Warsenal is a crushing trio of musicians playing some great old school thrash metal and here is a chat I did with Mat vocals and guitarist for the band.
Where were you born and where did you grow up?
Joliette (a smaller city about an hour from downtown Montreal) born and raised.
What sort of kid were you growing up? Did you have many friends and stuff?
I've played hockey for 11 years so I was with the popular kids I guess, but I didn't really care if you were popular or not, or whatever you were into, I got along with everybody.
So what were some early music that you got into and was there any bands that you like liked when you say 13 or 14?
The first band I went to, moving away from the more commercial stuff only made available by radio stations or MTV, was Metallica. I used to listen nonstop to the first four albums. Then, not too long after, I've moved to Megadeth and it has pretty much stayed my number 1 since that time. It's those two bands that really were my initiations to thrash metal and that made me want to dig and discover new Thrash and more extreme metal bands, without forgetting their inspirations and the heavy metal bands that came before them.
I did you discover bands and stuff? Did you get to read many magazines at all? Are there many places that carry underground metal and stuff?
Not before getting my band featured in them, I pretty much discovered everything through the internet and especially You Tube.
So at what point did you end up picking up the guitar and did playing bass or drums ever interest you?
I started playing guitar when I was 13 years old. I started straight away on the electric guitar.
Bass seemed really cool with all the slapping and popping, but I don't know, I didn't feel like it would "fit" me. I would have loved to be good on drums, but I can't seem to be able to separate my feet from my hands. But yeah, I love drums. Whenever I listen to a song that I like, I instantly start air-drumming. If you have the sickest riffs ever, but the drums are shitty it will kill the whole thing.
So did you ever take lessons or were you self taught?
Mostly self-taught. At 17, I went to a Jazz program in College for a year and a half, but ended up dropping out, because it was consuming a lot of the time I could have put on Warsenal and it wasn't really my thing.
How did the idea come across to form or join a band and is Warsenal your first band or did others come before them and are they the only band your in now?
It just came naturally, when I actually got good at playing guitar. I, of course, wanted to get out there and play.
Warsenal is my first real band and my only one. I'm putting everything I have into it. I feel like if you want to succeed you can't start dividing your time and money into a thousand bands, especially with scarceness of those two resources.
How did you start to find other members and how long did it take to find a steady line-up? How well do you guys all get along?
I started the band with bassist Francis Labine who quit not too long ago, so I can't say I have a steady line-up yet, especially now that our actual drummer Vincent Caron has a slipped disk which happened recently, so, in the meantime, we have fill-in drummers. I feel like nowadays, it's really hard to keep an intact line-up. Props to those who can!
How long did it take to start to write original tunes and early on how did a song come together? Who basically writes the music and the lyrics?
It didn't take too long. As soon as I was able to play a couple Metallica or Megadeth songs, I wanted to create my own. So, I guess it was a matter of a year after I started playing guitar.
I compose riffs on my own and then I start putting them together, riffs that I feel fit well with each others, depending on the feeling of the song. The main goal to a Warsenal song is to put as much riffs as possible without it feeling forced. After that, I show my compositions to Vincent who puts drums on them. Sometimes we have to rearrange them a little, because the drums give us a new perspective on the songs.
When Francis was in the band, I would say the music composition was 80% me, 20% him. Now, it's pretty much 100% me, but we'll see how things go with Jeff, because he composes really great material for his other musical projects, so I'm definitely open to him throwing riffs and ideas in the mix.
As for the lyrics it's 100% me since the beginning.
How long was the band around before you decided to go into the studio to record some music? Looking back what are your thoughts on your 2012 demo? Now this demo was it to sell at shows and to get feedback from the press or more for record labels?
Not long, maybe a year. I didn't really see the point of doing shows without having something physical people could remember us by. Especially with social media. How do you wish to create a following if you have nothing to give to the people.
I think it was a good way to start, we had a lot of positive feedback. It opened up a few doors and gave us some killer gig opportunities.
