If anyone was actually curious about the makeup of our group and where 5 years has taken us.. this is a very personal interview which sheds much light and insight into the makeup of the Soo's homegrown band.

The Metal Observer is a webzine based out of Calgary Alberta.


Also click here for many reviews detailing the critical global successes and review of our initial release 'Lux Aeterna'


Gates Of Winter - School of winter (Steve Furgiuele/Lee Maines) - Online Aug 2008

Hi guys, Alex from “The Metal Observer” here, how are things in the GATES OF WINTER camp?

Steve: Hey Alex! Things have never been tighter, progressing quicker and honestly… more fun. We’re jamming 5-6 nights a week, quoting stupid YouTube videos and DETHKLOK as well as celebrating every jam with a nice cold beer. Times are good, moral is high and we’ve got so much fire under our [censored] it’s insane!

First off please tell us a bit about how GATES OF WINTER came to be?

Steve: During the summer of 2003, I was introduced to Bryan (Belleau) through a mutual friend and eventual initial drummer of the group. I had been slowly discovering Metal bass for a bit at that point and had always heard through the local grapevine of this monster of a guitar player. So for a few weeks I learned a few licks from METALLICA, MEGADETH and IRON MAIDEN… jumped in the saddle and jammed with the man a few moments after we met. The three of us had instant chemistry… played a few shows then got restless.

Enter my initial year of University I met a fellow bassist and all around musician Brian (Holmes) in a music theory class. We both attempted to outdo one another’s band until eventually I invited him to come over and play some keyboards. The four of us hit it off. Seeking a vocalist he brought along Lee and yet again fit like a glove. It is rather humorous as we fast forward to the integration of Dave into the group - flying through three very different drummers, nearly 100 shows, some traveling gigs and 5 years later here we stand.

I can distinctly recall Lee and myself having some very heated arguments and feuds through his initial year or two within the group. Clearly all has subsided and we are all best of friends.

Where did you take your name from? It has this kind of mystic aura to it…

Steve: The name GATES OF WINTER is not only a reflection of our personas yet it is a reflection of the north in which we originate our music, ideals and lifestyles. Located in Sault Ste Marie, we have the benefit of four very distinct seasons, all of which exhibit immense beauty yet at times, display brutal patterns. With GATES OF WINTER (Bryan actually came up with the name late 2003) we strove for a name that would imply not only that beauty in which WINTER brings, yet the harsh -40 Celsius weather we used to walk to school in. In that we wanted our music to contain both rich melodies and really rip with some dark, gothic and heavy riffing.

Your style is rather hard to pinpoint, as you incorporate a lot of different elements, so in a way it is progressive Metal, if not Prog per se, how did this very interesting mix develop?

Lee: The overall "proggy" sound on “Lux” I think is really just a **progression** that we are going thru to find our niche. Save production and vocals, a few of the tracks sound like they could have been done by totally different groups even. Don’t expect this same style to be present in future works.

For this being your debut, you already show a remarkable hand for mature and varied songwriting, with good dynamics and melodies, is GATES OF WINTER your guys’ first try at a band or do some of your members already have some history that might reflect in the song writing?

Lee: Holmie and myself (Lee) have a played in a few groups while we were in high school, playing mostly Alt Rock and the likes, but nothing that really went anywhere. GATES OF WINTER was our real 1st step into both the local and international scene.

The different parts as well as the different vocal styles flow into each other with effortless ease, does the song writing flow just as well?

Lee: When in the writing process, yes, a lot of these transitions come into play right away, however, we do figure out how to improve songs a great deal during the rehearsal process.

And I had just mentioned the vocals, how hard is it to switch from clear to growls and back again several times during one song? I could imagine that it puts quite some strain on the vocal chords…?

Lee: Well, yes and no. Back when recorded the vocals on the album I was in fact not doing the guttural vocals the way I should have been doing them. So at that time, yes, it was very difficult to switch back and forth, and in the case of shows, I was definitely hurting by the end of the night. Since then I've taken time to learn how to distinguish and use my vocal chords properly, and thus the transition comes with great ease, and there is no throbbing pain at the end of every show!

