Rooted in the questioning of what we are told, Thrash Metal as a genre has always had somewhat of an inquisitive nature. Consistently questioning to believe what we are told, it is in a sense a revolution in itself. Primed at the time of the likes of the Cold War the classic themes of indoctrination have scarcely left Thrash’s vocabulary. Seeing a resurgence in the movement of late the new wave of Thrash Metal bands have begun to carry the torch of this questioning manner. One Colorado born Havok are leader of the proverbial pack, having released their previous ripper Unnatural Selection the band are now ready to enter a new chapter in their history. Performing at this year’s Download Festival we had the pleasure of speaking to main muso David Sanchez about the band’s forthcoming new album, set for a fall release via Century Media, Al Di Meola and some of the bands plans in the coming months.
Listen to the full unedited interview in our Soundcloud file below or read the unedited transcript below!
I’m here today with Mr Havok himself! How are you man?
I am doing very well! Excited to be here at Download!
What’s the year had from Havok, from the beginning right up until now.
New album! We got done writing a new album and we just got done recording it about a month or two ago and right now we are just currently waiting for the final mixes to be done that should be coming out sometime in the fall.
This is going to be the first album with Nick Schendzielos.
This will be the first album with Nick on bass and he’s got some really cool basslines on this record so I think that people will really like what he is doing.
What was the transition like, when Nick came into the band, was it quite smooth?
Yeah it was pretty smooth. He’s from Denver so that helped a lot, didn’t have to have a member travelling from other places. He learnt the material, we went out on tour and it was fun then he completed the writing of the record and got out there to California with us to record and its been pretty breezy so far, he’s a fun guy to be in a band with.
Did you know him beforehand?
I have been friends with Nick for a few years and we toured with him back in 2013 or 2014? We toured Europe with his other band Cephalic Carnage. It was Suffocation, Cephalic Carnage, Havok and Fallujah.
What a line up!
All of Havok got to know Nick then the past couple of years I’ve hung out with him quite a bit. He’s a good buddy of mine, its cool, very cool!
What was the writing like for the new album?
It took a bit longer than we would have liked because I had a fall when I was hiking and broke my wrist so I needed some extra time for surgery and especially to heal up from that. Writing took place in Colorado and it was a bit more collaborative on this album than it has been on previous records where we get together and start working out ideas and new ideas would kind of develop right there in the room, which is pretty cool and I think it made for the strongest album. I believe and the rest of the band believe that this is our best record.
Is that something that you have always had, a kind of jam aspect to it?
Not so much, normally I will write a lot of the music, record it and then show it to everybody else and then some other ideas will be floating in. Things did still happen that way. Only a lot more of the riffing was Rhyss so there’s quite a bit more balance in regards to who wrote which riffs and this time around it was a little more, like you were saying, like a jam feel. Where we would play stuff and just see how it feels and just change stuff right there on the fly. We recorded all of our rehearsals for this record so it was kind of nice when we would get something done. It was kind of cool, we could actually go and listen back later that same day. Thats how the writing went for this one.
So you had a bit of time to sit on it and think about things.
Yeah it was nice, it was super nice.
What about the actual recording process when it came down to nailing the tracks, what was that like?
We went to Southern California to record with a producer called Steve Evetts, he’s done The Dillinger Escape Plan, The Cure, Prong, Suicide Silence a bunch of stuff. We did the record with him, it was pretty cool, pretty straight forward and I think that he pushed every member to get the best performances out of them. I think that everyone’s pretty happy with how they sound on this album.
Was it completely different working with Steve than working with anyone else prior?
Definitely! Every album thus far I have been the producer and engineer of so it was really cool for me to not have to do any work behind the desk, all I had to do was go in and nail my parts.
When you were in there did you kind of have your producer’s hat on or was it just completely free?
A little bit but not super crazy about it, there’s definitely some times where Steve would say are you sure you want to do that in this part? I would be like yes, that’s the way its written and that’s the way it needs to be. So sometimes of course that would happen but I think even if you’re not a producer thats going to happen when you are in a band and an outside influence is making suggestions and changes and stuff. Thankfully there wasn’t too much of that at all, he was pretty on board with everything that we have written. Almost all of the ideas that he had.
So how does it compare to Unnatural Selection then, is it a big difference?
Its quite a bit faster, quite a bit more evil, heavy and lyrically its much more angry. This is the most angry album we have ever made and it shows in the music as well as the lyrics.
What are the lyrics centered around?
The main theme throughout the record is wake up and think for yourself. If that doesn’t start happening on a way more broad scale the human race is doomed to put it bluntly.
Do you mean wake up, instead of looking at Facebook on your phone whilst you’re walking around all the time…
That’s part of it but also I think its important to not believe everything that you hear, not believe everything that you see on TV or read. The media is all mostly based on falsehoods, when the guy comes on the television for the news and he says good evening, here’s the news. What I have always imagined them saying is, Good evening its five o’clock and here is what we want you to think. The news is not very objective its all very subjective to someone’s agenda. The lyrics on the record deal with media, they talk about religion, they talk about politics, talks about greed, it talks about war and the profiteering that happens from people dying. There’s a lot of things, a lot of truth bombs being dropped on this record.
When is it expected to be released?
In the fall, I would imagine October maybe.
What are your plans up until then?
Well we are going to finish this tour. On this run we’ve got some more festivals and also some headline shows where we are direct support for Megadeth those will be really really cool. After that its all done, we’re basically just hanging out waiting for the record stuff to be completed.
Whereabouts are you going to be direct support for Megadeth?
We have five shows in Germany and one in Switzerland and one in Luxembourg.
That’s very precise! What about your own personal influences musically, where do you lie?
Musical influences are quite varied and quite broad. I listen to and take influence from, obviously old classic Thrash Metal stuff but I also listen to a lot of Classical music. I listen to a lot of Jazz, I listen to a whole lot of Funk and R’n’B. I really love some New Wave bands like Oingo Boingo and Divo. I really love Frank Zappa, I’ve got pretty varied musical taste.
Its pretty eclectic then, do you think that that has ever seeped into Havok?
Oh definitely! It always has, we have a lot of slap bass in our music, a lot more than most Metal bands. My sense of harmony and layering a lot of that comes from listening to Classical music and Funk. A lot of Funk bands have a horn section with guitar, bass and the drums. Big song writing influence for me is Oingo Boingo, I think that Danny Elfman is a song writing genius and I really look up to and respect him. He has a big influence in the way that our songs are arranged.
Is that from a compositional perspective?
That and just catchy melody, I guess you would call it hook consciousness. Oingo Boingo is just hook after hook after hook. The verse is catchy, the prechorus is catchy and then the chorus is catchy and then the bridge is catchy… I’m a big fan of that and I definintely think that it has made its way into Havok’s sound.
What about an album that you have been listening to for the last six months to a year?
Any one specific album no but the last year I have been listening to a whole lot of Al Di Meola. He’s a really great Jazz / Fusion Progressive Rock guitar player. He’s a mega badass and I take a lot of influence from him, he’s a great guitar player but not only is his guitar playing amazing but his compositions are very, very cool and interesting.
Is he similar to like Allan Holdsworth and things like that?
He’s not quite as weird as Allan Holdsworth.
I don’t think anyone is!
For sure! Compostions are very, very cool and he has a lot of Latin influence in his music and you just have to look him up, Al Di Meola. One of my favourite musicians.
Havok’s brand new album will be released later this year via Century Media.