Sit Down Series: Mark Heylmun of Suicide Silence

The Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival made a stop in Hartford recently and I was fortunate enough to land several interviews. The first of these was with Mark Heylmun, the guitarist for Suicide Silence. We spoke about Mayhem Fest, great guitarists, Motorhead, and more.

Alex Obert: When Suicide Silence was on the first Mayhem Fest in 2008, what were you speculating it was going to be like?

Mark Heylmun: We were a club band who had really only done one real official club tour where we weren’t playing on floors or in halls or backyards. We had only been really a part of the real industry for a short amount of time. We thought we were just gonna get kinda booed or laughed off the stage because it consisted of Slipknot fans, real festivalgoing metalheads. We just didn’t know if we were gonna get accepted. That shit got shooed away real quick because on the first day, we saw a kid wearing “I Heart Suicide Silence and Slipknot”, he made a shirt. Little did we know that people would accept us so much.

Alex Obert: Did you envision Mayhem Fest ending up as big as it has over the years?

Mark Heylmun: I don’t think I thought about it. When Mayhem happened the first time, we were just in the middle of it going, “This would be really cool if it was an annual thing. It could be the new Ozzfest.” But we weren’t tapped into that yet, we were so young and we were just learning. We were paying our dues and trying to figure out what we were and how we fit into this.

Alex Obert: Do you feel that it’s basically taken over Ozzfest, a festival that has become more and more sporadic?

Mark Heylmun: I feel it’s trumped Ozzfest. From the people that are on Mayhem that did Ozzfest, I think everybody holds this close to their heart. I think everybody really likes John Reese and Kevin Lyman, they run a good show. It’s just really enjoyable to be on this tour.

Alex Obert: You mention Kevin Lyman, with your thoughts and being a part of a band that has been on both Mayhem and Warped Tour?

Mark Heylmun: It’s really a part of our band’s essence. I think we like being a heavy band that isn’t a typical Warped Tour band and isn’t a typical Mayhem band, we can do both. I think we are definitely associated with Mayhem by a lot of people who went to the first Mayhem and saw us, but I also think that people saw us on Warped Tour and they wouldn’t have gone to Warped Tour unless we were on it. It feels really good and it’s part of our game plan, we wanna stay on that cusp.

Alex Obert: When you were a part of Mayhem in 2011, you shared a stage with Straight Line Stitch, what are your thoughts on them?

Mark Heylmun: I enjoyed watching them play because the frontwoman, Alexis Brown, she has the, “I don’t give a fuck!” when she’s on stage and that’s what you need as a metal vocalist. She would say like, “We need more clit in the pit!” and that made me as a man just go, “Woah, that’s fucking weird.” And then it made me think of how girls are in the crowd when the guys at just like, “You fuckin’ pussies, get the fuck in the pit!” It weighs itself out, it’s cool.

Alex Obert: The lineups have been very diverse over the years and two of the most notable, in my opinion, are Megadeth and Motorhead. What are your thoughts on them being a part of Mayhem Fest?

Mark Heylmun: The legacy, I mean Motorhead is fuckin’ Motorhead. I wish they were on this year. I love Motorhead. Megadeth is obviously not as old of the legacy band, but I think that’s what Mayhem is all about, getting those bands that have lasted the scene and set their own bar. Motorhead goes by their own rules and so does Megadeth. That’s where Mayhem has always capitalized, the bands that set their own rules. Look at the main stage on this one, it’s really the bands that are standing above on their own terms. Trivium is right there too, they’re setting themselves up to be a Megadeth of the future. Asking Alexandria, Korn, Avenged, all of them doing their own thing.

Alex Obert: One of your biggest influences and favorite bands is Pantera, how did you originally discover them?

Mark Heylmun: I think that Dimebag Darrell was probably already a household known guitar player. My dad’s a guitar player and I give it up to my dad for asking me if I knew who the player was. That’s how I know who Testament is cause he was like, “You gotta know Alex Skolnick! He’s the shit.” I think that I knew Cemetery Gates before I even knew Pantera was a band. I had just known it from growing up. Same with Vai and Malmsteen and all the big-name guitar players.

