Luc Lemay is a death metal legend, and a modest one at that, as he doesn't seem to agree to the title. His work with the band Gorguts, no doubt helped to shape the modern technical metal landscape.
We here at Metal Injection were honored to chat with Lemay about all things Gorguts, his interest in Tibet, and much more.
What inspired the revival of Gorguts?
The revival of Gorguts came from the preposition of Big Steeve (Hurdle). We were jamming in Negativa together, and one evening after a jam, we were having a snack and stuff and he said, in like 2007 he said, “You know Luc in two years is going to be the twentieth anniversary of the band. It would be cool if you do another record for the fans.” He wanted to be part of that, I decided to get all different people, but basically the idea came from him. I never thought about the twentieth anniversary. I was done with the band, and I thought it was a great Idea, so I decided to go forward with it.
Does it feel like 20 plus years since you started Gorguts?
No. It didn’t feel like 20 years at all. 25 Now, almost.
Did you reach out to any of the surviving former members, or did you consciously want to start again with new blood with you this time around?
I consciously wanted to start with new people being a part of the project. Not that the other people weren’t good musicians, or whatever. I had experience with them, it was fine. I made great records with them, I’ve very happy with every record that we did. The thing is, I was really inspired by John (Longstrenth), Kevin (Hufnagal) and Colin (Marston) and each of their projects. They are the first people I thought of to ask, and everybody said yes right away. So I was really lucky to make this happen, and that they wanted to be a part of this as well.
Did Colin and Kevin ever come with ideas that you felt were too Dysrhythmia-like, or did you do most of the song writing?
I do most of the song writing. It ended up on the record, that they each had a song. From the very beginning I wanted to write all the music, but when I say, “write all the music,” I write the song and the partition to give to Kevin and Colin so they do their string arrangement, but I’m never going to dictate to them, what to play. I provide the song canvas with the structure and everything, which stays intact. They just dress it up with their parts. That’s the way that we wrote this record. After we did a few songs, maybe four or five, Colin came up with a song and said, “Hey Luc, I just wrote a song, and it would be cool to put on the Gorguts record, but it’s up to you.” If, at the end of the day, I would have insisted to write all of the music, everybody would have been fine with it. My point is that they’ve been so generous with their talent and the way they’ve been treating the music canvas I’d been providing for them, it was a good idea to allow them some space to put their own fingerprint by each writing a song on the record.
Actually, “Forgotten Arrows,” the lyric video that came out two weeks ago, that’s Colin’s song. They’ve been a fan of the band [since] Obscura, From Wisdom (To Hate), for a long time. They understood the aesthetic of the band. When they sat down to write for the arrangement of the band, they think about it in a Gorguts aesthetic music language way. Colin is not going to start writing Behold the Arctopus parts for a Gorguts record. It doesn’t make any sense. Those are different aesthetics.
Color Sands comes from the process of these Tibetan monks drawing mandalas with colored sand. I was really, really amazed by this process, and I found it very, very intricate. I wanted, by curiosity, I wanted to find out why they do that. At the very beginning, I was looking forward to making a whole record about this process, with the Tibetan symbology, and the actual mandalas. Every little thing means something, and is important, and has a role to play in this whole big drawing. After reading a few books, I decided nah, maybe not do a whole record about it. Talking about it within a song is fine, because it’s one part of their culture. By reading more, I found more about how they found the Dahlia Llama as a kid, because they believe in reincarnation and all those things. I found that interesting, so that became the topic for a song. It became more poetic, and more epic, more than being a documentary kind of angle. Again, by reading more and more, I understood what happened to those people in the 1950’s when the Chinese invaded Tibet and made them prisoners in their own country. That oppression really struck me, and I thought it was a very sad story. To come back to the record, the first four songs talk about the beauties of their culture, then you have the orchestral piece in the middle, which is the actual invasion of Chinese in Tibet, and then after is the darker side of the coin. “Enemies of Compassion” is about China invading Tibet. “Ember’s Voice” is about Tibetan immolation themselves in public to protest against this occupation. “Absconders” is going to talk about a murder that happened [with] A Tibetan trying to escape Tibet by walking in the snow, and they got shot by a Chinese border guard. The last song is the tragic fate of those people, and throwing a few questions out. Why are the world communities not doing anything to put a fist on the table and say, “that’s enough”? That’s what brought the whole concept together, the whole idea started with wanting to understand mandalas, but Tibet is such a complex culture.
Have you been there?
