We travel to the part of North America not overseen by a deluded satsuma today, to find out about Opusculus. I won’t try to describe their music as the band themselves, as you’ll see, struggle as it is! The words were kindly provided by TAZ (bass), Jocelyn Maheux (guitars) and Mike Landry (drums) and are accompanied by “R”, a track from the band’s Consonant which they’ll tell you a little about below. It’s just been re-released with some bonus material before the band drop their new album next month.
TAZ: Opusculus was founded in Montreal, Quebec by drummer Mike Landry back in 2003. All three musicians are from the greater Montreal area.
How did you meet?
Mike: The band started as a duo with me on drums and my good friend Robert Massicotte on bass. We both composed about 20 minutes of music when Robert left due to hearing problems. Jocelyn (Maheux) joined on guitar in 2004, adding his touch to what was already created, as well as adding his own sound to the compositions. I’d known him for many years, having played with him in different cover bands in the 90s. We officially became a trio in 2007.
TAZ: I was in Hamburg during that summer with Marcus D’Angelo, guitarist and singer for Brazilian thrashers Claustrofobia (PRC MUSIC) doing PR for the band. We were coming from the Wacken Metal Fest and caught a show at Markthalle in Hamburg. We were having a smoke in between sets and I heard two guys arguing in Quebec French. We hooked up, exchanged numbers and later on in Montreal we met at Foufounes Électriques, where I was introduced to Jocelyn. After checking out their stuff, I went for an audition and the rest is history.
How long have you been playing as a band?
Mike: In November 2017, Opusculus will celebrate its 10th anniversary as a trio. Rehearsals started as soon as TAZ joined, and we played our first live show in 2009.
Before you get sick of being asked… where does the band name come from?
Mike: Opusculus is Latin word for “small work”. It’s a diminutive for Opus. It’s an ironic take at the length of our first album, Consonant… One 62-minute song in 20 movements.
What are your influences?
Mike: There are soooo many! I come from a rock and heavy rock background. Drummers like Ian Paice (Deep Purple), John Bonham (Led Zeppelin) and Buddy Rich largely influenced my playing. I’m also a huge fan of Rush, Dream Theater, Planet X and other heavier prog bands. Listening to drummers like Virgil Donati really got me into odd time signatures and polyrhythmic percussions.
Jocelyn: Guitar wise, the usual names of the classic rock era plus some shredders and jazz/country players for some technical cues. Musically, too many to list.
TAZ: I got into bass playing in college. At that time, I was listening to a lot of Rush, Yes, King Crimson as well as a lot of jazz. Geddy Lee was obviously a big influence, but I also dug the work of Tony Levin, Jeff Berlin, Percy Jones from Brand X.
Describe your music. What makes you unique?
TAZ: I’ve seen many people try to label our music. Is it prog? Is it rock? Is it metal? Is it experimental? I’ll let people decide. Our label is calling us “hard prog”. Consonant was a power trio approach to prog encompassing pretty much all styles that influenced us. There’s straightforward heavy rock, Latin, Rush and King Crimson-like prog, metal “à la Voivod and Messhugah”, classical and even reggae… The forthcoming album Resonant will offer more compact pieces. Styles are as varied as on our first album, but the approach is more streamlined. There is musicianship involved, but we played for the sake of the songs, not to show off our skills.
Jocelyn: I’d say our music is relatively complex and quite varied with a leaning towards some heaviness.
Do you have any particular lyrical themes?
Jocelyn: No. We’re just breathing when we play.
What’s your live show like? How many shows have you played?
TAZ: Until now, it’s been a very straight rock show. No gimmicks, just music. We’ve been playing small venues and we used projections for our album release only. We’ve been lucky to have great sound pretty much everywhere we played. Since our beginnings as a trio, we played around 25 or 30 shows. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but we all have full time jobs. Touring is somewhat of a luxury in our case.
However, we are hitting the road with Swedish label mates Montgolfière for a summer tour in Quebec and Ontario. That’s how we spend our vacations! Some triple bills in Montreal, Quebec and Ottawa, and a special acoustic show at Montreal’s Station HosT. That one will be very different… Smooth and psychedelic… Playing acoustic will be a first for us.
