"some music was meant to stay underground..."


Interview with Cage's Sean Peck

On September 13th, 2009, I had the pleasure of interviewing the vocalist, Sean Peck, of the San Diego metal band Cage. I had a lot of fun conducting the interview. Sean Peck used a good deal of sarcasm and delivered his answers in a very improvised humorous way based on our situation. In this interview Sean Peck discusses the secret to his incredible vocal ability, future plans for the band, and why being unsigned can be more helpful than signing to a label.

Zack: Hey I’m here at Club Europa with Metal Underground with Sean Peck from Cage.

Sean Peck: Hey, what’s up? We’re sitting on the back of a cop car in Brooklyn, NY. This is a pretty cool place for a metal interview.

Zack: Yeah, so are you guys on tour with ravage, or just doing a handful of shows?

Sean Peck: This is kinda like a four day east coast test run. For years we’ve gotten emails like, “why don’t you ever come to the east coast,” so here we are. We’re finally playing a show in New York and of course the Progpower in Atlanta, which was huge. And there’s a big crowd out here, so I’m kinda getting nervous.

Zack: Do you have any stories or anything interesting from the few days on this “tour” or any previous shows?

Sean Peck: No, there is nothing interesting that has ever happened on the road [sarcasm]. Well the progpower was cool cause it was a massive show and we were just told that we were the fastest heaviest band ever to play the thing.

Zack: I’m surprised you were able to get on progpower.

Sean Peck: Yeah, but we got a great response. I sang “Red Sharps” with the Crimson Glory guy, which was really cool because it’s their coolest song and I’m kind of a Crimson Glory fanboy from the first two albums, so I got to go up there and do my midnight impersonation. But crazy stories, we did almost missed the plane to New York. As we were sitting in the [airport] eating we were like, “eh we got plenty of time,” and we get up to the gate and she’s like, “nope it’s closed,” and I’m like, “YOU LET ME ON THAT GOD DAMN PLANE!” I went crazy and she goes, “okay.” They were either they were gonna call security or let him on the plane. This run already had some eventful stuff. The show we did last time in Binghamton [New York] was a cancer benefit for this poor kid [who was] 19 years old. We brought him up on stage and gave him some stuff and told everyone to pray for him. It was a pretty moving experience when we got to go rip it up with Rods.

Zack: Anything crazy happen in the pits?

Sean Peck: Well we’ve been playing a lot of all ages shows and the pits are just insane. Especially our new stuff cause it’s got a lot of thrash beats and some blast beat stuff in it. We’ve been doing nothing, but all ages shows in California. There’s just like a four deep line of long haired heads headbanging up and down and behind that is just a pit of severity and then stage divers the whole way through. It got me re-energized about the scene. We play with a bunch of death metal and screamo bands and then we get up and do our thing and the kids are just like, “holy shit what is this!” At progpower I introduced one of the songs we’re playing tonight, “Speed Kills,” and I said, “I know you’re not allowed to do mosh pits here, but I want you all to mosh pit within your mind while this song is playing.” So they go, “oh yeah we’ll have a mosh pit in our minds.”

Zack: [laughs] What’s your opinion of file sharing?

Sean Peck: Well, when you run a google search for “Science of Annihilation” the first ten listings are free torrent downloads [laughs]. The cool thing about metal is that the metal fans are gonna buy your record if they’re into you. I had at least 20 people in the last four days come up to me when they’re buying the record [and I] go, “oh you’re really gonna enjoy this,” and they go, “oh dude, I’ve had it downloaded since the day it came out” or, “yeah I’ve been listening to it non stop, I just wanted to have one for my collection.” So that’s cool, the hardcore fans are gonna buy the hard copy, they’ll gonna buy the shirt. That’s always been great about metal, man, they wanna freaking represent they wanna support the shit. One of the things that people know about the band is that we put a lot of time and money into the packaging. Our booklets are filled with all kinds of killer artwork and extra shit to read. I remember when I was a kid and I would buy a new CD, if I was really into the band, I’d read like every word on every page. I’d stare at it for hours while the shit was blasting. We take that into account and just pack it full of stuff to look at. Our fans have always really appreciated that when they know they’ve spent their fifteen hard earned bucks, they’ll get a lot of value.

Zack: That’s smart. So do you think filesharing has helped you get where you are now? Though you’ve been around since 1999.

