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Ion Dissonance

My God, these guys are completely nuts! I'll call the nearest asylum immediately, cause what these guys are doing can't be done by normal human beings. Or shall I call Scully for a new X-Files case: music made by frantic extra-terrestrials on acid? How many times did these ADHD-kids watch the movies like 'One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest' and 'Pi' for inspiration? This makes The Dillinger Escape Plan sound like Engelbert Humperdinck on warm, lazy Sunday afternoon. I asked their lead vocalist Gabriel McCaughry where Ion Dissonance comes from and what the hell they are thinking to play such insane over the top “schizocore”.

By: Evil Dr. Smith | Archive under various

I'm a great fan of Fantômas' first album and John Zorn's Painkiller and Naked City. Also bands like The Dillinger Escape Plan and Converge got me by my throat. It took some time but finally I also got a grip on The End. But what you did on 'Breathing Is Irrelevant' is for this journalist simply too much to handle. I think Ion Dissonance is like the ultimate metalcore-interpretation of free jazz with a vacuum sucked, boiled hysteria of a derailed Meshuggah-Express crashing frontally into a metallic, schizophrenic The Locust-train. Sorry, but I don't completely understand your chaos: maybe I am too old for this shit? Nevertheless, I'm still highly fascinated and every time I listen to your album I'm hearing new things.

How old are you? 31? Well, that's not too bad [laughs]. I am 23 and the oldest guy in the band. I remembered the first time I listened to 'Breeding The Spawn' from Suffocation. I was thinking: “What's happening?” Even when I listen to it now I'm still surprised what the hell is happening on that album, guitar-wise and so. It sounded pretty much complicated at the time, every instrument had something to give and it cost a lot of time to fully appreciate the whole record. We always wanted to do something like that. That's something of our more complicated parts, but we have also parts here and there in our music that you can actually relate real fast to breakdown moshing parts. Obviously, when we play the latter part is where we got crowd reaction immediately. Even if they didn't know us. But the rest of the songs are really technical, so that each time people are playing the record, they will always find something new. It's not like a System Of A Down record or so. That's great to listen to the first couple of times, you really love the songs and it's real catchy and fast, but it's easy to understand. So in the end - when you played it too much - there's nothing more to discover about it. It's getting bored and you'll throw it in the corner for at least a year. That's not with our record. It's kinda difficult to listen to, but I think that's a good point.

We listen to all kinds of music; every member listens to all kinds of music that there is to find. It wasn't always that. I've been close-minded about music most of my life, and I've been a metalhead since I was eleven years old, but the last couple of years I opened my eyes.

Maybe we are, just like Suffocation, ahead of our time. Suffocation is now more popular then they ever were. Except over here: Suffocation had been very popular here in Montreal and the rest of Quebec. Always, already since their first album came out. They loved to play here: they didn't get such crowd reaction in the US as they got here. I think that was one of the reasons why they split up: even younger bands like Dying Foetus got much more crowd response – because it was so easy to understand and so moshable – but for the US kids Suffocation was still too technical. I think Suffocation was kinda pissed about that fact. But now a lot of American and even European death metal bands started in the vein of Suffocation. It's not that Suffocation is a real influence of the sound in our music, in fact it's not at all, but it had always been a band we deeply respect. But the style of music that influenced me the most throughout the years was black metal. I was very much into black metal before I joined Ion Dissonance and played in the black metal band Unquintessence.

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Has this something to do with the fact that your album is released in Europe by (former?) black metal label Cacophonous? By the way: I didn't even know this label still existed.

