Mark Heylmun – Suicide Silence ‘Jackson Guitars are the (un)Quiet Riot’

Jackson Guitars American Series Soloist SL3

You borrow from the greats, and you make your own path without losing the core of who you are.” – Michael B. Jordan.

There is a disputable understanding in the extensive universe of the arts that there are no modern original creations. It is often cited that to some degree, an artistic composition of any variety has been devised in earlier times and that the newer design is an improvisation upon an existing idea. While this view can come across as disenchanting, it has an immeasurable beauty associated within. In reference to the remarkable quote above from the miraculous actor Michael B. Jordan (who Time magazine named in 2013 one of 30 people under 30 who are changing the world), he intelligibly states the word: “Borrow” which is nearly flawless in re-imagining the idea that arguably there is no original modern art, but there is art that is influenced, adored and guided by the greats. The identity of the artist is assuredly within.

Mark Heylmun, guitarist for the Californian progressive deathcore titans Suicide Silence knows the “greats” of metal and even music on that note all too well. Relatively hidden until recently, Mark received the invitation to join the Jackson Guitars company some time ago, but his role was to be more than just an endorsed player – as a matter of fact, it was multi-dimensional and a rather prestigious specialist profession (more on that later). As he informs Wall Of Sound from his work desk in Temecula, the honour of being affiliated with a company that has such a historical impact on heavy music, more-so the world of music and working in the same realm as the greats is beyond measure. The story of Quiet Riot’s Randy Rhoads approaching the company (Charvel at that time) to design conceivably THE METAL GUITAR 40 years ago is unbelievable in the highest regard and for Mr Heylmun he not only treasures his new rank with Jackson Guitars, he remembers borrowing from the greats and takes infinite pride in continuing their reign.

“It’s an absolute honour to say the least. Randy (Rhoads) was a huge part of why I even picked up the guitar in the first place. I can remember wanting to learn the riff to ‘Crazy Train’ and having to wait a few weeks before my hands became dexterous enough to play it. Fast forward to when I met Mike Shannon (master guitar builder) for the first time I was legitimately nervous, like I was meeting Ozzy or something. It’s surreal to be a part of a brand with such historic significance in metal and all-around guitar-based music. I have been nothing but impressed to see how bad-ass the company is still to this day with Metal Joe Williams being in the custom shop making absolutely sick guitars.”

He continues with unfathomable fervour – “To be a part of a team like this inspires me to be better as a player and to keep my imagination strong. Whatever I can think up, no matter how grandiose the idea may be, Jackson is a place to make those ideas reality and with enthusiasm. They’ve been helping evolve the world of metal guitars since the start and it’s obvious that there’s no intention on stopping that evolutionary spirit.

“And dude, I’m a metal head, been listening to heavy music since I was single digits. The first guitar I bought, before the obligatory cheap strat, was a Dinky Revere with a Floyd Rose, my second was a hardtail Soloist. To be a Jackson endorsed guitar player is… something that is indescribably kick-ass.”

As mentioned earlier, Mark was invited to join the Jackson Guitars family but in a multi-layered capacity. The opportunity for the deathcore guitarist revolves around the American Series Soloist SL3 and not only will this vocation involve showcasing his talent and excellent equipment, but he will also be featured in new serialised content that will hit Jackson’s YouTube and social channels in varying fields. These include: Educator, video presenter, representative, instructor and even a mentor revolving around essentially his obsession for guitar. A dream job undoubtedly, although for every air guitar enthusiast, tech-head, metal-head or guitar obsessive and infinitely more music adorers, their collective questions would most likely be: How did this come about? When did the first steps of this relationship start and how did it progress to this exhilarating enterprise?

“My relationship with the company on a professional level came about not too long ago when I was at the EVH/Jackson/Charvel showroom, trying out some amps with Mike Tempesta, who is the AR extraordinaire for Jackson.” He explains with eagerness – “We were talking gear. That lead to talking about a relationship with Jackson and when a company that has represented all things heavy metal is knocking at your door asking if you want to play their guitars, it’s basically like the hottest girl in school just asked you to be her boyfriend (laughs). So now here I am proudly representing the brand because they are doing something that is amazing and new for the company, which is the American Series. They are a seriously a top tier instrument that are custom shop quality at an affordable street price, made in Corona, California under the very same roof as the custom shop.”

Scott Ian, Jeff Loomis, Mick Thomson, Phil Demmel, Christian Andreu, Rob Caggiano and many more members of the metal royal family wield the Jackson Guitar weapon. Mr Heylmun also now bears this axe in pride, not as just a guard, but more-so a part of the Asgardian family. It plagued this writer to therefore ask if there is anyone in this elite family that he has admired and actually motivated him to pick up the guitar and play heavy music?

“Ya man. I gotta kinda pinch myself when I really think about that. My sister took a buddy of mine and myself to see Nevermore and Children of Bodom on Thanksgiving one year. I remember we had to leave early from dinner to make the show. Jeff (Loomis) has always been a big inspiration to me. Truthfully, Alexi Laiho was playing Jackson when I first got into Bodom. I mean, the legend of Randy Rhoads walking into Grover Jackson and having an idea for a new guitar and it becoming what it is today, I mean this is heavy metal history 101.” Mark gleams with the passion of a poet before continuing.

