INTERVIEW: Kevin McCaughey – Ion Dissonance

After a six-year break since their last studio album, ION DISSONANCE have risen from the depths once more with their latest album, Cast the First Stone.  We caught up with the Canadian outfit’s vocalist, Kevin McCaughey, about getting back into the studio, the deathcore scene, and what’s next for the band.

First off, it’s been six years since Cursed was released. How come there was such a long break before releasing Cast the First Stone?

Kevin: Well, first of all, we knew that we wanted to take a break after we released Cursed, and the thing is we didn’t necessarily know how long it was going to be. But let’s just say that the reception for our album was good, the European tour was also a lot of fun, the dates we did in Russia and so on. When we got to the United States we did notice that the scene had changed a lot since the last time we had been there, and the experience was OK but it wasn’t what we were used to. Coming home after the tour cycle for the album [Cursed], we decided that, you know, being older than we were when we were younger and releasing albums back to back, we felt that we needed a little bit of time off to recharge the batteries and concentrate on personal aspects of our individual lives for a little while which is exactly what we did. I for one went back to school and took on university courses; our drummer [Jean-Francois] got married; three out of us got mortgages and purchased our first homes. So, we just basically concentrated on ourselves and our careers and whatnot, our professional careers outside of music for a little while.  And I have to say, the first songs for Cast the First Stone started coming together around 2012 or so, it’s just only around the summer months of 2015 that we actually got into the process of creating new music and taking it seriously to the point we’re saying “Let’s put out this record sooner than later”.

So how did it feel to be back in the studio making music again after such a long time?

Kevin: Honestly, it felt great. To be honest with you, as I mentioned earlier, we’re a little bit older than we were when we were younger and doing this full-time, which means at this point in time, it was just easier for us to take a different approach to it. At this point in time, we do prefer creating music, recording it and putting it out, a little bit more than actually being on the road. I guess that could just be part of the fact that, as I mentioned, we’re all doing our individual thing, we all have our own careers, and our own lives at this point, and the creation or the artistic aspect of the business is what we appreciate most at this point in time. So, to be able to get our feet back in the studio and work together as a band felt great.

After being in the studio, did you feel like there was a lot of pressure on you to create the album?

Kevin: The pressure came from ourselves. It wasn’t so much from the fans or whatnot because at the point when we started creating this record, we didn’t necessarily have a label backing us considering our deal with our previous label had come to an end by the time we released Cursed. So, there was no pressure per se from the industry or from the fans because we said that once Cursed and the touring cycle were over, we were going to release another record, and the number of times we said that, I guess our fan base kind of stopped believing us. Considering that, as you mentioned earlier, it was six years’ time since the previous record, so we were just doing our own thing and then the pressure stopped being there. We figured, you know, “let’s do something, let’s come up with the best response to the previous album we put out and come out with the next logical step in the ION DISSONANCE discography”, which is what we put pressure on ourselves trying to do. We just wanted to create something that was up to par with what we had done in the past, and was a logical continuation of the previous work we had also done in the past.

That makes sense, and I can tell you it’s a very good album!

Kevin: Thank you very much, we worked hard enough on it!

So, about the album itself, can you tell us a little bit about the writing and recording process?

Kevin: For the recording process, I’d have to say the previous records were pretty much similar to this one in the sense of its composition when the songs start coming together. The core of the band has always been the drummer [Jean-Francois] the guitarists Sebastian [Chaput] and Antoine [Lussier], and they’re the main writers for the band and have been since the band’s inception about 15 years ago. So, what they’ll do is sit together and they’ll toss around ideas, and they’ll work out songs and at that point in time, I will listen to it and whoever our bassist is at that point will also give it a listen and we’ll add our opinions to say you know, “this specific section we don’t necessarily like as much” and whatnot. But we pretty much let them write and compose the songs. I myself come in at the end of the process, where I’ll get the complete body of work, and then I’ll sit down and I’ll listen to it numerous times back and forth and I’ll just get a different feel for each one of the songs, and then we have to start thinking about the different types of moods that are going around on specific songs. And that’s where I figure out what topic I want to write for that particular song. If something is more broody then I want a topic that’s a little bit more depressed or whatnot, if something is a little bit more aggressive then I’m going to want something that’s a little bit angry, and then from there I start composing and start laying down ideas for the tracks.

Bouncing off that, what would you say the main concept or messages are of the album?  What do you want to put across?

Kevin: It’s a little bit different from what we had done with Cursed. When I was writing Cursed, I was going for something that was a little bit more based on troubles and the issues that we faced as a band. I mean, it’s no surprise that, you know, throughout our history the band has been pretty much cursed, I mean even at this point in time some of the things we’re going through right now, things are always more complicated than they should be. And when we were writing this record, I kind of wanted to step away from that, and maybe go at it on a more personal level. I wanted to talk about certain aspects or things, and again it’s part of my individual life and the individual lives of other members of the band, but I went at it more on an individual basis. We wanted to talk about things that most people go through in their lifetime, you know, different struggles or different troubles that people go through, whether it be with friendships, co-workers, whether it be with relationships. I guess it’s more personal for me than the previous records in the past were.

So you feel like that’s something people will relate to in a way?

Kevin: Yeah, as I say, this is my third record with ION DISSONANCE. We did Minus the Herd and Minus the Herd had a whole concept behind it, and Cursed had a concept as well but it was more based around the band itself and the struggles we went through, whereas Cast the First Stone is more personal struggles and the bands struggles. On that sense, I feel like a lot of people can relate to it because I’m sure that some of the topics or things that I’m going through on this album, a lot of people have already gone through in their own individual lives.

Going off that, what are your main goals for the album?

