Certain Hardcore Elements: Ion Dissonance Do It Their Way
Interview by Shawn Jam Hill
The metal world can be an overcrowded miasma of no-hit wonder grinders shamelessly thrashing out the same breakdowns and attitude to an audience of audio sheep content with recycled riffology.
Thank Lucifer for Montreal’s Ion Dissonance, an incendiary band for whom jaw-dropping technicality and inhuman brutality coalesce into sheer auditory chaos leaving the listener no choice but to be floored. Their latest slab, Cursed (Century Media), is a whirling dervish of neck-snapping metal as on the blistering “After Everything That’s Happened, What Did You Expect?” (a succinctly pissed-off break-up song if there ever was one) and funerary dirge on the cheekily titled “We Like To Call This One…Fuck Off!” ,a snarling pounder that showcases vocal tiger Kevin McCaughey’s well-honed war cry. Throw in the technical pummeling drummer Jean-Francois Richard metes out to his kit and the twin guitar assault of Antoine Lussier and Sebastien Chaput’s swirling, scratchy style and you’ve got a band that truly stands apart from the horde.
Metal-Rules.com recently caught up with the affable vokiller shortly before the band departed for Europe for a string of shows via phoner to talk about the making of Cursed, plans for the future and why writing mind-numbingly acerbic and angry lyrics at work can really get the job done.
Can you tell me about recording Cursed and now getting to the point where you’ll be touring behind it?
Well actually, the process for us lasted about 2 years or so. The actual composition for the album itself was probably about a year’s time pretty much done by [guitarists] Sebastien and Tony and [drummer] JF on random weeknights and so on and just get together and jam out a few riffs or so. That lasted about a year’s time to pretty much build up the bulk of 10 or so songs. After that, once everything was done, that’s when our fine-tuning came about. I guess when fine-tuning comes about, what you gotta do is go over each and every single part and work it and tweak it until it sounds exactly the way you want it. Once the finished product was done and they hand the songs over to me, I gotta work out patterns and lyrics and concepts and so on and after that comes the recording process. And you probably already know, we recorded this album with the help of our guitar player and bassist, Tony and Yannick, and we did record this album in Montreal so that also gave us a lot more time than just sitting in a barn or in a studio for about 3 weeks, making sure you get everything you put in your album. We took our time and we did things the way we wanted to do it and the finished product is exactly where we want it to be so I guess it turned out the way we wanted it.
Was extra studio time a luxury you haven’t had in the past?
Exactly. Normally, when you’re going into the studio, well for example, I’ll give you an idea. On Solace (2005) and Minus The Herd (2007), the band pretty much wrote the songs in the van while on tour. Back in that time, the band was out touring 7 months a year and that didn’t leave much time at home to actually come together and create songs and whatnot. Most of the writing was done in the van in between long drives and, once that was done, lyrics and concept and so on come after that and then we gotta hit the studio. For Minus The Herd, we recorded that one at Zeuss’ studio in Massachusetts and, as you know, time is money so we had to get everything in as short of an amount of time possible so at least that way the costs will reduce to produce your album. At the same time, you don’t want to leave out any elements so it’s always a struggle. With this one, we just took our time and I guess everything paid off for us.
How different do you think the music came out? The songs seem more terse while Minus The Herd seemed more sprawling.
There’s a little bit more structure on Minus The Herd than the 2 previous albums. You can tell right off the bat it’s not as chaotic as the 2 previous records. Minus The Herd concentrated on actually building songs instead of just cramming a million riffs into one song. We sort of kept that aspect for Cursed. We wanted to create songs but bring back a little bit of that chaos, that craziness that previous albums had and by doing so, I wouldn’t say we’ve shortened the songs. There are a few songs on Cursed that reach the 5 minute mark. At the same time, there are songs that are fast, chaotic, pissed-off, right to the point. And then the song is over with. We kind of blend in those elements together very well, I hope we do.
What kind of touring cycle are you guys leading up to?
We leave on September 9, we grab a plane, we’re heading out to Europe for 24 shows, we’re pretty much hitting up the UK, Eastern and Western Europe and then we head over to Russia for a few dates and that will be our first time out there so we are all really excited about that. Once that’s done, we’ve got a 6 week run in the U.S. so we’ll be out on the road until the beginning of December. We’ll see what the New Year has to offer after that. One thing we’ll be doing differently this time: I don’t think we’ll be going out on the road as much as we used to. We are all about 30 years of age; we’ve got jobs, rent, houses and so on. We’ve got to take things a little bit more seriously than we did when we were 22 or 23.
It seems you were a bit off the map for the last couple of years. Is that the case? Am I just confused?
I guess you could say that, in a way. Basically, we didn’t neglect the U.S. and Europe, it’s just that our work permits expired and we were in limbo with our record company. Our bass player at the time, Xavier, he left the band to get married so we were a four piece for awhile and our guitar player Sebastien took over duties on bass. We just kinda stayed home around Canada and played shows in Quebec and Ontario, just certain shows to pay bills and so on. Most of the time we kept concentrating on writing a new record, we weren’t too rushed about it. Touring all the time will eventually catch up to you I guess so being able to stay home and watch hockey games and hang out with your friends is kinda nice too.
