quinta-feira, 14 de abril de 2011

Looking Back: Precious Memories of Chuck Schuldiner (Final)

Chuck Schuldiner: Loyal and friend of his fans

By: Empty Words
Magazine: Metal Maniacs / USA
Article: Precious Memories of Chuck Schuldiner
Written by: Perry Grayson
Published: May 2002

Land Of No Return: The Professional

Chuck's career as a professional metal guitarist was just beginning, and before anything else could be done a first album would have to be recorded. In summer of '86, Chuck flew back to Florida with Chris with big pipe-dreams about their first album ever, far from the recording capitol of the world. It was in Florida where Chris notes Death "recorded a version of the album and it got scrapped. Then we started over again in L.A...It sounded really good at the Music Grinder."

While back in S.F. Chris and Chuck befriended neighboring thrash band Sadus, whose bassist, Steve DiGiorgio, would later record on Death's Human and Individual Thought Patterns and Control Denied's The Fragile Art of Existence. Says Steve: "They got a hold of Sadus' first demo. The phone rang one day, and the dude on the other end says, 'Hey, we're in a band called Death from Concord. We dig your demo. Do you guys wanna hang out?' So we got directions and drove out to Chris' house. We met Chuck there. We were just fresh out of high school, so we had a lot of time to kill during the day. We asked him where his band was, and he said, 'They'll be out of school in a couple of hours.' And we're like, 'School? These guys are young.' He played the Mutilation demo. His 'band' got there a little later...just Chris. 'How the hell do you guys sound like that?' So, we went in Chris' room...and they ran through songs. We figured we didn't know many bands in the area. We were always on our own, and here's a couple of guys our age doing our type of thing." Steve continues, "Back then we were young, and no one had money. Jon Allen had a drum kit that was barely hanging in there. But Chris had a nice, huge Tama set, and Jon was just blown away. Chris was like, 'But we can't practice in my house very often. And Sadus had a killer practice space. So, this deal got worked out where we loaned them our practice space if Chris would leave his drums set up so Jon could play it. That eventually led to me filling in on bass with them. Sadus would set up and go through our set. And they'd get up there...All the Sadus guys would pull up a pillow and watch us. 'Time for a break.' We'd all go jump in the pool at Darren's [Darren Travis, guitarist/vocalist of Sadus] house or something. It went like that for a few months...one band in a way. I was the common denominator. They were looking for a bass player the whole time, but no one was around."

Chuck expressed his approval of Scream Bloody Gore to Metal Forces, "Randy Burns gave us a super-heavy production...The only thing I kind of regret now is not hanging around for the final mixes. I think the rhythm guitar could have been a bit louder in the mix." Not too shabby for the 5 days Chris claims it took to track SBG. "Right after we did the LP as a two-piece," Chuck told Metal Forces, "we ran into this guitarist, John Hand, whom we really liked at the time, so we got him into the band. He played with us long enough to have his photo appear on the back of the album, but he just couldn't play our newer material, so he had to go."Steve DiGiorgio remembers the lack of Death gigs from that period, "We decided to do some shows, and just figured we'd double session it. Chris double sessioned for Desecration. We were gonna do a Desecration, Sadus, and Death show where me and Chris both double setted. But that never happened because Chuck went back to Florida and never came back." Something was making Chuck homesick. He told Metal Forces, "When I first moved to California back in late '85, the scene was just starting to flourish. There were lots of places to play, and the fan support was just overwhelming. Unfortunately, as time went by, most of the clubs closed down and the scene just sort of died out. I knew there was no way I was gonna be able to get a band together there, so I decided to go back to Florida. I told Chris he could move back down with me, but he said he didn't want to." Chuck and Chris were metal brothers, though, and Chuck wished him "good luck in the future" in his thanks list on his second album.

