Interview with Dany Levesque, guitar player and founder of the band Vortex and Pete Devine of Pete’s Rock News and Views (http://petesrocknewsandviews.com)
PD: How would you describe yourself or your band as an artist?
DL: Vortex is what we like to call Orchestral blackened melo death. In 2015, the 5 of us decided to form the band because all our other projects were dead or not going very well. We all had a studio and live experience and soon had an offer to join PRC Music, our late Label. Our vision was to create music that would have dynamics and a strong melodic side while retaining the essence of what death metal is. Lighthouse, our previous and second album, was our first orchestral work and it was more on the ambient/dramatic side. The new album’s songs are still melodic/orchestral but much more aggressive and some of them have a black metal influence. Our goal was to create songs that would have a greater impact on our live shows, aggressive songs work well live. We feel the album is a good combination of aggression/melody, and ugliness/beauty.
PD: Can you tell us briefly about your background – i.e. where you’re from, how you came to make music, etc.
DL: After a brief hockey career, I started playing the guitar, only for fun and because I’m a huge fan of music in general. But you meet people who have the same passion and get together with your instruments and after a while, you want to find a drummer to jam Slayer and Pantera songs. Like many musicians, my first band was playing covers in clubs but nowadays my interest and motivation are 100% driven by the magic of creating original songs and playing them live for our fans. I don’t have any interest in playing something else than originals, the creation process, the studio work, or playing our own songs live on stage, this is what’s interesting to me. There is nothing as much satisfying as creating something original from scratch with people that you love and have a musical connection with.
The 5 of us are from the cold Northeastern part of the Province of Quebec. We knew each other for a very long time and decided to form a band because all our other projects were dead or not going very well. Our vision was to create music that would have dynamics and a strong melodic side while retaining the essence of what death metal is. After our first album, we decided to add orchestrations to our sound. Mathieu is a music composer, and we all love movie scores and symphonic black and death metal, so it was natural for us to go this way.
PD: Who and what inspires you to make music, both in terms of musical and other influences? What do you like to write about in your songs?
DL: We’re all into different genres of death metal and that’s what has shaped our sound. Alex our vocalist is into death core and black metal; Justin our drummer is into orchestral black metal and prog metal bands; Simon our bass player studied jazz guitar in school but comes from the death core scene; Mathieu our guitar player is also schooled in jazz guitar and is into punk rock, old school death metal and tech death. I come from the thrash metal school, but my interest now gravitates toward death and black metal. Most of us are also huge fans of movie scores and this is a major influence on our music.
The Asylum, our first record is more of a traditional death metal album. Lighthouse, our second album has orchestrations and much more melody to it. As the years went by, we were influenced by many bands, but I would say that the ones who really had an impact on us for the writing and the production of our new record ‘’The Future Remains in Oblivion” were Shadow of Intent, Septicflesh, Lorna Shore, Dimmu, Fleshgod and…. Hans Zimmer.
Our new album and the 2 previous ones are conceptual. First, we find an idea for a good story, it’s got to be related to an interesting matter that we find worth talking about. Second, we write a rough storyline with the chapters that will become individual songs. Third, we write the music and lyrics for each song. Before writing a song, we talk about the feeling that the music must have to fit what is happening in that specific part of our story. Our writing process is diversified, sometimes the orchestra is the backbone of the song and sometimes it’s added once the drums and guitars are all written. Sometimes one or two of us will write an entire song by ourselves and some other times we write together in our rehearsal room. All the band members participate at different degrees in the writing process, it helps a lot when you don’t want to always sound the same.
A lot of people don’t really care about the lyrics but to us, writing a good story and having to fit the music to it is a good way of pushing our creativity. We like to write music with a specific goal in mind. Our process is not just to find good riffs and put drums over them, it is more about the feeling that each song needs, and we always look at the big picture when writing individual parts. For example, when I find the right riff for a specific part I will also have the vocals and all the other instruments including the orchestra in mind. Sometimes we simplify what the band or the orchestra plays to let more important parts shine. The same thing is done with the solo spots, you don’t want a complicated rhythm section or orchestra when the spotlight must be on the solo. When mixing in the studio and in a live situation it is very complicated to give space to all of what is happening in our music, it is very dense, we have as many as 169 individual tracks on the last album….
