ION DISSONANCE VOCALIST KEVIN MCCAUGHEY: THE METALSUCKS INTERVIEW
Ion Dissonance are cursed, both figuratively and literally. Says vocalist Kevin McCaughey on the matter: “Anytime we try to get ahead in anything, there is always someone or something there to slow us down or get in our way.” Fittingly, then, their new album — which comes out today on Century Media — is called Cursed to reflect the band’s never-ending bad fortune. And also fittingly, the album leaked 40 days in advance of its release which created all sorts of problems for the band and their record label. Which is really too bad, because the album is excellent.
After the jump, check out my chat with Ion D vocalist Kevin McCaughey. We talked about the band’s bad fortune, the leak of Cursed, where they fit into today’s metal scene, and how the band’s approach to their craft has changed now that they’re all mostly in their 30’s and have wives/girlfriends, houses, and those most un-metal of daily chores: regular jobs.
You guys have an album coming out pretty soon. It’s called Cursed. Would you guys say that you are pretty much the most cursed band in all of metal?
In 7 days exactly. Next Tuesday [Today! – Ed.]. I don’t know if we’re the most cursed band because I’m not exactly sure what stories other bands have to tell, but I do know that if we called this album Cursed it is due to the fact that we are cursed in general. Anytime we try to get ahead in anything, there is always someone or something there to slow us down or get in our way. The French expression is [Speaks French], just to slow us down as much as possible. Obviously anytime something good was about to happen to us, something always comes up around the corner that’ll slow us down in another way. A perfect example is that our album release is set for next Tuesday, yet our album leaked all over the internet over 40 days ago. Everybody’s album leaks at one point or another, but 40 days before your release date is a hell of a lot of time. Obviously that is another perfect example of why we are so cursed.
If it leaks, it leaks. In certain ways it’s inevitable that the album is going to leak one way or another. You want to try and limit the amount of people that are going to download your album before it actually comes out. Once it comes out, download it all you want. The problem that we had with this time around is that since that album leaked 40 days before the actual release date, our pre-orders weren’t even up yet. There’s no way to get our pre-orders up, package deals, nothing was ready. That was kind of a piss off in a certain way. Yeah.
I heard also that the label was very upset about this.
I know that they were upset. I know that we were very upset in regards to this as well. I know that Sebastien got highly upset with Steve [Joh, A&R at Century Media] at some point in regards to this. The only thing we had asked the label not to do was keep a close eye on the amount of albums that we were sending out for press and so on. 40 days is a lot of time. Take the Acacia Strain for example. Their latest record dropped maybe 4 or 5 days before the actual release date. Why is it that ours has to drop 35 days more than they do? In a certain way it’s kind of a piss off.
What were some of the other challenges that led to this album? What things were looking great up until this happened?
To be honest with you, everything was not too bad with the recording of this album. In other words, what we did was 3 years ago we were all kind of fed up with the way things were going within the scene and so on. Because of that, we decided to go on hiatus for about 3 years or so. We basically all got full-time jobs, apartments with our girlfriends (whether it be mortgage or just regular rent) and so on. We decided to just stay home and spend a little time with our families, friends and so on. I guess we took some time off and stepped back to just go over everything that we wanted to live and the goals we wanted to attain as a band. Once we were ready to go again, then we got into the writing process for Cursed. I guess the time off really helped us out with the inspiration for writing the new songs on Cursed.
How is Cursed growth or change from the prior album?
Well actually, Cursed for us is . . . we like to call it the perfect blend of everything that we’ve done in the past before. In other words, the first 2 records (Breathing is Irrelevant and Solace) were concentrated on the . . . I guess you could call it mathcore I guess — fast, spastic, crazy and all over the place. The last record, Minus the Herd, was written because we wanted to go in a different direction but at the same time we wanted to keep the same Ion Dissonance sound which we had throughout previous albums. All we wanted to do was concentrate on recording an album that was more groove-infused there on Minus the Herd and that’s exactly what we did. It’s not that we didn’t like the direction we went in, it’s just that on Cursed we wanted to come back to the roots and basically combine the best elements of the first three records and kind of turn up the intensity a notch or two and go from there on out. I think that’s what we delivered with Cursed.
