Legend, myth, genius and “father of the Death Metal”. These are some of the titles the American musician Chuck Schuldiner holds today, nine years after he passed away from a rare brain tumor. The younger generations should be asking themselves: Chuck what? Who was he? What did he do and why is he so special?


Newspaper: O Dia / Brazil
Article: Chuck Schuldiner: The man behind the myth

Interview with: Jane Schuldiner
Written by: Mara Vanessa
Published: May 2010


In the early eighties, Charles Michael Schuldiner, also known as Chuck Schuldiner, was an ordinary teenager that liked playing the guitar, having fun with friends and going to Heavy Metal and Rock n’ Roll shows. At the time, the musical style known as Thrash Metal was growing exponentially in a part of San Francisco, California known as the Bay Area. This growth contributed to the rise of heavy music, spreading it through the four corners of the world. Because of this inspiration Chuck Schuldiner, age 16, decided to move on with his band, because the time had come to leave the garage and the school parties to conquer another places.

This was the kick-start of Chuck’s musical career and the birth of one of the most iconic heavy music bands of all time, Death. Another major step was the 1987 release of their debut album, Scream Bloody Gore. Considered a classic in the genre, it presented an approach that was completely different from everything people were listening to at the time, with complex and well worked guitars, predominant guttural vocals and a partnership between sound and lyrics which bordered on perfection.

The rest is history! With each new release the band became even more famous, helping to create a new style inside the heavy metal. Moreover the degree of influence of the guitarist and vocalist Chuck Schuldiner grew exponentially. With each new release, the fans, musicians, bands and the specialized critics burnt. This part is purely a biographic register. What few people know is that the prominent American musician was a peaceful man, close to his family, an excellent cook, who liked animals, gardening, and being in contact with nature.

“Chuck has said many times that if he were not a musician he would be a veterinarian or a cook. He loved animals and was an advocate for them, and he really loved to cook, sometimes creating his own recipes. We all loved to eat at Chuck's house, whether it was a cookout or a sit down dinner inside. No eating in front of the television for Chuck, at his house we all ate dinner at the table set with real dinnerware, not paper plates! But our favorites were the cookouts“, says Jane Schuldiner, Chuck’s mother.

According to her Chuck used to maintain the family interactions during the mealtime: “No eating in front of the television for Chuck, at his house we all ate dinner at the table set with real dinnerware, not paper plates!”, she says.

Together with her daughter Bethann and her grandson Christopher, Jane Schuldiner has been watching over the musician’s legacy. This approach is nothing new. Since the beginning Chuck had full support of his parents to choose his professional and personal way of life. “I never had problems with them, and they stayed true to themselves and us, their parents. We have always been so proud of our children”, reveals Mrs. Schuldiner.

“The hair styles and the music do not define who they are as people”

Unfortunately the negative image of the heavy metal listeners and musicians remains as it always existed. Regarding this, Jane Schuldiner highlights: “I have received letters from parents as well as fans addressing the issue of Heavy Metal behaviors. There is no ‘Heavy Metal’ behavior’, just angst in young people's lives that may or may not cause acting out in a negative way “, she says. The Death guitarist/ vocalist’s mother adds that still trying to induce a reflection on the most worried parents, telling them that they “you cannot judge by the way young people dress or the music they listen to”.

And this was the case of Chuck Schuldiner, which, even being inside of the heavy music scene, didn’t like showing any characteristic visual or extremist attitude. Jane remembers that the vocalist and guitarist had the habit of rescuing lost animals on the streets, raised cats and dogs, and he loved the vacations on the beach, antiquing and growing plants (“he had the best yard in the neighborhood”). The matriarch describes a funny story about the behavior of Chuck regarding to stereotypes: “A funny story was told to me by a fan. He was waiting for Chuck to come out of the tour bus after a show, and Chuck came down the steps wearing his flip flops, a sort of rubber casual sandal, for those who don't know the term. The fan was so surprised, he felt it didn't fit the perception of the heavy metal guy. Chuck wore them frequently when he was at home”, she says.

Despite not being religious, Chuck believed in the connection between man and nature, and had the idea that people should do good, worthy, honorable things, without harming others. About this detail, Mrs. Schuldiner said that when her son was sick and hospitalized, several pastors questioned him about this issue, and he answered only that he was a spiritual person, seeking to live as he believed, with many friends and reasons.

Beyond the passion for the music, Chuck Schuldiner was an avid reader. In his list of books there were biographies of his favorite bands and also some books about which he used to keep on the headboard. Among his favorite authors were Joseph Murphy, Leo Buscaglia, James Herriot, Caroline Knapp, Aristoteles, Socrates, Nietzsche and Steven Baker. He and his mother used to talk “about life and all it meant, his concerns about world events, hunger, wars, all of it in his mind to worry about and wish to make a difference. Indeed he was a philosopher, thinking, questioning, writing”.

