Depending on your viewpoint, there may be more studio bands cropping up these days. Particularly in the technical metal scene, which Slice The Cake vocalist and lyricist Gareth Mason discusses at length merely hours before their worldwide exclusive debut as a live band at UK Tech Metal Festival. Needless to say, as competent musicians they all are in the studio, that first live show is still pretty nerve-wracking. Even if their technical wizardry says to anybody they will have no problem acing this material in front of a crowd.
The band made the rounds back in 2010 with the release of Cleansed, combining the ferocious ruthlessness of death metal interwoven with technical progressive edges – with concepts being a very key, important focal point in the band. That which is lyrically thought-provoking whilst also blended with a large plethora of awesome riffage is infinitely par for the course for a festival dedicated to technical metal and atmospheric flavours.
The mastermind behind the band’s deep philosophical songwriting shared a few thoughts with me not long before stepping onstage, to discuss origins of the ever-growing studio band and some of his lyrical ideals.
Danuel: It’s a pleasure to meet you. How are you doing?
Gareth: Doing well man, thank you.
Danuel: As today marks your official Worldwide Exclusive debut, could you tell MetalRecusants how Slice The Cake started?
Gareth: Yeah so Jonas [bassist] and I met on Ultimate Metal Forums about 6 or 7 years ago and Jonas basically put up like a 30 second clip of a song he wanted someone to do vocals for. So I said yeah fuck it I’ll have a go. We did the song, it sounded really fucking good, and then, we were like “Let’s make a project out of this!” and then nothing happened for like 6 or 7 months afterwards. And then Jonas met Jack on Ultimate Guitar forum, they started writing music together and then it just kind of fell into place thereafter.
Danuel: Today must be a very special day for you as a band – can you describe to us the journey you’ve embarked on to get to this stage?
Gareth: It’s quite surreal really because considering our nature is being this intimate band, a lot of it is conceptual you know. You have an idea of what it is and what it might be, and stuff like this. In the past it has been viewed as potentials, and now that we’re here, I don’t really know what words to describe to it really. It’s just surreal. Doesn’t feel that real and it won’t do until we kind of finish playing I think.
Danuel: Because of course the band’s inception dates back to 2009, and you have obviously released material between then and now – how does it feel to be putting all of that work into one big performance here at Tech-Fest?
Gareth: It’s different, you know. Considering we’ve been a very studio-oriented band I don’t think live playing is really any of our forte – we’re all like bedroom warriors. So it’s a completely different vibe, but it’s really cool. It’s been very fulfilling to make it happen. It’s our first time here, first time playing live.
Danuel: Does it prove challenging being in a band across different time zones?
Gareth: Yes and no. The actual act of writing the music and creating it all is much the same as most bands I think. Most bands in this kind of scene, they write with Guitar Pro, they go to the studio, everyone learns their parts separately and there isn’t really much of this ‘practice-room’ kind of vibe. So nothing we’re doing is at all different, really. It’s just the fact we’re doing it over the internet across different continents. But when you look at the way the music industry’s gone, people will record drums in one place, another guy somewhere else will re-amp it and then another guy mixes it. It’s nothing different. Because we met on a recording forum, that wasn’t anything new to us. Aside from all of that, the only real thing that proves challenging is the logistics of it all really. You may want to get some feedback on something and we all have separate stuff going on, so sometimes people might not be there for days, or weeks at a time. You have to just wait to get that feedback, you can’t just phone them up or go down the street asking “how did this sound?” So it just takes longer, that’s the only real challenge to it.
Danuel: We understand you have a new album out this year, Odyssey To The West. How has that been going so far?
Gareth: That album has been completely laborious! We have been working on it for about 3 ½ years now! We basically started kind of, outlaying the concepts and the ideas musically and lyrically in late 2012. We were going to do a couple of EPs and those kind of never happened, and then the ideas from those spiralled out into this new thing. Since then it’s been a slow process, we’ve had a couple of hard drive crashes and leak of the album. And lyrically, I’ve done a lot of studying into the esoteric and the occult to make it happen, and to integrate the concepts because I don’t believe in writing some words that you don’t necessarily believe or understand yourself. When you’re going through that kind of stuff, you have to take the time to thoroughly integrate it all. So it’s been long really. Just a long, laborious process but it’s going pretty well. We’ve still got some tracking to do. Of course we’ve been busy as fuck so that hasn’t happened yet. I think we’re probably set for an autumn release – September/October time maybe.
Danuel: We also are led to believe that the new single “The Exile Part II – The City of Destruction” tells the story of a character in a religious setting, philosophically damning his soul to God by himself. Is that accurate?
Gareth: You’re on the right track. Basically the idea is that this pilgrim is kind of a representation of The Hero’s Journey. So it starts off – he hears the call to adventure, which is frenzied dreams basically. He kind of perceives this to be the voice of God. So he dedicates himself to this voice, damns this city. That’s what he’s damning. He’s not damning himself as such, he believes God is the saviour at this point in time. It’s contextual, each song has a place within the story and until you’ve seen the whole picture, it makes everything else make sense.
Danuel: Will the rest of the album be following a similar concept?
Gareth: Absolutely man. It’s a coherent story from start to finish – I’ve done a lot of work on the lyrics booklet. I’ve tried to give keys in the wording so people can go and research the stuff and figure it out for themselves. It’s open to interpretation.
Danuel: How did the recording process compare to The Man With No Face and Cleansed?
Gareth: I mean both of them were laborious in their own ways, but they were shorter, smaller projects. This one has been a bit different so it’s hard to put your finger on it. I mean thinking on Odyssey To The West, and what it’s all about, it has reflected in us I think as well. We’ve had to go through a lot of personal shit as a band – learning how to work with each other as individuals. We’ve all had to do a lot of growth and learning, and it’s been incredibly different to the other albums in a very beautiful way.
Danuel: According to your Facebook a while ago, today’s also featuring a CD/DVD recording. Is that still happening?
Gareth: We’re hoping to do the CD, I don’t think the DVD is happening anymore because it’s all been a bit of a rush really. Yeah fingers crossed for a live CD!
Danuel: What is next for Slice The Cake?
Gareth: As for what’s next, I think we’re going to be taking a break from writing for a while. We’re hoping to play some more shows, depending on how this one goes. We’ve all got other projects that have been left by the wayside a little bit, and then Slice the Cake will rebirth itself at some point.