Updated: Nov 1
By Brett Hoag Photography: Claudia Hoag
Hail, Metal Heads! If you missed it, and I was there, so I am sure you did, LA Gates of Metal Festival III was a shredfest of national metal bands we rarely see on the Left Coast. One such band is Ironflame out of Pittsburgh, PA. I was fortunate to get them to stop by Hoag Studio in Santa Monica for pictures and an interview. Without further adieu, allow me to present Ironflame.
Hey, guys! Thank you so much for being here today and doing this.
All -- No problem. Thank you!
Okay, let's start with the main man. Your name, Sir?
Andrew D' Cagna, I'm the vocalist.
I'm James, and I'm the bass player and idiot on stage LOL
I'm Noah. I play drums.
Nice to meet everyone. How long have you guys been a band?
A - Technically 2017. It started as a solo project intended to be a signal album, a one-off tribute to a mutual friend of ours who had passed away. That was all it was designed to be and the right people heard it and it blossomed from there. So, people were requesting to see it [the album] live, so we made a handful of records to sell and thought, well, it would be an excellent way to sell the records if we assembled a live lineup to sell all the copies. So we did that and it's funny; I found this message thread between you and me (indicates Quinn) from back then and I was like, "Let's just play this one gig, have some fun and see what happens." That was six years ago. LOL
So, from my understanding, you started like Tom Scholz doing Boston? I say that as according to the site The Metal Archives, the album musicians were Andrew D'Cagna - Everything.
Yeah, that's right.
Are there any other musicians on the album other than you?
Well, yes. I can't play a guitar solo to save my life. So, on that first album, I had four lead guitarists on eight songs. They each did two songs to showcase them. But yeah, everything else, guitar, bass, drums, vocals, and all the foundational music, was tracked by me.
James, where did you come from?
I played bass with Andrew in a band called Dofka, so when he wanted to put together the live thing as a tribute, he called me. I said, "Absolutely." I am pretty sure I was the last person he called because he knew I would be all "yeah, yeah, yeah, of course!" So, I've been trailing along the whole time. It's an honor to play with all these guys, especially Andrew. He is amazing.
Noah, where are you from?
I am from Wheeling, WV. We float around in the same music scene. So, I've seen Dofka back in the day when James and Andrew played in it. I enjoyed the music when I saw it and just put myself out there. I'm like, "If you ever need anybody, I would love to play with you." And here I am, lucky enough to do just that.
How long have you been playing drums?
Since I was about six or seven.
Krupa or Rich?
A- well, I'm not asking you, Andrew! LOL
In the context of a band, I guess Gene Krupa. But, as a solo performer? Buddy Rich.
Good answer! How many bands are you in now, Noah?
I joined Andrew's other band, Icarus Witch, last year. Before that, I played in a small local band that did nothing. So, I was just in the right place at the right time for this.
So, Quinn. How long have you known these guys?
I've known both James and Andrew for a long time, maybe early 2000s and I knew James even before then. James played in the Pittsburgh circuit and it's a small circuit, you know? So you start to play gigs with other bands and make relationships with people you enjoy being around and appreciate watching them play. I probably played more shows with James and Andrew while they were in Dofka. Oddly enough, we were playing a show for my 30th birthday and Andrew was there celebrating my birthday and I asked him if we could do a Maiden song together for my birthday and he was sure, which one? Rime of the Ancient Mariner and he said, Jesus, the longest Maiden song ever (at that time)! LOL So we did that and the running joke for months after was that we should really do a Maiden tribute show as that would be fun. However, instead of doing the Maiden tribute, he reached out and said, "Hey man...YEP. I didn't even...YEP. I don't even need to hear the songs.
Jesse? Where are you from?
I was like Noah. I was in a small local metal band. We got to do some cool things, like play South by Southwest Festival and open up for Lucuna Coil and Otep. The guitarist playing with Andrew is a beast, but he bowed out, so Andrew asked me if I wanted to step in for a couple of gigs and it worked, so I stuck around. I effin' love playing with these dudes.
Right on. So, is this your first time in L.A. as a band?
All - Yes
How was the travel? How was the gig?
