When I interviewed Suicide Silence vocalist, Eddie Hermida in October 2015 (read here), he had a strong statement for fans about the direction of the band’s new album:
We’re looking to burn bridges, man. We’re looking for kids to either sink or swim with us. If you’re at all hesitant about our band, if you don’t get our motives and if you don’t get our position in the world and you don’t get where our music comes from, then you’re gonna be one of those fans that gets left behind. It’s one of those things where this next future, this next road for us is gonna be something that is really gonna put us to the test for ourselves more than anybody else. It’s almost one of those things where it might even completely bomb, and we don’t care. It’s one of those things where we’re literally at a point that we’re not allowed to not take chances anymore. We’re not allowed to play the safe road anymore.
With the release of the new self-titled Suicide Silence record (Feb. 24, 2017, Nuclear Blast) (read review), Eddie and the band kept their word. Actually, two words: clean vocals. And that’s just the start. Yes, the new album is not safe at all. It all but abandons the band’s deathcore sound and has turned into one of the more controversial metal releases in recent memory. In fact, it’s facing St. Anger/Risk/Illud Divinum Insanus-levels of fan backlash. Acclaimed nu-metal producer Ross Robinson, who was integral in the beginning for bands like Korn, Fear Factory, Limp Bizkit and Slipknot in finding their signature styles, takes Suicide Silence and transforms it into a different band.
As Suicide Silence is about to hit the road supporting the new album, Eddie called into Live Metal’s Jeff Maki to discuss the stylistic changes of the band, fan reaction to the album and his recent online feud with Australian deathcore band Thy Art is Murder.
LIVE METAL: We actually did an interview back in 2015 when you guys were opening up for Korn at the Fillmore Silver Spring. In that interview, you had some pretty strong remarks on the band’s musical direction for the new album. You said you were “looking to burn bridges” and looking for kids to “sink or swim” with you. So far, do you think fans are sinking or swimming with you after the release of the album?
EDDIE HERMIDA: Well, I think they still have their swimming buddies on and they’re trying to float, but they’re not letting the music soak in from what I see. They’re trying their hardest to make other people feel the way they feel, which is not really doing a whole lot, to be real to you. It’s not breaking the band. We still are who we are. The fans that are open-minded are allowing the music to soak in, and the fans that are afraid of music are not giving it a chance yet. They will when they see it live. They will when they come to the show and realize the music is still heavy, it’s very cohesive, it fits well with the older music. That’s kind of the biggest thing.
The other part of my question was when you said you were looking to burn bridges, and for people and for yourselves to find out what the band was all about. Have you burned bridges with the release of this album, and have you, thus far, accomplished what you had set out to do?
Yeah, the biggest thing we’ve done was right before we started writing this record, our agent stopped wanting to work with us and we had to get a new agent. We got rid of our manager, and we got new management. We pretty much started weeding the people out who were not with this music—the people that believed we needed to stick to a certain criteria as musicians, people who were stuck worrying about money and not worried about anything else. That’s the shit that steered us away from them.
Well, before the album was released, you guys told the press that this was going to be a different kind of album. You said there were going to be clean vocals and that the musical direction was going to be different. But are you surprised that fans have still reacted to the album in shock and by the backlash that’s come even after saying this?
We made a record for ourselves and not for our fans, so it’s going to create turmoil. If I set out to change people’s opinions, then why would I be surprised when their opinions change? I knew 100 percent that even if I threw one clean vocal on the record that we would receive a backlash. Not only did I not throw just one clean vocal in, I threw in vocals that were completely off-putting—vocals that are meant to create discomfort in people because they’re uncomfortable vocal stylings. It’s not from a point of trying to sell records, it’s from a point of angst and just complete hysteria, depravity and despair that these vocals are coming from. So it’s not even a focus of clean vocals.
I’m not doing things to sell records, I’m doing things to create music and an art form. If I was worried about selling records, then I wouldn’t have created this record. I would’ve autotuned my vocals, and I would have created something that is more pleasant of an experience. I would have created more of a safety net for all of these fans to fall into. The point is that I didn’t want to create something comfortable. I wanted to create something punk rock. I wanted to create something heavy metal.
