Nail biting season: Roadburn, with its marmoreal lineup, is about to start. Next Thursday, April 9, it’s showdown time and Cortez, with their non-neutral Swiss GIs, are plotting a bulky assault on Cul du Sac – raucous hardcore to put a full stop on an extremely demanding first day. Their Tilburg appearance is part of an intimidating European trek with KEN mode, which will start tomorrow at Fribourg – “Success”, the upcoming LP from the Canadians, scheduled for June 16 on Season Of Mist, will probably be a tour highlight – so we wanted to know what Cortezare cooking as well.
I might be wrong, but you’ve been rather quiet since “Phoebus”. What have you been cooking since 2012/2013? Is there a new record on the horizon?
Chris: We’ve actually been touring quite a bit since the release of “Phoebus”, but only European mainland, and a bunch of off shows here and there. There was also a lineup change about a year ago, when guitar player Antoine Tinguely left, and I took over from handling the live sound of the band to jamming along on stage. But yes, there might be something new floating around just over the top of the horizon, nothing concrete to announce yet though, sorry.
What is curious as well is the fact that you’ve been active since 2001, which is quite a long time – almost fifteen years – for an abrasive band. Has it been particularly hard for Cortez to stay afloat all this time, while getting older and having more responsibilities as a grown individual?
Chris: I can’t answer that well for the other guys in the band, but the current situation is obviously a direct result of all personal and professional challenges we all went through. Luckily we’ve found a common way to function, which appears to be working out for everyone involved at the moment. Back when the band went on hiatus about eight years ago, nothing was certain. Those guys went down very different paths: Greg, the drummer, has become a session and touring-drummer, runs his own label (Get A Life! Records), does promotion and booking, and by now, has a family.JR, the singer, runs a pawn shop. And Sam, the original guitar player, actually moved to Singapore and lives there with his family. Me, on the other hand, I’m a touring sound guy, so that’s not necessarily helping any further, too. :) What we do now, is that Samis still very much involved in all things behind the curtain (management, mixing/mastering the last album, doing video clips, and also working on song ideas with Greg), and we mainly rehearse before shows and tours. To give you a proper idea what this looks like, imagine this: the current spot for rehearsals that works for the three of us (Greg/JR/me) is Monday morning, 9am. Rock’n’Roll, right?
But the cool thing is, and that’s I something I observed about this band, is by not forcing the band to stay upfront over the couple of years of hiatus, they’re still very eager to develop their own way of expression – and when it comes down to shows & records, trying to crush everything in their path. They listen to all kinds of music, from neo-folk over urban electro hip-hop to the most extreme of chaotic hardcore, simply because they still care for music. So it might actually have been a good thing to take a bit of a break for a couple of years, just to keep their heads clear. I very much enjoy this attitude, it feels like a proper ground to nurture ideas into shape.
You’ve opted to write and sing in French. Is it because it is more comfortable as a French speaker – is it easier for you to express in your native tongue? Have you ever wondered about writing in English?
JR: It wasn’t a conscious choice from the beginning of the songwriting, but rather simply turned out this way. We wanted to express a message in French. Since we’ve all collaborated on the lyrics, it was simply easier in French, I don’t even speak much English – It’s easier to express emotions for me that way. We didn’t even think about this too much… And truly, isn’t Molière’s language the most beautiful?
I can easily picture that these last days have been flooded with rehearsals – it’s not every day that one gets the chance to tour along with KEN mode. How did it come up and what do you actually expect from it?
Chris: Yeah, we’re definitely stoked! I’ve already bumped into KEN mode on a few festivals here and there, they are simply crushing, can’t wait to get out & do this. This was one of those situations where a discussion turns into something very real over just a few e-mails and exchanges, hard to trace it back now. I personally don’t like shows where all the bands sound exactly the same, so to me this quick tour is all about the diversity within this scene, Cortez andKEN mode definitely make a lot of sense to bring Europe to knees together. Other than that, just the usual mayhem of piled up carcasses after the shows, endless kilometers of smelly dudes in a van (referring to Cortez now, I presume KEN mode smell rather lovely, being Canadian and all), and feeling like achieving something really cool along the way.
You’ll stop at Roadburn, which is always a highlight for everyone on tour. You’ll play fairly late, on a Thursday packed with brutal acts. For those in doubt to see you at Cul du Sac, what can you say that might convince them to say for your gig?
Chris: First of all, thanks for making this festival what it is. I only went there once on a quick tour stop, and was amazed by the atmosphere, the music, everybody involved, and mainly everybody (crew & fans alike) being so fucking chilled down to earth. With that being said, we’ll not be there to become best friends with you, that’s for after the show. When the clock hits 11h30pm and we’ll hit the stage, no more Swiss neutrality. We’ll make it as gnarly, dire and crushing as we can, and probably fuck some shit up along the way. Come out, be a part of this, let’s make it count.
To sum it up, we asked Chris to curate a short mixtape of stuff he usually listens while on tour. Give it a spin: