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Fuck the Facts

Capital Punishment

Fuck the Facts
Sometimes a career breakthrough turns into a career breakdown. After releasing their highest-profile album to date, their first on influential independent metal label Relapse Records, Fuck the Facts hit the road harder than ever, touring almost ceaselessly behind their 2006 album Stigmata High-Five. After learning so much on the road, and eager to capitalize on their career momentum, the Ottawa-based grindcore outfit hit upon what seemed to be a brilliant concept — translate all that hard road work into their Relapse follow-up.

"The idea for this album was to write it on the road in our van,” says vocalist and lyricist Mel Mongeon. "We travelled for 14 days from Canada to the Mexican border; that wound up being 15 songs. A lot of it had to do with how much time we spent on the road for Stigmata — you adapt to life in a van, and we wanted to bring that concept to [the new album]. The idea was to be influenced by everything we saw on that trip. Anyone that’s travelled knows there are so many experiences to pick up on.”For his part, founder and guitarist Topon Das had his own, more sonically-oriented goals for their next effort. Having recorded Stigmata in a high-end, professional studio, he wanted to move away from that album’s crisp sheen and professional polish in favour of a sound that reflected the band’s tight live performances. He insisted on recording back home in Ottawa, and recruited a novice producer, ex-Head Hits Concrete drummer Craig Boychuck, to man the boards.

It was all going according to plan. They jumped right into the studio when they returned from the trek. But after 11 days of recording, according to Das, "everyone was burnt out.” Instead of hitting an anticipated high, Fuck the Facts basically crashed. "It wasn’t fun, like going to work,” Das continues. "We didn’t even get to vocals. It kind of sucked because we had a half-finished album, [but] we were like ‘we’re just gonna stop.’” Boychuck returned to his Winnipeg hometown, taking the unfinished recordings with him. Das, Mongeon and drummer/bassist Mathieu Vilandré retreated to lick their wounds. After more than ten years, 13 members, 14 official releases and a bunch more home-recorded tapes and CD-Rs, one of Canada’s great aggressive bands looked done, just when things were really starting to take off.

It was 1997 when Topon Das began putting his enthusiasm for grindcore to tape. Squired away in his dad’s basement, inspired by underground extremists like Agents of Satan and Spazz and armed with a guitar, drum machine and a four-track recorder, Das sought to "replicate it in my own DIY way. I did tape trading — back when people still released tapes. There weren’t CD-Rs back then.” It was two years of work before he even came up with his (to some, controversial) band name, and two more years before anyone joined him in his efforts.

"In 2001, I asked a friend [Matt Connell] that I was in another band with to play drums on my next recording. That’s when Fuck the Facts turned into a band with members. The band we were in, we weren’t playing shows often, touring or recording, but with FTF we’d play anywhere we could, like basements or tiny clubs.” Das moved to bass when guitarist Tim Audette and vocalist Brent Christoff joined shortly after, and Fuck the Facts were finally a bona fide band. Continuing to record and release both "official” albums and an onslaught of home recordings, now on CD-R, Fuck the Facts developed a reputation within the aggressive underground as a unique progressive grindcore band.Progressive and grindcore aren’t words that many people associate together. The genre has its roots in the most extreme aspects of metal — hyperactive musicianship pushed to the limits of excess and speed, overly distorted guitars bolstered by vocals alternating between guttural, almost tectonic growls and shrieking, banshee-esque wailing about subject matter including murder, gore and the evils of humanity.

But after two decades, the grindcore subgenre has stagnated. Once considered an avant-garde innovation to the straightforward hammering guitars and double-time beats of metal, it fell victim to its own genre entrenchment. Although it continues to flourish in many ways, and is adored by many a ’banger, the scene has become predictable."When I started the project, dirty grindcore was a huge motivation,” Das says. "We’re not a straight-up grindcore band anymore and a lot of people probably argue that we’re not grindcore at all, but we try not to worry about that. I’ve heard a gazillion bands and with all the people involved over the years, things have changed. Fuck the Facts is my outlet to do what I want to do, because when I started, I couldn’t find a band that I was able to do it in. It’s a natural progression. That’s always been the way with Fuck the Facts.”

The first few years of FTF were as marked by line-up changes as they were by Das’s remarkably prolific output. After joining the band with the best intentions, many players found a harsh schedule of rehearsals, shows, tours and recordings — official or otherwise — too much to bear. Das soldiered on until late 2001, when vocalist Brent Christoff, who as front-man had become the face and voice of the band, handed in his resignation. It would forever alter the course of Fuck the Facts.It was because of Christoff’s departure that Das discovered a young aggressive music fan from Quebec, who at the time spoke very limited English. He enlisted her in the project, putting Fuck the Facts on a brand new path. Mel Mongeon quickly adopted Das’s enthusiasm and soon she was bringing much more than a distinctive growl to their sound — she quickly became the band’s principle lyricist, putting her own dark stamp on their efforts.

"I’m motivated by subjects that are hard or painful,” Mongeon says. "I find depression inspiring. What’s hard in life — the dark side and struggles. There’s a style of music for happier lyrics about flowers, but it’s not for us.”Touring, recording, rehearsals and more member changes continued until 2005, when drummer and (on record) bassist Mathieu Vilandré joined the band and Fuck the Facts finally had a solid line-up. (Steve Chartier handles bass on tour.)It wasn’t long before Fuck the Facts hit the big time, or at least its equivalent in the perpetually underground world of aggressive music. Relapse Records, one of the most respected and successful metal labels in the world, signed the band and suddenly, a world of opportunities they could only dream of opened up to them. The label ponied up the dough for a professional recording studio, and the result, Stigmata High-Five, was a career high point. Its undeniable thickness, antagonism and creativity made it a favourite amongst FTF fans, and raised the band’s international profile. Eager to capitalize, Fuck the Facts hit the road.

