Band Interview: Cryptopsy

Matt Albers

No matter what kind of music fan you are, it’s pretty interesting how a long-running band can have a roller coaster career. Especially one that has gone through several lineup changes. And even more especially when those lineup changes include a cornerstone member. Montreal, Quebec technical death metal outfit Cryptopsy is one such band. Originally forming in 1988 under the name Necrosis until 1992, the band quickly gained notoriety with their 1994 debut, Blasphemy Made Flesh. But it was their follow-ups – None So Vile (1996) and Whisper Supremacy (1998) – which secured their names in the death metal history books.

Cryptopsy continued their success with several other albums, including to this day. Part of their reverence among fans had to do with founding vocalist, Lord Worm, who first quit in 1997, only to return for four years in 2003. After leaving again in 2007, Matt McGachy was brought in, making his recording debut with the band on their 2008 experimental album, The Unspoken King, which was met with negative response and reviews.

Since then, however, McGachy proved to be a strong addition Cryptopsy, with their 2012 self-titled album. For proof of both his and his bandmates’ impressive brutality, one could look no further than their performance at The Ready Room in The Grove, while on tour with Cannibal Corpse, Obituary – who we had the pleasure of interviewing the last time that they were in town – and Abysmal Dawn, when this godsend of a death metal tour package stopped in St. Louis. That night, we had the opportunity to interview the stoic, rather soft-spoken death metal vocalist while not in his most visceral on-stage element. We chatted about his experience with the band, their new – and first ever – E.P., and his personal fitness tips, as well as several other topics.

This is your first time in St. Louis in eight years. Last time was the 2008 Summer Slaughter tour at Pop’s in Sauget, IL. How does it feel to be back? How do you like our town, and this venue?

Damnation Magazine's Matt Albers interviewing Cryptopsy lead vocalist Matt McGachy (2007 - present) in the band's tour bus after their set at The Ready Room in St. Louis, MO on Tuesday, February 16 while on tour with Cannibal Corpse, Obituary, and Abysmal Dawn - image credit: Nick Licata (2016)
Damnation Magazine’s Matt Albers interviewing Cryptopsy lead vocalist Matt McGachy (2007 – present) in the band’s tour bus after their set at The Ready Room in St. Louis, MO on Tuesday, February 16 while on tour with Cannibal Corpse, Obituary, and Abysmal Dawn – image credit: Nick Licata (2016)

It’s nice! I took a walk today, went to a big park. Had some good food, some Nepalese food down the street, it was delicious. It was a relaxing day!

Did you get caught in any of the winter weather that rolled through this region of the country overnight and into the morning?

It didn’t bother us, with the bus.

Well, I’m glad to hear that you didn’t have any trouble. This tour that you’re on is amazing! I’m a little surprised that we even got a date of it. St. Louis is regularly passed over by metal tours. How did it come together? Did you have any say in it? Were you asked to join the bill?

We were asked to be on it. Our tour manager put our name in when they were looking, I imagine. We knew about it for a long time, since like, last summer. And we had to keep our mouths shut about it until we announced it for real. But it’s a monstrous death metal package. There’s no filler, no “cream” in between; it’s just all death metal, it’s amazing. A lot of old school bands. We personally couldn’t have asked for anything more, it’s exactly what Cryptopsy needs to do right now in the United States; to get our name back in people’s minds. Every night, we have people come up to us and say, “I haven’t seen you since…” or, “I’ve never seen you before.” So we’re really stoked, and very, very honored to be a part of this package.

What do you hear more of; “I’ve never seen you before,” or “I haven’t seen you since…”? Or is it about even?

I think it’s 50/50, honestly. Cannibal Corpse has such a massive draw, such a wide span of people; people that are not necessarily death metal savants will know Cannibal Corpse, and we can introduce ourselves [to them], which is really a key point to this tour.

How does this tour compare to previous tours? How is morale between and among the bands?

We’re super happy and excited! Everything is perfectly flowing. We have little minor setbacks here or there, but we’re doing quite well, all-in-all.

When it comes to Cryptopsy, there’s only one original member of the band left: Flo Mounier [drums/backing vocals, 1988-present]. You recently added Oliver Pinard as your bassist in 2012. How do the lineup changes affect the band dynamic, in terms of writing or touring? How do you adapt?

