Killing Tendencies

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Burn from Denver’s Havok left a very positive impression on me and I considered it one of the better vintage-sounding 2009 albums of the thrash resurgence. Then a couple of years later Time is Up arrives and I’m thoroughly impressed with the band’s songwriting improvement and compositional twists, not to mention a thrash attack that is even more blistering and memorable. But the game-changer for me was watching Havok perform live at The Riot Room in Kansas City, MO as the second band on a bill that included Full Blown Chaos, The Absence, Malevolent Creation, and openers Beyond Terror Beyond Grace. On stage Havok kills with a conviction that I’ve rarely seen from such a young band. They play with the skill and chemistry of veterans and perform with the fiery passion of youth. I was absolutely stunned and would hate to be in any band that has to follow a Havok performance. So on to the Havok van we went to conduct the interview with vocalist/guitarist David Sanchez. Finishing off the evening with cheap tequila and 24 oz. cans of PBR didn’t leave me in the best of places, but at least I left with a vivid memory of the Havok assault.

Let’s start with the show here in Kansas City. You mentioned that you’ve played here about a million times.

Well, we pretty much always start or end tours here. We started this tour in North Carolina and it ends for us in Louisiana. We’re right in the middle of it. But normally when we tour to the east we start or end the tours in Kansas City because it’s on the way and it’s the closest thing to Denver. We’ve literally played in Kansas City probably a dozen times in four years.

Has it been getting better and better every time you play here?

Yeah, it gets better and better every time.

So you were playing here before you even got signed to Candlelight?

Yes, way before [laughs]. We were just doing demo stuff then. We didn’t even release a full-length until Candlelight because we didn’t want to pay for it [laughs].

When you sat down and talked about the set list for this tour was there much discussion involved? You probably had about 35 minutes tonight.

Yeah, about that, but we probably went over time tonight because we played the Slayer stuff at the end. Normally we would just do a three and a half minute song there, but we ended up doing seven minutes. We made the decision to play “Postmortem” upon special request during the tour. Normally for headlining a show we’ll end the set with “Postmortem” and “Raining Blood,” but on this tour we decided to only do it if people asked for it.

Generally speaking then, once you decide on the set list do you pretty much keep it that way or do you change it up here and there by trying new songs?

Yeah, we do actually. We swap out songs to keep everything fresh. We don’t want to play the same stuff every night and then get to the last show of the tour and have to play some more stuff and then be like “shit, we haven’t played that in four weeks.”

Have you determined which songs go over the best?

I guess, but all the new stuff has gone over really, really well.

Have you played “D.O.A.” on this tour?

Yeah, the other dudes on the tour, that’s their favorite.

And yet you didn’t play it this evening.

We didn’t do it tonight. We were kind of strapped for time.

So you slighted the Kansas City audience?

[Laughs] I don’t know, man. If I would have known you wanted to hear it we would have played it [laughs].

You do one hell of a Tom Araya scream on that song.

[Laughs] Thanks. It’s just kind of naturally there. I didn’t really try to do it until we were recording the first album and then I kind of went for it and it worked out well, so I thought “cool,” I’m capable of doing that so let’s do it once in a while [laughs].

You released Burn on Candlelight and they were obviously happy with how it was received. So in terms of following it how did you approach Time is Up?

I guess the approach would have been faster, heavier, and more in your face. I think we accomplished that.

It seems like you tried some different things on this album and added more diversity. Was that intentional?

Yes, but there are a lot of remnants from the first album that are still there, but I think the overall sound structures and the new album are better in every way [laughs].

When listening to this album you can hear that it is vintage thrash metal, but the production is pretty modern. It’s got beef and you didn’t try to go lo-fi for nostalgia purposes. But it’s not overly polished either. How much thought went into the recording process in that regard?

We made an effort to make it sound like a modern album, but we didn’t pitch correct or we didn’t go crazy with editing, so it still sounded like a band. When everything gets over-edited and analyzed it becomes so mechanical that it doesn’t sound like people. There are nuances in there… I mean, don’t get me wrong, the playing is tight, but there are tiny things in there that we just left because we’re people, not robots.

