Remembering Chuck: A Tribute To Chuck Schuldiner

December 12th, 2011
by Luxi Lahtinen

What kind of things did you appreciate about Chuck as a musician? How did he influence your playing, approach to your instrument, or song-writing?

Chuck10.jpgEric Greif (former manager of DEATH and president of Perseverance Holdings Ltd, managing the legacy of DEATH and CONTROL DENIED): Chuck’s use of minor key themes & solos is unmistakable – you know it is Chuck the second you hear it. The opening one minute of SCREAM BLOODY GORE’s “Infernal Death” reveals a whole new genre of music, and I challenge anyone to prove otherwise.

Chris Reifert (AUTOPSY, ex-DEATH): His guitar playing was very solid and he had his own style of playing lead as well. Very unique and when you hear his playing, you know exactly who it is. His vocals were really distinctive also, of course. I totally respect the fact that he knew precisely what he wanted from music and stayed true to his vision whether it was popular or not. Did he influence me as a musician at all? Yes, of course. Chuck had serious impact on the way I saw things musically indeed.

Jeff Becerra (POSSESSED): I will always admire Chuck and a truly honored that historically he always listed Possessed as his main influence back in those early days. Chuck was a fantastic guitarist and a gentleman in all respects. And for Chuck to tell people that I was his, ‘main influence’ I felt/feel very honored. Although later on so many magazines kept on writing about how, ‘Death was influenced by Possessed’ that eventually Chuck ended up stating in public that his music ‘wasn’t even Death Metal but Progressive Metal’ in order to distance himself from people always quoting his being ‘influenced by Possessed’ which I think was really unfair since by the LEPROSY album Chuck had *really* come into his own and fully developed his own style of music and writing. Back then there was this awful tendency for the Metal magazines to constantly compare one band with another. And even today I think that many magazines think that the only way to seem ‘objective’ and ‘unbiased’ is to constantly insult bands by saying that they are nothing more than somebody else’s ideas, or putting bands down because of their having to make changes in their line-up (Death and Possessed both fell victim to this kind of shitty journalism). I can say that Chuck never let the bullshit journalism of some of the magazines back then get to him. He had to make many changes to the Death line-up over the years and he was never ashamed of that. That being said, Chuck also showed to me and proved to me that no matter what happens or what kind of line-up changes have to be made (from people quitting on me, etc); the show must go on and that I should never let the haters stop me from doing what I enjoy in my life and from continuing on with my life’s work in Possessed. And I know in my heart that if Chuck were still alive today he would still be leading Death into uncharted and bold musical territories. And because of Chuck’s courage to play whatever styles and riffing that he wanted, it has also reminded me that I should (and most – definitely will) always play the kind of music that I want and not become just another cookie-cutter Death Metal band that sounds like everybody else. To both Chuck and myself having our own voice and style of music comes first and is most important no matter what any magazine says, and no matter who tries to hate on us! Chuck was a one-of-a-kind trailblazer and I miss him. But honestly while Chuck was a friend to me for those few nights that we got to hang out and though mailings afterwards I never even heard or listened to Mantas or Death until much later in his career. I was so busy with Possessed and what I was doing that I never took the time, or had the time until later on. But I will tell you this, whenever I FINALLY did listen and really begin to hear and take an interest in Death I was/am totally and completely amazed!!

Terry Butler (ex-DEATH, ex-MASSACRE, OBITUARY): I will always say that chuck’s best attribute was his song writing. Creating riffs that stop and go into a whole different was his forte. Not to take away from his lead playing and vocals, they where stellar as well. I just think that songwriting was his best moment. Being part of this style has rubbed of on me as well. Chuck strived to be a better and better musician all the time, I like to think I try as well because of him.

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Bob Bagchus (ASPHYX): His ability to write a different album each time even though I lost interest after LEPROSY. But he developed himself extremely quickly and put new standards on everything although the later Death albums can hardly be called Death Metal. But he was one of the very creators of Death Metal and the man behind songs like “Evil Dead”, “Legions of Doom” and the mighty “Arch Angel”. The early Death (from the demos to SCREAM BLOODY GORE) were indeed a great influence on Asphyx for sure. Also the catchy Death Metal songs with just 3-4 repeated riffs sounded great and made us also doing so in Asphyx.