Not necessarily. To be honest with you, it’s kind of funny. We’ve been looking at comments and so on; since our album leaked 40 days in advance, that allowed us to go online and read reviews and comments. For the most part, we really like what we’re seeing in regards to the reaction for Cursed. At the same time, I find a whole bunch of comments from fans that are ticked off because they were expecting a Minus the Herd Part 2 and Cursed is far from being that. I guess you always get both fans. Some fans are happy and relieved that we’re coming back with a more spastic, fast-paced sound whereas other fans are a little bit disappointed at the fact that we’re not coming out with Minus the Herd Part 2.
I don’t think that it had anything to do with our influence on this record. I think us going back to our roots was just the fact that we always enjoyed playing fast and crazy songs live, and it’s been part of our live show. It’s not that Minus the Herd didn’t deliver that, it brought about a new fan base which was a little bit different — more hardcore oriented. What we want to go back and do is mix it up a little bit more and get everybody in together on this new one.
Do you tend to get caught up in what critics say or what random internet commenters say in terms of taking it personally, or are you able to let it glance off your shoulder?
To be honest with you, a lot of people will say that we’ll take it personally but Cursed was written as a big joke.
Everything written on Cursed — whether it be song titles or lyrics — are written in a way to say “hey, you know what? We really don’t care, and you might think we care because we’re writing an album on it, but we’re just having fun and don’t really care what people think or say about us.” We’re just there to have fun. We’ve been doing this for almost 10 years now, and whether people are going to like your album or not, there’s always going to be someone there to criticize. The way that we see it, “hey, if you think our album is not tech enough for you or not fast enough for you or it doesn’t sound like Solace enough, well that’s too bad. Come out and make a Solace Part 2 if you want.”
So now at this point in your career, 10 years in like you said, what is your goal both as an individual and as a band? You guys obviously aren’t going to be the next Metallica. How do you go into this in terms of your mental state?
Yep. Well actually I was just going to say that we’re not planning on being the next Metallica or anything like that. I kind of noticed that in the past we used to tour most of the year. We used to be out on the road all of the time promoting our albums and playing shows here and there and touring everywhere. As I said, the last 3 years have kind of helped us to focus a little bit more. We all know what we want and what we want is to be able to continue making the music we love and playing shows with our friends and so on but at the same time keeping a steady life at home. In other words, the only thing we’re looking for is to come out with an album every now and then.
Well, actually let me say this: to be quite honest, the part of Ion Dissonance that we like the most is recording, writing and recording. So what we want to do is write and record as much music as we can whether it be full-lengths or EPs and so on. We’ll record them at home and we’ll go out on 1 or 2 tours a year – an American tour and a European tour and then we’ll call it a day and see what happens from there. Now that we’re releasing Cursed in 7 days, and we’re heading over to Europe in about 2 or 3 weeks… we’re doing a month there, coming back and doing a month in the States and then we’re going to call it a year and see what happens next year. We’re not really looking for too much. We’re just basically taking it a day at a time and we’ll see what happens from there.
That’s great. What are your feelings on the fact that a lot of the bands that came up with you guys stylistically and at the same time have experienced a whole lot of success lately, such as the Acacia Strain, the Red Chord so on and so forth?
All the more power to them. To be honest with you, if you work hard and you persevere and you come out with good albums, there’s no reason why you couldn’t make it in the scene today. It’s not that we didn’t want to go that way, it’s just that (as you know) we have our own sound, we have our own style, and we don’t want to, I guess you could call it “sell out.” I’m not saying that those bands sold out or anything, I’m just saying that we’re not about getting as big as we can to have as many kids at our shows and sell as much merch as possible. We’re in it for the music that we make, and we love playing the music that we make and we’re not going to compromise that for fans or more attention.
Do you feel that taking these last few years away from the band had a positive impact on the music and the caché of the band — the public perception?
