Words by Mark Dalbeth
This Goes To 11 is a new column hosted by Mark Dalbeth. Mark was born in New Zealand and now lives in Los Angeles, and would be better known in Australia as having been part of the band Bellusira. Following his dreams, Mark moved to LA and has been working on Rav Medic plus an exciting new project he has in the works. As a performer, Mark has been the subject of many interviews and as a result of often being asked the same generic questions himself, has come on board with HEAVY and plans to conduct interviews with an edge.
No bullshit questions, no boring anecdotes and definitely no soft edges, This Goes To 11 is a column where the musician finally gets to turn the tables with hard-hitting questions you won’t hear anywhere else.
This week Mark catches up with Evan Rodaniche from L. A rockers Cage9.
MD: Your biggest fear right now with the music industry?
Evan: My biggest worry would be that the impact of all these shut-downs will have long-term negative consequences on live shows and everyone who relies on them to survive. Live venues, touring musicians, and everyone in that circle are having a REALLY hard time right now and if more and more of these venues close, it’s going to compound the challenges and time-line of returning to normal. Everyone is already having to reinvent how they do this, and for the most part, most involved were just paying their rent with this stuff in the name of ART – not getting rich or even saving away lots of money to deal with hard times like this. The artistic community has never been known for being super business savvy – artists are generally not business people – so I think we’re going to need to see a lot of charity and GoFundMe campaigns kick in – or even government subsidies – to keep the touring industry from completely going under for a while. Don’t know what the answer is.
On the flip side, recorded music is having a boom – from my perspective as a producer and mixer (outside of my band world). Everyone’s locked up in their home studios cranking out music because it’s all they CAN do. So we might be on the front end of a huge music boom with lots of new music flooding the market over the next year – maybe more than EVER honestly. So that might be part of the answer of keeping music alive…people supporting bands and artists by listening to their music, buying their merch online and giving them every chance to take advantage of whatever revenue they can grab from that.
Why do you think rock music is always the genre fighting for commercial acceptance?
I think to the average human being on planet Earth, aggressive rock music with distorted guitars, edgy vocals and busy drums will always live in the fringes to some extent just by nature. The average person who wasn’t brought up listening to it, will only hear the intensity of emotion and probably be a little intimidated by it. This will either draw them to it (like most of us) or scare them away. That’s what makes it special! It’s not for everyone. Once in a while a band will come along that bridges the divide between pop sensibilities and the harder rock ethos that bursts through into the mainstream for a while. But like all popular movements, it will be followed by a bunch of copy cats that aren’t as good as the original, and the sound will slowly slip back to its rightful place outside of the boring predictability of the plastic commercial world.
Was there a moment in your career that you thought about throwing it all in?
I’ve been playing in a band seriously since I was 14. Eventually, in my 20s, I moved to LA with my band Cage9. We’ve had many ups and downs, as is the nature of the game. The highest points being when we’d get a great tour opening for some bigger band – ironically like when we were chosen to return to Panama to open for Ozzy Osbourne or more recently when we were invited to open for our friend Lacey Sturm (singer of Flyleaf)’s first solo tour. But the biggest soul-sucking moments are always after being misled by record labels and managers who promise to do all kinds of things to further your career and then completely fail to deliver. I’m not sure why these people exist in the record industry with such enthusiasm. Maybe they exist in all industries. But this business definitely seems to draw in the kind of people that just want to say that they work with artists, even though they have zero skills except to maybe talk a big game and name drop. The conundrum lies in that sometimes these people can fool enough people to actual get results once in a while so you learn to just take what you can get…which often means naively working with people you know are a little shady. In the end, you ending up feeling like a complete fool and a failure when you realize you allowed yourself to be misled. You just want to make best, most honest music you can – and now you have grapple with vultures. It sucks. It makes you dislike playing music as a result. But you have to just get through these times knowing that you will make more albums and there will be more tours and the magic will come back!
That being said…I am taking a break from the band life right now! With Covid and the hardships live music is facing, I’ve decided to just focus on my producing and mixing career – which is something I’ve always done in conjunction with my band, literally since high school. I’ll keep writing and releasing music – but I don’t feel in any hurry and after a lifetime of it, I don’t mind stepping back for a bit. But writing and performing will always be a part of me and I’m sure I will continue in some capacity when things sort themselves out.
What is your typical writing process?
I have a notepad app on my phone (Evernote to be exact) where I instantly write down any lyric ideas as they pop into my head in everyday life. I probably add something to it every day or two, even now…so it’s a huge file. Alternately, I have a recording app that takes the place of the old cassette recorder where I also instantly hum or sing any melody or guitar ideas the second, they arrive…maybe with half-baked lyrics and even a brief description of what instruments and sounds would accompany the idea. Later I’ll sit at my computer with a guitar and a drum program and try to hash out these ideas in more detail. If things are sounding promising and exciting, I’ll work on it until I get bored of it or lose track of where it’s going at which point, I STOP. If it’s not inspiring anymore, chances are you’ve heard to it too many times and have gotten numb to whatever was cool about it – so it’s better to set it aside and return to it in a few days and see if it has a future. But the trick is to try to be objective, not second guess or edit yourself too much and try to finish as much of it as possible while inspired. I have many hard drives full of half-baked ideas! But hopefully you can capitalize on the ones that were the “best” and flesh them out to their most complete state at which time you can choose to re-record with the whole band or develop into a finished song.
