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the AU interview: Mitch Lucker of Suicide Silence (USA)

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Formed in Riverside, California as a side project in 2002, Suicide Silence have polarised opinions with their unique slant on death metal. Lumped in with the deathcore crowd, singer Mitch Lucker is keen to separate themselves from fractious sub-genres; preferring to be known simply as a heavy metal band. Currently touring on the back of their brilliant ‘No Time to Bleed’ album, Ben Hosking speaks with the affable vocalist about touring, their upcoming new album and live DVD, growing up with a metal head for a father and working with famed producer Machine.

You’ll be recording some of your upcoming shows for a live DVD release. What will fans be able to expect from that?

Yeah man, tonight and tomorrow night are going to be two of the craziest shows on this tour for sure. They’re both California shows and we’re from California; and having them filmed for TV... it should be pretty cool and get really crazy.

When do you expect it’ll be released?

We’re shooting for it to come out along with the release of our new record. So, around summer time (Australian winter). We hope to have the CD and the DVD out in the one package, as well as having them separate. We just want to try and give the fans something extra.

Have you started working on the new album yet?

Oh yeah, we’ve been working on it for a while actually. We’re scheduled to go into the recording studio in January/February. After this tour we go to Europe, the UK, Russia and then Australia and New Zealand. After that we’re scheduled to go finish doing our pre-production and record it. We want to have it out by the summer. We’re really working on it hard.

You played some of the songs from ‘No Time to Bleed’ before that album came out. Have you been playing new stuff on this tour?

No, on this tour we haven’t. We haven’t played any new songs. We just want to drop it in one go. When the single comes out and the video come out, we just want people to be like ‘Whoa, that’s badass!’ you know. We’re gonna debut it when it’s done.

The lyrics on your first album ‘The Cleansing’ were at times almost comical and on ‘No Time to Bleed’ they were more serious. What kind of themes have you been coming up with for the new tracks?

It’s similar to the ‘No Time to Bleed’ stuff and more like, escaping what reality has become – digging deeper into yourself and figuring out what everything really is. I think the general population of people just don’t think. It’s actually proven that people just use the part of the brain they have to, to get through the day. They don’t sit there and ponder over the big picture stuff. So it’s kinda going along that whole concept.

Who have you got producing this album?

We don’t have a producer yet. We haven’t locked down anybody for sure. There have been a lot of names flying around and all the names that have been flying around we’ve been really excited about.

What was it like working with Machine on ‘No Time to Bleed’?

Working with Machine was amazing, because he’s so crazy and so out of his mind. The ideas that he pitches and the ideas that he insists upon are some of the coolest things. He’d go ahead and do it and we’d be like ‘Ahh I don’t think that’s gonna be cool’ and it’d end up being the coolest thing that ever happened! It went so well that I think we’re going to have to go with a that’s basically out of his mind, because I think people like that are way cooler and way more functional to work with and do a better job.

Did you learn a lot from working with him?

So much. Like, working with him just made you want to be a better musician and not only that, he makes you want to be a better songwriter. I want our stuff to be songs. Not like, ‘oh, that song has a couple cool parts’, or ‘that track has a cool riff’, but it’s not a song. It’s like riff, riff, riff... I like it when it’s a whole big package and that’s something that Machine definitely taught us.

You actually tracked all the different instruments separately on ‘No Time to Bleed’ whereas ‘The Cleansing’ was recorded live in the studio. 

Yeah, ‘The Cleansing’ was just like ‘one, two, three, four, go!’ We’d play each song three or four times, listen back and keep the best take and that’d be it. On ‘No Time...’ we entered the studio and basically lived in there for five weeks and recorded the entire thing there in individual tracks. It made it such a better experience and it sounded more polished, but not too perfect. We wanted it to be perfect, but not too perfect. 

Can you explain your song writing process for us? Is it a group thing or do the band members bring in bits and pieces?

It’s always a group thing. We all just meet up and someone’s house or the studio and we’ll just jam and we’ll lock into something that sounds cool. I’ll go home with tracks of cool parts and work on words. Everyone in the band has a job to do and everyone knows their job and we all do it really well. So, when we’re writing, we can just look at one another and say, ‘OK, go write this part’. It’s not just one person writing or producing everything – everyone’s working to product what we have.

‘No Time...’ sold 14,000 copies in its first week of release in the US alone. What is it up to now?

It’s really, really high. We’re really impressed. It’s almost caught up to ‘The Cleansing’ and it’s sitting at around 80,000 or 100,000. It’s been pretty crazy. The combined sales of both records are unreal. Every time we get the email about the latest sales we’re like ‘what the fuck!? How is this happening?’ It’s very impressive and we’re super stoked to have our hard work pay off. When you tour 280 days a year, you want there to be a pay off, you want to see your name there in the Billboard Top 20 or Top 15. We’re just some little metal band, you know. 

