Friday, May 26, 2017

Ian Chains talks Cauldron, Chainbreaker, and Stained Class Records (2017)

Last I interviewed you, it was 2013, a lot has happened since then. You've had another album come out, several music videos done, and much more, just wanted a chance to catch up the new happenings.

Hey Olivia, thanks for taking the time to interview me again!

Photo by Nic Pouliot edited by Aaron Franks

Chainbreaker is about to come out with a full album, would you say it has the same feel as the two tracks released previously on bandcamp, or the most recent ones, rather?

Yeah I would say it has a similar feel. Some of the songs on the new album were written around the period that “Enslave Your Masters” was written so naturally they all fit together. There are a couple more “rock ‘n roll” sounding songs but overall it all has that slimy vibe that we enjoy so well.

Has it been a big task to get everyone together to record the new Chainbreaker album, and where was it recorded?

It’s never hard to get the band together, but we did have a lot of down time last year and didn’t progress much. I’m really glad we finally got our asses in gear and recorded it. We did it at the same country and western studio where most of the Cauldron stuff is done (Lincoln County Social Club). I’m already familiar with that studio, recommended it to the boys and thus it’s where we ended up. We recorded 12 songs in March/April and currently have the album being mixed.

Chainbreaker formed in 2013, what brought that about?

I used to go over to Al’s house with my friend Craig in the dead of winter. We’d fire up the wood stove and just get black out drunk jamming Razor and Slayer songs. Originally Al would sing and play drums and Craig would play bass. We weren’t really planning to form a band or anything, but Al started recording our jams and piecing together random riffs we were coming up with and forming songs out of them. Some of those recordings are hilariously awful, but that’s how it all came about. Eventually Craig split and we got Rob on vocals and Curtis on bass. But wait, there’s more! Curtis was replaced last year by Phil Zeller who used to play with Al in Toxic Holocaust, which is now our current lineup.

Who did the drawings for Chainbreaker? That logo is awesome, as well, did how it look just kind of come natural, or did it take a bit to think of how it would look?

Rob drew the logo and the “Enslave” cover. Even though those are pretty crude sketches suited to us he’s actually a very talented artist and creates some pretty amazing stained glass works for a living. I can’t remember who drew the “Constant Graving” cover but needless to say my mom was not impressed with it. I think Rob was going for a bit of a Diamond Head vibe with the logo, but he’s since then drawn a much improved logo which will be on the new album.

Photo by Kevin Nunes

The collaborative minds of this band seem to have put out these evil sounding speed-filled riffs, have you wanted to do stuff like that for a long time?

I guess since I learned how to play guitar by jamming along to Reign in Blood and all that stuff, I kind of missed playing that sort of stuff with a band. I figured if I had another band, it wouldn’t sound anything like Cauldron.

The demo came out late 2013, did it take a while for that to come together, and were the songs made quickly from just jamming around and stuff?

Yeah I feel like the demo together really quick, and then we just decided to ride it out for a good 5 years before doing something else! Most of the songs were either written by Al or pieced together and demoed by him in his garage first.

The latest two songs on Chainbreaker's bandcamp that just came out entitled "Enslave Your Masters" and "Deterioration" seem like they might've even gotten more aggressive and fast than the previous tracks off "Constant Graving", even having some blast beat action in "Deterioration", would you agree with that? And do you feel the band's sound has gotten more aggressive over the past few years?

Now that I think about it, all that stuff was written around the same time. If anything we’ve kind of branched out in both directions, with more aggressive sounding songs and then slower greasy numbers to balance them out.

Chainbreaker, in this instance, seems to be your side project, of course, from Cauldron, has it been difficult to balance the two, or just more-so fun? Have the ideas for each band just been separated in your mind when you'd think of a riff or something, or was it stuff you had done and didn't feel fit with the Cauldron sound?

Photo by Nic Pouliot

Well I guess it’s all the kind of stuff that doesn’t suit Cauldron, but there’s been more than one occasion where the Cauldron guys want to pinch a riff or two from the Chain boys! It’s been pretty easy balancing the two, especially since our rehearsal rooms are right next to each other. I’ve definitely come up with a couple riffs and thought “there’s no way Cauldron will play this”.

Chainbreaker seemed to have a lot of gigs already, was it easy to get together with other bands, and what have some of your favorite shows you've played been?

