Death – Individual Thought Patterns
By Perry Grayson
© Copyright 2011 by Perry Grayson
By Perry Grayson
© Copyright 2011 by Perry Grayson
Death’s 1991 LP Human was a progressive/aggressive metal opus, but on 1993's Individual Thought Patterns Chuck Schuldiner took his sonic experimentation further. For Human Chuck borrowed guitarist Paul Masvidal and drummer Sean Reinert from the underground’s most touted technical metal band, Cynic, along with Sadus bassmeister Steve DiGiorgio. Chuck’s desire to improve led him to some highly respected pro talents for Individual: ex-Dark Angel skinsman Gene Hoglan and tasteful King Diamond lead axeman Andy LaRocque. He also re-hired 4-string Hippie of Doom Steve DiGiorgio at the last minute.
Says Steve: “I remember trying to paint a house in
the freezing cold between Christmas 1992 and New Year’s, just realizing what a
futile job I was doing because you’re not supposed to apply paint below 55
degrees. It was so frustrating. Then I got a message to call somebody named
Scott from Oakland .
There’s only one guy I know named Scott in Florida , and that’s Burns. He goes, ‘Hey
man, we’re in a bind. We’re getting ready to record and we’re in need of your
service. Can you come out? The sooner you get here, the better. We have the
studio booked first week of January.’” Florida
“I was like ‘Holy crap! Yeah, thanks!’ After I put the phone down I put my frozen paintbrush in the can, just thinking ‘Ha! I’m gonna be in
tomorrow.’ I remember me and Gene sitting in Chuck’s living room for New Year’s
’92 turning into ’93, and I did work on the stuff for a little while. We practiced
in Chuck’s mom’s garage, but they
were already rehearsed and had all the songs arranged. We ran through them and
I learned as much as I could in a couple of days. We packed up and drove to Florida and started recording
right away.” Tampa
Speaking of his new comrades, Chuck told Metal Hammer, “Very gifted musicians but perfectly fitting in the musical concept of Death... They had to play songs I wrote but in their own way brought in something personal that made the whole more valuable.” Of that quartet, only LaRocque couldn’t stick around post tracking.
“I wanted everything about the album to be top-notch...I grew up listening to a lot of bands that had a twin axe-attack, and I think it's somewhat important to have if you really want to be heavy. I t adds variety to the music...just knowing that I was working with such a talented shredder like Andy really made me work hard. I just needed him to do leads on four songs, and have him double a few of my rhythm tracks.” Chuck told Watt Magazine, “I hope ITP lifts metal as an art form to a higher level. The album proves you can, without tuning your guitars extra low, sound heavy and melodic at the same time. I dare take chances as a songwriter. I don’t set myself any boundaries. I leave the known roads. Progression is what keeps music exciting.” As far as Chuck was concerned, progression included the acoustic guitar/synth intro to “Destiny.” Not necessarily softening up, but applying dynamics so the main parts of the song came across heavier.
Some seem to have noticed the accessibility Chuck's music had achieved. Clear production values and plenty of memorable melodies intertwined with diligent technicality on ITP. “The Philosopher,” which became another crowd pleaser in the same way “Pull the Plug” and “Lack of Comprehension” had, was chosen to be Death's second music video. The clip got a tongue lashing from the teenage twerp characters when it aired on MTV's goofball animated series Beavis & Butthead. Nonetheless, it was airplay. “People come up to me and say, ‘hey, I just saw you on Beavis & Butthead,’” Chuck told Ill Literature, “’it was so cool!’ so, in a way, it just exposed more metal fans to Death’s music.”
