M.DREW: I guess we’ll address the most sensitive topic first – how do you rebound after the passing of a bandmate?
MARK HEYLMUN: You take time and figure out what matters to you. I’m not gonna say we made any kind of perfect moves, but our rebound was ‘let’s do something for [Mitch] and his family, make sure that that is handled and done appropriately. For us, individually we needed to take time off, we needed to put everything into perspective and look back, and at the same time look forward and see what we wanted to do. Luckily all of us could really get our shit together. A lot of us sobered up and really rehabbed ourselves. After the end of all of it, we decided we can’t really go on without Suicide Silence, so let’s fucking do this and let’s do it right.
M.D: Was there a point when you thought you wouldn’t get back? Not lay down music, but lay down Suicide Silence?
MH: Well, yeah. I mean, every single thought that you can have went through our heads. We definitely looked at it like ‘well, it’s over, for now.’ It’s hard to let someone who isn’t in the band understand. It is a full time job. It’s not a nine to five job, it’s a ‘you might get an email at two in the morning, you might get a phone call at five in the morning.’ Twenty-four hours a day when you’re in a band you could be doing something for the band. That’s what makes it a job, that’s what makes us enjoy our job. We work hard at it, we like it. So obviously when your singer dies, it’s over for now. There ain’t no work to go into the band after this, it’s time to go sit on the couch and fucking think about what has happened.
M.D: Everybody’s answer is going to be different, but for you personally, how long did it take before you felt ready to go again, before it felt right?
MH: For me, the real first ‘bang, this is good, this is going to be something,’ wasn’t until we were all in the same room together. We were playing some new stuff for Eddie [Hermida], showing him what it was all about, and we could tell he really liked it. He just started free styling, kind of screaming, and then we jammed “Unanswered” right away, I get chills just thinking about it. Good vibes right away, we were playing old songs, having fun, playing new songs and feeling really good, getting pretty emotional when that was going down. That was when it was like ‘okay, that’s there again, there’s the fire.’
M.D: Releasing this record, is it cathartic? Does it feel like a tribute to Mitch, or is it more a sense of relief?
MH: It’s everything, man. Cathartic is definitely the word that’s been thrown around. The studio process was something more therapeutic. Where we had all the down time and we weren’t working on music or in the downtime if we were working on music not knowing what it was going to be used for, was an empty feeling. Once we were all back in the studio writing music it was a very fulfilling feeling, it was the complete opposite. It became very apparent. This is something that’s fucking necessary in my life a hundred percent. This morning we woke up and saw first week numbers, how much we’ve sold and we sold a thousand more than we’ve ever sold, ever. And yeah, we got choked up, dude. It’s real shit, I can’t just wake up this morning and say ‘yup, I’m stoked, this is real life and I’m badass.’ Nope, more like I can’t believe this is fucking real, this is far beyond anything I could have imagined my life would be like.
M.D: Do you find you’re more focused now, having gone through the tradgedy?
MH: I had to do something. I’ve been sober off alcohol for a year and five months, I got more aware, I wouldn’t say focused, but more aware of the present and everything that goes on. Less jaded and shit became more worthwhile. It’s still an evolving feeling, it hasn’t been a long time. A year and a half since. It’s easy to be grateful at this point.
M.D: How does Eddie add to or change the chemistry of the band? Does he try to fill Mitch’s shoes?
MH: He’s becoming his own new frontman. Everybody’s got their own persona, I guess, that you acquire based on how people treat you. Everybody becomes what they are, in this fucking world, a musicians or a ‘rock star,’ people start treating you a certain way, and it makes you start acting a certain way. Eddie’s developing, he’s the best. He’s so humble, he’s happy to be in this position, we’ve all really taken a step back and tried to make him feel very welcome, not hazing him with ‘you’re the new guy’ kind of shit. We’re trying to make everything easy and copasetic. We had issues before, there was always that kind of thing. With big tragedy, you can’t go back and say things you want to say. Us four, we can, we know what it was like then, but now with Eddie, if something’s going on we want to talk about it. If something needs to get handled we handle it the right way, but we’re trying to do this and have fun with it, that’s really what it’s all about.
M.D: The press around your album talks a lot about you trying to make a turnaround in the vein of AC/DC or Alice in Chains – I’m curious, have you reached out to any of those bands for advice? Have any of them reached out to you?
MH: Alice in Chains, we were in Australia with them and we didn’t really have hardcore conversations about it, but certain things were said, hand on the shoulder kind of thing. They definitely were very nice to us when we don’t really know them that well, we kind of just cross paths with them. Another guy who was really cool about it, Matt [M. Shadows] from Avenged Sevenfold. We had a good conversation. It’s all the same thing, very relatable, when you talk to somebody who has been through this kind of thing. It sucks, man, it really hits you. You either go one way with it or go straight down, and we feel good to be on the up and up and keeping positive.
M.D: What does this album mean to you? Not just as a band on the rebound, but musically, where does it take you? What’s the expression on this record?
MH: It was something where I would say it was experimental to an extent because we wanted to do everything we were always kind of afraid to do. We wanted to step out of our comfort zone with this. What happened with Mitch was such an unexpected event that we got into the band room and everything was moving forward. We just wanted to make something that we knew we could get behind and that’s what it is. Let’s go deep down in the bag of tricks, have fun with this and if we dig this, then everyone’s gonna dig it.
M.D: As you reestablish yourself, what does it mean to be part of Mayhem Fest?
MH: I feel like a lot of our notoriety is from Mayhem. Our first real big tour event was Mayhem in 2008, it was the first Mayhem with Slipknot. It was huge, and coming back, being invited back, in the situation that we’re in makes us feel really good, makes us feel like we’re part of the family, part of the whole heavy music world even though we’re just kind of death metal influenced, maybe we’re not one hundred percent death metal, we’re not a hundred percent anything. At least we’re being accepted by everyone, by the masses.
M.D: From the outside looking in, how do you find out you’re going to be a part of Mayhem Fest? Do you reach out to them, do they reach out to you?
MH: John Reese and Kevin Lyman. John Reese is out here every day and he’s one of the main organizer, he and Kevin Lyman, who also does Warped Tour. They’re the two heads of it, and basically we got invited in 2008, they reached out to us early on. We were still hype-y and young and they wanted young bands to be on the underbill with Slipknot and that tour was awesome. After that, we started to get some more response from a different kind of fan base at Mayhem. John Reese put us on another tour of his, Music As A Weapon with Disturbed and then we kind of became friends with John and did Warped Tour. But yeah, we have a new record, it’s called “You Can’t Stop Me,” it’s on Nuclear Blast, and it’s an honor to be here.
M.D: You’ve said publicly that your influences are bands like Korn and Cannibal Corpse, well now you’re practically on the same bus with both of them. How much brain picking have you done?
MH: As much as we can. There’s not as much down time as you’d like and it still feels a little early in the tour. But George Corpsegrinder is on our bus every night. He doesn’t want to talk about fucking metal, he wants to talk about country and random shit. Cannibal Corpse is the best to pick their brains, they’re totally open with it, still really tapped into the underground. Fuck, we’re going to the Gathering of the Juggalos with them tomorrow as their guests, so we’re driving fucking super far after this show to go to the Gathering with Cannibal [laughs].
M.D: Things you didn’t think you’d say at the start of this tour.
MH: It’s like the bucket list you never knew you had, dude [laughs].