Tearing out of nowhere like a compressed ball of pure savagery, First Fragment’s début album Dasein managed to completely floor me in one fell swoop. Lead guitarist Philippe Tougas gave me some background to this uncompromisingly impressive band…
For those who are unfamiliar with your band – introduce yourself!
Hi, Phil here. We’re First Fragment from Quebec and we just released our first album “Dasein” on Unique Leader Records. Thank you for the interview.
Give us a bit of background to First Fragment
We started this thing in September 2007. I was 15 and Gabriel was 8 years older than me. We didn’t even listen to the same bands yet somehow we made it work. We were just a bedroom band back then. David joined a bit later. We mostly remained a drummer-less band throughout the next few years. We recorded seven tracks in summer 08′ and we released four of them in October 2008 and re-released them with the 3 other tracks in February 2009. We recorded an EP in fall 2009 and after the recordings, we found Vincent Savary on bass and Phil Boucher on drums. We released the delayed-EP in late 2010 and played several shows. We went through a long show-hiatus after 2012, although we were still working very hard on the album for a very long time. After finding Troy Fullerton of Severed Savior to do session drums for us, we got Unique Leader Records interested in releasing our album. We got our first album Dasein (mostly composed between 2004-2010) released just this last month. We are now rehearsing for upcoming shows with our current drummer Samuel Santiago (ex Gorod) who joined in 2015.
Where did the name come from?
From nowhere. It was a random working title that stuck for some reason. We don’t have the most special or most original name around, but the FF acronym is quite catchy sounding so it wasn’t a bad thing that was decided to keep it. Had we decided to sing only in french from the start, it would’ve been a french name. The decision to write lyrics exclusively in french was made many years later.
What are your influences?
Too many to list. We are strongly influenced by all types of extreme metal, 80’s power/heavy/neoclassical metal, Baroque/Romantic era classical music, video game soundtracks, flamenco, etc. From Crimson Glory, Joey Tafolla and Apocrypha to Spawn of Possession, Martyr, Bach, Paganini, Paco De Lucia and F-ZERO X songs. I am the only one in the band beside Samuel, that is influenced by 80’s metal, and the Brault-Pilon brothers draw much more in modern technical death metal than the rest of us. We all apply our influences in many different ways depending of the songs. Vincent adds his own personal influences by writing his own bass lines. He listens to a lot of progressive music and is into all kinds of other genres like Jazz, Indie/Math rock.
What are you listening to at the moment that you would like to recommend?
As I am writing this interview, I am listening to Chastain – Ruler of the Wasteland, Solitude Aeturnus – Beyond the Crimson Horizon and Solstice (UK) – New Dark Age. As for more recent bands I’ve been enjoying lately, I would recommend Kataxu for Black Metal, the first Hibria album for Power Metal, Blood Incantation for Death Metal and also bands like Arche (Finland) and Mistress of the Dead if you like soul crushing Funeral Doom.
How do you feel that you fit into the wider extreme metal scene?
We don’t think about any of that. We just do what we do regardless of what is being considered “cool” or “uncool” by people standards. But we’re here to stay. We won’t change our ways of doing things for anybody. The wimps and detractors that disapprove can leave the hall and never come back.
Give us a bit of background to Dasein – any particular concepts or ideas you want to discuss?
If you are wondering about the album concept, you’d have to ask David, our singer, and have him respond to you in French. He is responsible for creating the vast fantasy/conceptual saga behind our album, yet his lyrics are very personal so I cannot speak for him. All the lyrics tell stories that are connected together yet they remain very cryptic and hard to decipher through his poems. Other than that, all the ideas present in our songs are born from very spontaneous ways of thinking and composing. There’s nothing much else to say other that we prefer letting the music speak for itself.
Tell us about the album artwork
The artwork is both influenced by the album concept and the colours we associate with our music and the songs on the album. Each colour palette is supposed to represent a different facet or vibe we like to explore within our music. David and I have conceptualized the artwork, but the execution was all Sam Nelson and he did a fantastic job.
How do you go about writing your songs?
All the songs on Dasein were transcribed from what we were hearing in our heads. We created the arrangements individually and didn’t really arrange much of the music in a live/practice setting since we had to do things at long distance with Troy Fullerton. We usually write both guitars and write down basic bass and drum ideas that can all be developed upon since Vincent writes his own bass arrangements. The ideas were all tabbed out and recorded and then Troy created the drum parts by filming himself playing over the songs and testing different variations and different arrangements. Our music is way too hard to memorize to be fully composed during band rehearsals anyway. Both Gabriel and I compose everything at home, then we bring the songs and ideas to the rest of the band and work on the final arrangements all together and all the other members work on their arrangements and parts at home as well.
How did the recording process go?
It was long, hard and painful (no “that’s what she said” jokes were intended here). We never were available at the same time so it dragged. Mathieu Marcotte’s computer got stolen along the way and our previous drummer left before the drum recording so it delayed things considerably. We had to find a new session drummer and searched for 3 months before finding Troy Fullerton to learn the whole album. He learned the whole thing quite quickly though, considering how much work he had. By February 2015 we were all done. We had started in August 2013. We were, however, very fortunate and lucky to have the chance to work with some of the most patient and talented engineers around – Mathieu Marcotte, Hugues Deslauriers, Zack Ohren and my father Pierre Tougas.
What’s your favourite song on the album and why?
L’entité, because it combines some of the best facets of my personal influences. It is probably my best composition on the album. My other compositions include Le Serment de Tsion, Gula, Prélude en Sol Dièse Mineur, most of Evhron, half of Émergence and a few parts in Psychan. It was all composed in 2009-2010. For Gabriel, I suspect it would be Archétype because it is very representative of his new way of writing songs, and it is the only recent song of his (2011-2012) that is on the album. All his other compositions and riffs are between 7-12 years old. His other compositions include Dasein, Mordêtre & Dénaissance, Voracité, almost all of Psychan, half of Émergence and a few parts in Evhron.
What does the rest of 2016 have in store for First Fragment?
Playing until our fingers fall off and finish writing the 2nd album. We just have to choose from the 200-something songs Gabriel wrote in the past, and combine them with my newer compositions. A mix of old and new once again.
Finally, what is it about Canada and kick-ass technical death metal…?
I have no idea what you’re talking about. There is no technical death metal scene in Canada. The only bands you have in mind (except probably Archspire and 1-2 others) are all from Quebec. Quebec alone is responsible for this sound. Maybe the poutine, the cold, or our frenchness is to blame, but regardless, all the bigger, well-known bands you worship in this so Called Canadian TDM scene are probably exclusively from Quebec ! The rest of Canada is only productive at creating black/death metal and war metal it seems (well, lately especially), although there’s a few technical death bands scattered haphazardly across the country, as well as a few awesome doom metal, raw black metal and heavy metal bands around.