Scream Bloody Gore was released in May 1987. Chuck was far from taking a rock star attitude after getting signed and seeing his first album issued, telling Metal Forces that "the reaction from the fans has been just amazing...I really have to thank everybody for their great support, because it wasn't for them, we wouldn't be here right now." SBG was an extension of the over-the-top, pile-driving riffs and gory lyrics from Death's demos. The gore Chuck would outgrow, but the riffs would only become more memorable as time passed. Chuck splattered listeners with corpse-riddled tunes that had much in common with flicks like George Romero's Dead trilogy or the Italian "giallos" of Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, and Umberto Lenzi. Horror is different from the jokingly satanic lyrics of Venom and Hellhammer. When asked about satanism in metal, Chuck told Metal Forces, "I'm not into it."

Perseverance And Moments Of Clarity

It was Florida where Chuck based himself for the rest of his career. 1988's Leprosy saw Chuck leaning toward polished productions and an inner conflict between the horror fan and the emerging philosophical, down-to-earth Chuck. Leprosy reunited Chuck briefly with Rick Rozz, who brought with him Massacre bandmates Terry Butler (bass) and Bill Andrews (drums). "Pull the Plug," in particular, became the song fans went absolutely nuts for whether in their bedrooms or a crowded club. In his own words, Chuck told us that "Pull the Plug" is about "being on a life support system and having the right to die." Chuck explained to Metal Hammer, "the lyrics are more serious and on the next album they will get even more realistic." Leprosy saw Chuck's foray into touring, on a double bill with Dark Angel. The road was-like life in general-filled with ups and downs. Ex-Dark Angel guitarist Jim Durkin informed me, despite rumors that have been spread that he "got along really well with Chuck and everyone before I left the tour and didn't look back. Chuck and I had a lot of fun hanging out and jamming. It had nothing to do with us two."

Leprosy was the appetizer for Chuck's new direction, but Spiritual Healing (1990) was a cerebral feast-paving the way for every Death album to follow. "Living Monstrosity," in Chuck's own words, is about cocaine abuse among pregnant women, while "Altering the Future" tackles abortion. At 22, Chuck's guitar playing, songwriting skills, were reaching new heights. On Spiritual, Chuck's razor-sharp lead guitar abilities took flight-and his solos were bolstered by another young shredder, James Murphy. [Murphy too has battled cancer recently, and we wish him the best!] Chuck told Guitar Magazine, "I started practicing more and came up with the idea that, for this band to move forward musically, we'd need a cleaner approach, something real dry and in-your-face...Our rhythms also became a lot more complex..." The lineup mutiny Chuck endured when the rest of his band went off to Europe without him tested his strength, but Chuck was far from quitting. Ex-manager Eric Grief, notes: "Chuck's contention was that he did not feel the Spiritual Healing tour of Europe was adequately organized. Considering Death's previous negative European experience with the Belgian agency Metalysee (that tour being one of the worst experiences Chuck had encountered as a musician thus far), he did not want a repeat of that. He kept exclaiming that he wanted his 'next European tour to rage for the fans'. Chuck also had mounting personal issues at the time, and no manager to fall back on. Bill and Terry countered by claiming that Chuck waited until the very last minute to pull out, and they felt his apprehension was not warranted. They argued that Chuck had missed several opportunities to bring Death back to Europe and that they were sick of waiting...so they went anyway...That bold move was the end of Bill and Terry."

For Human (1991), Chuck recruited Florida-based Cynic members Paul Masvidal (guitar) and Sean Reinert (drums), and Sadus' Steve DiGiorgio (bass), which led to an injection of the technical edge Chuck had been striving for. Chuck, Paul, and Sean dug progressive metallers Watchtower, but Human still retained the signature Death sound. Chuck explained the genesis of "Suicide Machine" to Rock Hard, "In America, there's a doctor who invented a machine that can deliver sick and suffering people to death. I think it's a great invention. When somebody really is incurably ill...and it's his wish to die, then we must allow him that choice before an endless suffering takes place."

On Individual Thought Patterns (1993) Chuck furthered his sonic experimentation. Chuck hired ex-Dark Angel skinsman Gene Hoglan, King Diamond lead guitarist Andy LaRocque, and Steve DiGiorgio Speaking of his new comrades, Chuck told Metal Hammer, "One by one very gifted musicians but perfectly fitting in the musical concept of Death." Chuck told Watt, "I hope ITP lifts metal as an art form to a higher level...I don't set myself any boundaries." Chuck first voiced his intentions to evolve by finding a melodic vocalist in '93 to Guitar School: "In the future I plan to do a more melodic, straightforward metal side project with a singer in the Rob Halford style."