One of the major elements of Individual’s improvement was the mix. This was no ...And Justice for All. You could hear DiGiorgio’s fretless bass loud and clear from the first notes of “Overactive Imagination.” Chuck’s rhythm guitar sound, unlike the bottom-heavy Human tone, boasted plenty of mids. “Jamming with Paul and Sean from Cynic, it was all about details. We practiced for a good 3 weeks at least,” Steve reminisced. “They even knew what to call all these little things they were doing, super scientific, but I wasn’t present during the Human mixdown. It was obvious. I was the only one you couldn’t really hear. When Chuck and Scott Burns called me back for ITP, Scott realized he didn’t intend to bury the bass. They intentionally made sure not to let it go, like ‘we’re gonna make sure to fix you up this time.’ We got a good tone because it wasn’t going to be washed beneath anything. It was a new fretless bass for me, just built. It had a really cool, raw sound. It didn’t sound like anything other than a string going through a pickup, a super in-your-face kind of tone, so different for the early ‘90s. In
you’ve got all the creatures, and
the bass sounded like a frog. That’s why Chuck called it ‘The Frog,’ and we even
put it in my thanks list, the nickname of my bass.” Florida
More comic relief in the original ITP liners comes courtesy of perved-out Gene Hoglan’s thanking the “Rectal Digger.” “Chuck’s girlfriend worked at a group home [for the mentally ill]. Gene was fascinated by it, especially because of the type of people that she and Chuck were. The way they told these stories and reacted to other people doing things enthralled him too. If I told you the same story, you’d just go, ‘gross.’ But she was so mortified that Gene got a little kick out of the whole process. It was no big deal. We were in our mid 20s, so it’s easier to laugh at now when you’re in your 40s and raising kids. You go, ‘Oh, that’s not so cool.’ And then you secretly laugh, ‘Oh my god!’
As on Human, many of Chuck's lyrics for ITP were inspired by the hardships he’d endured in the music biz. Chuck’s love for the simple things in life as opposed to lame “business” was explained further to Watt. “I keep watchful though, not getting ripped off again. The big shots in their ivory towers steal every last dime out of bands’pockets. I don't understand why. Don't they have anything else to do? It sounds extreme, I know, but I don't misuse my power. I don't make up stories. What I tell in my lyrics is my personal opinion about people I've had to do business with. I can assure you, for that matter, every band can tell you the same. I often long for the times when I recorded demos and played in little clubs. We did it all back then. Nobody restricted us. But when you release one album all of a sudden your life changes. Businessmen decide about your future, and they expect you to be a rock star 24 hours a day. Horrible. I love to keep as far away from that circus as possible and I believe in my life at home: movies, taking a walk, swimming and hanging in the marina.”
Chuck and Co. covered the Kiss classic “God of Thunder” as bonus material during the Human sessions, and with some spare time in tracking drums and bass for ITP, they attempted the Possessed tune “Exorcist.” “I hope they don’t put that out!,” Steve DiGiorgio joked. “We didn’t even finish it. 100% sure there’s no vocals on it. Back then you pretty much recorded live. We did for Human when I played with Sean Reinert and then ITP with Gene. The drums, our amps, everything. We’d keep the drum take, and in my case the bass and I’d fix spots. Chuck played a guide track. We all stood there in a live setting and pushed record. I never learned all the riffs. That’s the one thing that sticks out in my brain. We realized we didn’t know it all the way. We went in the back room to go over the riffs and it seemed like Gene knew it better than Chuck on guitar. So, it got pushed further back under the table, ‘We’ll get back to that later, maybe.’ Here’s Gene, a killer drummer, but he picked up the guitar and was showing Chuck stuff.”
Finally, Chuck and Death were able to tour properly, even if they needed to fill LaRoque’s shoes. “Andy was literally in and out in a few days,” DiGiorgio remembered. “Chuck offered Andy the slot in the live band, but he was too busy.” When journo Borivoj Krgin asked if any nonsense that had happened between Death and Gene’s old band, Dark Angel, was water under the bridge, Chuck replied, “Oh, definitely, yeah... It’s really cool, because I’ve always known about Gene since the early days of the underground. When we used to correspond and talk to the same people, and we were all in the same circle.” DiGiorgio recorded on Human, but was unable to tour due to commitments to main band Sadus, but this time, he was aboard for Death’s treks across
and Europe. In the second guitar slot, Ralph
Santolla from Florida-based Eyewitness went along for the brief Euro festival tour
that occurred prior to ITP’s release
and the following
tour with Canadian thrashers Sacrifice. U.S.
