A case of lost and found. I did this interview with Guy LeBlanc via email in late 2010. Then I lost it! Here we are, years later, and I found it hidden away on a drive! I'm so thankful that I get a chance to share this with his many fans! Enjoy...
PS: What was the first keyboard you ever owned & why did you choose that particular one?
GL: The first piano we owned was a Steinway 7-foot Grand. My sister and I played and had private instruction, but since she was the eldest, she got to keep it when she left home.
So the first keyboard I owned for myself was a Roland EP-20. I was 15. Determining factors for this one were its sound(s), size, weight and price :-).
A few months later, having discovered the wonderful world of electronic keyboards, I got a CAT Synth, so that now I could play just about anything in my brother's band (he sang lead and played rhythm guitar).
PS: What was your first paying gig as a musician, and how old were you?
GL: I was still in my brother's band when we started playing paying gigs... either in schools, parties or bars. I guess I was 16 by this time. I was slightly less than enchanted by our setlist... I felt that our best songs were the originals, so I decided to quit this band and start my own with other like-minded guys who'd seen me play with the band.
PS: Did any particular musician or band inspire you to want to play?
GL: I always wanted to play music. That's my first memory in life... listening to my mom's records, really getting into it, and wanting to do what these players did. All sorts of genres and styles... classical, jazz, pop, gospel, folk... everything, really.
I got my first record when I was 9... Black Sabbath's Paranoid. I loved that noise, and wanted to make noise like that too! Mountain, at least, had a keyboardist, so I really dug that. Elton John's first 5 records inspired me a lot... everything just snowballed after that... Billy Preston, Grand Funk, Hendrix, Miles Davis, Cactus, ELP, Floyd, McCartney, Harrison, Atomic Rooster, Crim, Curved Air, Tull, Purple, Yes, VDGG, Genesis... by the time I was 12, I had a pretty good record collection going, and I was learning most of them to amuse myself.
PS: What made you want to actively pursue music as a living?
GL: Dang, that's a loaded question ! LOL.
Firstly, I wanted to express to others how music made me feel.
For me, music is the only constant in this universe.
And it's all around us, all the time.
So, it's not a matter of deciding to pursue it as a living for me... it already is a living pursuit... like breathing. It's a way of communicating with others, and because I've been doing it for so long, I find it easier to wrangle and express what I want to with it.
PS: As a composer, what elements do you feel a song MUST possess to make it a successful piece?
GL: I think that in each piece, there has to be a bit of the composer's soul. For me, the key to success is Identity and Integrity.
Every composition is a piece of the puzzle. Each piece has to be real, and fit into the framework of the whole.
Even when one writes about something someone else wrote or did, generally what people want to hear are your ideas... your take on any story or situation.
And I'm just bursting with opinions :-))).
PS: What was the first song you ever recorded?
GL: If memory serves (and it's gonna have to), I'd have to say it was either Orgasmik Outburst part 1 or La Marche Du Geant Vert (written by Don Prince). Both these pieces were being rehearsed and recorded by Marc Miron, Don Prince and myself circa 1978. Don and I went on to form Delirium and then Nathan Mahl after that.
In a "proper" studio, however, I'd have to say that the first song we recorded as a group was Overloaded Overture (as Nathan Mahl). I hand delivered that demo tape to Arista Records in NYC in 1981. Quite an interesting trip :-).
PS: What inspired the Nathan Mahl persona / concept?
GL: I was an idealistic young musician. I think what we all had in common in the band, was a hearty sense of humour. We all wanted to have our music taken seriously, but at the same time didn't want to be pretentious about it (if that makes any sense).
Creating a persona for the group which was dysfunctional, bipolar, schizo, unsane, whatever, was probably my idea.:-).
It certainly allowed for greater artistic freedom, given that we weren't interested in pleasing the major labels, just the fans of adventurous rock music.
PS: Where do you do the majority of your writing?
GL: Mostly, when I'm not sitting at my computers or keyboards... oddly, when I'm doing other things. I could be doing chores or doing some other kind of work (manual labour)... yeah, that's when the ideas really come, when life is going on.
Music is everywhere... at a lineup at the bank, or in the aisles of a hardware store... or rush hour traffic. It's all good!
I often write down little notes or emails if possible to myself with ideas for lyrics or song structures... moods and the like.
A lot of the first Heretik was written that way... and All The Rage as well. Clever Use Of Shadows too.
PS: Please give me the background on a few songs. Let's start with Schizophrenia.
