Interview with Suicide Silence

Deathcore torchbearers Suicide Silence are gearing up to unleash their most ferocious album yet, ‘The Black Crown,’ coming out on July 12 in the US via Century Media. If lead single “You Only Live Once” is any indication, the band shows no sign of muzzling their hyper-aggressive blend of crushing breakdowns, down-tuned guitar riffs, and blast beat flurries. Along with a European festival tour and a triumphant return to the Rockstar Mayhem Festival this summer, the upcoming release of ‘The Black Crown’ has Suicide Silence poised to continue their seemingly unstoppable rise.

Lead guitarist Mark Heylmun and vocalist Mitch Lucker were kind enough to have a quick phone chat with us between interviews in New York City. Keep reading to check out our conversation about ‘The Black Crown,’ the state of the music industry, Alice in Chains, and more.

You guys have a pretty busy summer coming up. First off, you’re touring Europe. Are you guys stoked for that?

Mitch Lucker: Yeah, Europe’s always a good time, and this is our first time playing all the European summer festivals. We’re really stoked about it. We’ve played festivals over there like Download and Groezrock, but being able to do them all, or at least more, is pretty nuts because you play in front of so many insane people. It’s going to be amazing.

Mark Heylmun: It’s a really good opportunity to play in front of people that you wouldn’t really get to play in front of otherwise, just because there’s literally tens of thousands of people at most of them, and they’re all there just to see music, whether it’s metal or whatever the hell else is going on that day. It’s cool.

Do any of those festivals stand out in particular?

Mitch: Honestly, I’m happy about all of them because I was looking at the lineups for all of them, and each day, we’re playing with some of the most mind-blowing bands ever.

Mark: Yeah, we’re playing with Ozzy twice, I think, and then there’s one we’re headlining in Spain. I’m excited to headline a festival. We’re also opening the main stage at Download, which is freaking awesome.

Mitch: Yeah, it’s kind of scary.

Mark: It’s a little intimidating. But I remember I watched DevilDriver open the main stage, and that was really cool, so it’s cool to be doing that this year.

Yeah, that should be really awesome. Are you guys looking forward to seeing some sights around there, or is it going to be touring the whole time?

Mitch: When you’re touring in Europe, you see the inside of your bus and the backstage. That’s about it. We’ve never really had time to go out and sightsee or go out to do stuff unless it’s a day off, and even on a day off you spend most of the day driving.

Mark: There have been a couple times where we’ve gotten to do a little bit of sightseeing, but it was either on a day off or because you just happened to wake up early one day, and you could walk around and see some shit. I’ve seen Glasgow, Scotland a lot of times. That made us really like that area a lot and figure out cool places to hang out and know where all the good bars and clubs are. Europe has metal clubs where you can actually go, and it’s not, like, booty music playing the whole time. You’ll literally walk into a club — not so much in England, but there still are some in England, more so in mainland Europe — you’ll walk in, and there will be a bunch of people fucking headbanging to fucking Hammerfall, and it’s really weird.

[laughs] That sounds like a great experience. You guys are also doing Mayhem Fest for the second time. Are you excited about doing that again?

Mitch: Dude, above and beyond excited because the first time was amazing. That was probably one of the best experiences we’ve ever had, being on tour with Slipknot.

Mark: And we were really young on that tour, too. We definitely learned a lot about touring and festivals and the way to do it. Just doing it again is going to be like going back to fucking senior year of high school.

Mitch: [laughs]

Mark: I don’t really know if I ever went to senior year of high school.

Mitch: We’re excited about doing it again because it’s an amazing fest, that’s it, bottom line. There’s not too many bands to where it’s like a fucking burden to go see. It’s just the right amount of bands, and all the bands are bad ass. It’s just an all around good time.

Yeah, I actually saw you guys on the first Mayhem Fest; it was a good show. Who are you excited to play alongside on that tour?

Mitch: I’m excited to be on tour with Machine Head again. We’ve done a lot of tours with Machine Head, and those guys are fucking bad ass. They’re fun as fuck to hang out with outside the stage, just hanging out backstage. I’m really stoked about that.

Mark: We haven’t hung out with Unearth since we toured with them in 2007, so it’ll be good to tour with them again.

Mitch: Oh, yeah.

