When it comes down to it, Gorguts are one of the most important bands in shaping both the current and future landscape of death metal, no questions asked. Since their breakup and subsequent reunion which was met with one of the best “comeback” metal albums of all time in Colored Sands, the band’s unmistakable style has seen its ugly head pop up in many different bands from around the globe. They’ve helped pioneer some of the most atonal, unsettling, and fearless compositions within the murky confines of old school death metal, and now Luc Lemay & Co. are back with an equally ambitious project. Pleiades’ Dust is equally as dizzying, dense, and destructive as Colored Sands, it’s just delivered in half of the time and leaves absolutely no stone left untouched for the group. You’ll get disorienting death metal, forays into industrial territory, full-on dark ambience, and loads more. Bottom line is, if Pleiades’ Dust isn’t on your radar right now and doesn’t end up on your year-end list, you goofed up. I got a chance to speak with the mastermind of Gorguts, Luc Lemay, last week about piecing together the composition, organizing chaos, upcoming plans for the band and a lot more!
Thanks a lot for taking my call, man! It’s great to finally talk to you.
Oh, no problem! My pleasure! Thanks for having me!
So you just back from your tour with Psycroptic, Dysrhythmia and Nero Di Marte. How did that go?
The tour was great! I mean, it wasn’t 500-600 people every night, but my point is that we’re drawing in people with avant-garde metal. That’s a very positive thing for me. If we had done a tour like that fifteen or twenty years ago, nobody would have showed up for this type of music! (laughs)
Yeah, your style has definitely grown a lot over the past couple of years for sure.
Absolutely. I’m very happy. The camaraderie was great between every musician, and it was a very smooth sailing thing. It was great, and it was great to play [Pleiades’ Dust] live as well and share that with the fans ahead of time. So it kind of sets the table before the record comes out next month.
So you guys did play the whole 33 minutes?
Yeah! We were opening the show with two songs from Colored Sands so we can put the crowd in a comfort zone in a way, instead of opening with a show with bang! A half hour song of music they’ve never heard. (laughs) So first things first, we set up an ambience that they’re familiar with, and then we do the entire new record for them, and the response was great! Have you heard the record yourself?
Yeah! I just got it last week and I’ve listened to it quite a bit now.
Ok, so as you know there are very quiet parts then and the crowd would be quiet and very focused. So I think the music works pretty good live, and I’m very stoked about that.
How did they react to the…I think it’s maybe 18 or 19 minutes in, there’s that big dark ambient section. They reacted to that well? Because I love it in the album, but I was just curious as to how that would go over live…
That was one of my favorite moments that I was anticipating the most to perform live for the first time. And it sets up such a dark ambient mood in the set…it’s great! I’m beyond stoked and couldn’t be happier. That brought me in a way different than…how can I say it…I’m totally in a different mindset playing this type of music than I am with other stuff. Even with Colored Sands I don’t touch these grounds as I touch with this new music. It really gets me in a different mindset and it’s a different experience as a performer and composer. That’s something that I’m really, really happy about.
Would you say that it’s more challenging to pull off a long, continuous piece like that? I mean, I know you guys were basically doing Colored Sands front-to-back for a long time too. Is this a new challenge for you guys or does it feel like second nature?
Second nature, yes and no. Even if we performed like we did on the first US Colored Sands tour or even the Decibel tour when we played the first half of it, it’s still four songs back to back. It’s not like one song. Just the fact that there’s not really a place that we can stop if something goes wrong. Well, if we gotta stop we gotta stop, there’s nothing we can do about that. But my point is that you know that you’re in for a very long phrase. How can I say this? Sorry for my French here.
Oh, no! Don’t worry about it.
The fact that it’s a very long phrase to perform and everything, just the fact that you know it isn’t three or four songs put together and with no crowd interaction, it really puts you in a different mindset. So that’s a pretty new experience for sure.
So as far as writing the new piece goes, I was watching some videos of you guys the past couple of days and I was just curious as to how much of the writing process was divided up. I know you brought up each person doing chunks of it, but how exactly did it end up panning out?
The way it was written was that I did the first 20 minutes up to the ambient part. I wrote all that and programmed all the drums, but I programmed the drums not to tell Patrice [Hamelin, drums] what to do on his kit. This is a new thing for me, and I like this better though. It’s way better than having to stand there in the rehearsing room one-on-one and trying to explain with bad air drumming. Instead I’m at my studio, really focused, taking my time and saying “ok, here I hear a fill” and write it down. I’m not a drummer, but that’s a more precise way for me to explain my ideas. Then when I give it to everybody, they have a pretty good idea of what I hear in my head, but that doesn’t mean it’s set in stone. Not at all! The point to do that is to say “ok guys, drum-wise this is what I’m picturing and this is the best idea up to now.” But they can feel free to change it if they hear something different.