Symbolic (1995) was the album on which Chuck's assailed massive heights. Heavy, moody, emotional, and full of technical twists and turns. Gene Hoglan returned for Symbolic, but Steve DiGiorgio was unavailable. The second guitar spot was filled by Bobby Koelble. Symbolic was one that Chuck would continue to build on with his next two albums. "Do you remember when things seemed so eternal? / Heroes were so real... / Their magic frozen in time." The words Chuck wrote for "Symbolic" send a shiver up my spine, because I know that not only was Chuck my hero, but I know he was such a huge role model for thousands of young musicians worldwide.

Chuck and Shannon: Killer!

After coming off the road in '95, Chuck hooked up with drummer Chris Williams (Talonzfury) and began working on his new project, dubbed Control Denied. Guitarist Shannon Hamm met Chuck through Chris Williams. "We became really good friends," Shannon said. "Then Chris invited Scott [Clendenin, bass] who was also in his band. So we all came from the same place here. We did a couple of demo tapes." Among Chuck's prospects for Control Denied singers was Warrel Dane, from Symbolic tour openers Nevermore. Commitments to Nevermore prevented that, but Chuck didn't give up, though Control Denied had to be put on hold. He was only too aware that Death fans were still hungry for more. Chuck told Metal Maniacs, "I do things when I feel they're right. There was label interest in Control Denied, but I felt that the time was right to bring Death back." Another slight lineup change occurred here. Shannon explained , "That's when we started working on the Perseverance stuff...and got Richard [Christy] in on drums."

The Sound of Perseverance (1998) bludgeoned listeners with infectious heaviness from Chuck's introductory lead burst. Unaware of his fading mortality, Chuck had written "A Moment of Clarity", which tells us: "Life is like a mystery / With many clues, but with few answers / To tell us what it is that we can do / To look for messages that keep us from the truth." At the Ventura, California, Perseverance gig I hung out with Chuck for the first (and last) time. He signed my LPs and CDs, and I apologized for being such a fan-boy. But he understood. "I'm the same way," he said, "like with KISS." I spent the afternoon inside the venue, with no one around but Chuck's friend Maria Abril. It was unreal watching Chuck jam unaccompanied before everyone showed up for soundcheck. He didn't kick me out or wonder what I was doing there. As a matter of fact, he was one of the kindest musicians I've ever met!

A shocking press release was issued by Chuck in spring 1999, just after tracking for the Control Denied album, The Fragile Art of Existence, was completed. "Toward the end of our time in the studio, I started experiencing some pain in my upper neck which I initially thought was a pinched nerve or strained muscle. Having completed the recording I consulted with a chiropractor followed by a massage therapist and acupuncturist who recommended I go for an MRI...Well, I was right about the pinched nerve but unfortunately it was being caused by a brain stem tumor. "I am in my fourth week of radiation therapy with some of the most sought-after physicians in the field. I am also blessed with the immense love and support from my family and friends which is such a big part of getting through something like this. To try to put this into simple terms is obviously difficult but let me say this: it is a mind, body and soul expanding experience. The treatment has been going well and with this type of aggressive radiation the prognosis is very good. Patience is something I have learned to embrace in my fourteen years of living music and now it is time to further master the art of patience on my road to recovery. "I've always felt a personal connection between the music and the fans/friends who support it. It is that support, that goes beyond the music itself, which I appreciate with all my heart and soul."

The words sent Death fans reeling with sympathy for their ill metal comrade. Months of radiation followed, during which time The Fragile Art of Existence was released. A medical fund was organized for Chuck. He lacked insurance that would cover the enormous expenses such a volatile disease as cancer brings. Chuck's family's assets were being poured into the best care he could possibly receive. The Schuldiners encountered much friction from hospitals that were reluctant to treat Chuck without being paid up-front. "Every single dime has been for him, but Chuck would do it for me 1,000 times over, " Chuck's sister Beth told MTV News.

