Magazine: Metal Edge / USA
Article: Chuck Schuldiner

Written by: Paul Gargano
Published: February 2000



It's great to be talking to you after all that you've been through. For the benefit of those that don't know, what exactly happened?
"Basically, in May, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. About a month-and-a-half ago, I completed a six-week radiation program in New York City. I just went back up there about two weeks ago for another follow-up--Just to check up. They wanted to do another MR, and stuff like that. Then, in December, I'll go back up again and see my doctors and they'll take more x-rays. Right now it's just a big waiting game. The whole radiation thing takes months to work--You think you'd go in and get it done and that's it, but it takes months to work, after the fact. So it's a matter of waiting and not really knowing exactly what is going on. They are pleased so far with what they have seen. They are definitely very upbeat. I feel lucky. I've got a great support system from my friends and family and people around the world. It has been incredible. It really has."

So it will still take a while longer to see if it's been removed completely?
Exactly, which really sucks. The whole waiting thing...That's the toughest part, I think, really. They're very upbeat, though. I'm seeing the best doctors that are in the United States, period. I'm also seeing an herbalist up there that's really high-tech. So I'm getting the best of both worlds, so to speak. Until then, all I can do is hang out in Florida and I'm working on music for the next record, actually, since I have down time. I'm doing everything as normal as possible--Barbecuing, hanging out with friends, writing music and feeding my cats and dogs, that's really all I can do."

Has it really affected your day-to-day life?
Yeah, kind of. What it's doing is...At first I thought I had a pinched nerve. First my neck was hurting. I saw a chiropractor and that didn't work, then I saw a massage therapist. That worked for a couple of days and I felt a little looser, a little better. Then I saw and acupuncturist. I saw her about five times and it just wasn't helping. At that point, my arm and my left had started feeling weak, and she's the one that said, "Look, this should have worked by now, you should get an MRI done." That's when they told me, "You've got a brain tumor and it is brushing up against your nerves in your neck." So, Ironically, I did have a pinched nerve. So, right now, I've got swelling going on and it is pinching my nerves, which is kind of messing with my arm and leg a little bit. So it does affect my daily activities, yeah. But, I trust myself, and I'm playing guitar and doing stuff normally. I'm doing yard work. I'm doing everything I would want to , as much as I can. It's wild to walk around thinking the radiation is still working on you, but that is what it does. Pretty heavy..."

There is still pain?
A little discomfort. Not really pain. Just discomfort, really. You can't sit around and say, "Wow!. Fuck everything." I want to continue doing what I normally do everyday, as much as I can. I live in a house, I have yard work to do. I have time on my hands, I'm writing material and just living life as normal as possible."

Given that they expect a full recovery, will the pain go away?
Well, yeah. The awkwardness--as I like to say--will go away. Right now, the reason I'm experiencing that is from the swelling. The radiation caused the swelling, and the tumor itself has been causing swelling--That's what caused me to think I had a pinched nerve. They said this type of tumor--I'd probably been walking around with for years--takes a while for it to finally get to the stage where it grooves with something in there and then you know it is there. Then you're like, "Oh, shit. What is going on?" That is when people realize they have it. It has probably been there for years, which is pretty wild--Especially when I think about myself screaming all that time onstage and adding pressure. You kind of think to yourself, "Wow, shit, I definitely wasn't helping it."

Did your performing hurt it?
I don't think so. If anything, I started worrying that screaming like that for so many years is not a real good thing to be doing to your brain, period! But the vocal style of Death is very over-the-top. For the hour-and-a-half, two hours on stage ever night, I've never thought of it as a very healthy vocal style. It's one I'd never recommend to people. Who knows? And stress can be a major factor in different cancers and stuff. You start reading about all this stuff and you realize, that it can be brought on by a lot of different things."

You've said before that you don't like death metal vocals, but has this experience changed you at all as an artist?
Definitely, but I was also set in my ways to get Control Denied underway as soon as Death was done touring. I've just wanted desperately to get away from the vocal style of Death, and the name of the band, and move forward for so many years now. If anything, I still feel equally as compelled and very comfortable in my decision making as far as doing the Control Denied and making it a very full-time thing."

Is Death done at this point?
It's on hold indefinitely. I don't want to do two bands at one time. Whatever I'm into, I concentrate 1000% on. I've seen people try to juggle two bands at one time, and I don't think it's very sincere. You're obviously not going to be able to tour for awhile, right? Well, if it happens, it's going to happen after the fact and I don't know if it'll be too late for this record. If it is, at the rate of my writing, we should be ready to actually record a new record. So I'm hoping--let's say we don't tour for this record--that we can go and do another record, put that out, and tour for both records and make up for it. It's going to be a wait-and-see process."

How far have you come in writing the next record? Are you ready to jump right back into the studio?
I would love to. I love recording. I love pushing myself. I like pressure, and working under pressure. There will be a lot of pressure to follow up this record. I think this record it going to shock people. It's going to take people by surprise...I think another record that will top this record will be a big thing to accomplish and something I really want to see happen. And naturally, I want to tour. But, like I said, if we have to, we'll tour for another new record and this record, which wouldn't suck--Having two records under our belts and being able to play a lot of material."

Did you find the approach to writing for Control Denied different from that of writing for Death?
Not really. The thing that I was really getting out of it, was knowing that once the guitar stuff and music in general was completed, I wasn't going to have to scream over it and kind of--in a way--ruin it. With Death, I always felt like a lot of people like the music, but they didn't like the vocals, which I could totally relate to. I was the first to say, "Yeah, I know what you mean," to those people. So in the big picture, when it came time to write for this record, I just knew that it was going to be great to finally hear proper vocals, someone who could really sing. And knowing that the band name was going to be different, I knew that I could get away with it. Really, the music is very similar, minus the vocals. That was the delicate beauty of the whole process--I was taking what I'd been doing, but I'm moving it forward and I'm doing it the right way. By changing the name of the band and bringing in a new singer, but maintaining the attitude that I think people are going to expect from me after so many years. One thing it's hard to change is the way you write--If someone said I had to sit down and write a commercial rock song, I guess I could do it, but it would be very difficult to simplify myself that way. When it came to writing, I just wrote how I would normally write, I wouldn't want to throw away what I've spent 14 years building up."

So Control Denied is really a culmination of everything that you've been doing with Death? You needed the Death to get to Control Denied?
That's what I think. It is definitely a direct link. Kind of like a Siamese twin--They're attached, but one's definitely got its own personality from the other."

How do you expect Death fans to react to this?
I think most Death fans are very open-minded, because Death is so melodic and so progressive and over-the-top in different ways. Like last year, touring, I saw every kind of metal T-shirt in the crowd you could think of--from Metallica to Slayer to Pantera to Iron Maiden to King Diamond. I feel very blessed, in a way, that as a band we have such a wide spectrum of listeners. Even though Death is a very extreme band, like I said, it is very melodic. So I think the fans are going to definitely enjoy this record. So far, people have been like, "Wow, the music is very Death-ish, but the vocals take it to that next level." And that is exactly what I wanted to hear from people."

I liked Death, but the vocals got too grating for me.
Me too, seriously. Yeah, it takes away. I've always thought the vocals were the missing link with Death, especially the past two or three albums. But I didn't want to screw up. There are a lot of people that like that style and I wanted to stay true to what Death was, and what it meant to people. But it was very frustrating because I feel that same way you're talking about. It is very frustrating to be the one singing it and feeling that way, but I still gave it everything I had because people recognize when you are faking it."