Then Patrice has a very good idea of what I hear and he can build from that, and of course he’s way more skilled than I can be just sketching bad Superior Drummer lines, you know? But it’s a good way to explain like, where a blast beat goes or whatever, but he’s free to put in fills where he hears them and put his own fingerprint on it. There’s no point for either guitar or bass or drums to tell everybody “you gotta do this and you gotta do that.” They have such a strong voice individually as artists or as writers on their own instruments, so it’s important for me to hear everybody’s voice and they add it to the storyline musically that I have. So for every riff that I write, I barely change anything from when I wrote the song. But Colin [Marston, bass] and Kevin [Hufnagel, guitar] are going to dress it up, and so it becomes a more layered type of metal instead of everyone playing the same riff together all the time. That’s what makes the ambience in the music, because it’s more about layers than these parallel unison types of playing.
I think that definitely after the ambient part, I mean there’s that slower, doomy riff…
Oh yeah, the doom riff there!
But then it really opens up into this almost free-form, like, chaos part basically.
Exactly, it’s organized chaos. But the whole album is really written like that. If you were to listen to the bass track by itself, there’s no fucking way you can know what riff is going on! It’s not even close to what I’m playing. Kevin will have closer voicing to what I do, but he’s gonna harmonize, but even then he’ll do a lot of parts that are way different than what I play. So that’s how we all did it. I did the first twenty minutes, sent it to the guys with the drum programming, and then before I knew I got the bass written for the first twenty minutes in like two weeks or something! Then we got together, we got this first twenty minutes all arranged, and then after we got that I wrote the part that comes after the ambient one, which is about ten or twelve minutes and did the same process, and the ambient part came last. That’s how it was all puzzled.
Did you have any problems structuring anything? Did you come into any challenges throughout the piece as far as making it all fit? Almost nothing repeats, but it still does have a good flow to it.
For me, the challenge for music with me comes from structure. That’s where the challenge is, and it’s of course about writing riffs. You’ve got to write riffs that you like, but even if you have the best riffs in the world, if they’re put together the wrong way it’s not going to work. It’s like having great characters in a story but they just don’t interact well together. So structure is really important for me, and that’s where most of the work goes, you know? But the thing is, like I said, it was pretty clear in my head that after twenty minutes there would be the ambient part and there will be this and that. I knew pretty well what to do from the beginning.
What made you…well had you been thinking about making one long piece like this for a while? Or did it just come into your mind after Colored Sands?
It came to mind after Colored Sands, but it’s always kind of been there in my mind, since I really like stuff from Deathspell Omega…oh jeez, what else? Maybe I from Meshuggah, and even when I saw The Incident from Porcupine Tree. Even if it’s not one long song, it’s still a huge chunk of music that clearly feels like chapters. Seeing the whole record performed live was like, wow! (laughs) I really want to write a long piece of music like this. So all those records that I just quoted, these were the main influence for me trying that exercise of composition. And I’m not saying that I’m always in a comfort zone even if I write a short song. But yeah, I wanted to challenge myself and you need to surprise yourself as an artist. Let’s say you’re a painter. You’re not going to paint the same picture your whole life; you know what I’m saying? So it’s the same thing with music.
I got the song as just one gigantic file, but I know there have been chunks of the piece that shown up online with their own names. Was there ever any thought to break it up? Was there ever any thought to break it up like that, kind of like The Incident, like you said?
No, no, no. Even if you feel in the piece like a new section is starting, if you isolated them and just listened to it as a five minute chunk, it doesn’t really work as a single song. That’s why it was kind of tough, well not really tough, but weird to get singles made to promote the record. But I think the one that I chose worked out ok as a single track.
Yeah, I heard that first obviously and I think it definitely works by itself.
But when it’s in context, that’s when it’s the best. You really need the whole picture.
Yeah, absolutely. So I guess you’re back in Canada now. Are you guys gearing up to do more shows in the summer to promote the new release?
We will have one or two shows; the second one’s not confirmed yet. There’s one show for sure in June. We’re playing the [Amnesia Rockfest], that’s in Quebec. We’d love to start planning a US tour for, let’s say, September or October.
One other thing: I know you said you were inspired by Deathspell and I by Meshuggah, was there maybe anything that came out in the last year or so that didn’t necessarily have to inspire the record, but maybe you were just a big fan of?
Well I also listen to a lot of classical music too, and that was a really big influence for the really long compositions, especially being a fan of…I don’t know if you know the Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki?
I’ve heard of him, but I’ve never actually listened.
Most of his concertos are like one, long, 30-something minute movement. Let’s say…there’s this piano concerto called Resurrection that’s like that, his 2nd Violin Concerto is like that, Cello Concerto no. 2 is like that, Symphony No. 4 is like that, so that’s something that I really wanted to capture with this record. Again, it’s also an ode to that composer which is, to me, one of my all-time idols and a master. Really an inspiration for me.
If I was going to check out one out, which one should I go for first?
For Penderecki? You should go for this amazing YouTube version of Penderecki’s Violin Concerto No. 2. This is a fucking giant work, and I got to see it conducted in Montreal by him, and it’s jaw-on-the-floor, totally speechless stuff. It’s fucking evil classical music! And I really like Symphony No. 3. These two works are really amazing.