PD: What are your aspirations as an artist?
DL: I love the energy of live shows so I hope Vortex can continue to grow so we can play more often, in better venues, and for more people. I believe we deserve more recognition for the quality of our music and live shows. But besides that, to be in a serious band you need to enjoy the process of creation and all of what’s coming with touring, and I do… If all you enjoy is the final product from the studio or your 40 minutes on stage you won’t last for long in the underground metal universe or in any other artistic endeavour. So yes, I want people to come to our shows and listen to our studio work but for me, it’s all in the process, this is where I get my satisfaction from. For me walking the path and giving it all I’ve got is as much satisfying as reaching a goal.
PD: What is the proudest moment in your music career so far?
DL: I can’t think of a specific moment but what makes me proud is the evolution of our music and live show since we released our first album in 2016. When our last record The Future Remains in Oblivion was done in the studio, we thought it was a great piece of art and that we are getting closer and closer to the vision we first had for Vortex; and now the reaction of the fans confirm that and it’s a great feeling.
PD: Promoting one’s music is such a challenge these days, especially with so many new artists emerging from bedrooms in the day of the home studio. How is that going?
DL: The challenge besides offering quality recorded material and live shows is to have people’s attention. It is so easy nowadays to go from one band to another on Spotify and listen mostly to the big bands and hits. I’d be grateful to those who would take their time to listen a few times to our new record so they can really get into it. I know this is not how it goes now but in my opinion, that’s the only way to fully understand and appreciate an artist. Nowadays promotion takes more energy and money than producing the actual music. You also need to play live a lot, that’s the best way to promote your band.
PD: And how do you book and promote your live shows and tours? Any performances coming up?
DL: I have a booking company; it’s called Metal Tours ‘n’ Concerts and I book and produce Vortex and sometimes other metal acts through it. We also get invited by other promoters or other bands, there is a community of passionate promoters and bands helping each other in Canada.
In late 2022/early 2023 we played with AETERNAM on The Canadian Symphonic Assault tour. It was great, we had a lot of people showing up to the shows. We are good friends with AETERNAM and like us they have orchestrations, so our two bands fit well together. We are releasing The Future Remains in Oblivion on June 9, the same day we are playing The Gaspesian Metal Fest in Quebec. For the rest of 2023, we are going to play a lot in Canada with AETERNAM for the second leg of the Symphonic Assault tour and for some other shows with Strigampire who just won the Canadian Wacken Battle of the Bands. Our goal for 2024 is to tour Europe.
PD: What do you think about downloading music online? What about streaming sites like Spotify?
DL: I don’t see it as a problem as much as the crowds getting smaller at Metal shows, at least this is what we’ve experienced in Canada. It’s tougher to create music without physical sales revenues but touring has become even more of a problem since revenues went down and costs went up.
PD: What song do you wish you’d written and why?
DL: On recent albums I’d say The Day We’ll Be Gone from Fleshgod Apocalypse, It’s so emotional, it’s a masterpiece. If we’re talking classics the song that comes to my mind is Painkiller, it has all the elements you want in a metal song, it’s just perfect. Megadeth’s Holy Wars and King Diamond’s Sleepless Nights would also be in that category.
PD: Is there anything you don’t like about the music industry, which you would change if you could?
DL: The fact that it’s hard to produce and promote music and tour without investing a lot of money.
In Quebec I feel there is too much elitism in the underground metal community, the result is that too many bands are just trying to impress the gallery instead of writing good music. It may be that the fans are asking for it, I don’t know; sure, you need to know how to play your instrument but I’m not a fan of hypertechnical or only fast and aggressive music, it’s boring to me.
Oher than that, I find that music in general has become much more of a commodity compared to what it was before the digital platforms. It’s a shame that people don’t really get into albums and artists as much as they used too. Music is now a little more of a product and a little less of an art form.
PD: So, what are you working on at the moment?
DL: The album is coming out June 9 and we’re going to tour from September to December in Canada. When this is done, we want to play in Europe, that’s the plan. We already know what the next studio project is going to be, we’ve already started working on it.
PD: Where can we learn more about you and buy your music/merch online?
DL: This Linktree will give you the links to our social medias, videos, music, web page, etc.
Band/Artist location – Quebec Canada
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Check our page for Vortex