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Interview: Suicide Silence’s Mitch And Mark Discuss The Stress That Goes Into Recording And Touring

Posted by on June 9, 2011

Suicide Silence has been one of the top rising acts to come out of the deathcore genre, with their last album No Time To Bleed debuting at #32 on the billboard charts. So to say that a lot of pressure is on the band to top themselves with their third full length album The Black Crown is an understatement. But that certainly isn’t scaring off Suicide Silence, who is also nearly a month away from their stint on this Summer’s Mayhem Fest.

While making the rounds to promote their new album, Suicide Silence’s Mitch Lucker and Mark Heylmun took time out to talk with Metal Insider. During our chat, the singer and guitarist discussed the stress that comes with recording and touring, how they’ve created their own identity as a band through The Black Crown, and about the infamous incident that previously happened with their Mayhem tour mates Megadeth.

Suicide Silence’s third album The Black Crown comes out July 12. What was the band’s goal going into the recording? Did you feel any pressure to top the success of your previous albums?

Mitch: 100%, yeah. This is our third record, and it needed to be the best! It needed to blow the other two away. So it was probably the most stressful, I’d say, creation of a record we’ve ever done.

Mark: And I thought I was stressed out when we were writing No Time To Bleed, but this was most definitely more stressful.

Mitch: It was very stressful, but I think it gave everyone a fire under their ass to just work that much harder and that much more bad ass.

Mark: And we need that. We need that fire, and we need the fucking deadline and all that shit. It makes us work harder. I think the record is freaking sweet and we just wanted it to be badass. That’s all we knew, and it’s kind of hard to go “Hey this record needs to be badass!” and just go write it. So having that stress definitely helped us out.

As helpful as that stress seemed to be for the band, I’m sure it can also take its toll on you. Is there anything you could recommend for ways to deal with that stress for others going into the studio?

Mitch: There’s no way to get rid of it until the record is done and it sounds dope. Every day you go into the studio, all you’ll have on your mind is the record. You go home, you’re having dinner, and all you’ll have on your mind is the record and “what can I do tomorrow to make this even more badass.”

Mark: I think the best way is to dwell on the stress and not to look at it as “stress” but to look at it as being critical of yourself, and setting a goal and knowing what you’re going to be doing. Utilizing the stress in a good way is the best way to do it. My dad always told me to don’t mistake nerves for anxiousness, and it’s kind of the same thing. You’re nervous because you’re putting out something new and you want people to like it and want to be proud of it, but at the same time you’re just kind of anxious to get it done and for people to hear it.

You’ve previously said that the band’s lyrics were steering even more towards personal subject matters than anti-religious beliefs. What made you and the band decide to make such a shift?

Mark: Well before Mitch answers anything, we [the band] give 100% fucking vocal and lyrical freedom to him. It’s all Mitch, basically.

Mitch: Yeah, basically the first record I just went out of my way to piss people off and turn heads, like “Oh, he hates this, he hates that!” And then I was like “well, I could be more of a mature song writer.” It only gets you so far. It’s like beating a dead horse, like “Oh I’m just going to keep writing about how I hate this or that.” That’s not going to get you anywhere, because the dead horse is eventually going to rot away until it becomes nothing. So with these songs, it’s way more personal. It’s me, but then it’s more like me being on the outside looking in on situations and observing how fucked up some things are, and just drawing attention to them to make people realize “Yo, the world’s not perfect. Your city, your town, your life might be perfect, but take a bigger look at the world and see how fucked everything really is. It’s not such a good place, not so fun anymore.”

Is there a song that personally means a lot to you from the new album?

Mitch: Everything I write means a lot to me because it is my head on paper. But then you’ll hear songs about family on the records, and there’s songs about living life and living as hard as you can because you only get one shot at it.

The band is often noted as one of the big standouts out of the current deathcore genre. Do you feel that you’ve transcended the genre, or maybe even feel limited by the title?

Mitch: I think that with this record, it kicks us out of being pigeonholed into anything. When you hear this record, it’s like “Oh that’s Suicide Silence!”Just like when you put in a Slipknot record, when you put in a Korn record, or put in a fucking Pantera record. Within the first couple of seconds of the song, you know what band that is. And this record is that record for us. You hear the voice, you hear the guitar tone, you hear the ravage music and you’ll know immediately. And that’s what we’re trying to do.

