Interview With Havok’s Reece Scruggs

HAVOK-top-2013Havok is a band on the rise, and far from jaded by their achievements this four-piece metal band is enjoying their rising popularity. Denver’s Havok just wrapped up their extensive North American tour.  Their two-month expedition launched on the 20th of July in Juarez, Mexico and looped its way from coast to coast, north to south and culminated in front of a hometown crowd in the mile-high city.  I had an opportunity to catch up with guitarist Reece Scruggs to chat about the band’s rise in success, their tour, and future plans.

On September 14, Snowboard on the Block was the place to be in Denver, CO. Technically, it’s called the 2013 North American Snowboard Film Festival which served as the official kick off to the snowboarding season.  Two city blocks were closed off to traffic for a snowboard expo, skate demonstrations, food and drink, and snowboard sales and giveaways.  More for my taste, were three stages featuring over 20 (mostly metal) bands from the local area and from around the country.  Some of the bigger names of the day were sludge/occult/doom masters Pentagram, Austin Texas’s Scorpion Child, Kadavar, and I believe Mothership played though they aren’t listed on the official website’s list of bands.  However, they were selling t-shirts anyway.  But, the reason for my trip down there was to interview Denver’s own thrashers Havok.

I met with lead singer and guitarist David Sanchez who kindly opened the door for me to interview my choice of band members.  Though the band was in various stages of unpacking and getting set up for their set, I was able to steal a few minutes away from Reece who has been in Havok since 2010 and was part of the recording process for their most recent two albums, the critically acclaimed Time is Up and the most recent Unnatural Selection.

When asked how the tour went, Reece had nothing but positive comments stating that “people came out and showed their support.  We had a great time, and it was a chance to prove our worth.”  I have to say I think they did prove their worth.  I followed the tour via facebook and read all the high praise from the threads.  I watched their support grow by the tens of thousands just over the course of the two-month tour.  Reece further stated that the only support they had on tour was from local bands. I think Havok’s worth was proven when fans came out to see the band without an established opener.  Personally, it’s a cool deal to offer local talent a chance to play in front of hungry Havok fans.

We talked a bit about the near future, and Reece mentioned “taking a short time off and then doing direct support for Soulfly for about three weeks with the possibility of adding more dates.”  When asked if they had played with Soulfly or some other incarnation of Max Cavalera, Reece stated “never Soulfly, but we did play for Sepultura w/Death Angel for five weeks on a previous tour.”  After the tour with Soulfly Reece stated, “we’re looking to do a European tour possibly; the second within a year maybe around late November.  After that we’ll take a couple months off since we’ll total over 200 shows in one year.”  There are no confirmed European dates as of this writing.

IMG_0403Havok has obviously been quite busy making a name for themselves.  Reece and I talked about the need for touring where Reece told A Metal State of Mind how important it is to tour “because you can’t rely on selling your music anymore because people, other than supporters, aren’t buying it.  With the way everything is going now, it’s not in the favor of us smaller bands making anything of ourselves, so we have to bust our asses and spend a lot of time away from loved ones.” Reference to the 200+ shows in a year and ass-busting is an accurate statement for sure.  It is certainly paying off with the level of attention they are getting – fans showing their die-hard support.

Since bassist Mike Leon joined the band in 2013, I asked Reece to what level of songwriting was Mike able to contribute?  “Nothing as far as songwriting goes.  By the time Mike joined, the album was already written by me, David, and Pete, but when it came to bass riffing and playing, Mike was able to put his own brand on it.”  Mike’s introduction to Havok fans came when Overkill was unable to play their opening slot on Testament’s Dark Roots of North America Tour in Feb 2013.  Reece stated “we had an opportunity to play due to the vacancy in the lineup.  It was hectic to pull away from the studio, but we pulled it off and it was a great way to introduce Mike.”

Taking a breath away from tour talk, I was curious to find out what other music appealed to Reece’s senses.  He has a fondness for “later era Testament (Low, The Gathering), and The New Order being my favorite Testament album.  Pantera is #1 with Dimbag being my all-time favorite guitar player.  I also like Randy Rhoads, Ace Frehley, Yngwie Malmsteen, and Alex Skolnick.”  Since Reece brought up Pantera my mind recalled many online discussions (either in favor or against) whether Pantera should tour with Zakk Wylde on guitar.  Here is what Reece had to say; “No, mainly because the guys in the band don’t want to do it; Phil says he would do it, but it’s really up to Vinnie and if Vinnie says no then you have to understand…what he saw happen to his brother.  To be honest, I love Zakk Wylde, but he couldn’t pull off Dimebag, no one can.  He could make it work and make it sound like Dimebag, but only Dimebag can sound like Dimebag.  He has his own style and it can’t be replicated.  The only way to do it is to spend your life playing Pantera and not strive to do anything else.”  In addition to the iconic guitarists that influence Reece I asked about other types of bands he liked.  I suggested examples like Rush and Dream Theater for which Reece stated “you just described two of my favorite bands, especially Dream Theater.  I do love other things not related to metal.  I’m a huge rockabilly, bluegrass, and old country fan; lots of ripping guitarists in those bands.”

2014 marks the 10-year anniversary for Havok.  I asked Reece if there was anything special brewing to honor a decade of metal such as a live DVD, etc. “Actually we haven’t really put a lot of thought into it.  Maybe we’ll so something, but we have a lot coming up to finish the year out and we’ll see what happens.  It would be a cool concept to come up with something special.”  I agree, it would be special.  If something does happen, I’ll take credit for planting that seed.  Bring it up at the next band meeting, Reece.  J

IMG_0383I’ve heard a lot of people talk about thrash metal being dead; mainly younger folks, but bands like Havok, Evile, and Revocation continue to carry the torch.  I asked Reece if he thought it was challenging to reach out to a younger metal audience.  “We come together to play metal and we sound like dudes who play metal.  We don’t have an agenda when we go into write and force it sound like thrash metal.  I think some bands do it right and some do it wrong.  Revocation is doing it right and many other bands are riding a trend…8-string dudes and stuff like that.  Havok will always do what we do because we just want to make good metal with no genre tag attached to it.  We are way more straightforward than most and our influences are vast and our ideas that we put into our sound comes from everywhere.  We are reaching people and I think people do not want to hear poly rhythm, 8-string guitar noodle tap thing and they want to hear some balls out heavy metal from the punkers to the death metal guys.  We do bring in an older crowd too, so our audience is well-balanced.”

Their set was about 50 minutes and encompassed a little bit of everything with tunes such as D.O.A, Afterburner, I Am The State, and Give Me Liberty…Or Give Me Death just to name a few.  The snowboard/metal crowd was excited throughout the set and for the first time in my life I saw someone ride a skateboard into the pit.  I think he got around twice before getting knocked off.  That might be a record.  As David Sanchez mentioned before playing Afterburner, no one should ever have to go into the pit and be roundhouse kicked in the face.  It answered the question I didn’t have time to ask…why it says “No Karate in the Pit” on a Havok shirt.  That is why.  I agree no one should get roundhouse kicked in the face in the pit…ever.

Havok certainly has been busy.  Their efforts are paying off as their fan base is growing rapidly.  Unnatural Selection did debut on the Billboard 200, not that it should be a measuring stick for success, but it is always nice to see metal in the United States getting some attention.  Enthusiasm on fans faces should be enough validation that Havok is doing it right.  A Metal State of Mind sends a special thanks to Reece and the rest of the guys in Havok for being cool and taking the time.  Also big thanks to their publicist Tom for making the interview a possibility.

Below are the confirmed tour dates with Soulfly.  More dates may be added.

3 Oct – Corpus Christie, TX

8 Oct – Columbus, OH

9 Oct – Buffalo, NY

10 Oct – Toronto, Canada

11 Oct – Montreal, Canada

12 Oct – Nashua, NH

13 Oct – Syracuse, NY

14 Oct – Stafford Springs, CT

15 Oct – Winchester, VA

16 Oct – New York, NY

18 Oct – Wilmington, DE

19 Oct – Wilmington, NC

23 Oct – Fort Lauderdale, FL

2 Nov – Tempe, AZ

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About Reggie

Just a dude writing a heavy metal blog and always on the prowl for a cool metal show. I am also a family man...first and foremost!

Posted on September 16, 2013, in Interviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I’m impressed, this is a really nice interview! Together with your additional comments it gives me a good overview and image of the band and their music. Well done!

    “I think people do not want to hear poly rhythm, 8-string guitar noodle tap thing” – I beg to differ 😉

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