Interview: Mark Heylmun Of Suicide Silence On New Album ‘Become The Hunter’

Interview by Shannon-Lee Sloane – The Colourful Writer

Deathcore heavyweights, Suicide Silence are back with their sixth studio album and a fresh new drive in 2020. ‘Become The Hunter’ was released on Friday, February 14 via Nuclear Blast and has had a hugely positive response from fans and media alike. I had a chat to guitarist, Mark Heylmun the day after their album release show in San Diego to see how things are going with this brutally heavy and brilliant new release.

So the big news is the release of your new album ‘Become The Hunter’, which you unleashed on the world on Friday, which also happened to be Valentine’s Day – an amazing gift to your fans! What has the response been like to the new release? 

“So far it seems like everybody is super pumped on the whole album. We released a number of singles starting last, I think, November. So fans have been patiently waiting for the full record and it looks as though everyone is very excited with how heavy we went on this record. We also played a album release show last night in San Diego and judging by the crowd response, I think everyone is really hyped to have us back.”

That’s great! My next question was to ask about the release show, so it sounds like it went well?

“Oh yeah, definitely, it went off without a hitch. The vibe was great, everybody showed up. In San Diego, I am not sure if everybody in Australia understands that San Diego is kind of surfy and very slow. It’s very Southern California. And usually those crowds are very stony and very tame. But last night, the energy was super high and everybody had a really good time and it felt like a good celebration of the release.”

I have had a few listens through to ‘Become The Hunter’ and the sound and depth of emotion from this album is massive! How do you feel about the new album as a whole? 

“I feel like this is some of the best songs we have really put together as a group and some of the best melding of all of the minds. We all have a very eclectic and very different musical taste. And really, the influences of why we are musicians, it has always been different. We aren’t all cut form the same mould. So that has also been the process of, you know, we are 15 years in, 6 full length records deep. But we are still honing our capabilities of integrating all of our differences. I think this record, of all of them, it kind of has all elements displayed pretty well. I don’t think it’s a perfect record. I don’t think I will ever label any of our records perfect.  But this one feels really really good and leaves me looking to the future on what we are going to do as far as the next time we get together to write more music, because I think we learned a lot on this record.”

As you mentioned earlier, you’ve released a few singles from the album and for three of those you created a series of ‘horror movie’ like clips. It’s a brilliant concept and adds even more depth to the tracks. Where did the idea come from for that? 

“It’s not as interesting of a story but the truth is that, it is always hard to stretch music video budgets. We kind of had ideas to make one really good music video that we would be in and it was a different idea. Then we came up with another idea and we thought we could probably make short movies and do it three parts. And write a story that kind of exemplifies what ‘Become The Hunter’ is all about. Which is kind of like this cycle of damage that will reverberate or perpetuate through history whether that’s mental or in the videos case, it’s murderous, you know. But it was basically, ‘how can we put out quality music videos with the amount of money that we had to budget out.’ And it was kind of sitting in the back of our minds too, we wanted to direct something and not be in the videos. So it was kind of a back burner idea and we decided that now was the time to do this.”

Watch the three videos HERE:
SUICIDE SILENCE – Part 1: Meltdown
SUICIDE SILENCE – Part 2: Love Me To Death
SUICIDE SILENCE – Part 3: Feel Alive

Also, a few weeks ago, you released a live footage video for Two Steps. That song is so deliciously good! Where was the live footage filmed for that clip? 

“That was in Columbia, Mexico City and Anaheim California. Those were the few shows that we did in November. We brought a videographer and that was the idea to get some social media footage, catching live footage from the shows. That was another plan, to make use of the resources that we have for another video. We will probably have some more live videos that we will release. There are some more single worthy tracks on the record that we want to utilize. So we will figure out some more clever ways to release more videos.” 

It has been said that your signature sound when you play guitar is crucial to the sound of Suicide Silence. You took some time away from the band in 2018 and returned in September 2019, much to the pleasure of your fans. What was it like to take that time away from it all and what is it like to be back? 

“Well that was a crazy time in my life. It all revolved around the fact that in January of 2017, my Dad got diagnosed with four different kids of terminal cancer. That all came to and end last November when he passed. That was the reason I took some time away from the band.  I am like a million percent kind of guy. I am overly committed to what I am doing. So when there was an issue with my family, and my Dad was my guitar teacher and pretty much introduced me to metal. So I needed to take a break. And I toured all through 2017, released our last record and then there was just this massive feeling of ‘I am not doing what I should be doing right now. I need to not be leaving home.’ Because there was a big question mark about how long he had left.