Mark: I kind of look at it as the way a movie maker would make a movie. Say he makes a sci fi movie all the time and he doesn’t necessarily get thrown into the mainstream movie industry, but then he makes The Matrix, a sci fi movie but everyone can understand it and like it. Sure we get lumped into that deathcore crap, but if anything we were one of the original people who were doing it. So we were doing whatever you want to call deathcore before anyone could call it anything. So being lumped into something like that, I mean we can’t really be mad about it. It’s just something some people started to call what we do, and this record kind of just blends the fucking deathcore and everything else. It makes it so, even know what deathcore is, you’re listening to it and you’re just like “Wow this is a new metal band.”

Mitch: It’s just straight up heavy metal! Heavy metal has always been around and it always will be. So us being a heavy metal band, it’s just like ‘Yo, this is us! Welcome to it!’

Mark: Yeah, we really perfected our craft of what we want to sound lie with just taking what we did on the first two records and making it fucking more badass, honing in on what we know we’re good at and we know what our fans like and what we like to play.

Mitch: We found out what we’re good at and what we know after all of these years of playing what exactly what makes people want to rip their eyes out or go completely insane at the live show. We made this record for people to go completely insane to and scream their lungs out.

Your stint on this Summer’s Mayhem Fest will see you guys on the same bill once again as Megadeth, though the last time didn’t end so well.  Can you give a little further insight as to what actually happened?

Mitch: Honestly it was just tour drama. It was the very last day of the tour. It was [regarding] an incident that happened earlier on in the tour involving laminates and us passing out laminates to other people to shows. And there was this one person saying “Well if you guys do this, you’re off the tour. And if you don’t do this, you’re on the tour.”

Mark: It was the second to last day of the tour.

Mitch: I thought it was the last day.

Mark: No, it was in Reno [Nevada]. The last day was in Las Vegas.

Mitch: Oh. So we basically were like “Well, we’ve been on tour for three months straight. Let’s just go home!” [laughs] It wasn’t worth it for someone to try to punk you for your shoes or food.

Mark: Because they were trying to take away our laminates away and give us working passes, like stickers. And we were like “We’re not little kids. We’re the main support to your band right now.”

Mitch: Yeah, like “I’m not going to wear a sticker that says I’m working when I’ve been on this tour and my laminate that has MY name and MY face on it. That’s MY property.”

Mark: It just felt like they were treating us like kids and we weren’t going to lay down to them.

Mitch: It was basically like this: “If you don’t give us your laminate, you guys are kicked off the tour.” And we said “Ok fine. We’re going to keep our laminate. See you later.” But then in the long run, we actually gave back our laminates to try and stay on the tour.

Mark: And they still didn’t give us our laminates back. So basically the Megadeth team did us dirty. It’s all good though. I mean I have nothing against the band. It was just really fucking weird. It’s really one of those stories where like you don’t really want to know your favorite band because you’ll end up finding out that you don’t like them. We’ve toured with Megadeth again in Australia since then, so this [Mayhem] is our third time on tour with them. It’s all good now. I talked to [Megadeth bassist] Dave Ellefson, who actually wasn’t on that tour [where the incident took place], but I met him in Australia and he didn’t even know anything about it. He was really cool. And then Shawn [Drover, Megadeth drummer] is fucking super cool. I mean they’re all awesome. And Dave [Mustaine, Megadeth mainman] is an entity and I have respect for him as a musician and I’m a fan of his. So I can’t really get that madabout it. It’s just kind of weird.

But that’s a bummer that you didn’t even get to keep the laminates!

Mitch: They kicked us off the tour, and then they never gave us our laminates back. So we got jacked, kicked off the tour, and then just jacked.

Mark: The real thing was that they informed our management with what was going on, and they were the ones like “Wait a second, so you’re willingly going to drop off the tour? That’s really fucking stupid!” Everyone was supposed to be in Las Vegas [for the last show on the tour]. Our whole Suicide Silence team was going to meet us in Vegas for the last show, and they were like “There’s all this money going into this. You have to play this show!” So we were like ‘FUCK!’

Mitch: Yeah, so we were like ‘Ok, here’s our laminates back. Guess we can play the last show. You don’t have to kick us off.’ And 20 minutes later, we still got kicked off the tour.

Mark: And they never gave our laminates back.

Mitch: Yeah, we just got jacked. We learned a lesson though, if anyone tries to take anything of mine again, they’re not going to fucking have it! I’ll fly my ass home in a heartbeat [laughs].

So could I possibly dare you guys to go up to Megadeth during the Mayhem Fest and just flaunt your tour laminates in front of them? [laughs]

Mitch: Nah I want to ask for mine back! You said if we gave you them back we could play the last show? Well we got kicked off the tour and you said you were going to send me my laminate!

