David Sanchez of Havok Interview1st May 2020 0 By Rory Glashan
Havok have remained a stronghold in the thrash metal scene since 2004. Hailing from Denver, Colorado they have been widely regarded as one of the pioneering acts in Thrash of the 21st century. I managed to catch up with Frontman and founding member David Sanchez to get technical on their new album “V” and how he has been killing his boredom during the Covid19 lockdown.
So first of all I have listened to the new album, I’ve had it on repeat and I’m loving it! I would like to ask how you guys created your distinctive guitar tone and what gear have you been using for the new album?
Well, on this album we spent a LOT of time refining the guitar tone. I think we tried out five different guitars and thirteen different guitar amps with all kinds of different overdrive pedals. I think we trialled about nine or ten different speakers and at least three different microphones. We tried out a lot of different stuff to come out with the sound you hear on this record. We tried out a lot of different amplifiers too, there was Peavey stuff, Driftwood, Diesel. Reece, our lead guitarist and myself are both Peavey guys so that’s a huge part of our guitar sound. Gearwise? We used my ESP EX guitar for a lot of the tracking, it’s got an EMG H4 Passive Humbucker Pickup in it. We both use Ernieball strings and all the cabinets that we tried out were Celestion. I believe we used Celestion Creamback 65W speakers as well.
Havok worked with Mark Lewis for the mixing and mastering for V. I see that he’s worked with Deicide, Cannibal Corpse, Devildriver, The Black Dahlia Murder to name a few, how was it working with him?
Working with Mark was super cool! He was totally down to take time and get really nerdy with all the tones, that go with the drums, guitars and vocals. It was great to hear specific sounds that come from using different mic. and speaker setups. It was nice to have someone that was down to do all that experimentation because often when you go into the studio, the engineers don’t always want to spend much time refining tones. A lot of them just wanna throw us in and go like: “Okay, get it up! Sound good? Let’s move on!” But Mark was getting very in depth with tonal experimentation and I think a big reason the record sounds the way it does is because of all the time and effort we spent on it.
Well it sure paid off!
I sure reckon it did!
I noticed on the tracks for “V”, most of them came from what was going around the world right now, the obsession for technology and mind control. However one stood out which was the final track ‘Don’t Do It’, where I noticed the lyrical content was a lot different to the rest of the albums. Do you mind me asking the story behind that track and what led to you writing it?
Yeah sure! So I wrote it after I saw a pretty shocking statistic that in the past decade or so, the number of young people that are killing themselves has TRIPLED and that really shocked me. I wanted to say something about that in a song for any young people who had maybe been in a bad state of mind, or those who have been struggling. I hope that the song can inspire someone, as the song says ‘Don’t Do It’! I’ve been in a bad headspace before and I’m still here to tell the tale. I’m really glad I didn’t do anything because life can truly get better! Mental health is a big problem, not just in my country but all over the world, it just doesn’t get talked about often enough. It’s still a taboo subject for many and I mean, 3 times over, since I was a kid? That’s just scary.
Well hopefully things will change and that sort of statistic will cut down, good for you for speaking out about that sort of thing!
Well a big thing to help cut that down would be to make it a less taboo thing to discuss and maybe we can put focus on taking care of these people! In America we don’t talk about it enough. Many are quick to judge, to call others names for being different and even for having a different perspective in life. Those who aren’t always smiley and happy, can get judged and looked at in a negative way. We should want to help those struggling, not ridicule them.
Just let people be themselves and there’s no need to judge anyone or put anyone down for being different right?
Quickly back to the music, I see that “Time Is Up” is about to turn ten years old. I wanted to ask, when you look back, how do you feel about how it shaped your career and do you have any ideas to celebrate it? Perhaps a tour?
Well, we have definitely talked about it. I don’t know what’s happening now, the anniversary is next year which would be the perfect time to do it and we’ve discussed tours where we play the record start to finish. That would be super cool! The thing is though, when we finally get out of here (Coronavirus lockdown) we’re gonna want to tour on the new album, so we’ll have to see what happens. If we don’t do something next year for it, we could potentially do a 15 year celebration!
Within regards to Covid-19 and how it’s currently affecting the music industry. It’s inevitable that the disruption will continue for a while, what would be your ideal plan to help the music industry back on its feet once this is all over if you have any ideas?
Hmm… That’s tough to say! There’s so many things that will need to be worked on, I’m not sure where to begin but it’s inevitable that the entertainment industry will be the last thing to bounce back from this whole mess. When things start getting back to normal, it’ll be quite tough to convince people to buy a concert ticket and perhaps a shirt or a CD when they’re already having trouble paying rent and putting food on the table. However, I’d encourage people to support the artists they love when they can as they’ll be the last ones to get back on their feet once this is all over.
Are you currently doing anything with your band or in your personal time during the lockdown?
Well I’ve been finishing up working on another bands recording but when things get a little more settled down I would definitely like to write some new music.We can’t tour for quite some time so now is a good chance to get ahead of the curve and create new material! Aside from mixing and mastering another bands recordings, I’ve been working on a new Havok music video which is all keeping me very busy, I haven’t been bored yet, I still have my hands quite full.
Are there any other past times that you have outside of music that you do to keep yourself occupied during lock down?
If I didn’t have these things going on I’d probably draw, paint, go for a walk, write music and watch movies.
Are there any good movies you’ve seen recently?
Hmm, I think the last good one I’ve seen was Eyes Wide Shut, Stanley Coopers last movie. It features Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, it’s got a lot of illuminati, crazy ritual, scary shit! It’s not really a horror movie but it’s pretty scary and uncomfortable the entire time!
I’ll have to give that one a watch when I can. Also in this time are you actively paying attention to local scenes around the world? How often do you discover hidden gems? Any bands worth mentioning?
Well, we’ve played with a lot of really cool bands when we’ve been touring and there’s always amazing local bands opening the show. But the first one that springs to mind is a band that a lot of people may not know called Psychosomatic. The first time we played with them was around 2007/8 where we played at a festival in California called Tidal Wave. Exodus and Attitude Adjustment were there too. They’ve become one of my favourite bands, they’re super fast, super tight, like a Thrash/Death/Grind/Punk band. They’re cool as fuck! I think everyone should check them out, I actually did the production on one of their new records that’s due to come out sometime later this year. It was a really cool opportunity to work with a band who I really enjoy and respect. If you check them out then my personal recommendation would be their album “The Unquenchable Thirst.”
Thank you for that! Hey, whenever you have your low days, how do you re-spark your passion and drive for writing and performing music? Do you have anything that brings you up?
Well, sometimes if I NEED to write music but I don’t really feel like it, I’ll just force myself to pick up the guitar and just start messing about, sometimes something really cool will pop up! Many expert songwriters say that if you want to get very good at writing songs, just write them constantly, even when you don’t feel inspired, just go for it. There might be a tiny piece of it that’s really cool and catchy! Some of it might be crap and you’ll throw it away but at least you sharpened your tools and your skills got better by practicing!
As a musician, would you have any tips or advice for any inexperienced musicians who want to start performing and playing live?
I would say, get so good at playing the music that it’s almost brainless! So when you go on stage, you’re not having to stare at your fretboard or think about everything that goes on. You can let loose and have fun. It’s gonna be the 700th time or so that you’ve played the song so it’s no big deal, but this time there are people in front of you, so just practice your ass off so that when you get on stage, you’ll be solid and can rock out! Practice it so much that it’s boring and then it’ll be exciting when you can play in front of people, it won’t be a train wreck either!
Appreciate the advice! Do you have anything else you’d like to add?
Sure! Well I wanna say that our new record is out on May the 1st and I hope everyone can give it a listen and check it out!
Thankyou for your time!
Havok’s fifth studio album, “V” is out on the 1st of May 2020, on Century Media Records.