Oh Canada, How Heavy Art Thou?
By Jay Rollins
(Follow on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jayrollinsMHF)
Metal has persistently occupied an impenetrable portion of the Canadian music scene for over four decades, after all it is Ontario born John Kay who’s often credited with the coinage of heavy metal. Formation of Helix, Triumph, Anvil, and Exciter in the 70s started what has become a tradition of headbanging found in every nook across the country. Bands such as Voivod, Annihilator, and Razor took the energy of their predecessors and mixed in technical elements while epitomizing the raw feeling of thrash metal. By 1985 Canada had a solid foundation of heavy acts to inspire future generations. Thanks to those forerunners Kataklysm, Fuck the Facts, Devin Townsend, and Skull Fist, just to name a few, have taken up the metal mantle with the careers to prove that we do heavy right. Now in 2018 it’s common for a quiet Sunday drive, in any province, to be interrupted by the sonic assault of a local band jamming out a tribute to Motörhead or trying to solidify that last tasty original riff for an upcoming release.
If metal is a global community then the Canadian metal scene is itself a neighbourhood comprised of savage, technical, avant-garde, sometimes humorous, yet ever-evolving artists. Here in the north our diverse rugged landscape of peaks and valleys, summits and plains, is reflected in our eclectic soundscape. To explore the state of Canada’s heavy music scene in 2018 I caught up with a few Canadian metal architects and one old school punk:
Kittie/The White Swan: Mercedes Lander
Follow on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kittiepage/,
Origins/Evolutions came out just this past April and contains a live album of an event that showcases songs throughout Kittie’s expansive 22-year career, performed by members of previous Kittie lineups. The accompanying film (DVD & Blu-Ray) takes fans through highlights, pitfalls, and member changes. You delved into production processes, along with industry snarls. When creating a documentary sacrifices must be made, even if it’s just due to time constraints, is there anything you wish the documentary could have included more of?
Well I guess, probably more content. I mean there’s only so much that you can really stuff into a 90-minute film. There’s obviously way more content that we filmed, but again there has to be some things that you have to sacrifice. I think the original cut that Rob did, the first cut that he ever did, was like four and a half hours or something ridiculous like that, and I watched the whole thing and I was like “oh this tells it pretty good”, but you know obviously we have to cut things down to a 90-minute film. So, basically just content, and more interviews and stuff like that, I really feel like maybe at some point we’ll do a longer cut. For right now the 90-minute cut, for me personally just cause I was there, I’m just like “ah I wish we could have elaborated on that a little bit more, I wish we could have put that in there”.
Yeah watching it I felt I really got to know the band all over again but at the same time there was little things I was kind of like “oh I wonder if they wanted to add more in this area.”
Yeah, for sure but again like I mean, what are ya gonna do right?
As far as song writing, performing, touring, and adapting to life as a professional musician you grew alongside your sister, Morgan. On the business side of things how involved were you? Were you always in the room reviewing contracts and making decisions?
Yeah of course, that was like our thing you know what I mean? This was always a band run band. Morgan and I were very involved in some of that stuff and I feel like we tried to, even along the way, we tried to involve some of the other people, but musicians just want to be musicians a lot of time and they aren’t really concerned with the finite details of a lot of stuff. I just remember our first record contract was like a phone book and I remember reading that entire thing, so very interesting stuff.
Crash course in business first hand, here’s an actual contract.
I’ve heard you comment that motivation behind choosing the life of a musician was to tour and see the world. Since forming Kittie has supported Slipknot on your first national tour, then headlined Ozzfest’s second stage in the U.S.A. as well as Ozzfest dates in Europe. Not to mention your own headlining tours. On your last trek you took out The Agonist as an opener and they’ve since developed a strong following of their own. Has your urge to tour subsided at all?
No I still play music regularly, so I always like to, I play pretty much every chance I can get with my band The White Swan. But no it never goes away, you always want to be a part of the weird travelling circus, and it’s exciting too you know, waking up in a different city there’s just something magical about it.
Absolutely, and every time is new faces and even if you go to the same place numerous times it’s almost like you can’t step in the same river twice so to speak.
Oh yeah for sure, and you’re always discovering new people, new things, and new adventures.
Is it fair to say a Kittie tour in the near future is unlikely and could we possibly see an anniversary style show in other cities?
