A Venom Well Designed
CoC chats with Flo Mounier of Cryptopsy
by: Jackie Smit
Flo Mounier, one of extreme music's bona fide drum gods, has a sort of quiet confidence about him. Not for the first time in his illustrious career has his band been forced to stare down the barrel of a barrage of criticism -- criticism which had the nasty habit of turning very personal, very quickly. Indeed a trawl of any Internet messageboard pertaining to Cryptopsy in and around the time of the release of _The Unspoken King_ reveals of a level of fan discontent that makes the backlash to Metallica's _Load_ seem like a pat on the back. But in typically laid-back Canadian fashion, Mounier remains resolute in his opinion on the album and its wildly mixed reception.

"I guess that we didn't foresee the Internet being such a huge force in how people eventually perceived this record", he starts. "There were moments when we were writing the album, where we'd kinda look at each other and say: 'I don't know -- this part is catchy; people are going to get pissed off.' But we didn't care about that. We don't write music for anyone else but ourselves, and if we feel that something works or if we want to try something, we'll try it."

CoC: How different was the reality of the response to what you were expecting?

Flo Mounier: Well, at first the songs that had been leaked online were unfinished remixes, and they were also some of the lighter moments on the album. So we expected that kind of response to those snippets. But the thing is that some people know what constructive criticism is, while some people are just idiots. And a lot of them were idiots, for some reason. You know, we maintained that people needed to wait for the whole album to come out, and that just like any other Cryptopsy album, it would take a while for it to catch on; and to be honest, I think a lot of people have gotten into it.

CoC: Do you feel that going out and touring the new album, and audiences actually hearing the music live and seeing Matt [McGachy, vocals] in action, has played a part in that happening?

FM: Possibly, yeah. A lot of people have heard Matt sing clean and automatically assume that he can't do what Lord Worm used to do, because apparently that's really challenging. But it's not, and he's not a singer. He's a great friend of mine, but he's not a singer. People see Matt and they see the power that he has and the precision that he has and his stage presence, and they can't help but be impressed. We've had a lot of people come up to us after shows and say that they were totally blown away by him and that he put on a great show. They're almost apologetic about it in a way, because the fact is that he can do the old material just as good as he can do the new material.

CoC: You've been here before as a band though, because there was also a lot of negativity toward Mike DiSalvo when he joined.

FM: Sure, yeah.

CoC: Have you ever been annoyed by how conservative certain quarters within the metal community can be, based on this experience of yours?

FM: Definitely. I mean, I don't think that people who launch some of the criticism we've had realise what we go through to make this music. I think they feel that we live a rock star life and that we're earning lots of money, and it's not like that at all. I mean, I have a son who I don't get to see as often as I like because I'm touring all the time. It's sacrifices like that which we have all had to make over the years to be able to bring out interesting, different music. And some people are just ignorant of that fact, unfortunately. So in a personal sense, it kinda fucking sucks when people e-mail you and say: 'I hope that you die in a tour bus accident, because the new album is gay.' Then again, I step back and put it into perspective.

CoC: When you were first in a position where you knew you'd have to replace Lord Worm for a second time? What was it about Matt that made him the man for the job?

FM: I heard a lot of demos and MP3s and stuff on MySpace pages and what have you, but we'd actually known Matt for a while from his previous band, 3 Mile Scream. So we went to go and watch them live and we were really impressed with his voice and his stage presence. I mean, this guy was on key all night and he was really precise and powerful. Then Chris [Donaldson], our guitarist, mentioned that he had actually recorded with him a number of times and that he was really professional in the studio and a really great guy to be around personally. And that's what I wanted, you know? I wanted a musician in a singer -- someone who could do with his voice what the other guys in the band were doing with their instruments. So in the end, it was a pretty easy choice.

CoC: Well, one of the things that I personally love about Matt is his ability to phrase and add rhythm into his voice that actually embellishes on what the rest of the band are doing. I found that with _Once Was Not_, Lord Worm's voice often just sounded like a static racket over the instrumentation.

FM: I felt that _Once Was Not_ was lacking the precision that we wanted, and because of that we wanted to make sure that we found a vocalist who was more musical and who was stronger with his timing. Basically someone who has the versatility to deliver chaos when we need it, but who can also accentuate the music through his voice and can do some of the catchier stuff as well. Matt has trained as a singer for most of his life and he's done various professional projects since he was young, so he was a perfect fit.

CoC: What was it like working with him in the studio?

FM: Very easy. We'd give him ideas and he'd do it straight away without any complaints. He's a really professional guy who wants to put out quality stuff.

CoC: How has he handled being thrust into a position where he's almost instantly in the firing line for a lot of criticism?

FM: I think he was a little intimidated at first. Now he's a cocky little son of a bitch. <laughs> No, I think he has a little nastiness to him and it actually helps him handle some of the comments and the criticism perfectly.

CoC: When I spoke to Alex [Auburn, guitars] about five years ago, he mentioned that the band would be heading down a more experimental route. Clearly this wasn't the case with _Once Was Not_, so my question is how far some of the ideas on _The Unspoken King_ actually date back?

FM: Well, a lot of them actually go back a long time, and we weren't really able to use them on _Once Was Not_ because the music didn't call for it. It was only afterward where we started to put our foot down and say: 'This is the way it's going to be.' There were people in the band back then who were very opposed to us trying certain things, and the rest of us never got that. I mean, we're playing extreme metal. We can do whatever we want, for Christ's sake! So this time round we just opened up the floodgates and did whatever we wanted to.

CoC: So when you were recording _The Unspoken King_ there was a sense of single-mindedness to what you wanted to get out of it?