Will your new home with Century Media entice you guys to get out on the road like crazy again?
I guess that all depends on how well our record does.[Laughs] I guess we’ll see how the record sales do, how much the kids, the fans like the new album and we’ll start off by seeing how our shows in the U.S. and Europe go in the next few weeks. If that motivates us at all, we’ll be happy to get out there and, if not, it will be what it will be. We aren’t too worried about that.
How do you find your reception in the States? Some bands say it’s not all what it is cracked up to be…
It all depends what scene you are playing in, what type of shows you’re going to be playing and, for us, I’m excited to see what it’s going to look like myself. Last time we were there was in 2007 and we had just finished doing a tour with Bury Your Dead and Bring Me The Horizon, that was the last tour we did and that got a pretty sweet response, we really enjoyed that tour. Before that, we were doing the Summer Slaughter tour, the first edition, that was an insane tour for us. The reaction there, that was right when Minus The Herd came out so we were looking for a new fan base and we started to get new fans and a new genre of fan coming to our shows and that was very helpful for us, I guess. We are trying to attain the most amount of people possible with our music. We didn’t neglect the States, we just stayed home and did our own thing. By doing so, I really do not know what to expect next month when we head over there, y’know? The kids that were into that style of music 3 or 4 years ago might not be there anymore so obviously we’re gonna have to start over from scratch in certain places.
Ion Dissonance can play with a hardcore band; you can play with a Death Metal band. Have you consciously done that or is your music just what ends up coming out?
Yeah, the music we make just ends up coming out and due to that I guess we kind of just fit in everywhere and ,at the same time, we don’t fit in anywhere. I can’t say that we sound like too many bands. We have our own style, our own tuning, our own sound and we play our music the way we want to play it so we don’t necessarily sound like a hardcore band yet we do have certain hardcore elements, we don’t sound like a death metal band yet, once again, we have certain elements in our music as well. I guess it’s just fun for us, we’re kinda spastic and all the way out there.
Where does that influence come from for you guys?
[Laughs] I can’t necessarily say where it comes from. Our most obvious influences are ones that people always notice and always note: Meshuggah and Dillinger Escape Plan. Everyone sees Dillinger in our spastic side and there’s no denying that groove, that sound that Messhugah has influenced on us in the songwriting.
I recently interviewed dudes I assume you guys know, Beneath The Massacre. How much does the fact that you are part of the NWOMDM (New Wave Of Montreal Death Metal; I just made that one up!) influence your sound? Is it just a coincidence you are from Montreal?
I think it’s just a coincidence we’re from Montreal. The thing is here, everybody knows everybody. Everybody is friends with everybody. All the bands coming out of Montreal today whether it be Cryptopsy, Despised Icon, Beneath The Massacre, us or some of the more recent up and coming bands that are coming out of here, every now and then we all tend to get together and hang out and I can’t say we influenced our music because we all have our own different styles and our own different sounds but I guess part of the friendship aspect comes into play as well.
The underlying current is that bands help each other out. Have you guys been helped out over the years?
For sure. We’ve helped out bands, bands help us out. We’re all a gang of friends, brothers and so on and when we get a chance to hit the road with friends, we take it. We went out on a few tour dates with our buddies in Beneath The Massacre last week in the Maritimes. It was a question of they needed to fill a gap in their schedule and we wanted to play shows so we just got together and kinda made it happen. It’s always a lot of fun for us to play with those guys, with any band from Montreal.
I’ve seen Ion Dissonance a couple of times and, prior to shows, I’ve always thought you look like a mild-mannered dude but, when you hit the stage, you explode. Where does that come from?
I guess just getting up there on stage and having all those people in front of you and then having the band start up those songs, it just kind of gets to you at a certain level. I have to mention, I am not an outgoing person, I am mostly calm and reserved and I don’t speak out too much I just kinda sit back and do my own thing. I guess going up on stage is a way for me to release that negative energy, those negative thoughts that buildup in a certain amount of time.
In your day to day rock star life, do you have an employment that forces you to channel anger into your music?
Basically, I manage a service centre. There are multiple divisions: air conditioning, dehumidifying and, at the same time, outdoor leisure such as spas and gazebos so I guess that could come into play. When you are running a service centre, the only time people are gonna call you is when there is a problem. There can never be good news: It’s always bad news. Everyone’s complaining, people yelling, wanting their hot tub fixed and so on so obviously, after a certain amount of time, I guess that can come into play. Depending on how my week went, how my employees were, that can also lead to if I go crazy or not. Personal relationships tend to get to you, to get the best of you at points and that’s the best way to let ‘em out.
I read a review of Cursed in Decibel magazine where it basically took the song titles and transcribed them onto office culture and ,to paraphrase, says ‘Frontman Kevin may be living in a cubicle near you and he’s about to explode’ Are you bogged down by daily life? Do you have to get up there and let ‘er rip just to maintain your sanity?
To be honest, the lyrics for Cursed were written this winter and they were all written at the office. I have to admit, when you are working air-conditioners and spas and so on, the winter season is pretty much dead season and there’s not too much going on. That gave me a lot of time to come up with lyrics and, at that point, there were certain things that were ticking me off and that I wasn’t too pleased with and I guess they influenced me to come out with some of the lyrics.