Mark Heylmun, lead guitarist for Suicide Silence, took time out of his busy schedule of writing, playing, and partying while dressed up like Jesus to talk to us about the writing process of their new album The Black Crown and the filming of the trippy and violent video for its first single “You Only Live Once.”
Mxdwn: So how’s it going?
Mark: I actually just woke up from a ridiculous night of mayhem.
Mxdwn: Was this night of mayhem because of the Mayhem Festival?
Mark: Yeah they have these thing that are called “Metal Mixers” on every off day; basically a costume party thing. I dressed up as Jesus and we all just got ridiculous, it was awesome.
Mxdwn: How do you dress up as Jesus?
Mark: I had on my flip flops and a white robe, and I made a crown of thorns out of bass strings.
Mxdwn: That’s what I was picturing, putting on like a sheet and some sandals on. So Mayhem goes through August what’s coming up next?
Mark: We get like a week home then were going to Australia. Then we come back and and then go back out for Never say Die in Europe in October. Then we do Canada and South America.
Mxdwn: So the new album is out, The Black Crown, and this is your highest chart debut so far. Is the audience at the shows responding pretty enthusiastically to the new material?
Mark: Yeah even before the new album was out we were playing a couple new songs in Europe and the new songs are going over better than the old songs. I don’t know why, if its because they are better or because people are really excited, but the audience seems stoked about it and it’s working out.
Mxdwn: The sound of the new album is a little different from your previous work, was that intentional or do you guys just write what you write?
Mark: I guess it was kind of intentional but yeah at the same time we do kind of just write what we write. I think it’s a step up, you know, a growth. It’s like when we did No Time to Bleed I think there was a big jump there too from the record before it. It’s just kind of a progression that we’re going through, we really didn’t consciously try to change the way we sound or anything like that, its still us just writing stuff, but we progress.
Mxdwn: Is the writing process fairly democratic or how does it work with you guys?
Mark: Yeah we pretty much just go into a room and start playing whatever. Sometimes we have everything hooked up so we can record and we’ll record us playing for a few hours then we’ll sit back and listen to it and just kind of see what were doing. We get ideas from our own jams because sometimes you play something and you don’t even realize that it’s kind of cool until you hear it again. Then we just do a lot of revision, and it comes down to a couple of us sitting in a room revising what we’ve already done. I don’t know were always confused, it’s like: ‘How did we even write this record?’ ‘How did this even come out?’ because we’ll write a song and not even realize what were doing.
Mxdwn: Does the producer make a difference in that process, because I’ve noticed you have used a different one on every record?
Mark: Yeah Steve Evetts is the most recent one. He made a big difference. He had the vision that we had. We just wanted to write something that even if it came out fifteen years ago or if it comes out fifteen years in the future it’ll still hold up as a quality record and he helped us do that. He made the songs sound more like songs and put more structure into it and just all around bettered the songs that we made.
Mxdwn: So I was reading about how you guys intentionally moved away from anti-religious themes in your lyrics is that true?
Mark: I just think Mitch wants to write about different things. He doesn’t want to keep saying the same kind of things over and over again. Its kind of the same thing like with the music, it’s not really a conscience decision to changing the lyrical content it’s those were the lyrics that were relevant to most of us the last two years and they just so happen to not be so blasphemous and they just had a different theme.
Mxdwn: Did you feel in the past that because you play extreme metal it was kind of required to be angry and blasphemous or was that just how you felt at the time?
Mark: You mean like on our first record?
Mark: Well yeah at the time what we were going for was the most ridiculous, over-the-top, heavy and just basically any kind of thought provoking lyric or music we could play. Whether it be singing about someone killing themselves or how we hate god or whatever would make people listen and have some kind of thought. We just wanted to piss people off I guess [laughing]. You know that’s where we were going then but we just kept growing and not writing the same record over and over again.
Mxdwn: That makes sense and its doing really well and it should because it’s a really great record, by the way, I really like it.
Mxdwn: So you guys have a new video out for the song “You Only Live Once” and it’s pretty crazy with you guys at the shooting range and all these different people are shooting at you. What that just for fun or is there a certain message you wanted to convey?
Mark: Before the last chorus there’s a line in the song “You Only Get One Shot.” So it was me, Mitch and our manager sitting around at Buffalo Wild Wings before the record came out. We were talking about promotion ideas and stuff and we started talking about what kind of video we could make. That’s when it came to mind ‘what if we had a bunch of people who wanted to get rid of Suicide Silence shooting at us?’ Then the ideas started going around and so we just did that. We had all the cliché people; the old lady, the mom, the scene kid. Not sure where the hot chick came in [laughing] but you know, just people that would want to shoot at us. It’s kind of a cheesy idea but kind of cheesy in a good way I think and we just had fun with it.
Mxdwn: Yeah I was thinking watching it that it seemed like it would be fun to film everyone getting shot while you’re still playing.
Mark: Yeah it was definitely fun. Timing the gun shots was tough though. Like when the explosion and the blood go off you have to count down while also playing, while you’re not really playing the music, but you’re playing to the music that’s really, really loud and you have to learn the cues but it was definitely a lot of fun.
Mxdwn: Are there more videos on the way with interesting ideas behind them?
Mark: Were probably going to do another one but were not really locked into an idea yet, but there’s some ideas going around. We want to do a kind of a movie type of thing were not even going to be in the video, maybe a zombie type thing.
Mxdwn: That could be cool. Going back to the party you were talking about earlier, I find it funny they have “Metal Mixers” is that just a Mayhem Fest thing or do a lot of big festivals do that?
Mark: The first I ever heard of it was the first Mayhem Fest that we did. There’s themed ones and then there’s also band themed ones were you sign up and Mayhem gives you a little bit of money to go do some kind of party. It’s a Suicide Silence hosted party or a Machine Head hosted party or whoever wants to do it. I think were going to do a south of the border type thing next were we have salsa music, a margarita machine and maybe a dunk tank or something.
Mxdwn: That sounds awesome, I want to go to a metal mixer!
Mark: Yeah they’re really fun and usually no one can remember the end of the night [laughing]. It’s a good a time. Mitch won best costume last night he was dressed as Superman. Alex was an old school basket ball player with Nikes and short shorts on, and Danny was like a Mexican gangster with a plaid shirt with one button done at the top, baggy pants and a tear drop drawn on his face under his eye. Our merch guy put on a hoodie, did the soosh hair and walked around with a Suicide Silence promo picture and kept asking everybody if they knew where the signing was. In Flames tour manger had corpse paint on. It was an over the top party.
Mxdwn: Well thanks for talking to us!
Mark: Yeah for sure no problem, sorry I was a little half asleep from last night.
Mxdwn: No it was great thanks.