I didn't know that either. But no, it's totally coincidental. Although it pretty funny actually, because when I was in Unquintessence and trying my best to get that band out there we never got any contact with those kinds of labels. Everything in Unquintessence was going really well, but Cacophonous didn't show any interest. But when we were working with Ion, not long after we signed with Willowtip (American metalcore label that released ID's record already last years autumn - EDS) we received several e-mails from the dude from Cacophonous. They wanted us. First we thought it might be a bad decision, with the same reason that you mentioned: it's a black metal label. And besides that, we got also some offers from other European labels, but those labels didn't want to put our album as fast as we wanted. And we wanted it fast as possible! Just like we did with our release on Willowtip: we wanted to tour as much as we can on this album, before we bring out our second album. So I knew Cacophonous was once a really great black metal label, but last couple of years I didn't know they were even dead or alive. Some time later I heard they were also starting with Invisible Noise, which is a subdivision of Cacophonous for different genres, and that's actually what we're signed too. It took us a couple months to organise this and to release this album in Europe as well, but that's not a problem: a bit later is better than nothing.

Our second album will not be released on Willowtip. Don't get me wrong, Willowtip did a great job for us and Jason (Tipton, from Willowtip) is incredible, but since the beginning we knew that this thing is gonna get us further. And yeah, it did. We signed only for one record with Willowtip and we'll see what other labels will bring us. Relapse? No, but, well… it depends. You know I can't talk about the offers until something is made concrete, but everything's going really well, label-wise. Their are different labels waving with record deals, but we're not in a rush to sign anything, cause our album is only out since September last year. First we want to tour again and more on our first album, so that a lot more and better offers will come on our table. We are willing to give everything for music; you know like quite jobs, buy a van and basically live the road life.

In fact that's already starting tomorrow (again), with a new tour together with guys from The End (May 2004, EDS). Ion Dissonance and The End on one stage: my God, don't you think that will kill the kids?

I hope so! We wanted the deadest thing available in Canada just to rip it off. I know that every single metalcore kid in Canada will go berserk with this bill. Our shows take about 35 to 40 minutes and we play most of the songs of our album. No, we don't wanna do cover songs. I've done that with my prior band.

Not even a King Crimson song?

Yeah, I would like to do! Personally I like to do those old prog songs and give them a totally metalized version. That would be awesome, but it's something you can do when you have a lot of free time. That's something we don't have. When I have time to write on songs, I'll only write new songs for our new album. I don't want to waste time trying to get another one's song. Maybe if we are bigger than we are today and we have six months ahead of us without any touring and scratching our asses doing nothing, then maybe. But now it's just shows and writing, that's it.

How do you describe ID yourself, if someone asks you in what kind of band you play?

Usually I would say ID is playing metalcore. It's a blend of metal and hardcore. But in fact it's just a real tiny little bit of hardcore, only the breakdowns are a hint of it. So it's just better to say it's extreme music. If you want it technical, you gotta have it. If you want it intense, it's gonna be intense. If you want to see somebody get fucked up on stage and totally kill everyone, you gotta see that too!

ID is intense and physical, but pretty emotional too. My lyrics are painful and totally not positive. I think that's a big difference between most of the metalcore bands. I don't wanna dis nobody, but they're basically hardcore kids trying to do metalized technical shit, singing about pretty futile, idol things, which are nothing more than ordinary punk rock lyrics. Most of them are pretty young and they have optimistic lyrics, and maybe that has something to do with my background, but that is not the way I am. I like to talk about negative stuff. About depression. That is what I found funny in a lot of metalcore: sometimes it's really loud music with breakdown and so to get people to mosh, but the lyrics are so light-weighted. My lyrics are about the insignificant moments in life that are extrapolated to a degree that it's become a totally insight conscience.

I've understood that you don't have a very high opinion about mankind and its determination to survive. Has this something to do with an unhappy childhood?