In the full band scenario – I’ll spend an afternoon just ‘jamming’ with a drummer and bassist and we record everything – then come back and pick and choose the coolest riffs and I’ll go to my notepad, sift through my lyric ideas and then try to connect the dots. In the end, there are MANY ways to write a song and they’re all valid. I think my best songs are the ones that were lyrics and melody hatched at the same time and built into a full song. But there are a few of my favourites that came about in the “music first” ways too. Depends on your mindset, I think.
Is there still value in printing CD’s or do you believe the digital world has taken over completely now?
People were still buying CDs at live shows more as a memento – but very few are ordering them online and probably no one is buying them at record stores except for the novelty of owning a vinyl copy etc. I think the digital world’s takeover is just about complete.
Are you prepared to sacrifice money and comfort in order to progress your career?
I would say that’s what I’ve been doing for the past 17 years that I’ve lived in LA. I left a perfectly happy life in Panama to come live in a tiny apartment with a bunch of band dudes. I never got a real job. I never had kids. I’ve never been able to save money. I’d say the one positive of Covid for me is that it’s opened my eyes to the possibility of moving out of the big city and making music remotely and maybe, enjoying nature and life in general a little more. I don’t regret all the time and energy I’ve invested in music though. I’ve met so many great people. Made so much music that I feel has made many people happy. And I’ve lived the life of the artist – which has been a challenge – but it’s a lifestyle that many people with “normal” lives don’t get to experience. So, I’m thankful to have been able to survive this way!
Can you see modern Rock music returning to (commercial) radio in the near future?
ABSOLUTELY. It’s cyclical. And with all the pent-up disillusionment the world is trying to contain right now I’m pretty sure a few loud, angry rock songs are due a little mainstream acceptance!
Was Lars Ulrich right?
Oh totally. Of course, the digital music revolution was inevitable but the industry fought it or just ignored it completely, instead learning to control it and making it fair for everyone. We’re just now probably getting to a point where it’s super legit and even I seem to be seeing money coming in from streaming services but man, it has taken a long time to get here. I don’t know if it’ll stay this way either so time will tell – I’m not super savvy on the subject as I try not to get too caught up in the business side of things. But I’m hopeful that things will continue in a good way.
Has Rock Music become too safe?
Mostly. It’s too easy for anyone with a laptop with recording software, virtual amps, autotune and fake drums to crank out half-baked songs onto the internet that in the past went straight into the garbage. There’s no one guarding the gates of quality! The best, most dangerous, most cutting-edge music comes from real blood, sweat and van tires. Years of touring, rehearsal, life experience, shows, failure and loss. That comes out under the perfect storm of studio conditions where the musicians are pushed by a great and seasoned producer and the absolute most heart wrenching and emotional performances are captured and perfected before being released to the world.
Now the internet demands a new song every month with accompanying music video. It’s instantly old news a day after its release. Why put in all that work if the payoff is a bunch of fleeting likes but distracted people running to Starbucks or at the gym? The real artists are still there – they’re still making the best music they can. But they’re getting swallowed by the multitude of lesser-thans taking up the bandwidth. And I guess you could say that’s also a good thing. Cuz the motivation now should shift back to being the art itself and not the what other people think.
Do you think it’s important to play in multiple projects or solely focus your attention into one?
I think two projects is the sweet spot. Ideally, one that makes money/or connections and one that fulfils your artistic needs. Any more than that and you are fooling yourself. Unless you’re just a hired gun and just want to make money. But that’s also a hard road and if that “Hired Gun” documentary is to be believed, those people generally end up extremely unfulfilled in the end.
I’ve mostly stuck to one project of focus. That’s mostly been Cage9. But I joined the much more famous band Powerman 5000 for a few years and although I kept doing Cage9 (we’d sometimes open tours and I’d play twice every night), I mostly focused on writing, recording and touring for that band. I made lots of connections to other bands, radio station personalities and industry people…but I would say the advantage that afforded Cage9 was negligible.
What have you got going on or coming up that we should know about?
I’m releasing a string of final live acoustic Cage9 song videos on our YouTube and Instagram page. These are maybe my top 10 favourite Cage9 songs from over the years. We’ve released over 100 songs so it was fun to pull up a few we hadn’t played in a while. Our last single “D.O.A.” just came out a few months ago so be sure to check out the lyric video below:
I continue to mix and produce other bands, many of which I’m pretty excited about. Sammi Doll, lead singer of Bullet Height just released a single I mixed and performed on:
New album by Dizzy Reed (of Guns n’ Roses) I just finished mixing comes out soon. Albums by Boy Hits Car, The Haxans and many more on the way.
Other Cage9 links: