Cauldron – Interview with Ian Chains & Jason Decay

During a boozy night of New Wave Of Traditional Heavy Metal behaviour, the Metal Rules UK Team caught up with Toronto three-piece, Cauldron at their recent London gig – which also happened to be the first show on their current European tour.

You can read a review of the show here.

Moments before they took to the stage, we spoke to bassist/vocalist, Jason Decay and guitarist Ian Chains…

Metal Rules: I wondered if we could start with a quick check-in? It’s been a busy year…

Ian Chains: (Nods) Yeah, it got really busy!

Metal Rules: The new album has been out for a few weeks, this is the first date of your European tour… So, how does it feel to be a member of Cauldron, today, right now?

Ian Chains: A hell of a lot better than yesterday! We were completely fucked yesterday! We were in a total haze…

Jason Decay: Which is why we came (to the UK) a day early.

Ian Chains: But I think we’re over it – We slept for like, 12 or 14 hours or something, but we drank a lot too which kind of added to the haze… Maybe it helped. I don’t know.

Metal Rules: How was the flight in? We’re experiencing a hurricane in the UK right now…

Jason Decay: For us it was fine but our drummer came in on a different flight and said it was complete turbulence!

Ian Chains: He was on some shanty plane that was just jittering all over the place. Non-stop turbulence.

Metal Rules: Poor guy! Let’s move on. You’re all a long way from home right now so tell me a bit about home. What’s the music scene like in Toronto and how did you guys find your place in it?

Ian Chains: Well, it fluctuates. I’ve been living in Toronto for twelve years now and seen it all. There’s a whole bunch of bands, some of them are really good, and then they all break up and disappear and then there’s nothing…

Jason Decay: They come and go. As far as the group of bands we’re lumped in with, I think it peaked around five to seven years ago. It got a little over-crowded and then the weak bands just died off!.. but as far as touring bands goes and music in Toronto, I find it’s very spoilt. Like, there’s more than enough touring bands coming through and local bands… There are lots to do. There have been times when I would complain that there were too many bands and too many shows! I can’t keep up with all this shit! Haha!

Ian Chains: I used to live in Vancouver and I was jealous of Toronto because so many bands would skip Vancouver to go there! I guess it just wasn’t worth it to go to Vancouver.

Metal Rules: What was your first experience of going out and seeing bands. Were you a band first, who started to gig… or did you see shows and THEN decide to form a band?

Jason Decay: I’m originally from a small town, closer to Ottawa and I used to drive down to Toronto to see big shows because Toronto and Montreal would be the closest place big touring bands would come. I used to go there to see club shows and eventually moved down there with my band because we thought it would be a good place to make a name for ourselves. We moved there to do music and kinda got stuck. This is back in a time when you could go and see a band like Armoured Saint or Udo play for 30 people! Bands didn’t like it too much, but it was great for the fans because it was so intimate.

Metal Rules: What are hometown shows like for you guys?

Jason Decay: For Us? We just played there last weekend. We played a small, tiny, underground venue and packed the shit out of it! About 150 people.

Ian Chains: And we will never play (in our hometown) more than twice a year. There are bands that play almost every weekend and nobody cares, nobody goes. What’s the point?

Jason Decay: We play very modest venues so we can make sure it’s gonna be nice and packed.

Metal Rules: You keep it exclusive?

Ian Chains: Yeah… Our release show was on the same night as Tribulation’s, which kinda sucked but Tribulation came down to see us! We were hanging out earlier in the day and thought if the band would come down their fans would come down too. But, yeah. We made it work and it was a good show. But… never more than twice a year!

Metal Rules: And as far as this current tour goes, are you going back to venues you’ve played in before? –  Are there any dates/venues/cities you are looking forward to more than others? 

Ian Chains: It’s half and half. We’re playing the same venue in Hamburg for the sixth time or something, but we’re also playing some places in Poland that we’ve never been. We know that there are people in Poland that wanna see us and there is a bunch of shows in Germany in places we’ve never been, and we’re going to Prague which has ALWAYS been good for us. There’s no Sweden this year, which sucks, but it’s expensive to get out there and shows are hit and miss. You gotta be playing on a Friday or Saturday night and if you’re not, the show will suck. People don’t leave the house during the week! But Poland, that’s where we’re looking forward to the most I think.

