Havok Comments on "Point of No Return" EP, Upcoming Tours and SXSW Appearance
Band Photo: Havok (?)
With just a few days before the Metal Underground-sponsored Motorbreath Entertainment SXSW Showcase, we bring our readers a conversation with the event’s headliner, Havok. The Denver-based group possesses an unbridled energy rarely matched in the live arena. Although these alpine metallers play a style most educated listeners would categorize as thrash, the group has a crossover appeal. The group has supported many acts including Exhumed, Malevolent Creation, English Dogs, White Wizzard, Forbidden and many others. Havok’s riff-heavy style and vigorous stage energy has added legions of hair-flinging, air-punching fans, regardless of style.
Havok is currently working on a new EP entitled “Point of No Return.” The short recording will feature two new Havok tracks, as well as a cover of the Sepultura classic “Arise” and a Slayer Medley. Metal Underground caught singer/guitarist David Sanchez at home before the group embarks upon another tour (they leave today). A lively Sanchez expressed only positive sentiments about past and future tours (bar their canceled European tour). He also showed excitement about playing another year of SXSW and filled in details concerning the group’s new recording.
Darren Cowan (Rex_84): How do you feel about the Motorbreath Showcase at SXSW?
David Sanchez: It’s going to be awesome! I can’t wait! It has a great lineup. As far as I know, it’s nearly sold out, already. It’s going to be really fun.
Cowan: This is the only show catering to thrash.
Sanchez: No kidding, man. That’s why I think it’s going to be such a good show. It’s going to be one of the best metal shows of the whole festival. You’ve got Witchaven, Speedwolf, Spellcaster—it’s gonna rule! We’re looking forward to it. It’s going to be a good night.
Cowan: We interviewed Spellcaster and Speedwolf. We talked to Reed of Speedwolf.
Sanchez: I just saw Reed last night when I went to Speedwolf’s tour kick-off show. Reed’s old band was called DDC. When their guitar player quit, they asked me to fill in and join the band. I think this was about five days before the tour started, and they asked me to fill in and learn fourteen songs. I was like, “Uh…ok” [laughs]. The first tour I ever did was with DDC with Reed.
Cowan: How did you do learning those songs in such a short amount of time?
Sanchez: It went really, really good. The hardest part was remembering the song titles [laughs]. I remember the first day that I came in there after learning the songs and jammed with them. After a couple of songs, they said my parts sounded way better than they used to sound [laughs]. Not to toot my own horn, but I think I’m a pretty tight rhythm player. All that stuff was mostly just riffs. It was really fun. I had a good time playing in that band.
Cowan: Is touring your job? I ask because I see Havok constantly on tour. Next to Abigail Williams, you’ve become Candlelight Records’ go-to band for U.S. tours.
Sanchez: [Laughs and takes a short pause to consider the question.] Yes, it’s becoming a full-time job, that’s for sure. I think we’ll definitely be gone more than we’re at home this year. It’s starting to get that way. When we’re not touring, I do front of house work, audio, monitors and recording. I mix bands at shows. I’m the sound guy. I’m your best friend or your worst enemy, depending on if you’re a dick head. In that case, I’ll still make bands sound good out front. One big rule if you ever play in a band: Don’t piss off the sound guy because your monitors are going to be terrible.
Cowan: Havok just finished touring with English Dogs, Toxic Holocaust and The Casualties. That tour is a mix bag. You have punk (English Dogs, The Casualties) and you have thrash with Toxic Holocaust and your band. What was that tour like?
Sanchez: That tour was so awesome! It was such a good mix with the crowd. Like you said, there was punk and thrash. Everyone got really wild. Every night had a good vibe—everyone had a lot of energy. It worked out really well for all of the bands because they had fans watching them that probably wouldn’t have come out to their show, otherwise.
Cowan: Havok has toured with all kinds of bands—thrash, death, punk, etc. Do you feel Havok has a sound and on-stage presentation that fits with any lineup of metal bands?
Sanchez: I do believe so. I think that anybody that is into riffs and into aggressive music will like us because that’s all we have—aggressive, riff-heavy music. It’s musical. We try to make it so it doesn’t sound boring. We get people coming up to us all the time after shows that say they don’t even like metal but they like us. When we hear shit like that, it’s really cool and it lets us know that we are doing something right.
Cowan: You go out on tour with Sepultura, soon.