Fans keep Chuck Schuldiner’s legacy alive

Nowadays, almost a decade after Chuck had passed away, many fans still writing to the Schuldiner family. They “told how his lyrics helped them with overwhelming life issues, Many say that his lyrics in gave them hope and inspiration, sometimes the will to live. Those lyrics will never be out of vogue as long as people need hope, and that someone such as Chuck, who lived through tragedies of his own, wrote about them, telling them that he understands.” tells Jane Schuldiner.

The mother also reveals that, no matter the generation they belong to, the fans still connected for the music. “A teacher I know uses some of Chuck's lyrics in her literature classes. There are fans who went on to become lawyers, judges, and teachers, for example, and they tell me Chuck's lyrics were their inspiration”, she emphasizes.

Jane Schuldiner still receiving the fondness of the fans.

“A fan from overseas wrote to me in 2001 that I should always remember that I am not alone, that I have children all over the world. I never forgot that, and it sure feels as though I do. I correspond with many from the 90's still. That relationship, that connection, with the fans means so much to me, is such a comfort”, she reveals. Regarding to the Brazilian fans, Jane tells that she receives lots of e-mails from Brazil and that she’s very thankful for the fondness and loyalty which the headbangers have demonstrated to Chuck’s memory. She want to send a message: “I want you to know that you have made the time since 2001 more bearable by writing during the tough times, his birthday on May 13th, every year on December 13th, even Mother's Day, to let me know you care, and that you remember Chuck. You have been a comfort during the worse time of my life and I deeply appreciate all of you. Thank you”, she ends.


“Chuck was unique and genuine”

The guitarist Shannon Hamm and bassist Scott Clendenin were present in the line up of Death and Control Denied, the two bands captained by Chuck Schuldiner. More than music, there was and still there a feeling of friendship that goes beyond time, silences and absences.

"There are no words to describe Chuck, how much influence he has had or will continue to have the years that follow. He was unique and very genuine. He always wanted everyone around him feel good, treating everyone with respect, regardless of your situation or circumstance. Chuck Schuldiner was simply the most sensible and the kindest human being I have ever known. I think that his words and his music remain strong enough that people understand this without being told anything", says Shannon Hamm.

For the guitarist, being a part of Death and Control Denied was a very rich experience. "I could write an entire book on this single issue. Being a member of an influential band was the high point in my life. When Chuck got sick, it was like a dream becoming nightmare because I was witnessing the fall of a soul so remarkable, and there was absolutely nothing I could do to help. I could go on forever trying to explain everything that I learned from Chuck, either as musician or as a person. To me, Chuck Schuldiner was more than one friend, he was like a brother ", he says.

Shannon Hamm said he have a letter from Chuck, where he describes his last requests. "I keep the final letter he wrote me under lock and key. This letter explains in detail the whole album, title, order, and his final wishes. I will never be in peace until these last requests are fulfilled. After waiting anxiously for the completion and release of the final masterpiece of Chuck for almost a decade, I can still say with confidence that I will keep standing up against anything on the market today. The job of a true genius never becomes obsolete and the spirit of Chuck still has much to say", he concludes.

The same emotion can be seen in the bassist Scott Clendenin, who remembers that period of life as ‘a great step.’ "Chuck and I used to go out in the early days, more than the other guys. We went to Orlando a lot. He was very respectful of others and kind to everyone around. We exchanged many experiences together going to parties, clubbing, chasing women. We were "brothers of Metal ', and I miss my friendship with Chuck. I think there's a lesson this time and it is related about how musicians become close when they work together. There is a fellowship a little deeper than the mere co-workers,” concludes Clendenin.

For the Polish fan Zoltar, author of the latest virtual tribute to the legacy of Chuck Schuldiner, the mentor of the band Death is a "hero guitarist and composer. He inspired me to pick up a guitar and learn to play. My dream was to just go onstage and play guitar and it became reality. The music of Death stills alive because in 10 years nothing has really changed in the way of playing Death Metal. Chuck was a good songwriter and this is why his music is still and will always be alive as the music of Beethoven, Morzart, Chopin, Vivaldi, etc., because even after thousands of years, people still love it", he says. The drummer from Piauí (Brazil) Rafael Marques says that Chuck Schuldiner "can be considered one of the musical geniuses who went through the 80s and 90s, because the productivity and quality of his work are supernatural and he knew how to set up the 'dream team' of metal." Rafael concludes with a statement that 99% of headbangers around the planet would like to say: "Big Chuck knew how to extract all the creative ability of the musicians around him. The introduction of the jazz’s structures on the sound of Death is the great technical leap for the band. Chuck Schuldiner was a genius of music, his wonderful job serving as the north to the musicians", he concludes.


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Edited for Empty©Words 12-13-10