Paying homage to the deceased is kind of a wierd thing to do. The world would have been a better place if only we could somehow prevent great musicians from dying. It seems like death is always picking off the best ones – Dimebag, Chuck Schuldiner, Jeff Hanneman, Denis "Piggy" D’Amour and many others whose music has had great impact on our lives. Same happened with Big Steeve Hurdle who died on May the 20th in 2012.
Steeve was one of those underrated musicians who ruled from the shadows. I even dare call him an uncrowned king of the death metal scene because of his legacy which changed the face of present day extreme metal music once and for all. His first band was called Purulence – more than a decent death metal act (active between 1990-1993) If you take a look at its first demo, Atrocious Execration you’ll hear a pretty good old school death metal material. How good they were is approved by the fact that they were the opening act for bands such as Morbid Angel, Immolation, Cannibal Corpse, Entombed etc. In 1993, Purulence released an awesome split with Amaymon (French death metal act) Soon after that, Steeve was asked to join Gorguts as a session musician for their upcoming European tour. Luckily after the tour was finished, Steeve quit Purulence because he was not happy with their work at the time and soon after, he joined Gorguts for good. The classic Gorguts lineup included Luc Lemay, Steeve Hurdle, Steve Cloutier and Steve MacDonald. Between the summer of 1993 and fall of 1994 they managed to write a record which, with no doubt, changed the face of death metal. Of course, I am talking about the legendary Obscura album. Sadly, the band underwent a series of bad events – first, they were kicked out of Roadrunner Records, and then soon after a succesful US tour and a show with the legendary Death in 1995, Steve MacDonald had left the band. How unlucky the band was is approved by the fact that Obscura was finally released in 1998 via Olympic records.
Now, a lot of people think that Luc Lemay was the mastermind behind Obscuraand that he was leading the direction of the band to a more noisy and dissonant edge, which is, in fact, not true. If you take a look at the credits, it is clear as a day that band was working as a whole. Luc was not doing the "Dave Mustaine and friends“ kind of thing. By the way, Steeve was the guy who brought refreshing and inovative riffing (in one interview, Luc called both Big Steeve and Steve Cloutier riffing machines) plus extra vocals that fit perfectly in the end. It was not until a few months ago when I heard Gorguts live that I realised how BIG of a figure Steeve really was. Even though the band was perfectly rehearsed, I noticed that songs like Obscura, Earthly Love, Carnal State and Nostalgia were lacking Steeve's quintessential energy and unique vocals. It is also good to mention that lyrics-wise, the Obscura album was tightly connected with Hurdle’s interest in Hinduism and other mystical practices. The whole Obscura's lyrical concept has something to do with Osho Rajneesh’s Hindu philosophy. Therefore, it is no mere coincidence that the album cover features some mysterious looking guy in a meditation stance (Manbearpig?) In the end, Big Steeve quit Gorguts in July of 1999 because he was not happy with progress being made at that point. However, he did 2 very ambiental songs with Luc that were not published 'till this day.
After all, Steeve had his own project – in 1994 he formed a short-lived black metal act called Thy Ceremony along with Steve MacDonald. Three years after, the project was renamed to Negativa. The band’s name was derrived from an Indian dualism philosophy – Via Positiva which describes a good and positive way of thinking and Via Negativa which reflects Hurdle’s dark and pesimistic view of life itself. The band’s final lineup consisted of the following: Steeve Hurdle and Luc Lemay on guitars, Etienne Gallo of Augury behind the drumkit and Miguel Valade of Ion Dissonance on the bass. In an interview for Masterful-magazine.com , Hurde stated:
The whole philosophy behind Negativa is that, through negativity, adversity and any bad experiences we may have, there is something positive that will come out if we percevers and if we keep faith in life. This is based on my own personal experiences I had a few years back, dealing with my addiction to hard drugs…
In 2005, after his successful fight with drug abuse, he decided to record his old stuff for the Negativa’s upcoming Mini CD which was recorded at Pierre Remmilard’s Wild Studio. For some reason, only 3 songs were released: Chaos in Motion, Rebellion and Taedium Vitae. In 2012, Steve was ready to reissue Mini Cd with 3 new songs (probably Deepen the Mystery, The Loss, and L'éloge de l'ombre or ...And the unknown) but unfortunately that never happened. However, these 3 songs showed how talented he was. I mean, those riffs are some of the best stuff I’ve heard so far!!! Not to mention his death growl vibrato which to some may sound like a dying seal or something. Lyrics of Chaos in Motion and Taedium Vitae depict his pessimistic views on life. However, these 3 songs being released put 90% of death metal bands to their knees! Unfortunately, another one of his projects, Chaos Chaos Infinite Wonder never saw the light of day.
Having almost no information about Steeve Hurdle’s character or interests, I had to rely on a statement of his former band members and musicians that praised his work. Speaking of his musical interests it is clear as a day that he was into Voivod, Death, Meshuggah, Morbid Angel, Cathedral, Confession, Immortal, Pyrrhon, Talking Head, Dead Can Dance, Jeff Buckley, Olivier Messiaen, Frank Zappa, John McLaughlin, Soundgarden, Bach, and others. It is pretty awesome to know that he never went through musical education at all.
Steeve was a guest musician on some of the following releases: Anaal Nathrakh's song Feeding the Beast from the 2012 album, Vanitas, Gorelust's Infant Devourment and their cover of Kreator's Extreme Aggression taken from 1995 Reign of Lunacy album... he also did a guest solo on Intronaut's song called Sundial (from 2008 Prehistoricisms album) and guest vocals on Longing for Dawn's song Discidium ( from 2007 record: A Trecerous Ascension).
We should thank Big Steeve for the idea of reforming Gorguts (he also suggested to Luc that he should invite Kevin Hufnagel to the band). When I asked Luc Lemay to tell me something about Steeve’s contribution to Gorguts he said :
Steeve was a very curious, sensible and creative person. He is the one that brought the concept for OBSCURA since he was very much into Osho’s books back then. Guitar wise he always wanted to push the limits further, which he succeeded very well for that. He would always look for new sounds and textures on guitar.
Also, I asked some of the underground bands and people who knew him to make statement :
Andrew Hawkins of Baring Teeth :
“Of course, his guitar playing was a huge inspiration to me….On a personal level, I only got the chance to chat with Steeve once or twice, but he has a very warm and encouraging personality. I’ve only heard great things about him. It’s sad that he left us so early in his life”.
Eric Hersemann of Gigan :
“He was always a great guy that was struggling with many demons, I hope he has peace, now. He was a supporter of GIGAN in the beginning and I still treasure the Negativa shirt he sent me...he was a good man and loved by many. Not just death metal fans, either. He understood how important it was to create music straight from his heart and not be bent by silly scene pressures. He will always be remembered and appreciated by those that can take the time to understand where he was coming from! Much love to ya, Big Steeve!!! There are people right now that try to rip off his style...there is only one, though!”
Dylan DiLella of Pyrrhon :
I don’t know a whole lot about Steeve Hurdle. He was in touch with us online shortly after we released “An Excellent But a Terrible Master.” He told us that he was a big fan of our music and that he was inspired by our album. As one of the primary creative forces on Gorguts’ “Obscura” record, this was insanely flattering to us. We were actually even thinking about trying to get him to do a vocal spot on “The Mother of Virtues” but it didn’t come together and he ended up passing away. His death was a huge loss to metal and experimental music. I heard a rumor that he was thinking about moving to New York City to pursue free jazz and experimental music. It would have been mind-blowing to see him making sounds next to some of the guys in that scene in New York.
Kevin Hufnagel of Dysrhythmia/Gorguts :
"I never got to meet him personally. We talked a lot online and he was really supportive of a lot of the experimental music my friends and I were making in the NYC-area. He is also the reason Luc became aware of me, so I owe him a lot. His playing, influence, and music will live on.”
Dan Mongrain of Voivod :
I met Steeve a few times,he was very kind andhumble,we discussed music,we shared our passion about Voivod and Piggy. He wasone of a kind as a person and as a musician. I have a total respect andadmiration for his contribution to music. Uniqueness is the word that comes tomy mind when I think of him.
Pierre Remillard (producer) :
He was totally unique!
Miguel Valade of Negativa and Ion Dissonance :
Steeve Hurdle was a great musician and also an exeptionnal human being. His simplicity and authenticity beyond his musicial status was and still very inspiring to me. He show me the importance of spirituality ,introspection and releasing the ego to become a better person. I will never forget him and will always be grateful to have been able to share my life and create music with him..."repose en paix mon frère,merci pour tout. Je t'embrasse"
Etienne Gallo of Negativa and Augury :
Steeve was very special!! Hard to explain how he pushed me farther than i ever been in my musical life!! This was all about textures and feelings... Steeve was the best friend I ever had and i still drop tears in memory of this amazing person!! Thats all I have to say....