I feel like it’s easier for Chainbreaker to have other bands to play with just because the music is more aggressive. Cauldron’s always been “Ok you can either play with this one old band or 15 thrash bands”. The best Chainbreaker shows were opening for Municipal Waste last December, playing with Midnight and Shitfucker a couple years back, and the BAT/Chainbreaker tour we did in the states.

Al Biddle was in a lot of other bands, including your other band Cauldron. He did drums when you guys first started, so did you think to ask him whenever Chainbreaker formed? Or had you guys had the project in mind for a long time?

Well Chainbreaker is really Al’s band, even though I’ve got a Chain in my name... I guess Al called me up one night and asked if I wanted to jam some tunes in his garage. We definitely didn’t have any ideas of forming a band at that point.

Photo By Kevin Nunes

Is it often you guys get a chance to practice, and where do you practice?

We usually rehearse once a week right next door to the Cauldron room. That’s the same room that Cauldron’s been in for over 10 years now.

There are some great metal acts in Canada, what are your thoughts on the metal scene there, and what are some of your favorite bands? Would you like to have any Chainbreaker shows with any specific ones in the future?

The current metal scene? Maybe I’m wrong but I feel like it kind of dried up in recent years. I remember 10 years ago there was a lot of excitement in the air about new Canadian bands. Or maybe it’s that I’m 10 years older now and really just want to listen to The Raspberries and Todd Rundgren. I won’t shake a stick at a chance to play with Exciter or Razor though!

There was a small gap in between recording "Constant Graving", and the most recent two Chainbreaker songs released, what was the reason for that? You all seem to have a lot going on.

I think we got stuck in a rut of constantly reworking songs to the point where we couldn’t remember how the fuck the song was actually supposed to go. We really just needed to commit to certain songs and get them ready to record, but it took us a while to get there. We are all really busy but I think there was more to it than that. I don’t think any of us have that “Look, this is how the song fuckin’ goes, end of paragraph” attitude. Maybe we just don’t want to piss each other off. Jason’s the guy with that attitude in Cauldron, and doesn’t care about pissing anyone off, which might be why we seem to get more shit done!

Cauldron's latest album "In Ruin" came out in January 8th, 2016. Did it seem like a long time coming? I know the tracks from "Tomorrow's Lost" had been recorded when you guys were working on "Burning Fortune", did this album seem to take less time?

Oh yeah, every album seems like a long time coming. We usually start writing the next album before the current one is even out yet. We took a lot of time off last year and didn’t really start working on songs until the summer or fall, so I’m sure this next album will seem like an eternity since “In Ruin”. We do have about 9 or 10 new songs though that we’re really going to crack down on when we get back from our Euro tour in June.

Photo by Kevin Nunes

"In Ruin", in my opinion, seems to be the band's pinnacle in terms of overall atmosphere for the songs, and how they seem to have almost a different sound altogether, while still keeping in the Cauldron vein of sound, would you find any truth in that?

Thanks, I think “In Ruin” really captured what we always strive for more than any album before. It’s definitely the one I’ve been most happy with when it was completed. At this point I think anything we do together will sound like Cauldron. Now that we’ve established that we can really do whatever the fuck we want. The next album will probably be the most atmospheric and varied one yet.

Where did the art concept come from for the album, and who did you guys go to to make it?

I think Jason had a still from the movie Poltergeist that he turned upside down. It looked creepy yet budget, so we asked our friend Squid from Edmonton to come up with something based on that. He drew up a few sketches and the last one was the one we all agreed should be the cover. He’d already done some t-shirt designs for us a few years back and also the cover for Enforcer’s “From Beyond”.

Are you guys enjoying the record label "The End Records" you all are on now, and how have they been treating you?

They treat us like kings! Well actually they’ve been enthusiastic about the band and keep in touch regularly, and came out to see us when we played in New York last October with Satan. We haven’t been doing much lately other than working on new songs so we’ll see how everything goes when we get into “the next album” mode.

The short release of cover songs you guys did back in 2014, Moonlight Desires, had the title track, Iron Beast, and Sacrifice. What made you guys chose them, and how'd you all come to sing on the track Sacrifice?