Cryptopsy is a volatile environment at moments. I personally, feel right now, that the four of us is the strongest lineup that I’ve been a part of. We are very cohesive, we actually speak to each other, we don’t argue. There [were] moments when I joined the band… The band had put out an experimental record called The Unspoken King (2008), which got excellent reviews [laughs] – I’m being sarcastic – and that put a lot of tension on the band. It being death metal, there’s not enough money necessarily to sustain. You know, you’ve got to work on the side… some people have families. Look at any death metal band; [with] most of them, there’s been some lineup changes – or even any long-running band. But we’re extremely cohesive, I’m super happy. And writing-wise, Chris (Donaldson; lead/rhythm guitars, 2005-present) really stepped up to the plate on the last [album]. Because, Jon (Levasseur; lead/rhythm guitars, 1993–2005, 2011–2012) had come back for the self-titled [album], and the vast majority of that. Whereas this summer, it was all Chris and Flo; they just got together and drank a few beers, and hammered out some ideas and we’re doing that to do the next installment of The Book of Suffering.

Cryptopsy drummer/backing vocalist Flo Mounier  (1988 - present) at The Ready Room in St. Louis, MO on Tuesday, February 16 while on tour with Cannibal Corpse, Obituary, and Abysmal Dawn - image credit: Nick Licata (2016)
Cryptopsy drummer/backing vocalist Flo Mounier (1988 – present) at The Ready Room in St. Louis, MO on Tuesday, February 16 while on tour with Cannibal Corpse, Obituary, and Abysmal Dawn – image credit: Nick Licata (2016)

And speaking of your latest E.P., The Book of Suffering – Tome 1, it was crowdfunded via IndieGoGo.com. Tell me about that experience, what was that like?

It was ridiculously stressful… the fear of failure, and getting laughed at because we didn’t reach our goal; it was stressful, we’ll never do it again. It’s not something that our fans necessarily feel comfortable being a part of, I get the feeling. Because we raised just shy of about 50%, we raised about $10 thousand, and that was from three hundred and fifty people. So, if you look at it that way, it’s insane. But the whole time that the campaign was going on, fans were still buying merch and CDs on Bandcamp, at par to what that [crowdfunding] was. So it sort of worked out, but we won’t do it again. I just don’t feel that people trust crowdfunds anymore, the way it was before. It wasn’t for us, I won’t do it again; its way too stressful [laughs].

I find it interesting how no two bands that I talk to and have crowdfunded, have had the same reaction and experience. Especially now that crowdfunding has become oversaturated.

Yeah, “Fix my van.” [Laughter] It was an idea that we were tinkering with for many, many years since we’ve been independent, and I thought it made sense. And you know, three hundred and fifty people did support us, and we greatly appreciate them, and they’re in our hearts for the rest of our careers; that’s for sure.

You mentioned the experimental album, The Unspoken King. That musical experimentation has happened several times throughout Cryptopsy’s career.

Cryptopsy lead/rhythm guitarist Christian Donaldson (2005 - present) live at The Ready Room in St. Louis, MO on Tuesday, February 16 while on tour with Cannibal Corpse, Obituary, and Abysmal Dawn
Cryptopsy lead/rhythm guitarist Christian Donaldson (2005 – present) live at The Ready Room in St. Louis, MO on Tuesday, February 16 while on tour with Cannibal Corpse, Obituary, and Abysmal Dawn

There’s always changes, always an evolution of where we are at, and it happens with the member changes; where they are at musically when we get into the [same] room that day. We never even say, “We’re going to write this.” We never, ever said, “We’re going to write a deathcore album.” None of us listen to deathcore, so it’s very impossible for us to have that in our mind [laughs]. We never get in the room and say, “We’re going to write this song.” We get in the room and we put riffs together that we like together and make it flow, and then drop in some catches and tricks… That’s Cryptopsy, it’s just constantly challenging themselves. I know that back in the day, when they went from None So Vile (1996) to Whisper Supremacy (1998), the Lord Worm (lead vocals; 1988–1997, 2003–2007) change there, too, with the sound change, they got a lot of flak. But Jon and Flo just absolutely just wanted to push the boundaries; they wanted to be the most extreme, they wanted to have the most technical stuff going on – that’s what happened then. The Unspoken King was more of, that’s where they were at; I wasn’t even there when they wrote half the stuff, I came in and it was all finished. I sang where they wanted me to sing, and I screamed where they wanted me to scream. Was I prepared to be in Cryptopsy at that time? I don’t think so. I think it took me time to grow into the role of fulfilling Lord Worm and the style of his work up to a certain respect. I feel that now it’s been almost eight, nine years that I’m in the band, but I’m finally comfortable on stage with the band, and happy with my vocals.

I actually want to talk about just being on stage. Tonight was my first Cryptopsy show, and I noticed that you’re very animated on stage; you’re very intense, but you threw in a couple of lighthearted moments, like a little fart noise into the microphone. Or playing with the microphone chord like a noose or rope, and things like that. Each member of every band has their own nuances. Tell me a little bit about your headspace when you’re on stage. Do you prepare for each show? Do you just flip a mental switch at all? Is it just completely natural?