Jean Beaulieu - vocalist of GORELUST: "
I first became aware of Steeve's work in 1991 on the Purulence demo "Atrocious Execration". 3 years later, Gorelust had the chance to have him in the studio with his bandmate Luc Lemay. Great memories and i remember being impressed just being in the same room with them. They did backing guest vocals on two songs. "Infant Devourment" and our cover version of Kreator's "Extreme Aggression". Both featured on our 1995 album "Reign of Lunacy". We also did a few gigs with Gorguts and i remember him being a truly unique person. A real talented musician who was bringing "different" ideas to the regular death metal sound. His later work with Gorguts and Negativa was unique and pushed the envelope even further. All our respect goes to Steeve Hurdle. RIP. One of the pioneers of the canadian death metal scene."
Patrick Robert (ex-Gorguts):
Before Steeve passed away, we we’re talking about doing a band called Sonoris Dementia. Just guitar and drums, like the original Negativa line-up (it was a 2 piece band at first). Some of the ideas we were talking about were basically some gorguts material that was written post-obscura but crazier. (sadly this material is forever lost). Most of the material was done by me and him (then the others joined in). It was all done on the spot with lots of improv at first then we would structure it but with some looser section where we would still improvise. This is one of those things I’m really sad it will never happen. I couldn’t of anyone better than Steeve to do all the madness sonically. As far as I’m concerned, he never got the recognition that he deserved. The obscura concept and sound wise is definitely a big part Steeve Hurdle. His thing wasn’t about chords scales and modes. It was about noise, sonic madness and textural melodies. I’m definitely gonna miss him. He was a kind soul and truly opened about learning new things constantly. He kept on saying that he never wanted to repeat himself.
Steven Henry: (ex-Neuraxis, Urban Aliens, Empathy Denied and Idiotpathetics):
I have a special relation with Steeve, he's not my best friend. We kinda know eachother thru friends. I really had the chance to know him more when he plays with Miguel(back then he was my roomate) and Etienne(he used to play in Neuraxis with me). Steeve has a different perception about me and never bother to talk to me until one day he came to me at my jam space. He wanted to talk to me alone. I was kinda wondering what's all about. He wanna to tell me that he's sorry to judge me, I don't understand why he told me that. He explain that he always though that I was that kind of person(a weasel) and he wanna to tell me that he miss judged me. I was in shock by his humility and also his kind words. I will remember about this forever...
Dave Hunt of Anaal Nathrakh:
I first came across Steeve's work when I heard the Obscura album, an album which to this day strikes me with its originality and uniqueness. There's an almost paradoxically emotional charge to its dissonance, and a ridiculous level of technical talent. And I later found out that Steeve was a big part of the inspiration behind that album, which stands as a testament to his musical vision. We ended up talking a bit online, and it turned out that he was into Anaal Nathrakh, and it seemed natural to ask him to guest on one of our tracks. We even had a shirt made in special 'Big Steeve' size and sent it to him to say thanks. But what I didn't fully realise until after his tragically early death was just how big Steeve was in terms of heart. He'd had some real struggles, but maintained a creative and irrepressible artistic response to the trials he'd faced. That's an example to us all. I'd said to Steeve that if we played near him in Canada, we'd meet up and share a drink. Sadly that was never to be, but we were humbled when several members of Steeve's family came along to the show we did play over there. The thing that stood out more than anything else when talking to them was how much Steeve was loved by those close to him. That in itself, I think, is the highest, most genuine tribute there can be.
Again, Luc Lemay stated :
He was a poet, very interest in Hinduism. His music tastes would go from DEAD CAN DANCE to BATTLE OF MICE. He would always come up with an idea that you never expected. After I left NEGATIVA, I never got involved in any decision regarding this band. This was Steeve’s project. He had back problems for years which always go worse. Then he got very sick with diabetes…So one day he went for a back surgery and that where he died, on the surgery table.
All in all, Steeve Hurdle was one of those underrated music virtuosos who seemed to have had a cloud of misfortune above his head throughout his entire career. His legacy is timeless! He was only 41. He really was a Sombre with Pride! I hope that his soul will proceed into the realm of blissful immortality!