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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 Conformicide.

"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 there before?

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.

Tobbe: 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 error.

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.

Tobbe: So taking it back to the beginning. What initially led you into playing thrash metal?

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 started out?

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… You 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 teller.

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?".

Tobbe: 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… Without 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.

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