SNOWBALL FIGHTS WITH GLEN BENTON: THE BLACKGUARD METALSUCKS INTERVIEW
Quebecois epic metallers Blackguard just wrapped up a tour with Decide, Neuraxis and Pathlogy. Having a snowball fight with Glen Benton wasn’t the only highlight of the tour; the shows were pretty sweet too, according to frontman Paul Zinay. Paul shares his thoughts on Benton, haters, his band’s new deal with Victory Records and the band’s conscious move away from the folk metal scene in this exclusive MetalSucks interview.
How’s it going? How has the tour with Decide, Neuraxis and Pathology been for you guys?
I can’t believe how great it’s been, actually. The other day I was looking back on the tour schedule, and I was just sort of remembering and making mental notes of every show and going “that was a good show, that was a good show, bad show, bad show, good show, good show.” Every other show except for maybe 2 or 3 were really good. I was expecting a beer bottle getting thrown at my head at every show. I had nightmares of everything from getting into fights with Glen Benton to getting booed off stage every day.
This tour has far exceeded any of that, especially this last week of the tour; it’s been excellent. Every show that we’ve done (in some cases) [has been] the best show that we’ve ever done in those cities. I wasn’t expecting that from this crowd. The last couple of years we’ve been touring with a lot of power metal bands. Their fan base doesn’t generally . . . they get into it, but it’s not a moshing crowd. It’s funny because we’re a lot more aggressive than the power metal bands that we’ve toured with. Now the rules are reversed and now we’re the lightest band on the bill. That’s not to say that we don’t have heavy elements to us, but it’s cool kind of being on this bill and playing in front of crowds that are there to mosh and there to get physical.
Yeah, well Deicide is fucking serious, dude.
Oh yeah. It doesn’t get much more aggressive and brutal than that.
[Laughs] We’re lucky that we tend to put a smile on people’s faces when we go on. They’re like “oh this is slightly happier music, but it’s okay.” They kind of get into it — if not at the beginning then by the end everyone is kind of begrudgingly… okay, not everybody, there are probably a lot that still fucking hate us, but at some of the shows I’ve seen we start off where people are giving us the look. Midway through the set, a few more people are into it and by the end the crowd seems to be digging it overall. It’s cool to see that progression in the show from everyone not knowing who the hell you are and not giving a crap to people kind of getting into it and taking it for what it is. We’re here to play music and to have fun, so we want to get the crowd to do that too.
Yeah. No beer bottles thrown at you? No hecklers? Nothing like that?
I’ve had a couple of sick hecklers. No beer bottles, but in Quebec City we had a couple of water bottles thrown at us. In San Francisco, there was a chick… the San Francisco show was kind of an off date. Everyone played except for Deicide. There was this girl who from the moment we got on the stage walked right in front of the crowd and just started flipping us the bird. She just stood there and wouldn’t move. A little later on during a song, she moved to the back of the crowd and started flipping us off from there. I threw a water bottle at her.
I don’t know if I hit her, but in between songs she’s still there flipping us off. I had enough of it. I started calling her out on it. “What the fuck’s your problem? We’re not brutal enough for you? We’re not grim?” Eventually I kind of got nasty with her. I think I called her a cunt or something like that.
“Are you as ugly up front as you are from far away?” The crowd thought it was pretty funny.
Do you try to restrain yourself from doing that kind of thing?
You’ve got to pick and choose your battles — that’s the thing. That night, if it was half the crowd that really didn’t fucking like us… you kind of get a feel of when you can do that. She seemed to be the only one to really fucking hate us enough to do that kind of shit. For the most part, by the end of the show, that was a really good gig. People dug it except for her. I felt like if she wanted to give me shit, I’m going to do it but in a funny way too to get everyone to laugh about it.
There are people who are the best at that. Guy from the Red Chord is one who is just like…
I love that guy. Holy shit, a little story. They were touring with Gwar a couple of years ago, and they came to Montreal. I was watching the show, and I was there with a bunch of my buddies. A lot of my older friends are all punks, and we all grew up on Gwar. My buddy, Kevin, was right in front waiting for Gwar to go on. While the Red Chord was on, he was heckling them. He hated them. He was heckling them the whole time. I felt bad because I love the Red Chord, and I’ve met the guys before. I actually interviewed Guy years ago for a metal magazine in Quebec. I wasn’t near him, but I’m watching from the side enjoying the show. In between songs, I can’t see him, but I can hear my buddy Kevin just ripping into Guy, and just the whole band in general. Sure enough, Guy at one point had enough and just started giving it back to him. At the end of the show I met up with my buddy Kevin and he was like “yeah, that fucking band the Red Chord, I was ripping on them.” I was like “dude, that was you? You fucking asshole!”
