Luc Lemay of Gorguts was kind enough to talk to me for a while about the recording process of Colored Sands, what it was like to work with other hugely talented musicians, and how they made it work without them all being in the same geographical place. I also (lamely) try to convince him to make guest spots on many other albums.
|Artwork by Martin Lacroix|
First, congrats on creating a remarkable piece of music with this album.
Thank you very much. That was a labor of love.
When you first started writing this, did you have any concerns about working with musicians who weren’t located in the same place as you?
Actually, from square one, when I decided to get another Gorguts record done, I had John [Longstreth] and Colin [Marston] in mind right away, and it was Big Steeve [Hurdle] that told me about them... Steve wanted to be a part of the project, but back then we were already doing Negativa together, and we’d done Obscura together, and I wanted to have a different experience. Not that the experience was not nice or fulfilling with Big Steeve, but since it was possible for me to live something new and have a different experience, I wanted to have all new people. Then Big Steeve told me, “You really gotta check this guitar player out,” talking about Kevin [Hufnagel]. It’s two-for-one in the sense that he already plays with Colin, so everything should be easier, schedule-wise. Then we went to his place and he showed me a couple videos of Dysrhythmia live, and I was like, “Holy smoke!” I was blown away by Kevin’s playing, so right away, I really wanted to have him in the picture. So then I e-mailed everybody on their respective MySpace’s, and everybody said yes. It was like it was meant to happen with those people.
It’s nice to get 100% agreement right from the start.
Exactly. It’s not like I had to look around for a guitar player or a drummer for a month or two. It really clicked, and I really wanted them to be in the picture. I was a big fan of John’s playing on Dim Mak’s Knives of Ice, because I was a big fan of that record. And Colin, I was totally impressed by his Warr guitar playing, and I said to myself if this guy has the ambition to play those kind of instruments, I’m sure it’s going to work out well on the creative aspect for making a record.
So how did the writing process work? Did you exchange files?
Yeah, the way it worked is that, with me living in Canada, I’d write, say, a whole song by myself. And from there, I’d write all the riffs in the right order that they appear in the song, and I’d write them in tablature... I’d send Kevin, Colin, and John an mp3 of the song, just me playing along with a click, and then there would be the manuscript for the music... For a couple of songs, I also did a structural graphic, like we would do in analysis class, back when I was studying composition.
Then, first thing I knew, a month later, Colin would write me back and he would have written the whole bass line over the music. Then Kevin would send me the track with the bass line and all his guitar over my track of music. I gave them complete freedom to write whatever they wanted, unless they did something that didn’t work with the music or didn’t fit with the aesthetic of the music, but they just nailed it every time. We barely changed a note here and there. It was like, first draft, bulls-eye. They were fans of the band before, so they understood the aesthetic of the band, but the thing is, they wrote bass and guitar tracks in the Gorguts aesthetic in the way that they see it. As I always give as an example, if you have three people and ask them to draw a table on a piece of paper, you’re going to recognize the object right away, but everybody’s going to draw a table in their own perspective. If you asked me, for example, to write a riff in the style of Slayer, then I’d do it my way. You could recognize the aesthetic there, but that doesn’t mean my friend is going to do it the same way as I, so that’s how it happened with them writing. They surprised me every time. That’s important when you have a project with people, you need to be surprised by them, you need to be inspired by them. And that’s the case with these musicians.
Thinking about Dysrhythmia, they’re certainly well within the genre sphere of Gorguts, but it would certainly take a very subtle touch to not only bring their own personal piece to it, but to also respect what you’ve already accomplished with the band.
Were you surprised at all that you were so close to the same page right off?
Taking a step back, totally, because you can have an amazing player, but you’ll never get along together. You need to have a good relationship to share ideas. In life, it’s not always easy to click with people, you know. The older we get, we know what we want, and it’s like, “Well, I love the way he plays, but personality-wise maybe it’s not my thing.” It wasn’t the case...it was just perfect with everybody. It was smooth sailing. It was awesome to share ideas, and we weren’t at the point where we completed each other’s sentences, but almost! They’re amazing people, and great personalities, and that’s very important for me as well. It’s not all about the music...I need to have fun. If I don’t have any fun, then forget it. I’ll just be home, and I’ll write all the stuff myself.
Did you feel like anything was lost in the writing process because you weren’t eyeballing each other in a room?
Not at all. All the records I made previously were made collectively, like being in the same room in the same time. For instance, Obscura, the way we wrote that, Steve [Cloutier], Steeve, and I would spend a week in our own corners coming up with riffs. The week after, we’d get together on a Monday, and we’d jam back then 5 or 6 days a week, all afternoon, having dinner together and jamming in the evening as well. Every song on Obscura, besides “Rapturous Grief,” took 2 days to write.
But this time around, having them living in NYC and me in Canada, we don’t hear in the music that it wasn’t written with us in the same room. Of course, we tweaked little arrangements. For instance, I had an idea for a drumbeat, and John and I got together one-on-one for a couple songs to get the drums together. Once we got together as a four piece, we’d play a song with all the string section together, and Colin would have one line sticking out that was very strong, and we’d say, “Oh, what about John doubling this line to underline it?” That’s the kind of tweaking we did together, but other than that, we didn’t have to change a melodic line in the music. We just made the arrangements more subtle. From the first draft, it was boom--bullseye.
You can definitely hear that. In a way, I wonder if it helped a little with that setup, because the music is so intricate. Everyone could have a little private time to think about what they wanted.
Exactly. Back in Negativa, Big Steeve was a big fan of improvisation, and me, I just hate improvisation. Never liked it. I don’t like having three people stare at me while I’m in my head with ideas and researching a theme. I like more being in my own shell, thinking about stuff, and writing, like someone would do writing a book. That’s the way I like. Not that I don’t like working on music collectively, but we need to have 95% of the substance there. Other than that, improvisation...it’s not my cup of tea.
Do you think this is the future? Maybe we’ll get more world-wide collaborations?
Maybe. It’s a personality thing as well. Maybe some like to have on-the-spot collective, “Let’s work on a song from scratch to finish,” but for me, it was perfect. I’m a very busy person, and Colin is super busy, Kevin as well. They each have three or four bands each. John is the same, he tours a lot with Origin... But with no internet, this record would not exist.
Might we see you guesting on any Krallice or Vaura records?
Maybe. [Laughs.] Or maybe I can sing on a Dysrhythmia song or a Behold the Arctopus song.
Thank you so much for your time, I really appreciate it.
Thank you, thanks for the interview. I couldn’t be more thankful for the press and all the people so far and the fans I’ve briefly met being on the road for two weeks. I couldn’t be more thankful for the response to the music. I’m so happy. So happy. It’s the only word I can find! [Laughs.]
[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]
All photos are from the Gorguts gallery, except for the live photo of John Longstreth which was taken by Ross Grady.