The tragic death of Suicide Silence frontman Mitch Lucker in a motorbike accident on November 1, 2012, robbed the metal scene of one of its brightest stars. Just over a year earlier, Lucker and his bandmates had released their third album, the acclaimed The Black Crown, which found them pulling away from the deathcore scene with which they were associated. Metal Hammer had caught up with Lucker and his bandmates in a North London tattoo studio around the release of the album to look at the band’s rapid rise and what should have been a stellar future. This is what they had to say…
There are storms flashing and rumbling overhead as we meet Suicide Silence in a North London tattoo studio. We’re chatting with lead guitarist, Mark Heylmun, whilst admiring the claps of thunder that roll past as we wait for his singer, Mitch Lucker.
“Tour is stress and the one concern a day is ‘Where’s the shower?’ I need the shower in the morning and a shower at night,” Mitch explains as he arrives and makes himself comfy.
“Then travelling is terrifying for me because as soon as we get in the air I just think, ‘We’re going to crash,’” he continues morbidly. “The statistic for people who die in plane crashes is for people who travel once a year. When you fly 200 times a year, the rate goes way up.”
These thoughts and actions are all symptomatic of the obsessive-compulsive anxiety disorder that the rangy frontman suffers from. Thankfully for the purposes of this interview, it’s not a topic that he’s shy about discussing. It’s well-documented how previous lyrics were more political and anti- religious so the fact that O.C.D is the second track on the quintet’s third album says a lot about the route that Mitch has taken in his songwriting.
“It’s me. I’m not going to try and hide who I am. I deal with it all the time,” he says matter-of-factly. “I wrote that song on the As I Lay Dying tour because I went four days without sleep. I’d just lay in bed and there’d just be so many things that I’d be thinking about. I finally just drank myself to sleep one night and slept for hours. It was the best sleep I ever got. It’s weird to deal with because I don’t know if I’m crazy or if everyone has this… maybe I just think about it more.”
It’s on tour that Suicide Silence have been debuting two songs from The Black Crown – the menacing sludge riffery of You Only Live Once and the snarling call to arms of Fuck Everything – and we’re meeting before the last of a 12-date sprint across Europe which, in terms of weather at least, is finishing in the same thoroughly sodden way as it started at Download Festival.
“I can’t wait to be on Mayhem Tour and sing Fuck Everything every day – it’s going to be the summer anthem. It’s badass,” Mitch laughs. While the title might make you think that the message is one of despondency and negativity, he moves quickly and eloquently to dismiss any such thoughts. “It’s telling people that if you hate everything and everything you see makes you sick and you’re bummed out all the time, you’re probably just watching the news and reading a newspaper,” he explains. “That’s mainstream media and that’s manipulation. They control you by scaring you and that’s what keeps people inside; that’s what makes you miserable. So get over it: just fuck everything.”
Mark and Mitch talk warmly and animatedly about the crowds and the reactions Suicide Silence have experienced. They recall hearing whole songs being sung back at the band, making it feel like they were “playing a California local show.” It being their last gig before heading back home for a few days, we asked what they’re looking forward to the most. Apparently, it’s not a period of recuperation.
“I’ve two herniated discs in my neck and two slipped discs in my neck. When you’re on tour for nine months a year, you don’t have time to let your body heal,” Mitch says, grimacing. “On the first year we did Mayhem, I spasmed my neck and it was pulling my shoulders up and my head down but I still performed for the rest of the tour. All the movement just wore holes in them and so two of the discs just popped out. I’m in constant fucking pain.”
Why doesn’t he take some time to fix his ills?
“I’d love to get acupuncture but there’s no downtime. If I’ve got time off, I’d rather spend time with my daughter than spend three hours getting something done on my neck.”
Mitch doesn’t have as much time as he’d like for his body art either: “I’m still working on the big-ass owl on my stomach. I’m never at home so the artist never has the chance to finish it,” he explains. “We decorated my daughter’s nursery with owls so they’d watch over her; they protect and represent wisdom. That’s what inspired me to get an owl on my stomach.”