Brian Werking (EXMORTIS): This is an easy one, ha-ha-ha-ha…!!! I appreciated Chuck for what he stood for. His ambitious nature inspired me from the first time I heard Death. It’s almost like he never stopped to take a break. From what I understand he was always thinking about what needed to happen next. That’s the approach I took in the early days and it seemed to work out well. Although I was influenced by a lot of other bands I was drawn to Chuck’s style of writing guitar riffs. They were always generic but yet technical in mind. One that you would remember easily and that’s what sells records. People love to here repetition as well which I incorporated into the Exmortis style. Not that other bands weren’t doing this already but I really felt it was important to do. It didn’t hurt that some people called me little Chuck in demo reviews and interviews for Exmortis, ha-ha-ha-ha…!!!

Dave Rotten (AVULSED, XTREEM MUSIC): Although I’m vocalist, and not instrumentalist, I must say that his songwriting, specially on the three first albums, had some of the catchiest riffing and melodies around still without losing the Death Metal feel. His voice – in the beginning, although quite influenced by Possessed, had his own character. I didn’t like his voice on the last Death album though.

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Mem von Stein (EXUMER, SUN DESCENDS): I love his vocal style and delivery, he pushed the envelope with that style in the 1980s, it was consistently harsh!!!

John McEntee (INCANTATION, FUNERUS): While the course I respect Chuck musically like I said in the answer above. I think he was an innovator along with the rest of the band. I think it might be impossible to play in a Death Metal band and not be influenced by Death, Even if you don’t know you probably are influenced by Death or somebody that was influenced by Death. They were a part of something special and I know that Death along with other great bands from that era like Necrophagia, Massacre, Master, Necrovore, Morbid Angel And others all help shaped the music in one way or another.

Mark Jansen (EPICA, MAYAN): He was a very skilled guitar player and great composer. He surely influenced me, and with my band Mayan you can hear these influences.

Michael Dorrian (ANATOMY OF I): One of the main things I liked about his writing is that he didn’t use any kind of chord progressions, which is key to pretty much all songwriting in any style of music. Whether people attribute that to a sense of experimentation or a lack of music rudiments is up to them, but the fact is that it created something quite unique. I’m not saying he invented this approach, but he sure applied it all the time. A typical aspect of his playing which influenced an insane amount of bands is the way he’d pick notes around a power chord and simply play the fundamental note of the chord. Come to think of it, it’s the exact opposite of playing walking bass lines and chords in Jazz where the chords are the foundation and the loose notes in the lower regions are playing around that chord. Once again, Chuck didn’t invent this riffing style, but he made it popular to the point of becoming the main ingredient in a sub-genre called ‘Tech-Death’. Personally, I was really into this approach in my teens, so it definitely had a big impact during my formative years although I started moving away from that in my late teens when I got into chord-progressions and improvisation. Another vital element is that Chuck saw the importance of allowing his band members to fully express themselves. This not to show off their talents, but to add more depth and variety to the songs… Death wouldn’t be the influential band that it is today if he had held them back out of arrogance.

Pest (GORGOROTH): As a singer his vocals had an impact om me. I especially like his more pitched and hysterical screams on the first album.

Mike Browning (ex-MORBID ANGEL, ex-NOCTURNUS, AFTER DEATH): I think for me it was the fact that Chuck always had his own style and way of doing things and even though the Death stuff was heavy it also became very technical and he was able to keep putting out albums that were amazing while never “conforming” to the standard blast beat Death Metal. Something most people don’t realize is that there isn’t even one blast beat on any Death album or song!!! Once Death became a more technical band it had a great influence on me and the way I played and looked at writing drum parts.

Esa Lindén (DEMIGOD): He surely was a very talented musician and had his own style. I appreciate the way he mixed heavy riffs and dark melodies together. I have always liked melody in Death Metal and Chuck was a master at doing that. Surely he influenced me and other band members as well. I kinda learned play Death Metal listening to his music.

Danny Lilker (NUCLEAR ASSAULT, BRUTAL TRUTH): While I wouldn’t say that Chuck had any direct influence on anything I’ve done (we were more like peers), I do hail him as one of the originators of Death Metal, and he grew to be a very talented guitarist.