I have detected elements of Prog, Death and Gothic, as well as symphonic and orchestral influences, do you have a certain range of styles that you want to choose from or is the song the goal, no matter where you'd have to draw from to achieve this?

Lee: Well this really goes back to the writing process - I'd say it never hurts to draw from any type of influence because it allows you to portray whatever emotions you desire. So in that sense, “Lux” was built on a song to song, thought by thought basis. We are all fans of the aforementioned styles, as well as Industrial and Black Metal, and in future recordings you may see influences from all of them once again, just done in a very different way.

You had released a 10-track version of "Lux Aeterna" in 2006 already, with the obvious omission of "Torment" on the 2008 version, where are the differences between the two and why did you re-release it?

Steve: You have done your research! This all relates to our delays within the studio. In 2006 we began to record the album in its entirety... with the inclusion of “Torment”. At the time we were younger and we didn’t approach the album with the necessary maturity. Due to issues within the studio and the progress of the album we had to scrap the entire recording. With our 2007 effort, the songs began to take such a form that “Torment” just did not fit in with the rest of the songs. The orchestral and symphonic transformation of the other songs did not transfer over well… so inevitably we removed it from the track listing. So we did not actually release two albums… just more or less delayed the hell out of our debut.

With "Burning Kingdom" you even dared to try your luck with a trilogy, which in my opinion turned out great, how did this idea come together and how did you approach its realization?

Lee: Well the writing process was long and arduous for this track. Basically we had the core story figured out and we wanted to fit music to it, so part 1 and 2 where written rather quickly. The 3rd part, “Lux Aeterna”, we decided to make an instrumental, because we wanted it to be a song that could tell the remainder of the story using only melodies and harmonies and whatnot, while still being interesting enough not to skip through to the next song. I think overall it turned out fairly well. As a musician, there is something that you always wish you could go back and change, however, the trilogy played its part on this album.

Could you let us know a little about the lyrics, please?

Lee: The lyrics on the album are quite varied actually. “Life Force” and “Wildwood” are based on, and inspired by dreams that I have quite frequently. The trilogy is a story about angels and demons and all that cheesy fun stuff. “Omega” is about someone very close to me, and the struggles we've been through together.

Steve: I penned two tracks off of the album. “Winter Flight” I penned regarding reconnecting with a long lost love in a timeless place or another world per say. I have gotten the ‘it sounds like suicide’ interpretation for people and I can actually envision that as well lol… however not the intention. And “From The Flesh” was written in a very drunken state about my first relationship which ended in disaster… and yes I wish I could omit the last paragraph of that song =)

You went with a very nice cover artwork to go with the CD. Do you think that this approach might yield a better purchase-download ratio?

Lee: Simply put, we put a lot of time and effort into this album, and with all the member changes and other setbacks over the years, and all the personal sacrifices it took to get to the point where we were ready to release this to the world, we weren't about to slap a [censored] cover on it and send it for pressing. And yes, I definitely think it does make a difference in sales. I know that personally when I’m browsing a CD rack, and I see a disc that has a white cover and what looks to be a 1st graders scribbling on it, you wont see me scrambling for my Mastercard. Good artwork, in my humble opinion, is a necessary reflection of the music, and it is a good gauge of whether or not to take a band seriously.

Does it represent the visual realization of the "eternal light" ("Lux Aeterna")?

Lee: Yes. Geoffrey and the band worked together to bring the songs onto the cover and into the booklet, that was the goal and I think we did a pretty decent job.

Which GATES OF WINTER song do you like most and which one least and why?

Steve: Personally I found the studio transformation of the second number in the trilogy “Heavenly Insurgence” to be my favourite track from the album… which is odd because before the album that was my least favourite track to play or listen to. Plenty of flavour and melodic nuances were added to give it some balls and [censored]’ low end crunch!

You have a pretty well-known drummer in your ranks now, WOODS OF YPRES mainman David Gold, him being from Toronto and you from Sault Ste-Marie, how did you get together?

Steve: Dave has been a long time supporter of GATES. He is actually a native of the Sault so he could relate to our struggles as musicians in this genre here. We had kept in contact for a few years and recently, with the hype surrounding “Woods 3” I decided to pay more attention. We began to talk a lot more through MSN and it just became a matter of right time and place for all of this to occur.

We had to wait a while before it all became a reality while Dave was in Korea drumming with NECRAMYTH and teaching… but when it boiled down to our first jam we all hit an instant chemistry and have been meshing well!

Speaking of Sault Ste-Marie, I've been trying to do some research, but I somehow don't manage to come up with any other Metal band from there… Is there any Metal around there?

Steve: The scene has died down for a number of years yet right now there are some bands emerging. They are in the process of playing covers and finding their own sound… but finally it appears we’ll have some company playing Metal in our city again.

And how about the fan situation, any bigger audiences?

Steve: The internet widespread of “Lux Aeterna” certainly has helped our fanbase grow. Our site has more and more unique visits per month and our Myspace is sitting pretty decent as well. We are all more than anxious to get on the road and really get back into a live scenario to amass a stronger, unified fan base!

How would a live show of GATES OF WINTER look like?

Steve: A GATES show is one full of intensity and fan interaction. We’re all big believers in the ‘performance’ aspect of playing live…replicating the CD doesn’t fit the bill for us. We’ve let fans make random noises during interludes on guitars, I’ve used my wireless and ran into the crowd and we all make use of the size of the stage to run around. It’s 110% every night all night or nothing at all with us. We love to see people enjoying it… and whenever we hit Calgary I am sure you’ll be able to see that!! AKA book us! =P

Do you actually get many chances to get on stage?

Steve: We’ve had many shows in the past, yet when you consider the geographic location of the shows… it hasn’t been anything crazy or widespread. As well as a few drummer changes… not good lol. With Dave now in the fold we are lining up shows and planning to play most of Ontario late August. We have all the means to tour and are ready and willing whenever and wherever to hit the road! We’d love to play Quebec, the Maritimes and eventually hit the West!!

What's your current goal for GATES OF WINTER? Are you gunning for a record contract or are you happy enough for now that you have a full album out?

Steve: I think over time this has changed quite extensively in my own mind. Initially I wanted nothing more than to just be signed by an Indie label thinking that was the best thing in the world. Then as we grew and began to learn the market a bit… we realized that as long as we could self finance and get shows booked, we were doing alright without.

Right now I would definitely say that we are very grateful to have finally completed the first album and have that out there. If a juggernaut Metal label came around and offered a fair deal with plenty of touring options, it would be hard to decline that. Currently my focus is to get the songs from “Lux” out there, into people’s minds… then come back with a much different, darker and heavier GoW2 disc that will really stick with the Metal community!

How has been the response for the album so far?

Steve: Overwhelming! We created this album with 4 years of [censored], glory and a plethora of emotion. We did not know what the hell to expect from it... yet the feedback has been outstanding. I undertook a lengthy marketing process in which I mailed to any Metal website with reviews, any magazine I could get the address for and any country that would take the disc. Nearly 7 months into the disc and things are still going well and positive feedback is still coming in our way. We’ve had the opportunity to connect with people all around the globe and build friendships with magazine writers and festival organizers. It truly has been the most gratifying moment of time in our career!!

Any kind of interest from labels in any way?

Steve: We have been offered distribution and signing deals from a few labels both Canadian and American.

Would you rather be no. 25 on Nuclear Blast or like no. 4 on a smaller label (given that you are a pretty young band still), what are you looking for in a label to begin with?

Lee: I’d rather be #1 and have slaves and a city like DETHKLOK.

What is GATES OF WINTER for you guys? Is it a band, where you can try to express yourselves musically, is it also something, where you can process personal problems, experiences, hopes or is it even more?

Steve: I can only speak for myself but… the band is everything to me. I’ve left University, made more personal sacrifice than I care to think and have dedicated every day to this project. It is a true release both in writing, studio and especially in a live scenario. It is one thing to view the band from the outside and speculate what they are doing but for musicians within… there are countless struggles involved. It takes much perseverance and dedication yet the outcome of knowing you have a family with these guys and have people who genuinely care far outweighs any 9-5 job you can throw at me! I’ve written lyrics which have poured my soul into the music and I’ve been touched by the hope and sheer force we’ve all grown into.

