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The Unbearable Weight of Massive Riffs: In Conversation With NICOLAS CAGE FIGHTER

Yes, they touch on their band name.


Australia's metal-death-hardcore heroes Nicolas Cage Fighter – named after the zen master of funk himself – are fixing to take the heavy world by storm in 2022.

Recently signed to Metal Blade/Blacklight Media, the four-piece of frontman Nick Moriarty, guitarist Justin Ellis, Tom Bardwell on bass and Matt Davenport manning the drum-kit, left all their fucks down under with their full-length debut The Bones That Grew From Pain, a potent and vicious followup to their celebrated EP Cast You Out.

Moriarty sat down with Metal Injection for a deep dive into the origins of the band (and their most-excellent name), Australia's metal community, their bucket list tour mates, long-time influences and much more!

We have to start with the name, because Nicolas Cage is the greatest man in the history of existence. Cage fighting is also fantastic. Fits together really nicely.

Yeah. The unbearable weight of massive riffs.

Oh, please tell me that's a thing.

It's not, but I'm sure we could find a way to weave it in there. It's working wonders for us, for sure. We sort of toyed around with the idea of going with just Cage Fighter at one point. Like it got brought up at one band practice and we thought no, we can't get rid of it. It's too much of a drawcard for us.

Was it kind of like a tongue-in-cheek thing in the origins of it for the guys, do you think? 

Not really, no. It was pretty much just like a joke that stuck, really. I'm pretty sure when the boys were sort of first getting the band started up, it was like yeah, we'll play in a band, but we have to call it this. So it's been around since.

I mean, the first massive tour has to be 'The Unbearable Weight of Massive Riffs.' I won't accept anything else.

Yeah, we'll have to. We'll have to see if we can get our faces photoshopped up onto that movie poster. 

There's so much parody you can do with it. And I think with metal, even though this is really crushing metalcore/hardcore type stuff, there's always been room to allow for fun and I love things like that. There's nothing really fun about this music, per say. It"s really kicking you in the fucking teeth, but you can always have that kind of wink and a nod in metal. You can do anything you want.

A hundred percent. I mean, we take what we do seriously, but we really try not to take ourselves too seriously with it, you know? Like where we do it because we love it and we want to have fun. We're not set out to be the Gestapo about what you can call someone, or like what a band can or can't be called, you know what I mean? 

But yeah, similar sort of thing. The band Brojob as well. Like stupidly heavy music, just totally based on just a joke, basically. But it works.

Are there any bucket-list bands you guys would really love to tour with? You've gotten to share the stage with Attila and Thy Art is Murder and some solid acts, but I feel like the sky's the limit now that you're with Metal Blade and Blacklight. The idea of being able to hop on some of these tour packages in the U.S. or Europe or whatever must excite you.

Yeah, absolutely man. I mean, we definitely say it all the time, but we grew up listening to a lot of the bands that are on this label. So it's kind of surreal to think that we will potentially have the chance to actually share the stage with a lot of these bands. Really cool. 

I'm pretty sure like of all the names that sort of get thrown around the most we would definitely be interested or would love to be able to play with Harm's Way, Whitechapel. They're probably the two main ones that really stick out. The boys, they all love sort of more classic metal as well. So you know, we throw around stuff like Cannibal Corpse and even stuff like Hatebreed, just all the big names. 

But lately myself, I would love to be able to play with Malevolence. Been loving all their stuff lately and Kublai Khan as well, probably a little bit more left of field. But I adore their music man. That album Balancing Survival and Happiness, that's been getting a lot of spins lately. Full of good riffs. 

Has it felt like a bit of a momentum shift since the Metal Blade/Blacklight signing? Just from the eyes on you globally, with Metal Blade's celebrating 40 years and Blacklight really harnessing so much of the underground coming to the foreground. It feels like a fantastic place for a launching pad right now. 

It's working wonders for us, man. Like when we first announced it around the time of the EP as well, it was kind of like it was going to take a little while before things would really set off or that boost and that platform that we have would really be able to leverage us any sort of extra growth or exposure. And sort of pushed us forward into the scene a lot more because of the extended sort of hiatus and then COVID and whatnot and not being able to play gigs as frequently. 

We kind of are still, in a sense, operating very much like a new band. There are smaller shows, still warming up into tours and things like that, really like solidifying ourselves on stage and in the scene. But now as we're getting so much closer to the release of the album and Metal Blade is really starting to pump things up a lot more, now it's when it's like oh shit, this is real, you know? It's surreal and we're loving it. 