Do you think anyone will feel betrayed by you saying that the vocals were not something you always liked?
I have been pretty open about that for a while. Naturally, there are going to be people like, "Oh, screw that guy. He wimped out." Whatever. I'm 32-years-old now, and I've been doing it for God knows how many years..over a decade, 14-years, whatever. It is time to move forward. You have got to evolve. It is like having a restaurant with the same menu forever--You have got to add stuff to it. You have got to add variety. You can't force the same thing down people's throats for years and years and years. For me, it is just a matter of evolving, doing it the right way. I didn't put out a Death record with this stuff on it. I made the right choice and changed the name of the band. I tried to do everything the right way. I found a great singer who is not only melodic, but who could scream his head off. So it is not like people are going to hear some candy-coated singer. This guy screams his ass off and I'm proud of him. He did a great job. I couldn't have found anyone better."

How did you find him?
I found him actually, back in 1996 when I started getting this material together for Control Denied. His guitar player in his band at the time, Psycho Scream, had sent a demo tape. The guitarist said, "If you are looking for a guitar player and singer, me and my singer would be interested in trying out for Control Denied." Well, I had already found Shannon--my guitar player now--and told him that I'd like to see if we could hook up with Tim. He came down and auditioned, we did a demo tape, and it was perfect. I knew he was the guy. I was looking for someone who could be melodic, but it was very important to find someone who could be very raw. It is hard to find that combination."

Other than that, the lineup is virtually Death, right?
Virtually, yeah. In fact, I got my old bass player back, Steve DiGiorgio, who played with us on two previous Death albums. He is one of the best bass players in the world. I have known him since I was 18. It is a great honor for me to have him part of this again. Then there is Shannon on guitar and Richard Christy on drums. It's got a very familiar vibe. That is another reason why I wanted to keep things intact--I wanted people to know they would hear something familiar and be able to expect a high standard. Because people do, there is a very high standard to maintain and I'm very aware of that."

Has the past year led you to view your life and career differently?
Yeah, I look at a lot of things differently. I have been wrapped up in the music for so long, it kind of makes you think...In life, we tend to get caught up in whatever we are into and we forget to look around ourselves at the things that are really important, like normal, everyday things. I have been very close to my family. I have always been a family-oriented person. I have always enjoyed lots of normal things, like cooking and my animals--my cats and dogs--and hanging out with my friends, but it makes you really re-analyze all of that and take another look at it and go, "Oh wow...those are the most important things in life." Music, naturally, is important as well, but it does make you re-analyze things and re-evaluate. It scares a lot of reality into you. It makes you realize you have lost touch with a lot of people along the way. Ironically, I have talked to a lot of people that I haven't talked to in a long time. A lot of people have come out of the woodwork to show their support and friends that I have just lost touch with. It makes you think, "Why the hell have I lost touch?" Why do we all go down separate paths and get sidetracked by what we do in life? Whether it is music, or whether you work on a magazine, it is easy to get consumed by things. It really is, and when you go through something traumatic like this, it throws you up against the wall and makes you think."

So it almost re-focuses your vision and the way you look at life?
"Yeah, it really does. And like I have said, I've always appreciated my family and stuff like that. But it definitely makes you look at it another way. Another deeper way. Definitely...when I was going through the treatments in New York, it had been awhile since I played my guitar because I, naturally, didn't bring it with me. I came home and felt very compelled to write--In a different way, not in the normal way I feel compelled to write--I needed to write. I think it is because I knew it would be like a therapy for me. So I came home and I wrote a song in one day--I just sat down and wrote music and wrote lyrics. Music definitely will be different for me now--Everything will be, actually, in a good way. We take things for granted as human nature. We tend to take everything for granted, really. But, we have got to take a step back and, unfortunately, sometimes it takes you being forced to take that step back--like in my case. Music will always be different now--in a good way. The normal things in life, that is what you start really focusing on."

It is a shame it takes something like this to realize that, but it is good that something positive can come from there anything else you would like to add?
"Just that I appreciate everybody's support out there. Everyone that has written in--it means a lot to me. I hope people enjoy the record."


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EmptyWords-Published on March 9 2003