I’ve heard the record a few times through, and I do like a lot of it. It does kind of remind me of a couple other albums that Ross (Robinson) has produced, like (Sepultura’s) Roots and (Machine Head’s) The Burning Red—maybe not necessarily in style, but in the vibe, organic sound and spontaneity. Do you think the comparisons to those albums are accurate, and was this something you guys were going for?
Were we going for it? No. We were going for what we wanted to do. The identification of music through pigeonholing it with other styles from other bands is a very common thing. You go, “Oh, this sounds like Korn, this sounds like Slipknot, and this sounds like that.” And to me, it’s kind of an obvious and easy way to make yourself understand what was going on. However, it’s inaccurate in a sense that it’s too obvious. There isn’t anything obvious about this music, and there isn’t anything obvious about the record. The only obvious parts are the fact that we’re on the cover, the fact that it’s called Suicide Silence and the fact that’s it’s completely different from anything you’ve ever heard from a band in the deathcore genre ever.
The stylings and the things that you’re mentioning are obvious to me because it’s Ross Robinson. Things are going to sound similar because it’s Ross Robinson, just like when Korn writes a record, you know it’s obviously Korn. The one thing people are having a hard time seeing is how obvious of a Suicide Silence this record is, and that’s because people have this diagram and this formula of what they think Suicide Silence is. And they don’t realize that all of the hints that were in all the other records are very much brought to life on this record. We’ve always had like really ethereal, no-timed-out parts in the middle of our songs. We’ve always had very open choruses that instead of someone singing over it, someone is screaming over it. Songs like “Ouroboros” and “Sacred Words,” songs like “Witness the Addiction,” “Disengage,” “Wake Up” … All those songs have little hints as to what this record is. They’re just really out in the open now. The band has always been a big fan of Korn, of Machine Head, Slipknot, At the Drive-In, Glassjaw—a lot of Ross Robinson’s work. That’s why we were driven to work with him.
That’s where people are trying their hardest to identify our music with that stuff, but to me, it’s not what we were intending. What we were intending was just to create new music, to create something different, and to go out of our box and show people that we have more up our sleeve than breakdowns and blastbeats.
After screaming for most of your career, just how hard was it to sing for this album?
I’ve been singing my whole life. I was in musicals as a kid into my teenage years. Every band that I’ve been in except All Shall Perish and Suicide Silence were singing and screaming bands. Even on All Shall Perish, I sang on a majority of our records. I wouldn’t call it as much singing as I did on this one, but really the only record that I’ve done without any clean vocals in it is You Can’t Stop Me. So for me, it’s kind of like it was more than obvious that this kind of change was coming.
When I was doing this record, the one thing I steered clear from was safety and comfort. I wanted the vocals to sound really raw, to sound crazy and despairing. It’s complete unabashed vulnerability in the vocals, and that was something that was really hard to deal with. Getting to that point was easy for me because I’m a very passionate person. Cutting down to who I am is what Ross did. He was able to draw out some really painful memories out of me and was able to get down to the nerve of who I am. And once I was there, it was easy for me to do these vocals. But getting back to normal and feeling OK again was the hardest part, because I was so vulnerable and so cut open that the wounds took time to heal. It was really hard not trying to be completely changed after sessions with Ross. I think that that was the hardest part, not the singing, but just the emotional state I was in that really made things difficult.
Well, every song is very personal, very emotional. Every song is like a glimpse into my diary. You can’t record with Ross Robinson without cutting down to the bone. I’ll give you the general overtone, and the tone is, “How do you take every situation in life and instead of greeting it with resistance, how do you except everything as it is? How do you grow from the negative? How do you experience safety in failure? How do you experience an OK feeling when everything seems to be crumbling?”—which is something I feel a lot of people go through. When they start feeling bad about something, they just allow themselves further into the rabbit hole and continue feeling bad instead of trying to work things through. They need somebody to help them out. I guess this record is to show people that if you’re quiet and you shut off all the distractions and you look at things through the glass of everyone around you being an image of yourself, and you do your best to try and see the lessons in everything that there is, you can come out on the other side as a stronger person.
So this album was as much of a self-help for you as it was you trying to convey this theme to your fans?
