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Kevin McCaughey Ion Dissonance interview

As we keep battering on about, we like to think we offer something a bit different when it comes to content. Sure, we do a bit of news here and there. We combine music and film. We review stuff and expose stuff and that’s all cool – but we’re always beavering away behind the scenes to bring you something a little bit different.

Well, here’s one of those pieces: an interview, conducted by recent Basick Records signing Dissipate, with Kevin McCaughey, vocalist of Canadian mathcore band Ion Dissonance.

Now, call us lazy if you will (editing and set-up aside, this is 2400 words that I’ve had no input into), but we think this is much more interesting: bands asking other bands questions about their experiences: tribulations they’ve faced, and how they were overcome; mistakes to avoid and ones to learn from; sharing viewpoints and whatnot.

So without further ado, here’s the interview: all four Dissipate dudes chatting to Kevin McCaughey of Ion Dissonance. Enjoy!

Ion Dissonance

How long have you been playing your respective instruments and what influenced you to play it?

I myself have been doing vocals for just over ten years now. Most of the inspiration came from many of the punk artists I listened to at the time: Russ from Good Riddance and Chris from Propagandhi have always been a driving influence for me. I do realize that the styles they play and what we do in Ion Dissonance are very different, yet they have nevertheless been huge for me. Jamey from Hatebreed has also inspired me.

As for the others, I know that all other Ion D members have been playing their respective instruments since their early teenage years – especially J-F (drums) and Tony (guitar) who I know have been playing for the longest possible time. As for them, they are both huge Meshuggah addicts as you can probably tell from the Ion Dissonance sound.

What record/album changed your life and influenced you to play music?

For myself, it was Good Riddance as mentioned previously. In ’96 they released A Comprehensive Guide to Moderne Rebellion. I remember the album was released just before my birthday. At the time I was just getting in skateboarding and my friends and I would head out to the park and blast the album all day long on my boom box. Two years later they released Ballads from the Revolution and that’s when I knew I wanted to play music. Those records sealed the deal.

What are the steps for song writing with Ion?

The steps are quite simple actually. Normally, Tony and Sebastien will get together to dish out new ideas. All ideas are recorded for future reference. The parts recorded are worked on and eventually turn into potential songs. From there, they are sent to both J-F and myself for our input. From this point, J-F works out his drumming patterns as he sees fit for the particular feel we are trying to convey for that specific song. He then resubmits his ideas to Tony for review. Once the song has been tweaked around to a point where we are for the most part satisfied, I come into the mix and add my input in terms of patterns and lyrics. When we got a solid song on our hands, we review and repeat the process until we are truly satisfied. For the most part, I am convinced that our writing technique is very similar to many bands out there today.

What was the first show as Ion Dissonance like?

To be honest, I was not a part of the band at that point in time. I did, however, get a chance to see Ion Dissonance live on numerous occasions within the first few months of the band’s existence. At that point in time, Ion Dissonance to me was literally way too heavy to describe. Obviously, the dudes were much younger than now, and the live show represented this statement well. Much like The Dillinger Escape Plan, Ion Dissonance was flying off the walls, waiving them guitars around like mad men. The shows were intense to say the least. By the time I came around, the band had settled down a little bit. Everyone seemed a little bit more concerned with playing as tight and straight as possible without pulling any joints. Not necessarily to the point where we are all standing still, but let’s face it, you cannot remain nineteen years old for your entire life.

If you weren’t playing music, what would you be doing?

This one is fairly easy to answer… I’d say we’d pretty much be doing what we are doing at the present time. I myself am working full time and have gone back to university part time. Sebastien [Chaput, guitar] is currently working in accounting for the same company as where I work. J-F [Richard, drums] recently got married and bought a home. He is also working full time, and Tony [Lussier, guitar] is hard at work doing what he loves in helping out bands with recording and writing advice.

Our current bass player Yannos works full time and is looking to start a family, and our previous bass player Xavier put himself through school and is also working full time. Sounds pretty boring huh? To be quite honest, we all loved life on the road, but there’s something about having a little bit of stability in your life that touring cannot replace. That, and being able to sleep in your own bed every night.

If you could form your own super band with ANY musician living or dead, who would it be?

I want to start a west-coast rap group with Eazy-E and Biggie. I realize Biggie isn’t considered west coast, but a dude can dream can’t he?

Looking back, is there anything you guys wish you had done differently? Why/Why not?

Most people/bands would say “do not look back and grieve over the past because it is gone” or “do not regret the things you’ve done” – however I feel that many people blur out such statements without really thinking it over. Like many people/bands, there are many things we are grateful to have had the chance to do and be a part of, and there are of course certain events which lead us to where we are today as a band (pretty much inactive with the exception of a handful of shows a year).

In any case, some of these unfortunate events could have easily been prevented if we had been aware at the time of the implications involved when these specific events were going down. Nevertheless, I believe we are all proud of everything Ion D has accomplished and are happy with our lives for the time being.

(If you noticed, I have done my best to avoid going into too much detail about which specific events I am talking about; I wouldn’t want to give anyone that type of leverage over us!)

Do you have any advice to offer some of the younger bands/words of wisdom?

How about we avoid the usual mumbo jumbo and cut right to the important stuff? I personally believe that as a band it is important to establish early on what the band is looking to achieve. This will help define the bands objectives as well as defining the band’s core values. Do you plan on singing on to a major label to make a load of money with your music, or would you rather go your own way and create and distribute music that makes you proud?

