Metal Mofos’ own Isaac Sauers chatted with heavy metal vocalist Sean Peck about what we all love most, heavy metal music.
Metal Mofos: Tell me Sean, how did you get first into heavy metal?
Sean: I lived in Alaska, went to high-school up in Alaska, and we had lots of friends and family in California and my father worked for the airline so we were always flying back and forth and visiting and stuff, and one of these kids had the Diary of a Madman album, and I was totally into bands like the Go-Go’s, Flock of Seagulls, Duran-Duran and The Cars, that kind of stuff. I still love all those bands I used to love. The song ‘You Cant Kill Rock and Roll’ off Diary of a Madman, something about that song, I played it like a billion times over and over and then l’d listen to the rest of the record. Then the Scorpions and the Blackout album, that was the second one. When we went back to Alaska some of my friends were already kinda listening to metal, Alaska is kind of a rockin, you know, environment up there. So then it took off, and like I said the first album for me for Priest was Defenders of the Faith, which it still could be my favorite album of all time. Then a couple months later I was at my first concert in Anchorage, Alaska which was Dokken and Dio, and I was full on into that Dokken Tooth and Nail album, and when I saw that show I just lost my mind. We met a couple chicks, took em up to Thunderbird Falls, and you know did what we had to do after a heavy metal concert. It was the perfect live-show metal night and I was like dude I’m sold, this is beautiful.
MM: Alright, awesome man! Did you get a lot of shows played up there in Alaska?
Sean: You know, Ozzy played up there in a warehouse, on the Blizzard of Ozz tour and I missed it, and that must have been just one of the most legendary things. Now they do, but when I was, they built kind of an arena in Achorage, but there wasn’t many shows you know. I graduated from high school then came down to San Diego state, and when I went to down San Diego it was in the middle of the heyday so it was just everywhere. I was just like oh my god it’s everywhere! So Alaska not so much, but I immediately after, right after I got into metal, within a year I was down in San-Diego in the heart of where it was all goin’ on.
MM: When did you first start playing in bands?
Sean: Well, when I got into metal I quickly put posters all over my walls and had my stereo. I actually had a really expensive stereo that was my parents, and they got divorced so my mom got the stereo. It was a Bang and Olufsen, and you know back in those days people spent five-thousand dollars on their stereo with giant monster speakers. So my mom said I could have it in my room, this insane stereo so you know I was breaking out the albums, and just blasting the stuff, air guitaring all around my room, jumping off the bed and frickin’ screamin’ at the top of my lungs trying to imitate Halford and Dickinson, and you know all the good stuff back then. I determined it was way too much work to play guitar, I’m like yeah thats just way too much work. So i wasn’t even thinking about being the singer, I was more like a funny guy in school, making funny voices. And I went down to college at San Diego State and it started out, like a band would play and I would go up and sing one song. “Paranoid” was my go to song to sing with another band, and then it became ‘’Born to be Wild’’.
Then this band was playing this pool party, this kegger, and they had this little 2-foot chord radio shack mic plugged into the speaker and they didn’t’ have a singer so I went up and started fuckin’ around with them, and they go hey man you want to come over to our jam room and I’m like yeah so, that was my first band. It was called Tax Evasion, it was just a cover band. San Diego State, which is the college I went to, is one of the biggest party schools in the history of the world, it was just out of control raging. So even though we were a horrible, shitty band and I was just learning how to sing, we were playing these shows in front of thousands of people at these parties. So it really got on, we were playing these massive crowds. So I had to learn how to sing, at least if I couldn’t sing good enough, at least entertain a big crowd early on and that really helped me. It was literally back in like ’85. It was my first cover band I was in. It was funny, we would play covers and, you know we would put some originals in there, and we would book like normal shows at normal metal clubs, and there were these bands that were just amazing local metal bands, then we would get up there and just suck. We would play half covers, half originals, but yet we were so tied into the college scene that we were drawing hundreds of people, packing these clubs, even though we were like a shit band. All these other guys who were completely badass just looked at us like what the fuck is with these hacks man. It was pretty funny. So they kept booking us because we were just packing people into the clubs and all the other bands that were great were looking at us like these people are so shitty, they were perplexed. It was good to be hated early on in the local scene.
MM: So did you learn to sing just by imitating Halford and Dickinson on the records, or did you take vocal lessons at all?