The demo served all three purposes, we would sell it at gigs 5$ just to get some money back to pay for studio, give some away for promotion to both press and labels, but we quickly learn that it's not the 80's anymore. Labels don't sign new bands over a first demo. You gotta have a finished product to present.
How prepared were you going into the studio for the 1st time? How long were you in it and where was it recorded? How much money did it set you back?
We were not really prepared haha. I mean, we were 15 and 16 years, we didn't really know what to expect. We just learned the songs and went for it.
I think it took us a day or two, I don't quite remember. It was at Tricycle Studio in St-Ambroise, a little town near my hometown.The guy had a small studio in his basement.
It wasn't that bad, I think it was something like $300.
In 2013, you had a song appearance on "Hit 'n' Run" on Thrash Sells...But Who's Buying?, released by Tridroid Records, Which song was used and how did you end up on this?
It was the demo version of Hit n Run that was used. I have no idea Haha. I guess Andrew at Tridroid Records heard our demo and liked it. He contacted us to have one of our songs on this compilation he was putting on. It's all bands' demos on the compilation. I think it was a cool idea to help boost new bands visibility worldwide.
Canada has had a past strong thrash and solid underground scene: Exciter/Anvil/Sacrifice, Gorguts, Soothsayer, to name a few, now in 2013 around the time of your debut release how strong was the scene up there especially for thrash metal. Are there many places to play and are there many fans up there these days?
The scene was pretty good when we started, but it seems like it's been fading a bit. Bands that were doing good in the last few years like Alcoholator, Fatality, Mutank, Mortillery, for example, split up. There just doesn't seem to be that much newer Canadian thrash bands that do good anymore.
There are a couple good cities for thrash with die hard fans, but the distance between them is so great, that it can become a major obstacle for younger bands. That's why bigger bands touring North America only hit 3 or 4 Canadian cities top.
Seems that way in a lot of places these days. In September of 2015 your debut release came out on "Punishment 18 Records". How did you hook up with them and are they even still around as a label? How was it like working with them on your debut release?
I just sent them our album by email and they said they wanted to release it, as simple as that and yes they are still around.
It was good. They're genuine thrash fans who do it for the passion. They, of course, don't have the means and contacts that Svart has, but it wasn't bad for a first album release. A couple bands released their first albums with them and moved on to bigger labels afterwards, so it shows they have a nose for promising bands.
So basically you recorded your debut album with your money and you had them release it? How much did you spend of your own money on this recording and how long did it take for the songs to come together?
Yes. We spent $2000 on the whole thing if I well remember. The story behind “Barn Burner” is that we went into studio with the idea of doing a demo of the album, submit it to labels and hope someone would pick it up and give us some money to record it properly. So we recorded the 9 songs in two days, live in the studio without a click. We submitted the album to labels and we had a positive answer from Listenable Records. They told us that the album was good enough like that and that we should only have it mixed and mastered. So we did. Finally the whole thing fell through and Punishment 18 Records picked up the album.
What kind of response did you get from the underground with this release? Did most thrash fans dig it? Did you do any type of touring behind it and who came up with the cover art?
We had somewhat a good response, some good reviews and stuff like that, but it wasn't as good as I expected. That being said, it's true that the album is very raw, so the fans we made aren't the occasional thrash listeners, they are the diehard, which is good, if you want a long term loyal fanbase. The response was nowhere near as good as what we have right now for “Feast Your Eyes”. But, hey, people that digged and discovered us through “Feast Your Eyes” are looking back at “Barn Burner” and sales have been going up lately, so that's a good sign.
We toured Canada a little and did a Mexican tour with Enforcer, plus some dates on our own and that was pretty much it. After our Mexican tour, Antoine left the band, so it kinda fucked up our touring momentum to support our album.
The artwork was my idea and was put to life by the amazing Carter Doody. He did the Zaum albums' cover and they're magnificent. It's definitely worth checking out.
