Ghoulish Metal Fun
CoC talks to Gary Lyons of Ghoulunatics
by: Adrian Bromley
All I could think about after hearing Montreal act Ghoulunatics' new album titled _King of the Undead_ [see review this issue] was "Woah! This is good!" It is a surprisingly impressive third album, seeing that I felt their debut _Carving Into You_ [CoC #34] and their last offering _Mystralengine_ were both mediocre. After really getting into the new album -- a nice blend of campy horror and groovy death metal --, I knew I needed to talk to the band and find out what went right this time around. I have been playing the new album on a continuous basis and have even decided to take up French again -- well, maybe not. But I'm still cranking the disc! Ghoul/bassist Gary Lyons corresponded via e-mail with Chronicles of Chaos about the band's "horror groove music" and what it takes to get noticed as an independent band in Canada.

CoC: Tell me about the music on _King of the Undead_ -- is it the best music you guys could be making in 2001? What do you like about this album?

Gary Lyons: Yes, this album is definitely our best one to date. I think it's got more varied influences to it: some songs are more hardcore, some even a bit stoner rock influenced, but we never plan that in advance. We [the band is rounded out by singer Patrick Mireault, guitarists Patrick Gordon and Jarrod "Buck" Martin and drummer Brian Craig -- Adrian] just play music that we like. Everyone has their say on every song and it's only when everyone is happy with it that it becomes a Ghoulunatics song.

CoC: Why the love of horror themes? How important are those themes to creating songs and bringing ideas into the band?

GL: We don't create songs with the horror atmosphere; it's the artwork and the lyrics that express all the creepy stuff. Somehow it seems that everything works well together. Also, horror brings out those great feelings called fear!

CoC: What bands influenced you? Do you still hear those influences?

GL: I don't think we were aware of any influences when we started the Ghouls; we just wanted to play heavy music and forget everything else that we knew. Back then, other bands were copying bands like Death, Cannibal Corpse, Obituary or Slayer. We didn't want to go that route. We wanted to play our own music. Not that we invented anything, but I think you can't say we are this style or that style. I guess were a mix of a lot of different metal and hardcore influences. Growing up we listened to bands like Dead Kennedys, SNFU, Obituary, Faith No More, S.O.D and Black Sabbath. If I had to pick one band that influenced us, though, I would have to pick Dead Horse (R.I.P.). We're all really big fans and we became even bigger fans when our former band Crypt Keepers [which included original member singer Pat Mireault, bassist Gary Lyons and guitarist Pat Gordon -- Adrian] toured with them back in 1993. We've kept in touch ever since and it was an honour for us to have Michael Haaga [ex-Dead Horse frontman, now playing with Phil of Pantera in his side project Superjoint Ritual -- Adrian] do back vocals on "Mobster Fiesta Extravaganza". Mike also does the solo work on "Suspicious Minds" and recorded one of the guitar tracks on the jam at the end of _King of the Undead_. Mike came up from Texas for a couple of days and we all had a blast (and a hangover) doing it! I hope we can do it again.

CoC: It seems as though it takes a lot of hard work for Canadian metal bands to get noticed -- do you agree? What do you guys do to get noticed?

GL: That's for sure! We have a lot of talent here, but we need record companies with a bit of cash to invest and belief in a band to make it work. The only thing we can do is try and make the right contacts and invest whatever money we can towards promoting ourselves. That's sadly what it comes down to these days. You could be the best band in the world, but without promotion you're nothing, 'cause nobody will notice you. We just try our best, have fun doing it and hope something will happen. If nothing does come out of this, at least we will have stayed true to ourselves and that's really what is important to us.

CoC: Like a lot of French-Canadian bands, you guys sing in French and English. Which do you prefer? How do you approach each style of song?

GL: We are an English band, no question about it. We will never write a whole album in French; that's just not what the band is about. Some people might consider us a French-Canadian band because we are from the province of Quebec, but in reality four out of five members are English. In the past we've had one French song per album and one or two that were bilingual. We have one French song on this new one called "Melodrame". The reason for this, I guess, is that we are all bilinguals and that just comes out naturally. When Pat (who writes all the lyrics) writes a song in French, it's because it just feels natural to him to write it that way.

CoC: Pierre Remillard did a superb job with the production, making it sound good but not too flashy. He really let the groove and raw power of the band stay intact. When you went into the studio with him, did you both know what was going to come out of this? What did you learn?

GL: First of all, Pierre has been a friend of ours for about ten years and knows the band well. He played two or three gigs with us back in '96 when Jarrod left the band. That made it a lot easier, because he knew what we wanted and where we wanted to go with this album. We knew we wanted an album that would sound raw an in-your-face with a live aspect to it. We recorded everything live without any overdubs or cuts in two days and then recorded the vocals in a day and a half. Pierre did a great job and understood where we wanted to go right away. Basically, our job was to play the songs, his was to record them -- that's all. No arguments, no fussing over the sound of this or the volume of that. We have our own sound and we wanted him to reproduce this sound on the album, which he did. Pierre later told us recording _King of the Undead_ was one of the easiest projects he'd done. If we learned anything, it would be this: if you come prepared, everything will go smoothly.

CoC: Do you like the whole business side of being in a band or not? How involved in that does the band get?

GL: Basically, I manage the band and take care of pretty much everything with the help of our friend Eric Galy, who is also our booker and has been helping us out since day one. The business side of being in a band can be tough and is not always pleasant, but that is inevitable. Lots of people out there just want to profit from your band when everything is good and when things aren't so good, they won't ever talk to you. That's all part of the business, I guess. All I can do is be true to myself, do my best, try and respect a certain standard and try and gain respect from my peers. In the meantime, Eric and I are working hard to promote the new album. We will be touring Ontario and Quebec at the beginning of 2002 and we are planning a Canadian tour for next Summer if all goes well.

CoC: There is a lot of imagery with Ghoulunatics and what you do. Is it demanding to keep it fresh or is it rather easy to keep the ideas coming?

GL: It's something that comes easy to us. The horror side of things has always been part of Ghoulunatics, because we're all fans of horror movies and we always want to try something new. Over the years, we've had lots of help from friends like Eric Gougeon from Illusion Tattoo here in Montreal, who does some of our merchandise artwork, as well as the Elvis Dead Story show posters. Pat Tremblay, who did the cover art for _King of the Undead_, also helps out a lot with posters and merchandise, which gives us time to concentrate on other things.

CoC: What horror movie(s) would best represent what the band is about? What are the band favourites? Mine would be "Susperia", "Halloween" and "Demons".

GL: "Frankenstein" would best represent the band, because he's ugly, sensitive and brutal. Our favourite horror movies are "Evil Dead", "Brain Dead" ("Dead Alive" in the US) and all of the "Tales From the Crypt" series.

CoC: What is the local scene like over there in Montreal? Do you get to play many shows? What bands, besides Ghoulunatics, should we look out for?

GL: The local scene is really good here. Lots of really good bands are out there now, like Blinded by Faith or Neuraxis, for example. The only thing missing would be serious record companies with money to invest in their bands, and I'm sure you'd see lots of Montreal bands "making it". We can play about 20 to 25 shows a year on average in our province of Quebec; we play in our hometown of Montreal about twice a year. There are lots of places to play, all you need to do is get organized and make the right contacts.

Contact: The Ghouls Mansion, P.O. Box 47574, Montreal, Quebec H2H 2S8, Canada

(article submitted 14/1/2002)

1/14/2002 A Bromley 9 Ghoulunatics - King of the Undead
10/1/1998 A Bromley 3 Ghoulunatics - Carving Into You
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