I am in no way stating that you cannot do both, yet too often in the past few years have we seen talented bands with so much potential get sucked into the vortex of label dictatorship to a point where the band in question goes from releasing some powerful music to some generic BS. Therefore, establish what you are looking for from the get go, and try to avoid letting anyone tell you what your music should sound like to turn people’s heads. Create music for yourself first and foremost.

What are the ups and downs of touring? Any tips for new bands hitting the road?

The only tip I can really give is to keep doing what you guys do. At first it’s always a hard process. Being away from your family, friends and girlfriends can take its toll on you. Also, having an unsteady source of income can lead to incredible amounts of stress. Just don’t give up or give in. If you put your heart and soul into what you do, it should eventually pay off. The idea is to be as real and sincere as you can be.

How important is it to have the right gear with you on the road?

For a lot of bands out there, equipment is everything. From guitar cabs, to guitar rigs, all the way down to the cymbals. I know of some drummers that refuse to play unless they are playing on their own kit. The same theory applies for many of the guitarists I know. Fortunately enough for Ion D, we are what you would define as a plug and play band. We don’t have any pedal boards, or any special rigs. Just Guitars, a Peavey guitar head, and noise suppressor pedals. In other words we keep it simple. When playing oversees, it can become quite expensive to try and ship all your preferred stuff so that you can be truly happy playing on your own gear. We like to keep it plain and simple and can adjust ourselves to playing on a certain set of drums or cabs without much trouble. I like to think we are easy going dudes who aren’t too picky about the right equipment.

Dissipate 2012

How are the fans in the US compared to other places outside of the US?

To be quite frank, the US was an awesome place for Ion Dissonance to play throughout our career. I feel, however, that as of late, Americans may have been a little bit spoiled with an over-saturation of mega tours, and shows – not to mention a ridiculous amount of reunion shows.

To be straight forward, I am in no way complaining about this. I myself have driven down to the states to partake in some of these shows. The point is that now that there is an over-saturation of bands since the internet revolution forever changed to face of metal, and that certain groups of people knew how best to take advantage of these new ‘’tools’’ used for promotion, people have grown less and less attached to some of the values which kids used to look for in an underground music scene. Unity and respect are old philosophies of the past that seem to have been thrown out. All this to say that, we love our American fans, and love to visit the country but for us, US shows aren’t what they used to be, and while I do admit we have our fair share of responsibility for this, Americans seem to have grown bored from choosing from ten to fifteen shows per month to attend. When I was younger and getting into metal, hardcore and punk rock, we were lucky if we had two shows in the same month. This does not seem to be an issue for European countries which we have visited. I guess the big tours out there are a fairly new thing which has only really taken shape in the last six to eight years.

Favourite country/state to play?

I seriously loved the European tours we were able to do. Going out there is always a pleasure for us. My Top 3 would include the Netherlands, Germany, and California (in no particular order). Any place filled with good food, good people, a friendly ambiance, and people who know how to party sounds good to us.

So when can we expect Ion in California?!

This depends on many factors. If it’s for a visit or vacation it may be sooner than you would think. For us to go out as a band and play a show seems doubtful for the near future. Maybe one day when an offer comes around that is too enticing to refuse. Let me state however that California has always been awesome for Ion D and it has, and will remain one of our favourite places to play. California knows how to party and the people are nice too.

How does it feel to have made such a good mark/impact on the metal scene?

I’m not quite sure about how much of an impact Ion D has actually made. Our previous US tour from 2010 was a pretty solid indication of this statement. After taking a few years away from the business aspect of the band, we came to realize how important our personal lives really are. Being away for roughly 3 years and then trying to come back to pick off where we left off was kind of a rude awakening for us. The scene had changed significantly and it seemed that what was once important in the underground music scene was now replaced by new styles, genres and most certainly kids who had no idea who we were, or what Ion D is all about. There will always be the diehard fans who stuck with us and showed us support even when we were closed off to the outside world. We will always appreciate the people who stuck by us through thick and thin.

How do you feel about the style of metal today and do you think it’s evolving?

I believe the state of metal today is evolving. In fact, like everything else, I believe it is in a constant evolution phase. If we break down the last 10-15 years we can see a definite shift in trends; mostly with newer bands, and the explosion of internet sensations.

If we look back to the late 90s there were a handful of bands who were trying the blur the lines between hardcore and metal – bands like Poison The WellKillswitch Engage, Hatebreed, One King Down, and so on. Obviously the internet was around in those days, but the game was much different than what we see today. There was no MySpace, Facebook, or even YouTube to help promote everybody’s brother’s band. Therefore, the bands which were popular got to where they were with hard work, touring and dedication.

Nevertheless, most of these bands were influenced by what was known as Swedish metal. A few years down the road, MySpace was in full effect and the scene evolved to what was known as the deathcore days. All new bands surfacing wanted to sound like a mix of death metal with some Swedish parts mixed in with some breakdowns. Bands like Despised Icon, Job for a cowboy, and Suicide Silence helped shaped the sound of metal for the next generation of metal heads. However, if a fan of metal were looking to start a band today, and wanted to incorporate pig squeals they’d probably looked down upon. Today’s new trend is to sound like a Meshuggah meets Candiria mix. I’m speaking about what trend hipster’s refer to as ‘’Djent’’. Oh god, I cannot believe I actually wrote that word in an interview.

The point I’m trying to make seems fairly clear enough. Like everything else, underground music is becoming more and more mainstream and kids are jumping on the bandwagon everyday trying to look as cool and tough as they can. On the other hand, older kids are leaving the scene on a daily basis as they grow tired of these trends.

Big thanks to both of the bands – check back in the future for more interviews like these, and let us know if you enjoyed it!

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