Um, everybody kind of knows where I stand, I would be happy to do whatever, I just like playing. So, I mean that’s really up to everybody else and whatever they want to do. Logistically to get everybody in the same room for an extended tour, like the lineup that we did in October, might be a little bit tricky but I think Morgan and I are pretty good at organizing stuff so I mean there’s that, but again you know, we’ll see what happens.
Unfortunately, perhaps, an effect of starting out so young combined with industry bias, as artists Kittie has had to deal with some particularly unsavory characters to say the least. In the beginning was there often a need to kick people off the tour bus? I heard you mention it briefly in another interview.
Yes that happened pretty frequently and back then print press was all the rage and we had a very stacked press schedule, so running into weirdos was a regular occurrence. Just people that really felt like they could overstep their boundaries just to get that piece for their article or whatnot. Things are a little different now and I feel like back then we were doing probably like 20-30 interviews a day, so with the way of print press not really being a thing anymore that kind of stuff doesn’t really happen as frequently, but every once in a while. And on top of that you know publicists obviously aren’t letting just anybody on the bus now so there’s that too. But yeah, I mean I’m sure those people were in some weird way just trying to do their job. Maybe their editor told them to ask creepy questions, I don’t know. But who knows right, but again back then we were young and I think people really thought that they could take advantage of the situation and have us answer questions that were weird, but we were the kind of band where nobody could really tell us what to do anyway that’s just kind of who we were.
Yeah it’s important when speaking to anybody to have some sort of decorum and know when to not ask that final question that crosses the weird line.
Yeah, yeah well I mean we were young too but I think we had our heads screwed on pretty straight, so we were pretty good at telling people to fuck off.
Yeah you wouldn’t have lasted twenty years if you weren’t.
And lastly, what impact did growing up in Canada have on you as a musician? Like the landscape or even just the availability to tour, growing up in London.
Well I mean London is a fairly segregated place when it comes to logistics and where it is in the country. There’s not really a whole lot around [London]. I mean the nearest big city, Toronto, is two hours, Detroit’s two hours, Buffalo’s two hours. I mean we were willing to travel obviously so we got to play in some really nice places outside of the city but in London in general at the time when we were kids there were only really two places to play. You could play at Call the Office or The Embassy.
I think Canada has its own little microcosm of music, and its own little music scene. I think it’s kinda actually really special. I really enjoyed a lot of the early Canadian music, like the 90’s, early 2000’s and stuff like that. I thought that there was definitely a lot of really cool stuff going on back then and now it’s, I feel like with MuchMusic and everything like that kind of gone the way of MTV, there’s not really that kind of segregated music scene in Canada like the I Mother Earths or the bands like that, Finger Elevens, although later Finger Eleven obviously blew up in America. But I feel like there’s definite staple Canadian bands and a lot of them were different, and weird kind of, and they worked in this country and I really liked how everything was so different from the U.S. back then. I think it definitely had an influential effect on us, especially in the late 90’s, mid 90’s, there was a lot of really good bands coming out of Canada around that time, definitely a lot different. And then obviously if you go back into the 80’s like stuff like Gowan and even into the 70’s like Rush for instance, like nobody sounds like that it’s crazy. Or nobody sounded like that I’m sure a lot of people want to rip them off now, but again it’s very interesting you know, I feel like Canada has its own kind of sound almost. It’s just interesting to me. Being able to travel the world and stuff like that I’ve definitely noticed that a lot of countries are like that. But I’m happy that I got to grow up with some really cool bands and have them influence me in a different way and have those influences that nobody else from any other part of the world will have.
That’s awesome. Doing this Canada Day article I’ve really started to feel that as well just getting to talk to everybody from different parts of Canada and one thing that keeps coming up is how everyone feels that their city or community is a little bit isolated yet connected to a larger part of a Canadian heavy scene or general music scene and it’s great to see that unity and it’s come up with everyone.
Voivod: Daniel “Chewy” Mongrain
Follow on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Voivod/
Dan Mongrain, affectionately renamed Chewy after your Voivod inauguration so you’d fit alongside bandmates Snake and Away, you and Dominique “Rocky” Laroche grew up together listening to Voivod and going to their shows. Now you have both joined the ranks of Voivod, in what I believe to be the band’s fifth lineup, touring and providing creative input. Did you ever think your musical journeys would lead you to play together in a band of this repute?
