Latest release: You Can’t Stop Me (Nuclear Blast)
Band site: www.facebook.com/suicidesilence
Plenty of bands trumpet the idea of strength through adversity, but few have lived it like Californian deathcore heavyweights Suicide Silence. You Can’t Stop Me serves as a simultaneous introduction to new vocalist Hernan “Eddie” Hermida (formerly of All Shall Perish), as well as a celebration of the brotherhood they shared with Hermida’s fallen predecessor Mitch Lucker, who was killed while riding his motorcycle on Halloween Night 2012. The album is equal parts mournful tribute and statement of renewed purpose, featuring guest appearances from death metal legend George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher (Cannibal Corpse) and Greg Puciato (The Dillinger Escape Plan, Killer Be Killed).
In the wake of these extensive developments and considering that Suicide Silence interviews have ranked among the most popular content here at Loud, we felt it fitting to get the lowdown from engaging, cheerful guitarist Mark Heylmun as he relaxed in the back lounge of their tour bus en route to Paris.
Q: I can recall reviewing your first record and acknowledging the potential, but feeling it may take this band a few albums to start realising it. I’ve been listening to the new one extensively during the past couple of days, and feel it’s easily your best work yet.
A: Yeah, and that’s kind of the vibe that we’ve gotten from a lot of reviews. And we’ve never been the band that the reviewers and the critics exactly give five-star, ten-star reviews, we’ve always been… People, the fans like it, we seem to sell records and see the response, but we’ve never gotten good reviews. And this is like the first time where people actually like the music. Which I don’t really give a fuck; I never pay attention to what people are saying. The records we’ve put out have always been what we’ve been doing as a band and as humans, and this is the new one, man, and we’re always going to be stepping it up and trying to make things better than our last one. So it feels good.
Q: Musicians often trot out the line that a new album is a snapshot of them at that particular time. Since the previous record, Suicide Silence has been through the wringer, and there’s a real mix of emotions within the songs. How do you feel when you listen back to it now?
A: (Pauses) I feel that we did a good job, I feel like it’s something to be proud of. It came from a really difficult spot, and I feel like the whole writing of this record was something that was necessary for us as people, as friends, as a band, everything we’ve been through. This album was necessary for us to move forward and grow beyond the tragedy, and everything that’s happened. So listening back to it now, it’s something that I can be proud of and share with somebody. It’s diverse enough that even if somebody doesn’t really like brutal, really aggressive music, there’s bits and pieces of the album that I can still share and show people the diversity of this band. It’s something that I’m really fucking stoked about, and I’d like to think it is a crowning achievement for us as musicians, as friends, as a band.
Q: Some of Mitch’s lyrics have also been incorporated into the record as well.
A: Yeah, the title track, You Can’t Stop Me, the lyrics are the last and only lyrics that’ll be recovered from Mitch’s writings.
Q: His tenure will obviously never be forgotten by band-mates and fans, but is that pseudo-presence on the record an appropriate way to close one chapter of Suicide Silence’s career, while subsequently signalling the next one?
A: Yeah, absolutely. It wasn’t something that we even took into account. When we decided we wanted to move forward and write a record, and make the next step stop possible with Suicide Silence, we didn’t know there were any lyrics. We didn’t know that we would be even doing that. Once we found out that there were lyrics, it opened our eyes and really kinda put it into perspective, that there is, it just became out of our hands. His lyrics being “you can’t stop me”, it felt like it was foretelling. Take this and run with it, use it as motivation, be unstoppable and just get this album to be everything that it needs to be. Only time will tell what the next record, and the future of Suicide Silence will be. It’s hard to close that chapter with Mitch; we’ll never forget. But it’s really awesome to have one last set of lyrics from him on this record.
Q: How seriously did the band considering calling it quits after Mitch’s death?
A: The band basically didn’t make any decision at all on what we were going to do. As far as right after, we were all just at a loss, at a major fucking loss, a huge turning point in our lives. We weren’t thinking about the band, we were just thinking about us, and… Like, ‘okay, this just happened’. You realise how much time you had behind you, and how much time is in front of you, and there was no rush in trying to figure out how to get the band to work, or if the band was going to not work. It was just, take some fucking time off, slow down, chill out, do whatever you have to do with your regular life. And what really happened was we took four months off, and four months away from music together. And that four months was long enough to decide that we needed the band. We needed to write an album, we needed to be the band that we always have been, and we all missed it. We didn’t really know until it was gone that we absolutely needed it, and the album is a response to that time away from the band.
Q: Did the song-writing process alter much after Eddie entered the picture?