Sean: No, I didn’t take any lessons, I was just imitating and maybe you know starting in a cover band was tough because you know, you’re singing three, one hour sets, you’re singing forever, which is something I wouldn’t even consider now. I have a hard enough time getting through, the way I sing, getting through an hour and a half is a challenge because these songs are so demanding on the voice. And you know, you’re imitating all these different people, whatever the cover songs are you’re in a constant mode of imitating so finding my own style and sound was the first hurldle to overcome. Then I got in this power metal band called Nomad, which we were really good, and thats when I learned to have my own style, my own technique and develop from copycat guy into having my own vibe.
MM: How did you get your first professional record deal?
Sean: Thats a great story, I’ve told this one many times. So, Nomad broke up, then we joined forces with another band that broke up, Crusher, and we became Cage. We were really into the Fight album. It was ’92 and grunge was everywhere, and metal was, you were laughed at if you were wearing a leather jacket, and if you sang all high pitched, it was like no-one does that anymore. We didn’t care man, we’re like we want to be, we’re going to keep going, and you know we’re going to keep defending the faith and this is the kind of music we like. Every other band is trying to be grunge and we were like the only band left that was a metal band in California practically. And it worked out to our advantage because these other metal bands would still tour and we were the only ones left to open for them. So early on in our careers in Cage, we got these incredible opportunities to open up for Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Scorpions. Even a band like, our first i think national opening was for Great White when they were still drawing thousands of people, that was our first big show. What happened was we recorded a record, and it was ok. Then I hooked up with a producer in a big studio, and we made a real proper record. We waited. We didn’t release it. So even though we started in ’92 we didn’t release a record until 1998,a long time after we had been a band. It worked out to our advantage because the record was Unveiled, and it was really good.
At that time there were all these closet metal heads, like they just wanted some new metal. And this was an old-school classic heavy metal record. Right after we had the cd release party we had a falling out with this producer who had all the European connections and stuff, and so I was left with this big expensive record we made and just started calling and networking like hey do you know anybody. This thing spread with word of mouth through the metal fans, like have you heard of this band called Cage? Because it was such an old school sound, it was like a dose of heroin for these addicts that had been hiding in the closet just looking for something like this. So the word of mouth on the record was just incredible. I was getting envelopes of cash from distributors in Europe, going ‘we need more of the record’, It sold really good and then one day we got this phone call, I picked up the phone like, “Hello Sean, this is Klaus”, I thought it was someone playing a trick on me, and it was the guy from Rock Hard magazine. They are like you’re gonna be on a compilation on Rock Hard magazine, I had no idea what that was, what Rock Hard magazine was. Still one of the biggest metal mags in the world. So we were entered into a contest by a journalist, best unsigned band of the year. So it like ok cool, the song was ‘Shoot to Kill’ which opens up with this big crazy scream, and it was the first song on the compilation cd. Then a month later the guy calls us up and is like you won the contest, and I’m like there was a contest what contest? The contest for that best unsigned band, voted on by the fans, and we won in a landslide, and the prize was to play the Dynamo festival which was Metallica, and Manowar and like every band you could imagine. The line-up that year was just unbelievable. So we flew over there and that was our first European gig. We got a couple record offers from all that publicity. Even though we had sold thousands of copies of the record on our own we signed a proper record deal and put it out.
MM: And going strong ever since!
Sean: Yeah, we had two albums on that label, then we signed with Massacre Records, and for anybody listening out there, don’t sign a deal with Massacre Records. They are criminals and crooks, and we had to sue them in German court, and we massacred them in court. Thats another great story that I’ll tell for another time. Now we’re on a label called SMG out of Sweden, and they’re the best record label we have ever been on. Tons of support and its been going great for Cage
MM: So tell me how did you start these other projects? Lets start with Death Dealer. How did that first come about because thats a bit of a heavy metal super group.
Sean: Death Dealer has got two albums out, starting on the third probably by the end of the year. I was friends with Stu Marshall, I became friends with him over Skype. He’s in Australia so you know, we obviously can’t go get a beer very often anytime in San Diego. I recorded a couple songs for him, he had this thing Empires of Eden where he gets different singers, he’s an incredible guitar player and writer. We became friends and hit it off and collaborated on some songs and stuff and one day he’s like ‘mate, we gotta do a band’ and we had to use the name Death Dealer, he was watching the underworld movies, lets call it Death Dealer. I was like dude that frickin’ name has got to be taken. There was an old band that put out a couple albums, they’re actually really good, called Death Dealer, then they changed their name to Deaf Dealer and the trademark was abandoned and we go ok, lets do the name. Literally in a conversation over Skype, we were just joking about it like who can we get in the band, lets get the most famous dudes we can to be in the band. So we’re like nobodies, lets surround ourselves with as many famous people as we can. So we just started calling everybody we could think of, and everyone we called was like ‘yeah I’ll be in your band’. Like ‘you don’t know me, but will you be in my band?’ it was funny. I called back Stu, within an hour, I had talked to everybody and and they were like ‘Ok’ so I called Stu back like we got a band now I guess we better write a record.
