Suicide Silence's Mark Heylmun: "We're Just as Obsessed as the Fans Are"

Suicide Silence is a loud, energetic, positive force to be reckoned with, which some find ironic considering the band’s moniker.

But in 13 years of existence, the band has received a 2009 Golden God award for Best New Talent, has helped pioneer the deathcore genre, has produced four diverse yet strong full-length studio albums, and has toured relentlessly. The band suffered a tragedy when frontman Mitch Lucker died in a tragic 2012 motorcycle accident, but it has emerged stronger than ever with 2014’s appropriately titled You Can’t Stop Me.

Often in the face of tragedy and anger, people can fall apart, but Suicide Silence has shown strength in the face of adversity. And that strength is what puts them worthy to be the supporting band to Korn on that group's 20th Anniversary U.S. fall tour, which is scheduled to come to Tempe Thursday, October 22. It’s perfect timing: Not only is it right in time for a killer Phoenix metal Halloween show, but the band undoubtedly will channel some music in memory of Lucker, who passed three years ago on October 31.

A few months after his death, the surviving members — guitarists Mark Heylmun and Chris Garza, bassist Dan Kenny, and drummer Alex Lopez — hosted the “Ending Is the Beginning: The Mitch Lucker Memorial Show.” That was when Eddie Hermida, then-vocalist of All Shall Perish and close friend of the band, got on stage to sing alongside them. Suicide Silence decided to continue making their fourth studio album, You Can’t Stop Me, which they had begun with Lucker. The result was part tribute, part resurrection.

Now the band is releasing an EP, Sacred Words, while on tour as an appetizer for fans await Suicide Silence's fifth album.

New Times talked with guitarist Mark Heylmun about touring with Korn, on-tour inspiration, and his favorite musical decade. 

New Times: First off, I know October is probably an emotional month for the band. How is everything going so far?

It couldn't be a better October, I mean, being on this Korn tour is unreal. Opening for Korn — being the band that plays before Korn — it’s a strange mental, I don’t want to use the word "dilemma," but I feel like I’m going out on stage to play in front of myself. I mean, if I wasn’t on stage, I would be out in [the audience at] one of these shows. It’s a real life affirmation. It feels fucking awesome. We’re just all-around stoked. [Laughs.] 

Do you feel it brings the band’s performance to the next level then?

I’m a huge Korn fan, and that reaches back to, you know, when music was really influencing you. You weren’t making judgments of music based off of all the music you’ve been listening to your entire life. Korn was one of those bands we were into before we had even started playing music. You heard it on the radio or in someone’s car, and you were like, ‘I need to know what this is.’ We’ve been fans since we were all really young. And that brings us back to a level that our fans have never seen before. We’re out to, I guess, impress. And to show that we can bring that same energy to the Korn crowd that Korn would.

Their influence comes through even though you may not think Korn plays as crazy-fast as our style. You know, we're like desensitized to what we are. We don’t even know how heavy we are. We just play what we play. But you can just see it in their face; they don’t even know whether to head-bang or not. Usually it takes a song or two, and then you see the people who have never heard of us before start to enjoy it. If anybody is coming out to this show and knows who we are, they are going to see us upon stage giving it 100 percent — all of us. 
What does You Can’t Stop Me mean to you? It’s been successful, but obviously, this album was crafted from a sort of emotional purging and healing from Mitch’s passing.

It falls into a spot real deep inside that — how can I word it? It’s the last album with Mitch. As much as he’s not really on the record, he was very much a part of it. So, emotionally — and how it sits with me mentally — is that it’s a record where all of the fans that knew us with Mitch get to see what we’re all about moving forward. And then for all the fans that discovered us just prior to Mitch’s passing or right after, it gives them the idea of what the band is about even after he’s gone. So it’s a testament of his energy and his influence on us and the music. It was being worked on before he passed, so there is a bit of Mitch still present in the band there. That’s the intention.

Mitch is all over that record, and our influence, and how the record is put together. Those lyrics — "You can’t stop me" — were his. We were holding him close and making sure that if he would’ve been there to work on the record, it would’ve been as close to how it came out as possible. It felt like we had a lot to prove, that we could still do this even without him, as sad as that is. I don’t sit around and bask in the success of that album. It’s more that I’m really glad we could come together as a band and as friends, and with Eddie to complete the record.

It’s a stepping stone to the next record, which will be really the first record with Eddie. You Can’t Stop Me just means the world to us that we could actually come through that insane moment, you know? We still look back on that and think how the hell did we come through that?

A situation like that can really break down a band. And for you guys, you came out the other end, whether you realized it or not at the time. So tell me a bit about the digital-only EP that you guys are releasing on October 23, Sacred Words?

The EP is to keep fresh stuff out there for the fans. It is all about Sacred Words with a bunch of songs from performing live in Europe at festivals. They are all raw and real and sound badass. [Laughs.] We tracked almost every fest we played out there. They are hard jammers. And then there is a remake of "Sacred Words" and an instrumental. It’s just a cool thing to drop right now in between this tour and the next record, which will be our fifth full-length record. We’re just working slowly to that. Once we get home, we’ll use the inspiration from this tour and the lessons we’re learning to jump back into the creative process and see where it takes us. We haven’t really slowed down in that creative process though. We haven’t stopped working on new music. We have tons of things on the table, in the idea log. It’s never-ending at this point. We have a lot of things we want to get out. We fucking love this shit. There’s not a minute that goes by where we all don’t think about Suicide Silence and what we’re doing and what it means to us. And we know there are fans out there who are the same way, with stickers, logos, tattoos, and more. And we’re just as obsessed as they are.

There are some bands I talk to that don’t really have that creative process while touring because it’s just too many distractions. So it’s great to hear that it doesn’t deter you.

I look at writing and working on music not only as, like, not just sitting there with your guitar. It’s not just you writing a song about yourself. There’s no one specific process. And, sure, tour is distracting. And I’m a person who would say, "No, we don’t write music on tour." But the amount of influence we’re immersed in, especially like this with Korn, and Islander, who's a young band with only one record out. They are about to release their second album and that’s inspiring. You only get to put our your follow-up record once. I make sure that my phone or a notepad with pen and paper is nearby at all times. I want to be able to write down any thought that comes to my mind about songwriting.

Some guitarists take the instrument out of the case only when it’s time to tour; others seem to never put it down. Where do you fall?

I never put it down. I am looking at a baritone ukulele right in front of me that I brought on tour. Yesterday, I just got a new little acoustic travel guitar. I took the New York City subway to a Sam Ash music store and picked that up. Usually, I have a different travel guitar, but I broke it in Europe. I gotta get it fixed eventually. I just like to fiddle, though. It’s not like I’m sitting there practicing licks.

What decade of music do you wish you could’ve been a part of when you weren’t alive?

Um, probably not exactly a full decade of the '70s. But like ’67 to ’77, or ’65 to ’75. Like with Cream and the Yardbirds and Sabbath and the Who and the Rolling Stones. My favorite music of all time. And driving into the ‘70s and everyone getting more experimental and diving deep into that creative process. Like what we were talking about earlier. Bands all being together in the ‘70s were really [laughs] — it sounds perverted, but they were playing with each other. People were getting the ideas off of each other. There was so much influence that was just incestouous all over the world. People were getting bluesy from American South and people in England sounding like American music, too. So much influence was spreading all over.

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Lauren Wise has worked as a rock/heavy metal journalist for 15 years. She contributes to Noisey and LA Weekly, edits books, and drinks whiskey.
Contact: Lauren Wise