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Ignitor's Jason McMaster: "The dragons, the demons, the tanks and artillery, the blood and guts, the horrific and sometimes terrible artwork on the cover, was something that we looked for. This is the idea; the dirt we want"

Interview with Jason McMaster from Ignitor
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 28 November 2020, 10:07 PM

At least from this end, it is hard to call the defense of Metal music as cliché. Metal music has been proven to be more than merely a musical genre but a sort of a religion as well. It is embraces life and freedom, even if it turns harsh as one of its faces. No doubt that basics of Metal were rooted way before the hey days of the genre in the 80s, however, that same decade made Metal music recognizable, so why not celebrate that era again and again, countlessly if needed. The American Ignitor aren't seeking to prove themselves, just merely follow what they believe in. Steinmetal had a great chance to discuss that with vocalist Jason McMaster, along with the band's new album, "The Golden Age of Black Magick"

Greetings Jason, it is an honor to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online magazine. How have you been doing, sir?

I am doing well. Thanks for having me in your magazine.

With the elections over and all the impacts Covid-19 has had on the American society, do you believe that things are going to move forward soon?

I don't think "soon" is a word that is real any longer. I think when we all as a world realize we have to wear the face covering and wash our hands, and take into consideration everyone else and not just ourselves, then we can move forward. The vaccine is not really going to save the world. It will help shield us from the disease and the spread, but you still have to do the "work".

You have been one of the most active musicians since forever, as far as I can remember. With the inability to perform live, are there any positives that you found as a musician throughout this pandemic, things that can be accomplished without the live shows happening?

I have been overwhelmed and humbled by the other musicians I have been invited to collaborate with. I have written and recorded and I have done videos all during the pandemic from home.

Honestly, I record and write from home all of the time, but during these strange times, it has been a bit more often. I have done some very fun videos of cover songs that are accompanied by tracks I had to record for the audio portion of the video prior to filming my parts. So those kept me quite busy. Playing live shows again would be nice, but I feel it's a bit selfish to just go play live shows and attract large crowds, if they're not willing to wear face coverings and social distance. A lot of my close friends continue to play live shows and are committed to keeping a safe distance for their own safety, but that may or may not spread the correct message. I am quite torn.

Do you see the light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to going back to action on the live front? Do you think the future will be shaped differently and newfound means such as frequent live stream shows instead of actual live events will have to be implemented?

The abundance of live stream concerts will continue to rise. The venues that rely on ticket sales, the bars and pubs that rely on sales of their product as much as hiring local and up and coming national acts will continue to close if things cannot change. In the end, it will be a D.I.Y. (do it yourself) world again. That is where most of us started out. When I was too young to play in a bar/pub, me and my friends would set up our own shows in fields, or backyards, or rent a hall and charge small donations at the door. It was not about beverage sales; it was about the music. It could easily go back to that.

With the new album, "The Golden Age of Black Magick", once again you were shopping for a proper home for your music and signed with the old school metal label, Metal on Metal Records. What are your thoughts on working with a label that is undoubtedly in your spectrum of musical expertise?

I give credit to Ignitor guitarist, Robert Williams. If I recall correctly, he knew of the label, and sent them some rough mixes and they responded positively. They have been a reason for us to be patient for this release. Otherwise, we would have done whatever it took to put the record out. Sometimes we release the material on our own, and it works out great. Sometimes we release the license to a label that works more as a distributor. This has been a much better experience as we see more interaction with and from the representatives directly, as well as ads and press. It is obvious that Metal on Metal, even during these terrible trying times, really care and believe in the material.

Ignitor, at least judging from the last couple of albums released on different labels, appears to be a band that is always on the move… What does it take to keep you under the same label's wings for another release?

Respectfully, we go with our gut feelings when we work with a label. I mentioned before, it is important to not gather moss or let the songs stand still once they have been recorded and mixed. It actually takes us a long time to write and record, so, we are always looking to write the next riff, or the next lyrical direction for a new song, even just after recording a full length record.

In answer to your question, the label has to be willing to take the hard hit of promoting a record, through good and bad sales or business climate rise and fall. It is hard enough to promote an earthy or underground type of band or music in such a plastic and shiny type business world. Metal on Metal has proven beyond that they care that much to help us get the songs out there to the right people this time.