Mark: Yeah, they said they were going to mail it to us.

Mitch: I have really bad OCD. I collect every laminate, every piece of tour property I’ve ever been on. I have every single one. From festivals all over the world, from every tour, and the fact that I don’t have that one is like this huge cavity that’s keep eating away at me. So it’s like one way or another I’m going to get something back. I don’t care what the fuck it is, I’m going to take it.

Mark: You know what’s actually really funny, though, is I wasn’t actually wearing my laminate on that tour a lot because people just don’t ask me for my laminate I guess because I have a giant beard and I just look like I’m on the tour or something. But my laminate was in a pair of shorts that the singer of Warbringer [John Kevill] had thrown up on me because we were super drunk and wrestling. I was blacked out, I don’t even remember this happening, but I just took my pants off, put them in a trash bag and threw it under the bus. So I have my laminate still. I’m the only one who still has my laminate. So I guess I could walk around and wear my Megadeth laminate in front of them and be like “Hey remember this tour? It was fun! You kicked us off the last two days after we were already loaded in and OUR merch guy was selling your guy’s merch!” [laughs]

Mitch: It was funny, as our merch guy was getting ready, and then he was like “Oh we’re leaving? Ok. See ya! Hope someone can sell this for you!” [laughs]

Well then I’d say you should try to steal their laminates during Mayhem Fest!

Mitch: Yeah I’ll just walk in and be like “I got your laminates!” [laughs] But it’s whatever dude. You only live once, and I’m not going to dwell on some bullshit like that from some old band.

Mark: It’s actually really funny, though, because if you google Megadeth, or if you google Suicide Silence, and it gives you the recommendations, and it says “Suicide Silence vs. Megadeth” or “Megadeth vs. Suicide Silence.” Or if you look up Dave Mustaine, it says “Dave Mustaine vs. Suicide Silence.” If anything, it helped us out! And we basically did the whole tour. It was just the last two shows, which sucks for kids in Reno and Vegas.

Mitch: Also, the tour wasn’t doing that well. It wasn’t the best tour.

Mark: It was good for Megadeth and Machine Head, but for us like we were trying to win over older fans who don’t necessarily want to see a bunch of kids onstage.

Mitch: Well on that note, Machine Head is probably the coolest band we’ve ever tour with and the coolest fucking people we’ve ever met in our lives. Love those dudes.

And you’ll be touring with them again on Mayhem Fest as well!

Mitch: We did Mayhem with them the first year [2008] too, and they’ve done other tours with us. Those guys are the most legit, coolest motherfuckers in the world.

Mark: And they’re from the time, they’re from when thrash and all the fucking Bay area shows were coming up. So it’s really cool to talk to them about that.

Mitch: Like to have a rock star talk to you and embrace as oppose to them trying to shun you away or get you out of their face.

Mark: They’re the realest dudes ever!

You talked about just before how difficult it was to try and “win over” older fans on the Megadeth/Machine Head tour. Would you say that winning over new audiences is the most difficult thing about touring?

Mitch: I love the challenge. Being a frontman, I love being onstage. Like you see the crowd and the first couple of songs they’re like “Eh, whatever,” especially with shows where there’s an older crowd, but then you get to the fifth or sixth song and you got everybody in the audience pumping their fists, screaming and going nuts. I love having the challenge of being a frontman to a crowd that may not so much ever heard anything like we are. And so they don’t see or get it at first, but then as soon as song two or three comes out they go “Fuck yeah!” I love it!

Mark: Or they’ve heard things about the band and they’ve mainly heard things from fucking Five Finger Death Punch fans that are like “That band fucking sucks!” or “They can’t play for shit!” or whatever. But then they see us live and it completely changes the way they look at us.

Mitch: You can hate the music and you can hate the CD, but I guarantee you that if you’re walking by at the festival and you see us onstage, you’ll stop and watch the whole set.

Suicide Silence has been a part of many tour packages (such as Mayhem Fest, Warped Tour, and the Pedal To The Metal Tour) in addition to headlining your own tours. How much of a difference is there between headlining your own tour and appearing on a festival package?

Mitch: I mean, when you headline your own shows, everybody that loves your music is there to see you. So it’s like the whole room is singing the words as opposed to 3,000 kids out of the 10,000 kids at a fest. Festivals are more, like your fans are there but it’s not all of your fans, and there’s a ton of people that have no idea who you are. They came to see other bands. So on festival tours, you have your fans and you have a ton of people that you have to perform for to try to win over and make new fans. And when your headlining, it’s like “Oh these are already are fans. Let’s go fucking nuts and give these kids the show of their life, play the songs they want to hear.”