Shredder Santolla had some activity with his own band and was replaced by Bay Area thrasher Craig Locicero from Forbidden for the headlining Euro tour Death embarked on with Anacrusis. “I don’t know if I suggested Craig or not,” Steve said. “Chuck had played some shows with Forbidden and already knew about him. Between us we agreed that Craig was a cool enough guy and musician to come along. I definitely knew him from Forbidden and Sadus playing the Bay Area. We changed up for that tour. Because Chuck hired two Bay Area guys and an
L.A. drummer, instead
of convening in Chuck’s home base, ,
he actually came out and stayed with me for a week for tour rehearsals. We
rented an Orlando
room and Craig caught up on all the riffs. It was cool for Chuck to get out to
the Bay Area again. He was already on the road before we flew over to Oakland Europe. Craig kicked ass. He had killer stage presence
and turned out to be a much better guitarist than I knew. Whoever stood on
Chuck’s left had to be like the Alex Skolnick, the lead guy. Even though Chuck soloed in every song, he wanted the
other guitarist to be like the soloist.
It was cool to see Craig tear it up because he’s more of a team player in
Forbidden. I looked at him differently after that. Now we’ve had that tour
between us and we’ve always been close since.” While Locicero was with Death,
they were known to whip out a cover of “Black Magic,” by Chuck’s heroes, Slayer,
as a surprise for fans.
Steve DiGiorgio spoke of the European Death fans’ devotion when he recalled a gig in
“That loyalty can go the other way as well. That was the show that Anacrusis
came off the stage just covered in loogies. They
just got spit on! Chuck was so worried. He was like ‘I’m not playing.’ And
we were like ‘Dammit, this sucks.’ It was my first time in Italy, and that's
where my family’s from. I was looking forward to the homeland and all that. I'm
like, ‘Fuck, I can't believe it. We’re here, we’re ready, and we’re gonna
cancel. No way.’ But then, right as we were about to have that final doubt, the
whole crowd just went ‘DEATH! DEATH! DEATH!’ So, we're like ‘Let’s just get go
up there.’ Chuck said, 'Hey, first time we get spit on, I’m done.’ Me and Gene
go, ‘Well, at least he's trying. Let’s do it.’ They loved us. Not a single
thing came on that stage. It didn't have anything to do with whether they
thought Anacrusis was good or bad. They were just there to see Death, and that was there way of showing their support.” Florence, Italy
1993 was also the year Chuck voiced his intentions to find in a proper singer with range—beyond Death. “In the future I plan to do a more melodic, straightforward heavy metal side project with a singer in the Rob Halford style.” In an interviewed with Borivoj Krgin, Chuck further explained, “I’d love to get a great singer, like Christian Augustin, formerly of Sortilège and do something really different. I really have that creative urge inside me, and definitely one day I’ll do it.” Chuck was a man of his word, even though it would take a few years to undertake Control Denied. There were still Death albums to concentrate on.
Penning these liners has been a treat, considering how huge a Death and Control Denied fan I am. Things have turned full-circle. While I was finishing my article “Precious Memories of Chuck Schuldiner” for Metal Maniacs in 2001 I interviewed Chuck’s former manager, Eric Greif. Chuck and Eric had their ups and downs over the years, but Eric told me the positive reminiscences I included in my article helped mend his relationship with the Schuldiners. A decade later, Eric has a new role as legal rep for Chuck’s intellectual property. He found me on the net, and his plans for a line of deluxe Death and Control Denied reissues blew my mind.
ITP was a very pivotal album for me, personally. Truthfully, it pumped me up about metal like only a new Death LP could. I was just an aspiring guitarist and writer fresh out of high school when ITP was released. Steve DiGiorgio mused, “I think at that age we were let down by most of the bands we liked. Priest’s Turbo and Maiden’s Seventh Son, like ‘What’s happening to our bands?’ At least when you graduated you had cool albums with Gene Hoglan and Andy LaRocque.” ITP was the only Death tour I missed between Human and The Sound of Perseverance. I was extremely bummed that I couldn’t attend the gig, especially considering Sacrifice were supporting. Bored with death metal stagnation in ’94, my attention was on prog metal merchants like Savatage, Fates Warning, Queensryche and Watchtower. Clearly Chuck, a die-hard music fan and vinyl collector at heart, shared a love for traditional and melodic metal bands and wasn’t afraid to allow those classic influences to bloom. Chuck explored new realms with a keen grasp on metal triumphs of the past, where others were mired in mediocrity.