual Healing, Human was produced by Schuldiner and Scott Burns, a combination which has resulted in a polished sound that lacks none of the brutal edge that made Death's earlier efforts so appealing. "We were going after a much 'bigger' production sound, a very album-y-productions sound, if that makes sense," stated Charlie. "I wanted to get away from the dryness and go for more of a rich production with everything, drum-wise, guitar-wise... everything. I think we've managed to expand the sound and make it a lot 'roomier'-sounding without losing the aggression.

Although not a completely novel idea, the concept of using session musicians for a thrash/death album is not one that is commonly practiced. Chuck acknowledges that "it crossed my mind to try and find permanent members after the disolvement of the last line-up, but I figured it'd take me a real long time to find the right people, and I thought it'd be a lot easier if I just asked some friends to come down and help out. I've known Paul and Sean for a long time, and they're both fantastic musicians, so I knew I'd have no problem there. And Steve, I've known him ever since the time I'd spent in San Francisco back in '85/'86, so when I approached him, he was totally into it. I just wanted a top-notch band this time around, I wanted every musician to be really proficient on their instrument, and I feel I've achieved that with this line-up."

"The people that know me, the people that have come up to me and said something, they know I'm not a jerk, they know I'm not some psychotic rock-star monster."

Consisting of eight cuts, the new record is the first since Death's debut, Scream Bloody Gore, to be recorded without the rhythm section of drummer Bill Andrews/bassist Terry Butler (both now in Massacre), who parted ways with Schuldiner on less-than-amicable terms late last year. Although Chuck remains vague regarding reasons behind the split, it appears clear that his failure to complete a scheduled European tour (with Kreator headlining) in November of last year was at the very core of the dispute that led to the duo's departure (Bill and Terry eventually fulfilled their touring engagements, using temporary guitarist Walt Thrashler (ex-Rotting Corpse) and vocalist Louie Carrisalez (ex-Devastation drummer) for the ten-week trek).

"During our US tour with Pestilence and Carcass (which immediately preceeded the scheduled European tour), I began feeling extremely smothered by all the business that I had on my back, and all the pressures that I constantly had to deal with," explains Schuldiner when asked point-blank about the reasons behind his pulling-out of the Kreator tour. "It's easy to be in this business and to get consumed by a lot of things that the (record-bying) public is not aware of, like having to worry about every person you do business with litarally ripping you off.

Chuck Schuldiner: "So many bands don't even have a concept of creating a mood these days, 'cause they're too busy trying to outpace and out-Satanic each other."

On top of that, there were things in my life outside music that also contributed to my feeling this way, and I just needed a break from everything; I had to get out of what I'd been consumed by. I'm sure there's people out there who might be reading this that can relate to this feeling of just being cornered and just having to get away -you don't have to be in a band to understand it. When you're in such a confused state of mind, and you feel depressed, and you're being consumed by depression, all you want to do is run from everything, that is the only thing that you can comprehend. Of course, the timing was very bad -I don't deny that- but getting away from things really did me a world of fucking good."

The team responsible for Death's Human album (l-r): Sean Reinert (Cynic, drums), Steve DiGiorgio (Sadus, bass), Chuck Schuldiner (lead guitar / lead vocals), Scott Burns (producer), Paul Masvidal (Cynic, guitars).

Claiming that he blames no one but himself for the European "no-show" Chuck does however feel bitterness towards Andrews and Butler over the way his name was handled during the European tour. "When I started hearing the rumors of what they (Bill, Terry, Walt and Louie) were doing, like putting signs at shows saying, 'Chuck's home jacking off', something like that, that hurt me. that didn't make me really mad -that hurt," Chuck says. "I don't care if that sounds corny or not, it's the fucking truth. I took it personally, it hurt, that they would desecrate my name that way after -whether they believe it or not- all that I did for them."

Their departure, although termed "a learning experience" by Chuck, appears to have left a more permanent psychological scar on the singing axeman. "I considered Bill and Terry to be my best friends, not just musicians that were with me, but my best friends, people that I shared so many things with," emoted the 24-year-old. "When you live with people on tour and you share different emotions, you become close, and I considered myself close to them. What they did to me -even if they personally weren't responsible for all that was being said- was a complete betrayal of the friendship that I thought we'd built between us."

Justified or not, these latest reports of personnel shuffles in the Death camp came as no surprise to the metal press, particularly that in Europe, who had become accustomed to the constant line-up changes that plagued the group since its inception seven years ago. Not known to maintain friendly relations with former bandmates, Chuck's reputation as "difficult to work with" is one that he would rather do without.




"That's pretty lame for people to think that you're some psychotic monster just because some people are saying it," states Charlie. "Why believe everything someone says? For years now, I'm supposedly a psychotic jerk to work with, and that is totally opposite of what I'm about. The people that know me, the people that (have) come up to me and said something, they know I'm not a jerk, they know I'm not some fucking bastard, they know I'm not some psychotic rock-star monster. I'm so mellow, I'm mellow until someone fucks with me. If someone fucks with me, they're gonna see a very different side of me, a side that I would prefer not to come out. I don't like getting angry. I wish I could regain the reputation that I once had in the scene, and that was, an easy-going person. It's amazing that I'm so easy-going after all the shit I've been through."