Sean Peck: I think this is our first album that we found we were worthy of filesharing. I could never find an illegal download of us before, so now we’re on the illegal download thing, so we’re like “yes we made it! people want to [hear us].”

Zack: Well I don’t know about that I’ve been downloading your music forever [laughs]. I was always waiting for Cage to come here so I could buy your music at a show.

Sean Peck: Well maybe I haven’t been looking hard enough.

Zack: Well it’s not easy to find, it’s not everywhere.

Sean Peck: That was like one of these shows we played in Mexico. We down there and there was a whole booth set up out front of just bootleg Cage coffee mugs, shirts, and all this shit. And we were like, “Yeah dude!” We went and bought a bunch of cool stuff, “I want a Cage coffee mug.” So we bought our own bootleg stuff. It’s sort of a sense of accomplishment to know you are cool enough to have people want to bootleg your shit.

Zack: That’s a good attitude [laughs]. So no offense to you, but I noticed that the new album was mastered really fucking loud. Was this intentional to drive an effect or something else…

Sean Peck: It is an example of our inexperience mixing records.

Zack: You did it yourself?

Sean Peck: Yeah we recorded the whole thing, mixed and mastered. Whenever we’d get into trouble we’d call our buddy Roy Z and say, “Dude it sounds like shit what do we do?” he’d be like, “don’t worry about it bro, you just gotta, you know, don’t stuff too much ham into the basket.” He’d give us one of those classic Roy Z metaphors that he’d always give. There have been a couple complaints about that, but when we put it out we were like, “Fuck I hope people don’t say it sounds like shit.” To the common ear most people are digging it. It’s not perfect by any stretch, but we knew it wasn’t going to be perfect. It was pretty good for our first recording, but I guarantee you that the next one will be better.

Zack: Well I think it sounds fucking awesome for as loud as it is because it doesn’t fully distort.

Sean Peck: That’s good.

Zack: Yeah it’s not like the new Metallica album.

Sean Peck: Yeah right and Metallica has a little bit bigger budget than us too. [laughs all around].

Zack: So you are unsigned now?

Sean Peck: We’ve had more label offers for this album than we’ve had for all the other album combined man. People we didn’t even know were like, “Yeah we wanna release the new Cage album.” Here comes a giant truck for sound effects. So we were like a Mack truck and we smashed all the labels’ offers down and we put the brakes on the situation. And then we let the situation idle like the giant truck idling next to us. And once the engine was revved properly… Alright I’m trying to go with the sound here bro. We had the resources to do it ourselves and we made more money on this album than all the albums combined, so we just took off like a guy driving a truck. We just cruised down the street with doing it ourselves. We have our own label called Heavy Metal Media. Now we got other bands we might help do the same thing with. It’s definitely artist direct is the way to go for people who have established at least five to ten thousand hardcore fans that they are gonna buy the shit no matter where they’ll find it. There is a lot of great things happening for us. We own the rights to everything and people want us. If they want us enough they’re gonna have to write a damn check to get us. The most important thing is keep making the metal, keep getting it out to the fans, and perpetuating this Cage heavy metal sound that is an ode to all the great classic shit that is so hard to find these days being a fan of it.

Zack: On previous records you were signed, what happened with those?

Sean Peck: All those deals [expired]. One label went out of business and bankrupted on us. The other label I had to sue to get money out of. It’s been rough, so now we won’t have to deal with that crap. Now we are probably going to re-release all the back stuff on our own. It’s nice to be wanted and it’s nice to have all these offers and it’s also nice to turn them down and go, “No, not good enough.” It’s like a sports agent. So we were just like a trash compactor [there is a “sound effect” in the background, a garbage truck] with label offers, we threw bags and bags of other offers into the trash and literally just smashed them in a giant metal compactor.

Zack: [laughs] I like that metaphor.

Sean Peck: Then we stopped the machine for a second and rested.

Zack: What is your formal musical training, since you have such a ridiculously high voice?

Sean Peck: My formal training I went to Julliard in London where I studied with… No just kidding. Zero training, zero warm up before a show. [When I was young] I was just a metal nerd and I [went] around my room bouncing off the bed acting like a lead singer. I am just gonna be a world class heavy metal vocalist, I decided that’s what I’m gonna do.

Zack: Well you did it.

Sean Peck: [laughs] Yeah, here I am playing with all the legends I had and posters on my wall. Now some of the stuff that’s being written about the band and the album and me as a singer are just so ridiculous I’m embarrassed just to repeat them anywhere.