It's interesting mentioning you're kind of looking at yourselves as a new band because this is a band really that, for all intents and purposes, is over ten years old. But it's a type of thing where you can play in Australia for years, but once you're finally breaking into North America, Europe and elsewhere, the work really begins. 

Myself, living on an island, I know sometimes it feels like you're a million miles away from the world and to get anywhere or to do anything, you have to work that much harder. There's so many fantastic bands in the metal scene in Australia, but I'd imagine at times it must feel like the rest of the world is lightyears away.

Very much so like two separate entities. It's like Australia, absolutely, we have this incredible heavy music scene and a heap of bands that are absolutely thriving. 

But it's interesting watching a band sort of go from small local shows to selling out to bigger venues and going on more frequent east tours and whatnot, just because they're so common in Australia. It's when you see that band make that first trip overseas that you're like okay, now they've sort of broken out of that bubble of just being like an Aussie band and really sort of stepped up to being something a fair bit bigger. 

I think probably sort of the best example of that would be, lately, Alpha Wolf would probably be one of the most recent sort of explosions out of Australia and Polaris, much the same as well. The second it was like okay, cool, they're going over to Europe. The same thing happened with Justice for the Damned as well. We're sort of looking forward to being able to do that same thing as well. We're just really hoping that with the launch of the album, there's enough of a demand that it sort of gets warranted soon really. 

I've always been curious about Australia's metal scene, because you do see so many great bands coming from there. But I don't think people realize what a giant country it is. Just getting across it is a massive undertaking. Are there small pockets of metal here and there? Doing a full-on Australian tour probably is harder than it sounds.

Absolutely man. It's like whilst a lot of the smaller, I suppose more major regional towns within the hour to two hours outside of capital cities sort of bubble also do have their own individual scenes. It's like when you're doing an East Coast [tour] or if you're doing a little run around, if you start up in Brisbane, like up in the north east you've got to drive like 10 hours to get down to Sydney and then you might have one or two or maybe three or four shows that you can do in that area and all the surrounding sort of suburbs and townships and whatnot. But then you've got another at least 5 to 10 hours before you're going to go and play to the next place as well. 

But in a sense, because everything is sort of so packed in, whilst you do have a long distance to travel in between the two major locations, there's usually enough of a hype or multiple sort of subsets of the scenes where you can do multiple shows and you're not going to just be playing to the same people. Like we obviously don't have quite the same population as a lot of other places do, but it's still quite concentrated, I guess. 

Thinking about your work on your EPs, and there's that DIY, self-producing ethos. Has that been a bit of a head trip now that you are involved with Metal Blade and you're able to get in there with a lot of people who can put hands on the product and help you with the vision? The fact that you guys were so DIY and hands on, has that been an interesting transition?

Yeah, it has been. This has definitely been the first experience where we've been able to work with somebody just basically who's not around the corner from us, like a five minute drive away. We have been lucky enough that Kye [Blomeley], who's a good mate of ours who's done the recording and then engineering for some of the previous work as well, we just go around and it's like hanging around a mate's place. A good set up, you know? A really good environment and we can record and we're comfortable there, which is one of the main reasons we've done it. 

Yes, there's plenty of other engineers who are perfectly capable and would be great to work with as well, but it's like if we have to commit even just that two or three hour round trip of traveling to go see somebody as opposed to just being able to stick with somebody local who we know and like and who we can constructively bounce ideas off of and like butt heads, but not in like a difficult way that sort of disrupts the process. That's just good. That's why we like going to him. 

But it's also cool now being able to actually connect with other people internationally and sort of get to that next stage where we can also work with some big names. It was really cool being able to work with Dave as well, Dave Kaminsky, who's done the mixing for the album. Yeah, he's just lovely, down to earth and it was cool being able to see some work with somebody who would have a traditionally different background or style of the type of work they would do work with us and see where that took it.

In my opinion, at least in terms of just the overall sound and feel, even though the music itself is actually still quite similar between the EP and the album, the sound itself is quite different I find, and yeah, we like that. We found it interesting and we're really keen to see where we get to go with the next releases. 

One thing I really like about this band is the genre mash of metalcore, death metal, hardcore (and beyond!). I know there are different guys in the band that have a deep love for hardcore and death metal. You're kind of throwing that all together, and it's like the best of Harm's Way and Whitechapel and the bands you love and absorb.