Mark: I definitely am going to watch Trivium a lot, and I’m excited to see Red Fang. It’s actually kind of funny because somebody told me that I would really like that band and blah blah blah, thinking that I would like them. I’m just weird like this, and I’m holding off to even listen to their music until I see them on Mayhem because I know that we’re going to see them all the time. So I’m excited to see them to finally actually listen to them.

They’re pretty awesome, but I guess you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Mark: Exactly. And Straight Line Stitch, too, because Kris Norris is in that band now. He used to be in Darkest Hour, and he’s a good friend of ours.

Let’s talk about ‘The Black Crown’ a bit. Did you guys approach the writing and recording process differently than with ‘No Time to Bleed’?

Mark: Yeah, we did. First, it started off as just conversation and talking about what we wanted to do. It wasn’t really even writing; it was just talking and getting on the same page. That turned into a monthlong trip to a cabin in the mountains in the snow that we lived in together. [We] set up a little studio and jammed and got all of our ideas and basically got onto the right page with each other and got the mojo of writing together. From there, it was just like we knew what we wanted to do, and then whenever we had free time together off of tour, we would write. We’re not really a band that writes on tour a lot. We might write a riff or two while we’re on tour, but we don’t really write songs while we’re on the road. Every time we could, while we were home, it was just me and our other guitar player, [Chris] Garza. We would just get together and write a ton of riffs, and we would just have — literally, before we sat back down with Alex or with Dan or Mitch — we just had at least three hours of just riffs and parts. Not even songs, just little doodads here and there that we could use as songs. Once we got together, it all came together really fast.

So you just transferred all those guitar parts over to the rest of the band?

Mark: Yeah. It wasn’t like we had a bunch of riffs and we just pieced it together. We didn’t just go this riff, this riff into this riff into this riff into that riff. A lot of the stuff would be kind of similar because it was like, “Oh, we obviously wrote this stuff, these few riffs, in the same day.” They sounded like they would be in the same song. We would take two or three riffs and then — we even, at one point, took a bunch of riffs and said, “These all sound like intros.” We labeled them as intros, and we labeled other things like, “This sounds like a good chorus, or this sounds like a verse or this sounds like a bridge.” We were just labeling things as what we thought they might be good as. It was definitely a lot different than the writing process for ‘The Cleansing’ and ‘No Time to Bleed.’

Another reason why we went to the cabin was because we got a new bass player [Dan Kenny], and we had never written with him. We wanted to get a good sit down with all of us together so he could see how we work, and we could see how he worked with us. It was all different. We even were talking about it, like, “How the fuck did we even write the first two records?” We couldn’t even remember. We didn’t even know how it happened, just because this was so much different. [laughs]

You guys worked with Steve Evetts on this record. How was that compared to working with Machine?

Mitch: A hundred percent different. [laughs]

Mark: A hundred percent different. Machine lives in the future, and he is a sci-fi music producer.

What do you mean by that?

Mitch: It’s just really advanced techniques. Depending more so on the computer to make a record as opposed to the band.

Mark: Which isn’t a bad thing. He’s the best at his craft, and I think a lot of people have taken what he does and taken it into their own work, which is, I think, a lot of what music has become, which is sound designing. You can get the sounds, and then you can just make them sound any way that you want them to. With this record, we got the real sounds that we wanted, and we didn’t even make it possible to make it so that you could turn those sounds into something else because it was all the real sounds plugged in. There were no DIs; there was nothing. It was all real sounds, real pedals; there were no plug-ins. It was just all real.

Mitch: A real band playing real songs. Each member playing their instrument. Not a computer making it, or a computer reamping it, synthesizing it, anything like that. It was just a hundred percent us, and it is so organic, super organic, and that’s what we love about it.

Mark: And also what’s different about this one is that I recorded ninety percent of the guitars on ‘No Time to Bleed,’ and I recorded the bass, so it just doesn’t sound as much as we would live. On this record, there’s me on one side and Garza on the other side, so it definitely sounds more like we actually sound. I think the only thing that is really computerized about it is that we’re playing to a click track. [laughs]

Cool. I don’t think there are too many really big metal bands out there that are taking that kind of natural approach.

Mitch: Yeah, we took ten steps backward with the recording process, as opposed to a lot of bands who are taking ten steps forward and making it completely synthetic and artificial. We wanted a real, big sounding record. We’re a band; a band is five, four, three dudes that make a sound, and Steve Evetts captured our sound perfectly.

