Reduced to Silence

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I have to admit to being fairly late to the Gorguts party. My first actual Gorguts purchase was 1998s Obscura, and like most, back then it simply was too forward thinking and mind blowing for my tiny brain. However, as I got involved in this journalism stuff, was exposed to more realms of musical creativity, I came to appreciate Obscura for the genius it was and even went back and picked up the rest of Gorguts’ early catalog, which I had merely dismissed as Death clones when they first came out as well as the band’s then swansong From Wisdom to Hate.

12 years after From Wisdom to Hate,and after a few years in Negativa, Gorguts founder and frontman Luc Lemay is back under the Gorguts banner, albeit with a all star session line up. And 15 years after Obscura turned the death metal world on it’s head, the comeback album Colored Sands, is doing the same. Arguably one of the most exciting reunions of the year (possibly topped by Carcass) if not the last few years, Colored Sands is a glorious return that is distinctly Gorguts, but fitting in nicely within today’s death metal. It’s a huge, cavernous album that has a few nods to the band’s back catalog, but smartly never tries to recreate the genre melting chaos of Obscura or the old school visage of the band’s first two albums. Though battling some illness, Luc Lemay was kind enough to answer a few emails concerning Gorguts’, past, present, and future…

Why reunite and release an album now? What came about that made you do this in 2013?

I decided to reform the band and make a new record to celebrate the 20th anniversary (the band was formed in 1989) of the band which was in 2009. The idea was given to me by Steve Hurdle back when I was playing in NEGATIVA. The album is being released in 2013 cause there was a lot of business to straight up with record contracts and that’s why it took a long time to release the album, since all the music was finished in late 2010 then I took over a year to write all the lyrics.

You have surrounded yourself with a varied array of musicians from Colin Marston to Jon Longstreth – how did these guys get involved with the project? Were they hired guns to record an album you had already written or did they assist in the writing process?

I was very impressed with their individual talent that’s why I choose them to be part of this. I’m a strong believer that you need to have admiration for your partners in crime! So I contacted them individually and they all said Yes! Then, on my side I’ve waited to have 3 songs completed, then I went to jam with John and it went really well! We almost got 3 songs together in one week end. On the other hand, for Kevin and Colin, I sent them the 3 compositions with all the music written in tablature, I also included a graphic illustrating the form of the music for most of the songs along with a recording of my guitar playing along to a click. Then a couple weeks later, Colin and Kevin would send me back my guitar track with their arrangements over it. All I can say is that it sounded great right away!!!! We haven’t changed much from the first draft! It was important for me to leave them complete freedom as far as their voices over the music. Otherwise, it wouldn’t make sense to have collaborators like them….I would have made everything myself on the computer then.

It’s been 15 years since the ground breaking Obscura and 12 years since From Wisdom to Hate, what was it like being away from Gorguts and other than Negativa, away from death metal for so long?

It was all good. When I decided to end the band in 2002 or 2003…after Steve MacDonald passed away, I was done with music and I wanted to devote myself to woodworking full time. I was very happy with all the achievements that the band accomplished so it was all good for me… bitterness and no feeling of unfinished business.

Obviously, Obscura stands as a truly groundbreaking death metal album, how much pressure was there to again try and create something as groundbreaking 15 years later, or was there no pressure and you simply tried to create a great album understanding that creating another Obscura was going to be virtually impossible 15 years later considering how far death metal has come since then?

Well, I did not think about this at all when I wrote COLORED SANDS….all that was important for me was to have fun, and write the music that I wanted to hear. That’s always been my motivation as a composer. And also I never tried to reproduce OBSCURA again. I don’t like saying the same thing twice musically. I think that I have enough self critique to notice if I’m going to repeat myself. So, if I would have notice that I was going to write a pale copy of OBSCURA I would have not went for it. What I like is to surprise myself and have a great camaraderie with my bandmates!

Has there been any feedback on Colored Sands from former Gorguts members?

There’s Steve Hurdle that got to hear the first 2 pre prods we did and he liked it for the fact that it was different for the previous records.

Was Negativa was meant to be a continuation of Gorguts? What changed? You are no longer in Negativa right?

No, it was not a continuation of GORGUTS. It was a completely different musical direction and we had a girl singing in the band which brought something new….also there was a lot of improvised section in the latest music we wrote. And that’s one of the reason why I left, I was never a fan of improvisation. I like the act of composition by myself. And as far as NEGATIVA goes, it’s been disbanded for a long time.

