Ontario based extreme metal project Fuck the Facts has returned from their hiatus with a new album of dark material that ruminates on the road behind while unflinchingly turning towards the one that lays ahead. Pleine Noirceur is Fuck the Fact’s seventh LP, an album that captures the band in a moment of transition, retaining their visionary approach while seizing the reigns from of the project and resting them from the momentum that nearly drove the group off a cliff years prior.
The band’s founder, guitarist, and overall mastermind, Topon Das spoke to me about his new album over the phone in late October. He described their renewed approach as a band and the trials of the local music scene during the current pandemic.
Below is a transcript of our conversation, edited slightly for clarity and brevity.
Thanks for joining me Topon. Especially so late in the day. What are you up to now? Are you just getting done with work?
Actually, I’m just finishing the dishes. [Laughs] I finished work, but I’ve been working from home so there isn’t much of a commute.
What are you doing these days for work if you don’t mind me asking?
I’m a recording and mixing engineer. I’m working on music for bands.
Very cool. Could we talk a little bit about that, if you don’t mind?
We can talk about what ever you want. We could talk about UFOs for all I care. [Laughs]
Well that’s been in the news relatively recently. How into UFOs are you? Are you Tom DeLong deep?
[Laughs] No, I don’t know that much about UFOs. We should probably talk about hockey. I definitely know more about hockey then UFOs.
Oh shoot. See I know nothing about hockey. I could talk about UFOs but I know nothing about hockey.
Well then it would make sense that I would say something about UFOs. I don’t know why I would have said that otherwise. That might actually be a sign of some sort. Let’s see if I can come up with some kind of a conspiracy theory here…
What kind of native varieties of cryptids do you have up on Ontario?
Yeah, cryptids. Supernatural creatures. Like bigfoot or a hodag.
A hodag is like a big lizard that is supposed to live around an area of Wisconsin near where I’m from called Rhinelander. It has huge tusks like a saber-toothed tiger and the face of a frog. It’s local mythology. It’s a big part of the tourist industry up there.
That’s pretty cool and super interesting. I can’t really think of a Canadian one though, or another thing like that from my region. [Laughs]
No worries. I’m always on that type of thing and open to talking with people about it.
So let’s talk about something that pertains to you. How have you and the family been managing, surviving, and coping through COVID?
We’ve been pretty alright. All things considered, we’re lucky, both me and my girlfriend [Melanie Mongeon], who is actually the vocalist in the band. We’ve both been able to work from home. We’ve both go into the office very rarely. She’s an event coordinator at a couple of museums here. For a little while there were events going on, but not anymore. They’ve had a second shutdown now, so we’re really back to being at home. And it was the same thing for me, things opened up for a little while so I was going more often to the studio and recording bands and then things kind of got shut down again, so now I’m doing more stuff from home again and remotely. It hasn’t been ideal for anyone, but we’re in a lucky situation in that it hasn’t been that much of a transition for us. We’re all home together, the whole family. We get to spend more time together so we’re lucky in that way.
Yeah, you almost feel guilty saying the pandemic has been good for you in some ways. I’ve been able to work from home this entire time as well and I feel guilty talking about how easy that has been for me. Most people are not so fortunate and are not in a position where they can transfer their workspace into their homes.
Like I’ve said, I’ve been extremely lucky. I have a lot of friends who work in the service industry and venues and stuff like that. I actually used to work in a venue as well, last year. I know people in that industry and how much they are suffering with the way things are going…
What is the situation in Canada right now with venues? Are many in a situation where they are in danger of closing?
I can’t think of a specific venue that has said that they’re closing permanently here, but I would be supposed if they all got out of this unscathed. Even without the pandemic, live music was already hurting. It’s not what it was 20 years ago. These guys are kind of all already scraping by. I think this is going to be really difficult for a lot of them, especially the ones that are strictly music venues and make their living putting on rock shows and stuff like that. I could see it being hard for them to recover. It’s one of those things where the whole pandemic started and everyone was like, “Ok you know, a couple of months and everything will be back to normal.” And not it’s eight or nine months later and there is no end in sight. It’s a really weird situation. Who knows what is going to happen. Bands are looking to book tours for next year and I have no idea how much of that stuff is actually going to go on.