You’re a dad. How does touring for so much of the year affect your life?

Well, it supports my family and it supports my daughter. If I wasn’t able to be supporting her by doing it, we wouldn’t be touring as much. There’re people all over the world that have access to Suicide Silence because of the internet and everyone that listens to you has a better chance to paying to see you play. I do this for my family, but being gone so long is the hardest thing. When I have a few months off, I just sit at home with my daughter all day, every day and just relax. It is hard, but it’s pretty cool. I’m pretty happy with where I’m at right now. 

Have you ever been tempted to throw it in and work a normal job?

Yeah, I could do that, but then I’d just be like everyone else. I think just having a gift and being able to do something creative and having people like it and enjoy it... I’m in a really, really cool place here. A lot of people try to do this and might get a little bit of success, but we’ve been lucky. We’re going to take that and try and go as far as we can with it and just do the best that we can.

Suicide Silence started as a side project, with all the guys in other bands. What left you all thinking that Suicide Silence was going to be the bigger project?

Well, at the time everyone was just in kinda lame metalcore bands and we’d all see each other at metal shows and we’d be like ‘we should get together and make a band and do something different’. Everyone got on the same page and we grabbed all the best members from all the local bands. We just wanted to do something that was different and heavier than all the other stuff that was around at the time. All the other bands were either not doing anything or had broken up by that time. They were bands that’d play, like, once every two months – they weren’t anything serious.

Suicide Silence has often been lumped in with the Deathcore scene, but you’ve often said you don’t agree with that. How would you describe your style of music?

I just want to be considered a heavy metal band, because metal has always been around and will always be around. We’re just a heavier version of metal. Heavy metal will never go away. It’s like a cockroach. It’s the best title, because we play metal that’s heavy. That’s it, there’s nothing special to it.

What were your main musical influences when you started the band?

At the time of starting this band I was listening to tons of death metal. However, the bands that made me want to be in a band to begin with were groups like Korn, Deftones, Slayer, Sepultura... everything that my dad would buy and bring home to me and my brother saying ‘Hey, listen to this’. 

You’re definitely a child of the 1990s!

Yeah, dude. I’ve got all the records from that time – all the stuff my dad brought home was metal.

Did your dad play an instrument as well?

Yeah, he played the guitar. He shreds really good.

How did you end up being a singer?

My brother was in high school and he had a garage band going, but no one would sing. At the time I was in love with Hatebreed... gritty stuff. They were covering a Hatebreed song at the time and I knew the words for it. My brother knew I knew the words, so he came inside the house and he’s like ‘Hey Mitch, come out here and sing’. I did it and after that I started a band with my older brother. That’s how I got started.

How do you protect your voice while singing in your particular style?

It’s just from doing it for so long. I mean, there is wear and tear. But I always warm up, I always eat right. I try to do things positive on my throat, but a couple things are negative like smoking and drinking heavily. I really don’t know. There’s no particular thing that I do that’s beneficial – it just kinda works. I guess I’d say warming up every day before a performance is the biggest thing.

You’ve done six music videos in your time, do you find they get much airplay and are music videos still worth the time and expense for a metal band these days?

Definitely man. Because when you’re playing in a band, any media is cool. Back in the day and you loved Pantera, you’d have the ‘Cowboys from Hell’ DVDs or VHS tapes. You’d watch that more than you would listen to the records because it’s almost like you’re watching their lives. Music DVDs give the audience the chance to see the band in action, behind the scenes, live... they’re awesome.

Where do you find your videos get the most airplay: TV or the internet?

Internet and then probably on cable TV like ‘On Demand’. There a lot of shows overseas that play a lot of them, too.

You guys are still pretty young. Do you get up a lot of mischief while on tour?

Always, always, always! That’s a necessity (laughs).

What do you do to kill time?

Video games, making music and once we’re done on stage, tons of drinking and partying. Then you start all over the next day.

Do you do much of the writing for the new stuff while on the road?

Yeah, we do a lot of writing on the road. We tour so much there’s not really enough time to write once we’re home. During the last Warped tour I recorded a bunch of stuff. Some of the other guys did too.

You’re released two albums in two years so far, with your new one set to continue the trend. When do you think you guys will take a decent break?

I would say maybe after this next album and tour cycle. After that we’ll probably take about five months off. We did that after the last record. We weren’t touring, but we did write music in that time. We were all just at home chillin’ and writing – living off the money we made from the tour. So we’ll probably do that again after the next record cycle.

Do you find illegal downloading impacts your income much? Where would you say your primary income comes from: touring or merchandising?

Yeah, record sales don’t amount to much. The cheques come through for however much they are, but merch is where it’s at. Merch sales from touring or from retail; it’s merchandising that makes the money. You gotta be on tour to sell merch. Fans love it and we love seeing fans wearing our shirts and stuff.

‘No Time to Bleed’ and ‘The Cleansing’ are on sale now.