While he’s just 26 years old, Mitch seems completely settled with the idea of being a family man, which is a welcome surprise. The nomadic existence of being in a band is more often suited to a hard-partying single man but the thoughtful frontman has strong philosophies on both the pros and the cons of being away from his home and his family for so long.
“Being away from my daughter is hard, but it makes the time I’m at home way better,” he explains. “You see a lot of families that don’t even talk. Everyone’s working, everyone goes to school and everyone comes home and they’re tired. Then the day is over and the time would be almost unappreciated. I don’t want that. When I’m home I’m a 24/7 daddy and housewife. I clean, do laundry and hang out with my family. It makes my time at home way more enjoyable.”
The Black Crown is a fine juncture at which to launch their career skywards. While 2007’s The Cleansing was one of Century Media’s best-selling debut album releases and the 2009 follow-up, No Time To Bleed, hit heady heights in the US album charts, it’s this, their third album, which everyone is expecting to go stratospheric. Musically, it’s certainly a departure from their previous work. While Mitch retains his deathly snarls and growls throughout, a slower, groovier element is the real change. So why the change in direction?
“The ‘give a fuck’ attitude to trying to write something that would impress our peers and people that didn’t look at us like we were a real metal band or they looked at us like we’re a young band that was here by accident or just a phase,” Mark answers, with a relaxed demeanour that belies the annoyance his words may convey. “This record we did more along the lines of, ‘Who gives a shit what this band thinks or what this guy thinks or what this press outlet is going to say? Let’s just do something that we can be proud of.’ Everything came together so perfectly.”
“We’re not trying to go as fast as we can or shred as hard as we can. This music is more valuable than the last two records because they were us trying to impress people but this is 100 per cent us,” says Mitch in no uncertain terms.
“We all talked more about the direction we were going in more than ever before,” Mark says while Mitch nods in agreement. “Before, we didn’t talk about it, we just jammed and then we’d record our jams and we’d listen to parts we played and figure out if we could work it into a song. That would be the extent of the conversation. This time we went up into a cabin for a month and lived together in the snow. We didn’t really get that much done but we talked a lot about what we wanted to do.”
“Progression is good but you don’t want to move so far forward that you’re leaving people behind,” Mitch says, displaying more thought and caution before smiling. “I’ve never made a record that I liked with Suicide Silence until now. There were parts that I thought were cool, but this record I fucking love. I can listen to it from beginning to the end and not have a part where I cringe or bite my finger. I’m proud of it.”
As the pair talk about their new music, there’s a palpable sense of relief. It’s almost as if the burden of being the hot new band has been lifted from their shoulders. As men in their mid-to-late-20s, they grew up to new music in the late 90s and early 00s. That was the time of nu metal and despite obviously being heavily influenced by death metal – apparent in the guest vocals from Frank Mullen of Suffocation on Smashed – it’s the sound of Deftones and Slipknot et al that really come through on The Black Crown. The appearance of Korn’s Jonathan Davis on Witness The Addiction, for example, is described by Mitch as “100 per cent, a dream come true.” However, it’s telling that even Mark Heylmun is reticent to use the phrase ‘nu metal’ while talking about the genre of music that affected the band the most. So, what do Suicide Silence really want to achieve with this new album?
“It’s a way for us to really prove our influences and who we say our influences are. The bands that don’t sound like anybody else; the bands that had pretty much the same members throughout their whole career; bands that continuously keep putting out records that don’t sound exactly the ones before,” says Mark. “We do not want to be the next Pantera; not the next Slipknot; not the next Lamb of God. We wanna be Suicide Silence and we wanna be the band that you can’t sound like us without people going, ‘Oh, they’re just ripping off Suicide Silence.’”
Clearly, it’s important for the band to stand out from the others but they sound incredibly happy with where the band is musically.
“We’re not trying to fit a mould. We’ve always just made our own music and Suicide Silence has always just sounded like Suicide Silence. You can listen to The Black Crown and you’ll know exactly who it is,” says Mitch with impressive and very believable confidence before going on to back up his guitarist’s words. “So many people have tried to imitate it and you just can’t do that any more. This record is us. We stand for The Black Crown. This is our sound.”