Zack: So how do you sing so high if you haven’t had any training?

Sean Peck: That’s why I don’t give lessons. How do you teach somebody? You’re like, “No dude I want you to… No your throats not right… No you need to…” What do you tell them?

Zack: Is more mental? Do you think, I wanna sing higher than whatever I listen to?

Sean Peck: First we used to have to take a dolphin into the studio and hook it up to electrodes to get the proper notes and then I was able to do them myself, so we saved a lot of money on the recording by not having to bring the aquarium in. To answer how I don’t know man, I’m singing better now than I ever sang before. I keep improving. I’m doing stuff that I could never do two albums ago. I keep experimenting with different voices. I also like to do a different vocal approach to each song so it keeps it a little fresh.

Zack: What do you prefer more the recording studio or the road?

Sean Peck: Well we are not a big road band. We did our first tour in Europe a couple of months ago, but I really fucking enjoyed it. I was really nervous because [I thought], “Am I gonna be shot out after the first two shows and be hating it for the rest.” So I didn’t know if I could hang with the amount of shows we had and singing this. We didn’t go, “oh well these are the mellow songs we have.” There is no mellow shit. It’s like impossible the whole way through. The manager looked at the dates and only a few days off and the set list and he goes, “This tour is suicide.” We’re like, “ok yeah, let’s do it then.” So we pushed the limits and I was able to maintain my voice for the whole tour. We’re doing it kinda backwards now, we’re older, and a few of us are semi retired, so we’re actually able to tour more. This is cool because now people are seeing us for the first time with a killer set of material to play and we’re way better than we were on the first album.

Zack: It’s night and day man.

Sean Peck: Yeah. The Europeans on this tour literally freaked the shit out. Like I said, I can’t even repeat the live reviews and shit people say cause I would sound like I was making it up and I’d be a complete conceded asshole. The shit they were saying was so over the top. It embarrasses me.

Zack: What’s the San Diego scene like?

Sean Peck: The San Diego scene is awesome. There’s tons of clubs to play metal. All ages shows are off the chain. They got a club that’s all ages and 21 and up. They bring all the obscure metal bands through, like Amorphis, Leaves’ Eyes, and the random European shit that you never see. Then anytime there’s a big show, the preshow is sold out. It’s always been a solid metal town. the kids are really into this shit. So as I told you earlier, we’ve been playing a lot of all ages shows. The talent that’s there, there’s just some sick bands. It keeps us on our game. There’s like some 18-year-old going [makes fast guitar sweep picking sounds] and we’re like “oh fuck, we gotta step it up tonight.” I’ve always been proud of the San Diego metal scene.

Zack: Verses here where you get 100 people out to a show and you’re like “YEAH!”

Sean Peck: Well there’s always gonna be those nights, but overall there are a lot of bands and the big shows do well. The up and coming bands have a good draw [also].

Zack: What’s it like “touring” with ravage?

Sean Peck: Well I just met the guys. They’re really cool. I was talking with the singer, he’s a real cool dude. I’ve only heard a couple of songs. That one where they do “Nightcrawler” in the middle of it. I think they’re playing [next], I’ll definitely check them out, maybe answer that question better. It’s really cool to see a band with that style get a deal with Metal Blade. Freaking keep the fires burning man.

Zack: I talked to them earlier and they said, “We’re jealous of Cage cause they toured Europe!”

Sean Peck: We finally have no label for the first time ever and we’re able to do our first tour. What does that tell you about the state of the music industry [laughs].

Zack: A lot [more laughs].

Sean Peck: I know a band like Fueled By Fire is on Metal Blade, my buddies in Agent Steel were on Metal Blade. They said, “Ever since we got signed now we have no money, but when we weren’t signed we had all kinds of money to tour.” Brian Slagel approached us about signing us for the “Hell Destroyer” album, but it just didn’t work out, but it was cool that at least he liked that kind of shit. We’ve been around that scene, they know who we are. Every album I talk to Century Media they’re like, “yeah we’re really gonna look at this one.” I’m like come on dude, quit stroking my chain. We’re happy doing what we’re doing, we keep building more fans, we get more and more attention, and we’re slowly climbing up the mountain. I think if we keep putting out one shredding album after the other.

Zack: How do you go about songwriting and lyric writing? Is there a certain formula or process for generating ideas?