Have Canadian officials been allowing limited capacity shows, or have the venues been totally shut down?
Well where we are now things have been totally shut down since the beginning of October. We live right on the border of Quebec and Ontario. We could walk over the border. But Quebec, and especially Montreal, have had a bit of a rougher time. They shut down a lot of stuff and Ontario followed suit. They did this thing where it is going to be a 28-day lockdown and then they’ll see where things are at afterward, but we’re getting close to the end of that and things have not gotten any better. There haven’t been any shows that I’m aware of, but I do know promoters who have shows booked in November that they’re advertising. It’s a 300 person venue, and everyone has to be seated at a separate table, have to wear their masks, can’t get up to get drinks, there is plexiglass in front of the band. I don’t know… [Laughs] I get that people want to get back out there and start doing it but it’s not really the ideal situation for shows.
Is it even worth it in that type of a situation?
No, that’s the thing. In our situation and where we are at in our lives, we’re just about to put out an album [Pleine Noirceur dropped November 20, 2020] and we would love to go out and play a hometown release show, and a bunch of other shows. But under those circumstances… It just doesn’t seem right. I feel guilty saying that because I know these venues are hurting, but right now I don’t want to go to a bar and hang out. Maybe if I was 25 years old and single it would effect me differently, I would need that kind of social aspect. But I’m a 40 year old man with two kids, it doesn’t effect me in the same way.
Right, you have to think about your family, and you have other sources of income at this point in your life other than playing shows.
So let’s talk about your new record, your seventh, Pleine Noirceur. I don’t speak French, so I don’t know if my pronunciation is even close. [Laughs]
Yeah, that’s close. Pleine Noirceur. It basically translates into “Full Darkness.”
What is the meaning behind that album title? I’m sure others will ask you that this press cycle, but I am personally curious. [Laughs]
Mel our vocalist, she wrote all the lyrics on the album, she’s really good at taking in situations, or what she’s seen around her, and turning them around into a story. Myself, when I read her lyrics, I find them easy to identify with. Maybe that’s because I’ve spent so much time with her. But I feel like on this album, she has really brought it to a dark place. Which is kind of interesting because we’re not dark people, but the album has a dark tone to it. When we were going through all the songs that we had and trying to decide what we wanted to do with the title with all the themes that we had, this just jumped out at us: If being immersed in a depressive state is binding you, you can see somewhat of a glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel. That’s kind of how I personally interpreted it.
The album is obviously open to others to interpret and read the lyrics and get what they’re going to steal out of it. It’s one of those things, the albums that I’ve enjoyed and have moved me in my life are those albums that I listened to after I broke up with a girls, or some shitty happened to me in life, and I find an album that I can listen to and it kind of helps me get through the day. I’m sure you and other people who are obsessed with music kind of feel the same thing. Music is that kind of holy grail that gets us through these tough situations. I feel like what we are putting out there, other people will be able to latch on to, like all of those albums that meant something to me in the past. Those were albums made by people who didn’t know anything about my life and I was still able to connect with the music regardless. I think we are just trying to make music that other people can relate to.
I can’t ask you to interpret the lyrics of your music from the perspective of your band members, but I would like to ask what experiences are helping you identify with the darkness in these lyrics.
The themes of darkness also had something to do with the break that we took from the band. We put out an album in 2015 while we were very burnt out on doing what we were doing and we released the record and we toured on it, knowing that it was probably going to be our last tour. Maybe our last album. We had no idea. We put it out there and the band was just silent for a long time.
