Monday, August 26, 2019

THE CHUCK SCHULDINER RE-ISSUES: A Conversation with Death/Control Denied's former manager, Eric Greif.

Album reissues have become quite common in today's Metal scene. One of the best examples of such trend are the deluxe editions of Chuck Schuldiner's musical legacy. Painstakingly put together by former manager, Eric Greif and a dedicated team at Relapse Records, these editions pay homage to the life and works of Death's and Control Denied’s late mastermind and include plenty of new information, unreleased recordings, revamped mixes and superb packaging.

A while back, …And Justice For Art interviewed Eric Greif about the making of these reissues. Greif, who is in charge of Schuldiner's legacy through Perseverance Holdings LTD, explains how these new versions of albums like Death's "Human," Control Denied's "The Sound Of Perseverance" among others, offer a new look into the creative world of one Metal's greatest musicians.

Chuck Schuldiner

The visual and sonic quality of these re-issues reveal that you and Relapse Records spent a lot of effort, time and money to make this happen. Is it financially viable to put to a project like this together?

Eric Greif: Yes, it works financially for all concerned. However, I don't get as alarmed about the rise of downloading and file-swapping as others have because I see how many people have been buying the DEATH reissues. Fans want to hold something in their hands, to look at all the extra goodies, and that is just not the same with grabbing a file of album cover art. We strive to make the product as great as it can be, so that everyone says they really got what they paid for and that it was a killer fan experience.

Was the budget crucial to make these new editions successful?  

Eric Greif: I suppose so. With Relapse Records and us (Perseverance Holdings LTD), we have spared no expense in the quest to give fans the ultimate product, so I've yet to read a single negative comment about the product itself (other than from the tiny minority who object to any reissue or tinkering with the past). However, if you have no money to invest in a release, certainly it will look & sound like shit. That has never been the case with any product I've been associated with as that would go against my own ethos about making fans happy.
In the case of the Death's, Control Denied's and even Mantas' re-issues, people praise the quality and level of detail and amount of material included. In some cases, there are even new mixes and the design and overall look of each album is phenomenal. That proves that you and the other people involved have taken very seriously these projects. 

Eric Greif: This is my life. I have been associated personally with DEATH for 25 years. My job is to preserve and grow the legacy for new generations, and that is exactly what is happening. I want it to be the best that it can be, both in terms of sound and look. I am very gratified that it is perceived as being great, and I know that Relapse feels exactly the same as I do about quality being of paramount concern. As for remixing, I felt that the two albums that required this were Human and Individual Thought Patterns, and this we took a stab at, and I feel they both work. The support from fans has been overwhelming and encouraging.

With so much archival material to choose from… Was it difficult to choose what to include and what not in these special editions?

Eric Greif: In our case, Relapse's production manager, Drew Juergens, and I have the final say in working out what ends up on each album. We usually have more than enough material and begin to sift through the contents and come to a consensus about what the whole package will look like in terms of material. So far there haven't been any major problems or disagreements—they have come together in karmic fashion.

From the very first album of these re-issue series (Control Denied's The Fragile Art Of Existence in 2010), you included a generous amount of liner notes discussing many aspects these recordings and Chuck's life. This brings new context to old time fans and opens the doors to Chuck's world for newcomers.  

Eric Greif: Everyone deserves the best package that is reasonably possible to put out there. I think the booklet for the Spiritual Healing reissue, for example, is 28 pages of vivid color, with four separate liner notes, all the lyrics, an updated credits & thanks list, and literally tons of photos nobody has ever seen before. With a standard reissue having a bonus disc, and with the reissue the same price as a normal CD, it is also incredible value for money. Everyone wins, but especially the thousands of new fans who were barely children at the time DEATH came to an end with Chuck's passing in 2001. For them it is all a fresh experience, and the enhanced packaging and audio only makes the impact of what they are holding in their hands that much more vital.

In your opinion... Who benefits the most from these reissues, new or old generations?

Eric: I think everyone benefits and appreciates what they are getting for their money, young & old, DEATH old school diehard or novice newbie—it makes no difference. Our goal when planning is to try and please everyone, with the best layout and contents that are possible at that very moment. This grows the brand.

Do you think reissues and special editions like these, are a way to preserve the music for new generations and a vehicle to enhance the importance of physical albums?

Eric Greif: I think for a short while people were just taking music from the net and that they lost the vibe of discovering a new album, holding it and listening to it as an 'event'. Sales dipped drastically, but have now made a comeback of sorts. I know people surely are buying our product, and it is because we give them something that they want to possess. To have, to hold, to worship.

In the new book ...AND JUSTICE FOR ART: STORIES ABOUT HEAVY METAL ALBUM COVERS you provide many details about Death/Control Denied's album covers. You also reveal that your favorite Death album cover is the new version of "The Sound of Perseverance" designed by Travis Smith. Can you tell us why? 

Eric Greif: Travis had told me how personally important and fulfilling it would be to him to revamp the cover from its original form in 1998, and when he unveiled the reissue art, I was speechless. It was utterly fantastic and was a realization of what he'd originally attempted years previously, when he was a younger artist and didn't quite feel right about what he had created and knew he could better it. He did, and I adore it.

The new book ...AND JUSTICE FOR ART: STORIES ABOUT HEAVY METAL ALBUM COVERS includes chapters about the making of some of Death/Control Denied's album artworks and extensive interviews with Eric Greif and artist, Travis Smith. It's exclusively available here.


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