That would probably bode well for you guys when you get to the festival circuit and touring circuit. You can play for the hardcore kids or jump on tours with death and metalcore bands. You're not going to get pigeonholed. 

Yeah man. It sort of stems from two sides. Absolutely, for one, because we do have that quite versatile sound where we draw on a lot of influences, it does open us up to be able to play.

We've pretty much entirely just played mixed bill gigs since we've actually been touring over the last year. We'll play with bands that are a little bit more modern metalcore, very bouncy, groovy, djenty stuff. And then the next night we'll go play with some classic rock, thrash metal bands. So that's definitely a very big strength for us because it does open us up to be able to play with a lot of other people and take a lot of opportunities that we wouldn't be afforded if we weren't sort of mixing so many influences together. 

But we also do that because we just like so many different types of heavy music, man. We've all got a pretty varied range of heavy music that we listen to, but there's definitely a wide range. A lot of death metal, a lot of hardcore. We also are sort of getting into a lot of metalcore as well. Not as much on metalcore I suppose, though I guess it depends on which branch of metalcore you're sort of looking at.

Just lots of variety, man. We just wanted to basically take the general ideas or themes and ideas that we like out of each sort of area of heavy music and just apply it in a way that we liked and we thought worked with what we think our sound is. 

Keeping on the subject of influences, is there a particular band or album you can remember as being a big game-changer for you? 

Yeah, The Devil Wears Prada. They were one of the first heavy bands that I ever actually found myself, in fact it was actually the first heavy band I found myself. And around that time I think they brought out With Roots Above and Branches Below. And yeah, it was surreal because a good friend of mine from high school showed me Bring Me the Horizon's Count Your Blessings or whatever that album is.

I'd listen to punk and metal stuff, just like Tony Hawk and Midnight Club soundtracks and whatnot, video games as everybody does. You know, that's the real gateway. That probably is just as much to be attributed as I suppose as well. But yeah, I came across With Roots Above and it's still one of my favorite albums. I can go back to it and I don't think I've ever not enjoyed it. 

I feel like this album is a real statement piece like okay, this is who we are. We're going to wake people up with this. Have you guys thought in advance how you'd like to see the next year or so ago? The world is opening up, you have this label debut, full length and it's like okay, now the work begins. You've been around for ten years or more and now the work really begins. 

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, myself personally, at least because I definitely came into the band after the hiatus, I kind of didn't have that prior experience. I am lucky, at least, that I do get to join in now just right as things are coming off. So it's cool. I think as well that excitement that there is about me being in the band, not to sort of make it sound like I'm focusing just on me, but it's sort of pushing into the forefront that this is it, this is real. This is us moving forward and this is what it's going to be. 

We were already sort of writing up new riffs and I've been toying around with some new lyrics, just throwing out some taglines or some big catch phrases and whatnot. We're chatting to booking agents overseas and we're already planning a handful of other gigs and festivals and whatnot just for around Australia as well. So we've actually got a pretty busy next couple of months. 

We've got the album release tour, which is the five dates up the East Coast. We're playing a festival up in northern Victoria in November, I think it is? Either October or November and then we're also going to Adelaide for a beer and metal festival, which is going to be so bloody cool. It's called Froth and Fury. It's going to be mad. 

So for the next couple of months it's probably just going to be a matter of us really getting into the rhythm. We're already pretty comfortable with touring and traveling around and playing gigs. Like we're already pretty comfortably settled into it. We can do like a 25 hour round drive and spend a couple of days interstate traveling up to New South Wales and Sydney like it's nothing. It's already sort of become autonomous to us, which I think is a really good sign because we're excited to be able to tour and play a lot more. 

So we're just waiting for everything to sort of get a little bit more set in stone, sort of really get into a rhythm and a groove and sort of refine our live show. I think it's sort of one of the big things we're really working on at the moment. Being as animated and consistent as possible live is definitely a big focus for us. Just jamming regularly and looking forward, doing a bit of everything. 

Catch Nicholas Cage Fighter at one of the dates below and grab The Bones That Grew From Pain here.

8/5 – Marrickville Australia, The Factory Floor
8/6 – Islington, Australia, The Newcastle Hotel
8/11 – Melbourne, Australia, Stay Gold
8/13 – Adelaide, Australia, Crown and Anchor
11/19 – Port Adelaide, Australia, Froth & Fury Festival

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