Metal Rules: And let’s talk about the new album. It’s out now. How did it come together? – What’s your writing process?

Jason Decay: Sometimes I’ll write and demo complete songs by myself at home. That’s maybe two or three songs but everything else is based on Ian’s riffs and getting together either at the jam space or at my house. We’ll demo songs, just me and him. I’ll play the drums and he’ll play the guitar and I’ll overdub some bass.

Ian Chains: Some of the stuff on the album came from ideas we had before the previous album was released. We start working on stuff… y’know – we’ll have an album recorded, it’s not out yet, but we’re gonna start working on new stuff. We don’t wanna sit there and do nothing so we’re always working on potential new songs.

Metal Rules: And you used a producer this time around – Am I right in thinking this was the first time you’ve used one?

Jason Decay: We’ve always had a co-producer at the very least, but this time we went full-on – “let’s try and see it through to the end.”

Metal Rules: How was that experience?

Ian Chains: It was amazing! I don’t want to be the guy telling Jason, “No, do it again, do it again, do it again!” I’d rather pay someone to do that. If it’s somebody’s job to do that, then you can’t get mad at them – but if it’s me, and I’m not getting paid to tell him to keep doing a vocal take over and over again, it just causes extreme frustration and stuff gets smashed! Haha!.. But it goes both ways. Nobody wants to be told by their bandmate that they’re not doing something properly.

Jason Decay: Also, we hire someone for the way they can coach a performance out of you, maybe in a way that we can’t do ourselves. We’ve always had that sort of help but we’ve never had someone to see it right through to the end.  We always ended up settling for lesser takes – or at least, we have in the past. On this record, we recorded less music but we really focussed on it and put it under the microscope.

Metal Rules: Do you think it’s an approach you would use again?

Ian Chains: Absolutely. I wouldn’t go back.

Jason Decay: It cost us more money to record less music, but you can hear the difference when you compare our records. And at this point in our career, who knows how many more records we’re going to do, so I wanted to have at least one record that I could listen to!

Metal Rules: So how do you feel about your previous records?

Jason Decay: (Sniggering) Ah, they get worse as they go back in time! Haha! I think our songwriting was always good, but our performance was often under par!

Metal Rules: Is there anything left in the vaults from this session that you haven’t included on the album? – Anything for fans and collectors to look out for – future B sides, etc?

Jason Decay: There was a Dokken cover, an AC/DC cover and a Savatage cover from a different session. We mixed the Dokken song as a bonus track for this record, but it was never used.

Ian Chains: We generally don’t have extra songs left over. We just take what we have and work on that and if we ever do have extra stuff, it’ll be a cover.

Jason Decay: We’ll maybe throw a couple of those onto a bootleg seven inch next year.

Metal Rules: And since you’ve been making records, have you seen many changes in the industry?

Ian Chains: Oh, there is no industry any more. Unless you’re playing pop music or you’re a Soundcloud rapper. There’s no use for it. You can do it all yourself

Jason Decay: You just have to have good songs, a good recording and a good work ethic.

Ian Chains: And there’s always a buzz about some band on Bandcamp. It seems to me like cooler bands who seem to be going somewhere always started on there as far as metal bands goes.

Jason Decay: And we’ve seen recording advances go down. We’ve been a signed band for ten years now, and for each record, it seems the advance gets smaller. That’s why we’ve started doing our own records and licensing them.

Metal Rules: Indeed! And on that note – your new album is called New Gods. Does that refer to anything or anyone specific? – Who ARE the New Gods? 

Ian Chains: Well, the new Gods are not people. It’s a reference to the negative aspects of our life that have been hanging over us for the past two years. We seem to have a lot of bad luck, so it’s a reference to that. Everything started when we flipped our van over. I got fucked up

Jason Decay: As soon as our last record came out, we headed out on a seven-week tour and we couldn’t even finish it. We had to go home, Ian spent a week in the hospital and then had six months of rehab – We’d just got the ball rolling and it all just fell apart, right off the bat. We were off to a good start, the record was doing really well. It was just a really major set back for us.

Ian Chains: And that’s what the album title means, I suppose. New Gods are our bad luck, negativity, depression, everything that was making our lives shit for the past two years… But it’s all kinda reversed itself.

