Interviews : Cryptopsy
With Flo Mounier
Cryptopsy have undergone a few major lineup changes over the years, but have managed to maintain a very strong fan following. Judging from the crowd at their show in Toronto with brutal death metallers Skinless, it seems that this following is just as strong as ever. Fortunately, I managed to beat away the hordes of screaming fans and make it on to the tourbus, where I sat down with drumming guru Flo Mounier. After watching some of those G.I. Joe parody cartoons on the tourbus laptop, we had a few brews and discussed their newest, Once Was Not, Jon's departure from the band, and his drum DVD Extreme Metal Drumming 101.
So, basic question, how's the tour been so far?
This is, what, our fourth show I think. It's been good. One show in Ottawa was good, and Hamilton which we've never played before which was fairly good as well, and then Rouyn Noranda, which is up in Quebec up north which was really cool last night, and it seems like Toronto's gonna be really good as well, like usual. It's always eventful.
Would you say the crowds in Europe are different from the Canadian crowds at all?
No, crowds are pretty much the same I find worldwide, except for some places like Japan. Just in the way they react and the way they're respectful before the show. Like they don't make a sound; the first time I played there it was like dead quiet and the place was packed. We were like, "Oh my god, this is gonna be the most boring show we do," and as soon as we opened the door they just went nuts. As soon as we were done, it was all quiet again, all reserved, and we walked out in an orderly fashion. It was really, very different. But besides that it's pretty much the same folks everywhere. Metal crowds.
All right, cool. Can you tell us a bit about Jon's departure from the band?
Yeah, basically he just wasn't motivated anymore as far as the writing process went, he didn't like touring. It was just a situation where he stepped down 'cause he knew he'd be breaking the momentum of the band more than anything. We all felt it coming, with his attitude and his lack of participation on the new album. So yeah, it was just a friendly kind of thing where he just wasn't motivated to continue anymore.
But no hard feelings.
No, not at all.
Well there you go. Would you say Cryptopsy has reached its peak with Once Was Not? Do you believe the albums have gotten better and better, or do you think there have been weaker points along the way?
We just don't want to "top" anything, we just want to make different albums. So it's not like there's gonna be a peak or whatever. I think for the next one we wanna do something that we feel that we've been wanting to do for a long time, but just haven't pushed the envelope as far as the direction. We just want to do something that's different, that hopefully hasn't been done before, and just take it to a level that makes us comfortable playing and listening to it. And I think it's just creating more feeling all around in the music, just making it breathe more. Feeling's the best word; creating a feeling so when you listen to it you get goosebumps and are like "Wow, this is really different," and it just creates an emotion. I think that's what we want to head more towards for the next album.
So to follow up then, what do you have to say to fans who just want something more along the lines of None So Vile?
Well None So Vile's got a lot of groove and a lot of feeling as well. Fans that just want speed I'm not really fond of; I don't like speed for the sake of speed and neglecting music. So fans who want something more like None So Vile can just go listen to None So Vile, haha. I don't want to replay None So Vile. I wouldn't mind remixing it and stuff like that, maybe making a remix of Phobophile or something with a little more violins and strings and stuff like that would be quite interesting. But we'll see what the future holds...
Okay. So moving on, who came up with the idea to do the DVD, Extreme Metal Drumming 101? Was it just people asking you, the label, or just something you wanted to do?
It's something I wanted to do because I had a lot of people asking me for lessons, and I didn't have a lot of time. And also people were asking me for lessons in Russian and stuff like that, and it's like, well do you want me to do? Fly me down for a day? So basically I came up with a DVD and showed all the stuff that I do to get to the point where I'm at as far as endurance and all that. What I did was a market study on the internet to find out what people wanted to see, so I got their feedback, went with the majority of what people wanted to see on a DVD, and just played it out. Then I just made a section that's just entertainment. So it was my idea, but it was influenced by fans.
Would you say there are aspects of the DVD that all drummers can take and learn from?
Oh absolutely, yeah. There's stuff for everyone, and it's facilitating speed and a constant in what you're playing, whether you're playing in jazz or rock, when you have that speed and you have that control, everything becomes a little bit easier. So it's definitely not just for metal kids or metal drummers, it's for everyone.
Aside from the DVD which was relatively solo, would you ever consider breaking away from Cryptopsy and pursuing something else?
Yeah, I have projects that are coming up. I actually have a project I'm working on with a rap artist from Regina. It's actually really interesting, 'cause we're going to mix basic hip hop beats and grooves, and make them more interesting, more diverse, and just loop. And we're incorporating some metal into it as well, some metal breaks and some grind, and then coming back to some hip hop. We're just making it more of a unit effort and a band effort, instead of just the artist and the loop that's always repeating and repeating; it kind of gets monotonous at times. So I'm working on that as well, and for now that's pretty much it. I have some other rock thing that I might do in Montreal, with Eric the bass player's cousin, that we've been in and out of for the past eight years. So yeah, keeping busy.
Cool. I would say that there's definitely been a shift in the media attention that you've gotten over the years. I mean, I've seen people refer to Cryptopsy as "percussive death metal." How do you think that type of attention has affected your role in Cryptopsy?
I don't know. I mean first off it's very flattering, it's very cool, and I really appreciate that people appreciate what I do. And at one point it made me want to outdo myself, and now it's just outdoing myself musically in the feeling and the smoothness which I play, and the dynamics which I play. It's just made me want to do stuff that's not just drumming, but as a whole, making it breathe more. It's hard to explain. But it's a nice compliment.
