SICK, MEAN & VICIOUS!
Interview By Kassu Kortelainen / April 2008
Touring the globe in support of their powerful concept album ‘Hell Destroyer’, american metal machine Cage promises to deliver their tough-as-nails screaming heavy metal to the masses with the ‘sikkest, meanest ‘n most vicious’ approach one could imagine.
On the eve of band’s April 2008 European Tour, Cage vocalist Sean Peck stopped at the heat of the Steel Mill to give an insight of band’s past, present and future.
Hello Sean, and welcome to K.K. Downing’s Steel Mill! How are things for Cage?
Great, we are heading off to Germany to play a quick run of shows. It has been three years since we have been there. Looking forward to going back.
Let’s start from the beginnings… In early nineties, in sunny San Diego, California – most of the new metal bands starting out were probably basing their sound on grunge or other more ‘modern sounding’ metal. Cage however, chose a more traditional sound, drawing influences from the metal giants of the 80’s. What were the elements of Cage’s birth and was it difficult to break through with the classic heavy metal in that time and place?
Well we formed in order to continue the great tradition of the classic heavy metal sound as we could not locate any new such music to satisfy our hunger. Sticking to our guns proved to be a great advantage for us because there was a power vacuum if you will for metal bands in southern California and our great draw as well as lack of competition allowed us to quickly play many high profile, huge crowd shows.
We had the opportunity to open for Judas Priest twice, Maiden, Dio, and every other band from that generation that you could think of. Not only was it a dream come true to be meeting and playing with all of our heroes, but it allowed us massive exposure which quickly propelled our popularity.
Who would have thought that twice I would have the opportunity to sit backstage with K.K. Downingand talk with him at length about everything. Not only is Priest my favorite band but K.K. was the coolest guy I have evr run across in all my years singing. That is the absolute unsolicited truth. What an honor.
photo © Claudia Rose
So what about the musical ‘ingredients’ of Cage? Any certain bands or artists you would consider your biggest influences?
Like I said Priest was number one. That is probably why I started singing. I credit some modern influences as we try to push power metal to the next level without losing the magic the Godfathers created. But mostly others like Maiden, King Diamond, Metal Church , W.A.S.P., early Queensrycheand Savatage, with some Dokken and Testament sprinkled in.
And now – looking back, most of those grunge bands born that time are gone and forgotten, whereas traditional heay metal is still going on strong. So apparently Cage hasn’t needed to regret following their chosen path?
No, that is the number one advice I give young bands. Don’t chase trends and just play for yourself and stay true to the sound that is in your metal heart. Following the mainstream has never worked and metal will be here 100 years from now.
So, linking the past to the present – Cage’s fourth album ‘Hell Destroyer’ was released in 2007. How would you say Cage’s music and style have developed during the years – starting from the beginning and culminating to the new album?
Well our first cd “Unveiled” was a very simple catchy classic heavy metal record that had some good timeless songs that still kick ass today. Unlike a lot of bands our first record was not our best and even though it was critically acclaimed and won us best new band of Rock Hard magazine in Germany that year, we easily bested it with “Astrology”.
“Astrology” was more aggressive and featured a new drummer who was instantly noticeable. My vocals grew considerably as did the song writing which was more progressive and power metal like.
“Darker Than Black” introduced current member guitar player Anthony McGinnis and that really allowed us to fully reach our potential and blossom as a vicious unrelenting metal force. That CD was considered by many to be our crowning achievement that many said surely we could never topple.
After three years of songwriting and a year of recording “Hell Destroyer” once again raised the bar and people have been raving about it. We have always had numerous Priest and Halford references which of course is the greatest compliment you could have, yet we have worked hard to show the influence but not sound like a copy cat. I can’t tell you how many “Painkiller2” comments we had from the various media reviewers around the world, amazing!
photo © Claudia Rose
“Hell Destroyer” is a concept album with a nice Cage twist… the story has a lot of often used characters such as the Devil and the Antichrist in it, but the setting overall is different and the story is refreshingly unique. Where did the idea come from and – without giving too much away – could you provide a small synopsis of what it’s all about to the readers who haven’t heard the album yet?
We wanted to do a concept album based on what I thought was the biggest concept of all, the end of the world and the battle between Heaven and Hell.
As you said this has been touched on many numerous times by multitudes of metal bands but I felt no one had ever taken the story and presented it in explicit detail from start to finish and beyond. That is what we did in music, interlude pieces, extra text in the booklet and a fully illustrtated sequence of killer comic art depicting the story. All of this should have been a double album but we crammed it into a 80 minute CD and a 30 page booklet.
The story has received great accolades which is very satisfying and the music we wanted to not slow down or relent. No slow atmospheric nonsense just blazing CAGE heavy metal. The story goes from the Crucifixion to the rise of the Antichrist through the New World Order to a demonic invasion of the Earth to the final evolution of man and ends up with the resurrection of Satan as the Metal Devil! Whew!!
How is it writing a concept album? Compared to a ‘normal’ album with individual songs, a concept album probably needs more thought to it?
It was hard and the way it all came together really was rewarding. I know I am biased but I believe it set a new standard for all concept metal albums to come from the songs to the packaging. It took a long time and was very expensive but our love of metal pushed us to greatness on this project.