Yeah. Music, in general, I feel has lost that intention. I feel like a lot of musicians nowadays are just trying to write cool stories and make something that’s really tongue in cheek so that people can latch on and buy and buy and buy. And I feel like that’s what we steered clear from. We wanted to make music the way music used to be made, which is to serve the musician. You lead by example, and that was something I took to heart on this record. I wanted to show people that if I can sift through the demons and welcome them and hug them and not let them drown me, then I can show people that coming out the other side I’m a stronger person.
I am available for all the haters. You can drop it all on me and it’s not going to affect me.
So you seemed to have started an online feud with Thy Art is Murder with your recent comments. But what happened is that you really gave them a big push just at the time when their singer (C.J. McMahon) had come back to the band, and they took it and ran with it. So will you be more careful in the future when naming or singling out other bands in the press?
Am I being more careful now? No, fuck no. Thy Art is Murder absolutely saw an opportunity and ran with it, and honestly, they did the silliest thing you could ever do in mimicking somebody like Trump and say that they are not selling out. They are literally going, “Hey, we’re not sell-outs, but please buy this hat. You need to buy this hat.” It’s completely backwards thinking. They’re looking for their fans to feed into the chaos. They’re looking for the attention, and that’s fine. It goes exactly with what I said—we don’t need that kind of attention anymore. I praise them for jumping on an opportunity just like they should. When you’re desperate for making money, you’re going to serve the fans, you’re going to create the same music so that they can feel safe in their sound, and you’re going to try your hardest to maintain in that world. I know from experience. I know from being in a band that was desperate to serve the fans, creating music that served us and the fans at the same time. All Shall Perish was a band that did that 100 percent. Especially with members leaving and all that, we always worried about what other bands were doing and how to be better than that. In that process, you forget who you are.
It’s really funny that it’s become such a thing, but the reality is that I didn’t say anything that was that hurtful towards that band. They saw an opportunity, and they ran with it. If anything, they’re hurting themselves by continuing that mentality and continuing that really tongue-in-cheek way of doing things. It’s not showing anybody any kind of strength. It’s not showing any kind of value. It’s just going, “Oh, I see this opportunity where my band’s name is in the media. Let’s sell some stuff.[Referring to Thy Art Is Murder vocalist C.J. McMahon] You, know, nothing else is selling, so I quit the band to begin with. There’s no money in it, so let me write this long-ass fuckin’ expose (see that here) about how band members don’t make any money, then later come right back and basically say I’m not a sellout.” And at the end of the day, that is a sell-out. A person who is looking for money and a person who talks about money and focuses on money when they’re making music is a complete sell-out. I would say that straight to his face, and I would say that to any band member in this genre that isn’t challenging anybody. Anybody that’s going out there for the sake of making money and for the sake of being in a huge band for selling albums are out of their minds. They’re completely backwards.
When we started making music as 15- and 16-year-old kids, you don’t have dreams and aspirations of being a money-making person. When (former vocalist) Mitch (Lucker) created his band, all he wanted was to be is the best band in the world. He didn’t give a fuck about Lamborghinis or houses or anything. When the band started making money, it was because he realized in order to make money in this world, you have to work your ass off. You have to break yourself emotionally and physically in order to get paid the little amount that we do get paid. That’s all any musician who is a musician wants. They want comfort, and they just want to live. I don’t think that is selling out at all, I think that’s being a musician. It’s having some sort of value for your art and giving it for the value that it is. Everything else is literally just a copy of that, and if you want to run with it, you can. But personally, I didn’t write this record to sell a bunch of records. If it does, sweet. If it doesn’t, sweet, I still got to do what I wanted to do.
If people want to turn something into an opportunity because I mentioned their band’s name, so be it. That’s not why I mentioned it. I mentioned it to show people why we’re doing what we’re doing. We didn’t want to create the same record that Suicide Silence would have written if we had written a record to make money. If we would’ve written that record, we wouldn’t even be talked about. I could have mentioned fucking Pantera, and it would have fallen on deaf ears. That fact is we did something huge, and now I can say something like “Thy Art is Murder” and it gets talked about a month later. When you make waves, people want to try to surf.