Interview: Mark Heylmun of Suicide Silence
Written by Steve Jenkins
The impact of Southern California's Suicide Silence on extreme metal is undeniable. Since the band’s inception in 2004 and the subsequent release of genre defining tracks such as “You Only Live Once”, “Unanswered” and “You Can’t Stop Me” Suicide Silence took deathcore to enormous crowds selling hundreds of thousands of records and playing enormous stages around the world. On February 14th the band will release their sixth studio album 'Become The Hunter' via Nuclear Blast. We spoke with long time guitarist for the band Mark Heylmun about the new album, evolving their sound, when they'll be back in Australia and more!
First of all thank you so much for taking the time to chat about your new album 'Become The Hunter' which is out very soon.
Sure, of course man. Thanks for wanting to talk about it. Have you had a chance to listen to it already?
Yes I have, and after listening to it a few times now I feel as though it's a major return to form for you guys. Did you think about making some big changes after your last release?
Yeah well I think with the last release we were sort of in a different place as a band and we were wanting to experiment a little and we wanted to go and break the mould. The way we've always written records is how it's going to affect our fans and our live shows, just to see how stoked everyone will be with how the music transitions from the recording to the stage. We did that with the last four records before this one, and with the self titled album we just wanted to go the other way. We thought let's just write something one hundred percent for ourselves and make something super weird and super out there. I think if we were to go the other way and just write another really heavy record, I still wonder what it would be like because it wouldn't have been really heartfelt and have the attention that we always put into making a record. I'm still very proud of our last record, I know commercially, and with the fans response, it was kind of exactly what we expected because we made an album for ourselves and not thinking about our fans. But when it came to this record, it was just like let's one hundred percent just stoke everybody out again and make something super heavy. At the same time we wanted to do that and we had a lot that we wanted to get out of our system. Same thing with the album artwork, the lyrics, the concept, everything about it, we were just like let's go full on fucking violent and pissed off again.
If the last album was received a bit more positively, do you think you would have kept going in that same direction or do you think you still would have created this brutal and heavy album in Become The Hunter?
That's a good question, I don't know man. It's hard to say you know. I kind of think that amongst the band there was kind of a divide on how much we wanted to change our sound and go in sort of a different direction. I think with the last record, it's so hard, I try not to even think about the potential because it's just too hard to think about what could have actually happened if it went a different way. But I'm sure if the album did have more success then there probably would be more experimenting on this new record. We're not going to rule out the idea of experimenting more in the future either. I think that one major take away from our last record is if we were to experiment and take it even further in that kind of realm, I think the direction we would go is more of a modern production. Not record on tape, you know, that album sounds like it was recorded in the nineties and I think a lot of people just took it as though it just wasn't recorded very well. But on our side at the time, that's just what we wanted to do. I think people heard it and it didn't sound as big or as good as it was intended to sound, it just wasn't on par with the modern production of some of these heavy records you hear these days. I still feel like we needed to record that album, just to keep the passion alive amongst the band, we didn't fake anything on that record. It took writing that last record to fire us back up again and get back into this extremely brutal mentality which we took the energy from that and put it into this new album. I think everything kind of happens for a reason and I've got no regrets. At the end of the day, we're still lucky to be Suicide Silence and put out and album and have a good portion of the world listen to our music, and I think that's fucking awesome.
For sure, and let's talk a bit about the new album, Become The Hunter. Was it hard to walk away once the album is done? You can keep working on something until the cows come home but at what point do you tell yourself, this is done, we're all good.
This one was difficult because we actually had so much more material than we've ever had before. There was probably like another six or seven songs that we brought into the studio to record. Like three weeks or a month before we went into the studio to begin recording, we were basically finished with the record, the vocals, lyrics, we pre-pro'd everything. We were able to for the first time ever just say, alright this is the record, this is what we're going to record, let's just work on these songs in the last month before we go into the studio. It felt really good you know, I do believe that an album is never really finished like a lot of people say. You just kind of walk away. But with this record, we were very well prepared walking into the studio and just track it for a final, and it was good because we had our demos so we would just one up the demos and make them way quicker. I think the end result kind of shows that.
Sounds like a smooth process. I think on this new album every song kind of stands on their own very well. Is there a particular song from Become The Hunter that you were especially excited about when it came to the writing and recording process?
Yeah, I think it would have to be The Scythe. Once again, a lot of our previous records when we write them, a lot of the last songs we write become some of our favourites. That song was one of the last songs that we wrote and it wasn't even really in contention. We were in the studio and we were just going to work on some of the other songs we'd already written. But we came up with this one in about forty five minutes, it just kind of popped out. It became so fucking cool and it was a real nice culmination of where that entire record was going. It's one of the bands favourite songs on the record and hopefully you guys will like it as much as we do.
It's been about three and a half years since Suicide Silence has toured Australia. Is that something that you hope to do with this record?
Yeah for sure, we always try and make it to Australia. One, it's hard to get over there sometimes, but two, it's one of our most favourite places to tour. I literally was just talking to my manager yesterday and I remember saying let's try and get an Australian tour in December or January because we don't have any plans right now, it's a perfect time for us to get down there. There's no confirmed plan or anything but we're trying to get down there as soon as possible.
That would be awesome! Did you have any words for your Aussie fans before you head off?
I fucking love Australia, love hanging out with you guys and we hope to do that again soon. I hope everybody checks out the entire album, listen to it from start to finish. It's brutal, it's heavy, it's Suicide Silence through and through. Just enjoy it and tell your friends about it and be stoked! Because I am fucking pumped!
Become The Hunter is out worldwide February 14th via Nuclear Blast.