With the release of Obscura (1998) and From Wisdom To Hate (2001) Gorguts set the bar for technical death metal. Sadly the band dissolved shortly thereafter only to emerge again almost a decade later with Colored Sands. Luc Lemay confides in Ghost Cult regarding the trials and tribulations that befell his band and where they’re at now.
Gorguts disappeared from the scene almost a decade ago. What happened?
After Steve McDonald (former Gorguts drummer) passed away in 2002 I decided to move away from Montreal, because I was done living there. I wanted to be closer to where I was raised and be closer to nature in a way. After Steve’s death I wasn’t interested in playing music anymore. I was very content with the musical legacy of the band at that point and I was ready to start a new chapter in my life. I started to make a living out of woodworking. Back in 2006, Steeve Hurdle asked me to join Negativa. I joined his band on the condition that everything would be low key. It was all about having fun playing music for me. After a rehearsal Steeve pointed out that it would be cool to make a new Gorguts record to commemorate Gorguts’ 20 years of existence. I was all for it and from that point the idea came to play with John (Longstreth – drums), Kevin (Hufnagel – guitar) and Colin (Marston – bass) and create a new record. The rest is history as they say.
Colored Sands took quite some years to be completed. How so?
When I decided to put Gorguts on hiatus back in 2002 we were signed to Olympic Records and they were taken over by Century Media, so suddenly they owned my contract. Although I didn’t play music anymore I had to go through a lot of red tape. Stupid as I was I signed the new contract without reading the fine print. So when I approached Century Media about doing a new Gorguts record they were totally into the idea, but I wasn’t happy with the old contract, so I asked them whether we could negotiate better terms to make the contract more up to date. They agreed to, but in the end we didn’t see eye to eye on things and we mutually agreed it was better to go our separate ways. Dissolving the contract was a very time consuming and complicated legal affair. As a band we decided to push on recording Colored Sands, regardless of how long it would take to settle the legal affairs with Century Media. While the music was already written it took me years to write all the lyrics.
Colored Sands is a combination of technical death metal and more atmospheric parts. How did you manage to make it all stick?
It was a matter of adapting to a new musical vision and playing with new musicians. When writing the new record I wasn’t interested in sticking to traditional song structures. At the time I started to listen to more progressive bands like Opeth and Porcupine Tree, so that certainly had a major influence on my writing. I really love Steven Wilson’s music, be it his solo work, Blackfield or Porcupine Tree. I really love the atmospheric songs on Deadwing. PT’s The Incident record as a real eye opener for me when I was working on Colored Sands. I wanted to translate that style of writing into my own music. As you may know all Gorguts albums have their own distinct personality, we never made the same album twice. I wasn’t interested in making an Obscura or From Wisdom To Hate part II. The main Gorguts elements are certainly there on Colored Sands, but we made our atmospheric side a little more prevalent this time around.
When you look at your musical career, and Gorguts as a whole, you had to deal with lots of personal loss, legal hassle with record labels and the sort. How did this change your outlook on being a musician?
It certainly helped me develop a tough skin dealing with such things. At the end of the day it helps to realise that you’re making music for the right reasons. You do this for the sake of writing music and to not to be a cash cow for said label. For me it’s all about finding my fulfillment as a composer and a musician. Plainly put, creating music makes me happy. Choosing experimental death metal as the means of expressing myself reduces the chance of making a hit single next to zero, so you have to be in this for the right reasons. Compare it to being a writer or a poet. You simply know it will be a struggle. When I chose to become a musician I accepted the consequences and that’s why I’m still doing this.
Nowadays it seems that there’s more appreciation of forward thinking music in metal. Is this something you notice as well?
Most certainly; nowadays our Obscura record has almost an iconic status with lots of people, which I find very flattering of course. When we wrote the music for Obscura back in 1993 and 1994 I remember sending cassettes to labels in the hope of getting a record deal. They didn’t know what to do with the music and most of them never replied at all. Nobody liked it. It was a typical love it or hate it thing. Some of our older fans still maintain that Considered Dead and The Erosion Of Sanity are our best records. I respect their opinion and both albums are good records in the time they were made, but I could never write an album like Erosion… again. I don’t see the point of doing that again. As a composer I’m not interested in writing the same type of music like I did 25 years ago. It doesn’t fulfill me as an artist.
You were a part of the Death To All tour. How was the whole experience for you?
It was simply amazing. Chuck Schuldiner and his music were the main reason why I picked up a guitar and started a band. Scream Bloody Gore was a big part of that. They could have chosen any other band to open for them, but they picked us, which was a great honor for us. We all got along great and the sense of camaraderie was amazing. Sharing the stage with a lot of my idols, like Gene Hoglan, Sean Reinert and Paul Masvidal, was a dream come true and the crowds were so receptive of what we’re doing. It was a special moment for me. The financial bit was poorly organised and it brought me in a lot of trouble, but I’d rather stick to the good memories of sharing the stage with some of my heroes and keeping Chuck’s musical legacy alive.