Beneath The Massacre
‘Extreme Metal Lifers’
Interview by Shawn Jam Hill
Montreal is awash in heaviosity.
It’s no secret that North America’s most metal city is festooned with amazing talent be it the technical death vehemence of Cryptopsy or the bruising deathcore pioneers in Despised Icon, the city is getting rocked off its foundations on a daily basis. Underground heroes Beneath The Massacre are no strangers to the world of heavy. Churning out a decidedly brutal mix of neck-snapping hardcore and blast beat-soaked chaos, brothers Christopher and Dennis Bradley (guitar and bass) tub thumper Justin Rouselle and glass-packed larynx crusher Elliot Desgagnes have been slaughtering the masses since 2004. With Maree Noir (Prosthetic), the boys have sharpened their songwriting craft into a laser-like lance meant to shed blood with maximum efficiency. Metal-rules.com recently caught up with affable frontman Desgagnes to discuss Beneath The Massacre’s ravaging sound, the kindness of the Montreal community and what it’s like jamming next to a blues bar famous for smoked meat.
If that’s not fucking metal, I really don’t know anything anymore…
[Elliot just got home from work]
What does a metal growler do for money when he’s not on the road?
Well, I started this job when I was a student way before the band started to be a touring band. It’s finishing for private jets. It’s something that runs in my family.
You mean finishing up the interior when the plane is ready to get sold and stuff?
Yeah, private jet interior.
That sounds like a pretty balling job!
It’s good considering it was a student job. I learned the job on the spot, you know, but a lot of people have to go to school and stuff like that to do it.
Sweet! So would you say you are a professional airplane finisher or a professional musician?
Man, I don’t know! Both. Professional is as long as you get paid, so both.
What kind of living can a frontman in an extreme metal make in these economic times?
You mean like money-wise? You don’t go do extreme music for money, that’s for sure. It’s something when you play extreme music, the industry tries to pull you in another direction so it can be more accessible for many people, for bigger audiences. That is when you can really start making a good living out of it. Sometimes it’s hard.
You guys are no strangers to big audiences with the touring you’ve done in Europe. What’s the difference playing in Europe compared to Canada or the States?
Well, every country we’ve played, it’s a big thing to say ‘a continent is one way and another one is the other way’ but, overall, Europeans are more metal. Canada’s already more metal than the United States and in Europe, it’s even more metal. Festivals like Summer Breeze with 15-20,000 people, that’s a lot of people. You don’t see those open-air festivals in North America. Or, we can say Montreal has one of the only ones, Heavy MTL, which we just played.
How did that go?
That was awesome, the show was, like, fucking amazing. In order to have that crowd, Heavy MTL has to bring big names, has to bring nu metal. The night we were playing, there was Korn headlining and Rob Zombie and there was 3,000 people. When you go to Summer Breeze, it’s pretty legit, I would almost say underground metal. Of course, it’s not just underground metal, it’s like bigger names but it’s more straight-up metal than nu metal or anything like that but you get the same audience.
Oh, totally! We do awesome in Europe, that’s why we keep touring there. We like it, people are very open-minded when it comes to extreme music.
Where does your brand of extremity fits in with those polar opposites, with nu metal and extreme metal, how does the audience respond to you with the insanity you present on stage?
It depends. If you ask about Europe, they’re very open-minded and it works very well. When it comes to North America, I’m really not sure. We did very good at Heavy MTL but again it’s cause it’s Montreal.
What kind of timeslot did you guys get?
We played at 2 PM, we played in front of something like 15,000 people. It was huge, there are some You Tube videos you can see. At some point, there was 2 circle pits at the same time, crazy stuff like that.
You mentioned the band is writing a lot right now. What is the writing process for a Beneath The Massacre record?
[Laughs] It’s pretty chaotic, we’re not the type of band that has a set way of writing songs. Sometimes it starts from a guitar part, sometimes drums just beat. Everyone throws their 2 cents in, y’know, ‘I think it should be like this, blah, blah, blah.’
Does it get heated?
Sometimes, yeah, especially when there’s pressure. Some albums, there is more pressure. [2008’s] Dystopia was the highest pressure album and I personally feel like we didn’t deliver it because the pressure and the touring schedule and everything, we argued a lot….
What didn’t you deliver?
Dystopia is one I am not 100% proud of but that is a personal opinion of the album, y’know.
What kind of changes will you apply to the new material?
The writing process was the problem and, at the same time, is the solution for the new album. We took a lot of time to write those 5 songs for the new EP and we have more songs that we kept for another full length that we’ll record later on. We just took more time to think where we wanted the songs to go and what direction we wanted ‘cause, when it come to extreme music, if you do all the same recipe of brutal stuff, it’s just gonna end up being the same song over and over again, y’know? So, if you want one song to be more melodic, you need to work on it on a different angle. Or if you want it to be a heavy track, it can also go with the lyrics of the song. I’m not sure if the songwriting evolved or if it’s just because we took the time to do it. Maree Noir has more melodic parts overall but I think it is a very somber album. All the lyrics, all the songs in general, are very, very dark and depressing [Laughs].
Is that coming from anywhere specific in your life?
I’m not sure. Musically, the music really influenced my lyrics but the reason as to why the music is like that, I’m not sure. It just ended up being like that.
Are you an angry, brooding guy?
I was an angry teenager, to be honest. Now I am 25, I am getting older, wiser but I’m a pretty aggressive person. I’ve got a lot of reasons to be angry and I think it shows in the music we play.
How do you transmit that anger in a live setting or in the studio? Does a different side of Elliot come out?
I wouldn’t put it out that way. When I was a kid, I needed a band to unleash some of my aggressive tendencies. Now, it’s more just the band is my sanctuary, it’s my passion. You can’t affect me when I’m singing a song. When me and my boys are singing a song, it’s like that’s what we love doing and for a little part of my day, I feel good. It’s a passionate thing, y’know, and in life I think not a lot of people have true passion and people are scared of their passion. I think they should embrace being afraid of it.
You have had a very stable lineup throughout your career.
It’s true. One guitar player left and we never replaced him [Laughs]. Under the name Beneath The Massacre, it’s been since 2004 but we’ve been playing music together, I don’t even remember when we started, I think it would be 2001. That’s when I started playing with Justin and Chris but they had another band together in the late ‘90s so it’s been awhile.
Does the stability you have in your band help get you through those 150-200 shows you play a year?
Well, Dennis and Chris are brothers and they were my neighbours when I was a kid and, to me, they’re my brothers. Sometimes we get annoyed but at the same time I know nothing can get between me and them ‘cause we’re brothers.
How old were you when you met them?
A: [Laughs] Shit, I got pictures of me with the Bradley brothers and we’re playing G.I. Joes. I don’t even remember when I met them.
That’s wicked, that should be your next album cover right there!
Seriously, we thought about releasing some of those pictures [Laughs].
Have you lived in Montreal your whole lives?
Actually, it’s on the West Island just outside of Montreal. It’s a town called Ile Perrot.
This is kinda off topic, but isn’t there a place that’s a crazy BBQ joint in Ile Perrot? There’s a motel right nearby. My girlfriend and I stayed there on the way back from a vacation years ago and we stayed at a seedy motel and went to the BBQ place but they had nothing vegetarian so we ordered fries.
You’re talking about Smoke Meat Pete right in front of the Dairy Queen. Dude, we’re sharing the same parking lot with them for our jam spot. They’ve got blues bands playing, crazy good smoked meat and all types of meat. If you’re a vegetarian, dude, no….We were thinking of shooting a video clip in there, in Pete’s.
What’s your take on Montreal’s ability to churn out amazing metal bands especially in the last 10 years or so?
I dunno if it’s just Montreal or Quebec in general. There’s tons of bands outside of Montreal too, y’know?
Well, I think of powerhouse bands like yourselves, Despised Icon, The Last Felony, Ion Dissonance and, from what I gather, you guys all know each other too. Is it a fraternity, a brotherhood?
The guys you just mentioned are the guys I go see at the bar every Saturday night [Laughs]. We all live close to each other, we all go have beers, of course we support each other.
Is there any competition, any animosity?
Oh, noooo. Despised Icon got huge, got bigger faster that anybody else so all they did was help us out, you know? They brought Ion on tour, they brought us on tour, they helped us out. Some of the more old school death metal scene, there is more competition. For me, I come from straight up street punk music where, of course, there is no glory [Laughs]. When I met Alex from Despised Icon years ago I was like ‘Hey man, I really want your guitar player to listen to my band. I want him to produce the next album.’ He introduced us to Yannick who produced our first EP then he listened to the demo and he said ‘There’s no way you are releasing this DIY, I’m getting you a record deal with Galy Records’. He introduced us to Galy Records, of course he helped us a lot.
How does Prosthetic Records help you out?
All I can say is if you don’t have a label, you have nothing. Once you have a label, you have a record. You have promotion of the record, the booking agent is gonna want to book you so there you go. You’re on tour promoting the record and everyone is pushing in the same direction. If you don’t have a label, there is no promotion around your album so who wants to book your tours?
As you get deeper into your career, does the non-stop touring help get more people out?
It’s really hard to say how the popularity of the band is doing. I know for awhile we sold more online merch. Was it cause we just released an album? Was it because we did higher-profile tours? Lately, we’ve been doing more straight up death metal tours. You have to wonder in life what you want. For us, the band is all about the passion for music, for extreme fucking music. We’re just not trying to make it big. If I wanted to be a millionaire, I’d be playing in a pop band. I know we have the skills to do it! Me and Chris write stupid songs on his computer and we ask some of our girlfriends to sing on it but that’s not what we are here for. We have a long term goal with Beneath The Massacre, we want to put out some amazing extreme metal albums.
Where do you see your band even as soon as this time next year?
Who knows, man? [Laughs] It’s like no one knows! When we first had some offers for tours, of course we would take them all. We’re focused a lot more on songwriting but of course we still want to tour, but we’re trying to find the new extreme. When we released our first EP [2005’s Evidence Of Inequity] people were like ‘Whoa man, what the fuck!’ but the thing is now, a lot of bands sound like that.
So, at 25, you are like an elder statesman of the whole scene.
We also get to tour with different types of bands and we realize what we want our band to look like when we’re older. Some bands just influenced us so much and maybe sometimes they are more underground bands but we give them so much more respect than high profile bands.
You have to write in the interview “I mean no disrespect” when I say underground bands. We have nothing but respect for a band like Origin. Origin is a band, they are not millionaires, far from that. They are not the biggest band ever. [Remember, Elliot means NO disrespect!] They deserve so much credit. Paul Ryan’s guitar riffs influenced a generation of extreme music guitar players. Same for Cryptopsy. Those guys influenced so many people because they put their minds to it and musicians like Paul Ryan, John Longstreth, Cryptopsy’s Flo [Mounier] Jon Levasseur, John Gallagher from Dying Fetus, they brought something new. Those bands that got influenced by them will probably get bigger but it is to Cryptopsy, Dying Fetus and Origin’s credit.
Check out the band here: www.myspace.com/btm