Sean Peck: This album was the first album that we ever wrote lyrics ahead of time before we had any music. So this album was a little different, we wrote the fastest album we ever wrote. Not speed wise, but how quick we put it together. Basically it’s me and the two guitar players. Sometimes they’ll have a guitar piece and I’ll come and sing on it. I come up with a lot of guitar ideas too. I’ll go, ba didum ba [makes rhythmic sounds] and I’ll make them play it exactly how it’s in my head. It’s cool, I don’t even have to learn how to play guitar, I just tell people what the fuck to do. I write all the vocal melodies and the lyrics. We have a good head start on the next record. When we get home we’re gonna be jumping right into it, “how are we gonna top ‘Science of Annihilation,’ what do we do now, it’s gotta be super sick.” It’s always a challenge man, you always look back on the last album and go, “how did we think of that song, it’s fucking genius, dude there’s no way we could ever do that.”

Zack: And then you top it.

Sean Peck: And then we think of how to top it and we’re like “fuck how do we do that?” We’re one of those bands that all get together in a room and write together as a band, which is a lot to be said for that. The magic, you can feel the vibe, you get goosebumps right when you are jamming and you’re like, “oh yeah this is it right here.” So that’s part of it.

Zack: So what’s your favorite Cage album to sing, the process of writing, or recording, or just to listen to?

Sean Peck: I definitely like the new one, just because it’s faster and super freaking power metal balls out and it’s super hard to sing. Like the title track I was like, “This is just a studio song, there’s no way any human can duplicate this in a live environment.” And now we’re playing it fucking effortlessly. We sit down and say, “so… ummm…”

Zack: What can we do on the next album?

Sean Peck: Yeah. Well with “Hell Destroyer” we destroyed the earth and on “Science of Annihilation” we completely eradicated the entire universe and all of existence. And now we’re like, “How do we top that? What else is left to destroy?”

Zack: Every dimension?

Sean Peck: The next album’s gonna be about love… No, probably not.

Zack: Do you have a message you want to give to fans through the music?

Sean Peck: I don’t write about politics because I think metal is supposed to be an escape. I grew up with the Maiden/Priest stuff, it was all either educational, like cool historical things. I do a lot of conspiracy theory and cutting edge science things. Like the Chupacabras or the Nazi Philadelphia Experiment, which is a cool underground things based on truth that are really on the fringe and those are just cool metal topics. It’s like how Maiden and Priest did it or it’s like scary stories in the King Diamond vibe. I’m a big comic book nerd, so I did two comic book songs on this album.

Zack: Which songs?

Sean Peck: “Planet Crusher” is like Galactus and the Silver Surfer and “Spirit of Vengeance” is Ghost Rider. On the new record we’re gonna do a song called “Dr. Doom.” I wanted to do an entire comic book album, but now Disney owns Marvel and we’re probably gonna get really sued by Mickey Mouse.

Zack: Any future plans other than the album?

Sean Peck: Well we have the last three albums coming out on vinyl, which is gonna be really cool to see those album covers on the freaking vinyl. I can’t freaking wait. Those are probably coming out next year early. We have a DVD coming out which is going to be awesome. Then we have the new album that we’re writing for and probably two more tours in Europe. And we have new management. It’s a really cool time for Cage. A lot of buzz [and] a lot of momentum rolling on this. Now we are able to get out and see these people and have people see us and go, “holy shit.” The future looks real bright. One of the messages I always tell people is stay true to the kind of music you like. Don’t change to any trends.

Zack: Persistence.

Sean Peck: Persist in whatever. If you are in a band and [you’re thinking], “oh dude the new Disturbed came out we gotta sound like that.” By the time you try to get anywhere that shit’s gonna be gone. So if you think “Mary Had A Little Lamb” is the coolest thing in the world man just go with it. Being a successful in writing your own original music is harder than being a lawyer, a brain surgeon, or an undersea welder.

Zack: So what was your day job?

Sean Peck: I still have a day job. I’m a mortgage broker. I work in the high level world of finance and stuff like that and real estate. That’s how I can handle my metal habit. The recession is good, cause I’m like the loan shark guy. I make loans that are so completely outrageously priced that no one would ever… my usual close line is, “there’s really nothing to like about this loan, but hey if you want it here it is.” But it’s going really well and we’ve been really blessed.

Zack: That’s great in these times. Well, thank you for this interview.

Sean Peck: Well it was a cool interview, I hope everyone liked the sound effects we put in to illustrate my point thanks a lot Metal Underground. Peace.

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