Yeah, that's true, although that's not really something I would like to discuss. I've always respected the people that spend most of their time or their childhood thinking, just thinking about everything. Thinking and learning for themselves to get your own decisions about life, not influenced by anything. I've gone through many, many faces to arrive to a point where I wanted to get in touch with my personal life, but at that time I hadn't a real good view about everything that was surrounding me. Especially the way most of the people live their lives like flowing on a river with no bumps on their backs: like they don't know what it is not to flow. I'm trying to catch up and that's what shows through my lyrics. It's not that I'm saying that I'm a down and depressive guy all the time and not able to party or to enjoy comedy, you know. It's just that I don't want to exploit that side of my personality in the band. The band is my catharsis. Everything in me that is ugly and what I don't like about myself I'll put in the band. That's very relieving. It's always been this way and it has taken me out of many troubles.

Since I've been in music, everything is started to went better, even at those moments when there is too much emotion involved in the music; I appreciated them. I am a guy who appreciates “the persistent moment”. Like when I'm drunk, listen to extremely dark music, pushing everything and doing some crazy stuff or so: I do like those moments. I like them as much as my happy moments. I assure them and have good memories about them. It's not about self-pity or something to brag about: I hate that shit about “life is not treating me okay”. I don't want pity from people and I don't want them to think that I'm a victim of circumstances. I know what I've been through and if I talk about it, I don't talk in a way that I want pity from the listener. I just want to say that it's out there. You got to face it to become stronger. Not in an optimistic point of view, but like to fucking know who you are. If a worm should have a conscious and had a real intelligence, he would know: He's the worm. No matter how insignificance that may seems. So when somebody stipulated out loud that the human being is the most incredible thing there is, I tend to disagree with that. For many, many reasons. I don't find the human something quite special actually.

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Tomas Lindberg from The Great Deceiver and Disfear (and ex-At The Gates) calls himself the first misanthropic humanist.

Hehe, that's a good paradox. Well, it's not that I am misanthropic. He's making a good point I think. In my opinion being a misanthrope is not something you normally talk about. So that's what I always found funny from most of those true and cult black metal bands: trying to advertise misanthropy everywhere as something that is cool. And knowing myself and knowing what misanthropy can be like, I can honestly say it's a kinda disease. It's an illness. It's something you have to deal with. You're not acting about it. Misanthropy doesn't necessarily mean you hate people, it's just you can't deal with them. In fact it means that you are basically afraid of mankind in a way. You're afraid of people, you're afraid of crowds. And being afraid is a weakness. You never gonna feel well about this and that's absolutely not something you advertise. Your band cannot be misanthropic if you're doing music and putting CD's and records out. You cannot be the real dark, moody guy and at the same time hang out at drinking places. Even though you are all dressed in black and giving the evil eye to everyone: you're in a social place, so you might as well enjoy it.

That's why I hate misanthropy and don't call myself a misanthropist: I don't have trouble meeting people or getting along with people. It's not that I love people: I hate them most of the times, only not on a daily basis. It's like the law we have if someone commits a crime: he is “innocent by default”. Somebody has to prove that someone has done something wrong so that he can be convicted. In my opinion most people are the opposite: most people have to proof themselves to me that they're not wrong.

Your songs have sometimes very strange titles. A friend of mine plays in an ultimate doom metal band called ODIAS TIAD: One Death Is A Tragedy, Thousand Is A Statistic.

Whoo! Yes, it's a phrase from Stalin. Most of the times the song titles come first. Also with our song 'The Death Of One Man Is A Tragedy, The Death Of 10,000 Is A Statistic'. Then I developed the concept about the title, about the ideas I have, but the lyrics are never in direct relation to the origin of the song title. I found that line so well said, but then again it was said by Stalin during World War II. I found it was really a wicked line: it has something fatal to it. Really dark, but true at the same time. There's just so much irony in that sentence. The song itself talks about the non-importance of you being an individual. Everyone is trying to promote everywhere, everyone is o so darn special, but then again: you might be only meat. In war you're just another victim. You're nothing. You're a small thing trying to say to everybody that you're something greater.

And what about the song '101101110110001'?