Toni Weidlich (CRYSTALIC): That he was so real person and made all the things in a very unique way. He never followed any trends and didn’t care much of mainstream anti-life Metalheads and the label business. He was just honestly himself and loved life and animals as well as making music. Chuck has influenced me the most as far as playing guitar and composing music are concerned, just trying to do things in a bit different way; paying a great deal of attention to melodies, building the songs and not to do most habitual choruses that I also cared a lot in my own songs. I think you can hear it really clear if you listen to Crystalic albums. But we always did it in a respectful way and not try to copy Death.

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Frank Van Kwartel (SARGON): The thing I appreciate the most about Chuck as a musician is his musical integrity. He always stuck to his vision above trying to fit in a certain genre or scene. He was first and foremost a fan of Metal, and you can see how he incorporated all of his influences in Death to make something unique. Chuck knew that he was going to lose fans and piss people off by taking Death in different directions, but he was still true to himself and went with it. He was one of the first musicians in Extreme Metal who wasn’t afraid of taking chances; and, therefore, he gave us a masterpiece with each release and helped change the face of Extreme Metal. Ohh man, Chuck totally influenced my playing style. I also just sit with my guitar and simply create whatever comes out of me – as long as I’m happy with the result. I’ll even go as far as to say that maybe I subconsciously modeled Sargon after Death. Maybe it’s the fact that I put together a Death tribute show in which I performed a few years back, but listening back to my shit, it amazes me to hear Death quotes here and there. That’s how much of an impact Chuck made on me as a musician.

Daniel Rego (DEMONIC RESURRECTION): Chuck had the spirit of constantly pushing the boundaries of his own compositional skills, which I admired greatly. He also was a master of never over-complicating the music, yet keeping it relevant, fresh and interesting. Every Death album almost sounds like a new band to me, the music just keeps progressing and evolving, without ever compromising on quality. That is an invaluable trait, to me.

Lasse Pyykkö (HOODED MENACE, PHLEGETHON): Chuck was a talent in many ways. His songwriting skills, his lead guitar work and his vocals were extraordinarily good. I´m referring only to the first three Death albums because like I said I´m not into the later works at all. After so many years LEPROSY is still totally relevant stuff overshadowing most of the Death Metal albums released since. Chuck was a guy with a strong vision and it was his way or the highway. I can appreciate that. I don´t have first hand information if he was a very difficult person to deal with but what came to band stuff it´s not hard to imagine him being very demanding, not only on himself, but on the other people as well. That´s how it should be if you have a clear vision and are driven to achieve it. Death was one of the most inspiring and influential bands of my adolescent years. I studied the song structures of LEPROSY, I was amazed about the catchy riffs, I admired Chuck´s leads and as I was primarily a drummer back then I studied Bill´s drum work. I absorbed it all and tried to learn from it. Along with Slayer´s REIGN IN BLOOD it was the best lesson in extreme Metal I could possibly lay my hands on. It´s no brainer that without those early Death albums my first band Phlegethon would have sounded a bit different. Probably worse.

Jed Simon (TENET, ZIMMERS HOLE, ex-SYL): Again, Chuck seemed to progress with each recording, and it really seemed like he was coming into his own. I love the way he could write an epic shitstorm of a song, but have it still be melodic enough to be very memorable. That’s the one thing to me… if it’s memorable, it lives forever. You can have the most amazing technical prowess on display, but if it doesn’t flow, it’s forgotten. The man knew how to write a song, and back it up with brutality… that was influential to me for sure.

Marko Tarvonen (MOONSORROW, BARREN EARTH): As a guitar player he always had his very own style in riffs and leads. Melodic and brutal at the same time. And what I really like is his vocals. Most of the growling vocals out there you cannot hear what they’re singing but with Chucks precise pronunciation in his growls it’s very easy. Even for a person with no English as the native language like me.

Tuomas Karhunen (FORGOTTEN HORROR, DEATHCHAIN): The most I appreciate Chuck’s vocals and his way of writing lyrics, and again, especially on the T.S.O.P. album. As a guitarist / vocalist myself, he’s also been kind of a figure to look up to. And the Death material is nice to play along with, to improve one’s vocal and guitar techniques!

Steve Rice (KILL RITUAL, ex-IMAGIKA): Well his guitar playing and tone was unique as was his songwriting. I think he influenced quite a few bands and really did get the ball rolling for the Tampa Death Metal scene.

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