A- Everything was very cool. Especially that festival being a re-start of a festival that he had put on years ago and then a long hiatus and is now resurrected. It was very well organized. It never got off schedule. It was very accommodating. The venue itself, I thought, was super comfortable. It was just the right size. The sound was excellent in both the indoor and outdoor stages. We were treated like Kings. I can't find one thing to critique.
Awesome. How was the crowd?
Good. Again, considering there was no real lineage or momentum built up for something like this. And considering no one knew who you guys were. Exactly, and we were not the only band in that category. You had Adamantis, Greyhawk, Haunt and Nite. I think he (Paul) was very picky about who he decided to ask because it was a varied bill, which, as a fan, I appreciate. I don't want to see six hours of the same genre, you know? He was terrific about splitting the genre and making it a varied bill.
Are you signed to a label?
Yes, we've been on High Roller Records since the last album. Basically, 2019, I think, is when we signed on and put out one album in 2022. How was the marketing for that album? Not bad. He's a smaller label. But there is a lot of integrity in that label. He is very, very picky about who he associates with. It's a highly venerable label. If you see that name on an album or CD, you know what you are getting. Our next album that we are going to release next summer will again be with High Roller.
Where is the next album?
It's done, mixed, mastered and in the label's hands. I want a scoop, Andrew. What's the name? "Kingdom Torn Asunder." You heard it here first! The new album by IRONFLAME is "Kingdom Torn Asunder" and it will hit the record stores in late July via High Roller Records. You are the first person outside the band I have told that to (Jesse indicates he didn't know). Wait. You didn't even know the title? Oh, damn. I scooped a band member! LOL
Have you played any festivals in Europe?
Yes. We were over there for the fourth time a month ago. We've been going over there since 2018.
Last month? So, you played that festival in Germany with Riot V?
Yeah, the Stormcrusher festival last month with Riot V and many other great bands. That was the second time we played that festival. The first time was in '18 when we played the Keep it True Festival.
Do you like touring Europe?
All - LOL Q- Short answer? Yes! LOL
Okay, Quinn. Let me get your opinion on this. Why do you think Europe and Japan have a better metal scene than America?
Out of all of the differences that I've noticed. The one thing that stands out the most is their appreciation for music. Not just old albums that people grew up with and love, but new releases of things they like. Celebrating new art of things they are familiar with. Also, they don't view heavy metal as underground music. It's not. You will be waiting for a bus or a subway and flyers will be posted all over announcing new albums and gigs. It's just not underground there. You like what you like and it should all be accessible. You can tell by watching TV over there. It's all over. You know it's mainstream. It's not underground, it's just there and that makes it easier to be celebrated. The sheer fact that they still appreciate a manufactured product in their hands. A hard copy format in their hands makes it as an artist a lot more enjoyable and you feel much more appreciated.
Does anyone have anything they would like to add to that?
N- There's a social aspect of it as well, like there are clubs. Heavy Metal clubs. Some of the towns there have great clubs and that is what brought us there in the first place. This club in Germany, man. It's like everyone chipped in to bring us there to play. That's not something that will happen in the U.S.
So, say a club in Phoenix saw a clip of you guys from the LA Gates of Metal Festival and wanted to book you. Would you come out for just that one gig or would you try to put a string of dates together to make it more financially doable?
A- That's what we tried to do here. We are friends with the guys in Admantis, Greyhawk and Intranced as well. We were trying to build a little string of shows around the festival, but by the time we came to that conclusion, it was a little too short notice. But, I would say the determining difference between doing that in Phoenix or Cologne, Germany. The difference would be that in Germany, they usually accommodate you in every aspect. They feed you, and you will be put up in lodging. It might not be five-star, but you will have someplace safe and relatively comfortable to lay your head at night. Agreements in writing are standard there. Even in the biggest dive bar, it is professional and aimed at making sure the artist is taken care of. Whereas here? I've been on multiple tours in the US where it's every man for himself. You're lucky if you get some semblance of a guarantee from whatever venue. You definitely have to find your way there, find your own place to sleep and if you get a bag of chips, that's a luxury. There is just a lot less focus on that here as opposed to over there.
Do you think that's because it's mainly about the money?