That's about a guy who's not dealing with reality at all. It's like the opposite among people. His reality is his screen and if this world shatters by some stupid reason – like his computer would not working – he would be devastated. He doesn't have any life apart from what he sees on the screen. And the temporary moments and lapses between his screen-life, like when he's sleeping or getting a cup of coffee or something, those moments seems strange and seems like a dream to him: not his world in the computer.

The numbers were at first a random order of zeros and ones. But it happened to be one of the funny coincidences I have never witnessed in my life. A guy from the States came in contact with me and he was a real math-freak. He found a scheme in all those binary numbers and he told me that you could translate that old sentence in another number, which is the number 357.

That's exactly the same number as the title of your demo ('.357', which was released several months before 'Breathing Is Irrelevant')! I won't buy this so-called “coincidence”, Gabriel.

It's true! I honestly didn't know! He tried to explain it to me and it seemed pretty logical when I read it. It was just awesome. It seemed like that number is following us everywhere.

What do you mean? Do you have more connections with this number?

There's also the song 'The Bud Dwyer Effect' which handles about this number. A .357 is a really huge Magnum and the reason why I called the original promo demo '.357' is about the Bud Dwyer character. He was a political figure in the US that blew his head off in front of national television, with a Magnum 357. When I saw a clip of this on the Internet I thought this was so fucking brutal: to kill yourself in front of national television. I just had to write something about it. The song itself isn't about the Bud Dwyer person at all, it's just bears his name. It's a concept about someone who wanted to kill himself and wanted to do it with class: in front of everybody in a very brutal way. That's the Bud Dwyer effect. And after that I found it funny to kept on matching the 357 about everywhere. There's also a new song I wrote that's mentioning 357, but then in relation with time, like 3.57 in the morning or so. No, I don't carry a .357 myself – it's pretty difficult to have a gun in Canada - but I have the number tattooed on my wrist as well. It's become something like a trademark of ID.

I know a lot of people don't give a shit about lyrics. So that's why I didn't want the lyrics with our CD. But it's pretty frustrating for a guy like me, because I always write lyrics, poems and stories. Every day. I've studied literature too. But I thought: “Fuck it”, if you truly want to know what the songs are all about, then go to the Internetsite. I did this with Unquintessence and wanted to do the same with ID. But the other guys were against it, saying that even a small number of fans that will care about the lyrics it will be worthwhile doing it. So in the end I've decided to put them in the CD booklet. And among the new lyrics I'm writing right now – I'm pretty ahead of the music most of the time: I've got already enough for two more ID-albums – are also written in a huge story for a full conceptual album.

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So when you love to read and write and know that a lot of your fans don't give a shit about your writing capabilities: why not a career move and become a poet or a writer?

I would love too and eventually someday it may come true. It's just a matter of time. Right now, each time that I'm writing I'm always thinking that I'm better with quick and short writings that really fit into music. At the moment I'm way too busy with my band to even consider writing novels, short stories or poems. Everything is all about the band. We quit our day jobs and we are busy as hell with ID. That's why I don't have time to attack that kind of writing project, but eventually and if we have more time in our hands, I'm sure I'm gonna pursue some other dreams and other artistic projects. I'm all about arts by the way: I love to draw, I love to write, I love music, I just love everything about art.

You screamed your vocals on this record in one day. It was a seven-hour screaming marathon. How do you keep your voice in shape?

I tend to do it. I think I'm able to do it, because I'm used to it. I've been screaming like a madman since I was fourteen years old. And I've always been part of bands, whether it were demo bands, black metal bands or hardcore bands, just everything. I've been used to screaming. I think it's pretty cool, although it was pretty difficult to manage the recording sessions in one day. I was both tired, drunk and didn't have any voice at the end of that day. The recording sessions were not an ideal situation and there were things we could have done better if we had more time: but within the limited recording time we had we couldn't have done it better. But the next time this situation will not happen. I don't deny that there might be a day that I will lose my voice on stage, and there are some days I have a kinda sore throat, but I don't see that day is coming real near. I will continue screaming until the day it dies!