What’s the wildest thing you’ve seen or done at a live show?
TAZ: We played in Montreal on 17th March with Contemplator, an excellent instrumental prog-metal band from Quebec City, and we wanted to do something different. Between sets, musicians from both bands got together to improvise some tunes from scratch. One of the fans – a professional dancer – was so inspired by the music that she climbed on stage and began to dance… Not a common site during prog-metal shows!
What kit do you use / guitars do you play / etc.?
Jocelyn: I’m no gear maniac but there’s the main of it: I play a sacrilegiously modified 1974 Fender Strat with a Seymour Duncan Hot Stack and the neck, DiMarzio HS-3 in the middle and some Duncan humbucker at the bridge, bridge being Floyd Rose.
As for amps, Flexton II 2×12 combo bought from a friend. It is set to approximate a very clean Fender Twin Reverb. In it is plugged a Full Metal Jacket distortion pedal made by Homebrew Electronics with which I can get “my” sound using most amps that have a good clean sound.
Mike: I play a Tama Star Classic made of bubinga birch: it has 5 Toms, 2 Floor Toms, 1 Bass Drum, 1 Snare, 2 Hi Hats (open and closed), 1 Ride, 4 Crashes, 3 Splashes, 1 Chinese, 1 Cow Bell & 1 Tambourine. I actually travelled to the Sabian New Brunswick factory to get my custom made HHX cymbals. That’s how nuts I am…
TAZ: I play straight into a Gallien-Kruger head, a Hartke 4×10 and a Trace-Elliot 15. I get a very neutral signal from the amp, definition in the highs and mids from the Hartke as well as good low frequency support from the 15” woofer, especially when I hit the lower B string. My concert basses include a 5-string Yamaha BB-615, a 5-string Läkland Skyline with two fat Bartolinis and the occasional Hohner 6 string.
TAZ: We are touring with our label mates Montgolfière this summer between 21st and 27th July. Our second album will come out this summer on PRC Music. And we were invited on the Progtober Fest show in Montreal on 22nd October, to play with Progtopus, Interdrive and Shatters. We are booking additional dates for the fall. It’s our busiest year so far, and it’s very exciting!
If you were second on a three-band bill, which band would you love to be supporting and which band would you choose to open for you? A chance to plug someone you’ve toured with, or a mate’s band we’ve not heard of before!
TAZ: In my dreams, we would tour with King Crimson and Rush… But more realistically speaking, we could very well fill an opening spot for bands such as Planet X, Brand X, Stickmen, Adrian Belew Power Trio.
Jocelyn: It’s simple for me… A band whose crowd we might appeal to. Or any band that would be an interesting complement and/or contrast to what we’re doing.
TAZ: As for bands opening for us, I mentioned Contemplator, a brilliant quartet playing a very efficient blend of prog-metal with very atmospheric moments. We also played with a band called Marck.T, lead by highly talented guitarist Marc Tremblay. Many call him Quebec’s Jeff Beck, and his instrumental music is very lyrical and melodic. It can also be really heavy, yet extremely catchy. I was lucky enough to provide low frequencies to his band for a couple of great shows. If you’re into Steve Vai, Joe Satriani or Jeff Beck, you’ll love his stuff!
Courtesy of previous Band of the Day artist Ruben Altman: What phase of the creation process do you find most difficult and how do you cope with that?
TAZ: As they say, the devil’s in the details… It’s always easy to come up with a riff, a rhythmic structure, a good groove, a crazy syncopated beat. But putting it all together is a watchmaker’s work. We tend to get into details such as cross frequencies (toms and bass, bass and guitar) as well as interactions between the instruments. Tunes are usually composed for the trio as a unit, with the occasional solos, mostly guitar. Jocelyn is the main arranger and he is keen on using the frequency range of each instrument to build the sound. Each note and beat is analysed, carefully chosen and laid out to make to most of our minimalist power trio format. We can sound big on stage without any sequence, pre-recorded tracks or other effects.
Jocelyn: Any phase can have easy or difficult moments; I try to keep my cool.