A while back we caught up with metal drumming legend Richard Christy to discus his band CHARRED WALLS OF THE DAMNED, his lengthy career in metal and of course to reminisce about his time with CHUCK SCHULDINER and DEATH. Richard was really down to earth, gracious and humble. He deflected most credit or praise about himself and instead talked up his peers and band mates. Since CWOTD is playing The ORION Music And More Festival this weekend and the Death To All Tour also kicks off today, we thought it was a good time to share this lengthy chat.
MAA: At what point of making the first record did you know you would do a follow up?
RC: As soon as we were mixing the first album I started writing music for the next one. I always knew we were gonna do several albums. This was something I came into this as a long term project. I didn’t wanna do just 1 album and that be it. It’s something I believe in and I love jamming with Tim, Steve & Jason. Its really something I looked at as a long term thing and also Metal Blade was really excited about us doing several albums with them so as soon as we finished mixing the first one, cause I was so inspired by the process of the first album with how well it turned out, so I jumped right into it. I knew by writing that early into the process while mixing the first album, I knew I’d have plenty of time to write something better and more epic then the first album.
MAA: Did you set out to write a more musically challenging second record??
RC: Well I definitely knew I wanted it to be longer, cause that was one of the only complaints I heard about it the first album. They loved it but it was very short, they were bummed out there wasn’t more music. Which is a good thing! It kind of left them wanting more. But this time I wanted people to have plenty of music where they couldn’t say ‘oh, it finished before I was ready for it to’ so I wanted to make sure it was a much longer album, but at the same time make sure the songs were really good. We weren’t putting in music just for the sake of it being a longer album. I wanted to make sure that we did it right and luckily, because of me writing the music while mixing the first album as I did, we had plenty of time and everything flowed really well.
MAA: What is the difference between Jason Suecof the producer versus Jason Suecof the band mate?
RC: He was the first person I called to be in this band. I’ve know him since ’99 and we’ve been jamming together ever since we met. Actually we’ve been writing music together right around that time he was building his studio as well. I know how amazing of a musician he is in addition to being an amazing producer and I was excited that now here’s a band that he can play guitar AND produce! People get to hear what a shredder he is and he has got such an amazing ear for music I really excited he’s a well known producer now. I always knew there was something special about him his a really talented guy. He’s a massive part of the sound of this band.
MAA: Are their any modern metal drummers you appreciate and follow?
RC: Absolutely!The drummer for JOB FOR A COWBOY (Jon Rice) is incredible! The drummer for THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER (Shannon Lucas) is amazing! There’s so many great drummers these days and it’s amazing that drummers are still pushing the boundaries of what drumming can do. George Kollias from NILE is one of my all-time favorite drummers and when you watch him, it doesn’t even seem humanly possible some of the stuff he’s playing. I remember meeting him when he was a young kid when DEATH played Greece and now he’s an incredible drummer. It’s inspiring to see how far he has come and there’s also a lot of drummers I admired growing up that are still incredible like Dave Lombardo & Charlie Benante. I saw The Big 4 show at Yankee Stadium and they were just amazing! There are so many great drummers still doing it. Mikkey Dee is still amazing in MOTORHEAD and a lot of the drummers at the Drummers’ Collective where I rehearse. I’ll walk by a room and hear a drummer shredding and I almost wanna go in and ask them who they are and what they do, but I don’t wanna interrupt them. (laughs) It’s really cool to see younger drummers being influenced by people like Pete Sandoval (MORBID ANGEL) and people who also influenced me.
MAA: I was at The Big Four too. I think Charlie Benante just keeps getting better!
RC: Dave Lombardo too! He did the “Angel of Death” drum solo and added this really cool snare thing that blew me away! It’s 10 or 15 seconds longer than on the album. He did this thing with the kick and the snare (imitates the sound of a complicated drum fill) that blew me away. It’s cool and inspiring that no matter how long you’ve been at it, you can still improve and get better. So watching guys like him and Charlie Benante, that inspires me.
MAA: You did limited touring on the first album. Any chance we will see the band hit the road more to support the new album?
RC: Yeah, were in talks to do some shows this year and hopefully we can make everyone’s schedule work! It is tough and I totally understand that. That was one of the things I took into account when I formed this band. I didn’t want one or two members of the band waiting around for everyone else to do something. I choose guys that have jobs and are as busy as I am. So we totally understand that if someone has some kind of scheduling thing where they do a show or tour. Hopefully we’ll have some announcements very soon. Were talking about doing some festivals in the US and Europe and hopefully some in South America and Japan (Editor’s note: this interview took place before ORION Music Fest was announced). I’d be totally psyched if we could do a ton of shows!
MAA: What do you think of the DEATH reissues?