We wrote and recorded the ‘Warmaster’ record in two months from scratch, from the first Skype call to record done and I love that record. Then all of a sudden we got on a major arena tour with Metal All Stars, so we played some shows in California and Mexico. Then the next thing we did was play like 9 arena shows packed full of like 5000 people. It was nuts. So we definately skipped to the front of the line. Played the Motorhead Motorboad cruise, then we did a European tour on the second record. We all became really good friends and its really fun to play live with those guys. There is some kind of vibe about that band where we just step on stage and people know its something special, and always goes over good so it will be cool to get the boys back together again.
MM: How did you link up with Hank Shermann and Michael Denner to form Denner / Shermann?
Sean: I was watching the metal news and there was a story of how Hank Shermann and Michael Denner were going to do an album with a bunch of different singers, and I just messaged Hank Shermann on Facebook, not knowing if it would ever go to him like ‘Hey my names Sean, I’m a singer, you may not know me but I’m a huge fan and if you ever need a singer, I’d love to sing on a song’ and he hit me back like ‘I know who you are when we get closer maybe I’ll let you know whats going on’, and I just fanboy’d out. I was like dude Hank Shermann talked to me! I was out of my mind about it.
Then 3-4 months later he’s like ‘are you still interested in singing on a song?’ And I was like ‘fuck yes man i’d love to!’ So he sent me a piece, which was like a ‘Painkiller’ thing, and I was like I’ll fuckin kill this thing. Then he gets to me like what about this one, which ended up being Satan’s Tomb, and right when I heard it I instantly came up with that chorus for ‘Satans Tomb’ and I went in and loaded it up and recorded it and sent it to him. I couldn’t even fucking sleep dude, I was like ‘fuck I hope he likes it, I hope I didn’t fuck this up’ and he emailed me back like ‘do you want to do the whole ep?’ I was like ‘fuuuuck yes!’ Then you know, we just became a really good writing team between the EPand the Masters of Evil album. We really hit it off, Judas Priest is both our favorite band, so that helps. Now we have played some live shows and its a fuckin dream come true. Like when I first got into King Diamond and Mercyful Fate, with the posters on my wall, If you would have told me that I would be singing with Hank Shermann and Michael Denner I would have told you just ‘fuck you’. Its fuckin amazing man, I love singing the old Mercyful Fate stuff, I get to bust out my King Diamond impression. The original songs are really fun to play live. We’re getting better and better as a live band. Really looking forward to touring with them.
I’m already telling scary stories, the last ‘Cage’ album was called Ancient Evil‘ which is a horror concept album, like a King Diamond thing and from that I go right into the Denner / Shermann stuff and so I’m a perfect fit for it because I’m a huge fan. I’m writing it from ‘What would the fans want to hear, what would they want to read, what would they want to the vibe to be?’ I’m coming at it from that standpoint, and so far the reaction has been awesome. There’s still a few people who are like “He’s not King Diamond, he sucks!”. I’ve been so spoiled with all the reviews like no bad reviews virtually, but there is still a few haters hanging on like “He’s horrible!” I love the ones where they tear the shit outta me. Most everybody digs it, and when we played live the place went nuts so I’m super stoked to be apart of it.
MM: So when are we going to see Denner / Shermann live in the US?
Sean: We are working on it right now, we are trying to put something together right now so there is lots of irons in the fire. I’m really looking forward to getting in front of a US crowd with that. The original songs are going over great, we have only done three shows together. You know, you practice and its cool in the jam room, but is it going to vibe live and man it’s going over killer. I can’t wait to do a big, long set and light some frickin candles on the stage or some shit with a big Denner / Shermann logo background. The first show we played was in Tel Aviv called Kings of Metal. The first time I ever played live onstage with those guys. It was funny because their plane got delayed. So the rehearsal for the whole thing was the day of the show. Once I get these vocal jet engines fired up, I can’t cool em back down then start em back up again so I don’t like to soundcheck. These guys didn’t even show up until literally an hour before we went on stage. So I’m like ‘Hey I’m in a band with you, nice to meet you’ In Tel Aviv, Israel. We did “Evil”, “Come to the Sabbath” and “Paranoid”by Black Sabbath. The place just went nuts. It was a blur but somehow we made it through without any rehearsal.
MM: You mentioned ‘Ancient Evil’ the concept album, can you tell us a bit of how that came about? Where did the story concept come from?
Sean: I got approached by a friend of mine in Florida, who is a really killer singer and songwriter. He was like ‘Hey man I’m talking to some other guys about basically doing an album’ and of course this was before the Denner / Shermann shit and I’m like that sounds cool. I started coming up with an idea like if we’re gonna do this, lets do a concept album like ya know, King Diamond would. So I started kind of coming together with the story and piecing the story together and the more I wrote the story, I just kept filling in the blanks, then the next thing you know its a 150 page book. So you know I’m like I have to write how he gets from the carriage to the front door. I’ve written lots of stories but you know, never a monster. Then eventually the whole music part of it fizzled out so I went to the Cage guys and I had this story and I’m like I need someone to read this thing, I think it’s badass. And of course it’s me, so I’m going to think it’s cool. So I had everybody read it and they’re like yeah this is cool, let’s do this. Everyone committed to it, then we started piecing together the music. We used two of Maury’s songs and the next thing you know its an 80-minute mega opus thats got a book, an e-book. I read the whole book so it’s got an Audiobook. Doing a concept album is really hard man. Making choruses cool while you’re telling a story, making sure the songs all flow together. If it comes out good you kind of get lucky. I thought the album would take a while, but it grabbed people right away. Blaze Bayley did the voiceovers and voice acting as the main character Elliot Worthington, and he did a great job. It was a killer record but I was blown away by how instantly everyone loved it. It worked out great.
MM: Do you write the lyrics for all of your projects?
Sean: Yeah, absolutely.
MM: Tell me about your writing process for everything else that is not the story-concept. Where does a good song lyric start out?
Sean: Well you know I’ve pretty much run out of conspiracy theories to write about. I’ve covered pretty much every one and that was my go to stuff. I still have to do ‘Scream of the Yeti’ I haven’t done that one yet, I haven’t covered the big-foot. I did listen to Coast to Coast AM last night and came up with a couple new ones I am going to probably do though. Lately its been a lot of fiction. I always like to write about the effects of new technology on the future and like I said, conspiracy theory stuff. And of course we did Hell Destroyer with Cage which was another concept album, but that had a lot of conspiracy theory stuff woven into it. With Denner / Shermann it’s been the occult, and horror stories and ghosts, demons, possession and fantastic tales of heaven vs. hell shit. The Death Dealer stuff there is a lot of the stuff that made metal cool like rebellion and liberty and fight for your right type stuff. We had a few that were western themed. Death Dealer I kind of get to do everything, whatever idea I throw in there. Now Cage, we just came out with a concept album, and we’re about 8 songs in to the new record right now, and thats a little mix of everything. There is some history stuff in there, some generic heavy metal themes. I haven’t really delved much into the love shit, and getting to emotional on feelings. I don’t know if my songs are shallow or whatever but I still have not used the word Dragon, ever. I have not used the word Dragon, yet. I’m saving up for that one. So it will be interesting to see where things go now topic wise. I always come up with simple stuff and have gotten a lot of credit for my lyrics, have gotten a lot of props. I have a pretty good command of the English language and I’m pretty clever so it helps to be able to come up with cool lyrics that rhyme.
MM: Definitetly, music may be as good as possible but nobody likes something with complete shit lyrics.
Sean: Yeah, I write from a fan’s standpoint so literally every song has some sort of hook in it. I write all the vocal melodies too which is half the battle. You gotta have the lyrics and the vocal melody. I don’t know how I did it, I have no means of training I’m just like ‘Oh I think I’ll write some songs’ and its ended up working pretty good so far.
MM: You mentioned you’re working on the new Cage album, what else is coming up for you?