So when it came down to the band coming back to me in September, they basically said, ‘we don’t want to tour yet but we want to try and get a record out potentially buy the end of the year or in early 2020.’ And I couldn’t say no, you know? Of course I am down to write music, with really no deadline or anything like that. It felt really good and I think we all kind of got a little bit from me taking a break. I think everybody voiced that. They did a tour without me and they started writing some music without me and then when I came back, it just felt super right again. It was a unique experience to listen to music they had written without me and then them asking me what I thought, what I would do. Two Steps was one of those songs that was pretty much a song before I ever touched it. But then I got to re work the structure. I am such a structure guy. I write songs structurally and like feeling wise. Like, ‘how is this song supposed to make someone feel?’ So it is unique, that’s another thing about this record. It came together in a totally different way, very unique. And my touch on it was like the final ingredient, not like the beginning of it, so that’s really different.” 

You have a stack of shows coming up. Including going on tour with Jinjer. Are you keen for that tour to begin? 

“Yeah absolutely. We have had that one announced for a while. The shows are already selling out. It is cool to go out and support a band that has such an upward trajectory. We’ve known them for a long time. We had them open for us in Europe five years ago or something like that. So we have been fans of them for a while and they are fans of ours. Alex, our drummer is dating Tatiana, the singer. So there is this good element there, so it is going to be a fun tour.”

I also noticed you guys are playing Knotfest In Japan in March. I am actually going to Japan on tour with a band later this year and I can’t wait. What’s it like playing shows in Japan? 

“It’s amazing. We have only been to Japan once. And that actually surprises me. This will be our second time in Japan. Japan is one of those places where, I don’t necessarily get culture shock anymore because I travel so much but when I first went to Japan I realised that if I had never seen any other place in the world when I came to Japan, it would give me this idea that everywhere has this completely different way of living. There is so many different things that they do, that are just embedded in their normal lifestyle. It is not super weird or anything. But there is like, I forget what night of the week it is, I think it is a Thursday night, if you work and have a boss, your boss takes you out to drink. So it is a time where there is a lot of drunk professionals out in the streets. It is the time when employees can voice problems that they have with their company or their boss and they can’t really get in trouble for saying anything. There was one time where I watched what was almost a fist fight and someone explained to me ‘Oh no, they are just talking about their work’” *laughs*” 

I think it will be a slight culture shock for me as I have never been before. I am so looking forward to it. I am fascinated by Japan…

“I gotta tell you, go to Drunken Alley in Tokyo, if you’re in Tokyo, ask around about Drunken Alley. It is a really interesting little place with like little homely bars that are super cool. And then go to GODZ, the metal bar, GODZ, it is one of the best metal bars in the world!” 

Thank you for the tips! I absolutely will add those to our plans. 

Moving onto the artwork for the new album, the design very much resembles a tarot card. I love it. I was brought up very spiritual and in touch with alternative beliefs as such. Do you have a belief in that kind of thing? 

“Oh yeah, totally. I have my own personal deck of tarot cards. I have my own beliefs in circumstance and fate and the way energy transfers. And I guess the more identifiable or trendy way of saying it, the law of attraction kind of thing and positive affirmations and positive mental attitude. I am a pretty ‘out there woo woo dude’”

*laughs* that’s the technical term, ‘out there, woo woo dude’, that’s perfect! You could say I am the same, but not a dude. Basically. *laughs* 

“Well yeah, how else do you put it? *laughs* 

It has been an absolute honor and pleasure to talk with you today, my final question has to be, will Australian fans be graced with your presence soon? Is there a Suicide Silence Australian tour on the cards in the near future? 

“I am hoping so. We are getting through this album release weekend. We have had so much going on with planning and doing all of this. So a lot of stuff has been pushed aside to handle all of it. But one of the things that I am trying to push through is to get over to Australia in your Summer. So, whenever we can, but as soon as we can really.”

Keep up to date with upcoming shows and tours HERE.

Listen to and purchase a copy of ‘Become The Hunter’ via Nuclear Blast HERE.

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