RC: I love them! The Human one is incredible! There’s a lot of stuff that Sean (Reinert) does on the remix that you couldn’t hear in the original mix. A lot of tom stuff that comes out, like in the chorus of “Flattening of Emotions”. I love that they’re (Relapse) re-issuing these albums, it just sounds amazing, especially the bass! I was glad they turned the bass up on Human! The bass is incredible on that album, but you can hardly hear it on the original mix. It’s cool that Jim Morris has went back and remixed those albums. They sounded incredible back then but now you can hear so much more of it, there’s way more textures in it.
Richard played on TSOP album and two live albums with DEATH.
MAA: Who is a better boss Chuck or HOWARD STERN?
RC: Oh, they’re both awesome bosses. Its an honor it be involved with two of my idols and you know, I can never really compare them. I mean Howard I’ve been a fan of since 1993 and Chuck I’ve been a fan of since 1990 when I first heard Spiritual Healing. I’m very fortunate to be involved in both and it’s two totally different spectrums. One is music and one is entertainment and so I’m very lucky that I’ve had both as bosses. I’d never be able to choose, I love them both. They’ve given me so many great opportunities and I’m very thankful.
MAA: Do you ever think about your legacy in the history of metal?
RC: I’m very honored to be have played in the bands I’ve played in and to have toured the world with like DEATH, ICED EARTH, DEMONS & WIZARDS and INCANTATION. I’m very lucky when I was in my 20′s I got to travel the world and see a lot of stuff and have fun and play a lot of big shows. It’s amazing when I think back, but at the same time I wanna keep looking forward and not settle on things I’ve done. I look at people like PAUL MCCARTNEY, who puts out new albums. He’s a guy who’s pretty much the most influential person in music ever, him and JOHN LENNON and he’s still writing music and putting out albums. He still loves it and he has the passion for it and he doesn’t settle on what he’s done. That’s kinda of how I look at it. I’m thankful for what I’ve done, but now I wanna keep doing more. With CHARRED WALLS OF THE DAMNED, I’m lucky enough to be able to write the music and the lyrics and before I definitely had a say in what I was doing in the bands I was in before. For this band I’m able to even write the riffs and things like that. It’s a totally new thing for me and I’m really excited by it. I’m honored by all the bands I’ve ever played with. Everyone always asks me what my favorite drumming performance of mine is and its definitely The Sound of Perseverance by DEATH. I was practicing five hours a day when we recorded that album and I was at the top of my game. I don’t know that I’ll ever be that good again. So I look at the album, when somebody asks me what is my proudest moment in drumming and it is definitely that album.
Chuck was Richard’s best friend, a legend and a great cook!
MAA: Do you have any good Chuck stories to pass along?
RC: He was such an incredible person, he was my best friend. He had such a great sense of humor and people always want to hear a funny Chuck story. There’s so many stories I have of Chuck its hard to choose a favorite. I just love the stories of us just writing music and practicing at our rehearsal space in Orlando. There was this guy named Dave who owned the place, he was a big furry, harry guy. He would walk around in a robe with nothing under it and Chuck & I would just laugh every time we would see this guy. He lived at the rehearsal space where we rented. We’d go down and pay our rent and he’d be in this hot tub. (laughs) We’d go to Chuck’s after practice and Chuck was an amazing cook, and he also made homemade beer. He made some of the best beer that I’ve ever tasted. I have so many good memories of us doing that and watching Saturday Night Live, then listening to some vinyl albums. He had such a huge collection. We’d listen to amazing stuff like RIOT, IRON MAIDEN and WATCHTOWER. He was just a fun guy, he had an awesome sense of humor. He loved his family very much. I still stay in touch with his family. There’s just too many memories to whittle it down to one. He really was just the most talented musician I’ve ever met, he was my best friend and I miss him every day.
MAA: Thanks for sharing that!
RC: You’re welcome. He was really humble too. He was a metal fan as much as anything else. I remember us getting to meet KING DIAMOND in St. Petersberg, Florida years ago. We were such huge KING DIAMOND fans. Chuck had never met or seen KING DIAMOND before. I hadn’t met him either, although I saw MERCIFUL FATE live before. And Chuck knew Andy LaRocque, so he was gonna introduce us right before the show. I have an awesome picture of Me, Chuck, Andy and KING DIAMOND. I remember that night, it was so cool. Chuck was just as nervous as me to meet him. It was like two legends meeting for the first time and for me to be a part of it, it was amazing. There was another time we were going to play Italy for the first time. When Chuck walked off the bus there were like 200 kids waiting for DEATH to arrive. It was like THE BEATLES had showed up. Chuck thought it was really neat! Then we walked a couple of blocks to eat, these kids followed us and chanted Chucks name the whole way in the street. Then all these kids pressed their faces against the window of the restaurant. Chuck got a real kick out of that! He was a metal fan as much as he was a metal legend.
MAA: Thanks for being cool and thanks for your time!
RC: I’m just like every body else, I’m just a metal fan. I’m no different then anybody else, everybody is equal as far as I’m concerned.
Richard is rumored to be appearing at the New York date of the “Death To All” Tour on 6/28.
(Thanks to Richard Christy and Metal Blade Records.)
by Keith (Keefy) Chachkes