Dave Sanchez is the guitarist and vocalist for HAVOK, a thrash metal band out of Denver, CO. They are currently on tour in support of CROWBAR through October 10th after which they’ll head down to Mexico with a final date on Halloween in their home town. I had the opportunity to chat with Dave outside the Ottobar in Baltimore, MD.
Before the interview I told Dave that I had never heard a lick of HAVOK’s music on purpose. As you might guess, he was a trifle puzzled by this admission. I then went on to tell him that I would only be new to the metal scene for so long and I had heard such good things about HAVOK that I wanted to “save myself” for this show. There is nothing like having a band blow you out of your shoes the first time you ever hear them. I want as many of those experiences as I can get. I want to thank the guys in HAVOK for delivering.
I.O.: You just signed with Century Media records in July of 2014. How did that all come about?
DAVE: We were signed to Candlelight Records for three records and we finished our contractual obligations with them. So we were free agents and Century Media was one of the labels that approached us about offering us a deal. After some deliberation and negotiating with the labels we decided we’d go with Century.
I.O.: What do you see as the benefits of going to a larger label?
DAVE: I think that Century Media has a really good track record with making bands bigger and more well-known and making sure that people know that their bands exist. That’s a big thing to me and I think they’re going to do well for us in that respect.
I.O.: Do you see any negatives?
DAVE: Of course. It’s the same negative for every label, which is they take most of the money made from the record sales. It’s the nature of the beast.
I.O.: Time Is Up was fast and aggressive while Unnatural Selection had more mid-tempo songs and the idea was that on your set list there was a roller-coaster. You’ve got this new contract for three albums so what do you think this next record is going to be like?
DAVE: I think it’s going to be as fast and aggressive as Time Is Up and as catchy and memorable as Unnatural Selection. I think it will be the best of both worlds. It’s going to be very catchy, it’s going to have very strong messages in the lyrics, and we’ve got a lot of really good riffs up our sleeve. It’s going to be great. I can’t wait to get off the road and start writing.
I.O.: So when do you plan to go off the road because you’re going to Mexico?
DAVE: Yeah, we go to Mexico right after this CROWBAR run but after that we’re off probably until next summer to make the album. This will be our second time in Mexico.
I.O.: Time Is Up was recorded at your home studio. For Unnatural Selection you recorded the drums in the Gothic Theater (Denver, CO).
DAVE: Yeah, we did that. The last record we put the drums in the Gothic to record to get the natural reverb so that there wasn’t any fake reverb on the recording. It’s all real stuff, which is really cool, but all the rest of it was recorded in my house. I’m not sure about the next [record]. I think we might do some of it in my house and we might do some of it at a studio somewhere.
I.O.: Have there been any upgrades to your home studio?
DAVE: We just recently got a deal with Sennheiser microphones. We got some new mics. Other than that, no.
I.O.: So that’s since Unnatural Selection but anything new since Time Is Up?
DAVE: I used a different amplifier. On Unnatural Selection I used the Peavey Triple X II. It was the first time I had ever recorded with that amp. On Time Is Up I used my Madison Divinity head but in mix the guy re-amped my guitar tone with a Mesa Triple Rectifier.
I.O.: My eyes just glazed over <laughs>.
DAVE: The gear heads will know what I’m talking about.
I.O.: You know about Prince’s Purple Rain and how he actually recorded it by playing live and just tweaking it in the studio. Have you ever considered doing something like that and what would be the ideal circumstances?
DAVE: Yes, we’ve actually considered maybe doing a little bit of that on the next album. Ideal circumstances would be having a good studio, so every instrument is isolated so there’s no bleed and a guitar tone isn’t showing up in the drum microphones and stuff. That would be best but we’ve considered it. We might do something like that just to get the live feel, the live tightness because it’s a little bit different playing out then doing everything one at a time. There’s a special magic that happens when you’re playing live.
I.O.: Which do you prefer: headliner or support when you’re on tour?