The Fragile Art of Existence is what Chuck had wanted the public to hear since '93. Clear production, a solid lineup, and songs loaded with themes both personal and relevant to all people. The epic direction was made more accessible by the powerful voice of Tim Aymar (Psycho Scream). The title track closes out the disc with the prophetic lines: "No time for self-pity / No time for dwelling on what should have been / But is yet to be." In "Believe" there are further messages laced with experience from Chuck's life. Chuck tells us: "If I was paid for disappointment, I would be a wealthy man / The magic lives in sincerity, in truth, behind the thoughts I choose to stand... / Awaiting discovery". Chuck told Metal Maniacs, "These are words and things I need to re-embrace-not for music, not for that outlet-I need to re-embrace key words for a new survival...Life is fragile."
Chuck Schuldiner: On the top

Just before Chuck underwent surgery, MTV News covered his story online on the web. Family, friends, and fans braced themselves as Chuck entered the hospital. Chuck made another statement to the metal community following his successful surgery: "I am alive and letting the metal flow! I just finished writing the last song for the new Control Denied album...100% trend free. The responses to The Fragile Art of Existence have been really awesome. Thank you for embracing it! I also want to thank everyone around the world for the incredible support you have shown me. I read the emails and the letters and appreciate your kind words and honesty...I'm settling down here in Florida, feeling good and looking forward to getting busy again with the new record and tour to thank all my metal brothers and sisters in person with some new metal...Shazaamm!"

Recovery went awry, even though we had hoped with all our metal hearts that Chuck would defeat cancer and continue to astound us with new slabs of raging metal. It was spring 2001 when Chuck fell more gravely ill. Maria Abril, who worked for nearly every label Death & Control Denied have been on was Chuck's friend from her days at Relativity Records. She spearheaded online auctions on Chuck's behalf. The donations and love flowed from the metal community, but all the money in the world can't erase the horrible side effects of experimental chemotherapy drugs and the gruesome killer known as cancer.

By November 2001 Chuck's condition seemed to have improved somewhat. He even emailed Emptywords.org, the official Death & Control Denied website, something he rarely did. Only weeks later Chuck was hospitalized again with pneumonia-his mother constantly at his side. Those who knew feared each day that we would lose Chuck. The news we all dreaded came, when Yvonne Kluitman from Emptywords tearfully informed us that Chuck had passed away on the afternoon of Thursday, December 13, about an hour after returning home from the hospital.

Chuck was human-and enjoyed simple things like his dogs and cats ("The Guys"), canoeing, collecting records, and cooking. Chuck, a humane soul who was especially fond of his pets, rescued his dog Heidi when she was a puppy from the horrid fate of being trapped in a bag and left to die in a dumpster. Never one to shrink from popularity with metal fans and the intricacies such fame brought with it, Chuck told Guitar World, "I'm proud that I've never had a drug problem or complained that success sucks and shot myself like Kurt Cobain. Sorry, but success is something people like me dream about." When it came to Chuck's concept of metal, he was uncompromising. Ex-Death guitarist Matt Olivo told me shortly before Chuck's death, "He doesn't have one dishonest bone in his body when it comes to his own music. He has to do his own thing." Chuck's old manager, Eric Greif explained how Chuck stared misery in the face, and slayed it with optimism: "One particular moment will live on in my brain forever: we were travelling somewhere in snowy Sweden... the only guys still awake, having a deep conversation about our lives, our futures, and the band. I was quite down at the way things were going. He put his arm on my shoulder and pointed at the stars that were shining clearly. He said I had nothing to fear-that fate would lead the way and that things would turn out as they were meant to. Chuck was like that-there were moments of sheer depth, honesty and conviction...."

As for me, I can only say that I feel fortunate to have known Chuck Schuldiner, a true heavy metal hero, even for a brief time. We won't forget you, Chuck, and perhaps we'll meet again on the tour bus to infinity...


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