Sanchez: Yes, Sepultura, Death Angel, Krisiun and us. I can’t wait! It’s going to be so awesome!
Cowan: Is Sepultura one or your heroes?
Sanchez: Fuck yeah, dude! Sepultura is one of our favorite bands for all of us in the band.
Cowan: Are you going to play your cover of “Arise” at those shows?
Sanchez: Hell no! There is no way we would ever do that! I’ll make it a point that we won’t ever do that. We won’t ever cover a headlining band that we share a stage with. That’s off limits.
Cowan: You will, however, be releasing that Sepultura cover on your forthcoming EP “Point of No Return.”
Sanchez: Yes sir, we’ve got all the parts. We’re just waiting for the mix to be done. I need to finish vocals on one of the new Havok songs. Other than that, the whole thing is ready to rock.
Cowan: Are you doing a Slayer Medley?
Sanchez: Yes. When we were doing the “Time Is Up” sessions, we covered “Post Mortem” and “Raining Blood.” They never made it on to a physical release. They were only on the i-Tunes download. We’re going to make that available as a physical release on this EP. That will be a little bonus thing.
Cowan: Will you be doing your Tom Araya-type eagle screams?
Sanchez: Yes, I can definitely do some of those. There are a few of them in “Post Mortem” and “Raining Blood.” Besides that, there are some really gnarly, high vocals on our new stuff. It’s going to be awesome!
Cowan: What kind of training do you undertake to keep your voice in shape?
Sanchez: The only thing I do to warm up before a show is go into a bathroom and yell for a little bit. And then I’ll do the air raids/siren kind of thing where I start low and gradually go higher, higher and higher until I’m in full falsetto, as high as I can go. If I do a few of those before a show, my voice is pretty warmed up. That’s all I do. I’m not like a Bruce Dickenson or anything. I just yell [laughs].
Cowan: Do you have any issues after a long tour with your voice becoming horse?
Sanchez: No, not at all. I used to, but I’ve been doing this for eight years. I figured out how to make it sound gnarly without blowing it out.
Cowan: Have you taken vocal lessons?
Sanchez: I’ve only take two vocals lessons my whole life, and realized it was going to help me sound the way that I wanted to sound, so I abandoned that. That’s not to say that I’m opposed to doing vocal lessons again. I’d like to be a better singer, but now is not the time. I have too much other shit going on.
Cowan: Can we expect future Havok songs, slow songs, to have a cleaner vocal approach?
Sanchez: Not necessarily cleaner, just better control over my voice. I don’t think we’re going to make a “Nothing Else Matters”-sort of song.
Cowan: (After a lengthy BS session about legendary thrash singers, I mention Havok is one of the bands carrying thrash metal’s legacy.) Havok is carrying the torch.
Sanchez: Somebody has to. I say it all the time: Ten years from now when Exodus, Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax, Overkill and Testament throw in the towel, who are you gonna go see? That’s the proposition I like giving people. The 80s happened thirty years ago. We definitely have been influenced by 80s stuff, but I don’t think we sound like a rehashed, old-school band. I think we bring something unique to the table. I don’t think Havok sounds like any band. Nobody can tell me we sound just like this or just like this. I’d like to think that we’re fairly eclectic in our approach to song and riff writing.
Cowan: What is Havok doing after its SXSW appearance?
At the end of this month, we fly to Puerto Rico. I can’t wait! We’re playing just one show. It should be pretty sick.
Cowan: Will this be your first time in Puerto Rico?
Yep. It’s just us headlining. There is a promoter that wanted to bring us out there. If there is a guy who wants to bring us out there, then there must be some sort of a demand for it. We’re expecting it to be an awesome show. I know on Facebook, over 150 people already said they are going. That’s just Facebook. Puerto Rico is such a small place that anyone who like metal or my band will probably show up. That’s what we do at the end of the month, and then about a week after that we leave for the Sepultura tour. Right after that, we go to Europe with Goatwhore, 3 Inches of Blood and Angelus Apatrida.
Cowan: Havok was forced to cancel a different European tour. Why did you have to cancel these dates?
Sanchez: The funds got fucked up for that. We had to cancel because we didn’t have any money. Our label told us they would buy our plane tickets, and then two weeks before the tour was going to happen, they told us they wouldn’t buy our plane tickets, so they kind of fucked us in the ass on that one. It’s ok, though. I would rather go to Europe in May than December.
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