Cage Fight’s Metallic Hardcore Slugs It Out On Self-Titled Debut (interview)
By combining ’90s hardcore and ’80s extreme/thrash/crossover metal influences, British hardcore metal band Cage Fight come out swinging on its debut self-titled full-length album. Armed with an arsenal of meaty riffs, slamming rhythms, anthemic choruses and vitriolic vocals, the quartet are a vicious musical unit. Formed in early 2021 by TesseracT guitarist James Monteith and Broken Chakra bassist Jon Reid, the band is completed by former Eths powerhouse French frontwoman Rachel Aspe and Corpsing and Aghast drummer Nick Plews. Based in London, Cage Fight has been stirring up a hefty buzz within the underground metal scene in just a short period of time.
The band’s vast musical influences and styles are a terrific combination from everything from Slayer to Terror to Hatebreed to Biohazard. Boasting 14 mosh-worthy tracks, the album is full of visceral rage and aggression, completed with lyrics that carry a positive message. During a recent Zoom chat, Rachel discussed her musical origins, a touching story about recently departed Trevor Strnad and how she came to join Cage Fight, her “day job” as a tattoo artist and more.
You appeared on the French TV show Incroyable Talent in 2012 (the video of her performance went viral), which is based on America's Got Talent. You nailed your performance, but I just can't believe the snobbery from the judges or the audience’s reaction of laughing like they’ve never heard extreme metal before. Even America's Got Talent had Judas Priest perform on it. What was that experience like?
I was in bands since I was 17, but I thought that I could do better. I really wanted to challenge myself. I had a bit of trouble with bands, so I thought I needed to aim bigger and have more fun. So that's why I tried this. (The show) was edited. You come here and they tell you what to do; you have interviews, they tell you what to say. They ask you to wear some specific stuff, but I didn't wear what they asked. They were not really happy with what I was wearing because they wanted me to wear pink. When I saw the video, I was like… that's not really what I saw in real life. People were not laughing like this. They were screaming and they were standing up, but no one was laughing like it was really funny. So (I thought) maybe they took some images from something else. They tried to make me ridiculous. But I loved it, actually. I really loved the experience because I just like to have fun and I know that some people are shocked and it just makes me laugh.
Shortly after that is when you joined Eths – at the time, they were one of the most popular French metal bands. How did you get noticed or contacted for the open vocalist position after Candice Clot left and how did you first discover the band?
It was funny timing. I was listening to Eths when I was young, at school. Then I listened to more extreme stuff. Then one day I was on the Internet and I saw that Candice left and I was like, I need to try [out]. But I recorded Incroyable Talent before I saw this, and so I messaged them and I actually said I would like to try (out), but I don't like to do clean vocals. [They] said maybe we can try another project or something. Then I told him I am actually on France Got Talent and it's going to be released in a few months. So everything was a bit on hold. And when France Got Talent got released, I think the label pushed a bit for my audition because it was good advertising.
Cage Fight began as a project by James and Jon, when were you called in?
This is pretty crazy with what happened yesterday [May 11, 2022]. This is extremely shocking. When we were all in lockdown, I was recording covers because I was depressed. I didn't have a band since five years. I was depressed for a band that was really needed. So I did a cover of The Black Dahlia Murder, and Trevor messaged me and said, “This is fucking good.” And he sent me a message that said, “I’m sharing it on our Facebook page and you're going to have a band before the end of the day!” So, he helped me. And James saw this; this is when James messaged me and said, “Maybe your voice could fit on Cage Fight.” He said he had a project but that I might not like it. So I heard it and thought, “This is amazing!” So I recorded a demo in one day, and it was just fitting so well and we continued.
The album has a great balance of anthemic, gang-chanted hardcore and punk elements mixed with metallic riffs and killer guitar solos. How did the band create this type of style?
I know that the guys’ first love is really more hardcore, like Biohazard and stuff. And me, it’s a big mix of everything. But my first time with the band, if I had to sing something at the beginning, it would be hardcore. But then when I was in Eths, I had to change up my voice and try a bit of everything. We are just a big mix of everything. Nick the drummer is more metal. Jon is like the softest and James is an extreme metal guitarist with TesseracT.