So now Colored Sands is out and the reviews have been outstanding, how relieved are you after so long?

This is an amazing gift! I’m sooooooo happy to finally share this music with our fans! I think I achieved the vision that I had for this record and it seems to touch people. So, to me I reached my goal as an Artist. I wrote the record I wanted to hear and it touches people…..I’m more than happy! The fans have been amazingly generous!!!!!!!!!!

Was there a sound or tone you had in mind when writing Colored Sands? How do you make an album that sounds like a Gorguts album in today’s scene where Gorguts is an influence to so many bands and styles?

For this record, all the music was done before I wrote even a single word for the lyrics. So, music wise, I had like a soundtrack vision, I was picturing a lot of dynamics, and a story telling atmosphere. To me the music needs to work well on its own. I don’t like when we say like: “ wait the vocal are in….it will work then….” No way! The music canvas needs to be self sufficient. Then when I had the vocal to the music I find all the vocal rhythms so they do not conflict with the music canvas and I write all my lyrics so them fit in those specific rhythms. Then we keep this “whole” sound and a sense of polyphony and transparency in the orchestration even if it’s made of electric instruments. It’s the same process for me as when I write and orchestrate for a symphonic ensemble. I try to avoid conflicts among the instruments individual voices.

Was there any temptation at all to try and recreate the sheer chaos of Obscura?

Not really. OBSCURA is fine like it is and we don’t need a second OBSCURA. I like better challenging myself with a new vision and sound instead of trying to copy myself.

You touched on this a little already, but how long have you had Colored Sand material written? Is this 12 years of ideas?

I started writing the music for COLORED SANDS in the fall of 2008 and in November 2010 we were rehearsing for getting ready to enter the studio to record the music in February 2011. After I recorded the vocals sporadically at Colin’s studio in 2012 and February 2013.

Talk a little about the orchestral piece “The Battle of Chamdo”?

This piece acts like a breather. I wanted to take the percussion and the distorted guitars out of the listeners ear so we can start fresh for the darker part of the story. Also it’s a very important part of the concept. It illustrates and tells the story of the Chinese invasion of Tibet of 1950. I wanted to have real instrumentalist for this piece as well. I wanted to do that on FROM WISDOM TO HATE with the intro of THE QUEST FOR EQUILIBRIUM but I couldn’t find real string players back then so that’s why I went with synths. So no synths this time!!!!!! They just play amazingly well! It brings a lot of poetry to the record.

The title track is as stunning as a piece of music as I’ve heard in 2013 – talk a little about this monstrous slow burner of a song

Thank you for the compliment…Again, I wanted to have the story telling aspect from a composition point of view. The single harmonic illustrates a single grain of sand hitting the floor as the monks start to draw a sand mandala. Then this is dressed up with a rhythmic figure in 5 which illustrates the 5 elements in the Tibetan philosophy: air, water, fire, earth and space. Then when the distorted guitar kicks in that pictures the pilgrimage that leads to the mandala drawing ritual. Pilgrims walking for months… prostrating every 3 footsteps until they get to the place where everybody gathers to assist to the mandala ritual.

If you had not written and released Colored Sands, would you be happy with Gorgut’s legacy or is Colored Sands finishing unfinished business?

Like I said earlier, I was happy back in 2001, 2002 with everything the band had accomplished…now I’m more than pleased with COLORED SANDS…I cannot deny that….but back then I could never know I was gonna write this record 10 or 12 years later. That being said, my motivation was to offer a record to the fans for the 20th anniversary.

There is another high profile reunion release coming out later this year with Carcass’s Surgical Steel. Any thoughts on that and other classic bands reunited over the last few years (Obituary, Suffocation, Incantation etc)

I love CARCASS!!!!!!!! I can’t wait to hear their record! You know there’s a great camaraderie among the bands in the scene! Last year we played a festival in Holland with SUFFOCATION and it was great to see each other again!!!!! We’ve been friends since 1991! Same with IMMOLATION!!!! It’s all great!!!!!!


  1. Commented by: Roman

    Always great to hear from Luc. His insight and understanding of music is tremendous, without a doubt, but even better is his ability to explain esoteric ideas in plain English.

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