Let’s stay with the lyrics a while longer – on many occasions Cage’s done a good job in keeping the lyrics intersting and away from usual clichés. For example on the ‘Darker Than Black’ album the songs such as ‘The Philadelphia Experiment’ or ‘Chupacabra’ take inspiration from interesting stories that still aren’t too widely used or known. What would you say are the essential factors in writing good heavy metal lyrics?
Yes, I am working on the new album now and clichéd topics are something I do not favor. I try to educate and entertain at the same time. Our songs have covered cloning, electronic eavesdropping, many conspiracy theories and stem cel medical advancements many years before they hit mainstream media. I am always searching for cool new topics but the chorus always has to have a hook and that is where clichés are useful.
photo © Claudia Rose
From lyrics to the music – a vital side of metal music is coming up with strong melodies, powerful riffs, good solos and effective song structures. Cage seems to have all those elements firmly in place album after album. How does the songwriting process of the band go?
The two guitarists and myself usually account for everything. We all get together in the same room and write as a unit three days a week. I feel that is a very important reason the magic we create is unique. We are not a super group that trades tapes and sound files across the internet. We have a definite chemistry that is captured as a unit that plays together in the same room. That to me is essential.
A twin-guitar assault that is one of the very backbones of this sort of heavy metal, is another key element. Was choice of having two guitarist an obvious one from the beginning and what do you see are the most important benefits of having a tandem of axemen on the band?
Well PRIEST is my guide. I cannot see it any other way. There are some times you wish you had three to add that extra harmony!
At this point I have to bring up the bonus tracks on the last two Cage albums. ‘Darker Than Black’ had a spanish version of Chupacabra and ‘Hell Destroyer’ features the song ‘King Diamond’ that is a fun one to listen, especially to a King Diamond/Mercyful Fate fan, due to numerous references to their classic material. Both songs are really cool in their distinctiveness. Any stories how you came up with the ideas of recording those?
I got to track my Spanish vocals with Roy Z which was very cool. He helped out a lot with “Darker Than Black”. He also did some sick leads on it. The spanish version I sing in spanish whenever we play Mexico which is quite a lot. They love it!
“King Diamond” was the first song we wrote when tackling “Hell Destroyer” and I thougt it was clever and would really be appreciated by the fans of KING. I was right as the song goes over great live and really is a cool headbanger
So, as we speak – Cage is just about to embark on an European tour. What are your expectations considering that?
We just want everyone there to know that it is highly likely they will be seeing a great deal more from us. We have an excellent live show and the song selection now from all the CDs makes for a brutal set. We also have some of the best backing vocals in the business which we work really hard at and adds an extra level of power. We just want to go over and kill!
And after that you’re resuming to tour the United States with some dates also in Mexico. From a band’s point of view, how do you see the metal scene of today in Europe and in America? Any big differences in for example what kind of metal is most popular at the moment or in the audiences?
We play nothing but all ages shows in the States and the metal scene has never been better in my opinion over here. Mexico to me has the best metal fans in the world, I am on record saying that. Europe of course is amazing and never disappoints. We shall see very soon! Ha!
photo © Claudia Rose
Cage’s been touring quite a lot through the years and must’ve seen more than a handful of memorable places during the travels. Any special gigs that have for some reason or other left a lasting impression for the band? In good or maybe not so good ways?
Of course the Priest shows were the best. San Diego has always been a great Priest town and just to share the stage with my idols was amazing and an honor which we hope to duplicate one day. Halford lives here now so that is also very cool. We just did two shows in Mexico with Mago De Oz and U.D.O.which were probably our biggest approaching 20,000 people and that was stellar!
You have described yourself as “the sikkest, meanest and most vicious heavy metal band in the world”. Listening to your albums also strongly implies that, but I guess that it’s the live environment where this promise is truly fulfilled? What would you say people can expect to see and hear when showing up to a Cage gig?
Well I touched on that earlier but we always try to steal the show no matter what and we have been successful in many different demographics. We have played many shows to big non metal crowds at county fairs and homeless veterans gatherings and huge military bases and have always done well. It is a combination of good songs and a friendly relaxed approach.
We really are very appreciative of all our fans and interviewers and radio interest. We really try to be a band of the people and make it a point to go out into the crowd after every show to meet and great all the cool fans and people. That is really the biggest reward to all of this.
And for those who want to witness Cage live also from their own sofa, a Cage live DVD has just recently been released, right? Probably a good place to start for those who are unable to get to the 2008 concerts?
Well it hasn’t been released yet, we pulled it back in order to make it, like all our other products truly a value and cram as much on it as we can. Keep an eye out for it!
photo © Claudia Rose
Alright, as the interview’s coming to it’s end – would you let us in on what’s the future holding for Cage?
We are working on the new one and will have it out in 2009 early. We are working on the DVD like we said and will probably play more shows and places this year than ever before
Thanks a lot for the interview! To close it down, any messages for the Steel Mill readers?
Well thank you for the attention and we are honored as huge Priest fans to be featured.
Check out the official website for more info on CAGE: