Havok interview (David Sanchez)

"Things get boring when you play 1,000 miles an hour all the time"

05/07/2013 @ 12:07
Thrash is maybe one of the most continuously recycled genres, but when there are bands that do it extremely well it can still sound great. Havok did so twice with "Burn" and "Time Is Up" and this year they return differentiated with their third full length album. Their frontman, David Sanchez, is one of those guys that have thrash metal in their blood and he’s the one to guide us through this "Unnatural Selection", after a relaxed chat we had with the man - while the BPM was reduced.

HavokGreetings from Greece! Please introduce yourself and your band for our readers. How has 2013 been for the band so far?
This is David Sanchez, guitarist and lead shouter of Havok. The band also includes Pete Webber on drums, Reece Scruggs on lead guitar, and Mike Leon on the 4-string. 2013 has been great so far! Just released a new album and preparing for more tours over the summer.

Your new album is a perfect paradigm of the importance that a band’s third album holds. What does "Unnatural Selection" express for the band’s state?
"Unnatural" is just the newest batch of nine songs (plus a cover) that we’ve written. We’re in the business of wrecking necks and writing heavy riffs, and I think we’ve accomplished both of those things with this new album.

Havok - Unnatural SelectionSo, is the album title an accurate statement of the evolution of Havok’s sound? What would the album sound like if it was ‘Natural Selection’?
The album title rolls off the tongue nicely and is the name of the album’s closing song; it’s not necessarily a statement of our music’s evolution. We chose the path of the album, so ultimately, it’s unnatural selection through and through.

From my point of view, "Unnatural Selection" is a ‘more groove - less standard thrash’ approach than "Time Is Up". And I believe that this change could somewhat be compared to the early 90s when US thrash started to develop and shift into something else. Would you agree on that?
"Unnatural" is definitely more groovy! I don’t see us going MORE groovy in the future, so I think it’s too early to declare that we’re going the ‘early 90’s thrash’ route. We’ll stay riff-oriented, heavy, and tight as hell!

HavokAmong the past decade’s giant modern thrash hotpot, Havok managed to stand out as one of the most representative young bands. Yet now it seems that you want to draw away from your previous albums’ trademark style. Do you believe that thrash metal can undergo through significant changes, without altering its character?
We’re not necessarily ditching our previous albums’ trademark style. We’ve just slowed things down a few BPM on this album. Things get boring when you play 1,000 miles an hour all the time. This album is definitely more rockin’ and old-school heavy metal, but we’ll always have the thrash backbone to our sound.

Out of all the thrash bands that changed their styles over the years, which do you think are the most successful? And has any of them been an inspiration for you as a band?
I feel that Testament was pretty successful with the expansion of their sound in the 90’s. A lot of the death metal-esque Testament is just as awesome as the early thrash material. I’m inspired by lots of different kinds of music, but obviously there are plenty of thrash bands that have been an influence on the band.

HavokYou have welcomed a new bass player in the band. How did you find him? And what happened with Jesse de los Santos that lead to this parting?
Yeah, Mike Leon is now our 4-string monster. Jesse has kids and other obligations, so the transition was necessary. We met Mike while on tour with Malevolent Creation. He was playing in The Absence (also on the tour) and we got to know him there. He also did merch for us on our run with Skeletonwitch. When Jesse left, we called Mike to ask if he’d be interested in playing bass and here we are.

I have to say that the new guy is probably the exact opposite of Jason Newsted when he first joined Metallica; his sound is absolutely amazing, his performance is solid and he steals the show quite often! What was his overall contribution to the album?
Mike actually joined up with us pretty late in the writing / recording process, so most of the bass lines were already written, but he did contribute things here and there to the album. We’re excited to write the next album because we’ll actually get to work with Mike from the beginning and write songs around some cool bass parts that he has written.

HavokIn the production credits, we can see some of the ‘big ones’ like Terry Date and James Murphy. And I believe it’s the first time you work with such big names behind the console. How did you choose them, particularly?
We chose to contact Terry Date because of his experience with some great sounding albums from Pantera, Overkill, Soundgarden, etc. We had worked with James Murphy before on "Time Is Up" and the "Point of No Return" EP, so it was a no-brainer to bring him into the fold again for album #3.

Could you tell us about the lyrics to "Give Me Liberty...Or Give Me Death"? Is it history originated (cause we Greeks have a similar phrase from our rebellion)? And in what sense does this apply into the modern era?
The song’s title has its origins in American history, obviously, but the lyrics come from frustration with today’s political happenings. Let’s face it, the government has their nose in EVERYBODY’s business, and it’s to the point now where they’re keeping record of every website you go to. The song is about the state’s abuse of power and I think the lyrics provoke thoughts that everyone has had at one time or another about their modern government.

David Sanchez (Havok)Many people say that thrash is a much drained genre of metal music, and that many new bands become very repetitive as they inevitably remind of the classic ones. What does it take to create music that sounds fresh and original, in your opinion?
There are only twelve notes in music. Essentially, every piece of music you hear is similar to another in some way. I think that the key to creating an original sound is the blending of different styles. One thing that I feel separates us from other thrashy bands is our use of slap bass. I can’t think of another thrash band that slaps as often as we do.

If time travel was possible, would you relocate to an era like the mid-80s or would you prefer to stay in the present?
I’m very happy with the present. In fact, I think we’re incredibly lucky to live when and where we do!

HavokWhich bands of the new generation of thrash stand out for you? Do you know of any bands that do not have the attention they deserve?
Psychosomatic (from Sacramento, CA) is one of my absolute favorite bands that not many people know about! Check them out - they deserve your metal-loving ears. Of the new generation, I dig Revocation, Vektor, Psychosomatic, Toxic Holocaust, the Waste, Skeletonwitch, and Angelus Apatrida to name a few.

Do you feel justified about what you have achieved so far as a band? What is your ultimate goal and what your most absurd dream?
I’m pretty stoked about what we have achieved so far as a band! I’ve done almost everything I’ve ever wanted to do and it’s only uphill from here. My goal is to make enough money being a touring musician to survive in our downtime. I’d love to eventually be the band that 'replaces' the Big 4 after their retirement!

David Sanchez (Havok)What would be your dream tour line-up?
I wish we could do a tour with Metallica, Gojira, Mr. Bungle, and Death with stand-up comedians in between the bands! Wouldn’t THAT be fun?

That would be all from me, man. Thank you for your time... last words are yours!
I’d like to personally thank anybody who has ever bought a shirt or CD, told your friends about Havok, or came to a show; without you guys, we wouldn’t exist. Thank you! Support music and think for yourself. Nothing but greatness will come from doing those two things.

Vangelis Evangelatos