Thrashpit's Matt Hensch recently caught up with David Sanchez and Reese Scruggs from Havok to talk about their currently touring and what they have in store next.
Matt Hensch of Thrashpit: First off, I'd like to thank you guys for taking time out of your schedule. I know you guys have been really busy lately. How's the tour been? I know it's at the tail-end of it, but Havok has been on the road for a really long time.
David Sanchez: It's good. Things have been good. Just about every night has been really sick.
Thrashpit: I noticed that you guys did a tour in Europe with Fear Factory, you just came off of a tour with Malevolent Creation, and now you're concluding a tour with Skeletonwitch. That seems like it's a mixed bag of audiences that Havok is playing to. What usually is the reception doing shows like that?
David: It's normally good. We've toured with power metal bands, death metal bands, thrash bands, punk bands. We do well with all of them because it's fast, aggressive, and heavy. A lot of people dig that.
Reese Scruggs: It's metal. We're true. We aren't some gimmicky kind of thing and we're good at what we do.
David: If you like heavy riffs, chances are you'll probably dig our stuff.
Reese: Like I said, we're true. There's no flash, no fluff, and I think people see that and that's why people get into us.
Thrashpit: We have a lot of bands today that are resurrecting the 80s vibe of thrash like Warbringer, Bonded by Blood, Fueled by Fire and especially you guys too. I was talking with some of my buddies who are coming to the show tonight and we naturally agree that we prefer Havok over similar bands. What do you guys think separates what you do compared to your other cohorts right now?
David: This doesn't go for all of them, but I feel like a lot of them are trying to "resurrect" the genre, whereas we just take a lot of influence from it and do our own thing. I think that has something to do with it. Another thing that sets us apart from those other bands is probably the various musical influences in our music, other than metal. A lot of influence in our band gets taken from classic rock, funk, jazz, classical music...things like that. It's more musical than a lot of thrash bands. A lot of thrash bands just chug...they have cool riffs and s***, but the songs need to flow like a rollercoaster. A lot of bands don't write good songs too.
Reese: Exactly. People don't know how to put together song structures. Some bands are strictly in it to bring that s*** back. It's cool that you want to bring that vibe back, and we have that vibe, but at the same time we want to leave our own mark, and we all like different stuff. We all like different kinds of metal, too. Sometimes, more than thrash. We're a thrash band, we know that, but we aren't trying to be a thrash band. It's natural. We just play fast, aggressive, heavy music.
David: Fast, tight, and heavy. If you put all that together, it's going to equal thrash anyway you slice it. We'll always probably be labeled a thrash band for that reason, but I don't mind it. But it does kind of suck always getting lumped in with everyone else, but at the same time when people like you tell us things like that, we get some indication....
Reese: We're doing it right. We're doing it the way we want to do it.
David: It's cool to hear other people say that they hear something different in our music. That makes me happy, because we do too.
Reese: Not part of our sound is putting on white high-tops.
David: Yeah, we don't put on white high-tops and denim vests with three-hundred patches on them or anything like that. We got the riffs. That's all that really matters.
Thrashpit: What do you think is the hardest part about doing what you guys do?
David: Not sleeping or not eating right. There's a lot of things that don't stack up in your favor when you're touring. If we all wanted to bitch all day, we'd have a laundry list. But at the end of the day, we're doing exactly what we want to do, and this is exactly what we love doing. When people say, "It must really suck doing this, I don't know how you do it," we always pretty much tell them the same thing: it's pretty easy to do your favorite thing.
Reese: There's run-of-the-mill stuff that every person in any type of traveling situation has to deal with, doesn't matter if you're a musician or traveling salesman; it's the same way. You miss your family, you miss your friends, you miss your bed, stuff like that. But you get over it. The good outweighs the bad.
Thrashpit: So at the end of the day, it's all worth it?
David: Absolutely. Otherwise I wouldn't be here.
Thrashpit: When you put out "The Point of No Return," I noticed you guys did some covers of Sepultura's "Arise" and Slayer's "Postmortem" and "Raining Blood." What you do think of classic bands like that today and how they've evolved? Most of them haven't stuck to the same musical routines that they've done.
David: I think bands naturally evolve, it's just unfortunate how some of them tend to go downhill.
Reese: What they think is evolving is more of a devolution.
David: It doesn't go for all though; we're not talking about everyone.
Reese: Exactly. Just like the bands we covered, I think, are kicking ass. I think Slayer kicks ass all the time. We went on tour with Sepultura; they were cool guys. We have opinions about some of their albums, but they're heroes to us. There are bands out there that are doing it right and doing it better than they have been. There are bands out there that shouldn't be putting out music anymore.
Thrashpit: When you guys did "Time Is Up," it was recorded in Dave's house. That seems like that would be a really difficult feat in lot of ways that could turn out haphazardly. What's the key to doing that successfully?
David: As for "Time Is Up," when most of that album was written we didn't have a drummer or guitar player, so most of the time it was just me in my basement programming drums to riffs and building the songs that way. I've been doing it for a long time, and in my opinion it works out pretty easily. It's nice to be able to have all of the stuff self-contained, that way we can go back and fix things and we aren't worried about the clock running out at the studio or something, but we're excited to record the next one.
Thrashpit: I noticed on Facebook that you guys are selling a vaporizer on tour?
David: Yes sir.
Thrashpit: So I assume that since Havok hails from Colorado and it's been legalized, you guys are pretty stocked about that then?
David: Oh yeah. All I can say is that the vaporizers work very well.
Thrashpit: Did they sell pretty well?
David: We have yet to sell one, but there's been a lot of interest. People are broke. One of these days when someone is looking for a vap anyways, that'll definitely get one.
Thrashpit: What's the key to staying financially responsible on the road and selling records and merch, and paying for stuff like gas and bills?
David: Pay off your debts. Don't go into debt with your label. Otherwise you're f***ed for life. That's my biggest recommendation: stay fiscally above zero. If you can, pay off your debts and don't stay in debt.
Thrashpit: It probably gets difficult some times.
David: Yeah, it does at times, but luckily we're right about at that threshold where everything pays for itself and we don't worry about anything. We've done years and years of sleeping on floors and sleeping in the van, and it's still a way of life. This tour happens to be different because so many of our drives are short, so we can actually afford to sleep in and take advantage of hotels, but normally that's not the case. We're totally used to roughing it in a lot of ways.
Thrashpit: What are some underrated bands or albums that don't get the recognition they deserve that play a huge part on Havok creatively?
Reese: I have three bands that I love. They're are kind of like my own bands that I listen to all the time. One being Wraithchild America, from where I'm from in the D.C./Maryland area; Stoned from Finland; and Sabbat from the UK. Andy Sneap is their guitar player and he's gone on to be a big deal producing stuff.
David: Two bands that come to mind immediately that no one's ever heard of that are huge influences on me are Psychosomatic from Sacramento and this band that used to have the original drummer of Suicidal Tendencies in it, called Uncle Slam. Uncle Slam and Psychosomatic are two of my biggest influences that most people have probably never even heard of.
Thrashpit: One last question before I let you guys go. After you guys finish your tour, what's the next logical step? Will there be another tour, or a new album?
David: We're going to write and record. New album we'll probably start recording in February.
Thrashpit: Is most of it tracked or is there a general blueprint?
David: We got to stockpile the riffs first!
Reese: It all starts at the riff.