Do you think the overall sound of the songs themselves has evolved on the new record?

Mitch: Yeah, these are actual songs. They’re not just riff, riff, riff, riff, riff, riff, riff, riff, end. There’s verses; there’s choruses; there’s bridges. We took what we’re good at and made songs out of them. We used to do a song and do each riff one time and then its like, “Oh, I want to hear that again — oh, song’s over.” Stuff like that doesn’t work for us. We wanted to make riffs that are bad ass, like, “Woah, that’s sick as fuck. Well, let’s do it again.”

Mark: [laughs]

Mitch: A lot of bands just don’t have the repetition or the versatility, and us being Suicide Silence, we’re like, “Yeah, we need that for sure. Let’s make real songs; let’s grow up and write fucking songs, not just riff, riff, riff, riff, riff, riff, riff, end.”

Mark: I think what we were trying to do with the first two records — I don’t think we were all ready for it yet. We basically weren’t ready to have the balls to just go, “Here it is. This is the way we want to do this.” We were holding back a little bit. We tried to do it more so on ‘No Time to Bleed,’ and then it seemed like the songs that were more structured–

Mitch: Went over better.

Mark: They went over better. Yeah, like “Disengage” and “Smoke” and “Wake Up” and “Enlisted” are pretty well structured, but I still don’t think that they were nearly as well structured as our new stuff. We just wanted to go in the direction we were going with ‘No Time to Bleed,’ but just do it better and kick the shit out of it and make bad ass songs.

Sounds good. Mitch, are there any overarching lyrical themes on ‘The Black Crown’?

Mitch: A lot of it is personal, but a lot of it has to do with just living life. You only get one shot, so live it. You only live once, go fucking nuts, and fuck everything. Super, super just, live your life, fuck it. Don’t let things hold you down, hold you back. You’re only here for a little bit of time, and if you live your whole life worried about something, stressing about something, you’ll have a miserable life. It’s like, fuck everything and just live and have a great time. Don’t live for tomorrow; live for today.

So are you saying the songs will be in the vein of “You Only Live Once”?

Mitch: A lot of them do have to do with just, you only get one shot at life, but I’d say the record is split fifty-fifty. There’s some songs that are personal, like my head cracked open and poured on to paper, just about personal experiences, and the other half are about, “Look, dude, fuck it, you only get one shot; live it.” So it is kind of split fifty-fifty between personal experiences and personal stories and then realize this, wake up, and just live.

Cool. Mark, you play a pretty interesting lead guitar style. Who would you say are your big influences?

Mark: For the most part, my biggest influences are Dimebag Darrell and George Lynch. I like a lot of old school jazz kind of stuff like Allan Holdsworth and John McLaughlin. It kind of varies. Nobody really off the wall. I like a lot of crazy stuff — I like Buckethead, but it’s not like I’m going out and trying to play like him. I think there are certain kinds of styles that have less to be done by those people. I have all kinds of influences. I like Opeth a lot. Mainly, I really like eighties guitar players. I like the flashy shit.

Are we going to hear a lot of guitar leads on the new album?

Mark: Yeah. I think almost every song has a lead. If it’s not a long one, it’s just a quick little lick here and there. There’s actually a lot more lead stuff. I think the riffs, in general, from this album are all memorable riffs. We tried to trim all of the fat off of our songs and not just put things in places because they fit or just because they worked. If it was kind of boring, we’d be like, “We need to do something cooler there, or spice it up.”

What’s your guitar rig looking like these days?

Mark: I use all Mesa gear as far as head and cab, Mesa Triple Rectifier. I use a Tube Screamer, Noise Suppressor, and Boss pedals for effects, flanger, delay, and reverb, and a wah pedal. I try to keep my rig as simple as possible.

That sounds like a good call.

Mitch: Aren’t you going to ask what I use when I play? [laughs]

Mark: [laughs]

Yeah, what do you use? [laughs]

Mitch: A shitty microphone and a cable. [laughs]

Mark: [laughs]

Nice. After you guys first released ‘No Time to Bleed,’ you came out with the ‘Body Bag Edition’ reissue. Are you going to be doing something similar with ‘The Black Crown’?