Well Moonlight Desires by Gowan is sort of a radio staple up here in Canada. We’ve always liked the song and knew nobody else was going to cover it, plus everyone outside of Canada would think we wrote it! Larry Gowan (of Gowan) heard our cover and wanted to meet us when he was at our rehearsal building. We were actually drinking in the park across the street. Had we known he was looking for us we’d have tossed our beers and ran back! Iron Beast is a tune by Kratos from Cleveland. It was one of those songs we’d always crank in the van on tour so naturally we started jamming it. It was really hard deciphering the lyrics to that one. I’m pretty sure they’re all wrong! For Sacrifice we’d usually do that as a soundcheck song and we’d each sing a verse/chorus to check the mic’s. We had our friend Kyle record a show for us and the soundcheck version he recorded was way better than the live one, so we threw it on the tape.

Photo by Kevin Nunes

The topic I didn't particularly want to touch on was the first US tour being cut short by the van accident you sustained significant injuries from, which I am very glad you all are alive and well, as I'm 110% sure everyone else is, too. Was it tough to get back to your normal self again, and what helped you through such a tough time?

Thanks, and no problem bringing it up! It was over a year ago now and feels longer ago than that. Yeah it was really tough having that level of excruciating pain, having to lie down all the time and not being able to sleep. In short, it was bullshit and it sucked! I got really depressed and had to wear this turtle shell brace all day and night. My girlfriend Claire helped me immensely and stuck by me the whole time. A huge part of it was getting off those horrible painkillers I was on. Jason and Myles getting me to come down to the jam space and go through some songs again really helped out too.

Aside from the bad luck (that's an understatement) you guys had in Texas, was touring enjoyable, and where were some of your favorite places you guys played?

Well funnily enough I felt like some of the most fun we had on that tour was in Texas. New York was great too, as was Vancouver, LA and anywhere else that we had good friends show up.

Where did the idea of "on the road" footage come from for the videos, "Burning at Both Ends", and "No Return/ In Ruin"? Or moreso, what made you all decide to go with that concept for them? And will there be any other videos coming in the future? I saw a few pictures and snippets from one...

Well the “on the road” footage from “No Return” is just us driving an hour down the highway to a friend’s place who let us set off pyro in his back yard. I guess we considered the “Burning” video to be more road themed. I’m not sure why we did that, it seems pretty stock doesn’t it? We filmed a video for “Hold Your Fire” but we’re still in the midst of adding some b-roll to it. We were planning to have it out before the tour but then I went and put the kibosh on it until we have more useable footage.

Photo by Nic Pouliot

I think I've asked more than enough questions at this point, and hopefully they're better than last time haha. So I'll close with this question: What are some future goals for Cauldron, and what are some for Chainbreaker in the future?

Cauldron: Break big then break up

Chainbreaker: Break more chains

At first I thought that was the end of the interview, but completely forgot I had not asked him about the record store he owns along with Inti Paredes, and was nice enough to answer a few more questions. So here it is- some info on Stained Class Records!
Photo either by Inti or Ian

Stained Class Records is music store packed with cassettes, vinyl, tapes, tickets for local shows, shirts, pins patches, and much more! The store is located in Toronto at 1614 Queen Street West, in the back of Parkdale Platters (in case you’re fairly local or a local and haven’t been to this place, and if you haven’t I’d slap you in the face, because you need to go). This store was started by none other than Ian Chains and Inti Paredes of Manacle. Was this a long time coming, and what was the collaborative process on both your parts to get the spot for the store and everything started?

Inti and I used to work together and in between hating our jobs we’d daydream about opening our own metal shop. We called a lot of phone numbers in empty store front windows but gave up pretty quick when we realized rent was going to be through the roof no matter what. A good 2+ years went by before the current location sort of fell into our laps by good fortune.

Were you and Inti familiar with the owner of the store before you decided on the spot, and how was it to split the spot, and how has it turned out for you?

Inti and I had both been into Parkdale Platters and bought records off Chris. Eventually we started doing a consignment metal section there just for the hell of it. Chris had a vintage shop in the back of his store that moved out, so he asked us right away if we’d like to move into the back. It’s been pretty good so far, people really seem to care and we get a lot of touring bands and people from out of town stopping in. When Midnight was in town opening for Kreator I took them down to the shop after their show for an after-midnight shopping spree.

The name of the store is a classic Judas Priest song and album title off their best album entitled “Stained Class’. How did you guys come to choose that name?

That came pretty easy. What is the greatest metal album of all time? Stained Class. We considered calling it Nostradamus but it didn’t have the same ring.

Photo by Kevin Nunes

Where do you guys get all of the stuff you sell in the store?

