Sunday, March 16, 2014

Deformatory Interview

Canadian blasters Deformatory impressed me with their debut album In the Wake of Pestilence, a melee of jackhammer drums and tasteful shredding. I love me some Canadian death metal, so I e-mailed some questions to the band, which guitarist/vocalist Charlie Leduc, guitarist Jeffery Calder and drummer Neil Grandy took turns answering (the band is completed by bassist Justin Brazeau).

Dreams of Consciousness: Deformatory previously went under the name Tual-Masok. Why the change? Did this reflect a change in musical direction as well?

Charlie Leduc: That name was goddamn terrible! Our previous vocalist was the one who came up with it, and it was taken from some random fantasy novel, used to described a type of sword called the “Blood Drinker”. It only took a few shows under that name, and a few times trying to explain it for us to decide it was time to get rid of that nonsense.

Jeffery Calder: The project started in 2005, in Edmonton under the moniker Exile. Bringing the project to Ottawa in 2008 it was renamed to Tual-Musok. After years of not being able to easily convey the band name, it was decided that the name needed to be changed. [We] unanimously agreed that Deformatory was better suited. The name conveys a visual element that anyone can make their own opinions of what the music and name are about.

Neil Grandy: I’m just glad we changed the name. [Tual-Masok was] hard to say, nobody knew what it meant, not the best choice.

DoC: What were your goals when you first formed?  

To combine all of our favorite extreme musical elements into one cohesive unit. (CL, NG & JC)

DoC: How would you describe the difference between your first EP A Prelude To... and your newest album In the Wake of Pestilence?

Neil Grandy: While I didn’t play drums on the released EP, I see the biggest differences being the more cohesive writing style used on the full length. I believe the riffs make more sense and are in line with the goals of the band; the songs simply flow better as well.

Charlie Leduc: Well, the EP was a reflection of Deformatory at that time, with that particular line up. In my opinion, it wasn’t as strong and as right as it could have been, or as it is now. We eliminated much of the gayness from the band, and allowed the songs to write themselves.

Jeffery Calder: From the EP, to our single [Believe the Lie - DoC], to the LP was quite a leap of growth as a band. Each producer educated us on various approaches of recording that were adopted as we went along. The line up changed between the EP/single and the LP which vastly improved the final product.

DoC: In the Wake of Pestilence is a remarkably strong debut. How long was the writing process? What were the recording sessions like?

Charlie Leduc: Thanks man! Our writing process is very organic. We write riffs and songs in our jam space, as a unit. The songs develop very quickly and very organically. We’re definitely not a Guitar Pro band (not that there’s anything wrong with that). But, we love to just...jam! The album wrote itself fairly quickly. The recording process was a good learning experience for us. Having worked with different producers, we really loved the way Dan Rogers worked with us on this album. He got what we were going for (no click tracks, live, old school feel, natural sounding instruments, etc) and was able to capture the essence of Deformatory quite well.  The recording sessions were very laid back. Most of the drums were tracked in one day. All of the songs, Neil killed them in one or two full takes. The vocals were done in a similar way. The guitars were tracked by Jeffery and I, at our own time, in our rehearsal space. Altogether, the process took about 4 months.

Jeffery Calder: The writing process on this release changed from our previous releases. We chose instead of bringing forth songs entirely composed by one individual to collaborate as a unit in the rehearsal room with 1-2 musicians playing riff ideas and shaping them into their final product. Some songs were entirely composed in a 3hr rehearsal session, while others were re-written in various forms but ultimately became what is presented on the final album. It was a learning process but fun to collaborate and create the music that is on the album.

Drums were the shortest element tracked as Neil is a machine and we decided not to record using a click track. Guitars and bass were a lot longer process to record. Vocals were also done quickly with very little edits required. Dan Rogers did an incredible job to take our parts and make them sound epic as the final product showcases.

Neil Grandy: I enjoy the writing process. It really has changed from a one-on-one approach to more of an organic involvement by everyone. I find we develop ideas quicker and require less rewrites because we cast aside on the spot what we don’t like. I find there’s like an unwritten rule about the songs that the process cannot seem forced in anyway. The structure has to flow naturally with ideas getting locked in your head so can walkway and hum to yourself even the craziest of parts. 

Recording is always interesting. For this recording I used my standard kit, just replaced the heads. We recorded drums in the practice, simply mic’ed the kit and went for it. Dan did a killer job on the production. I don’t know how but drums were done in a short period of time. We learned a lot from the process. 

DoC: Deformatory is self described as 'technical death metal'. The term has been applied to bands as varied as Gorguts, Cynic, and Necrophagist; bands who have very little in common stylistically. What makes a band 'technical'? What are the aspects of the genre that appeal to you?  

Charlie Leduc: I don’t care so much for the labels. To me, we just play death metal. If it happens to be technical at times, it certainly isn’t intentional, and if that makes it easier for others to categorize us, then so be it! Personally, I’ve always been drawn to death metal, and to the most extreme death metal at that time. The phrasing of the riffs, the relentlessness of the drums, and the overall intensity of the songs is what appeals to me.

Neil Grandy: For me I just want music to be interesting. BPM, a million notes per riff... I like that stuff, but it’s not the sole focus. I don’t want to sound technical for the sake of it, like we are trying too hard. I guess if I had to it one way it would be I like to write something I find challenging to play. It maybe something easy for another drummer play, but I like to think I am challenging myself, creatively and technically.

Jeffery Calder: Technical varies per person, but for me it is about limited repetition of riffs in a short period of time while integrating and showcasing musicianship. Bands of this genre explore various styles and techniques of riffs throughout the course of a song and album. They don’t limit themselves to playing similar styles song after song or release the same album over and over again. Instead the bands aim to bring brutal extreme elements that maintain the degree of extreme technical music. And it is great that Canada contributes a legion of talented tech death bands of its own kind. For me, tech death was introduced via Suffocation’s Effigy of the Forgotten and Death’s Human albums via my guitar teacher Jake Evans of Entrafis (Halifax, Nova Scotia). His music style and project got me excited to write and perform my own songs of that same genre.

DoC: If you had to name 5 landmark albums of the genre what would they be?

Neil Grandy:
Cryptopsy - None so Vile 
Suffocation - Effigy of the Forgotten
Death - Human 
Carcass - Necroticism – Descanting the Insalubrious 
Origin - Informis Infinitas Inhumanitas

Jeffery Calder:
Death - Human  
Cynic - Focus
Suffocation - Pierced from Within/Effigy of the Forgotten
Necrophagist - Epitaph 
and the mighty Cryptopsy - Whisper Supremacy followed by None So Vile

Charlie Leduc: 5 albums? Man, that’s way too short of a list for me to compile.

DoC: Canada has been a well spring of technical and forward-thinking metal. How influenced are you by other bands in the region? How do you stay distinct in such a vibrant scene?

Neil Grandy: For me Canadian bands were a major influence. Sacrifice was a big influence when I was younger and just starting to play. Of course I moved on to some of the US bands by that point, but when I heard None So Vile, it was a life changer for me. I remember where I was when I first it and the feeling...just incredible what those guys were able to achieve with that recording. I wouldn’t say I or we are influenced by them; I think we just do what we feel, but that can’t be forced. It has to be natural. Because we are unique people, ideas flowing naturally can be more unique.

Charlie Leduc: Canada certainly knows how to throw down with their death metal. Most of my favorite bands come from Canada, and it’s not even intentional. You can hear influences of almost every extreme metal band in our music, and perhaps that’s what manages to make us distinct in this vibrant scene; we’re an amalgamation of some of our favorite influences.

Jeffery Calder: Canada has a vast array of thrash and tech death metal bands that were introduced to me mainly via Much Music’s Power Hour / Power 30 and tape trading / underground magazines of the early 90’s. Such thrash bands as Disciples of Power, Sacrifice (thrash), Entrafis that evolved into the extreme tech death bands Cryptopsy, Martyr, Despised Icon, Quo Vadis, Strapping Young Lad, etc that have each had an impact on Canada’s extreme technical and forward thinking metal.

In certain ways, each of these bands have influenced us over the years. Striving to release a strong album among other talented metal Canucks, Deformatory has wanted to fuse elements of various bands be it Canadian or elsewhere into our own style. And that in turn gives us our own distinction. We hope the mixture of these elements keeps us interesting, fresh, and yet appeals to a variety of new and old fans to balance old with new metal extreme elements.

DoC: Seriously, there's got to be a link between Canada's brutal winters and its brutal death metal, right?

Neil Grandy: Makes you want to practice and write material so you can tour in the summer.

Charlie Leduc: It’s all in the pure maple syrup man. It makes us to do some crazy shit. We can’t help it.

DoC: What made you decide to self-release your album? Have Bandcamp and Bigcartel helped you as an unsigned band, and if so how?

Charlie Leduc: Is there another option for underground death metal bands? I mean, this is how WE all get our music out there. We’re not different in that way. I am definitely in favor of this method of releasing music. What I love is that you can release a song on YouTube or Bandcamp, and in a matter of hours, people across the world can be listening to it, liking it, and then supporting it. The support we’ve received from people around the globe has been humbling and amazing. We never expected it, and we are grateful that there is an ability for any band to get their music out there.

Neil Grandy: Bandcamp and Bigcartel help a great deal in getting the music out there for people to hear.

Jeffery Calder: We tracked it ourselves, we wrote it ourselves, so why not take on releasing and promoting it ourselves? We don’t have to sell our souls for the music we write to some record label and are proud of the music we have composed. It is ours and we wish to keep it that way if at all possible. But we certainly appreciate the support and distribution networks we have developed to assist promoting and spreading the Deformatory music around the globe.

People have discovered us via our Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, Bandcamp and Cartel sites which has allowed us to get the band exposed to networks that may not have necessarily discovered us otherwise. Hope people continue to discover our music as time passes.

DoC: What does 2014 have in store for Deformatory?

Jeffery Calder: We are in the midst of writing new material. We are fusing new elements of bands that influence us that takes the music in an even more aggressive direction, and maintain the standard we have set with In The Wake of Pestilence. We will not allow ourselves to sell-out and release a product that is subpar from what we have previously written. As well, we refuse to release material that albeit has good quality ideas, we strive to achieve a standard that each song measures up to, or else it gets put aside. Other goals for the coming year include Deformatory performing various concerts throughout 2014 to promote In The Wake of Pestilence and we welcome any/all opportunity to promote our music. 

Charlie Leduc: First of all, we are going to try to play as many shows as we can. Now, we’re old, have careers, and responsibilities at home, so we can’t do as much as we would like. Having said that, we’ve already got plans for a week long tour in July, and many shows lined up until then. Secondly, we’ve already made plans with Dan Rogers to record a new album. The concept of the album, the titles, and the lyrical direction are already mapped out. We’ve been writing every time we meet up to rehearse, and so far, we got some 3 new songs that are absolutely ridiculous. As Jeff said, we are trying to raise the bar, for ourselves, and we’re challenging ourselves to write more aggressively and technically. We start the pre-prods in the middle of April, and hope to have something ready by the end of the Fall. 


Deformatory on Facebook

Deformatory on Bandcamp

Deformatory's Bigcartel page

Dreams of Consciousness is on Facebook