Interview conducted April 13 2017
Interview published April 21 2017
"I'm glad that I have the release valve of Havok
to get it out and not internalize all that frustration."
American thrash metal unit Havok
visited Stockholm recently and Metal Covenant hooked up with main man
David Sanchez to talk about the band's new record
"I'm the worst one in my band...and that was
not an accident."
Tobbe: Conformicide has been out since March
10th and in what way does it stay loyal to the catalogue of Havok?
David: It sounds like Havok. [Laughs] It's more
diverse than the previous records, but I still totally think it sounds
like us. It's just a little more varied.
Tobbe: So what does it have that wasn't
David: Lots of things. On this one I guess our
other influences that are not metal kind of got a little more prominent
in the music. Especially like funking jazz and classical music.
Tobbe: Like you said, it's more varied than
your previous efforts and when you entered the songwriting process what
were you looking to come out with?
David: Stuff that's musically interesting and
will get stuck in your head. And stuff that makes your adrenaline flow.
You know, shit that makes you wanna punch walls and stuff.
It's almost been 4 years since the last record [Unnatural Selection] and
that's almost twice the time it usually takes for Havok to come out with
a record. So what took you guys so long this time?
David: A big setback was I had to get wrist surgery.
[Shows the scar on his left wrist] I couldn't play guitar properly for
about nine months. And during that time I wrote a lot of lyrics and
I think that could be a big factor with why the lyrics are so angry.
[Laughs] 'Cause I couldn't fucking play music for almost a year. I was
very worried I wasn't gonna be able to play guitar real properly again.
But it's all good now, so. They set it incorrectly and wasted four months.
They took it out of the cast and said "Oh yeah. You need surgery."
and I was like "Yeah, I told you that in the first place.".
Yeah, it shouldn't have taken that long, but it did because of a doctor
Tobbe: So about the lyrics. You've got a
lot of things to come out with from your system, so is there anything
in your lyrics that you in particular want to share with people?
David: The lyrics in Wake Up, I think, should
be paid attention to. And I think the song Circling The Drain has important
lyrics. And Peace Is In Pieces. Really the whole thing, honestly. I
really want people to pay attention to what's being said, 'cause it's
massively vented on this record and I said a lot of things that I've
always wanted to say and now they're out there.
Tobbe: So are there things that you are
a little bit extra angry about?
David: Hang 'Em High is especially pissed off,
political. F.P.C. is extremely pissed off. The whole record in general
mostly is really angry. You know, the song Dogmaniacal is about people
killing people just because it was written down in a holy book and that
shit boils my blood. There's a lot of things that really make me angry.
I'm glad that I have the release valve of Havok to get it out and not
internalize all that frustration.
Tobbe: As the band's only original member
and main songwriter, to what extent do you let the rest of the guys take
part in the songwriting and the arrangements on the record?
David: In the arrangements this record is more
collaborative than all the previous ones. There are still some songs
and ideas and stuff where I wrote almost everything there, but a lot
of this music came together from just bouncing ideas off of each other.
And there's some bass lines where Nick [Schendzielos] completely wrote
everything. He just turned it in finished and we were like "Yeah.
Cool!". Like Hang 'Em High, it was one of those where he just went
off on the bass and everybody loved it, so.
So taking it back to the beginning. What initially led you into playing
David: Metallica inspired me to pick up a guitar.
I watched, like, Live Shit: Binge & Purge and I was like "Dude!
I have to fucking learn how to do that.", you know. They looked
like they're having their best time ever and people were going crazy
and having fun and it made me really happy to watch and I was like "Dude!
I have to fucking learn how to do that myself.", because it looks
like a good time, and it is.
Tobbe: To even get to the point where you're
at now musically isn't easy, so what distinguishes Havok from all the
other bands of your generation and type of music out there?
David: Well, I think we have a lot more slap
bass than most thrash metal bands ever. That's one big thing that separates
us. And I don't think my voice sounds exactly like anybody else. Reece
Scruggs doesn't play guitar solos like anybody else. Everybody is unique,
you know, and everybody gets to, like, shine in the band.