Rocky and me have known each other since a long time, we played a few gigs here and there together but never in an original project. We are both freelance musicians in Quebec but we grew up in the same town, knowing the same musicians and playing with many different artists in many different styles. Our paths crossed a few times and we always had fun playing music together or just hanging out and talking. When it was time to find a good Bass player and a good guy for Voivod, 4 -5 years ago, I thought of him. For me he was the most logical choice, I knew he could pull it off and I knew we would have fun on the road together as a band. You never know what surprises life will bring you, As both Fans of Voivod since the 80’s, having the chance to play and write music together with the band and touring the planet with such a cult group is just beyond all expectations. We are very grateful and we do our best!
Friends playing metal together and seeing the world, a Canadian dream come true.
Speaking of dreams, Away has commented that two elements predominant in Voivod’s current style of metal are fusion and dreamscape atmospheres reminiscent of Angel Rat or The Outer Limits. Do you think these specific elements are foundational to Voivod’s sound?
It’s hard to say, everyone has its own perspective on it, I think we don’t overthink it too much now. When I first wrote music for my first Voivod album, Target Earth in 2012 I was a little bit stressed about how to do it and how fans would react. But as soon as I let go of the pressure and gained more confidence in my composition ability and told myself that Voivod’s sound has been in my Musical DNA since I was 11 years old and its part of my main influence in music, it started to flow naturally. I think for our new album coming out soon this year, we all went with the natural creative force we became together as a band. I think the new material is very progressive, very rich harmonically and melodically, very metal and intricate. I wouldn’t change a note and I’m proud to say that personally it’s the best music I’ve ever written with a band. The teamwork on this one was just fantastic. It brings the better out of everyone.
Voivod has announced that the next instalment of the Voivod saga has been finished. As you’ve stated on Facebook “there will be very special guests on the new album” and they will be showcasing a variety of instruments: Bones, Timpani, and a 4-string quartet. I’m anticipating an eclectic release that, in a sense, continues the story of Post Society. What can you tell us about the new record and how did the recording processes go?
Yes I had the chance to meet good folk musicians where I live and The Bone player just blew my mind, I thought we could try this sound over a part on the record, it’s very cool! I also urged myself to write music for a String Quartet and I’m very happy with the result! It’s exciting to be able to incorporate something fresh, while respecting the band’s sound and music. It’s not all over the place or on every song, but just a colour here and there to create some magic. It only happened because I was hearing it in my head while recording the song, I heard a string part….I thought, I might as well write it and record it with real musicians! It was a great experience!
The percs were used very musically in some parts, well balanced with the band, it’s all about the balance.
Since 1994, when you founded Martyr, you have been creating innovative metal that pushes boundaries. You’ve had the unique opportunity to play with Gorguts and Cryptopsy before moving into a more permanent role with Voivod. With Denis “Piggy” D’Amour notably taking the role of composer in Voivod, his personal influence on yourself, and then his devastating passing, inevitably there must have initially been a different feeling joining Voivod compared to your previous projects. Now that you have spent time in the studio with the band and truly helped define this era of Voivod have your feelings toward the band changed since first joining?
It’s been 10 years this year, I don’t think too much about that, I really enjoy being part of it and to be creating music with this team, respecting the legacy of Piggy and playing his music and the new material inspired by his genius all around the world. I feel a lot of respect from the fans. I didn’t loose my “Fan” perspective from the Voivod universe but I have now added a perspective from the inside and its beautiful. I hope we can do this for a while still. My Feeling is to do my best and have fun!
I know you are a well-rounded musician who’s professionally performed different genres, so keep in mind the next question isn’t limited to just metal artists:
Who is in your top three Canadian bands of all time and why?
I don’t believe in top band lists, I can’t think of categorizing bands or music from 1 to x.
It doesn’t make sense to me to rank music or musicians. And I will listen to many different styles of music from week to week. These days I really enjoy “the Damned Truth”, they are a good band and their music is reminiscent of the 70’s rock. I dig the Traditional Folk Trio “De temps Antan” French Canadian Folk songs, reels, gigue, very festive, all with great energy and musicianship! They play everywhere and make a strong impression each time, I’ve seen people doing stage dives and crowd-surfing at their show in my hometown during a festival…It was crazier than a metal show let me tell you! I really like “Emie R. Roussel Trio” It’s a Jazz instrumental project from Montreal, they now start to get recognition around the globe and it makes me happy. Their music is light and deep, they interact very well in improvisation, it’s a refreshing jazz project.
