Frank Blades talks Michel St-Père about the new Mystery album Destiny?
Congratulations on the new album Destiny? How has it been received by the fans?
(Michel) Thank you very much. So far it has been received very well and we are very happy about that. But the album is still young and although it has been released in may, we had to delay our promotional mailing to coincide with the European version release on Musea - but more reviews should come very soon. So far they it has been well received.
I felt that there is a lot more power in the songs on Destiny? compared with your previous album Theatre Of the Mind. Would you agree?
(Michel) Yes it is true. This was something that we wanted to do, just to bring the guitar up front as made the whole sound much more powerful. This was obvious when we recorded the demos for the album and and of course the addition of Steve Gagne on drums is another good reason for this. On Theatre of the Mind, the guitars and keyboards would often be playing strong parts at the same time. One would think that this would make it sound powerful just like I did but in fact it ended up taking too much space in the spectrum of sound which is making everything sound compressed and with no space to breath. On Destiny?, all the instruments are complementing each other, it is a lot more open and in your face which make the whole thing sound more powerful.
Is there a core theme running through Destiny?
(Michel) Destiny? is about life in general but more in the sense of the domino effect as to everything is interconnected and as an effect on everything else. What are we here for? What are we meant to be and of course the eternal question "why?". You see on the cover, there is a boy waiting for the bus to go to school and behind him is a cemetery. He is too young to be preoccupied by the cemetery, maybe he does not know the meaning of it yet, still he will finish like everyone in this cemetery, but when?, how? why? and what will happen until then, will he become a President, a murderer, what effect will he have on others people lives. That is Destiny?
One of the tracks is called Queen of Vajra Space - where exactly is Vajra Space?
(Michel) Good question! This is from the Tibetan Book of the Dead, in this book they say that when a someone dies, his or her soul wanders through different realms and meets a variety of spirits the have to be fought in order to attain a higher level. Well, the Queen of Vajra Space is the consort of one of these spirits. A Vajra is a very rare crystal that they mention in the book. This is a recollection of my memories about the book, it might not be accurate and it is more complicated than that in the book itself. It's a really good book to read, very inspiring. In the song, it talks about two people from different background that have a near-death experience, they meet the Queen of Vajra Space and receive a message from her, they come back to life and tell the message but not to everyone's delight.
You have finally lost drummer Stephane - is it for good this time? Was this brought on by his illness - or was it a move forwards on both parts?
(Michel) It was a move forward on both part, when we started to record Destiny?, it was clear that Stephane was not into it anymore for whatever reasons. so we've had a talk together and decided that it was in the best interest for both parts that we move on to something else. This was not a decision that was made overnight, we have been playing together for the past seven years. But I would have to add that Stephane is not ill anymore, it left him in a wheel chair but aside from that he is in pretty good shape and to see him play drums without his legs and hear what was coming out of the speakers was amazing. We are still good friends and he did the cover for Destiny? and the new Theatre of the Mind, and they look great.
How are things with him - is his graphic artistry making headway?
(Michel) It seems to be going great, he is now working for a CD manufacturer, in the graphic department and he seems to enjoy it very much.
How has the new drummer Steve Gagne fitted into the Mystery line-up?
(Michel) It was a funny thing, you see, Stephane had left and the session were going behind schedule, we had almost recorded the basic track with the drums track that Stephane had done. Gilles Peltier the owner of the studio where we were recording all acoustic stuff, told he knew someone that would fit perfectly in the project, he didn't know if he would become a member of the band but at least we could finish the CD. so he set up a session and gives him a tape of three songs to learn. The next week-end, I meet Steve at Gille's studio, they did a very fast sound check and they close the door. Then Gilles told me "Listen to him, you'll see..." Then he rolled the tape and wow, I was speechless and Gilles was laughing saying "I told you". I mean this guy got the tape a few days before that, and he sounded like he had been playing with us for a long time. That night, I went to Gary's home with a tape of the session and he was thrilled. The week after, Steve came to record the album and became a permanent member of MYSTERY...
Gary Savoie's vocals are sounding better and better. I can't help likening his style to that of Steve Perry of Journey. Is that something he has aimed for, or is it just the way things are?
(Michel) Yes, that Perry thing is a remark (might be a compliment) that he gets often. Gary grew up listening to 70's rock. His biggest influence are Deep Purple, Bad Company and others like that. He is also a great Perry fan, but it is not something that he is aiming for. His voice sounds like that, that's all. I think on Destiny? he finally found his own sound, and he this will definitely be obvious on the next recording. But he's getting a lot of comparison to Jon Anderson of Yes, Rick Emmett of Triumph and even Geddy Lee of Rush; I think it is more because of his range.
To me, Destiny? has a lot of commercial power. Why aren't you signed to a major label and making Big Bucks?
(Michel) Thank you! You know, it is very hard for a Canadian artist to get notice in our country if you are not playing the mainstream rock - just ask Saga. And don't even mention the word progressive - even if a lot of European bands have made it big time here. Also I don't want to give the band to anyone just to make money, and playing whatever they want us to play. I do believe that our music could appeal to a wider audience too and it is our goal to bring it there but until we meet someone who really understands the commercial power of Mystery, I won't let it go. When it happens, I believe it will be on the European side because they seem to understand a lot more what we are trying to do.