A lot of stuff is either from collections of used records/memorabilia we’ve bought off people, or from people coming in to sell us records. It helps that people have started coming to us instead of the bigger stores where they pay them a nickel per record, although it is really hard to have a steady stream of used records coming in. It’s a glorious feeling when someone comes by with a bag of old Slayer records to sell us. We’ve also been ordering in new records to offset all the obscure stuff that nobody knows or wants haha.

Did it take a long time to get everything moved into the store, how was moving, and who did you get to move with you guys?

We started paying rent in December of last year and officially opened on the 18th, so it took us just over 2 weeks to get everything set up. We pretty much just had our friends help us. Al from Chainbreaker built the record displays and hauled them down on the roof of his station wagon, and Jason from Cauldron also drove down a ton of shit and helps out at the store quite a lot.

Had you and Inti always wanted to have a record store? I think you guys were roommates at one point according to some article I had read about Inti’s cat or something haha.

Well I don’t know about Inti but I never really wanted to have a record store until he kept bringing it up! I guess he won me over. Yeah we lived together for less than a year, and when I moved out I couldn’t bring my cat, so now he’s the proud owner of Jez (named after Jez from Peep Show)!

Photo by Nic Pouliot
How has it been to have the upkeep going in the store with being stocked and staffed?

It’s a constant struggle. It’s hard working 2 jobs and being in 2 bands. We always find someone to work the shop though if we can’t. Jason and Myles have both covered shifts as well as Kevin from Manacle and I’m sure a million others.

What jobs have you had in the past, and which one made this job seem like the best thing you could have possibly done? Or just what was the worst job you’ve had, if you don’t mind sharing.

Well I still don’t work at the shop full time, so I still have my “real” job at the moment. I’ve had some shitty jobs in my time! My very first job was in a butcher shop and about 2 weeks in the manager killed himself which kind of set the mood. The worst job I’ve ever had was at this tea manufacturing place in between Cauldron tours. Everything was just ridden with maggots, but it was still being bottled up and sold to major supermarkets. Just disgusting!

What are some of your favorite pieces of merch that have passed through the store? Do you guys get donations, and do you ever keep any of it and just slip some cash in the register… if that’s how it works.

There have been some great records to come through that I wished I’d grabbed for myself after they sold, but I guess that’s not the point. We had the Saracen “We Have Arrived” single on the wall for a while, I guess because I figured no one would know what it was and I could grab it at any time. But then Ryan and Nick from Municipal Waste stopped by and it was no more! When Midnight came by Athenar donated a really nice old Loudness poster to us. We’re also looking for any and all copies of Krokus’ “Headhunter” just to give all those millions of lonely copies a home.

Photo by Kevin Nunes

Who are the frequents at the shop, and how has business gone overall so far?

There are definitely quite a few local regulars that come in every week. Quite a few of them have been collecting since the 80’s so it’s cool for them to hang out in a shop that looks like their bedrooms from 1985. Business is steady, we’re paying the bills so we can’t complain there.

The opening for the shop was a show put on by both your bands, Chainbreaker and Manacle, had you guys had that planned since you started the process of opening the shop?

Initially we were looking for other bands to play because we just figured we’d be busy enough with the whole store opening to play, but as it got closer to the day the only bands we could really rely on were our own, so that’s how that happened. We also thought of having Cauldron play but I’m done with those double duty gigs!

What have some of your favorite work days at the shop so far been, and how is the overall atmosphere on a day to day basis?

Any days where friends come by and we crack beers and shoot the shit. The days I work usually consist of me and Chris having a few sodas and coming up with ridiculous scenarios to pass the time. The store opening party was probably the best day we’ve had so far.

How do you and Inti feel about the store so far? Is it the record store you’ve both always wanted to go to, and now you guys own and operate it?

Well it’s still a very small time operation. It’s kind of difficult when your overhead to buy new stock is a bit narrow. We’d like to have more album release shows in the back, maybe some signings or whatever, but yeah it’s a fun place to hang out and spin records. It’s exceeded our expectations just because it fell into our laps so suddenly that we really can’t complain.

Photo by Nic Pouliot

What do you think the future of Stained Class records holds, and what are some of your hopes and goals for it?

We’re just hoping to keep this thing afloat for the time being. We haven’t really talked about any huge expectations just because we don’t want to set ourselves up for disappointment. It’ll always be a small niche shop, but that’s what we set out for in the first place. We just live for that next juicy score!

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