Heaven’s Cry – Duality with Symmetry Part I

Sunday, 19th June 2016

Dead Rhetoric: Why did the band take a seven-year hiatus in the mid to late 2000’s? And what circumstances came together to gain a fresh record deal with Prosthetic to put out 2012’s Wheels of Impermanence?

Auclair: We just needed a break from each other. Having worked together for a long time, it’s like a marriage in the sense that you need perspective. It doesn’t mean you are breaking up, you just need to do different things in order to reinvent yourselves. We never stopped talking to each other or seeing each other as friends, but as a band we had reached a standpoint and we needed to elaborate individually in other projects. Eric Jarrin started Despised Icon, and they have amazing success today. Pierre did other projects, he has his personal project called NonHuman Era, I invested myself in other things- here in Montreal there’s this club scene, a movement with a lot of tribute bands that make a living playing weekends. Pierre is in the biggest Metallica tribute band in Quebec called Alcoholica, and these guys play literally 100 shows a year. I also played in a couple of tribute bands- so we are still playing music full time but needed to have different outlets, it’s like going back to school. You need to study and better your craft. The time off was actually to experiment in other musical vehicles to bring something back to the fold afterwards, a different flavor and experience.

In 2011, Eric had a good relationship with the owner of Prosthetic because of Despised Icon and his past relationship with them. And he’s the one who pitched the idea to them, the ball started rolling so fast. The enthusiasm of Prosthetic was contagious, and we jumped into the opportunity to produce another Heaven’s Cry record, so that’s how it really happened. It came very fast and took us by surprise. We are very pleased with the way things turned out. We had maybe 8 months when we found out that we had this opportunity to get the deal up to the release date- it was a sprint. We recorded the entire vocals for that album in five days, so it was put together very quickly. With Outcast we got to fine-tune things, it’s always nice to write and then let things simmer a little bit, and we didn’t have that perspective with Wheels. There are a couple of times where I reflected on things… 30 years down the line you can have regrets in thinking or wishing we did another record- now it’s something I can check off on my bucket list. This band is still together and I am so proud of the new album. I can’t wait for people to hear it.

Dead Rhetoric: Do you think Eric’s work in Despised Icon helps give his playing with Heaven’s Cry a fresher perspective and sense of urgency?

Auclair: Eric has a lot of experience and with the kind of recognition that Despised Icon gets worldwide, he definitely brings a huge positive and beneficial creative aspect to the band. Just his riff in “Outcast”, I instantly thought it was such a brilliant piece of music. I am a big fan of his work, to have this opportunity to play some music in this band with him is great. Even Pierre, the way he thinks and perceives music- everyone has such a different perspective on music and what we’re clued in together creates this beast that is Heaven’s Cry. With Despised Icon of course that band is super heavy but with Heaven’s Cry he brings in those riffs that are super catchy, even if it’s metal when you listen to it the way he plays and the way he thinks, the way he organizes and approaches the guitar, he has his own signature that’s for sure.

Dead Rhetoric: Outcast is the fourth Heaven’s Cry album – how does the band navigate the arduous task of assembling riffs and siphoning things out into manageable songs? Do you go in with a game plan or do you let things come and develop naturally?

Auclair: It’s always naturally in a sense where in the last couple of years I did some travelling. I went to Mexico, Cambodia, Thailand, Guatemala and just visit a lot of those ancient temples. To take things in and that spiritual aspect of relics. That for me really got me turned on as far as songwriting- so I started writing some songs on my own. I presented this to the band – “The Human Factor” and “If I Only Knew”, those were the two songs I presented to the band. Eric and Pierre do their magic with the guitars because I am such a bad guitar player, I’ll bring up this skeleton of a song and then they do what they do on top- the demo version ends up being so far off to the final version you hear on the album. For “Outcast” Eric came up with the initial guitar riff, I had somewhat of a verse riff and we glued it together- Pierre came up with the almost 15-minute song “The Day the System Failed” all on his own. There is no real formula, when you are inspired you just sort of go with it. Sometimes it doesn’t go through, sometimes it does. There is always a struggle to know when to end a Heaven’s Cry song- some of the songs are 8 minutes or longer. In “Symmetry” I was challenged to come up with a bass line and vocals- so I purchased a Chapman Stick back in 2006 and I wanted to play this on Wheels but the schedule was tight so I couldn’t, so this was the opportunity to do it and I’m so psyched to have a Chapman Stick bass track on the album.

Going back to the roots with Food in the sense of no pressure, we are writing what comes to mind and it just gets elaborated.

Dead Rhetoric: The human race is the main theme of this record lyrically. We seem to be in another transformative period of evolution, how do you think mankind has handled all of the historical transitions that you’ve been able to witness or look at possibly from your parents/grandparents perspectives?

Auclair: That’s a tough question to answer. I see the human race, and people are trying to do the best they can. Initially I think that people are good and the essence of people is good, I think we are caught in the cogs of this machine and we are just trying to do the best that we can to co-exist in as peaceful a way as possible and a productive way as possible as a race. I think there’s a movement going on out there where people genuinely want to improve the situation that we are in as far as a race. Thinkers like Noam Chomsky, we used a lecture of his “Government and the Future” – a lecture he gave in 1970 and I thought it was an amazing speech on his outlook of how he perceived the human race. It still applies today, there are a lot of great thinkers out there and if there is such a thing as a movement, the great thinkers, artists, philosophers, craftsman- where they are all trying to improve the human race, I would certainly want to be a part of that. I write in a very instinctive way, but I am also a big fan of science-fiction. I get inspired by movies such as Star Wars where the galactic empires are trying to take everything from the underdogs, Luke Skywalker who is going to turn around in a positive way. I am a huge fan of Star Trek: Next Generation, and where they see this vision of the future as actually where humanity is utopian.

I’m an eternal positive what can I say. The eternal struggle, there is always going to be evil and there is always going to be good, how will it be pulled from one side to other. I’m a sucker for those kind of stories. Heaven’s Cry has that sort of sci-fi tension- from Food for Thought Substitute, that “Out of Me” song where you have the clean voice and the voice of distortion- sort of like the duality between those in power and those without power. In the new album with “If I Only Knew” there’s also that same kind of image where you’ve got the dictator giving all those rules and in the chorus you have the more melodic voice where you give a sense of hope and balance. Duality, symmetry are all universal themes when it comes to humanity- that gets me inspired with lyrics.

Dead Rhetoric: The band places an equal level of importance on vocal melodies and harmonies to complement the stirring musicianship. It must not be as easy of a process as it seems when coming out of the speakers for the final product, correct?

Auclair: Well, it’s a very instinctive process. If you look at pop music it’s usually a guitar and a guy singing to a piano or guitar. When it comes to Heaven’s Cry, it’s about the music first and then we lay the vocals on top of the music. Definitely it’s a challenge because obviously you try to find a sweet spot where to put in the vocals, and you want the melodies to work with the arrangements so you try to put something to the forefront, the vocals are like the main focal point in a song. So you try to put them in the song as the important thing in front, but in reality we compose them last. It’s always an interesting challenge because of that. Also interesting to perform them live, because of the nature of the songs. Very complex songs that you sing in a humble way, this is definitely the most complex band I’ve ever been a part of, with those bass lines and having to sing over the top of that is definitely a challenge.

The second part of Matt Coe’s interview with Sylvain Auclair will post tomorrow night, **************

Heaven’s Cry official website

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