It’s two different aspects. Like “Oh what are we doing today? We’re going onstage and performing so that all of these people, who have no idea who we are, are interested.” And then there’s the shows where you’re playing live where you’re like “Yo, let’s play these old, old songs that might not be so perfect to play at a festival, but those are the songs that they [the fans] fucking love.” It’s like 50/50.

Mark: It’s also a stress kind of thing. When you’re headlining a tour, there’s a lot of work that goes into it, and it’s not just like a set of people put together this tour and say “Here’s the bands that your touring with, and you’re going to go out and headline.” Everybody in the band has a say, and it takes months and months and months to put it all together, and figure out what you’re going to do and how it’s going to work. There’s just so much work that goes into it, and it’s YOUR tour. It really feels like something your apart of. So there’s a lot more stress that goes into headlining a tour, and there’s so much more weight on your shoulders.

And then when it comes to the festivals, there’s a guaranteed massive amount of people that are going to be there. It’s not guaranteed that the crowd’s going to go nuts or that you’re going to have a great time every day, but you’re at least going to go out there and be playing in front of a ton of people. It just gives you the opportunity to know that at least there will be someone, even if it’s only one person, that knows who you are now that didn’t know you the day before.

Which process would you say is the most stressful: touring or recording?

Mark: I think the touring is pretty fucking fun. And it’s stressful in the sense that it gets like “Groundhog’s Day” and it just starts becoming redundant, but that’s when you have to find different ways to basically kill time or keep yourself occupied and stay productive. Recording is fun as well, but writing a record is very stressful, especially when there’s deadlines. With us, so far we’ve just been on this steady incline where we don’t want to fall back. We don’t want to sell less records than we did on the last cycle, and we want to step up and be growing and just be a better band. I think that in general, putting out a record is more stressful because it’s going to determine what you’re going to be doing.

Mitch: It determines whether when you go on tour if people are going to show up or not. When you’re making that record, it’s like “Well this is going to effect the next two years.” But it is extremely stressful record wise.

Do you feel that the current state of the music industry and economy have added onto that stress? Has it added even more pressure for you personally?

Mark: I think it sucks! I think it really sucks. Just the fact that there’s this generation, this is kind of off the subject, but I realized that by the end of the year, everyone that was born in 1990 will be allowed in bars and 21, which is really weird to me. So in that same kind of area, a lot of those kids were buying their first CD in 2000, or maybe in 1998 if they started early. Usually at 10 or 11 you’re buying your first record. And around that time was when digital downloading was just getting super big. So for the most part, people that were born after 1990 may have never even purchased music before. So it’s getting to that point where record labels are trying to think of the most insane ways to get people to buy music, and some kids just don’t want to.

They don’t look at it like the way we would look at it where this is our work and we’ve put so much emotion, effort and physical work in doing this and money just to put something out. And then for people to just go download music and not think anything of it and just look at it as “That’s just the way it is. Why should I go buy it if it’s right here for free,” it’s just fucked up. When you look at bands like Mudvayne, Korn, or bands that were huge, or even just look at us, if there was no music to download, do you know how many records we would have sold? It’s insane to think about, and I don’t even like to think about it, but I think we’re just lucky to be able to sell what we sell and to do what we do and have the success that we have. It sucks, and there will be a definite change in the music industry in the next five years, if not sooner.

Have you guys started to feel the economic pinch on the road as well?

Mark: A little bit. It still does come down to the package that you’re out on tour with. I look at it as two bands. You really just need two good bands that people are guaranteed to go and see, and then the rest of the bands are the kinds that will get exposure from going on tour with you but still do have their own little fan base. But yeah, it really matters more so now. That also just comes down to the economy. If you don’t have that package, kids won’t go to the show just to see that one band that they want to see. They’ll wait till the package is better, or will maybe just go to one festival like the Mayhem Festival or Warped Tour and just go to one show a year. It all comes down to demographics and everything. If it’s someone that’s on their own and they’re a grown adult, it depends on what kind of money they’re making. And if it’s a young kid, it depends on if their parents have the money to give them to go buy concert tickets. It’s effected us a little bit, but I’m entirely sure by how much.

I kind of also think that with the economy being so bad, some people definitely put that money aside so that they can go to concerts because it’s their way of releasing their angst and what they need to be doing. If they don’t go to concerts and go see bands that they like, they’re just going to lose their minds. It kind of works in either way.

 

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