Who recorded the album and where did you do it?

We tracked it all in my house in Denver. I produced it I guess. Then it went off to Pete Rutcho who mixed it. He also did work for Revocation and he did the new Bury Your Dead. He’s done a bunch of other stuff too. From there it went to James Murphy and he mastered it.

How did Murphy get involved?

Our manager knows him and has worked with him, so we were like “Fuckin’ yeah, James Murphy, let’s have him work on it.” [Laughs]

So you have a recording studio of sorts in your home.

Of sorts. I mean it’s not like a crazy nice setup or anything, but you don’t need the nicest shit ever to make stuff sound good. We literally recorded the album next to a washer and a dryer.

Nice! Were you actually doing your laundry during the recording process?

We literally used the washer and dryer at the end of “The Cleric.” There is a part where it sounds like tribal drums and stuff kind of phased in at the end. We were literally pounding on the washer and the dryer; pounding on plastic tubs, pounding broken snare drums, like any kind of percussion that we could possibly hit.

Goddamnit, now I need to go back and listen to it! That’s why I shouldn’t be reviewing stuff at 4:00 in the morning.

[Laughs] Yeah, go listen to the end of track eight, “The Cleric,” on the album. It’s a big tribal part with anything that we could hit that would make a cool noise.

How long did it take you to record the entire album?

Tracking only took realistically maybe less than 20 days, in between two and three weeks.

Which is really the way it should be to get an honest sound.

Right, yeah. Drums only took three days. I knocked out the left guitar in one day and I knocked out the other guitar in one day. I spent a day on solos and vocals took like four days. The other guitar solos took two days, bass took two days… It all came together pretty fast. But after everybody is done they want to go back and fix up a couple of things.

Catch me up on new members. You mentioned something about it on stage.

Pete Webber [in the backseat] is our new drummer.

Great job, Pete!

[Laughs] We put out ads on Craig’s List in every major music market.

I thought Craig’s List was only for prostitution.

It was until we were looking for drummers [laughs]. He is a whore. You just saw him; he played with another band [The Absence] right after he played with us. He’s a ho, dude. Our drummer is a ho and you can just quote that.

Oh, it’s going to be in there alright!

That’s going to be the title of the interview: “Our Drummer is a Ho.” No, but he wrote back to us on a Craig’s List ad that was posted in Boston. We told him to learn “D.O.A.” – because the drums had already been programmed – and we told him to send us a video back. And he sent back a video two days later and it was spot on! So we knew this dude was good.

And Pete relocated to Denver?

Yeah, and that’s one thing we put in the ad: “Must be willing to relocate.” We didn’t want to fly people back and forth after every tour. We’re not Metallica; we can’t do that.

You don’t want to be them anyway.

[Laugh] You said that [Laughs]. Oh man. Reece Scruggs, our new guitar player, he hit us up on Myspace one day. I just spit.

That’s great, but unfortunately I don’t know how to write that.

[Laughs] You can leave that part out.

No, it’s going in too, man.

[Laughs] Now that we made a big deal out of it, it is definitely going in [Laughs]. But anyway, he goes “Did my page not load right or do you guys need a guitar player?” And we responded that we did and he said “Well, I want to be in your band.” So we said whatever dude, just send us a video or something. He sent us the video and, like Pete’s, it was really, really good.

His playing tonight was good, very precise too.

Yeah, he’s spot on. He was willing to move and flied out. He’s from Virginia.

You can say that all the touring helps promote the CD for when it actually drops at the end of March, but it would be nice if you had it available for sale on the road right now.

Of course, we’ll have it on the road then, but right now it’s just too early. Nobody would buy it if they could just go burn it from their friends.

I didn’t steal the music, by the way.

So I don’t have to punch you in the face and stab you now!

[Laughs] Do you even have Burn in there on the merch table?

No, we’re sold out of it right now.

I do dig the artwork of Time is Up as well.

It’s done by the same person that did Burn, Halseycaust [Halsey Swain]. She did t-shirts for us and album covers, but on top of that the booklet of the new album comes with a bunch of extra artwork, so it will definitely be worth buying.