FM: We were definitely unanimous in that we wanted to have the clean singing and the keyboards and the experimental stuff in there. But at the end of the day, all of that stuff only makes up about 10% of the album, and the way that it developed and basically arced from being catchy to being really vicious and heavy -- that all came about pretty organically while we were writing the album. We wanted to do something different, you know? We wanted to do the 300bpm Cryptopsy stuff and then turn it around when the listeners were least expecting it. And to me, it all fits really well together. We've got the really brutal death metal stuff and then suddenly you'll have a huge harmony part and that's not really been done all that often, in the type of music that we make at least. It was a great experience making this album for sure.

CoC: So where do you feel _The Unspoken King_ fits into the rest of the Cryptopsy lexicon? Do the songs stick out when you're playing them live in comparison to your earlier material?

FM: We're playing three new songs on this tour, and they do stick out. I think the reason for that is that all three are really powerful in their own way, but they're also more unique than some of our older stuff -- at least as far as our own music is concerned. I mean, Cryptopsy has always been about pushing the limits creatively. If you look at some of our back catalogue, there's a lot of stuff there that at the time we brought it out, no one else was really doing anything similar. With _The Unspoken King_, I think it's the same situation, and that comes from the fact that we all like hearing new things. I don't like repetition. I want to experience something new, and I don't like listening to someone's creative leftovers.

CoC: Now that you mention it, it does seem quite convenient that when people reference bands like Dillinger Escape Plan now, they seem to forget that you were one of the first bands to innovate that really off-kilter, blasting style of extreme music.

FM: Sure, I mean listen to _Whisper Supremacy_ and it's nuts. It's all over the place. We've got riffs on there that last two seconds, before changing into the next part. But the thing is that these days there's so much coming out that you barely have a chance to process everything, and as a result it's much harder for bands to stand out. I think it also means that a lot of people lose touch with where what they're listening to came from. To be honest, I don't really care about that so much. I just want to play and have fun.

CoC: To close off, I'd like to talk about the Internet, because you're one band who've definitely been on the receiving end of what happens when albums get leaked too soon. What are your thoughts on how the web has changed the music industry and fan perception of the bands they're listening to?

FM: It's quite easy. The Internet has given everyone a voice, so now everybody thinks it's a level playing field. The problem is that some people have worked really hard to be in the position they're in -- more so than others. I mean, from a business point of view, the Internet has definitely hurt the music industry, and there's nothing you can do about it. A decade ago, when an album was coming out, you'd anticipate the release and you'd look forward to it. Then eventually you'd buy it and take it home and really spend a lot of time listening to it, formulating your own opinion on it. Now with the Internet, people are downloading albums before they come out and voicing their opinions prematurely, which can often be really influential. Some people can be very sheeplike in general, and so instead of listening to an album and forming their own ideas, they decide that if their friends don't like it, they won't either. It's like a kind of peer pressure and you can see it everywhere. But you definitely see it with music being downloaded off the Internet.

CoC: Do you think it's hurt the originality of music and in this case, particularly extreme music?

FM: Sure. I don't know if it's just the Internet, but the way the music industry is right now, everyone definitely wants the same shit. They're not as receptive to change as they were before. If one band comes out with one thing that sells, then the record companies will want more bands doing the same thing because they know it's a safe option for them commercially. And it gets to the point where bands are trying to second-guess the labels and the fans and doing what they think will sell. The days of bands like Led Zeppelin are over.

CoC: I thought about that the other night and wondered if it was just me getting old!

FM: <laughs> The scary part is that we realise what's happening. I think too many people ignorance is bliss, and the same applies to a lot of musicians in our scene. I mean, a lot of people would rather just project a certain look and play a certain style so that they can go on tour and sell a bunch of merchandise, rather than bust their asses to do something original. That's never going to happen to us, and I'm not complaining, because it brought me a lot of happiness.

CoC: So finally, what's next for you guys?

FM: I'm not too sure. We have a few tours coming up and after that we'll have to see what happens. We have one more album left on our current record deal, and I'd like to make another one soon. I'm not sure what direction it would take, but I'm pretty sure that we'll be able to do it relatively quickly.

(article submitted 30/1/2009)

3/15/2006 J Smit Cryptopsy: Back to the Worms
9/21/2003 J Smit Cryptopsy: Breaking the Barriers of Supremacy
1/10/2001 P Schwarz Cryptopsy: The Shifting Scales of Brutality
4/13/1998 P Schwarz Cryptopsy: Blasphemous, Vile and Now Supreme
4/27/2008 J Smit 8.5 Cryptopsy - The Unspoken King
10/10/2005 P Azevedo 8.5 Cryptopsy - Once Was Not
5/11/2003 P Azevedo 9.5 Cryptopsy - None So Live
1/10/2001 A Cantwell 8.5 Cryptopsy - And Then You'll Beg
10/1/1998 P Schwarz 10 Cryptopsy - Whisper Supremacy
10/11/1996 A Gaudrault 10 Cryptopsy - None So Vile
6/11/2008 P Schwarz Cryptopsy "I Don't Give a Fuck If You Hate Me"
1/10/2001 A Wasylyk Cryptopsy / Solus / Rotting / Horde of Worms Canadian Carnage
8/12/1999 D Rocher Six Feet Under / Mayhem / Vader / Enslaved / Cryptopsy / Nile / Thyrfing / Darkseid Facing the Breton Storm Season
8/12/1999 M Noll Six Feet Under / Vader / Enslaved / Cryptopsy / Nile / Thyrfing Pig's Feet and All Things Yummy
10/1/1998 P Schwarz Death Across America / Gorguts / Oppressor / Cryptopsy / Days of Mourning / Endless Obscure and Violent Canadian Supremacy
10/11/1996 A Gaudrault Cryptopsy / Blood of Christ High Quality Metal, Low Quality Fans
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