How did you guys go about creating the tracks for this album? What was the songwriting process like since you now live in London, were you all able together to jam songs and collaborate? Who writes the lyrics?
Jon is writing the lyrics because he's just writing all the time and I really like his style, and my English isn't good yet. I really don't feel like writing, and so we all actually tell him what we want to talk about and we have conversations that he's putting into words. James and Jon are writing the music together and they send it to me. I put in my patterns and all the lyrics. It’s actually really easy. Sometimes there was a song it just took me less than an hour to do the demo, just because it's really inspiring. I don't even have to struggle or think. I was [recording] it at home because I was in France. But now, I think we're just going to do the same, everyone is just going to record themselves. Because it's working very easily, and we have a very busy life.
Lyrically, what type of messages are you trying to convey?
There's a bit of everything that makes us frustrated. Because of the lockdown, it was very difficult. I have subjects I want to talk about since ages. I wanted to talk about harassment and mental health. It's just all the things we struggle with every day. This is really helpful to talk about so many subjects.
With the messages you’re trying to convey and the rage that you portray on stage, is that therapeutic or cathartic for you to get that out of your system?
Yeah, I'm exhausted after a gig. I'm drained. And this is what I want. I really need this, this is really saving me. When I was in another band for five years, that was keeping everything for me. It was very difficult. But this is really the way I feel strong on stage. I feel like I just give everything and if I don't have this, it's just very bad.
I’ve noticed you have a lot of ink work, you’re also a tattoo artist in London?
Yeah, I did the album cover. It's a real tattoo; people ask me [that all the time]. When I stopped music, I had time to focus on my job. So I started to learn to tattoo. In the UK I found a very cool shop to work at. And so when the guys (in the band) said, “Oh, Rachel, you’re painting a lot, can you do the artwork?” I wanted to do something better than a painting because a painting for our band is just too soft. We needed something brutal. So I had this idea of tattooing a palm, and it was very difficult to find the right person. I posted on Instagram, “Who wants a free palm tattoo?” Obviously, a lot of people want free tattoos! I had five people interested, and some of them didn't realize that it was very painful. There was this girl out of nowhere who said she was coming and that she was happy to help. She was just so happy to be part of a project like this, and she never asked for anything. I'm so happy that it was a girl and she had these long nails and everything fit so well. We’re very lucky.
I actually have a ring tattoo on the top of my finger and I know just from talking to tattoo artists that getting branded under the lip or the side of the finger or on the palm that it fades really quickly. How did you accomplish this technique?
Usually, I just refuse to do them because it fades. It's better if traditional tattoo artists do it with their traditional machine. I'm doing realism, so I don't have a machine for it. And the deal was… I’ll just do it; it's painful, it's going to look painful. It doesn't need to look perfect, this is not what we want. We want something kind of raw and a bit disgusting. We just wanted something bleeding with the logo, which we did not want something very perfect. And she said it was fine. I said it's going to disappear and she said it's okay because it’s just a project. So the project wasn't to have an amazing tattoo, it was just to have a mark.
Since you’re a newly-formed band, have you been able to play many live shows up to now? And then do you have any future touring plan gigs planned around Europe or a chance to come to the States anytime soon?
I really hope we can come to the States soon. But just not right now. We would like to go to France before maybe in autumn, we really hope. For now, we did some very cool shows. We played with Napalm Death. We have a Sepultura mini tour coming in June, and we have the Cro-Mags as well. This is pretty amazing all the time we're playing together. And we’re really looking forward to that.
Any final words? What do you hope to achieve or accomplish with Cage Fight? Where do you see yourself going with it?
I would say that everything is happening very quickly. We never imagined that right now. To be honest, we’re just having fun. So I would say what we have is amazing and I'm just looking forward to what's coming up in the next few months. But I'm not thinking too much. I'm just enjoying the moment because I don't like to think too much of the future. I'm just doing my best for now and we'll just see [how it goes].
Cage Fight was released on May 13th, 2022 via Candlelight Records.