GL: Back in the early 80s, we were inventing the Nathan Mahl persona as we were going along. I was the main composer, but I welcomed contributions from the other guys. Schizophrenia was one of those... composed mainly by Don Prince, with lyrics written by me. Inventing a character who was dysfunctional, introverted, schizo, crazy etc., was great fun. For me, it was like creating a personality made up of the 4 band members' own. Of course, this only worked as long as the band members didn't take themselves too seriously :-).
By the time we made Parallel Eccentricities (recorded in 1982 and released in '83), we already had almost 20 songs in our repertoire, so picking the 5 songs to go on the disc was rather daunting. Schizophrenia was a natural choice, since it was the only song in our repertoire that had a "normal" format... designed to be the hit single we so desperately needed :-).
PS: Call To Arms.
GL: In 1996, I was really itching to make another Mahl disc after the disappointing turnouts of Identity (1992) and Radio Rehab (1995). After being told by a prog label that our stuff was too "fusion" and not enough "prog", I wrote a bunch of new songs with that in mind, and Don Prince was interested in rejoining the group. His one proviso was that I would write a song with all the stops pulled way out :-)). That was Call To Arms. Surfing a tsunami with my buddies :-). I think the only keyboard I don't play on that piece is a grand piano. That would've been overkill :-)). It's still one of my favorites.
PS: The Cold Truth.
GL: I wrote this piece in 1995, while reading some H.P. Lovecraft short stories. Its working title was A Short Walk By The Gates Of Hades. In that year, I wrote about 75 songs for solo projects. But this one stood out for me, as a sort of introspective meditation on the state of the world around us. In any case, what I'm saying with this piece is that my character (the protagonist in Subversia) realizes that what he says and does affects many around him... and there are consequences to his chosen identity.
PS: All The Rage.
GL: Ah... my trip to Hell and back again (by Guido Bagmeister)...lol.
In the spring of 2003, on the eve of the Camel farewell tour, my wife Dawn had a series of severe heart attacks. So I had to bow out of the tour. In the ensuing months, I was at home caring for Dawn, and communications with the Camel camp became strained through a combination of misunderstandings, phone calls and emails. I started writing songs for a solo disc, in a way paralleling what was going on when not in my studio. The title song All The Rage expresses my frustration with the unrelenting hopelessness I was feeling. The lyrics were screamed rather than sung... I couldn't bring myself to imbrue that performance with processing. It's kind of funny in retrospect that a lot of people think that I used some kind of processing on my voice... if you consider bourbon and cigarettes to be signal processing, then I guess it's true :-)). But I also kept something of a sense of humour throughout the sessions... as exemplified with the title's idiomatic reference.
PS: Tell me how you came to be involved with The Distinguished Panel Of Experts.
GL: I first met Mike Sary at Progday 2002. He approached me with the idea of us doing something together. So we traded CDs, and some time later he wrote me and I told him I really liked the idea, so we organized some jams together and Mike decided to give it that name, which I think is quite fitting considering the humour inherent in the project.
PS: Can we expect a second album from the project?
GL: I think we're all willing to do another one. Scheduling is the barrier right now, since we all have our own projects going.
PS: What's the next project we can look forward to hearing from you?
GL: I'm officially mid-project with the next Nathan Mahl cd, titled Justify. Of course, a new NM cd means a new NM line-up :-).
Justify tells the story of a weird kinda guy (...) who is haunted by all the sins in the world.
I've recruited some of my old friends for this one, as well as Tristan Vaillancourt (Exodus) on electric guitar.
I plan to release this disc at NEARfest 2011, and we're pretty much on schedule for that deadline.
I've also launched my new website (www.guyleblanc.com), which includes everything that has to do with Nathan Mahl as well as my other projects.
PS: Please tell me 6 CDs you never get tired of listening to.
David Sancious and Tone - True Stories: I think this is a perfect prog album, full of beauty, soul and power. UK - Danger Money: Despite the intrusion of 1 or 2 attempts at a pop hit, this album features some of my favorite intricate stuff, particularly from Jobson and Bozzio. Yes - Tales From Topographic Oceans: I think this was the band at their best; being a band, and stretching the boundaries of rock music. Jethro Tull - Minstrel In The Gallery: Fun, acerbic (as usual), not a dud in the bunch, lots of great acoustic guitar from Ian. Mountain - First 3 albums: This band as a quartet never ceases to entertain me... I usually listen to the 3 albums in one sitting. Prokofiev - Again, I can't pick just one disc: I particularly enjoy the Symphonies, the Concertos (piano and cello) and the Sonatas (piano).