Sean: Well the Cage album might not go out under the name Cage actually, It’s Cage writing it . Right now its title is ‘Project-1′ but its got some really top secret sick, sick components to it that when we do the press release on it people are just going to go “holy fuck’. We are always trying to innovate in the idea department, like the book with the CD and what we did with Hell Destroyer kind of like a graphic novel and we got some really cool fuckin surprises on this next one. So theres that then I’m going straight into the Death Dealer album which we have a ton of material for. Stu and I usually write really fast, that usually comes together really quick. Then I imagine I will be working on the next Denner / Shermann record which we had a lot of leftover material from the last record that we did. I can work on like 5 records at once, I’m so ADHD I don’t compartmentalize anything. I just go. People say how do you know what song goes to what band, but I was with Cage exclusively for so long, now I’m in 3 bands I’m kind of a heavy metal whore, which is fine. I think I have figured out which vibe fits each one. I’m working with some great guitar players. Dave Garcia and Casey Trask are just so killer, and then Stu Marshall and Ross the Boss, I mean Ross is a legend and Stu should be a legend. Then Hank Shermann and Michael Denner, it’s freakin insane. Hank Shermann just rips writing, that dude is from another planet. All of them, they’re all incredible. It’s really cool, I hear a riff and I get motivated like oh thats a verse, and I’ll come up with a melody scheme right there. I write a lot of guitar parts myself, I come up with tons and tons of riffs that end up in the Cage and the Death Dealer stuff. You know, I hum it out and make them kind of duplicate it so thats cool too. I got riffs coming into my head all the time. Like I say, I’m writing these songs from a heavy metal fans standpoint, I love metal. When I put the song together I’m like, you know when you get the goosebumps like oh yeah this is it. And the goose bump test has never failed me. There’s a certain segment of metal fans that think that the songs I’ve done on these records are just badass, and it’s nothing super innovative, its just great, straightforward heavy metal.
MM: Yeah man, that’s that it’s all about. So tell me, how do you feel about the metal scene here in the United States today? Right now it seems the popular thing is this Metalcore stuff, but the classic sounds like what you’re doing are kind of making a comeback, not just with yourself but there is some other up and coming artists too. The new wave of classic metal is coming around.
Sean: There are so many bands now, and for years it’s been its coming back, it’s coming back and I don’t even pay attention to it coming back anymore. I love playing shows with the core bands, or with death metal bands. I love all the bands I am in but there is an advantage to having a band here in town where you can be in the rehearsal room 3 days a week and let it fly, and become a deadly machine of destruction, which is what we are right now. We go in there with all these core bands, and all the shit and play all ages shows and you know we’re as fast as any band, were as thrashy as any band. People will be like we’re a thrash band and I’m like we are thrashier than you by far. I’m just wailing out there and those guys can’t do that, so you put this on top of that. And the kids man, the all ages kids lose their shit when they see us so I love playing all ages shows, especially when you stand out so much from the core bands. They know it too, they know they just got smashed. I love looking at the other 5 bands in the back and going oh that was cute, check this out. I have been through the ups and downs of the scene, I have played horrible shows, killer shows and I think now the US has some healthy seeds that have been planted. I don’t think it will ever be beat back like it was in the grunge days. Metal is here to stay. Hopefully it gets healthier, hopefully we can get more of a killer festival vibe. I got buddies that did Ragnarock and that became pretty successful, it would be cool to get one out in California, like a true metal festival. Actually there is one now what’s it called, Frost and Fire festival in Ventura. My buddy from Night Demon was at a festival that was sold out last year.
MM: Night Demon is a great new band.
Sean: Yeah Jarvis is a buddy of mine. So I think it’s healthy man. The cool thing about metal is the older and uglier you are the more street credibility you have so that helps an old guy like me. Looking at myself I gotta dye this beard dude, this grey is a little to much. I look like Gandalf.
MM: Can you tell some of our readers what are the top 5 songs that you’ve written, that you would have them listen too? Or a top 5 of all time.
Sean: “The Sentinel” by Judas Priest, “Red Sharks” by Crimson Glory, “Painkiller” by Judas Priest, “Sirens” by Savatage and I’ll put “You Can’t Kill Rock and Roll” by Ozzy since thats the one that got me into heavy metal.
MM: Yeah I love that song too, I think thats a highly under rated Ozzy song.
Sean: Then my songs I would have to say “Hell Destroyer” (Cage), “Warmaster”(DD), I would say the song “Death Dealer” is pretty badass. An absolute just crazy thrash speed is the title track “Ancient Evil”, then “Planet Crusher”. Then off Denner / Shermann I would say, I really love “New Gods” off the EP, thats a really cool one. If you get a hold off all those and you’re not into it I don’t know man, you need to check your..
MM: Not really a metal fan then.
Sean: Turn in your metal card, yeah.
Be sure to check out Sean’s vocals in all three of his current bands: Cage, Death Dealer, and Denner/Shermann.
Transcribed by Sean MacEachern
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