One big thing is everyone's musical personality
shines through, because no one has to hold back, you know. Everybody
gets to show their skills and everybody is a really good musician. I'm
the worst one in my band
and that was not an accident. [Laughs]
Everybody is really good at what they do. And lyrically I think that
we're saying a lot of shit that a lot of bands aren't saying.
Listening to shit like Rage Against The Machine
and really, like, fucking harsh truth speaking bands; you don't see
a whole lot of that anymore and that's why I was like "We're gonna
fucking do that 'cause nobody else is saying it. We'll fucking say it.
I'll fucking say it.". I generally am pissed. The lyrics generally
make me angry and it makes sing gnarly vocals like that easier; to have
genuine anger. [Laughs]
Tobbe: So about the Colorado metal scene.
What's it like right now and in comparison to what it was when you first
David: The music scene in general in Denver is
really good. We have a good metal scene. Anytime we're on tour with
bands they are always excited to go to Denver, which is a good sign.
And when we first started: I'd say the scene was great back then too.
Just like anything it evolves over time. People move, people move in.
But it's a great town. We have a lot of music venues and pretty much
every week there is a show or 3 or 4 to go to. Hell yeah, it's an awesome
music city. A lot of good venues in Denver.
Tobbe: Havok has been unable to keep its
band members through the whole career. So give me a solid reason to why
this lineup will be persistent and stay intact.
David: Oh, I can't make other people's minds
up for them, so I can't ever say I know with certainty that
know, I'm not gonna cut my hands off tomorrow and not be able to play
in Havok. [Laughs] But Pete [Webber, drums] has been around for many
years. Reece has been around for many years. Those guys I don't foresee
leaving anytime soon. Nick's been around for a year and a half and he
likes to tour and we have a good time. I don't see a reason we're gonna
have a lineup change anytime soon. I don't see it happening, but like
I said, I'm not in charge of other people, so. And I'm not a fortune
Tobbe: Have there been times where you said
to yourself that doing all this is simply not worth the effort?
David: Yeah, of course I've thought about quitting
this band. The thought hasn't crossed my mind in a few years, but yeah,
there has been many times where I questioned, like: "Am I sure
I'm doing the right thing?".
So how do you look at touring life?
David: It's fun. It's a similar adventure. You
get into a routine of doing things. Every day, the same, but you're
in a new location, new environment, new people, different food, different
language. I enjoy touring a lot, otherwise we would not do it, as nearly
as much as we do. I love traveling, I love doing new things, being in
places I have never been and I like playing live music and making people
stoked. It's a good time. So, yeah, I'm happy.
Tobbe: Your success so far, to what extent
is that a balance between ability and luck?
David: It's a lot of luck. A lot more work though.
I was lucky just by accident of birth to be fucking born in America,
now as opposed to 70 years ago. You know, we're very lucky in general.
But without all the fucking hard work and doing tours for, you know,
over 10 years and playing the worst shitholes and not making money for
the first 10 years of being a band
Putting up with all that shit
and the support of our families and parents and friends
all this stuff coming together we wouldn't be where we are.
But we wouldn't be where we are, especially if
the work wasn't put in. We were not just fucking given, like, the world
on a plate. Our success has been built like a pyramid. Very slowly and
gradual and the thing I like about that is no one can sweep the rug
out from under us. Bands that go from 0 to 100 also go from 100 to 0.
Tobbe: What do you see as most challenging
for a thrash metal band in 2017?
David: I guess the most challenging thing for
any thrash band in this time is if people don't listen to it with a
fresh ear. They're listening to it and saying like "Ah, this sounds
kind of like this other band. And because it wasn't created 30 years
ago this isn't as good.". [Laughs] Which isn't true, with a lot
of things. There's a lot of really good shit coming out these days.
But, that's a big reason I like throwing slap
bass into our shit and all these other influences, because it makes
it different. It's not just a rehash of all the shit you heard from
30 years ago. I listen to a lot of stuff and people wanna understand
where some of our weirdness comes from: listen to, like, Frank Zappa
and Oingo Boingo. Just go down the rabbit hole.