Magazine: Metal Hammer / Italy
Article: Una Storia Da Raccontare

Written by: Luca Signorelli
Translated by: Vincenzo Chioccarelli
Published: May 1999

Much has been said about Chuck Schuldiner: that he is a lunatic, an irresponsible, fanatic dictator. And naturally that he is a genius, and it couldn't be otherwise, considering the artistic results reached by DEATH in recent years. Each record always more beautiful than the one before, indifferent to the trends, and to the fact that in the States being a "headbanger" is a shame once again - like old times! LUCA SIGNORELLI has known a lot of things…

Chuck Schuldiner can finally be happy. At 17 he founded Death (it was 1984!), he was "just" one of the many American heavy metal fans who, following the success of Metallica, tried to do it with a sound which wanted (and needed) to be the most extreme around. 'Scream Bloody Gore' made many shudder and left some disappointed - band's sound (and above all the voice) was really paralysing. Besides there was that name, 'Death', the most programmatic thing created by the mind of Chuck (already then a musician with clear ideas about his plans for world domination). Very soon Florida - a sunny place until that time better known for alligators, Miami Beach and Disney World - was filled with snotty long-haired kids who played impossibly violent music, loaded with mom-and-moralist terrorizing lyrics, all at the same recording studio - the legendary Morrisound at Tampa Bay. American Death Metal was born.

"If you expect me to say I'm nostalgic about those times, you're wrong" Whispers Chuck from the other side of the telephone. I expected a cold and atonal voice, like a pure genius of evil. Instead Chuck speaks like a kid. "Hey, don't make me older than I am, I'm just 31! However, like I told you, I'm not very nostalgic about that era. Too much confusion, too much sudden success, it was hard to manage, too many dangerous choices…"

But isn't that beautiful, to be young and carefree?
"Carefree, I doubt that…to go on with a band like ours has always been a big responsibility, and at those times, with all the competition that was around, you felt always at the center of the scene."

Did you care?

"I definitely think anybody would care! Above all in the beginning, a lot of what we said was misunderstood - many times we were regarded as Satanists, tomb desecrators, necrophiles… or the classic story about the suicide instigation …when you're very young it can hurt you."

We'll come back to the past later, but now there is a big present worth talking about. For many, 'The Sound Of Perseverance' has been the revelation of the year, though from a band with more than ten years behind them. In Italy - the Metal Hammer poll and selling results prove it - Death has become a legend one more time, all because of a record that (besides showing the band's usual evolutionary burst) clearly belongs to the Heavy Metal genre (and culture).
"Yes, without a doubt, definitely (note: Chuck repeats the word "definitely" every two sentences!). This is a record in which I stated that I am a headbanger. The music Death plays is pure Heavy Metal. At the moment in the States it is very hard to remain coherent with yourself playing this kind of music. Anyway, there is still an audience ready to follow you, here too…"

How was 'The Sound Of Perseverance' born?
"Like many records it's the offspring on one hand of some personal experiences of mine - not only positive - in the last two years. And on the other hand it's the offspring of the partnership with other musicians and of the work done in the studio. I think result was beyond any of my expectations."

Hey, not ours - after all both 'Individual Thought Patterns' and 'Symbolic' were not without quality…
"Definitely, but I have to tell you 'The Sound Of Perseverance' for me is really something particular, as if a creature maybe more mine than other albums. I think there is a more personal declaration of what I have in my mind in this period. I see it as a very strong injection of melody, something I wanted to do long since, but without having the right motivation - or excuse, if you prefer!"

Am I wrong if I say 'A Moment Of Clarity' is a track in which you probably wished to express this feeling more evidently?
"No, you're not wrong. It's a track that talks about some discoveries that everyone has sooner or later - I say; it includes also relying with your past. In some moments, things appear in front of you with absolute clarity, as if you saw them on a cinema screen. They are moments that can change your life!"

And if I suggest another of my favorite tracks, 'Story To Tell'?
"That one talks about an unhappy love story…a banal theme if you want. I think when a person betrays you, betrays your trust, draws down upon her a hatred which is impossible to gain in different circumstances. They're situations that are very difficult to describe in lyrics, and this is certainly a record in which I let music "speak for itself." So 'A Story To Tell' was born, because a story like that one I wished to describe is really just a story to tell…it is like you would exorcize what happened by telling it to someone else."