Thanx for your Passion, work and support!
Skull Fist: Zach Slaughter
Follow on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/skullfisted/
2010’s EP professed your mission statement to be Heavier than Metal. Then in 2011 Skull Fist were Head of the Pack for the Canadian New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal, which lead to your Chasing the Dream in 2014. What will be 2018’s declaration in terms of your new album name? How close are we to finally hearing the much awaited 3rd album?
Trying not to sound all dramatic here but creativity is just a way to vent emotions you might have trouble expressing with only words. Sometimes it’s more comforting to create a hypothetical situation that deals with the same issues you face and deal with it that way instead of only on some social aspect. For me writing a song is like taking a thought or problem and burying it in the ground. You remove it from your subconscious and try to lift some of the weight from your mental baggage. I guess I haven’t done an interview in a while and I’ve been thinking about that haha. So, I’ll say this new record definitely has much more grave markers for me than any previous records haha. I have no idea how it will be received though. Buried a lot of thoughts and bullshit into the ol’ Skull Fist graveyard haha It’s a continuation of the previous records that sort of sums up the last 3-4 years or so. Hopefully it will be done by the time people read this and the release date will already be announced.
Around the time of Wacken 2017 Skull Fist were forced to cancel a couple of dates including the Maritime Metal and Hardrock Festival, Atlantic Canada’s biggest metal festival. Knowing that you are in fact metal warriors, I’m sure the decision to cancel a gig doesn’t come lightly. How have your vocal chords healed up and have you changed your touring/recording routine to avoid future issues?
I feel like a lesser known and poor Axl Rose at this point. haha All of that still seems a little bit up in the air right now. It’s been almost 3 years since I started having surgeries, injections and all of that fun stuff. I can sing but in a really limited way still. It takes a shit ton of effort and time just to record vocals for me and my voice is really limited. It was definitely a lack of self control that lead to it so assuming it keeps improving I might be able to sing live by the end of 2018. All of it depends on that whole self control thing though.
Last year Skull Fist rocked the iconic Wacken Festival to a crowd of true metal maniacs enthralled with Skull Fist’s every riff and operatic howl. Considering your recent throat surgeries, to avoid the potential long-term throat damage a demanding Wacken performance could induce, you brought along a different vocalist. Choosing to bring on another vocalist instead of canceling is a testament to the power of Wacken, the world’s heavy metal summit. What do you view as the most coveted festivals and tour opportunities in heavy metal? Are there any extensive Canadian tours being planned for the near future?
I’ve always had mixed feelings about playing live. I think 50% of the time I suck at it so I knew it was either cancel another gig that I was destined to bomb or bring along Jerry. He’s an incredibly good guy with a massive vocal range. It was really just the feeling when being around the guy that made me decide on him though, he’s just such a humble guy with a mellow attitude and it felt nice to have him singing my lyrics because I think he understood a lot of it. It was cool to be at the festival and nice of them to have us play, I’m always a nervous wreck on big stages though! hahah I’m not really sure where the big gigs or forgotten cave warriors are, I’m sure lots of guys say Europe is the mainland of heavier music, or maybe South America? It would be nice to play across Canada again, the drives are really nice, so many different landscapes you know? Hopefully we can do it again.
Heavy metal and tattoos, nothin’ new there. However, in Skull Fist’s over-the-top nature your fans have wholeheartedly embraced being branded in unique Fist fashion by joining the unofficial no false metal butt tattoo club. ( (just checkout: https://www.facebook.com/pg/skullfisted/photos/?tab=album&album_id=384390758594)
How did this all begin? Lots of fans have a band tattoo but this seems a step above. Were you the first to get the “no false metal” ass tat? Did you expect to see so many people follow suit?
I don’t have many tattoos but the ones I do could be seen as unique? haha The No False Metal tattoo was something I did probably 8 years ago, I remember taking a picture of it for the skull fist page after our EP came out and when we started touring I’d have people ask me if it was real. They’d always ask to see it and take a photo with it haha I remember posting as a joke on the fist page, “join the butt tattoo club!”, and all of the sudden photos started coming in pretty regularly ever since haha, I think it’s really cool. I do. I’m not sure how to describe it exactly but there’s something that just feels right about it, insanity is always quelled by the world as you grow. If you can make it to your 20’s and still keep it then I have a lot of appreciation for you. Stay Nuts.