Alex Obert: What’s your favorite work of George Lynch?

Mark Heylmun: Mr. Scary, dude. Mr. Scary’s just the quintessential George Lynch ambient, just perfect note placement and choice. People give Lynch guff, I hear guitar players say he’s not all what he’s cracked up to be. But dude, that motherfucker invented some of the style that everybody just runs with. He doesn’t always get the credit that he deserves.

Alex Obert: On these tours such as Mayhem and Warped, what’s it like being a younger guy surrounded by a bunch of veterans of the music business? What do you take out of it?

Mark Heylmun: I just tried to do my own thing and just like I was saying about any of these other bands, I really like to not worry about if someone’s watching me or if anybody’s even interested. If somebody wants to be interested in what we’re doing, then that’s gonna happen naturally. We’ve just been lucky to have a lot of veterans approach us. We’ve gotten to know them and talk with them. It’s surreal, it’s hard to really describe what that’s like. It’s beyond words, it’s an affirmation. It’s like, “Wow, you’re doing something right cause you’re getting recognized by people who you grew up listening to.”

Alex Obert: What was the first concert you ever attended?

Mark Heylmun: I went to Ozzfest 2001. I had gone to local shows and seeing punk bands and local stuff that was around my area, but Ozzfest was my first real show. I got to see Sabbath and I got to see Hatebreed, all kinds of badass bands.

Alex Obert: With Suicide Silence, you performed Cease to Exist for the first time at Rock am Ring. What was that feeling like of performing a song live for the first time?

Mark Heylmun: That specific day when we played that song, it just gave us the feeling like, “Alright, that song is gonna be a good one to play live!” That was in front of tens of thousands of people and there were at least five mosh pits, circle pits, big circle pits. That was the first time we ever played it, it went off without a hitch. We basically realized that song was going to be a song that we’ll play for a long, long time.

Alex Obert: Which bands would you like to see become a part of Mayhem in the future?

Lamb of God, I would love to see them on it again. If we’re talking about real, real heavy stuff, I would love to see something different, something like Devourment. Or some really brutal death metal that’s like what we would say is in the elite side of metal. Mayhem isn’t really, it’s for everybody. Something that’s like anti-radio such as Defeated Sanity from Belgium or something like that, that would be cool. The people that come to the shows, they wanna see that real raw, raw aggressive shit. They just don’t even know about it.

Alex Obert: Do you find yourself people watching at Mayhem?

Mark Heylmun: Every day. I’m always just surprised at tattoos, man. I’ve seen a lot of weird tattoos, people with dicks riding rainbows and shit like that. Or pregnant girls smoking. Everything dude, you can imagine, everything.

Alex Obert: What have you taken out of Mayhem this year? What has it meant you being with all these bands?

Mark Heylmun: Well for me, man, it’s made me feel really good to be a part of what we’ve developed over the years. Suicide Silence has been through a lot, this really feels like a homecoming. We know a lot of people on this tour, behind-the-scenes, and we are seeing a lot of the fans that have been coming to our shows for years and years and years. They’re coming out again. It’s just really makin’ us feel like we built something good out of Suicide Silence. Hopefully we can continue doing this for a lot longer. We didn’t know how this whole comeback thing was gonna be. It’s just been received really well. Mayhem has treated us with love and open arms, it’s great.

Alex Obert: What are the plans for the band for the rest of the year after Mayhem?

Mark Heylmun: We’ve been on tour now for about two and a half months or something. We’re gonna take a little bit of time off. But in that time off, we’re gonna announce the rest of the year’s plans which involves US stuff and Canada stuff. We’re already going to Europe and UK for a headliner that we announced. There will be more announcements once we’re done with Mayhem. We’re gonna stay busy and we’re gonna try to get our asses everywhere we need to be. We wrote a record, we’re happy about it, and we wanna go play these songs live. So that’s what we’re doin’.

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