For us personally it has because taking some time off, as I said, if you’re touring 10 months a year and you’re always on the road with the same 4 or 5 guys all the time, eventually you’re going to get fed up with each other. The fact that we’re able to go back home and sit back and just spend some time apart and still come together on weekends and jam out songs and play random shows here and there, it kind of helped us a little bit. It kind of helped our relationships with each other, and in the end I think that we grew stronger as a band because of that. We’ll see what happens with the next few tours, but I feel a lot closer to the guys than I did 3 or 4 years ago. In that sense, I guess that helped us evolve. For us the result is visible on Cursed. The fact that we’re a lot more comfortable with each other kind of reflects on the music that we put out on this record.
Beyond this European tour and the U.S. tour that’s following, are you guys really going to try and take it easy on the touring this time around and try to spend more time at home working and with your families?
That’s a must. Most of the guys in the band are heading up in their 30s now. Obviously everybody is thinking about a little bit more of a serious lifestyle. I knew that I myself for awhile was thinking about settling down with my girlfriend and buying a house and so on. So obviously being out on the road 10 months a year wouldn’t have been the best situation for the both of us. I’m pretty sure a lot of the guys in the band feel the same way. Anyways, the touring game is not what it used to be about five or six or even ten years ago. We realized that and that’s partially why we’ve been off the road for the last few years. I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon, so there’s no point in us being out there 10 months a year when your best friend right now is how many friends you have on Myspace. We’re not a part of that and we don’t feel like being a part of that. Obviously we’re not going to fall into that genre or game there.
Are you saying that you feel like the bands that are currently successful on the road (for metal anyway) are ones that . . . well what are you saying? I’ll leave that open. What is it that’s different now about the live shows?
Ten years ago there weren’t that many underground bands. The popular ones were the ones out touring and making a name for themselves and busting their asses playing random shows here and there all the time. Those are the bands that you remember ten years later. These days it seems like there’s an over-saturation of bands. Everybody’s brother wants to be in a band. Most of the bands coming up these days that people find interesting are of the deathcore genre, and to be honest with you, I don’t have anything against that style of music but it gets to be redundant after awhile. The only thing that I’m saying is that when Myspace came around in 2005, that really blew these bands out of proportion. These days nobody cares about how many records you sell, it’s all about how many friends and plays you got on the site. Everybody knows, everybody knows that these sites draws are all halved because everyone has friend adders and everybody has people working their pages and doing promo for them and so on. It’s almost as if the scene has turned, not fake in a way, but almost. It’s not what it used to be.
That’s pretty much the vision we had with tours. All these bands that are getting huge these days, you listen to their music and a lot of these albums have a couple of good songs on them and there’s a lot of filler tracks and so on. Everything has to revolve around the same goal and purpose or as you just said “we’ll just take it a step further.” We’re just going to try and raise the bar as much as we can on our end and see what happens from there. It’s not an attack on anybody or an attack on anybody’s hard work or anything like that in terms of touring bands these days. It’s just that we’re kind of fed up with the way the scene is being run in general, and we’re just lashing out against that.
So let’s say you guys go out there [on this next tour] and people are just going insane for you and you’re filling venues every night and merch is just flying off the table. Would you consider keeping going on this album’s tour cycle?
I’m not sure we’d keep going on the tour cycle because as I said, we all have steady jobs. I for myself couldn’t put more than 2 or 3 months a year and the same thing with our new bassist and our guitarist Tony. They’ve got their own studio now. They got a lot of contracts coming in and so on. We’re just at a different point in our lives. We’re not 20, 22 year old kids anymore looking to tour as much as possible. We’re a little bit older now. We’ve seen the way things work. We want to have fun and go out a couple of months a year, but we’re far from wanting to go out 10 months a year like we used to. Things have changed a little bit, but to be honest with you, I don’t think we’re going to get as much success as some people think we should have because . . . well, this is our 4th album and it’s far from being the first tech album that we’ve put out. We’ve been cursed throughout the entire process, so I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
Well it sounds like you personally are in a pretty good and accepting place of your band’s place in the world.
We all are. We all know that we’re not going to get as big as a lot of these bands out in the scene are today. That isn’t our goal at all. We’re just trying to do what we like doing for the shows we like playing and we’ll see from there what happens.
Great. Congratulations on the new album. I certainly wish you guys the best. I think that the new album is awesome.
Thank you very much. I appreciate that.