I’ll pose the same question to you as I have Striker and other bands being interviewed for this article: Do you think there is such thing as a Canadian metal or rock sound? If so, what are some elements that define Canada’s sound?
I wouldn’t say so exactly with the metal genre over the last 40 years in Canada, although there are of course a lot of really nice bands that are still unique but in the Rock/hard rock style is where that really shines for me. It’s like there is always this small amount of humour in it, but you can’t pinpoint it, you know? It’s incredible to me. It’s just always so unique in lyrics and the melodies and even overall tones. I think a lot of the songs written by Canadian rock bands are so different, if they didn’t write that song no one else ever would or ever will. Bands like April Wine, Prism, The Guess Who, B.T.O., Neil Young, Trooper, Triumph, Kim Mitchell, Rush. I’m not going to say that any country has the best music or whatever, I don’t really care about those things based on geography, but I can definitely say for a lot of the older rock bands there is this really personal style in each of them, but then again maybe it’s sort of like that with any country?
Striker: Tim Brown
Follow on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/strikermetal/?ref=br_rs
Striker has had a scorching two years of progress, 2016 saw the release of Stand in the Fire with some recording assistance from Randy Black (Primal Fear, Bif Naked, Annihilator) and in support of 2017’s self titled release you not only slayed 70,000 Tons of Metal but you also hit the road with Sonata Arctica in Europe and Dark Tranquillity across North America. Where do you feel you are in Striker’s career?
We are in a good place! Going independent was the best move we ever made. Everything has been growing and improving significantly since then, and more importantly everything is in our control and we are the masters of our reality. If we want something done, we do it. If we don’t want to do something, we don’t have to do it. Having that freedom and the ability to try new things and experiment is really important, especially with how fast the music industry is changing. If you wait around for your label to tell you what to do you might as well kiss your music career goodbye. We just finished the recording of yet another new album, this one out in Fall of 2018, and I feel like we made some really good progress in our writing and recording abilities. Furthermore, our Self – Titled album from last year was nominated for a Juno Award, and this album I feel is better in every way. It feels almost like we are just beginning a new stage of our career, and bigger and better things are just around the corner. Not to discredit our last few years, but I think 2018 & 2019 are going to be the biggest yet for Striker!
Yourself and fellow Canadian headbangers Annihilator are taking the stage in a few weeks at Germany’s Bang Your Head Festival. When you run into other Canadian bands on the road is there generally a kindred sense of comradery? Do you attempt to check out each others’ set and have a drink?
Hell yea we pal around! We are sort of like the golden retrievers of Canadian music, we get along with basically everyone. We’ve met a lot of people over the years and it’s very cool to be able to meet up again, especially at big events like 70,000 Tons of Metal or Bang Your Head Festival for example. Even last year on tour with Sonata Arctica, we pulled up to our venue for one of the UK shows and there was a different tour bus parked in the lot… We went up to it thinking our headliners somehow got a new bus but it was actually fellow Canadians Monster Truck! They were playing the same venue the following day. At any rate we swapped some guest list spots and hung out with them after both shows. That was a really cool experience and I hope we can cross paths with more Canadians out on the open road! Especially after doing so many tours and playing so many shows, you really meet a lot of people. I think it’s really important to support everyone else, a rising tide lifts all ships.
There is a dominant streak of New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal (NWOTHM) continuing to grow in the Canadian metal scene, at the top of my head there is, well Striker of course, Skull Fist, Cauldron, Mokomokai, Black Moor, and Emblem. Is there such thing as a Canadian metal or rock sound? If so, what are some elements that define Canada’s sound?