Firmly focused on letting the music do the talking this time around, Chuck is confident that Human will appeal to those people who felt that the group's last studio effort, Spiritual Healing, fell a bit short of the brutal standards set through the band's earliest recordings.

"Looking back, I think that Spiritual Healing set new standards for production on a death metal album," says Charlie of the February 1990 release. "And it was a death metal album, despite what these new-breeds go around saying. Just because the record wasn't a million miles per hour and Satanic doesn't mean that it wasn't death metal. At least, not my idea of what death metal is. To me, death metal is a feel, a sound, not something that is very limiting musically. With Spiritual Healing, we tried something different, we tried to expand without losing our brutality, and Human is basically taking it one step further."

In addition to expanding their musical ideas, Death's lyrical approach has evolved over the years, with much of the track on Human containing Chuck's personal viewpoints on a variety of socially relevant topics. "There's a copple of touchy subjects (on the new album), just like on Spiritual....," explains Schuldiner. "There's a song on it called 'Suicide Machine,' which does not promote suicide. It is based around this doctor who invented a machine for terminally ill people that allows them to end their own life if the pain becomes too much to deal with. I think people who are gonna die an agonizing death should have the right to get out of that. If they're religious, if they believe that they will go somewhere better, why prolong the pain when they feel they would be better off moving on?"

"Together As One," on the other hand, deals with the unenviable lifestyle of Siamese twins, who often share several vital organs and are forced to function in everyday life while being permanently attached to one another. I think that all of us take being single-bodied and single-minded for granted," emotes Chuck.

Cynic's Sean Reinert: "What I have tried to do with these songs is enhance the heaviness and brutality while making things a bit more technical-sounding, so it doesn't sound as mechanical."

"Like, for example, my ability to just walk around the room. But what if someone was attached to me? It would be a completely different thing. I think that's so mind-boggling to be connected to another human. That is just the most unreal thing. I have a lot of sympathy for those people that have to experience that."

Another "new" for Death on Human is the inclusion of an instrumental number titled "Cosmic Sea," easily among the most melodic and emotional pieces Chuck has ever penned.

"I just had the urge to maybe display a bit more melody than I normally do in a Death tune," explains Charlie when asked about how the instrumental idea came about. "It still sounds like Death, but it's a bit moodier than most of our songs. I just wanted something that didn't require vocals. It's not something we're gonna play live, so it was a song where we could go off on certain effects. That's kind of neat, in my opinion -to take advantage of the technology available and then not be forced to reproduce it. But I definitely do not like to do something that really will not be able to be done (in a live situation) somehow."

"All I have to say is, when this record is released, there's gonna be a lot of people eating their words.
This ablum is revenge for me."

Though Schuldiner has no plans at this time to search for permanent members to complete the line-up, he will be using Reinert, Masvidal and ex-Fester bassist Skott Carino for the upcoming world tour in support of Human, a stint that "they're very much psyched about," claims Charlie. "Paul and Sean played on this album, so they're gonna be representing themselves. It's not gonna be a 'Chuck'-tour with session musicians helping, it's gonna be a very solid foundation of everyone kicking ass." Chuck's enthusiasm is particularly surprising considering his general dislike "I have learned a lot of things the hard way, but I've bounced back, and in my opinion, everything that happened to me, whether it be good or bad, in the past few months, happened for a reason," states Death vocalist/founder/mainman Chuck "Charlie" Schuldiner. "I'm not saying that to make excuses for what I did, but I dislike for anything road-related, which he makes no bones. "I'm not gonna sit back and say, 'I worship touring, touring is the most killer thing ever,'" states Schuldiner. "It's not the most killer thing ever. It's cool, and it's something you have to do. But it's a lot of hard work, and people don't understand that. Several tours, we roadied ourselves and budgetted, and that is a lot of fucking work, to be a musician and to have to worry about all this business and protecting yourselves and dealing with clubs that are trying to rip you off. I love playing live and having that feeling of people enjoying you and what you're doing. It's just all the other stuff that gets to me sometimes."

Paul Masvidal (Cynic): in addition to playing rhythm guitar on Human, he contributed several leads to the record.

As one of the pioneers of the death metal genre, Death has been a major influence on thousands of groups who have -to one extent or another- borrowed ideas from the legendary Florida combo. While Charlie finds such attention flattering, he feels that "bands seem to be getting more blatant about being influenced by Death as time goes by," laughs the guitarist / vocalist. "It's cool. Someone is into this music and they draw an influence from it or get inspired by it, and I think that's fantastic. I feel good about it. I don't think, 'Oh, I can't believe it, they fucking did that!' I'm not like that. It's kind of funny, I kind of laugh about it, in a way."

Though he plans on expanding musically with future recordings, Chuck admits that "there's so much you can do with this certain style of vocals. I like hearing brutal vocals put to this music, so I can't see that changing very much in the future. But as far as the music is concerned, I plan on progressing and adding new elements to my music with each album that I do without drastically altering the sound of the band."

Currently scheduled for a late September release, Human is an extremely personal record for Charlie, who summed up his feelings for the album this way: "All I have to say is, when this record is released, there's gonna be a lot of people eating their words. This album is revenge for me. For myself, to prove myself, and to make other people look like the liars that they are. The truth will be revealed when this album comes out."


to talks

EmptyWords-Published on May 26 2002