Exclusive interview with Patrick Robert, drummer behind Gorguts' Obscura!
In a world of extreme metal drumming, Patrick Robert is one of the best but also one of the most underrated death metal drummers of all time. His name is familiar to those who are crazy about Gorguts’ masterpiece, Obscura. We are honnored to say that this is the first ever interview with Pat, in which we discuss his musical influences, his time in Gorguts, Obscura album, Steeve Hurdle, Steve MacDonald and more!
Agoraphobic News: When did you buy your first drum kit?
Patrick Robert: It was in 1986. A pearl export. I worked for it and bought it myself. Next I bought a yamaha recording custom (red hot) around 1988-89. A 5 piece set that I have to this day. The same I used to record Obscura.
Agoraphobic News: What are your biggest influences?
Patrick Robert: I don’t come from a metal background. Gorguts was my second metal band. Before that, I’d listened to a lot of jazz fusion. So my favorites drummers are Dennis Chambers, Vinnie Colaiuta, Lenny White, Billy Cobham, Elvin Jones, Tony Williams, Dave Weckl and Steve Gadd. There are more but too man to mention. As for metal,well I had a drummer friend who listened to Slayer a lot and I got hooked on that. That was my first time listening to speed metal. Loved the energy!
I don’t remember who but somebody passed me a cd and there was Erosion of Sanityon it and the second tune on Effigy of the Forgotten from Suffocation. I liked Gorguts a lot but Suffocation was so amazing, it was a revelation for me. So much power on the drums! Dave Lombardo, Mike Smith, Pete Sandoval and Gene Hoglan are definitely my fav metal drums.
Agoraphobic News: Howand when did you end up in Gorguts?
Patrick Robert: I played in a Sepultura cover band before that. We also played some Napalm Death (Fear, Emptiness and Despair integral), Cannibal Corpse, Deicide and some compos me and the main guitar player did (I wrote the lyrics in the 1st tune cuz the singer was clueless).
After that band, I was kind of depressed so I started checking ads in the paper. I didn’t really know anybody who played metal but then I found an ad in the paper that Gorgutswere looking for a drummer.
I always though it was an American band cuz I only knew 1 tune from them! Surprise, they live in my city. So I called them up and met with them. We went to the rehearsal place and I just started playing some stuff not metal related. They asked me to play some blastbeats and then I remember them giggling and they said I was hired. I guess they liked the fact that I could play some fusion type of drumming and other stuff. After that, I remember we went back to their place and they played some crappy sound rehearsal on tape which was Obscura. I wasn’t expecting something like that. I was really excited to learn that crazy stuff!
Agoraphobic News: It’s pretty interesting to note that Obscura was finished in Fall of 1994. You stepped intothe shoes of Steve MacDonald on the drums. Did you change the majority of the drumming patterns by adding your own touch or did it stay the same as Steve MacDonald intended?
Patrick Robert: It’s not 100% the same. I had a pre-prod with some of the tunes and a shitty rehearsal tape with the rest. I had to decipher it.
So there are some differences in what I do. For example, in Rapturous Grief, I think around the 3:15 mark (I checked to make sure), I play this double-strokes pattern between the ride and snare with the double-bass going on under. The original from Steve was the same blast beat throughout the section.
In the 1st riff of Obscura, most of the crash cymbals are actually right-hand chokes. You don’t hear it much but that’s what I was doing. They are a lot more like tom patterns that follow the guitars like in The Art of Sombre Ecstasy.
Just watch any live from Gorguts with Steve and you’ll see the differences. I mainly embellished them.
I also played the tunes faster. I though they were the right tempo but when I met Steve M after I was out of the band, he said they were faster so he had to speed them up! I was like what??? I though they were the right tempo. That’s when I figured out that the rehearsal tape was playing faster in my tape machine. Lol!
Agoraphobic News: I guess that his suicide was quite a shock, right?
Patrick Robert: Yes, I didn’t see it coming. He lived around my area (I still live here) Got to know him a bit and he was a really nice guy! However he got into hard drugs and stuff and doing hard drugs like that are a one-way trip to hell. Nothing good comes out of it.
Agoraphobic News: Did you learn a lot from him?
Patrick Robert: Well his ideas certainly sparked more in my head. He was a pretty good drummer and also played guitar a bit. He had a side project called Asgard which he did all the music.
Agoraphobic News: So if we have in mind that Obscura was finished back in 1994, how revolutionary that album really is in your opinion?