"We embraced the heavy touring schedule,” Das admits. "We toured for over a year consistently, and at home, we were always working even though we weren’t home much.”

It was with the best intentions that Fuck the Facts booked studio time immediately after the end of Stigmata’s touring cycle. It sure made sense at the time; since Das’s intention was to capture the sound of their performances, why not do it when they’re at their tightest, having played night after night for months? "We tried to crank as many amps as we could and make as much noise as possible,” Das says about the recordings for new album, Disgorge Mexico. "We didn’t want loud volume-wise, in terms of the CD, but we wanted a real band feel to it, to keep it natural and maintain the consistency between the CD and live. There are subtle imperfections on [Disgorge Mexico] but that’s what I love about music. I think it’s sad and scary that in a lot of extreme music, it’s trying to become so perfect that people can’t honestly replicate it live. Imperfections in music can be the coolest thing. I think music shouldn’t be perfect. A lot of people would argue that, but as cool as technology is and easy for everyone to record nowadays, it’s taking a lot of character out of music. Everyone’s grabbing the same drum sounds from the same programs. That character is disappearing. People are trying to keep up with that and it’s not possible. The bar is getting raised not by people but by software.”

Working diligently with Boychuck to document performances, Disgorge Mexico seemed on track to matching the acclaim and spirit of Stigmata High-Five. In 11 days, Das and crew managed to complete music for the 15 songs that make up the album, but vocals weren’t even started. They hadn’t just run out of time, but energy and drive as well.Relapse Records had the album scheduled for an April, 2008 release, a deadline the band now wouldn’t hit. "I couldn’t give it to [the label] if I didn’t love it,” Das says. "This is the music we’re going to be touring on for a while and I want to be able to tell the audience to buy it, not that we fucked it up and they should buy our last album instead. It has to be good, especially with all the time and money put into it. I’ve talked to bands that feel they rushed albums and I can’t work in that way. If we’re not happy with something we’ve done, we’d rather scrap it and start from scratch. Craig flew home while we just let the band rest for a while. It wasn’t a break-up — we just took a break. We had to put things into perspective, making sure it’s still fun for everyone, not a shitty job.”It only took a couple of months for batteries to recharge and enthusiasm to return. Mongeon continued to hone her lyrics for Disgorge Mexico, a process that Das witnesses first hand. "We live together so I see all of the time she spends writing the lyrics, and she has a different approach than I’ve ever seen. She’ll come up with a subject, then go research it and jot down notes like she’s doing homework. She filters it out and has these great lyrics. It’s not just, ‘I hate going to work.’ They’re stories that are either personal or larger.” Mongeon, who hadn’t even had a chance to start putting her stamp on the new record, wasn’t the only one working during the down time. Back home in Winnipeg, producer Boychuck continued to tinker with the recordings that had been completed, certain that the time away would be temporary.

"It was a good thing to take the break,” Das says. "We probably should have [taken time off] before we even started recording. A couple of months later, we started getting excited about it again and went to finish the vocals. By that point I was stoked — I couldn’t wait, and that was the whole point of downtime. If we hadn’t taken a break, we would have rushed the album to get it done. This way, we put it aside for a while and got excited about finishing it and playing together again.”The struggles to complete Disgorge Mexico have been the most recent trial for Fuck the Facts, but they still face the realities of being an independent, up-and-coming band in a very underground scene, and as they gear up for more North American touring, and branching out to Europe for the first time, they still see it as an uphill battle, albeit one they face with renewed enthusiasm.

"Our career hasn’t been as easy as it may seem to others,” Mongeon asserts. "We’ve been on some great tours and some shitty ones. You can play a show or tour with lots of people and then play to no one, but that’s a good reality check. Crowds aren’t stable and there’s never a guarantee on anything. We’ve had a show with only one guy show up but we played because this is what we do for ourselves.”

"That’s exactly why we do it,” Das confirms. "We’ve been around for a while and I’m older. I’ve passed that part in my life where I wondered why I’m still jumping in a van and touring for months straight. I love doing it but as you get older, your priorities change. Being a band like us, where there won’t be 400 people at a show no matter what, you have to balance a life of music with the reality of living. It’s good to stay grounded. You do what you feel strongly about. As much as someone can say they don’t care at all, those things still affect you. When you drove for eight hours and three kids show up, it affects you. You wonder why you’re doing it. As much as it hits you, we’re gonna keep doing it regardless.

"That said, I don’t want to become someone who writes songs just to sell them,” he persists heatedly. "Those superficial reasons, I hope that if I ever get to that point, I’ll stop playing entirely. That’s not what I want with this band and I hope the others feel the same way. It’s a creative outlet and we’re already lucky to do it at the level we are. We get to play shows across North America for two kids or 20 kids... that’s pretty amazing. We can’t complain. If we’re writing the music we feel strongly about and doing what we want, we can’t turn around and gripe about not selling enough albums. We don’t put expectations on things or hope for something huge. The biggest expectation is put out an album we’re happy with and play some shows. I think we’ve done that with Disgorge Mexico. It was a long, hard road to make it but we did.”

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