Now we’re coming back into now with a very different approach than when we left it… when we started the band in the early 2000s we went for 15 years and we never stopped, we just kept putting out releases, we toured as much as we possibly could. Everyone either had to leave their job or we all kept jobs that we could easily leave, and we all just did that for as long as we possibly could. It wasn’t 15 years of touring like Mötley Crüe, it was 15 years of touring in a van, pulling up and playing people’s basements or really small clubs, sleeping on floors and eating what ever you can… yeah, those things kind of caught up with us. I know that I had something like a sudden breakdown, it wasn’t quite like that, but it was one of those things that just kept growing in the back of my head like, “I can’t keep doing this.” I think for the last three years that we toured I didn’t actually enjoy it. I just kind of kept doing it because it was what I had always done. That’s one of the things that definitely plays into the album. We were sitting and working on the music and it was a kind of release in a way because I hadn’t played music in so long and when we stopped I hadn’t picked up my guitar for probably a year or longer and I hadn’t written any music or anything, so when we sat down to write it was kind of a release of all these emotions that had never gone away.
What prompted you to return to music again after your hiatus?
Like I said, when we stopped we just needed a break from it. It had been 15 years, we were all quite a bit younger then and when we stopped we just all needed a break. So when I started writing again, I went to my girlfriend, showed her what I was doing and she liked it. So then I called our drummer [Mathieu “Vil” Vilandre] and we went and had a beer and I just asked him, “Did you want to start jamming together again?” And there were no expectations. No “let’s get the band back together, we’re going to do all this cool stuff.” It was just like, “you want to jam?” And if it’s fun we’ll keep jamming and if not then we’ll just go back to whatever we were doing. And we started doing it. Once a week we would get together and just play for a couple of hours. And when we started writing this album there was no expectation that it would even be an album. It was just us writing songs. The title track, “Pleine Noirceur” was the first song we started working on together when we got back into it, and that’s how it all began. We were basically working on stuff behind the scenes. We didn’t want to go out there and say, “Hey, we’re Fuck the Facts, and we’re working on a new album! We’re doing this! We’re doing that!” We didn’t know if it would be anything. Even the video that we shot last year was behind the scenes. So we were collecting all this stuff and we got to a certain point, and then the pandemic happened, and it sucks, but it’s one of the things that helped us finish this album. A lot of the work I was doing got put on hold. So we knuckled down and decided to finish the record, and when it was time to release it, we just put it out there. The idea of getting back together was to have a bit of a different approach as well. Back in the early days the band came before everything. Even though we were just a small little grindcore band, nothing came in the way of us doing this stuff. We toured when my girlfriend was pregnant! She was over seven months pregnant and we were out on tour, and we did our last show in Las Vegas, and after she gave birth it was only three or four months and we were back on the road.
Oh my god…
Yeah, so my first kid, the first three or four years are just kind of a blur because we were still really going heavy with touring. So when we got back together it was like, “yeah let’s do this, but it’s got to be fun.” We’re tired of the rat race of music. Sometimes it gets to be too much. It just kind of takes over your life. Sometimes it can be cool, but it started to feel really negative. We started to feel really shitty about where we were in life and what we were doing. That was a big part of getting back together, we had to have a different mindset about what we were doing.
Right, but while maintaining that DIY ethic that’s propelled you up to this point.
We’re a DIY band kind of by necessity. We started out DIY. I was doing a lot of tape trading in the early to late ‘90s before there wasn’t internet or anything. When we started we booked all our own tours before we hit the road and there weren’t agents or anything. Then around… 2005? No, 2006, we signed with Relapse and that’s been our only real time dealing with a record label and agents. But even when we were with Relapse we still put out some EPs independently and still did sort of our own thing. And after that all came to an end, it just kind of made sense for us to be in charge of what we’re doing. We’re such a small band with such a niche audience, so when we do things ourselves we’re able to communicate directly with the people who are actually interested in our music, like what we do, and want to support us, as opposed to throwing our music out to a bunch of random people who don’t know what we do and might not care.
Who do you feel your audience is within the extreme metal scene. There are, I’d say, some very well defined camps in this area of music, specifically concerning grindcore, and a lot of them have very strong opinions about what is and is not grindcore. Where do you see yourself fitting in?