I think the Canadian sound is sort of a mix between the Euro style metal and the American metal style. We have that melodic approach mixed in with a lot of rhythm. Another thing about the Canadian sound is all of the CANCON that you get inundated with over the radio and TV, and a lot of that stuff is sort of singer songwriter/pop/folk type stuff. So there’s this influence on your ear since you were born basically of this Canadian style of music that is sort of a rock/folk mix and inevitably it creeps into your music. For us, we are huge fans of Kim Mitchell for example, he can shred! But it’s always tasteful and sort of understated in the classic Canadian sense. Another thing is in Canada there’s always a search for new music, and people get a lot of their music from both Europe and the US. In America there’s so much good music all the time, a lot of the European stuff can be drowned out by the constant tidal wave of American content. But in Canada we are sort of removed from that and only the best stuff percolates to us from both ends.
The album Striker, which was Juno nominated for Metal/Hard Music Album of the Year, was released on your own label Record Breaking Records. Can you share the label’s vision with us? Are you planning to bring in many more bands and are you specializing NWOTHM, or just heavy music in general?
Basically we started that label so that we could release our own music the way we wanted to. We didn’t want anyone else telling us what to do, making decisions for us, or holding us back. Our biggest thing is going out and getting shit done. No one is going to work harder for you than you. If anyone out there is reading this and thinks they need a label, or anyone else, to put out music or get started, you don’t. You can do it all on your own! That’s why. We are planning on growing the label, not in the traditional label role mind you, we want to try a new approach that we feel is fair to the artist. Labels these days are behind the times and there needs to be a big shake up. We want to share our experience in the industry with other likeminded artists and help them become the best versions of themselves. Oftentimes it feels like you are fumbling around in the dark trying to get a career in the music industry going, and if we can light a candle or two for someone then we are happy to help. There’s still a lot for us to learn but if we can help someone, then it’s worth it.
D.O.A: Joey “Shithead” Keithley
Follow on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DOAPUNK/
D.O.A’s most recent album Fight Back is a blatant call to action against shitty corporate beer, misguided government policies, sexism, racism, and promotes working toward unity. With intent to combat the issues, the band’s 40th anniversary has sparked the first instalment of the annual D.O.A. Fight Back Festival. Naturally a music festival with this musical oration will bring in a large youth crowd. Do you personally find the youth you speak with are politically motivated and how do we genuinely allow them to participate in the country’s decision making?
Well, put it this way I think a lot of younger people are politically motivated. Not as many as I’d like to see, you know what I mean? But I think probably why they don’t really take action sometimes, like it’s not ‘oh young people they suck’, it’s that they don’t feel included in the political process, right? So it’s kind of the chicken and egg story, what came first, right. Young people gotta get up there if they want something they gotta fight for it, whatever the case may be, you know fair treatment in all sorts of ways: fair wages, affordable housing, rock and roll, whatever they’re into. So yeah, they’re not treated fairly but yeah a lot of kids are motivated for sure, which is great.
What I respect about D.O.A. is the emphasis on action and that getting the message out is in fact the first step to a lengthy process of social reform. You are currently practicing what you preach by running for mayor under the Green party organization. Do you think your time with D.O.A. will have an overall positive impact on your campaign, or do you think it will be a point of contention? On the one hand, you are Shithead the forefather of punk’s dirty cousin, Hardcore. Yet on the other, you are articulate, knowledgeable, passionate, hardworking, entrepreneurial, and have participated in over 408 benefit shows. So do you think that will kind of balance out in the end?
I think that for the most part it will help me in the campaign. Some people may be negative just because the reputation of being in a leader in a punk rock band and movement, that kinda thing, or one of the leaders. You know, having a nickname like that obviously some people will shudder, some will laugh, and some won’t care. I think in the community there’s tons of people that know me and they’re like “oh you’re in that band” and they would consider voting for me. Some of them say “oh you’re in that band and I’m a fan of yours,” or they have a record, or they’ve been to a concert, or have a t-shirt, but they know D.O.A.’s reputation and they know my reputation for, you know, being straightforward and trying to help the common people. Standing up for regular people, so people get that overall, it’s a net thing.
It definitely makes sense to make that crossover because punk is very much about standing up for the people and fighting for your beliefs and what better way to do that than make actual active changes in your community.
You’ve got that completely right. I mean punk rock, that’s one of the reasons why I was attracted to it in the first place. I was 20 years old and, well one it was wild and crazy and had sort of this new type of sound that wasn’t like anything else previous, and it was also politically motivated, which also helped me too because I became politically active. When I was in high school I joined Green Peace and helped protest against nuclear weapons proliferation and stuff like that.
