Canada isn't the first country that comes to mind when it comes to death metal. But, the country is actually home to a thriving death metal scene, and is home to such big name heavy hitters as Cryptopsy, Gorguts, Beneath the Massacre, and Kataklysm, who have been churning out a rabid, sped up hyper blast beat based brand of brutal death metal for over two decades. With nearly a dozen studio albums, and countless tours of the world, the band's latest tour is entitled Kill The Elite, 2014 and will hit Anaheim's Mirror Image Studios on April 18.
The band's guitarist Jean-Francois Dagenais recently took time to speak with the Weekly about the metal scene in Canada, the craziness of touring, being able to earn a living in the music business in a death metal band, and some of the difficult parts of a lifestyle devoted to extreme metal.
OC Weekly (Alex Distefano): Tell us what you're looking forward to with your upcoming Kill The Elite Tour 2014.
Jean-Francois Dagenais: We're excited to play all these shows, and we have some new songs we're going to play on this tour of North America. We're all really looking forward to killing it with the band Aborted, those guys are friends of ours; we haven't toured with them in years, this should be a very fun tour.
Do you guys plan to mix up the set list and play older songs as well?
Of course we're going to play some of our older songs as well, we try to pick two songs from every album but that gets harder and harder every year, we have 11 albums now, and the new ones have so many cool ones too. We want to try o make it so the tour would be a mix of new stuff and classic tracks. We plan to go back at least 5 or six albums, maybe even older ones as well there will be some cool surprises, I think our fans will be surprised.
What are some of the hardest parts of playing in a death metal band?
Well especially when you tour, it can have a physical toll on your body; so you have to eat good and sleep good and exercise of course. On the road it's hard sometimes to stay away from too much alcohol, and all the partying, but you can't do that stuff it everyday otherwise, you'll die in a year or two. You have to pace yourself and try to survive it all. Also, as a musician you have to constantly keep warmed up and practice. I tend to play my guitar at least 3 times a week if not more, even if we're not touring. And as long as you keep in shape there's no reason we won't be able to do this and perform for a long time.
Tell us about the places you've toured with Katakkyslm over the years, and your favorite spots in the U.S.
Well we've been doing this for over 20 years now, but we're always excited to play new places. This year we're going to Brazil for the first time, and also South Africa. In the U.S. my favorite parts are on the West Coast, like Portland, Seattle, and California. But we also love States in the South, like Florida, because the weather is great. But all over the U.S., we love all the fans, our shows always fun, and have a good turn out.
What is the metal scene like in Canada?
Where we're from, in Quebec, it's awesome we have a lot of good bands, and a lot of newer bands. I don't know if it's bigger than a lot of other places, but we have a strong network of bands, and passionate fans that come out every week for local metal shows. They keep the scene alive, it's a great place to be if you're in a metal band or are a fan of the music, for sure.
Are there any bands you have not yet toured with you would like to?
So far we've been pretty lucky in our career; we've got to play with Slayer, Iron Maiden, We got to play last year with one of my favorite bands, a band I really love, the Deftones, and that was very cool for me. The only band we have not yet played with, that is like heroes from my youth is Metallica. Maybe one day, we'll get the chance at one of those festivals. Overall, we've privileged to play with so many different artists; many whom we've gotten to call friends.
Are you able to make a living playing in a death metal band?
Well of course at first, you don't. But we've been able to earn a decent living with Kataklysm for the past 10 years or so. And even thought he first 10 years were hard, we barely survived and made no money really, but we built it up over the years and with all the hard work, we got to the level where we're not rich, but it pays the bills. We don't have to worry about surviving month to month. As an artist, I feel accomplished to be where I'm at, we're not millionaires by any means, but having our bills paid and taken care of is a good thing.
What kinds of things dark, apocalyptic things influence of your music?
We're all thinkers and read and talk a lot about all kinds of dark, mysterious, and different topics and other influences that go into making our art. We're all in this life to find the truth, and our purpose on this planet; and our music reflects all kinds of stuff we're interested in, just worded in a different form. We think differently, and try to find answers to all these mysteries that life has to offer.
After this tour, what are the plans for the band
'We're going to be touring the world, after this U.S. tour, we'll be going to Europe to play lots of the festivals out there, and also Brazil, and later in the year South America, we just plan to be on the road. But I can promise our fans in America, we will be back on a second run before the year is up, a lot of our fans got pissed because we didn't come to certain cities. We will be back. We did that on purpose and it's better to cover the country in separate tours, because if you're on the road for longer than a couple of months you get tired and don't deliver as hard as you can. We have a very busy, but super exciting year ahead of us!
Be sure to catch Kataklysm live, April 18, with Special Guests Aborted, at Mirror Image studios in Anaheim. For more info, click here.