You've got a very broad taste: King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Godspeed You Black Emperor, Mogwai, extreme black metal. So why did you choose to play this type of music?

I know that if ID will break up, or that I'm not in the band anymore (you never know what could happen), I know that ID is gonna be most probably my last metal band. Then again I say this, but I'm not sure. Maybe I'll do another side project or something, but I'll not invent all my time in a metal band. I'll do something different in the musical industry. I want to do something mellower, maybe something close to urban trip hop combined with dark ambient and some classical instruments a la Godspeed You Black Emperor on top of it. Or something in the vein of Ulver - I love his later works - and singing with a clear voice. But when I'll lose my voice in ID I won't be able to do that.

Your bass player Miguel Valade originally comes from the jazz-scene.

Yes, ID is his first metal band. He's a good friend to Antoine (Lussier), our main guitar player and together with our other guitarist (Sebastien Chaput) the founder of the band. I was actually the fourth guy who joined the band: they even got another vocalist before me, but all the time signatures and technical patterns were way too difficult for him. So when Sebastian, who was a friend of mine, asked me if I wanted to join his band, they send me a tape with their first, still instrumental song and I listened to it over and over again. I came up with some ideas and when they heard that I think they were pretty impressed… hehehe. That was the moment I was in the band that was still called Earth Link Mission at that time. Sounded like a very silly, amateurish B-movie title. So I changed that into Ion Dissonance and yes, it's a coincidence that the initials are “I.D.”: but it sounds very cool, obviously. The name Ion Dissonance is an abstract mixture between organic (Ion is like getting to the root of the smallest thing) and musical (Dissonant chords, abnormal tuning, etc.) elements: Very appropriate, don't you think?

But back to Miguel. Miguel and Antoine are friends for a long time and they also studied jazz and classical music together at the music school. For the recording of our two track CD demo (the aforementioned '.357') we had a different bassist (Seb Painchaud), which was a friend of mine and also played in Unquintessence. He's an incredible bass player and plays a five string fretless bass. He's an awesome musician, but to tell you the truth: he's an asshole too! We had so much difficulty with him, even though I loved the guy, it was so hard to work with him concerning music. So eventually we had to kick him out. Obviously, to find another bass player, you start asking your friends. And we already had asked Miguel before, but then he wasn't interested and not willing to put a lot of money for a totally new bass guitar. But later, when he listened to our promo demo, he was totally blown by it. He found it so much better than he actually thought we were. He immediately bought the equipment and said: “Alright, I'm in!”

So you're touring now like maniacs across North America. Don't you want to hit the European ground?

It's not even a question to ask if we want to go to Europe: of course we wanna! It's like a dream for us. I've only been their once and that was only in France and Corsica: these countries were easier for me to visit, cause at least they speak French. I was pretty young then, had no money, and I was there on my own with a packsack, travelling like a homeless person for a month and a half. That's my only experience of the whole continent so far, so I'm crossing our fingers that I'm gonna see Europe once again, but then with ID. We are willing to do everything to get there!

And what five albums will you take with you?

Gorgoroth – 'Incipit Satan'. If there is only one true black metal band out there, it has to be Gorgoroth. Yeah, I'm still a black metal kid! But I listen to Charles Aznavour as well: I'm a pretty fucked up guy [laugh].

Ved Buens Ende – 'Written In Water' (A Great jazzy black metal record)

Buck 65 – 'Talking Honkey Blues' (People gonna hate me for this, but it's trip hop, not blues!)

Puissance – 'Total Cleansing'

Dave Matthews Band – A double CD with his acoustic versions. It's so sweet music!

But I have to bring the last A Perfect Circle too. That first track, 'The Noose'… oh man, that's so awesome!

Line up:

Gabriel McCaughry - Vocals and Lyrics
Antoine Lussier - Guitar
Sebastien Chaput - Guitar
Miguel Valade - Bass
JF Richard - Drums

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