Hailing from Indianapolis, the essence of Raise the Shield has been quietly germinating in guitarist, vocalist, producer and principal songwriter Dave Cardwell’s mind, blossoming into two excellent new releases, the EP Shocked Awake, and the full-length demo Play With Fire after lengthy setbacks and personnel shortages. Going on the offensive with an arsenal of traditional thrash and power metal rockers with a modern, slick edge, it was one of the most rounded and creative offerings on debut that I’ve had the pleasure to listen to. After some correspondence I was able to get his thoughts about his influences, aspirations and the state of metal in his home state (and country) and of course, the making of his new album.
Eyeless Sentry: G’day Dave. First up, tell us a little about the inspiration for your latest album, Play with Fire. I really dug the old sounds mixed with the new. Are you personally inspired more with the traditional elements of metal or the recent trends and styles? Or even other genres?
Dave Cardwell: I am definitely inspired by old-school thrash artists like Megadeth, Metallica, Flotsam and Jetsam and Testament. I dig extreme guitar work from the likes of Racer X, Cacophony, and Yngwie Malmsteen. I’m also into newer groups like Outworld, Strapping Young Lad, and Opeth. I don’t go for any specific sound; I just let inspiration and creativity take their course.
As far as other genres, they might not directly be apparent in the sound of Raise The Shield, but there is an influence of all kinds of music in my attitudes and thoughts. I like many non-metal artists.
I was personally impressed with the slender gap between Shocked Awake and Play with Fire, being about two or three months between innings! Are you a musician by trade?
I’m currently a student at Indiana University and I’m a semi-pro musician. Shocked Awake was finished in early August and is a collection of earlier songs that were written a while back. The earliest versions of Raise The Shield had been performing Pirate Song since early 2005. So all the songs on that CD were already rehearsed and totally fleshed out long before the release of Shocked Awake in September.
Play With Fire was written much later. The oldest song on the new CD besides Deathwish is Play With Fire, which was written around June 2006. So I had a good amount of time to work on the follow up even before the first CD came out! I typically have a large backlog of new songs so I rarely start totally from scratch with a CD.
How much planning and effort is involved in the writing and recording of these releases? Doing everything by yourself can’t be easy.
Actually, doing it myself has been easier than working with any of the bands I’ve put together. Just getting 4 people into the same room for a few hours can be hard. Getting a band completely tight to the point where playing the songs is effortless can take a month or more of daily rehearsals. I was only able to rehearse the band once a week. Doing it myself basically cuts out all the middlemen involved with realizing the music. I just write the riffs, sing over them and program the rest exactly the way I want it. Recording Shocked Awake was much less efficient since I had to get the band rehearsed first, and the result still wasn’t to my satisfaction.
I don’t do much planning in the beginning of a CD. I want the inspiration for the music to come spontaneously. Once I have that initial inspiration, then the calculated planning takes place. I rewrite each song quite a bit before it is released.
Fortunately I have a good grasp of computers and recording technology, which allows me to work very quickly. Writing the music is difficult but usually very fun. Recording it is a bitch. It takes a supreme amount of patience to sit and record the same section over and over to get a great take.
As a guitarist, do you believe some artists overburden themselves by trying to impress people with their skills rather than write engaging music?
Absolutely there are artists out there who doing this for some reason other than solely the music. I’m not out to impress anyone. Most professional musicians aren’t doing it to impress anyone either. The people who got into music to impress people are the ones playing acoustic guitar thinking they’ll pick up some chicks, or the guys who crank up their amp at a guitar store thinking that someone is going to come up and compliment their chops. Not that there’s anything that wrong about it really, but there are definitely more efficient ways to meet girls than learning to play guitar.
Do you think a majority of the metal scene takes itself too seriously? Some of the high points on your discs for me were the tongue-in-cheek moments, such as in Deathwish. A lot of people would frown at thrash metal having a light hearted side.
There are people who take themselves too seriously everywhere. The metal scene is no exception. However there are a lot of bands that can see that metal doesn’t necessarily have to be that serious. I don’t feel like I have to meet anyone’s standards of what metal is, or that I have to change my natural style to fit the stereotypes of a genre more closely. If someone wants to listen to something that is always very dark and serious, there are plenty of bands out there who do it well.
Rock music in my view has begun to creep back into mainstream radio play. Do you think this is a positive for the greater metal scene? Have you noticed this trend?
Sometimes it’s frustrating to see the kinds of bands that are getting on TV and the radio, but in the end any kind of music that is promoting live bands and big guitars is probably good for metal. I’ve noticed a lot of MTV play for bands like Avenged Sevenfold and Bullet For My Valentine. As would a lot of people, I don’t consider them metal but someone who has discovered their more accessible sound might start looking for other heavier bands. A bigger scene means better support for smaller bands and more touring possibilities.
Indianapolis: metal haven or hell?
International acts have a frustrating tendency to skip Indianapolis. This year I’ve had to travel to Ohio see Megadeth on Gigantour 2 and Slayer on the Unholy Alliance Tour. Ozzfest stops in Indianapolis, which is nice. I mostly go to check out the up and coming bands.
There is certainly a scene here and there are some bands that are doing cool stuff like Demiricous, who are signed to Metal Blade Records. The biggest heavy music scene in Indianapolis seems to be Hardcore/Screamo/Metalcore style music, which isn’t my favorite. I’d love to see the local scene grow more.
An Australian guitarist once said “You’d have to be living under a rock not to use MySpace to promote your band.” How integral is social networking websites like these for getting support for your music?
For me it has been very important. Raise The Shield has gotten 18,000 plays on Myspace. I’ve met a lot of fans and people who want to help me out. Since metal is a more underground style, it is well suited to Myspace. I can promote the band even though I can’t get on the radio or tour at the moment.
Raise the Shield’s future ambitions – Tours? Record deals? What’s your ideal vision for your band?
Its all possible. Ideally Raise The Shield would be able to write and tour on a full time basis. There are advantages to having a record deal since a record company can open up possibilities for a band. Until that point I’m going to keep releasing albums on my own and promoting them myself.
Random question: Dave Mustaine vs. Lars Ulrich - who would win in a scrap?
Dave Mustaine. He should have a bigger reach than Lars since he’s about 5 inches taller. Mustaine has a long history of getting into shit with people anyway.
Yeah, I’ll definitely pay that! Like to add anything for your fans?
Big thanks to everyone who is listening to Raise The Shield, and to all those who are helping me get my music out there. I’m amazed by the support I’m getting.
Thanks for the interview!
No problem, thanks for having me.
Shocked Awake and Play With Fire are available through Dave’s Myspace site.