Mark Heylmun speaks up about what’s up with Suicide Silence, and it is good.

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.

Suicide Silence Preshow

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.

What is next for 150 LBS of Terror? It doesn’t matter anyway . . .

1011

I have this little “solo” noise project that started as an inside joke. It’s called 150 LBS of TERROR. That’s how much I weighed at the time of my first performance with this project. An old band cancelled a week before a gig we had agreed to play months in advance . . . it was going to be a fun show too, nothing but friends’ bands playing for our friend on his birthday. Anyway, I wanted to be sure to do something in support of my buddy . . . so I did, and it was terrible. Some people couldn’t watch, some people did, some people were concerned, and some people were curious.

That’s the point I suppose. If someone wanted to analyze it, I imagine parody, tongue in cheek, and performance art would be in there somewhere . . . for me, I simply hope to encourage or inspire people with actual talent to do something greater.

I am not a musician. I do love music. All kinds of it. I read somewhere that music exercises your brain on a higher level . . . Something about the moment it enters your ears and stimulates feelings that can lead to muscular movements indicating enjoyment, such as tapping your foot in rhythm or pumping your fist in the air. Something about a higher level of brain function that is similar to feelings necessary for human survival. Something like that. Anyway, what I create is a soundscape of sorts that started as a joke. It reminds me of a bad score to a bad horror movie.

I occasionally get asked to perform my short noise “set” . . . and I always apologize in advance. I’m excited to be opening for The Grasshopper Lies Heavy this evening at the 1011.

Life is temporary, tell the people you love you love them. Confront your inner demon, tame it, and befriend it. Teach it to walk around without a leash.

A friendly debate regarding Metallica . . .

The following is a series of text messages between one of my closest childhood friends, James Williamson, and myself regarding Metallica . . . and so it goes:

James: http://consequenceofsound.net/2014/03/listen-metallicas-new-song-lords-of-summer-garage-demo-version/

Zach: Interesting.  Need to give it a full listen, but best stuff I’ve heard from them since reload . . .

James: It’s got an old kinda trashy sound. 8 minutes long.

James: Thrasy

James: Thrashy

Zach: Too long to be thrash though.  They just need to play something badass and not try to reinvent the wheel.  I guess they’ve always had the long songs though . . . I’m still pissed about the whole napster thing.  Haha.

James: Haha.  I forgave them for that.  I try to listen to their new stuff without the influence of their old stuff.  I think old fans can be too hard on them.  What band that’s been around for 30+ years hasn’t changed their sound?

James: I actually really liked Death Magnetic.  This song is different from that though.

Zach: The Rolling Stones.

Zach: ACDC

Zach: Haha

James: Haha ok I’ll give you those.  Led Zeppelin changed a lot in 15 years.

Zach: So did the Beatles and everybody else . . . Megadeth, Danzig, even Deicide and Morbid Angel.  You’re right, Metallica is a timeless and great band in the big picture.  Just not a fan of their drama.

James:  I’m not saying everyone has to like it just because it’s Metallica but just judge each record on its own merit.  It doesn’t have to sound like puppets or lightning to be good.

Zach: True.  But people don’t have to like it because it is good in the sense of songwriting, production quality, etc.  I miss the balls of kill em all, the epic dark songs of ride the lightning, the thrash of puppets, the progression of justice, and even the groove of the black album.  I even give em load and reload because they were trying different stuff . . . Then the rebirth stuff hasn’t had the same merit even if it is technically good.  Seems forced and dishonest . . . Just saying’ 🙂

Zach: If it wasn’t Metallica I’d think it was a new band trying to sell records.

James:  I hear you there.  I think some guys automatically disqualify it just because it doesn’t sound like puppets.  Guys should at least give it a shot and if it’s not their cup of tea, that’s cool.

James:  Think some guys may actually like it but say they don’t because it’s not puppets.  Not saying that’s you dude.

James:  I’m enjoying this debate.  I don’t have anyone to talk metal with at work.

James: Check out this video on YouTube: http://youtu.be/hlrJ96IX0V8

James: What about that?

Zach: Nice . . . Good version . . . Sorry got caught up at work.  We need to have a satellite radio show.

James: We really do. Metal, beer, wrestling, video games, bowling

Zach: Yep. Where do we sign up?

Zach: I honestly think Metallica just opened the door for me to other music.  They’ve got a special spot in my heart, but it’s like going back to an ex or something . . . You know what you’re getting into . . . The good and the frustrating.  You still like what you were first drawn to about them, but you’ve grown and know they’re not perfect.  Hahaha.

James: Haha good analogy

Metal Matt for President

I sat down with an old friend and a new roommate after we’d both had a couple adult beverages at separate locations, and then a few more together.  An all around great musician, Matt Hernandez – bassist and vocalist for Exulcerate, is often viewed as an angry and particular man.  Over the years, I believe he’s found a peace within what is viewed as his anger.  He is simply unyielding in his preferences and beliefs.  It’s a good trait to have and is admirable when you think about it.  The following is what was discussed.  I asked the questions.  He had the answers.

Tell me about your music, what you like, and what inspired you to start playing music?

Well, what inspired me to start playing was – I wanted to be a guitar player at first, never wanted to do vocals, never wanted to do bass much, but . . . of course all the bands I was listening to when I was, before I was, a teenager inspired me to want to be in a band, and then once I started playing in metal bands they always needed a bass player so I ended up being stuck with bass.  I just went with it and I developed a funk style because of the bands I listened to when I was younger.  And then we lost our singer so I got thrown into doing vocals.