When you’re dealing with hecklers, I guess there are two ways that you can deal with it: you can give it back to them hopefully with a humorous edge to it or you’re going to… what are you going to do? Jump off the stage and start a fight with somebody? It’s like, come on. It’s really not worth it.
I don’t see a situation where I would actually want to go out and just punch a motherfucker. Yesterday we were in San Diego and there was this drunk ass dude right in the front. I’m pretty sure he didn’t have any idea who any of the bands were. He was just there. He was wearing his little baseball jersey, the redneck, drunk as fuck guy who was just yelling incoherent babbling while we were setting up. My drummer is setting up and he was borderline cat calling her. I don’t like that. That’s one thing that really gets me going is if I see someone disrespecting my drummer. I’m like “if this motherfucker keeps going, I’m going to stomp him out.” He kept yelling and I yelled at him because I was at the side of the stage. I said “hey,” and he looks at me and I started babbling nonsense at him. He didn’t like it too much, so he spent the rest of the set flipping us off. I didn’t have any problem with it because I wasn’t going to give him the time of day – he wasn’t worth it. I did want to stomp this guy out because he crossed the line by messing with my drummer. There are things that you can do that are really inappropriate. Flipping us off is one thing.
He’s just looking for attention, and you’ve got to not give it to him. Don’t gratify him with the attention he’s seeking.
Are you throwing down with Glen Benton nightly?
No one’s throwing down with Glen Benton. Even the guys from Deicide.
Does he think you guys are pussies?
No, he’s actually been amazing. He’s been an awesome guy. There haven’t been any incidents whatsoever. He obviously has a reputation when it comes to opening bands, and we haven’t experienced any of that. He’s been a great dude. Granted, he’s not the kind of guy where every day you put your arm around and go “Glen, let’s go have a beer. Come on, man. Come on, motherfucker.” [Gruff, Southern Accent] He walks by, you say “hi”, he may say “hi”, he may not say “hi”. It’s kind of a coin flip. Other than that, he’s been cool. I’ve had a couple of nice conversations with him. We had a snowball fight with him in London, Ontario — Blackguard vs. Glen and some of the crew of Deicide. That was one of the funniest things we’ve done on tour, and the imagery of having a snowball fight with Glen.
When it ended and we got into the van, I was like “man, that just happened.” [Laughs]
There’s been no bullshit on this tour. Everybody’s been good, and we’ve been getting along great with the other guys from Deicide like Steve and Ralph. Ralph is the kind of guy that stays out and parties. He’s an extremely social character, we’ve been hanging out with him quite a bit. He’s a great guy. Jack pops in and out, but he’s rolling with his girlfriend so he doesn’t spend a lot of time in the venue. He’s a great, nice dude. He’s kind of quiet and keeps to himself, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
When this tour started, I wasn’t expecting to be throwing down with any of them. Actually I was expecting to get into fistfights with Glen for one reason or another, but none of that’s happened and I’m really happy about that – that everybody’s been cool and there’s been no bullshit whatsoever.
Shifting gears a bit here, you guys have a new record coming out in a couple of weeks. [It came out March 29th. -Ed.] You must be pretty excited about that. It’s your 1st for Victory, right?
Yep, that’s it. I’m extremely excited about that.
It seemed like you guys were on Nuclear Blast for awhile going back to the old band name. Then you were on Sumerian for a minute. Was that a one album deal? What was that?
What happened was that for the live CD, Nuclear Blast put out the record in Europe and Sumerian had it taken care of here in North America. We had signed individual deals with both those labels. At the end of the touring cycle and when it was all said and done, we kind of felt that… in Nuclear Blast’s case, we didn’t sell enough records for them, and they weren’t willing to push the band to that next level. Frankly, it was the same thing with Sumerian too where we just felt like we weren’t… I don’t need to be a priority in the label, but it felt like we were getting even less attention, like far less attention than we deserved for the amount we were touring. We didn’t have the weight of the label behind us helping bring the band’s profile up — specifically in the media and in terms of interviews. We didn’t get a lot of that in North America. When it came to talking about the next record, if it was going to be a repeat of that on this coming CD, it wasn’t worth it to stick around. We kind of just parted ways with Sumerian.