Under Trudeau’s prime ministership there are talks of Canada becoming radically left and that he is closing off important conversations. Not saying that I agree or disagree with that sentiment, but I was wondering what you think about Canada’s current political climate? The pipeline issue hits your hometown pretty hard and there are even whispers of the country dividing at this point.
Yeah it’s interesting, I mean obviously now it’s really unfortunate that we sort of set up this scenario where it looks like Albertans versus British Colombians which is a terrible thing. You know they’re our fellow country-people and we have supported each other over the years, just as we have a kinship with people in New Brunswick, Québec, Ontario, etc. So, I think the divisive line has really been cast by the oil company. A couple of things about the pipeline is: one thing they’ll get a gigantic tax break cause it’s infrastructure, two if there was an oil spill the federal government is paying the money for it which doesn’t make any sense because it should be Kinder Morgan that should be putting up that billion and a half dollars for oil spill response, that doesn’t make any sense. And they realize that people will think that “okay yeah we’ll get more money for a barrel of oil,” but Jay I’ve been all around the world and the BC coast is one of the last unspoiled, unpolluted, under-industrialized places in the world and a lot of money that we would reap from ecotourism over the next hundred years swamps any kind of oil royalty that we would get. It’s a place of natural beauty and there’s so few left in our world and it just keeps growing. Getting back to your original question though, I don’t think we’re going to divide as a country I think there’s going to be some unhappiness obviously if the pipeline goes through or if the pipeline doesn’t go through, you know? Right now, protesters are working hard and I agree with them. I kind of have a feeling that eventually that pipeline is going to go through which is very unfortunate but it’s sort of looking like the politicians are all leaning that way.
That is what it’s kind of seeming like right now, and it is unfortunate especially when the media or whoever does paint such a stark contrast and seems like we’re going to be dividing. I know, being on the East Coast, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia has been very much pitted against each other at different points and when you’re living there it’s like “well I don’t know if that’s quite the actual climate” so it’s great to hear from a politician who’s right in the middle of it right now.
Well yeah I grew up two blocks away from the tank farm right on Burnaby Mountain.
When recording Fight Back had you already decided on getting into politics in an official manner? If so, did you censor yourself all because of the possible mayoral position?
No I mean I had run for politics for the Greens in the last provincial election, a few times over the years, always for like a provincial position type or MLA. I knew kinda when we started writing the album that the Burnaby election, like all civic elections in BC, were gonna be on October 20th. It coincided with D.O.A.’s 40th anniversary, so I was like “okay that’s interesting,” right? So, it took me a while, I mean I was just writing the songs, just trying to come up with what I think are good songs and there wasn’t really a theme to the album particularly until we got about halfway through and then we realized what the album is really about is inequality. Whether it’s economic, gender inequality, racial inequality, and so on. That’s just kind of the form it took, but I didn’t self-censor it because I thought I might be running for mayor, basically it was already pretty well recorded. I knew I was going to run for city council at least. I’d made my mind up about that last October, and then I think it was around March 1st, and Cecil and I had pretty well finished mixing the album and you know, it just came to me. We had a bunch of discussions with the Burnaby Green party and people thought I would be the best candidate so I was finally talked into it and I’m glad I did.
Awesome, I’m sure they’re glad you did too, a great representative.
D.O.A. has made the treacherous trek from coast-to-coast, one of the few bands I can truly say have been coast to coast, and I was wondering, besides in your home province of B.C., what is your favourite Canadian city to play and why?
Interesting, I mean Edmonton’s a really good place, we always have a great reception there and Toronto’s really fun too cause there’s a lot to do in Toronto. Some people may say because it’s Ontario or Toronto like, I don’t have the same thing where people say, “let’s all hate Toronto!” I don’t feel that way. Montréal is of course interesting, Halifax is a really fun place to play and we don’t get out there enough, it’s just got a different feel than the rest of Canada. When you do get on the East coast it’s just different than the west, or Québec, or Ontario. It’s pretty fun out there, maybe about 5 or 6 years ago we had a great time when we played out in Halifax, Cape Breton, and Moncton, yeah it was cool.
That is awesome, personally I grew up in the Halifax scene and I find it a very different vibe there for a show just because it’s almost appreciated a little bit more. It’s like, you made the extra step to come to the true East coast, you broke the Québec barrier and we always give as much as we can when a band does that, so that’s awesome.