I always warm up with the band to protect my voice, to get me into the zone. But normally, the intro starts and I’m in the zone. It depends on the nights. Like tonight, was one of those [intro] nights, and it was OK. Whenever we play near [our] home, for some reason it really takes more. If I know people in the crowd, it stresses me out more… [I’m] much more antsy than I normally am. If I know people in the crowd, [then] you have to take care of people, and it really just ruins it [laughs].

When the band is met with criticism like, as you mentioned, the response for The Unspoken King, how do you react? What is your headspace like in that regard?

It starts out as a, “Fuck them” [mentality]. And then, you know, as time passes… It depends [on] how they are. If it’s just a troll just being a troll to be an asshole and disrespectful and rude, then I won’t take it [seriously]. I always love constructive criticism. Touring with all these bands; I haven’t had a chance to pick too many of these guys [on tour]. But Travis (Ryan; vocals 1997-present) from Cattle Decapitation… just late night discussions about vocals with him, and many others. It’s always a work-in-progress; always pushing to make myself better. I definitely listen to… I try not to read it, but I end up reading it; the bad reviews. If they’re well-educated and they know what’s going on, then I’ll think about it.

Cryptopsy bassist Olivier Pinard (2012 - present) live at The Ready Room in St. Louis, MO on Tuesday, February 16 while on tour with Cannibal Corpse, Obituary, and Abysmal Dawn
Cryptopsy bassist Olivier Pinard (2012 – present) live at The Ready Room in St. Louis, MO on Tuesday, February 16 while on tour with Cannibal Corpse, Obituary, and Abysmal Dawn

There’s always a lot of shit to filter through, first.

Yeah, and I’m always… disappointed with my last performance and I always want to do better. That’s the life of an artist; never, never satisfied.

Tell me a little bit about your hometown of Montreal, Quebec. What was your experience like when starting out in music up to today?

Well, we were lucky. We were growing up, and there were a bunch of venues that either [had] big bands coming through. Most of all the major tours – except for this one [laughter] – comes through Montreal. You have the opportunity to be exposed. We had B.C.I. (Brave Concerts International), who just stopped booking recently, but… they put on hundreds, and hundreds, and hundreds of shows at The Medley, and that [was] just insane learning experiences; that’s the one side of it. And then the other side of it is that there’s so many places to play as a “growing up” band, and there’s this epic jam space called Citu de Mildres. And you’re walking down the halls, and you’re bumping into a lot of big bands that jam there to this day, still. We don’t at this point, but we did for a long time, where you just have late-night jam sessions with people. There’s still a lot of good bands coming out of there, so it’s not finished yet.

What are your thoughts or observations on the scenes within metal? Whether it’s just extreme metal, or the larger term of the music overall in your tenure as a performer.

The meanest people on stage, are the nicest people off stage; that’s really a split personality [laughs]. That’s probably because we’ve had our “therapy” for the day. Whereas, if we didn’t do that, we might become killers [laughter]. But metal is still strong, there’s always stuff going on. I honestly don’t listen to that much metal on my own. I always know what’s coming out and I’ll check it out. But, if I’m at home and I’m doing something, I won’t necessarily put on a metal record to relax to, or to cook supper to [laughs]. Maybe while I’m taking a walk, but I always check out the new stuff that’s come out. My top album of last year that’s come out, I would say, is Cattle Decapitation (The Anthropocene Extinction, 2015), it’s amazing. But rarely new metal will surprise me. I’m looking forward to the new Gorguts.

What do you listen to in your spare time?

Cryptopsy vocalist Matt McGachy (vocals, 2008 - present) live at The Ready Room in St. Louis, MO on Tuesday, February 16 while on tour with Cannibal Corpse, Obituary, and Abysmal Dawn - image credit: Nick Licata (2016)
Cryptopsy vocalist Matt McGachy (vocals, 2008 – present) live at The Ready Room in St. Louis, MO on Tuesday, February 16 while on tour with Cannibal Corpse, Obituary, and Abysmal Dawn – image credit: Nick Licata (2016)

I listen to a lot of post-rock, ambient soundtrack-type stuff. Really getting into that stuff.

As one final impromptu topic, you’re in great shape.

Thank you.

What is your secret staying fit and healthy, especially when you’re on the road?

I train every day, at least a half an hour; six days a week, honestly. And I walk – I think it’s five miles – eight kilometers minimum a day. So that’s my trick, and I eat healthy. But I do all of this so I can drink beer [laughs]. It’s all just for that. Some days you don’t want to do it, but I still do it, and I feel better afterwards.

Special thanks to Matt McGachy for taking his time out to meet with us for this interview! Be sure to check out Nick’s photo gallery from the show, here!

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