Interview by Zach Marcotte
When Suicide Silence made their most recent San Antonio appearance at the Paper Tiger on February 19, 2017, I talked with lead guitarist Mark Heylmun before their show on their tour bus. We discussed our previous meeting after they played with Megadeth, and Machine Head a few years back and ended up partying at the Mix after that show at Sunken Gardens.
Mark was very friendly, and spoke softly with a calm, yet driven peace in his voice.
Here are the questions and answers from our meeting:
Congratulations on persevering and doing well through it all . . . how do you do it, and what’s the hardest part about it?
I think that the hardest part about it is remembering that we aren’t here to satisfy, and we aren’t here to look for outside validation. It’s never been about that from the beginning . . . the getting comfortable with having people validate you, having people tell you what you’re doing is good – letting that NOT affect you. After Mitch died, I had fallen into a particular space of believing what people or fans said I was . . . I fell into a rut of “who the fuck am I?” I lost myself for a little while. Now, how I keep going is remembering I’ve always been who I am. I’ve always been a part of this group, this group is not just me, this group is all of us – and that’s pretty much where we are as a band right now. Being a group, not on individual controlling anything . . . where we’re at now is encouraging each other and welcoming change and not being afraid of potentially losing out on people who are fickle and want to be a part of something we are doing, not because we are doing it, because it is something going on that they can join in on. So . . . there’s this whole thing going on, and we just are doing something different, and if they don’t want to be a part of it, we don’t need them around anyway – it’s not about satisfying them, it’s about satisfying ourselves as a group. We’re just trying new things and trying to be fearless with it.
That’s awesome that you’ve maintained your creative integrity despite pressure along the way.
It’s a hard thing to stay true to.
Do you listen to things differently than when you first started playing?
No . . . I’ve always looked for the same kind of music. Even back in old interviews and people would ask what I was listening to, I would always say something a bit strange. When we were doing deathcore, we’re not listening to Job for a Cowboy, we’re not listening to Despised Icon, we’re not listening to Winds of Plague, not to say that we don’t enjoy the bands, but we don’t need those kind of things to inspire us . . . if anything, it’s kind of the opposite . . . it does inspire us, but it kind of works in a positive and negative way. I will openly say, when I heard Slipknot when I was young, I thought it sucked . . . I was like “I don’t even understand this.” And then after a while, I was like, “I think I like some of this, not all of it.” But it inspired me to know what I like. So if I don’t like this – I like this . . . Right now, I’m listening to Brain Tentacles . . . the band True Widow, they’re from Texas somewhere . . . I’ve just looked for something that satisfies that want for something fresh, and it sucks to say that in no way am I listening to a lot of metal because I’m around it so much . . . being around it, I feel metal comes to me. I don’t need to seek it so much. I’m going to see these bands.
Is there a work life balance . . . or is this the life?
No, this is the life. We were just talking about that before we left for tour – trying to establish the band life again, on the times off, so we don’t fall behind . . . if we have a month off, we want to make sure we still get together two or three times a week and jam, or if someone has an idea, we’ll stay fresh and play new songs, play old songs, whatever. The way we look at it right now, is the more we put in, the more we’re going to get out. That’s always been the way we’ve looked at the band. All of our friends that are in bands kind of similar to ours are always impressed by the fact that we practice, and we get together and play . . . a lot of times bands will get together for a day or two before they leave for tour, and the first five shows are rehearsals. That’s never been us. The balance is fucking 100% all in.
Being one of the most professional bands out there . . . are you doing anything different now than before?
Since this is the record release, tour kind of thing, we rehearsed in our band room for a while, then we rehearsed in a studio, which we don’t normally do. We wanted to take it to the stage and play out on stage with monitors and feel out the new songs. Pretty much right now, we’re excited to play stuff that people haven’t heard that already know Doris and Silence, and we’ll be playing three other ones that they don’t know.
I guess the difference is that – the new songs, and putting together this package, and putting an exclamation mark on the fact that we’re not trying to cater to anything, other than that we want people to see something that is true, that is something we want to do . . . it’s not talking shit, it’s just the truth, it’s very hard to be on tour with bands that don’t want to be on tour . . . so this tour is, let’s get our friends to come out, play new songs, and we’ll have a good time no matter what. That goes for any band that wants to tour, if you want to make the tour good, it doesn’t matter if there’s a crowd of 50 or 5000 people, it really shows when the package is there and everyone is excited to play for the people.
That’s all this tour is – that’s different too. Trying to make ourselves happy and project on the sick, good vibes we’re going to try and bring with the old stuff and the new stuff. It’s nothing too new, we’re just trying to hone in on it.
For someone who’s never seen or heard you, what would you say your message is?
Be yourself, but also at the same time, know yourself is deeper than your surface thoughts. We’ve always said, come to the show, forget everything and have a good time – that’s your true self. When you aren’t thinking about any of that bullshit, your telephone bill, your wife, your kids, . . . whatever is happening, that might be burdensome, let it all go and just be yourself. That’s the message of the new record really. If it inspires you to do something that you want to do, because you don’t like it – then that’s the purpose as well. If you love and you see that we’re doing something that’s true to ourselves, then it’s inspiration to not try and fit a mold. Just do your own thing.
Some of your favorite spots on tour . . .
Texas dude . . . Texas is always amazing. When we play Orange County in California it’s always good. I love playing California but it does get hectic because we have so many friends and family all over California that it becomes, the show is really cool, the party is really cool, but it’s a hectic good time. We just went to Japan . . . really good. Indonesia, we have really die hard fans in Southeast Asia. My favorite place in the world is Prague. The shows are always small and intimate and sweaty and the fans and people that are part of that scene are wild. They let loose, it’s really an artsy city, so it’s really cool.
Words of advice for people alive?
Of course, if you’re talking about music – follow your heart. If you’re trying to be professional and go on tour or get signed . . . a record label is not going to do shit for you unless you can do shit for yourself, so do your own thing, do it yourself. Record your own music, release your own music, tour on your own music, make your own merch, do all that stuff . . . a record label will not pay for you to go anywhere, they will front you money to record a record, but they’re not going to give you anything. Record labels are not how you are professional. They are looking for a pie ready to get put in the oven. Already made, they just want to heat it up. But really, follow your heart, and if you’re true to yourself –then people will pick up on that . . . that’s what music is all about.