Would you say that this increase in popularity has affected the production of the new album? I kind of notice that at times it's the most discernable aspect.
A lot of the albums we've done in the past, the drums are buried, and it really irked me. Like, especially with Whisper Supremacy, there's so much going on, so much intricacies and stuff like that. We just went with a different producer 'cause we didn't want to work with Pierre, and tried it out, and wanted the drums more up-front. But for different reasons the guitar sound didn't come out the way we wanted. And you know, it's a live-and-learn kind of experience, and the next one will be much better and we'll concentrate on a great production.
How would you say doing a drum clinic is different from playing with Cryptopsy? Is one more stressful than the other?
Drum clinics are a little more stressful because the focus is absolutely on you and only you. But they're a lot of fun 'cause the interaction with the audience is great, and I love making a fool out of myself. I'm really easy going, and I don't really take that kind of situation too seriously, so instead of stressing out on it I'll just make a joke about it when I'm communicating with people. But it's a lot of fun, I'll just play a few songs and solo, and field questions, and people learn things. So it's great. And I guess it's a little more luxurious too.
So it's clear that you participate in the metal scene, but you do participate in the art scene as well. You're done performances at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art in Toronto, and at the Guggenheim, so would you say that playing drums is not only just a musical expression, but it can be a form of performance art as well?
Absolutely, and I'll use a great point to show you why. A lot of metal drummers who play fast, play fast and hit very lightly to conserve energy, and use triggers to make the sound happen. And I think it's a shame for two reasons: one, you've got a really nice kit that sounds great, and it's good to use that and hit it in a way that sounds good. And at the same time, when you're at a show, if the guitarist's not moving, and the singer's not moving, and the drummer's just feathering his drums, it's not really entertaining. So I decided a few years ago to use techniques to make it easier for me to hit harder and play faster, and create more of a spectacle of myself. But it's a little more visually pleasing, and even in the setup that I did, with the cage that goes on top, which I don't have on this tour, but you know, it's just a lot of drums that are setup kind of symmetrically, and it's just more visually interesting.
Okay, so a question about the Canadian metal scene. Given the calibre of a lot of Canadian bands - especially in Quebec, like Augury, Martyr, and Neuraxis, why do you think it's so hard for them to get recognition, promotion, and really break out?
Because they're from Canada and Quebec, haha. It's really difficult. I mean, I'll give you another example. My DVD came out last November, and there's an article that I was interviewed for for Modern Drummer about eight months ago, and after pushing and pushing, and having different people call them, it just finally came out, and it's like half a page. It's like the first time that a metal drummer does a full-length, well-produced DVD, and it just seems weird that other people that are not doing that kind of stuff are on there because they're Americans. And the magazine's called Modern Drummer, and this [the DVD] is different, it's new, it's modern, and it's a little bit disappointing. It's a little bit tougher to cross over because all the money and all the major companies are based in Europe and in the States. So definitely being in a different country doesn't do us any big favours.
Would you say it borders on label prejudice?
You know, it's just employment. Companies and governments try to employ their own people to make their economy work. So I think it has a lot to do with that, because there are some great talents in Quebec and the rest of Canada. And a bunch of bands are doing great in the States and doing these big tours, but Canadian bands are still struggling. It's a shame.
What would you say are the most common mistakes death metal drummers make?
Good question. *turns to some guy on the tour bus* What do you think?
Guy on tour bus: The boots, haha. We were talking earlier..
Yeah, playing with boots, haha. But I think the most common mistake is trying to be the fastest thing on the planet, and not being able to hold a groove that sounds good.
Yeah, I agree.
I think that's the biggest mistake right there. And if you're talking mistakes like in shows and playing-wise...hm...metal drummers...
Or any drummers, if that makes it easier.
Keeping time. Keeping time. I'll stick to that. Final answer.
Haha, that's pretty horrible then. Wow.
It's a little bit harder to notice in metal though, so we can all get away with it.
Yeah, you know, I listen to bands at home and I just hear blasts for blasts' sake. And I just think, where's the flare, where's the creativity, where's the variation? It's disappointing.
So on the contrary, what makes a really good drummer?
Somebody's who's really solid timewise. Somebody who's got a lot of flavour, and knows how to use one bass drum, one snare, and one high-hat, and create incredible sounding patterns and smooth playing. Somebody who's got original ideas. A combination of everything, I guess. What makes a really good drummer is being an all-around drummer. Not just a jazz drummer, not just a metal drummer, not just a latin drummer. So trying to dabble with a whole bunch of different genres and trying to be good at all of them.
Speaking of that, how have drummers from other genres perceived you? What kind of feedback do you get from, say, a jazz drummer or just a rock drummer?
Drummers are weird, it's a really tight community, so there's no animosity. Horacio Hernandez, one of the best drummers in the world, every time he sees me he's like "Heeeyyy!" but he's like that with everybody, he's just a super nice guy. I get along with a lot of people, and people know that what I do takes some talent, so they respect that, even if they're completely opposite of what I do and they don't like noisy stuff. I think it's just a mutual respect with drummers regardless of the style.
Well that's really good. But that wraps it up, so is there anything else you wanna say?
Thanks for the support, 'cause that's what we need the most.