I think so. Yes. The dynamic is different. There is more separation between the artist, the venue, and the promoters. All those guys, I think, rely on each other, but they don't trust each other as they are all wanting their share. It's a little too individualized here.
I think you are right. If we could get more of a community feeling among those people, things would change. So, how do you do that?
A- That's a tough question to answer, man. I don't have the answer to that one.
Q- It really just comes down to the culture of it. Here, as he said, everyone wants their piece of the pie and in Europe, it's just about how good the pie is.
Andrew, you are managing as well, correct?
So, how do you market a gig?
99.9% is Social Media.
Q- You might luck out and interview with City Pages if that's still around.
Jesse? What was the first concert you attended?
Oh, man. That's kind of embarrassing. LOL I was about 11 or 12 and the first big concert was Creed with Jerry Cantrell opening. Jerry was the saving grace! LOL
Quinn? First concert?
I was pretty lucky. My brother, against our parents' wishes, took me to a Metallica show. Which tour? That was the ...And Justice for All Tour. Then it all clicked in my head and my next concert was the Black Album tour.
Noah, what was your first concert?
The first big one was the Van Halen reunion with Sammy in 2004. Do you remember the opening band? Yeah, it was, um...(googles lyrics) Silvertide! LOL
Iron Maiden, Somewhere on Tour with Yngview Malmsteen opening.
That was mine, too and I am in shock now that James mentioned the opening act. I was 11 and just blown away by Maiden's stage set, stage show and everything that I completely forgot who opened.
What do you guys like playing? Do you go for speed? Volume? Arpeggios?
Q - All of it
J- Yep, all of the above.
Q- But it's got to be loud.
All - YES!
How are your wrists?
Q- fast LOL Carpel Tunnel? No. You have to be smart. If you are doing something that hurts, you need to stop doing it, at least for the time being. Or try a different approach.
Have any of you three (strings) had to adjust the way you play due to injury or pain?
Q- I haven't. I've been playing guitar for a long effin' time and I've learned how to stretch. Like properly stretch before playing and if I don't do it, I will be ok for a couple of gigs, but I will feel it in my wrists and thumb. The only thing I've changed is that I pick harder. When I was younger, I picked aggressively but didn't lay into everything. I think it was Agnus Young who said, "You don't tickle the strings, you hit the buggers."
James, you're in the same boat? And I'm sorry, I forgot, were you picking or slapping that bass?
I play with my fingers. I haven't had to change anything, really. If there is anything, my pinky hangs way out, so if I have to grab a note with it, it's slower.
All - You could have fooled me! LOL
Noah, I know drumming can beat up a body. Have you had to change anything over the years?
No. I was fortunate to have a lot of great instructors as a kid and they all taught me proper posture and technique—a lot of control, not a lot of free motion. In jazz band, you learn different grips and switch them up for comfort and sound. I was lucky enough to have been taught all of that, so I don't even think about it; I just do it. What about your back? My back is fine. It's all about posture as far as your back goes. Now, your leg height is a different thing. I sit with my back straight, so I don't have a backrest, as that is just one more thing to carry around.
Do you play a double bass?
The house kit everyone used at LA Gates of Metal Festival had a double bass. How was that kit?
It was a nice kit. I mean, it's a DW kit. They are very nice. It was extremely comfortable and sounded great.
Do you guys have any gigs on the horizon?
We are at the end of the show season. You know where we live, the weather gets bad LOL in a month or so and nobody wants to risk their lives spinning out on ice to see a little bar show. We have a season and we usually would have hung it up by now, but this festival came up and we have a few local opportunities coming up, so we've extended our season a bit. We have a show in Pittsburgh on November 10th at the Shred Shed with a few other bands: one from Connecticut called Morn the Light and a female-fronted metal band from Cleveland called Alethea, along with a local band called Iron Brigade. On the 11th, around my home base in Ohio, we are playing a local charity toy drive for Christmas and that will cap off our show seasons. We will take the Winter for me to show these guys all the songs so that when show season hits again, we will be tight and ready!
Alright, Genelmen. That's it on my end. Thank you all so very much for taking the time to sit down and talk with me today. I really appreciate it. You guys shred!
All - Thank you!