A: No, that’s one of the most relieving things of the whole process. We as a band, we like to write our music together. We went to the extent of renting a cabin; I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the special edition, (but) we rented a cabin to write (2011’s) The Black Crown. We stayed in for just about four weeks. We all lived together up in the mountains, fucking shovelled snow, hung out, partied and wrote music together, all of us. That’s kind of been the way that we always do it. Get in a room together, just have fun and treat it like a hang out session and a jam session, and just see what comes out.
And with Eddie, we told him when we were going to start our first jam sessions. He came down, and he was there from day one until the last day in the studio. It was the same thing; we were just all in the same room together writing, and the process was exactly the same, and that’s what was actually really cool. Eddie works very similar to Mitch; they both want to hear the song and get the vibe of the song, and write the lyrics to what the song is telling them to write about. It was very fitting. Eddie, he just came right in and meshed, and just, boom, started fucking working.
Q: How does it make you feel when playing live and you hear Eddie performing Mitch’s lyrics – particularly a song which was readily identifiable as him like You Only Live Once?
A: I think it’s fucking really, really cool. It puts him more in the position of the audience. He’s said it too, to some fans, and I’ve thought about it as well, it’s more recent days; we’re still in the early stages of all this. We’ve played under 50 shows together, and every day we’re figuring something new out. Him singing the old lyrics, Mitch’s lyrics, he’s singing them and the crowd’s singing them back, and they’re singing them together, it really puts us at a very similar place. It’s Mitch’s lyrics, they’re old songs; and Eddie’s singing them for Mitch, the crowd’s there remembering Mitch, and puts us all in a position where we’re paying homage and in memorial of him, and it’s kind of a celebration.
Everybody is just rocking out and singing these songs. And it means something different to everybody, but at the same time we’re all there rocking out together and making a party out of it. It’s fucking special, dude, it’s a really cool thing. You Only Live Once goes fucking off; it goes retarded nuts every single night. It’s an amazing feeling to play that song every day.
Q: On the live front, the new line-up made its debut here in Australia. How was that experience?
A: Soundwave was the big one, because it was the first show that we’d be playing together, the first series of shows, and it was a massive festival. We did all the preparation that we possibly could. We had to adjust to the whole situation. Eddie was going to be fucking nervous, we weren’t going to be doing… We were going to be fucking nervous because we still wanted to lose ourselves like we normally do, just fucking go out there and put on a show and get into it, and really vibe it out.
The first show in Brisbane was nerve-wracking. We were all so fucking nervous, and in all honesty there was nothing to be nervous about. We just got in there and did what we did, and it went over amazing. I still think about that show, literally every single show we’ve played so far. I think back to that first show, because it was such a meaningful one. And all the shows on Soundwave, they ended up just being exactly what we needed to start this whole thing off, and really kick it off right.
Q: Are we likely to see the band Down Under again soon?
A: We would love to. Before the end of this year’s summer, it’d be great to get back over there and do something. I can’t guarantee it, but I say it in every Australian interview, that’s our second home. We love it there. It’s great, and any opportunity that we can get over there, we’re going to be there. So it will be soon.
Q: I remember speaking to you a few years back and discussing how The Black Crown was the heaviest album you’d made up to that point, and now I believe the new one has topped that. I always find it intriguing talking to bands about just how heavy extreme music can get. What’s your view on how heavy and extreme music can be, and is there a limit that will eventually be reached?
A: I think that it depends. I think that the energy, the brutality and the aggressiveness of brutal music, I think that things can continue getting heavy, and be heavier and heavier, as long as people are writing it for the actual aggression, and the actual release of it. If you’re just writing heavy music because you’re trying to think of the heaviest thing possible, it’s probably not going to be that heavy. You have to fucking feel it; you have to be behind the music.
Cannibal Corpse is a prime example. They fucking love heavy music, they’ve been making aggressive, pissed off music, and they continue to reinvent heavy. Meshuggah; you know, the bands that really are writing music because it’s what they know how to do, they just know how to write heavy shit. It’s not like, ‘oh, I can make this heavier by making it slower’, or it’s not a technical thing. It’s putting the right energy into it, and making sure that the music speaks what you’re trying to make it tell. It’s still an art-form, it’s still a vibe, and there’s still an energy that you have to put into it for it to sound the way that you want it to sound, or make the person feel what you want them to feel when they listen to it. It’s not just to download some fucking drum machine and figure out how to make a blast-beat that’s going to be heavy. It’s much more than that. I think that the possibilities are endless.
Q: Any famous last words?
A: I love Australia, can’t wait to get over there and fucking rock out Down Under, hang out again, drink some fucking Bundaberg rum or whatever the fuck happens down there. We’re open to it (laughs).