Enlarge Heylmun for Jackson Guitars in 2022

Suicide Silence Guitarist Defends Gatekeeping Because It “Makes the Scene Stronger”


Gaekeeping—or the act of attempting to control who accesses or participates in a scene or community at large—is a hot-button issue in the metal world. To some, it’s a necessary part of keeping an underground thing underground, while others feel that it’s just a restrictive way to keep others from participating or to judge casual listeners. MetalSucks has weighed in on the topic, Nita Strauss has weighed in on the topic, GWAR have weighed in on the topic and now Suicide Silence guitarist Mark Heylmun has weighed in on the topic.

Speaking to Guitar.com about his new signature guitar, Heylmun recalled the early days of Suicide Silence’s existence and the competition he felt with other bands.

“Where we’re from, there was the Orange County scene, with Atreyu, Avenged Sevenfold and Bleeding Through. They didn’t like us and we felt like we had to not like them back. It was adversarial but, when you’re in Baton Rouge and playing to 450 people on a Wednesday night, you’re like, ‘Fuck them! It doesn’t matter.’

“We didn’t look ‘death metal’ enough either, and our breakdowns weren’t really things that death metalheads wanted to hear. That was the linchpin of all the heckling that happened when we toured with Nile, Behemoth and Cannibal Corpse. We did all those tours and that’s what you’d hear: people talking shit about your breakdowns.”

Heylmun continued by discussing how he handled the strong reaction people had to Suicide Silence, suggesting that the negative reactions people had actually made him and his bandmates more prepared for success.

“My hot take is that gatekeeping makes the scene stronger. I know that that sounds weird but – if you don’t have people talking shit and saying, ‘This isn’t this or that’ – you don’t have the other side saying, ‘Yes it is!’ or ‘Fuck you for even saying that!’ It creates the conversation that makes scenes stronger. I’ve seen that since I was young and I’ve been a part of that.”

This might be the first time I’ve heard a deathcore band speak in favor of gateekeeping, but I suppose there’s a first time for everything.

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