Will you be releasing it on vinyl?

We would love to. Depending on how the record does that decision will be made.

How did you end up on Candlelight anyway?

We sent demos to literally every metal label we could think of [laughs].

The traditional way.

Yeah, sent press kits to all the metal labels and Candlelight got back to us. But there was another label that got in touch with us about a week or two after Candlelight got a hold of us, so we kind of started a bidding war of some sort. But we went with Candlelight because they’re…Candlelight [laughs]. And it’s going well. We’ve got this album and one more with Candlelight.

Are you committed to being on the road? Are you working jobs at home?

Fuck that! [Laughs]. I mean I’ve got a job when I’m not touring, but to sum up the question for the entire band I think I probably nailed it: fuck that.

So you try to be smart about living on the road and you have to budget I’m sure. I got the impression that you try to be smart about doing this from a business standpoint. I mean you hit me up on Facebook, for example, and you’re using the tools that are available to you outside of what the label does.

Right. I try to keep in touch with everybody that we work with because ultimately if there is no label someday… The way the music industry is now, who knows? I don’t know what’s going to happen to record labels and that shit.

And I hate hearing that, even though I understand the realities of the business.

I hate hearing it too. Dude, I still go to record stores and drop $120 on some shit that I want to hear.

Have you been to Europe yet?

We have not yet. We’ve sold more albums there than we have over here and we’ve yet to be there. So I can’t wait to go over there. It should be happening this year.

You’ve been to Canada I assume. Mexico?

Yeah, we’ve been to Canada. Not Mexico though. We’ve had a few offers trickle in, but nothing has come to fruition.

How did you get into thrash metal to begin with? And I mean real thrash, not bullshit thrash, if you will.

The first metal album that I ever got…

Was Load?

[Laughs] No. Thank god.

Pete Webber: No, Reload. [Everyone laughs]

No, the first metal album I got was the Black Album. That was all good and dandy and the second album I got was Reload and I was like “Oh man, what the….?” I was a young, impressionable kid and thought “Reload is cool I guess, but it’s not like that other Metallica album.” After that I went and got …And Justice for All. And after that I got way into Megadeth and Testament and Slayer, Anthrax, Overkill, and Exodus… It just snowballed from there. I’m almost an encyclopedia of thrash metal anymore because I got so into it.

You play it like you goddamn invented it!

[Laughs]

I’m serious, man. There is nothing inauthentic about what you do. The performance was tremendous.

Thanks, dude. That’s what we go for. We’re not trying to reinvent anything. I try to take all my favorite things from all my favorite bands and try to put it into one band. I think that’s what everyone tries to do with their band, but for some reason because there are a lot of new thrash bands those same thrash bands catch all the flak. There are bands out there that ruin it for the rest of us. To say we’re a thrash band, we very clearly are, but there is more to it than that. But at the end of the day all thrash metal is about is really fast, tight heavy metal with a shitload of cool riffs. That’s all it is.

So with all the new thrash bands out there…. And I’m not going to be a snooty d-bag critic about it because I like a lot of the retro stuff that’s out there, but do you even think about how you set yourselves apart from the pack or do you just do what you do?

I guess a little bit of both. We do what we do, but I think after we’ve written something we’re like “Dude, this totally doesn’t sound like any of the other bands that we get compared to.” On our album there is a shitload of slap bass and that is one thing that after we wrote these songs we were like – and I like these bands I’m about to mention, so don’t take this the wrong way – “Municipal Waste, Toxic Holocaust, Warbringer, Lazarus A.D. and Bonded by Blood would never do this.” We go down the list of all these bands that are cool in the genre and realize that none of those bands would do exactly what we’re doing. So it’s a natural thing, but after it’s all said and done we realize that it’s not what everyone else is doing and that makes us feel good. Nobody’s every told us that we sound just like Warbringer or we sound just like Municipal Waste.  Nobody has ever said that because it’s just not the case.

I think that’s it. You nailed it.

Cool

www.myspace.com/havok

www.facebook.com/havokofficial

Comments

  1. Commented by: devin mafuckin jonsson

    haha david sanchez is such a cool bastard


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