That’s the short answer. It was kind of the same with Nuclear Blast. We didn’t sell enough records for them and they just kind of let us go.
Do you feel with Victory that you’re going to get that push that you need?
We’ve already been seeing it. It’s unreal the amount of work that that label has been putting into the band. In interviews alone what I have been doing the last couple of weeks has been eclipsing anything I did here in North America on the last record. Their publicists have been working overtime for us and getting me tons of interviews to do and tons of opportunities. In L.A. we did a photo shoot for Tattoo Magazine because me, Kim and Terry all have tats. So they set it up where we’ll have a feature in the magazine. That’s going to be amazing. That’s something that I could never see… I never thought that we could do that. I wouldn’t even know how to hook that up if I wanted it. It’s great having the publicists over at Victory who have a wider range of contacts and a lot of out of the box ideas in terms of promotion for the band. I never thought of it for an underground metal band. It’s really been inspiring to see how much they’ve been working, and it’s really pushing us to work harder and want to go out on the road moreso and push this record and make it the best release to date.
Yeah, awesome. About that record being the best release to date, how is it an evolution or change, or not, from the prior one?
This one is definitely an evolution from the last one. One of the more significant changes that’s happened in the band that’s happened in the last year is that our keyboard player Joe left the band when we were halfway through the Hypocrisy tour. That tour was his last tour with the band. Joe was actually a principle songwriter within Blackguard. With that being said, this new record was not written by the same people that wrote the last one. Kim, our lead guitarist, who did contribute a lot on the last CD, has far more… this is basically his baby. The guitar side is all Kim basically. Étienne, our bass player, also contributed riffs to certain songs. There’s an acoustic track on there that’s all Étienne. He wrote that one front to back. From a musical standpoint, I would say that this album is far more guitar driven rather than keyboard driven. That’s going to be very apparent if you put the two CDs together. Another thing is a lot of the “folkier” elements we had on previous records are very much pushed to the back. Those folk elements aren’t at the forefront. We’re really trying to expand more of our sound.
You mentioned the keyboard thing, and obviously that plays into it too in addition to him being a primary songwriter, but was it also a conscious shift that you guys were looking to move away from that?
Yeah, absolutely. We said we wanted to move out. We wanted to experiment more. We wanted to evolve as a band. Having that change within the band’s lineup gave us the opportunity to do so with very little problems and very little friction. We took this opportunity and went “okay, we’ll take all the elements that we’ve used in our music, except we’re bringing certain elements in the forefront and certain elements back.” This one will have some of the more heavier songs that we’ve written and at the same time it’s a million degrees less “folky” than the last CD was. We wanted to steer away from the folk metal.
I hate to be the guy saying that “we’ve created a new subgenre” but we’re calling ourselves “epic metal” as sort of an umbrella term for what we do. That’s kind of a tag we’ve given ourselves over the past couple of years because, yes, we did come out of the folk scene, but I never really considered us a full on folk metal band the way Eluveitie is a folk metal band and the way Korpiklaani is a folk metal band. Those are folk metal bands. We have those influences but we’re definitely not that. We’re not what those guys are. We have a lot of power metal influence and we have a lot of classical influence and we like using those elements in our music. Using the term “epic” as an umbrella term is kind of appropriate because it encompasses all those styles and the elements we use in our music. I just think it’s appropriate that we use “epic metal” because we’re not folk or power metal but we do use these epic elements to our music. We’re calling it “epic” and hope people dig it. [Laughs]
Yeah. You guys aren’t the first to use that term, obviously, but I totally know what you mean.
I don’t know if I know another band that’s used that term and call themselves straight up epic metal. Most of those bands say they are “epic” but are either straight up power bands or folk metal bands. We’re kind of right in between. We kind of have that Euro kind of power, kind of folk but maybe a little more aggressive thing.
A lot of those Euro bands like Mercenary and Raintime, bands like that.
Yeah, I agree with you for sure. Thanks a lot, man. I really appreciate it. I check out MetalSucks all the time. Take care.