What impact did your experience with control Denied (side band formed by Chuck few time ago) have in preparing 'The Sound Of Perseverance'?
"I'm glad you ask me this question, because I consider the two experiences separated yet deeply connected - in Death there are two Control Denied's musicians, beyond me. In short after 'Symbolic' I had some doubt that there would another Death record so soon…"

What do you mean?
"I mean that the burst that created 'Symbolic' and 'Individual…' was, in some way, finished. Besides, there were all the label troubles. I focused on Control Denied and then I found myself with a lot of extra material, which seemed to move to a new direction. In the meanwhile Nuclear Blast contacted me. At that point I told myself - let's go, I have to do something new with Death once again! So new record is, in some way, the addition and the overcoming of the previous two ones…I'm sure it opens a new era in Death's life. Beyond, with a Metal-oriented label: there are too many labels around fucking with bands 'cause they don't believe in music they do. The separation from our former label was traumatic, because all of a sudden I realized they didn't care about what we were doing…they were too busy to following trends."

Now we reach a topic that could be dangerous - 'The Sound Of Perseverance' is an amazing album, and perhaps you know it reached number two in our annual poll…
"Thank you!"

…But many groaned about the vocals - someone thinks you gotta get a real singer…
"Eh…you can tell your readers they're absolutely right!"

Hey, hey, wait a moment, are not you that same Chuck Schuldiner who some years ago shredded the line-ups mercilessly at the first sign of musical contrast? The little Hitler (hey, it wasn't me who said it!) who thought he was always right? What's happened?
"Eeeeh…hey, things didn't go that way! Listen, in my life I often happened to argue with someone for several reasons. Sometimes I was right, other times I was the first to acknowledge to have told a lot of bullshit! It's easy to get heated when you're dealing with something you love…and for me music has always been the first thing, a reason to live. In short - it's true sometimes I behave like a bastard, but there's always a reason. Most of the people with which I was pissed off, gave me serious troubles, or they tried to fuck with me…and a lot of them were never heard from again, so they'd have problems from the beginning, I say…"

We were talking about vocals…
"Ehm…while I was recording 'The Sound Of Perseverance' I told myself: this stuff is so good that deserves a real singer! I don't say I did a disgusting work with vocals, yet since next record Death will have a GREAT singer…"

That is?
"You will be surprised…I promise fireworks!"

Listen, did you argue with Gene Hoglan too? Many of us hoped he was in the line-up…
"No, absolutely…the matter is that Gene in the last year was the busiest man in the world. It ain't easy to be one of the best drummers around!"

And now let's come to 'Painkiller'…how does it feel to do a cover song almost better than the original one?
"Almost EQUAL, you'd say…I don't want to be compared to Rob Halford, also because he has always been my idol, the best singer of all time. In short, I wished to do that cover a long time, and 'The Sound Of Perseverance'-style allowed me to make this dream come true..."

Is it another declaration of love towards Heavy Metal?
"Of course, very good! Judas Priest were the Metal band par excellence, before anyone else played Metal. Covering one of their songs is a way to say 'I'm a headbanger!' Don't let you be deceived!"

But why is stating this identity so important now?
"Because at the moment Metal is once again an underground genre, at least here in States. See Nevermore, that are a fuckin' great band, among my favorite ones in this moment. 'Dreaming Neon Black' is a masterpiece, but here in America is not gaining the reward it should be worth. A real unhappy situation! Naturally there's Europe, but here things are this way…although something is moving, fortunately. Now everyone wants to look like Korn or Marilyn Manson, that surely don't deal with Metal!"

You're were saying something's moving…
"Definitely! Yes, bands like Hammerfall or Primal Fear, that I love, are becoming more and more famous. Naturally, it's still very underground, but it is growing…"

Listen, I always thought that what made you and Gene (Hoglan) extraordinary together was the fact the two of you seem at your ease only in extreme musical situations…
"I guess what you said is true. Music saved my life a lot of times, 'cause it was a way to vent pressures and frustrations that otherwise would become too… extreme, explosive."

What's the secret to turn this pressure into creativity?
"I think the fundamental thing you need to know to live happy is knowing and accepting your own limits. All the people I know that went bad went so because they went over that boundary. It's the biggest bullshit mistake you can make in your life!

Is it a confession? I mean, is 'The Sound Of Perseverance' something therapeutic, like the achievement of things working better…?
"Yeah, it's a very positive record, as much as it can be, being a record of this ultra-hard music…"

What do you think about Europe?

"Great! You have the best music in the world!!!!"

Don't you think this burst towards classical sounds made the scene sterile?
"I don't know what to tell you. It can be that for you who live there you got this perception, but here things are different. When we listen to bands like Blind Guardian or Hammerfall, if you grew up with Judas Priest and early Maiden, you think things are working well once again. Surely, they don't say anything new, but are Metal. Of course I love also experimental groups, like Fear factory, yet only if they keep a Metal mark, if they're not ashamed of playing Metal. I think there's nothing more pathetic and ridiculous than bands like Metallica, that now play other stuff, and their record companies persist to label them as Metal bands. At least they're honest to admit they DO NOT play Metal anymore."

Can we say 'The Sound Of Perseverance' maybe is the beginning of a new spring for American Metal?
"I hope so! It would be the best! See you in Milan!"

to talks

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