No, never, but with this record, I did that with no pretension of knowing their culture. I read books, like anyone would read books and I’m just telling how I feel about this, how I’m amazed about the beauty of this culture, and now I’m shocked about the tragic fate of those people. It’s just my angle. I don’t have pretension of saying this is how it is, this is what’s going on. This is just my very modest look at this culture, because dude, you can study this culture for twenty-five, thirty years before knowing what you’re talking about. I wanted to bring an epic sense, a story telling side. I don’t want to take a political voice here and say, “Don’t buy China!” Never, ever in my lyrics do I mention the Chinese being the oppressor or the bad people.
While you’re making a stance on this, it’s still admirable for you to me voicing this point in history that some people just don’t know about in an outlet where it wouldn’t normally come up. There are some metal bands that DO have a political stance similar to this like Chthonic, but it’s not really expected.
Thank you, but me as a lyricist, I always tend to talk about what amazed me. Like on From Wisdom when I discovered the Sumerian culture, that’s how everything came about. So, it’s the same approach with Colored Sands. It could be interpreted with how their ground is now stained with blood and a lot of hatred, which is totally the opposite of their philosophy. That wasn’t really intended in the first place.
That was amazing! That was so great! People were so grateful, so nice, so generous. I can repeat myself here, but it felt so amazing. And to pay tribute to Chuck which was why I wanted to become a guitar player/singer playing death metal. It’s because of Scream Bloody Gore. It was very meaningful for me to be a part of this, I was very honored. There’re so many bands, and the fact that they picked us to do this…I couldn’t be happier.
Obscura and much of your back catalog are now considered to be classics, do you feel any new pressure on the new album from these accolades?
Hmmm, Pressure…When I sit down to write music, I do it the same way I did it ten years, twenty years ago. It’s just by experience. Your vision and your tools as a composer and a song writer, they change in time, but I’m not saying I need to make it better than Obscura, or that this has to be From Wisdom. Not at all. I always want to write the music that I would love to hear, and I like the story telling aspects of the music, even instrumentally I feel like this record could have worked. It’s more spacious. Riff-wise, we take time to say things with music themes. When we expose a new riff we give more room to it. I think it’s more progressive in this way. This record is very different than the others ones in this way: songs are longer, more spacious, more transparent instead of being riffs next to other riffs.
What do you think of the current technical-metal scene, in relation to how you helped create it?
I don’t look at it this way. I love my metal, and when I say that I mean, I love listening to metal. It’s not like and think, “Oh, this is our fault that they sound this way.” Not at all. It’s a very nice compliment you say that we broke some doors in the extreme music scene. If we helped contribute, great. I think there’s tons of great metal and quality music that’s coming out. I’m always looking around for this new band. For example, Nero Di Marte which I have the CD right here in front of me. I was really blown away.
They ARE cool!
Oh yeah! I love this. I love the new Dillinger, I like my Stone Sour as well. I’m not stuck saying it’s got to be extreme and weird. Like Stone Sour, I LOVE Corey Taylor’s voice. I think he’s an amazing singer. I love Opeth, Katatonia, I love those bands. Steven Wilson’s music –
Oh my god, Steven Wilson!
Of course! I was lucky enough to have an appointment with him when he came to Montreal for The Incident. I dropped him a line on Myspace. I said, “Hey what’s up blah blah blah, I’m Luc, I play in Gorguts. I really love your music. That’s it just wanted to say hi.” Dude, a couple days later, I get an email from him saying, “No introduction here, I have your record at home.” He told me that Mike from Opeth recommended Obscura and From Wisdom, I think, and he has them in his collection. I was lucky enough to meet him. I would have really liked for him to work on the record, but because of schedules it didn’t really work out, but I let him hear all the demos her had worked out. He’s such an inspiration.
What’s next for you and the band? I know you have a few shows, but is there more tour? What does the future hold?
I would love to play as much as we can to promote this music. It’s been such a roller coaster with this record. This record has been recorded for almost two years now. All the record label legal stuff, I was stuck in between two chairs. I was leaving Century Media and it was taking a long time so we were solving this together. It’s been very emotion at parts, but we got through that, so that’s why I want to push this record as much as we can, and play as much shows, and tour it, and share it with people. I really can’t wait to play this music live. It’s going to be a different show than we used to do. We’re going to play these shows in September, four shows. I would like to do a little tour just before Christmas, but that’s still just an idea that we need to work out. Just to come back to Steven Wilson a bit, when I saw Porcupine Tree play The Incident live, I was totally blown away by that. They come on stage and they play the whole record. I think that with this new record that we did, it would be a cool record to do that with. Let’s say you’re a painter. When you do an exhibition, you keep showing your old paintings, and you just show a few in the new production. I think it’s the same for music. You every song the same place, and play the record as a whole, because it’s a larger picture, and every song is a character in a larger picture. I didn’t really see the older records this way, but with this one I think it could work.
Colored Sands will drop in Europe on August 30th and in North America on September 2 via Season of Mist