The last time Westword chatted with Havok frontman David Sanchez, the local metal titans were reeling after being unceremoniously ejected from a tour with Megadeth, after they rejected a management contract with Dave Mustaine’s son Justis.
At the time, Sanchez said, “They wanted to get us on paper and lock us down for a written contract, which is pretty rare for bands of our size. But anyway, they offered us a management contract, and the terms were completely unacceptable to us, so we went to a lawyer after we returned from Europe and began negotiating terms that we would be happy with. While we were in negotiations for those terms, we were kicked off the Megadeth tour because we were told we were taking too long. So basically, it went from a negotiation to being kicked off a tour.”
The Mustaines, both Dave and Justis, had their say, too. Fast-forward six months, and the whole thing has blown over. Sanchez says that the contract was never signed, they remained off the Megadeth tour, and that was that.
For Havok, life went on as it has since the band formed, in 2004. The members have continued to write and release new material, and the current national tour with hardcore-thrash crossover veterans Suicidal Tendencies proves that big bands with a big history still want to take Havok out on the road. In fact, Suicidal Tendencies was also part of that infamous tour with Megadeth.
“The Suicidal guys are all way cool,” Sanchez says. “We’ve toured with them before, and it’s great. They’re all really cool guys, and they draw a good crowd. People that like Suicidal normally like Havok, so it works. [Former Slayer/current Suicidal drummer] Dave Lombardo is super-cool. One of the best conversations I had with him was talking about his old band Grip Inc, the band that he started post-Slayer. I’m a really big fan of that band, and I think a lot of people don’t normally know who they are. It’s cool getting to talk to the band that started that band about some shit that a lot of people don’t probably talk to him about.”
So there you go. The Megadeth episode didn’t hurt Havok at all. If anything, it energized our friendly neighborhood metalheads. The band is, after all, thirteen years old this year. While staying true to its thrash-metal roots, some evolution has naturally occurred.
“Our musical tastes have become more eclectic, and we’re way more experienced as far as touring and how the business works,” says Sanchez. “As far as the early material goes, I think for the time it was cool, but there’s definitely a lot more maturity in our sound and presentation nowadays.”
Jump onto Havok’s Wikipedia page and scan the number of musicians that have passed through the ranks, and it looks like they have a revolving-door policy — but in fact, for the most part the changes happened early on. For the best part of seven years, the lineup has remained stable, something that’s important to the singer and guitarist.
“We’ve had the same drummer (Pete Webber) and lead guitar player (Reece Scruggs) for about seven years, and our bass player (Nick Schendzielos) entered a year and a half ago, so it’s been mostly the same lineup for most of a decade.”
Havok is viewed as one of the bands at the forefront of the Denver metal scene, with only deathgrind band Cephalic Carnage, which formed in 1992, having an arguably more impressive pedigree. The band spends more time on the road than at home nowadays, but Sanchez says he’s happy if he’s helping to put a Denver pin on the metal map.
“It’s the first and last thing I say on stage every day,” he says. “A lot of people are associating us with Colorado, which is awesome, because I’m from there and I think we have a really cool scene. I’m more than happy to fly the flag high. Not a lot of bands make it out of there. There was a band back in the day called Brainhammer that I really loved. They didn’t really tour or get out so much. A bunch of the guys moved to different cities and stuff, so they are no more.”
Havok releases its fourth studio album this month, its first for celebrated metal label Century Media. Conformicide was produced in Southern California by Steve Evetts (Dillinger Escape Plan, the Cure, Sepultura), and Sanchez believes it’s the best-mixed record the band has put out to date. The show with Suicidal at the Summit will double as an album-release party because, through pure dumb luck, the album drops worldwide that same day.
“It’s going to be an insane show,” Sanchez says. “It just worked out super-lucky that we’re in our home town the day that our album’s dropping. At the moment, on the Suicidal run, half of our set is songs from the new record. People should expect to hear about a third of the new album when they come to see us. We’re always stoked to hit the home town in the middle of tours. It’s pretty much the only time we do hit the home town anymore. We haven’t played a proper headliner in Denver in maybe four years. It’s been a long time.”
Hopefully that can change soon, but it won’t be too soon. After this run of shows, Havok heads to the West Coast, and then to Europe. With an internationally released album to promote, Havok doesn’t have time to dally around in the mountains. This band has work to do.
Havok plays with Suicidal Tendencies and Crowbar at 7 p.m. on Friday, March 10, at Summit Music Hall, 1902 Blake Street, 303-487-0111.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.