Jeez, as far as metal goes, I’m into the typical old school death metal, thrash, black metal, funeral doom.  I’d say Morbid Angel and Suffocation and Cryptopsy are my main influences metal-wise. 

Who are some of the bands you grew up listening to that influenced your bass playing?

I gotta say there’s 3 bands . . . there’s the Red Hot Chili Peppers, there’s Faith No More, and then there’s Primus . . . which those bands only get so heavy, ya know.  There’s nothing really shredding about those bands, but the bass playing I always really liked so when I started playing death metal I thought I’d throw some of that into the mix there . . .

That’s an awesome combination . . . so you’ve been playing music for how long?

Since I was in the 7th grade.  So I was what . . . 13?  My playing has always been on and off because life happens and obstacles get in the way.  Sometimes I even missed a whole year without playing.  In the end, I always go back to it.  I’m 32 now and I’m still going.

For Exulcerate, the next show is . . .

The next show we have booked is May 5th opening up for a legendary death metal band called Master, which we’ve played with them twice already so it’ll be good to play with them again.  We could book a show locally at any time before then, but me and my guitarist are lazy so we just haven’t gotten around to that yet.

Who did your logo?

I forgot his name, but it was a fellow from Indiana.  He’s done a lot of logos for a lot of death metal bands and I even met him one time.  In Urbana, Illinois we played a fest – I met the guy and I forgot his name.  He was a nice guy.

What’s the craziest show you’ve ever played?

The craziest show I’ve ever played when we were on tour and of all places we played a little quiet town called Cumberland, Maryland.  In Cumberland, Maryland we played at a tiny bar and there wasn’t a stage.  We played on the floor and the pit was so crazy that they kept knocking down my mic stand, and they kept bumping into me and my guitarist Dave.  So some of the guys from the other bands had to stand in front of us to keep everybody away from us.  When the show was over I had blood all over my arms and my shirt, and it was not my blood.  That’s how crazy the fucking pit was.  That was the most memorable show I’ve ever played. 

So was their blood from your inducing or was it from their own doing . . .

It was from their own . . .

Their own “pitting” . . .

What would you say is the best piece of advice you could give to people who are in bands now or wanting to start bands.

Hmm.  If we’re talking about any band in any kind of genre – I would advise people to stay true.  Stick with what you believe in . . . even if it’s complete garbage like the majority of music that is out these days.  If that’s where your stupid heart is and that’s what you want to do – go for it.  And if the majority of bands are going to go that route and keep making crap, well then the few of us, like my band, amongst other metal bands in San Antonio . . . we’ll be left to make the good shit, so follow your heart.

Robot Monster or Bust

Only at Robot Monster can you hang out with some legendary musicians, buy a wide variety of gear (from beginner to ultra-experienced), listen to rad music, buy rad music, find some antiques that could possibly belong in a museum, find gifts for the whole family, learn something new about yourself, buy a bicycle, some cool boots, and still have time to make it home for dinner . . .

zm

The Moral of Horror . . . A note to Danny Abrego (the Danny born in S.A./now resident of Austin)

I don’t know about you Danny . . .  but is it just me, or does it seem like the horror genre takes our fears to excite and/or scare us into being decent, understanding human beings?  For example, in Sam Raimi’s “Drag Me to Hell,” we learn that it’s hard to make the tough decisions, you pay a price for every decision you make, and sometimes even when you make tough decisions – the end result might not be what you want. 

You might get gnawed on by a toothless gypsy, disappear under a train, and pulled into a creepy portal into hell (it’s been a while since I’ve watched it, but this popped into my brain last night while I couldn’t sleep).  And what is it with Mr. Raimi and creepy stuff that chews on you, like the demon that chewed off a chunk of Bobby Joe’s hair (it was Bobby Joe, right) in Evil Dead II?

Anyway . . . we do what we can right?

ZM

Exulcerate – Brutal Perseverance through it all

For those of you who don’t know, or don’t remember, Exulcerate is a metal band from San Antonio, TX.  The band originally formed in 2003.  Exulcerate could fit in the genres of death metal, gore, technical death with elements of grind, etc. – if you’re into classifications. To me, they’re one of the most brutal and real bands around.  As time goes on, life happens, things change . . . people have to adapt to whatever their current needs demand.  It happens. 

Exulcerate is now comprised of Dave Gonzalez on guitar and Matt Hernandez on bass and vocal duties. They play to a drum track at this time as they can’t find a reliable and committed enough drummer available in the area.

Dave and Matt are both virtuosos at their instruments and Matt’s vocals are, to put it simply, brutally pissed and from the gut.  Their songs and sound are full of genuine anger, fast and technical playing, and intimidating rhythms.  Exulcerate performances are highly entertaining as they force their way into your eardrums at volumes that will make your ears bleed.  Matt’s interaction with the audience and/or commentary of discontent on a variety of topics is always memorable and in my opinion, hilarious. 

Exulcerate has persevered through the years – and I hope they continue to do so for many more.  There is something inspiring about how brutal Dave and Matt are in their dedication to keeping the metal of Exulcerate alive and well, or sick and twisted . . . whatever works for you.    

By Zach Marcotte