We’re not even that much of a grindcore band musically. Like if you got to a grindcore fan and say, “Hey check out this song” and you play them one of our songs, they’ll probably say *lowers voice* “that’s not grindcore”
And I can totally see where that is coming from. Back in the day grindcore was the main influence, it was what I was feeding off of when I was making the music, but as time went on we developed other influences. I’ve been doing this band for half of my life, you can only imagine how much a person changes over time and all of us, we developed different ideas and wanted to try different things, and this band has always been about not worrying about fitting into a genre or anything that is so easily labeled. We’re not doing anything weird on purpose, we’re just kind of staying true to what we feel and what we want to do.
The grindcore thing now… it’s definitely still there and we have songs that are kind of grindier than others, but it’s more of a frame of mind. The same way punk is a frame of mind. Punk music for me can mean a lot of different things, it just doesn’t mean mohawks and studs. And when I think about grindcore, I think about it in a lot of the same ways, only more aggressive. It’s more of a frame of mind and an approach to being creative.
It can be tricky. I’m surprised sometimes that people buy our records and come to our shows. I still kind of find it insane that we have people all over the world who want to see our band play and hear our music. We’ve always created music, kind of selfishly for ourselves and putting it out there as honestly as possible. Maybe people grab onto that and get something out of it, you know. I see a lot of different people get into the band. I see punks, I see metal guys, younger and older, and I think it’s hard to pinpoint because we’re not targeting a specific audience. We just put it out there and some people get it and others don’t.
There is no marketing person identifying key demographics for you. You’re just putting the music out there and people are responding how they will.
[Laughs] Yeah, and you know there is nothing wrong with a band doing some marketing, figuring out an image and building up a whole story about themselves. That’s not me though. It just doesn’t naturally come to me. When I think about creating, my mind just kind of goes nutzo, and I wouldn’t be able to keep doing this all these years later if I felt constrained to one single room that I have to work in. When I started this project all those years ago, that was one of the reasons. I played in death metal bands, but I had so many other and different influences, there was so much other music that I liked, and I wanted a project that I could express all that stuff with. I was really into noise for a while so there are different phases of the band where you can hear that, and even when we’ve brought in other members of the band, if they wanted to try different stuff, we would try it.
Our original vocalist, back in 2001, before Mel joined, he was really into rap music and I was like “you want to do rap? Let’s go do fucking rap.” Like on Mullet Fever there are a couple of rap songs on there and we even played them live a couple of times, and it’s not because I’m particularly into rap, but I wanted him to feel like it was his band as well and that’s why we did it. I’m sure some people listen to that album now and hear those songs and think it’s weird and ask themselves why this is happening, but for me I’m happy that we did it and I’m glad. Some people will listen to it and think that we’re fucked up, but it’s who we are as a band. We put it out there and we enjoy it for what it is.
Looking back on some of the albums we’ve put out and some of the stuff we did, and sometimes I think “Oh my god, it’s so embarrassing.” It’s like looking at old yearbooks and it just looks like you’re wearing weird clothes and you have a fucked up hairdo, but over time I’ve learned to embrace it. Like, yeah, that sounded like shit, but the next one sounded better. It’s all these building blocks and different experiences, and sometimes it’s bad, but you know life is like that sometimes and it’s how you learn.
Has your approach to making music changed since the band started?
I try not to change it too much. Me and our drummer are the main songwriters, and he’s been the drummer for 15 years so we’ve had a stable writing strategy for a couple of years now. We’ve also had various people come through the band at various points who have contributed as well, but it’s always been just about going for it and seeing what happens. I’m probably the one in the band who leans the most towards experimenting and weird stuff and I’ll sometimes get reigned in [Laughs], but like I said even though the band was something I started, I never wanted it to be all my thing. I wanted other people to feel like it’s their home as much as it’s mine. That’s what makes it interesting and that’s what makes it fun. That’s what makes people want to do it because they will feel like it is a part of themselves.
It’s a constant collaboration, not just people following your lead.