How would you yourself describe the band GATES OF WINTER in one sentence?

Steve: A band with diversity and numerous influences to produce a gothic, dark and melodic sound coupled with a live show that leaves you wanting a neck brace.

What made you start to play music and form a band in first place?

Steve: Oddly enough I fell in love with TENACIOUS D in 2003 and began to play acoustic guitar. No one I knew was a bassist so my buddy told me to buy a bass… I did… and discovered Metal! I’ve been into arts my entire life so bridging into music was a natural progression.

What do you do when you are not making music? Last time I checked bills didn't get paid by enthusiasm and creativity, they still want money…

Steve: When not making music eh… I’ve become an avid wing eater! I also manage a Black Photo location, work as a freelance photographer and cook when I have time.

What would you do, if you weren't able to compose music?

Steve: I would likely have gone into culinary school, completed my degree in Art History and moved to Italy by now.

Which album in musical history would you wish was yours and why?

Steve: Personally I gotta run with DREAM THEATER’s “Train Of Thought”. Everything about that album kicks you in the face and leaves you wanting more. I can still listen to that entire disc, not get bored and remain in awe at the technicality, musicianship behind it. How the [censored] did they write it in 3 weeks!?

How important do you think is the internet nowadays to promote an up and coming band, as in your case it has played quite a role?

Steve: I think the internet has to be nearly 80% of the battle. MTV is [censored], MuchMusic is all reality fluff. Between real Metal magazines, online webzines and the Myspace craze… that’s all we need! I followed the emergence of Houston band OUTWORLD, talked with their old manager for many hours on end and basically formulated a plan for us. I knew long before the album was out what I wanted to do. Researched labels and anywhere I could send our disc and went into full on manager mode once I had them in hand! You can achieve so much with a little knowledge, plenty of respect and a good Myspace lol.

What do you love to hate in the music industry?

Steve: Every time I hear a Top 40’s radio station I can’t help but cringe. I used to be a fan of alternative music back when OUR LADY PEACE was kickin’ the airwaves… but right now it all has one sound and very little diversification between the music, vocal stylings/sound and theme. Lame!

If time travel was possible, which historical period would you like to visit and why?

Steve: I would put myself at 16 years old in the 1950s. Gimme the cars and post war excitement! I’m ready to rock… then after a week I’ll hop in the DeLorean and visit the Wild West... wait..

What would you miss the most from our time?

Steve: Girls who knew what they were doing.

If your music was an emotion, what would it be?

Steve: Due to my head being wrapped around the new material – I would have to classify it as aggressive.

What is your opinion about internet radio?

Steve: I love it. It helps out bands and there are so many stations zeroing in on so many styles of any kind of music. I support it!

Now a section I like to call “Quick fire”, what comes to mind spontaneously for…

Heavy Metal?

Lee: Chick with big boobs riding some kinda wraith thing


Lee: Lip rings


Lee:..town is a burial ground


Lee: Poutine


Lee: Tramp Stamp


Lee: Again, poutine - here in Canada, poutine is a feeling


Lee: Unique hits


Lee: Awesome. YARR

What would you do, if you were sitting at the bar, Lemmy would come in, sit down next to you and order a big glass of milk?

Steve: Order Quik.

Lee: I'd buy him a jar of lemon juice to see if he'd drink it as well.

Just as a side question - what do you think about "The Metal Observer"?

Steve: The one thing I liked about TMO when I was heavy in research regarding webzines to ship our disc to – TMO updated daily. For a Metal fan who wants current reviews, up to date facts… not to mention a sheer abundance of both à TMO takes the cake.

To end this interview, I have my traditional last question: What is your favourite question about GATES OF WINTER that you have never been asked yet, but would finally like to answer?

Lee: My favorite question we've been asked is whether or not we had any grey poupon, and to answer…