DAVE: Support, honestly, right now because we’ve done so much headlining this year that now that we’re doing a support tour, we’re done playing and we pack up and we have the whole night to just relax. We can actually get a drink and hang out with people. When you’re headlining you wait all day and then you play a long set and then you got to pack up and leave. You can’t hang out with anybody and you know, get into any trouble. So support is nice because we can hang out and we don’t have to play as long. Sometimes I’d like to play longer but my body is enjoying the not playing longer.
I.O.: About the tour van, have you even upgraded this beast?
DAVE: It has been good to us the last about six years. In six years, we’ve put like 200,000 miles on it.
I.O.: Does it smell like feet?
DAVE: Yeah, that and beer farts. We’ll probably upgrade and get a new vehicle sometime next year.
I.O.: What is your take on the state of the metal music industry?
DAVE: I think it’s great that there’s been recently a resurgence of riffs and good guitar playing. I think it’s awesome that solos have come back because there was a while there in the two-thousands and late nineties where nobody was playing guitar solos, which was so whack it’s not even funny. A lot of newer bands are coming out that are awesome and exciting. As far as the entity that is Metal, I’d say people are coming out in strong numbers to shows, more so than maybe five years ago in general. We live in an age where pop music, hip-hop, and country are ruling the charts and Metal is like a footnote to the major record industry, which is sad and it did not used to be that way. I think it’s awesome that we have people that are so down with this genre that they will always support it. They’ll always go to shows and buy albums and make sure that it never dies. That’s really important. I hope that [Metal] will make a resurgence again like the way it was back in the eighties. That was like Metal’s hey-day. I hope there comes a time where that comes back but it’s hard to say if it ever will.
I.O.: What do you think will make that happen?
DAVE: If bands started being really rad. I think that was a big part of it. Back in the day there was bands that were popular. Metal bands were actually really good and now today’s most popular metal stuff is just ‘eh.’ It’s alright.
I.O.: What are some of your favorite bands from “back in the day?”
DAVE: My favorites are probably the same as a lot of metal heads’ favorites: old METALLICA, MEGADETH, SLAYER, IRON MAIDEN, [JUDAS] PRIEST. EXODUS, OVERKILL, TESTAMENT, UNCLE SLAM, SUICIDAL TENDENCIES.
I.O.: So you’ve got some Hardcore in there?
DAVE: Yeah, I love lots of music. Metal is not the only thing I like. I like tons and tons of kinds of music.
I.O.: What are you listening to in the van as you’re driving?
DAVE: Today, while we were driving, we listened to a lot of STEVIE WONDER, BODY COUNT, and BLOOD RED THRONE. They’re a death metal band from Norway. They’re really awesome. They sound like CANNIBAL CORPSE and SUFFOCATION mixed together.
I.O.: You said “old METALLICA” and in a couple of interviews you’ve taken a dig or two at THE band. What’s the issue there artistically as opposed to personally?
DAVE: Everyone says “old METALLICA.” Of course I have no issue with them personally. Artistically, their name is METALLICA. Their name has the word METAL in it and then in the early nineties they completely changed their sound. They turned into like a Rock band. You can’t call yourself METAL-something. Your name means the epitome of METAL. You can’t go and write some bluesy, rock songs. I feel the way a lot of people feel about METALLICA. In my opinion, the old stuff is the best stuff. It was ground breaking and it was some of the heaviest and best heavy metal that was ever laid down on recording. I’m not knocking those [newer] albums completely either because I like a lot of those songs actually. Like with Load, Reload, St. Anger and all that stuff, I think they just should have called it a different band and then no one would have been upset. No one would say “this is a bad METALLICA album.” They would just say “oh, it’s a different band.”
That may be the most coherent explanation anyone has given me about the “old METALLICA” versus the “new METALLICA” (?) debate. As one of the hardest working bands in metal today, it’s good to know that HAVOK will be taking some time out to make a new record. Looking forward to that review!
I.O. Kirkwood is a Metal Descent contributor. You can read her personal blog at iokirkwood.com.