Yeah, people are really appreciative out there, and I think people are, I don’t know for sure, but maybe like on the East coast they are just a little bit more friendly and helpful than some of the big city folk that we encounter in other places like Vancouver, you know?
That’s awesome that wraps up the questions I have for you, thank you very much. It’s turning out to be a great article for Canada day and with your long history in Canadian music I wanted to include D.O.A. so I appreciate you taking the time.
Gorguts: Luc Lemay
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Personally, I attribute much of Canada’s unique extreme, avant-garde, metal characteristics to Québec’s dense scene. Undoubtedly, Gorguts’ brutal nature and unexpected song structures have influenced a slew of other bands, both in Canada as well as abroad. Kevin Hufnagel mentioned Denis “Piggy” D’Amour of Voivod had a tremendous impact on how he views playing guitar. I’d like to know what bands did the early incarnations of Gorguts listen to for inspiration?
In the early days, even before I founded the band, I can say for sure that Chuck Schuldiner from DEATH was the one and only reason I decided to have a band myself, so I could express myself in the stunning aesthetic that is DEATH METAL. Then in the early 90′ I really liked MORBID ANGEL, SUFFOCATION, CARCASS… Then the taste for more intricate, experimental music stepped in 93′, 94′, 95′ when we wrote OBSCURA. For me VOIVOD took more time to get in the playlist, but now I love listening to them. OUTER LIMITS is one of my favorite records from them.
Luc Lemay, your innate understanding of musical composition is acknowledged the world over, of course primarily for Gorguts. However, you were recently recruited by the well accoladed Canadian composer Andrew Paul MacDonald to contribute to the Composer’s Forum from the Music Faculty at Bishop’s University. For the event you composed a captivating, yet at times unnerving, string trio performed on the cello, viola, and violin. What is the main difference between writing a metal song and a piece similar to the one you wrote for the Composer’s Forum?
When I write for orchestra or for a chamber music ensemble my mind goes through a different thinking process than when I write for GORGUTS. Maybe because I’m thinking more in a polyphonic way. Also, the fact that there’s no drumming, brings my music writing to a different place. GORGUTS will have a multi voicing counterpoint in the stringed instrument, but bass and second guitar will be written by Kevin and Colin not by me. To me writing orchestral or chamber music is like a working on a painting, each instrument being a singular color in a bigger picture.
2016’s Pleiades’ Dust EP was met with fan and critic admiration. Last year Gorguts spent time on the road in the U.S.A and Europe, sharing the stage with: Converge, Havok, Defeated Sanity, Exist, and more. What can we expect in the second half of 2018 and maybe even 2019? Any chance of a new full-length album or perhaps another offering akin to Pleiades’ Dust?
Well 2018 and 2019 will be composition mode for me. I will start working on a new GORGUTS record this summer. I don’t foresee a record like PLEIADES….I picture something more in the vein of COLORED SANDS as far as song collection goes. We’ll see… but not a single song record for sure.
As a veteran of technical death metal you’ve witnessed the scene’s ebb and flow of popularity. The band has taken time away on numerous occasions, for different reasons, the most devastating being Steve MacDonald’s tragic death by suicide, which understandably led to Gorguts’ longest hiatus. However, when you do record the product is a definitive evolution in technical metal. Would you agree that time away is often beneficial to the artistic process? What do you enjoy focusing on when you are in-between making records?
Totally. I always need time so I can step back as much as possible from a record. Otherwise I would have the feeling to redo the same record again if I were to jump in composition mode right away. I also need time to do different things like carving and woodworking. These are the things I was doing when I was in a hiatus after Steve MacDonald’s death. I needed time by myself in the workshop, also time for reading, walking and thinking about what I want to do next.
And I’ll close with a question I’ve asked a few bands participating in this Canada Day feature: Besides your home town, what is your favourite Canadian city to play and why?
I’ve always loved playing Toronto, even in the early days of the band. I’ve always like the energy of the city, the crowds have always been good for the band.
It was a wonderful experience talking to some of Canada’s riff masters and to learn a little about what makes Canadian heavy music special. After it’s completion I knew that it would take a music outlet with serious passion to agree to publish such a lengthy piece and I’m grateful that () stepped up to make sure you all got to read these interviews.
MHF Magazine/Jay Rollins