Kevin: I have to say that my main goal for it is somewhat already accomplished. I mean, for me, I was in a difficult point in my life about a year or two ago, and by the time we started writing and doing these songs I had a lot of, I guess, negative energy to get off my chest and to get out in the open. And as you mentioned before the recording process for this album felt good mostly for the fact that, you know, to get back there in the studio and to leave all that in the microphone and *laughs* get all that out onto the record, it just kind of cleared the air for me and allowed me to move on and to kind of close that chapter of my life, and progress anew again.

So, where did the title for the album come from?

Kevin: Obviously a lot of people are going to draw reference from the Bible, and it’s a passage in the Old Testament obviously about casting the first stone. But the idea or concept that I was going with is basically with regards to the second chance given to the adulterer in the story pulled from the Bible. I’m just going to put it out there and say that ION DISSONANCE is not necessarily a religious band, and none of the titles or the subjects that we’re going for in this band are actually religious at all, it’s just that on this record, as I say, it’s mostly in regards to leaving the past behind and starting over again. And that’s basically where the title Cast the First Stone came from, it’s just basically the second chance given to the adulterer. I mean, we’ve all made mistakes, we’ve all sinned, but at some point in time if you can leave the past behind and start over fresh, that’s pretty much the concept coming through on the entire record, and that’s why the name was chosen after all.

Moving on from the album itself so to speak, ION DISSONANCE and bands like DESPISED ICON were big in the deathcore movement of the early 2000s. How do you feel the scene has developed since then and how does it compare to now from when you first started?

Kevin: Jeez, that’s a good question. It depends on whereabouts you’re located to be honest with you, but we have noticed a major shift in the scene. Like anything in life, I guess we find out as we go along, but there’s a constant evolution going on and the fan base just seems to regenerate itself with newer kids that are coming into the scene, while a lot of the older guys or girls are stepping up and moving on with their lives. We came to that crossroad ourselves numerous times a few years ago, and we decided to stick to it and come out with another record six years later, but the one thing we did notice is a lot of the people that knew us back then, they might still know us now but they might not be as involved in the scene as they were in the past. What I can tell you is that, you know, when ION DISSONANCE played a show, kids would come out to the show, buy the merch, hang out, and they’d want to be there. Whereas now we’d play shows and it’s relatively new faces that are there or people that we’ve never seen before. There’s a new fan base coming along, and I guess ours may be a little bit smaller, that could be due to the fact that there’s maybe an over-saturation of bands and tours coming through on a weekly basis in various towns across the world. But as I say, the newer fans that like us, they haven’t necessarily seen us before, and that is partially due to us and the fact that we were mostly inactive and didn’t give any signs of life. I mean we are fairly conscious that we did have a large role to play in the fact that our fan base has diminished somewhat due to the fact that a lot of the people that liked us before may have moved on to bigger and better things, and we’re just coming back now after six years. So, we’ll take it head on and we’ll do our best to get our fan base to where it was before.

Do you feel like it’ll be hard to get back out there again, with the over-saturation of bands and with ION DISSONANCE being away for a while?

Kevin: Yes and no. I’d have to say that when ION DISSONANCE was around more often than we are now, the major trend in the music scene seemed to be, as you mentioned before, deathcore, you know, blast beats, guttural vocals, breakdowns and whatnot. And a lot of people would categorise us as a deathcore band, but I always thought we were something a little bit different due to the fact that we don’t have any gutturals or pig squeals or anything like that in our vocals. We do have breakdowns, but I guess a lot of the newer kids consider us to be what they call djent I guess nowadays. I’m not necessarily sure what that means, poly-rhythms and grooves and whatnot, so we’re going with what we can from that. I feel the band fits more within the newer trend of bands that fit into that scene now than we did with the deathcore bands back in the day. So, I’m not exactly sure what it’s going to look like, but it’ll be a challenge and we’re up for it.

So, you’ve got a few shows lined up in the US this year. What do you think will happen with ION DISSONANCE after that?

Kevin: That’s a good question. To be honest with you, we’ll probably buckle down, spend a little bit of time and write some new songs. I know we want to put out a new EP, I’m not going to give too many details to spoil the surprise, but I know we want to put out new music, that’s for sure. We want to write new tunes, put out new music, and keep going, because as I mentioned, at the age we’re at and the point in time and the resistance of the band, we feel that creating new music and putting new music out there is what we appreciate the most out of still being able to do it 15 years down the road. So, I guess we’ll concentrate on that for a little while.

That’s really exciting to hear! We’re all hyped for the album, I’ve been reviewing it right now!

Kevin: Oh, you have? Excellent! I’m stoked because we’ve got a promo video, a trailer for a video that we released at 1pm this afternoon EST [04/11], the video is coming out next week, another single after that, and finally in two weeks’ time we get to release it [Cast the First Stone]! I mean, we’ve been sitting on these songs for, like, five years now, so to finally be able to share them… *sigh* the wait is almost over!

Hyped then?

Kevin: *laughs* I have to say yes, very much so! I mean it’s hard to have these songs and to just have them on your phone and be like “Oh, I can listen to these!” but, you know, on our end we’ve already had them recorded and mastered and whatnot for more than six months now. So, I’m over it at this point, we’re ready to move on and get the next piece of work done, but we’ve got to come out with this record first and play the shows and release dates and promote this album, and then we’ll work on the new one. But yes, we are very much stoked.

Fantastic! Thank you very much for your time today Kevin.

Kevin: Thank you very much Jordan, it was a pleasure. Take care!

Cast the First Stone is set for release on November 18th via Good Fight Music.

For more information on ION DISSONANCE, follow their official page on Facebook.