(A Perfect Absolution, the 2012 album by Gorod, has been one of the highlights of the year for us. Our brother groverXIII (a/k/a Professor D. Grover the XIII) reviewed that album for NCS here, calling it “the best tech-death album of a year that’s been very, very good for tech-death.” Today, we’re pleased to give you groverXIII’s e-mail interview with guitarist and principal Gorod songwriter Mathieu Pascal.)
Greetings. For the record, please state your name, rank, and serial number.
Mathieu PASCAL, guitar player and composer, 100% Heavy Cotton Made in France, no drywash.
With Neurotripsicks, Leading Vision, Process Of A New Decline, Transcendence, and now A Perfect Absolution, you’ve created five of the most memorable, catchy tech-death releases that I have ever heard. How do you guys manage to craft such intricate melodies without having the songs descend into mindless chaos?
Mat : Woow, thanks !! Actually, I usually try to focus on groove and melodies, because I think those are the things everyone can understand and record. I always try to make simple music, that you can headbang to easily. Intricacy comes in a second time. The music must be clear the first time you hear it, with rhythm and harmony. Then, when you come closer, you can hear details and layers and actual intricacy. Even with odd time signatures or overstrung harmony, there’s always a way to make the song consistent, clear and logical. You can’t just pick random notes and queue them on a time grid. Maybe it will sound new and original like « no one has ever made this before », but you’d lose energy and emotions. And people are mostly sensitive to these points in a first listen.
Was it a challenge to replace two band members and still maintain that distinctive Gorod sound?
Mat: It was a challenge for Nico [Alberny] and Julien [Deyres]. Julien had to replace Guillaume [Martinot] for the tour with Cattle Decapitation like two weeks after Guillaume decided to leave. We were looking for someone who could bring something new to our sound, and something that would serve the music. We didn’t want a clone of Guillaume, maybe it was just the right time for us to evolve. Julien has a really wide range of vocals and he’s able to enhance each ambiance in the music, to illustrate more closely the lyrics, etc…
About Nico, well, we knew we would easily find a good guitar player able to play the songs, but we were mainly looking for the right person, humanly speaking. As we tour more and more, the understanding and friendship in the band should be really solid. As we spend several weeks together, we must think and act like a team, always united, and we can’t allow someone to go his own way. Now we have a solid line-up, everyone pushing in the same direction, we’re proud of that.
I didn’t worry about “that distinctive Gorod sound” when Nico and Julien came up, as I’m used to writing most of the material myself. I was sure they would fit perfectly and perform the music as we used to do before. The influence of Julien is obviously more hearable than Nico’s, because he did a really huge work with his voice and with the lyrics, and this is the first thing people notice when they listen to our new album!
I noticed a few of the newer elements from the Transcendence EP got carried over in sparing fashion, like clean vocals and acoustic guitar. Was there any kind of conscious effort to continue this, or was it just a natural thing?
Mat: It was a conscious effort to put some clean vocals with Julien. He’s able to do this type of vocals and we wanted to use the widest range of his vocal abilities. I think we wouldn’t do this if it was not natural for him to make such vocals. And sometimes clean vocals are perfect to express feelings that brutal growls can’t. But as with clean guitars, clean vocals are only used as spices. It’s not the main meal, just wisely measured strokes to make a song unique and give it appeal and catchiness.
The acoustic version of ‘Blackout’ on Transcendence had a distinct Latin flavor to it, and a little bit of that showed up in ‘Varangian Paradise’. Will we see more of that in the future?
Mat: Yes, I’d be glad to include more of that in our songs. Latin-jazz is a big influence for me and it’s always exciting to mix it with Metal, more interesting and fresh than classical or regular bebop jazz stuff in my opinion. There’s lot of varied rythms, very syncopated, groovy, and all the melodies and harmony are “culturally acceptable”, I mean everybody’s used to them and can whistle them!
Where did the incredible funk groove on the intro to ‘Varangian Paradise’ come from? For me, that was one of the album’s highlights.
Mat: Well, in the beginning, Sam was supposed to play fast hi-hat 16th notes on the intro, not just playing kick/cymbals, but we completely forgot that part when we recorded the drums. So I had the idea to play those 16th notes on the guitar, because I really wanted to hear speed behind those low chords. For fun I tried wahwah pedal to make it funky, and I loved this. And when you’ve got this wahwah sound, you need congas, Latin claves, Rhodes piano, odd bass groove etc…That’s also what happened in the middle of the song, I just made a recall of what figured in the intro and fit it with the music.
What is your musical background? Who are your biggest influences?
Mat: For the guitar stuff, my first loves were Slash, Yngwie Malmsteen, Marty Friedman and Steve Vai, in chronological order. My favourite is still Marty Friedman. I love his exotic way of playing, even if I know he’s not the fastest or the more technical guitar player. I fell into the Metal genre with bands like Metallica (like many others in the late 80’s I guess). I can mention Death, Coroner, Iron Maiden, Carcass, Cynic, that later became my main metal influnences. I also like classical stuff in my early years, like Bach, Vivaldi, Brahms etc… Later I discovered Latin Jazz, through Al di Meola, Paco de Lucia and Chick Corea, and opened my ears to every genre of world music, like music from Asia or Eastern Europe.
What are your five favorite albums of all time, metal or otherwise?
Marty Friedman : Dragon’s Kiss
Iron Maiden : Live After Death (not really an album…)
Billy Cobham : A Funky Side Of Things
Al di Meola : Casino
Death : Individual Thought Patterns
These are five of the albums I listened to at least once a week for many years, and I still discover new things everytime.
What have you been listening to recently? Got any recommendations of bands people may not know about?
Mat: Mmm, nothing really recent…There’s bands like Mastodon, Baroness, Red Fang with a vintage sound that I like. I’m also into the new wave of ThrashMetal, with bands like Municipal Waste or Revocation. For the really new stuff I’d recommend The Odious, kind of progressive and original Metal. Oh, and I’ve discovered Exivious on tour this year, very good band with fresh ideas and attitude. And great guys also!
You’re from France… have you ever found yourself wearing a beret with a striped shirt?
Mat: Yeah, everytime I go foreign. I want everybody to recognize me as a classic French pain in the ass!!!
If I were to walk around France shouting “Vive le fromage!” (one of the few things I remember from four years of French classes in school), would people look at me like I was a weirdo?
Mat: No, you’d receive a great welcoming! The perfect sentence would be : “Donnez moi du fromage qui pue!” (Give me some stinky cheese!) and I’m sure you’ll get a great party. French people are obsessed by food above all (the good one, not only by stinky food!), that’s not a myth. Lunch times are very important to us, sitting down for hours with family/friends, eating and drinking, talking about cooking, that’s the French way of life!!
The other thing I remember from French class is playing Mille Bornes, the card game. Do you guys ever actually play that in France, or was my French teacher just fucking with us?
Mat: Ahahha, no, that’s correct it still exists, but I must admit, I haven’t played this game since I was 6 or 7!! For the funny story side of this, this game was created near our hometown (Bordeaux) in Arcachon. That’s funny because it reminds me that my English teacher told us many weird and overrated things about English and American people too! When I was young, I was sure that every American boy was playing football while girls were cheerleaders, drinking milk or sodas all day, and have a gun hidden in their school bags, just next to the skateboard!
What do you Gorod chaps do when you’re not making awesome music?
Mat: Nicolas and I are guitar teachers and I also produce (recording/mixing/mastering) bands in my “Bud Records” studio. Julien is still a student in History of Art, specializing in the Slavic culture. Sam and Barby have temporary jobs, just to make money and allow them to make tours etc…When we’re all together, and have nothing else to do, I mean nothing useful for the band, we like to create some stupid brutaldeathgrindblackmetal band names and then try to imagine what it would sound like… I must admit we often divert existing names…Have you ever heard about the band “Porn of Orifis” and their hit track “The Pisscovery” ?
If you could sucker punch any one person, living or dead, who would it be, and why?
Mat: The Queen/Sorceress in “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” because she’s such a bitch!!
What is your plan for the inevitable zombie apocalypse?
Mat: A good idea would be to set up a huge stage, high enough to be unreachable by the thousands of zombies, and give a great show in front of them, while they would eat and kill everybody around… yeah that’s a great plan… sorry… I own it first…
Do you have any final thoughts, words of advice, or random gibberish?
Mat: Well, I hope we’ll come soon to the US, to make a big tour. We have not come here for 3 years and last time was awesome…I’d like to write some French gibberish but you already have the best words you can find : “Vive le Fromage qui pue!!”
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my silly questions!
Mat: You’re welcome! Thank you for the support, we appreciate it a lot !!!
EDITOR’S NOTE: If you missed it when we posted it the first time in July, here’s Mat Pascal’s recent solorecording of a Marty Friedman song called “Evil Thrill”, which appeared on Friedman’s first studio album Dragon’s Kiss in 1988. It’s still smokin’ hot.