Mitch: Yeah, we always try to do something special with the record. There’s a bunch of different editions, depending on if you preorder it or buy it at Best Buy, buy it at Hot Topic, or buy it at Walmart. One edition has a song on it that’s not on the original record; the other one has a cover song on it that’s not on the original record. Hot Topic’s one comes with the whole DVD of a whole live show and a whole entire “Making of The Black Crown.” You get a whole ton of extra shit if you buy it at the right place.

You guys have also said that this is going to be your last release from Century Media.

Mitch: No, it’s not our last release from Century Media; it’s just that contractually, this is the last record we’re signed up for. It doesn’t mean we’re leaving, necessarily, because they’re an amazing label, and they’ve done amazing things for us, and we fucking love them. It doesn’t mean it’s our last record with them at all.

So have you started to think about what you’re going to do once that contract is fulfilled?

Mitch: Yeah, we’ve been looking around, seeing what’s up. Other people have looked into us, seeing what’s up with us. We’re just going to keep our fucking eyes open and see where it goes. Especially with this just being our third full-length record coming out, who knows what it can do? It can do terrible; it can do good. So we’ve just got our fingers crossed, and we always look up. We never try to think about what’s going to happen. We’re always just, “Let’s go. Let’s do it. Let’s run up this fucking hill as fast as we can.”

Mark: Especially since who knows what’s going on with the industry nowadays. A lot of bands, I think, don’t even need a label, and I think a lot of times, a bigger band will be done with their contract and — I’m talking about bands that are bigger than us — and they’ll go to another label and then realize that it was just a bad idea to sign another contract because then they’re just stuck in whatever they have to do within the contract. I think that Killswitch [Engage] is a good example of that, and that’s kind of why you don’t hear about them any more. I think it kind of tore them apart.

Do you think you would ever try to go the do-it-yourself way of distribution?

Mitch: Being a young band, I think that would be a hard thing to do, but at the same time, the industry’s not what it used to be. Everything’s completely different. It’s almost like you have to keep your fingers crossed and just jump in to some things because you don’t know what the outcome’s going to be. You don’t know if this label’s going to work out for you, or if your own label’s going to work out for you. You gotta do it, do it because you love it, and hope it works out. That’s basically it. We’re here not because we’re on this label or that label; we’re here because we’re a fucking band and we like to jam. That’s it. Think about when you’re a little kid and you’ve got a garage band. How fun is that? We’re here because we love playing music, and that’s it.

Mark: We’re still playing in a garage.

I know that this is a little bit older, but a while back you guys recorded a really cool cover of Alice in Chains’ “Them Bones.” What inspired you to cover that song?

Mitch: When you ask everyone in the band like, “What were your favorite bands growing up, or what are some of your big influences?” that’s another band that everyone in Suicide Silence is like, “Alice in Chains.” It’s always up there in someone’s list. A lot of our fans are really young; they don’t know who Alice in Chains are.

Mark: A lot of people listen to that song and don’t even know it’s Alice in Chains.

Mitch: Yeah, they don’t know it’s Alice in Chains, so it’s almost us paying tribute to the band that made us do this for a living. We did a Deftones cover too, and it’s like, “If you don’t know who the Deftones are, fuck you and go home and listen to them. That’s the reason why we’re up there on the stage. You don’t know who Alice in Chains are? Go home and listen to them. That’s another reason we’re up on the stage.” It’s just totally paying those bands tribute because without those bands we wouldn’t be a band.

Mark: Also, during the writing process, me and Garza and Alex [Lopez] — that’s the group that was writing ‘No Time to Bleed’ — we were thinking about what cover we wanted to do, and we were jamming “Man in the Box” randomly, just playing it for fun. We were like, “We should totally cover that song” because we were doing it in B and we were doing it really low. It just put us on the tip of, “How about we cover an Alice in Chains song?” We thought about what song would be cool and listened to a bunch of songs, and we were like, “Oh my god, if we did ‘Them Bones,’ that would just be ridiculous” because it’s so simple; it’s straight up a Suicide Silence structure. Even though that’s their structure, it kind of makes sense when you listen to the way we did it how they have influenced us. It makes sense.

Pick up Suicide Silence’s new album The Black Crown.

For the band’s upcoming tour dates, check out their Facebook page.

  • Ryan

    I can’t wait to hear the entire album!