Patrick Robert: It was certainly a dent into what was going on at the same time with bands playing typical death metal riffs. There were other bands though doing crazy stuff like Human Remains which I really loved.
Agoraphobic News: Do you like Gorguts’ current drummer, Patrice Hammelin? I heard him live, this guy slays!
Patrick Robert: Yes! He’s a great drummer. He has very honest approach to metal drumming in general. Gorguts has always grown into a better iteration of itself.
Agoraphobic News: Back in the day, it was Luc Lemay and 3 Steves (haha). How strong was that line up in your opinion?
Patrick Robert: They had good chemistry together! More than I had with them (except with Steeve Hurdle). I mean they composed Obscura together right?
Agoraphobic News: Is there anything crazier than watching Stevie Cloutierheadbang in whirlwind mode?
Patrick Robert: Hahaha, it was his trademark!
Agoraphobic News: What was Steve Cloutier doing after he left Gorguts? Is he still playing bass?
Patrick Robert: He founded a family. Last I know, he was just jamming for fun. No bands or anything.
Agoraphobic News: I don’t know if you were serious that day, but you told me that the guy on Obscura cover should have been replaced by some sort of Santa Claus?
Patrick Robert: Actually, I’ve been told that the guy on the cover played a Santa Claus in a TV thing or some sort. You would have to ask Luc about it. He probably remembers more.
Agoraphobic News: How did the recording of Obscura go?
Patrick Robert: Well the first tune went well. Pretty much one shot but after that, things went sideways. I’m really a perfectionist so I stopped the recording a lot cuz I didn’t like what I was playing. I did a lot of punch-ins. I can hear lots of cuts from the punchins on the finished album. It doesn’t flow as natural as it did when we were in rehearsal.
Agoraphobic News: Did you like working with Pierre Remillard?
Patrick Robert: Yes, he was very patient with me and did a lot jokes. He use to call me Cyber Pat or Billy as in Billy Crystal cuz of my curly hair. Lol. He called me Billy live once and I could hear fans yelling that to me in the crowd. hahaha!
The only thing I didn’t like was the drum sound on the finished product. You don’t hear the cymbals sometimes. I also used triggers on the bassdrums which I didn’t want but it was the norm. I have nothing against triggers but I wanted raw sound with no embellishement. Basically I had zero control over my sound in general!
Agoraphobic News: How did people react to Gorguts’ Obscura when it came out in 1998?
Patrick Robert: Well a lot of people didn’t really understand it at first. I’ve heard some come up to me and they said the riffs were small riffs within riffs or something. It’s much simpler than that in my head. It’s just long riffs and there are no more than 5-6 per tunes. Comments were really good in general though.
Agoraphobic News: Did you get a lot of touring afterwards?
Patrick Robert: Nope, just one show and a tour (Pollywog). We were suppose to go play at the Milwaukee death metal fest but the border patrol wouldn’t let us pass. There’s a funny story about that:
They kept on nagging me. Asking me if I was really Patrick Robert and blabla. I remember telling the border patrol that I could take my sticks out and do a solo on the counter. He looked at me and said it wasn’t necessary. hahaha what a dumbass! The band got refused but the other 3 decided to try and cross back a few hours later. I was so furious! I told them that it was a stupid idea and that they log everything on the computer! They pretty much told me to shutup and I didn’t know anything as usual. Guess what, they stopped us at the border and they pulled us over. They told us that if we try again, they would keep everything included the rental car! I only had drumsticks so…
I understand though why they wanted to try again, it’s a very big event!
Agoraphobic News: What is your favorite track on Obscura?
Patrick Robert: Honestly, I don’t know. I was always looking forward to playing them all the time.
Agoraphobic News: And what song did you find most difficult to play?
Patrick Robert: They all had some uniqueness to them. I’d say Earthly Love cuz in the main riff, I’m doing this blastbeat with a punch on the china and snare and the china was all the way on the right. The right hand just kepts going all the time with no interruption.
Agoraphobic News:Can you get into details about the post-Obscura recording?
Patrick Robert: When we got out of the studio, I wanted to compose more and more but the band pretty much told me that they wanted to wait after the album was out. I kept on nagging Steeve Hurdle and eventually we started writing a tune. It was epic! Very atmospheric! I wanted to change the way metal riffs are usually plucked together which is very blocky by nature. So this new tune had lots of blastbeats with dynamics and longer riffs. Luc and Steve C eventually came in and we finished it. It was a very hard tune to play but it had this really nice flow to it and it wasn’t typical of death tunes at all. All the guys came up with some really nice ideas. I loved it. They called the tune “Path is pathless”.
