When you think of thrash, the Big Four immediately come to mind: Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax. The genre is old school and one that heavy metal purists eat, sleep, and breath, which is why it may also be one of the most difficult scenes to stand out in as a new artist.
They aren’t trying to break the thrash metal mold, but Havok is certainly helping lead the charge for up-and-coming bands in the genre. Their standout guitars and impressive musicality are punctuated by the angst of vocalist David Sanchez’ lyrics. Havok adopts the genre’s classic style, but their progressive twist is why this Denver-based band has a growing international fan base and is holding their own on tour with veterans like Soulfly.
We caught up with Sanchez to talk about Havok’s rise in the genre and what the band has to look forward to in the coming months, including a first-ever run in Asia.
Havok joins Soulfly at the Viper Room tonight, November 7th, in West Hollywood, and tickets are still available.
Let’s talk about this album. I see you guys went really political with the tone of this one — is there a reason you wanted to go in that direction lyrically?
David: I didn’t write political lyrics just for the sake of being political. I wrote them because there’s good reason to be angry about a lot of things going on in the world right now. There are ample reasons for everyone to be upset, and I’m one of them.
Does the whole band share the same beliefs or do you guys ever battle each other over politics?
No, I think we’re pretty much all on the same page.
Do you publicly identify as either Democrat or Republican, or do you leave all of that pretty open?
Umm, I identify myself as a Free Thinker. I don’t think either of those two parties have their stuff together.
Has the reaction from fans been generally positive or have you had anyone actually engage you or confront you about your lyrics?
It’s been all pretty positive. I’ve actually had people come up to me and thank me for saying some of the things that I do in our songs. It’s cool.
I saw you have some overseas tour dates coming up with runs in Asia and Europe. How often have you toured outside the US?
We’ve been to Europe twice before, so this will be our third time going in a few weeks here. Then we’re going to Asia for the very first time in January.
Nice! Tell me your thoughts on this first trip…
Oh, I can’t wait! It’s going to be amazing. I can’t wait to eat food over there. Basically the plan for the whole next year is intercontinental domination.
How is your following overseas? Where do you have your biggest pockets of fans right now?
It’s hard to say; we do well in a lot of places. We do well in South America. Apparently there are enough fans in Asia for us to go over there, so we’ll see how that goes.
I know that when it comes to thrash, or really anything heavy, overseas fans go insane. Do you see a difference when you go to South America or Europe in regards to how into the genre they are?
I get that question a lot, about the difference between audiences in Europe and audiences here, and honestly, a good show here is just the same as a good show over there. Really, I think people in America go even crazier. There are definitely more circle pits here than there are in Europe. But I will say, we went down to South America back in June to play a festival in Bogota, Colombia in front of 40,000 people, and it was the most insane thing I’ve ever done in my life.
Do you guys get recognized a lot overseas?
Yeah. Actually in Colombia we couldn’t leave our dressing room without being mobbed by people. It was unreal.
Seriously, how did that feel?
Like it wasn’t even real. It still hasn’t set in that I played in front of that many people.
Now, after all of that, how was it going back home to Denver last week to play in your hometown?
It was great. It’s nice to be back at home for a day.
How is the support from Denver, particularly from the heavy metal scene?
It’s great. We get a lot of love in Denver because we fly the Colorado flag high when we’re out on the road. The first thing I say every night is, “We’re Havok from Denver, Colorado.” We’re trying to put Denver on the map for heavy metal.
Is there anyone else coming up out of Denver in heavy metal that’s helping with that movement? I know Allegaeon (Metal Blade Records) is doing well.
If you had a wishlist for either bands you wanted to tour with, or anything you wanted to happen with Havok in the next year, what would be at the top?
In the next year….
I mean, besides touring in Asia, let’s put that away. Do you want to hit Mayhem Festival, bigger tours…
Yes. I would love to do Mayhem Festival, I would love to hit Wacken, or HellFest in France. And at some point I’d love the opportunity to tour with Metallica, Slayer, or Megadeth. Or Iron Maiden. I would shit my pants to go out with any of those bands.
I feel like thrash is such an old-school genre and that there aren’t many bands keeping thrash new and relevant. There are a few bands coming up…I mean, is that what you guys are trying to do at all?
Totally. And yeah, there are a few bands that come to mind. One of my favorite bands is called Psychosomatic. They’re from Sacramento, California. Hardly anyone knows about them — they’re amazing. There’s also a new band from Dallas called Power Trip, who are great. I’d say those are two of my favorite newer bands. And obviously I’m a huge fan of Skeletonwitch. Their new album is really great.
What are you guys doing differently than other bands in the genre? Are you taking a new approach to thrash or are you following the mold of Anthrax, Slayer, Megadeth — is it something you don’t want to mess with? Is thrash something that needs to be revived?
We’re just trying to revive thrash, really. We’re just trying to revive tight, fast heavy metal with sweet riffs and cool guitar solos, ya know? We sneak in a lot of other flavors into our music. For instance, we have a lot more slap bass than any other metal bands that I know. There’s also a heavy influence in our music from jazz and classic rock. Even classical music.
How’s the Soulfly tour been going?
Great! We only have a few dates left, but it’s really been great so far.
Have you had many chances to chat with Max Cavalera?
For the most part he kind of hangs out on the bus and isn’t around most of the time. But I sought him out a couple times and we chit-chatted for a bit.
Nice, did you learn anything from him on this run?
Ummm, I don’t know if I necessarily learned anything — besides how to be a cool band. [LAUGHS] I mean, he’s definitely an influence on our music.
Any final thoughts as you head into the end of this run and get ready to head overseas again?
Yeah. I just want to thank anyone who’s ever bought a CD or a shirt or come to a show. Or anyone who told their friends about us because without those people we would not exist.
Find Havok updates, tour dates, and information on where to snag the latest album, Unnatural Selection on their website.