I have to say you have piqued my interest with the title of your new album. I guess it's more or less about coming back to basics, to the "bread and butter" that made Heavy Metal so great, and the longing for the '80s. Is this what you meant to express with this title?

The entire being and existence of Ignitor is the idea of representing, without any regrets, exactly the feelings a young headbanger had when they picked up a record release from the original underground music labels, like Metal Blade or Combat, or Relativity… too many old school early metal supporting labels to mention here. The dragons, the demons, the tanks and artillery, the blood and guts, the horrific and sometimes terrible artwork on the cover, was something that we looked for. This is the idea; the dirt we want.

The idea behind the actual lyric to the title track has many faces and is open to one's interpretations. Dementia or the confusion of one's mental capacity after being medically diagnosed with such a disease goes with the possibility of a small child having an imaginary friend who makes them very happy. Being mentally compromised or diagnosed as crazy, talking to someone or something that is not in the room with you can be a delight and a disgrace to society, to other family members, or to doctors if it seems to be causing stress in a circle of dependents. This lyric found its way into my head after watching my mother pass from the earth, from struggling with dementia among other things.

The fact that current and television shows or ads, mixed up in your mind can cause it to become something seemingly real was really hard to learn and come to grips with. I, with an open mind, understood it, as I explained above. The imaginary friend who makes you happy, someone that understands you no matter what. It worked quite well with a heavy metal idea, that you love the music and might be obsessed with it so much that it is with you like a family member, at all times. The demon or the Satan in all of it, just gives me something to call it in a form that works well with heavy metal. It is quite harmless and rather tongue in cheek, or cartoony to me. I sleep well at night knowing exactly what I meant when I wrote these lyrics.

My deepest condolences for your loss sir, may you know no sorrow

The label's owner and CEO, Jowita Kaminska-Peruzzi, created a fine artwork that reflects the album title in a literal manner. Do you find this image well integrated with the music too?

Her vision for the title, was a modern way to respect the exact title as it reads, and even more so, sings and reads with the lyric "I miss the golden age of black magick". I would like to thank her for this excellent piece of art!

What can you tell us about the lyrical themes on the album? What is the main narrative here? Are the themes rooted in history? Do they serve as analogies for the present times?

"Countess Apollyon" is completely fictional until I mention Bathory who seems to be, arguably, the first and maybe the first female serial killer. The idea that she bathed in and maybe drank the blood of her victims, and to believe it was her "fountain of youth" is very, very metal. What if her mother passed this down to her? This is the idea, fictional, that I had ("mother of Bathory").

The lyrics are all fictional, other than mentions here and there, as the above example. If anything comes off as metaphor for something in current times, it is purely by accident, but I find that happens often with my lyrics.

As I mentioned before, the title has that clinging to the classic years of Metal feel, but also the music is like a shout-out to its heyday right from the very first chords and melodies. Other than the admiration for the classic years, has anything else kept you guys motivated to continue forging the '80s inspired Metal on "The Golden Age of Black Magick", especially when most releases nowadays are more modern sounding?

There is a story our guitarist Stuart "Batlord" Laurence told me once, about how he grew up on Kiss and AC/DC and Queen in the '70s, just like most of us, and then got into punk rock, had punk bands and whole thing, but then realized that he was a metal head and that metal seemed way more fun to him. I feel like Ignitor has his vision of that story anchored to the ground.

It is important to Ignitor to write and play a certain style. The older sounding, the better. The big dumb heavy chords to the fast single note thrashing chainsaw riffage, all has to be there no matter what. We are not the best musicians and we don't really care about that. We care about what's coming out of the speakers in a language that not all might understand. That's what we like about it. Heavy metal belongs to someone, but not all.

Since you are an '80s devotee, what do you think the current scene lacks and how could it be improved?

I am not here to improve. Just to make sounds that speak to me and to people who still love this sound. I love modern, I love throwback. I love the memories of when I heard Motorhead, Metallica, Kiss and Slayer for the first time. Just like when I was very young and heard Elton John and Queen for the first time. That feeling is what is important. Improving something that has been done might be messing it up and finding the downfall of styles that mean so much to people. Trend setting and following the tastemakers seems like a lot of work with sometimes absolutely no result. If I get no results in doing the opposite, which is what I do, then at least I have well-being at that point.