Some time later we wrote some more sketches of riffs which Steeve Hurdle said he used some in Negativa afterward. (the latter full-band incarnation)
I pretty much had a tons of drumming ideas I wanted to try out with unusal blastbeats.
Agoraphobic News: In your conversation with me on facebook you mentioned that Luc Lemay sold 4 tracks of material and then the guy who bought them, he just erased them. What the fuck?
Patrick Robert: Path is pathless was recorded on a tape machine. Luc sold it to somebody and the other guy just erased it. That sucks, I wanted a copy of that.
Agoraphobic News: Can you be more specific about Steeve Hurdle’s project that never happened, Sonoris Dementia?
Patrick Robert: Well it was our project. Steeve did come up with the name .We just talked about it conceptually. We wanted to do a no-pressure, no restrictions type of extreme band were anything goes. I play keyboards too so I wanted to add that but with heavy noisy distortion. Sadly, Steeve passed away and it will never happen. It would have been monstruous!
Agoraphobic News: How did his earlier project, Thy Ceremony sound like?
Patrick Robert: Thy Ceremony is Negativa! A 2 piece band. He latter changed the name to Negativa when I started jamming this side-project with him.
There were 2 previous drummers. Alain Demers from Oblivion and Steve McDonald. In all, they were 6 tunes already done. There was no recording of that so in one evening,Steeve explained to me the tunes and we just jammed them. I remember they were though to play.There’s no recording though.
Agoraphobic News: There is a Negativa rehearsal tape on soundcloud of you and Steeve Hurdle playing. That one is really brutal! Did that song have a name and was Steeve planning on releasing it?
Patrick Robert: Me and Steeve got together a lot to improvise but one day he had this brief idea. What you heard on soundcloud was composed on the spot. A few essays and we recorded it. It was done pretty fast. We had a good chemistry together and we shared the same vision on the project.
Agoraphobic News: Do you know something about Steeve’s unreleased stuff? I remember that he announced a re-release of Negativa Mini Cd that should have had 3 new, previously unreleased songs…
Patrick Robert: No I don’t. You would have to ask Luc or the other members of Negativa about that. I was pretty out of the scene so wasn’t following
Agoraphobic News: Why did you leave Gorguts?
Patrick Robert: I didn’t! They threw me out. I knew it was a very important album for them so the first show went well in Val’dor but in the pollywog tour, I was really nervous and putting a lot of pressure on myself. They didn’t like the fact that I would improvise on some parts!
I mean we were touring with Anthrax right? How can you not be nervous!
I wanted to do smaller shows first but they are seasoned players so they just wanted to go do the big stuff and they didn’t really listened to me. I wasn’t ready for that but I understand their decision. I know Steeve Hurdle seemed to be against the idea but it wasn’t his ultimate decision in the end.
Agoraphobic News: In 2018, Obscura will be 20 years old. That album stood the test of time. How do you feel about it?
Patrick Robert: It’s great and more people are rediscovering it! I’m glad it got remastered. The original mastering engineered sucked big time. The whole album clipped like crazy and sounded unbalanced dynamic wise! I was very vocal about it but again nobody listens to the drummer. hahaha
Agoraphobic News: If Gorguts was planning to play the whole damn thing live, would you participate if Luc gave you a chance?
Patrick Robert: First, I doubt he would ask me and second, the line-up is great as it is. Don’t fix it until it’s broken! I’m also in a different place musically. What is done is done.
Agoraphobic News: Do you get Nostalgia shock everytime you hear Gorgutslive?
Patrick Robert: A little bit! You have to understand that It was my whole life at one point. However, I don’t tend to dwell too much on the past. I got a chance to play with really great musicians after Gorguts and I still do.
Agoraphobic News: Do you think that your drumming on Obscura was innovative?
Patrick Robert: I don’t know! You would have to ask people about that. If there’s any credit to give then they should go to Steve McDonald first for coming up with the original parts. I just embellished the whole thing.
Agoraphobic News: What in your opinion separates Canadian (especially Montreal) metal scene from the rest of the world?
Patrick Robert: For me, music is music. There are great bands everywhere and bad ones too. I don’t think the place of origin as anything to do with it. Maybe there’s some obscure band from an unknown place just waiting to be discovered.
Agoraphobic News: Any final words?
Patrick Robert: Well thanks for interviewing me! It is actually my first ever interview in relation with Gorguts. I hope this will shed some light to some about what is what. I tried to be as honest as possible!
20 years later! It’s never too late as they say!