You had a 4 year gap between your debut and this godly latest release. With the way the world is today and the way social media is and with how many bands are out there, do you think you were hurt much with the 4 year break?
Yeah, it didn't help. Things move so fast now with social medias and, as you said, with the number of bands there are out there you always need to have some new stuff coming out, stay fresh, if not people will most likely forget you, especially if you are a newer, up and coming band. We could have counter balance that with extensive touring, but with our line-up changes, it was hard to do so.
When did come to have a steady line-up and start to write album #2?
Well, three songs were composed, not too long after “Barn Burner” was done, with Antoine still on drums and we actually played them live back in 2015. The songs were “Burning Ships” (previously called: Into The Snakepit), “Doomed From Birth” and Feast Your Eyes”, composed in that order.
The rest of the songs came when Vince joined in and was comfortable with the previous material and the three new songs. If I well remember, “I am the Blade” was the first song we composed with Vince. That was back in late 2016. Finally, by the end of summer 2017, we had an album ready to record and we went into studio the week before Christmas, stopped for Christmas holidays and came back one week after that.
Was there label interest at this time or were you going to put it out if nobody wanted too? Did things smoothly and quick in the studio?
I guess we could have released it again on Punishment 18 Records, but we were looking at upping our game a bit, so that's why it took almost two years to have our album released.
Yeah, things went pretty well. We already had some experience with studios, so we knew what we were getting into. We were ready, but there's always some unpredictable stuff and things you thought were good and when you get into studio it just doesn't cut it, so you change it. That's what happened to two riffs in “You Better RUN” and the solo in “Insatiable Hunger” for example. The solo I had written originally wasn't like what ended up on the album and Olivier, who was the one recording our album, suggested that we should add layers to the solo and we went for it. In the end, it turned out even better than what I had originally imagined.
How many labels did you send your latest release to before deciding on them? How has it been working with them so far?
I think our manager reached out to 4, before having a quick answer from Svart Records. We could have kept shopping around for labels, but the deal was good, we knew we would be in professional hands and also, probably the most important thing, we wanted to get the album out. It was way overdue. And why it was, mostly, is because we got screwed over by our previous manager that sucked a lot of our time and money. So let's say that we were getting really impatient to get this album out.
I love the new release. It hit me like a bolt of lightning. How has been the response and reviews been so far?
Thank you! We've had very polarized reviews. We've had some perfect or near perfect scores and some reviews completely destroying the album. So, I think it really is a good thing, it means we're doing something different than what's already out there, so some people love it and some don't get it. But yeah, it mostly has been very positive.
Now that it is out, what are your plans? Any plans for a possible tour?
I have a lot of stuff composed for album number three, so we will probably get on that to make sure it doesn't take more than 4 years to get a new Warsenal album.
As for touring we just announced that we will be playing in Australia next November. We have some festivals and dates in the US that are gonna be announced soon too. Some killer Canadian stuff as well. Plus, we are working very hard on getting something going in Europe for this year or the next.
That’s fantastic. So now going forward where do you see the band going? Do you think you will always have that classic thrash sound you have these days?
Well it's hard to say, because our classic sound isn't something really intentional, it just came naturally, but I think so. I guess in some ways it will always stay, because that's who I am, that's what I love. I wanna make sure I don't paint myself in a corner and experiment different stuff, but I don't see myself going that far from what we already do. I mean I hate when bands I love change too much, but, at the same time, I like to be taken off guard. I think it's all about keeping a good balance between the expected and the unexpected.
For someone who has not heard the band, how would you describe you musically?
That's a good question, euhm, I don't know. Excessive speed metal, maybe?
I would tell them it's some fast-riffing-tempo-changing metal and then they can put whatever etiquette they want on us.
Well horns up for doing this interview with me, any last words to wrap this up?
Thank you very much for your insightful questions and for those reading this: keep your heads banging and we'll keep the riffs flowing!
Interview by Chris Forbes