How would you describe the musical progress of Ignitor on "The Golden Age of Black Magick" and compare it to your previous releases? Even though you guys are veterans, were there any recent lessons that you learned from past mistakes?

Really trying to make the melodies sit with the riffs has always been important. Sometimes the lyrics do not fit. Sometimes you must change or rewrite parts to make sense. Adding, and subtracting elements, until it sounds like Ignitor. Sometimes, if a song or lyric is starting to sound or say something you did not intend at first, I always try to do what it wants to do on its own.

In your opinion, what in particular makes this album strong and stand out in the scene and market that spews out new releases almost on a daily basis?

I don't know about it standing out from any other old school metal band's release. I can say that I am always proud of a new Ignitor record. I love this one, I love "Year of the Metal Tiger" and "Haunted by Rock & Roll". I feel these three Ignitor releases really bring the sound of true metal.

When it comes to the ultimate catchiness and profound melodies, I couldn't help but sing "Countess Apollyon" repeatedly. I wonder, why wasn't it selected as one of the album's singles, hell, the album's main single? What can you tell us about this tune?

I am happy to hear it has the anthemic feel and makes one want to sing along. The fact that new release has anything like that and yet is considered an old school underground metal sound is a win for the team. I thought it sounded a bit like the chorus for Judas Priest's "The Sentinel". That would not have stopped me from being OK with releasing it as a single, but it is early stages now, maybe we still have time to do this.

Another striking song that is pure '80s combustion and an attention grabber is "Tonight We Ride". Whether it's about horseback or motorcycle riding, it is a driving force with its crisp riffs and a strong chorus. I think tracks like this one are what is really missing in the scene nowadays. How do you feel about this song personally?

On the song "Tonight We Ride", when I first heard the band play the music, before any lyric or melody was written, I thought it sounded like old Scorpions "Lovedrive" era. I immediately started thinking and singing like what I thought Klaus Meine would sing/sound like on the track. The lyrics came to me very easily at that point. It was like someone else was writing them, but with my hand. Since the music and the notes in my head came natural, even though I thought it was sounding way too much like the Scorpions sounds, I embraced it. Now, it is one of the stand out tracks on the record. No one else says it sounds like the Scorpions but me.

One of the album's most brutal tunes is the crushing "Steel Flesh Bone" with its strong statement and sheer bash-your-skull-in feel. What was your inspiration for this track?

The music made me write such a crushing and violent lyric. The main riff and verse were already there. I wrote the riff for the choruses to fit the lyric correctly. It took a few tries to get the band working with the lyrical ideas, but it sorts of melted into what it is on the recording. The lyric is about a warrior/king who seeks revenge and lives a life of darkness, only to keep his family and kingdom safe. The violence he lives with in his home reminds him of a constant battle and maybe paranoia that could easily drive him mad, yet he chooses it to keep himself occupied.

How has "The Golden Age of Black Magick" been received in the US and worldwide so far?

Friends and family have nothing but love for the new record. We are extremely happy in every way of how this project came out and has been received.

A little off topic now: how have things been going with Dangerous Toys and Evil United? Are these bands still going strong?

Evil United recorded and released a third record for Combat/EMP Label Group. The record is called "Serpent" and really shines as far as the trilogy of our releases is concerned. It is still available, but the band has not played live in a long, long time. Dangerous Toys, much like Evil United, only plays a handful of shows per year, not so in 2020, of course, but we are writing new material for the first time since the '90s. The project I am vocalist for, Howling Sycamore, is working on a third record. The first two got excellent reviews. It is the most progressive and odd metal project I have going. Overall, whatever bands or projects I have going, most of them are just studio projects at this point because of Covid.

How will you be promoting the new album, considering the current situation?

Exactly like this. New videos, interviews and anything to push the new releases. Playing live is not a reality for a while.

What do you see Ignitor doing next? Do you plan starting to work on yet another album any time soon?

The riff writing machine that is Ignitor guitarist Robert Williams has already been stacking the riffs for a new collection of Ignitor material.

Jason, it has been an honor, sir, it was great to have you for this interview, all the best and keep spreading the word of true Metal. Cheers!

Thank you for having me.


 



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