Gene Hoglan says that Chuck Schuldiner was always uncomfortable with being referred to as "the Godfather of death metal," preferring instead to give credit to the bands that inspired him during DEATH's formative years.
Although DEATH is considered to be one of the most important and influential death metal acts of all time, the Florida-based band did not release its debut album, "Scream Bloody Gore", until 1987 — two years after the arrival of "Seven Churches" by POSSESSED, whose bassist/vocalist, Jeff Becerra, is credited by some with initially creating the term "death metal" in 1983.
Hoglan, who recorded two albums with DEATH — 1993's "Individual Thought Patterns" and 1995's "Symbolic" — spoke about Schuldiner's impact on the death metal genre during a brand new interview with Antihero Magazine.
"Chuck was always uncomfortable with the 'godfather of death metal' tag that he had; he was always trying to give the credit to his predecessors," the drummer said. "Chuck didn't feel he deserved [that tag], and I don't [either], because death metal… Look, let me tell you: death metal was dead in '85. It came around in '84, and by '85, it had already parodied itself to death — no pun intended. So Chuck, actually, was part of the resurrection of death metal — in the scene, anyway. So for many people, 'Scream Bloody Gore' is kind of their first death metal album. Maybe they weren't familiar with POSSESSED's 'Seven Churches'.
"SLAYER created death metal, to me," Gene continued. "I think everybody's vocals were trying to do Tom [Araya], and Tom was trying to do Cronos [VENOM]. So it goes back to VENOM. It goes back to Lemmy [MOTÖRHEAD]. But for most people — Chuck was uncomfortable with the title — but for a lot of people, Chuck and DEATH created death metal, savage, brutal death metal, with horrible lyrics, ugly concepts and all that stuff. Then, a few years later, even though they weren't the first to do it, they kind of helped put this style on the map of technical death metal. And I give them credit for that. Two scenes started. Then the melodic death metal thing just kind of occurred; there wasn't any sort of [conscious effort made to start a new scene].
"It's one thing if your band's popular and you're out there doing your stuff," Gene added. "DEATH, fuck, they created three styles of music that are still very viable today — more so than ever, really. So I hand DEATH that credit — absolutely."
Asked what Chuck was like to work with, Gene said: "Musically, working with him was just an absolute piece of cake, 'cause we always got on on that side. Chuck was a complex guy — he'd have his good days, he'd have his bad days. He'd get himself worked up on things that, to the average next person, might be, like, 'I don't think that would even be on my radar.' But that's part of how Chuck's complexity worked. But he was a super-cool guy. He was a pretty gentle soul. But I know he was tormented at the fact that… He really had a problem with the record industry; he really felt like the record industry was out to get him. You get screwed around enough in certain deals and contracts and how things go and people that you've surrounded yourself with sometimes stabbing you in the back, I can see where that could bitter up a person pretty well. And I've always tried to stay out of the bitter side of things. It's, like, 'Hey, that didn't work out for me, but I'm not gonna get bitter and jaded about it. I'm just gonna try to carry on and take something up to the next level of positivity or whatever.' But I could see Chuck getting down with the record industry. And that's why he broke up DEATH towards the end of the 'Symbolic' tour run. Some things happened between him and Roadrunner that he had warned them going into it, like, 'As long as you don't do this, this, this and this, we're gonna have a pretty decent relationship.' And they went out and did this and this, and Chuck was, like, 'I can't abide by that, so I'd rather throw a Molotov cocktail on my own career, I'd rather carpet-bomb my own band and break us up rather than to bow to your wishes, record label.' And I give him props for that. It took a major set of balls to say, 'I'd rather fall on my sword than give it to you.' And so DEATH broke up until they put out 'The Sound Of Perseverance' record three years later. There was no DEATH."
Schuldiner died in December 2001 at the age of 34 due to complications with cancer.
Becerra told Antihero last year that Schuldiner cited POSSESSED as a "primary influence" in "countless" magazine interviews. But even though DEATH was inspired by POSSESSED, "they ran with it and went in their own direction and created their own vibe," Jeff said. "To go a step further: Chuck used ['80s death/thrash producer] Randy Burns, who did 'Seven Churches' to do 'Scream Bloody Gore', his first album. He also did a cover of [POSSESSED's] 'The Exorcist'."