Metal Rules: And how does something as significant as the accident affect the ongoing functioning of the band? – I’m thinking in terms of getting back out on tour again, performances… everything. Is there a difference?

Ian Chains: Yeah, it put the band on hiatus. We couldn’t tour, we couldn’t rehearse. I couldn’t even sit there with a guitar – it just didn’t work.

Metal Rules: How did that feel?

Ian Chains: It was terrible. I mean, I dealt with it and it’s over now…I didn’t really enjoy sitting in a van again. That took me a while to get over and there was a lawsuit that lasted longer than my recovery. That was annoying. I’m just glad it’s all over.

Jason Decay: I think we were pretty fortunate in the grand scheme of things. We were back on tour by October… and, y’know… one of us could have died.

Metal Rules: It sounds like an incredibly tough time. Is that the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a band in terms of keeping the things operational?  Have there been other difficulties?

Justin Decay: Getting off Earache records! Having to finance a new album while switching labels. That was a tough year. The last two albums we’ve had to pay for ourselves, up front.

Metal Rules: And does any of that diminish your enthusiasm at all?

Jason Decay: I think it’s a slower process, but I think there’s more motivation because you’re going to see a bigger return in the long run. There’s more incentive to get behind it because you’re going to see the rewards of your hard work.

Metal Rules: What else motivates you? What do you guys listen to for inspiration? Give us some musical recommendations.

Ian Chains: My favourite band of all time is probably The Wipers. Greg Sage is one of my favourite guitar players and songwriters; I’m completely obsessed. I love New Wave and I’m really getting into New York hardcore now, but I still listen to metal all the time – every day.

Jason Decay: I just rehash all the same records that I did as a kid! The last new band I got into was called Vandallus and that was three years ago!

Ian Chains: It’s the guitar player from Midnight’s new band.

Metal Rules: …And I understand you are both fans of vinyl.

Ian Chains: Absolutely

Jason Decay: Ian owns a vinyl record store!

Ian Chains: Yes; and that’s why we went to Crypt Of The Wizard today. I only buy records. I buy tapes too – I don’t buy CDs. Records are my thing. I buy them, I sell them… (Chuckles).

Metal Rules: Do you have a prized possession as far as vinyl goes? – What’s the one record you would run into a burning building to rescue?

Ian Chains: I have an original Razor – Armed & dangerous EP; self-released by the band. That’s probably the most valuable record in my apartment. I’d grab that… then sell it to buy some cheapo records! Start my collection again.

Metal Rules: And what’s the most you’ve ever spent on one record?

Ian Chains: I spent $75 on the first Savatage record, original press – which generally sells for twice that!

Metal Rules: And with regard to the shop, how is business?

Ian Chains: It’s good! It’s definitely the right city to be in, and it’s close to other cities too, so any bands coming through, we get to sell stuff to broke-ass band members – We’ll take them for a ride! Haha!

Metal Rules: And when you’re not working hard – What do you guys do to unwind.

Ian Chains: Well, I do two other bands and I’ve got the record store, so I’m pretty busy.

Jason Decay: I just work a lot!

Metal Rules: Is that difficult to balance? Day jobs and music.

Jason Decay: Really difficult. Especially lately because work’s been busy and the band’s been busy. There’s not enough time… but, you get through it. I like to watch 80s wrestling. I’m expanding my knowledge of 80’s wrestling, just for my own brain.

Ian Chains: I’m working my way through Star Trek The Next generation right now. It’s the show with everything! It’s funny, it’s got sexy bits! There’s always another episode where everyone on the Enterprise is horny again because of some alien virus! It’s like a classic episode scheme… “Uuhhh, we’re about due for another ‘horny’ episode! – Picard’s horny again! Even Data’s horny as a robot! How did Data get horny?!

Metal Rules: Ha! and on that note, is there anything you want to say before we sign off and let you get back to it?

Ian Chains: Check out the album. Listen to it on Spotify for free and then go and buy it! Also, check out this band from Toronto called Freeways. They have a seven inch out and they are working on getting their first album out. They sound like UFO meets Budgie and Blue Oyster Cult and they have really good songs.

Jason Decay: And Vandellus! – But mostly, New Gods.

Metal Rules: Thank you, guys. Have a great show! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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