Luc Lemay of Gorguts: Parting the Coloured Sands

"The day it becomes boring is when it’s time to do something else."

Intricate and mesmerising, Gorguts represents the pulsating frontal lobe of death metal thought. After the storming comeback that was last year’s Coloured Sands, the band will be heading down to Australia for the first time this November. Metal as Fuck caught up with softly-spoken songwriter/guitarist/vocalist Luc Lemay to talk about the upcoming tour as well as his affinity for classical music.

This is the first time Gorguts has toured in Australia. Does the prospect of playing new places still excite you? Or has this all become routine for you in this stage of your career? “Oh no it’s not a routine. Even when we go back to places we’ve played before, the day of a show is always great. We get to meet the fans and talk with people and perform the music for them. There’s nothing boring about that. The day it becomes boring is when it’s time to do something else.”

You’ve got Australian band Portal acting as your main support for this tour. It’s a pairing that makes a great deal of sense to me personally, but I’m curious to know if you feel you share any musical kinship with the band. “I have their records. I listen to their music, not every day, but there’s a mood and a time for it. We’ve actually played with them before in the States in 2012, we did three shows with them and they were very nice people. They put on a very obscure and dark show which is very one of a kind. When I heard that the shows were to be with them, I was very, very happy because I remember liking the ambience of their music live as well as the theatrical element to it. The pairing makes total sense for sure.”

You consider yourself to be a composer rather than just a guitarist and I know that you’re influenced quite a lot by 20th century classical music. I’d like to know how those influences impact the way you write metal music. “Well, I’ve said it a few times in different interviews. I consider myself a composer and someone that writes musical ideas more than a guitar player. Guitar just happened to be the vehicle for me to write with. Of course, I like the attitude of it, I like the sound of it and that’s what attracted me to it in the first place. But let’s say that in the process of writing a record, I wouldn’t be attracted to the guitar for the sake of playing guitar. Guitar, for me, is my tool to express myself and that’s why I see myself more as a composer than a guitar player.

As for the classical music aspect, what I like about classical music when I studied it in more detail is that it had a big influence on me in terms of song structure. Let’s say when you write a piece, when you start studying works from, like concertos or symphonies from Shostakovich, you have these very long movements from about 10, 15, 20 minutes and it’s very well organised in the way the themes work. This, I like to bring to Gorguts. It would be pretentious to say as much as them, but the thing is that it influenced me in the way that I like to work on many details, especially in the structure. If you listen to the riffs for what they are, riff for riff, sometimes it’s not that technical or complicated, but it fits into the overall arrangement which can refer in orchestrations so to speak in classical music. I put a lot of energy into song structure and arrangement. I think that’s the essence of songwriting and composition. Because you can have five or so amazing riffs, but if they’re not glued together right or arranged together in the right way or layered, it doesn’t mean you’re going to have a good song. That’s the thing I learned as a musician over the years with Gorguts. The more we wrote music, it became a challenge and a priority to put more of our focus into every detail of the arrangement and the song structures. That’s a major detail in the sound of the band.”

The Battle of Chamdo on Coloured Sands is notably an orchestral piece; do you have any ambitions to explore these kinds of sounds further in the future? “We’ll see. For now, I’m writing music for a new thing. On the new composition I’m working on now, I wasn’t seeing any need for violin or whatever. For the concept of the story on Coloured Sands, I thought it was it was working well. Music speaks for itself; I don’t want to force myself now that I’ve done it once on one record, to put it on every record. If it sounds right, I’ll be happy to work on it, but I’m never going to force it into the music.”

You mentioned before that you’re working on new music; I’m just wondering what kind of art has been inspiring you to create lately? “After Coloured Sands has been out for a while, I’ve been wanting to do an EP for a long, long time. For some reason I like the formula of the short record, and also you may know that I’m a big fan of the work of Deathspell Omega and they did a few of the EP’s with only one song that is 20-25 minutes. Or Eye from Meshuggah, which is about 15-20 minutes of music and it’s only one song. I’ve always been interested in this style of writing. So that’s what I want to do for the next Gorguts release. I’m working on a song right now, which I would like to be around 25 to 30 minutes, but only one big movement, like a Penderecki symphony, which are often around 30 minutes. But again, it’s a challenge, for the song structure and to treat the riffs like characters in a story and place them well, so they don’t get too annoying. It’s going to be a challenge for sure.”

Do you have anything else you’d like to say to your Australian fans? “I’m very, very happy to go to there for the first time in my life and perform our music. It’s going to be a wonderful trip, very inspiring to go there and meet the people. So, I’m very excited to go there, we’ll have a lot of fun for sure.”