Webzine: Unrestrained
Article: In Full Control

Written by: Adrian Bromley
Published: #12-1999



Life is definitely full of surprises, let me tell you.
When I first heard that my brother was diagnosed with a pelvic tumor I was extremely upset. I mean, my brother -- my twin brother Winston, mind you, who also is a musician playing bass -- was at the first time in his young 27-year-old life in jeopardy of losing it all. Sounds harsh, but it's true, and for almost a year now his hard work and dedication to keeping this at bay through weeks of hospital stays and medicine has allowed his prognosis to somewhat level out, with the dangerous side effects of the tumor long gone. The pain and suffering never goes away, but it's the love and healing aspect of making it through it with friends and family -- and a strong belief -- that helps get the job done.

Chuck Schuldiner, Death frontman who has formed the new progressive/technical metal act Control Denied, is currently in the same scenario as my brother once was. He too has been diagnosed with a tumor (a brain stem tumor), but his scenario is much different than my brother's as it's in the early stages of doctor checks, chemotherapy and other tests. But as deep as it may hurt and the struggle for Schuldiner to grasp what is really happening and why it is happening is there, his faith and persistence is incredible. Man, this is uncanny that I get the opportunity to talk to someone I don't even know too well (other than via his music) about something so personal and hard-hitting. We begin.

"When I found out that I was suffering from this, everything in my life took a 360-degree turnaround, I tell you," says Schuldiner from Florida where he is currently recuperating after weeks of tests. "All of a sudden the album title (The Fragile Art Of Existence) took on a whole new meaning. It's totally bizarre that this is the title of the record, considering what is going on in my life right now. I had the album title way back in 1995. It was very eerie. But I have to carry on, I have to do the music to keep me going and strong. I have to try to forget what else is going on in my life. Control Denied means a lot to me. With what has happened to me it has really opened up my eyes and drawn me closer to my family and friends. It makes you realize a lot of different things. The outpouring of letters from around the world from people I don't even know has meant a lot to me. I am deeply touched by the response from all of this," says Schuldiner with sincerity.

"A lot of personal stories have been told to me, like the one of your brother, and that makes me feel good that people are willing to open up, and it shows me I shouldn't keep this all in. It's a very emotional experience to read all of this stuff that people send me. It really shows you just how things really are and how simple things can mean so much to you, like just being at home. I was in New York for a couple of months getting treatment and I wasn't happy. I am not a fan of New York. I am from Florida, and I like nature and things. Stuck in New York City really sucked. I just missed being in my environment. But that is another thing I had to deal with being in my situation."

He continues, "Talking to all of these people who have corresponded with me has really showed me just how what I do affects people. I have always felt that what I do musically affects people and even in the lyrics, people have always come up to me to discuss lyrics. There has always been some kind of connection, and with what I have now, there is just another connection to add to what I have with fans of my work and me in general. I think I write very honest and personal, sometimes too personal, and I think people appreciate that. I put a lot of care into this band," explains Schuldiner about the new disc. "A lot of hard work went into making this record come out like it would had this been a Death record. I put as much hard work into making sure nothing from the outside affected what was going on with us in the studio with Control Denied. I don't want people to think that I am incorporating a more traditional metal sound into my music because currently that is a popular thing to work on. I want people to know that this just happened, the ideas just took shape into what Control Denied is. This is something I wanted to do for a long time, and the music here has matured over time as well. We put a lot of care into this, definitely."

A characteristic that always seems synonymous with Schuldiner is that he never gives up. Despite band breakups, label switches and the hardships of life in general, he has always managed to just break away from it and move on with himself and his music. Does Schuldiner ever reflect back on what he has done to kind of guide him through the current stage of his work? "I guess at the point I am right now and the situation I am in, I do have a lot of time to actually sit back and reflect on what I have done with my life. I have lots of time to think. Career-wise the best way I have been able to go forward is not to look back at what I have done. If I was to look back and see what good and bad things I have done with my career I might start to dwell on things, and that is a bad thing. Dwelling on what you've done does not help the situation. But it's very easy to do. We learn from what we do and how we go about things. I know I have. I have always learned that there are people out there who just try to stop people from doing what they want to do or just believe in. It's human nature. I just keep in mind that it is my decision to move on and do new things and try to put aside what other people say I should or shouldn't do."

Without coming off as an asshole, I usually get a bit nosy from time to time. I ask Schuldiner if he thinks music critics who have heard the new Control Denied record will be a bit more lenient and courteous with the reviews if they don't like it all that much because of his health condition? It was something that was on my mind, and as you'll see, something on his mind as well. "My whole concern with that situation is that people don't get sidetracked with what is going on with me and forget that there is a record out. I am going on with my life and I hope people can accept that and see that my situation is not affecting what I do. I am currently working on the new Control Denied record in my 'down time.' I hope that people give the album (a chance) and go and critique the album for what it is and don't let any other situations come into the picture." He adds, "This whole scenario with my health came into focus at the end of the recording of Control Denied. All of this happened at the end, thank God. This would have really stopped what I was doing and who knows how long it would have taken to get this out."

Several listens of the record will no doubt tell you that Schuldiner is wanting to roam with his musical ability. The music, though technical as Death at times, radiates a lengthy parade of progressive metal ideas and a healthy dose of classic metal at times too. After weeks of having the advance of this record, I still hear sounds and ideas reminiscent of the stunning Chris Poland (ex-Megadeth) outfit Damn The Machine debut from the early '90s. But then again Schuldiner is involved, so it must be far from what we have heard before, right? "I think what we have got here is pretty much like the work that we had done with Death, with albums like Symbolic or Individual... I think those records, much like what you have with Control Denied, is that it is not predictable and it doesn't go along with the trends. I've never been one to follow trends, so I think that shows up on the disc too. I make metal music 'cause I like metal and because I am a fan of good music too. That's why I made this record. It's the same attitude as before and my goals are higher with this band than anything I have done ever before. I brought in a real singer like Tim to help me put his vocals over the music I was working on with me not having to worry about doing guitar and vocals."

So how does it feel to just be the guitar player, Chuck? "It's a relief, let me tell you. I've been under the shadow of Death for so long and realistically, I think I have taken it as far as I could take it. I think Death just came unhinged in its ideas and that is where Control Denied came in. The last Death album (The Sound Of Perseverance) was a good record, but the vocals I think held a lot of the music back. I'm over-singing, I think. I have been screaming for a long time. For a long time people have been saying that they really are into the music of Death but could do without the vocals. I can relate to that and I can honestly see why people might not like those vocals. So for me to be successful from where Death has gone and go forward I am lucky to be able to bring much of the lineup from the last Death record to Control Denied. It is such a great lineup for this record -- Richard (Christy) is such a great drummer, Shannon (Hamm) is a remarkable guitarist and Steve (DiGiorgio) is someone who I have played with for a long time and I love his work. He's a great bass player. Plus Tim (Aymar) is one of the best singers out there. It is such a killer lineup for this record."

Has Death been put to rest then? "Death has been put on hold for now. I just don't want to go backwards, and I think this album will do very well. I need to go forward and see where this band takes us. I've got a lot on my plate right now, but Control Denied is what is keeping me motivated. I go back for tests in December to see how things are going. I've got to live my life as normally as possible right now and hopefully there'll be some good results. For once I'm extremely busy in my life and it really has nothing to do with my music. I'm just trying to balance both worlds out."

Best of luck, Chuck.


to talks

Edited for Empty©Words 01-31-02