Exclusive Gorguts Interview

By on 21 September 2013


They hadn’t done a record for 12 years, only one founder member remains, and yet GORGUTS have returned as one of the most adventurous, innovative, terrifying and downright brilliant propositions in death metal. This is how they managed it…

Words: Kevin Stewart-Panko

This article was originally featured in Terrorizer 240.

It started, as these things usually do, over some casual, late-night face-stuffing. Then, the power of suggestion followed by the realisation that, ‘Holy shit! We really did have something good going on there, didn’t we?’

Let’s rewind the clock to 2008. Back then, Gorguts hadn’t been a band for at least a couple of years and hadn’t been very active for at least a couple of years before that. However, two of its principle members and creators of 1998’s ‘Obscura’, an album that has become widely recognised as one of the most groundbreaking death metal albums in the history of death and metal, are engaged in a chow down after their then-band, Negativa, wrapped up rehearsal. Between bites of (probably) poutine and bagels, the conversation reportedly saw guitarist “Big” Steeve Hurdle remind guitarist Luc Lemay of the Gorguts’ impending 20th anniversary, and suggested a new record – an idea Luc took on board.

“I hadn’t thought about the 20th anniversary until Big Steeve brought it up,” says Luc. “I was done with the band; I was really happy with what we had done and liked what we were doing in Negativa. I wasn’t really paying much attention to anything having to do with Gorguts.”

So, fans, give a little tip o’ the nib to Montreal’s late-night eateries and the late Steeve Hurdle’s (he passed away in 2012 after complications following surgery) ability to remember anniversaries and birthdays. Without that disparate duo of contributions, Luc Lemay may have continued on with a life that included all his passions from Negativa and classical music to woodworking, wild-eyed wide-mouth smiles and delivering bone crushing handshakes, but one that didn’t pay Gorguts much mind.

While it presently has been almost five years since Luc has resurrected Gorguts from being considered dead – the band made its live debut at 2010’s Maryland Deathfest, have played on the summer festival circuit and a handful of North American shows since – there’s a stable line-up and new album in place truly cementing their comeback.

“I started to think about getting people to play with me,” Luc continues, about the new line-up. “At first, Big Steeve wanted to be part of it, but I was like ‘Dude, no offense, but I don’t know if I want to play with you in Gorguts. I’m doing Negativa with you and if I’m going to do this, I would like to do something with new people to have a different experience.’ Not that the experience with him was boring – we did ‘Obscura’ together! – but I wanted to do something else.”

coloredsandsThe result is not only a reconstituted Gorguts, but an intricately brilliant new album, ‘Colored Sands’. It’s their first new material since 2001’s ‘From Wisdom To Hate’ and doesn’t half-ass anything about the band’s return to the world of recording. Not only are they going about their restoration in a manner contrary to those bands who get back together to play material everyone is already familiar with and stoked on, album number five is a fully fleshed out, heads-down, return to action.

“With this record,” Luc says on the topic of the new album’s direction and feel, “I wanted to create a storytelling mood within the music; sort of like motion picture music. I read about Tibetan culture and history and what happened in the ’50s. I was like ‘Holy shit! This is very dramatic.’ So Tibet became more of the canvas for the music. Basically, the first four songs are talking about the splendours of the country, the culture, the topography, the geography. The orchestral piece talks about the Chinese invasion of 1950 when they took control of the country and the last four songs are about the dark side of the coin, so to speak. It’s about the country being invaded, people protesting through immolation, people getting killed trying to escape and the end is like an open question asking ‘What’s going to happen?’ The whole world knows Tibet and Tibetan culture is very non-threatening, but nobody puts a real foot down to help them and get the Chinese out of there. The title comes from how I was seeing the ground coloured by suffering.”

That orchestral piece is one of the more unusual moments on the new record; ‘Colored Sands’ is rife with not only the jarring and challenging musicality initially laid out on ‘Obscura’, but it also includes a Luc Lemay-penned classical interlude, ‘The Battle Of Chamdo’. Actually, it’s the first piece of chamber/classical music Luc has written since dropping out of the classical music program at Montréal’s Royal Conservatory.

“The classical studies ended for me in 2001 because of some diploma requirement that wanted me to write electro-acoustic music on computers, and I wasn’t attracted to that at all,” Luc explains. “My studies first came about because of personal curiosity; me wanting to learn about the craft of the composers I liked and to understand how this type of music can be put down on paper. At school, they’re not really going to teach you how to write a piece of music. The teachers are more offering a critical eye on your work; they’re not going to teach you how to have ideas. It’s like studying literature; you’re going to read and study all the great works and learn the history of them. But if you want to write, you still have to wake up in the morning, sit down at the table with a piece of paper and pencil and think up a story. School just brought me a better critical ear when writing either chamber music or death metal – composition is composition, y’know?”

And of Luc’s goals and plans for the latest incarnation of the band he originally formed in 1988, he concludes: “I have musicians living outside Canada who are very busy people [in the band now]. It’s always going to be a matter of scheduling for me. I don’t want to impose myself onto their schedules. If it’s possible for us to get together to play some shows, it happens. I don’t want to push it to where it’s like, ‘Ok, you guys have to leave everything you’re doing to focus on my stuff.’ For me, I’m 42 and it’s very important with everything I’ve done and all the sacrifices I’ve made that it has to be enjoyable. The day it’s not, it won’t work. What appeals to me first is the craft and then after, if everyone’s schedule works and we can go here and there to play shows, and we have a great time together, that’s what counts.”

To read more from this issue, you can purchase it online here.

You can find Gorguts on Facebook.

About Kez Whelan

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