You have however signed to Musea, who are the large independent prog label around. How did that come about?
(Michel) Yes that is great, I got in touch with them two years ago with the release of Theatre Of The Mind, they liked the CD and order a few copies to add to their catalogue. When I started to plan Destiny? I contact them and we begin to talk about a possible agreement. After a few months, I sent them the final product and they liked it. they've offered us a deal for releasing the CD on the Musea label. They are doing an amazing work for progressive rock and are also very nice people.
How is the Musea deal helping Mystery?
(Michel) Well it is too soon to tell, the CD has just been released and I don't think it has been officially released by Musea as we speak. But just the fact to be associated with a large label like Musea will give Mystery a better availability and credibility. But I'm very confident that it will help us a lot. And we are very proud to be associated with them.
Does this mark the end of the band's own label Unicorn Records, or are you looking to expand that side of the St-Pere Empire?
(Michel) No it is not the end of Unicorn Records, it is more of a new beginning, and yes I'm looking to expand Unicorn Records and produce other artists very soon, Although I'm a musician first, I really got to enjoy the business side of music.
You also re-released Theatre of the Mind. What brought that about?
(Michel) Well it's just that Theatre of the Mind was primarily released to get the media and business attention, We did not expect the response it received, so the first 500 copies were gone and the company who had made the cover had done an awful job. I knew that the release of Destiny? would bring demands for Theatre of the Mind so it was a good time to re-release it and change the packaging.
How does this version differ from the original recording?
(Michel) It's just a different cover, the music is still the same but now has the graphic it deserves, thanks to Stephane.
Are there any plans to re-release your debut album Mystery on CD?
(Michel) Yes there is. I don't know if it will be on its original format or part of a compilation that I'd like to do after our next CD. But we are starting to get demands for it so it would probably be a good move to release it in its original format.
How much (if any) has the World Wide Web helped Mystery is making their music available to a wider audience?
(Michel) The web is just a fantastic tool for promotion. It has help us getting contacts all around the world, in radio, magazines, record labels and for the fans and those who are not familiar with Mystery, our website is a great place to learn about Mystery. The Internet is, as far as I'm concerned, the best tool of the century and I wouldn't go without it. And this media is still young, the possibilities to come are endless.
What do you think about the move to down-loading albums straight from the web and cutting out CDs, record shops and distributors altogether?
(Michel) I think it will be great only if they can find a way to limit the duplication and also they would have to come up with a certain standard so no one can end up with a very bad sounding copy of the music. I sure wouldn't want to know that someone paid for a copy of our CD that doesn't sound as good as the original and that this person thinks this is the way it was meant to sound. I have read a few article about that subject and I think that it's all pointing in that direction. But there is nothing like the thrill you get when you go in a record store to buy an album.
Michel, you seem to be very much the leader of Mystery - you write all the songs, produce, engineer and mix the recording. Isn't there a concern that you will end up alienating the rest of the band - or are they happy that you do all the hard working leaving them to play?
(Michel) They are totally free to do whatever they want to do when we record. Maybe I write the songs but no one could sing them as good as Gary does. An album is a combination of many parts you know, sometimes the artwork itself will make an album sell or not. Let say I have created this project and surrounded myself with the best people to bring it to life. and when we get the four of us on stage, there is a certain kind of magic happening.
Should Quebec leave Canada, and if so will you leading the independence route my singing in French?
(Michel) I didn't know the whole world was preoccupied by that question, I don't know if Quebec will leave Canada but we might do a few songs in French sometimes. We've already have a little piece of French narration on Destiny? It's a part of our heritage but I certainly wouldn't want Mystery to be associated with any political party whatever my convictions might be.
What do the future hold for Mystery?
(Michel) Hopefully it will keep progressing like it did in the last two years, I think the future looks very positive for Mystery
What are your plans for the next album?
(Michel) Well we already have a lot of song done as a demo, and I've been working on around ten songs in the past few months. It will probably be a double CD or two CDs released in a very close time depending on our distributors. Right now I'm working on building a brand new studio and it should be ready in about two months, at that time we will start the session for that new CD (or 2).
What are your touring plans?
(Michel) We should get together in the coming weeks and probably we will have a keyboard player and a second guitar player, we don't know yet, there is talk going on that we might join two other prog bands from Quebec and do a little tour with them but nothing has been confirmed yet.
Any chance of dates in Europe?
(Michel) We would love to go to Europe, With the release of Destiny?, some Prog festival have already shown interest in having Mystery representing Canada, and we will do all that is needed so we can join. It would be fantastic to go and play in Europe. We have a good response to our music there and it would be our chance to show them that on stage we sound just like the record, maybe even better...
Visit the Mystery Web Theatre at http://pages.infinit.net/mystery. You can contact Mystery through Unicorn Records, CP. 95016, Lorraine, Quebec, Canada, J6Z 4P1; or e-mail Michel at email@example.com. Musea can be contacted at 68 La Tinchotte, 57117 Retonfey, France. You can check out their website at http://www.id-net.fr/musea. All the graphics used to accompany this intervew were taken - with permission, I may add - from the Mystery website then reduced, mangled and squeezed into Alternate View.