“The articles in the back of Guitar World where guys would have a short lesson; I would always be stoked to read whoever had something to share, especially once the more extreme metal guys got recognised, like Mark Morton from Lamb of God for example. I don’t just say that because he’s a Jackson artist either, I say it because it was huge for me as a youngster playing extreme music to see that and to learn straight from the guy who was playing it. So being in this position is something I feel I prepared for and can see its importance in what the next phase of heavy metal is all about.”

Unequivocally this step in Mark’s career is drastic yet Jurassic in accomplishment (cue the horns). It hasn’t been an easy path, one simply has to type “Suicide Silence” into their Google machines to see the peaks and valleys of the quintet’s hardships and heroics; hence it became practically essential to know that when he first began with Suicide Silence 17 years ago, did he ever think he would find himself in such a remarkable role? How does it feel about being a “face” of the company to a degree?

“That’s a great question and the truth is, hopefully without sounding arrogant, is that yes I could imagine it. I never really doubted that I would be involved in music to this day. I had to be, it’s really not a choice. It’s a necessity. To what capacity? I didn’t know, but when I made my mind up that I would be a musician for life, I literally made my mind up. Plan A: Was make it happen. And Plan B: Was to make it work. I wanted to be a professional. I know it’s not for everyone, but for me having a job and playing on the weekends wasn’t gonna cut it. It was all or nothing.” He exclaims with a change in tone yet with a defiant authenticity.

“As far as being a face for a company; I think it’s a bit of a nerve-wracking idea being the focal point of a lot of attention, sure. You are a psychopath if you want the attention all the time or don’t get in your head about doing interviews or just getting on stage. But at the end of the day, I had pictures from magazines I cut out of my favourite players stuck on my walls as a kid and I knew that part of the gig was to inspire the youth to pick up their instrument and play one of my riffs or to write one of their own. It’s an honour and something I do think about.”

The all-important line of questioning accordingly lies with the future of Suicide Silence and how the Jackson sound may alter what’s in store for the deathcore behemoth. Mr Heylmun formerly utilised ESP guitars – so how has he found ESP and Jackson in comparison since the transition?

“Man another really awesome question. So I think it goes without saying that as guitar players we know that songs live inside each instrument we pick up. Like the songs that live inside a Gibson 335 are probably not the same songs that live inside a Jackson Warrior? Probably not… no certainly not, we do live in strange times. In a purely imaginative and creative way, this is how I feel thinking about the transition from ESP to Jackson. I love my ESPs and they’ve helped me be me and work out some songs I’m super proud of, but the legendary status of Jackson and the power that lives in them is a force to be reckoned with.”

Without hesitation he then reveals: “My band mates were the first to comment on how I’m playing since my move by saying: ‘You play like you’re playing a Jackson’. Now take that however you want, but if guys I’ve played with for so long notice me playing different that says a lot to me. There’s more inspiration in my fingers and just an all-around excitement to be playing such an awesome instrument. So in a very big way it is like I just got an injection of pure inspiration, a recalibration of my mojo if you may.”

What about the entire Suicide Silence discography? Is there a difference when wielding the new weapon?

“It’s funny that you mention the revisiting of our music because I have found new ways to play our most known songs live since playing my Jacksons. I’m not rewriting them or making them unrecognisable but there’s certain parts in the set that leave room for some nuance and personality. I can tell how already I feel a connection to my growth as a player and a performer because some of that stuff is just improv and is a part of the songs that live inside my Jacksons…”

“It’s hard to not get kinda deep in the woods with the ethereal alchemy when talking about making music or your feel with playing guitar. The instrument is a massive part of that magic and for me, it’s been a short time playing Jackson as my main guitars in Suicide Silence and I can already feel how it’s juicing me up. It’s a reminder of the magical aspect of music and for me that’s very important. Gotta believe in the magic to keep the riffs flowing.”

There lies the magic to the “core” in Sacred Words.

Interview by Will Oakeshott @teenwolfwill

Mark joins a series of fantastic guitarists who share their names and faces with this new line of axes including Lee Malia (Bring Me The Horizon), Kevin Skaff (A Day To Remember), Alyssa Day, Brandon Ellis (The Black Dahlia Murder), Vixen and Yas Nomura.

Take a closer look at the entire American Series Soloist SL3 series here

FEATURES

  • 12”-16” compound radius rolled ebony fingerboard with 24 jumbo frets and inverse mother of pearl sharkfin inlays
  • Seymour Duncan JB™ TB-4 bridge pickup, Seymour Duncan Custom Flat Strat SSL-6 RWRP Single-Coil middle pickup and Seymour Duncan Custom Flat Strat SSL-6 Single-Coil neck pickup
  • Five-way blade pickup switch, single volume control and single tone control
  • Luminlay side dots
  • Heel-mount truss rod adjustment wheel
  • Color matched pointed headstocks and black hardware
  • Comes with Jackson branded foam core case

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About Will Oakeshott (39 Articles)
Funny bloke, writer, Journalist, Vocalist, bit of acting, music, comedy and dad joke lover. Love: music, beer, bodyboarding, movies, books.