Jason Roach of ICE HOWL on new album Cadence of the Cursed, home recording setups, and which side he’s on in SKYRIM.

Grimslath fast-travels to Indiana for a socially distanced and sober chat with Jason of open-world-game NWOTHM metal act ICE HOWL. So, ready your weapons and enchantments, Nords….it’s time to do battle.

Interview by Grimslath.

Hi Jason, just as a little introduction could you tell us a little bit about Ice Howl? Where did the name come from and how would you describe the Ice Howl sound to someone who had never heard it?

Cheers! Ice Howl was initially conceived under the name Tundra Vibrations. A year later I recorded the first album Crack the Earth. I took a break for a few years, and I have been looking to find my place in the metal world ever since! The name was actually born from playing the Blizzard digital card game Hearthstone. There is a character from WoW called Ice Howl and it’s basically a big ass Yeti. I found it to be very fitting! As far as the sound goes…Ice Howl is ever changing and maturing. Some of the music has Stoner, Thrash, NWOBHM, and Power Metal elements. 

Cadence of the Cursed is one of my absolute favourite albums of the year. I love how you manage to combine pounding heaviness with such catchy melodies and choruses that stick in your head. Its been a facet of your music since the first album but in my opinion you outdid yourself on Cadence. How do you come up with so many ear-worms?

I was quarantined from work because of Covid-19 for 4 months. I had plenty of time to find inspiration….not to mention TIME. I don’t want to sound cocky, because that’s not what I am, but I’m very confident in my ability to write catchy melodies.

Have you been pleased with the response to the album?

Of course! This album has bounced on and off the Bandcamp best seller list multiple times, and I’ve had nothing but positive reviews. I’m extremely humbled by the response!

So the theme of the album is video games. Tell us why these games and what they mean to you? Any others that you would like to pay homage to in future?

Video games have been a staple in my life since I was a child. These games have a special place in my heart. I could write a much longer response on why I chose these particular games, but one point I will make is that all of the games I chose(Skyrim, Dark Souls, Final Fantasy) are pretty metal!

I have to ask… Imperial or Stormcloak?

Imperial. But only the ones that rule Skyrim. The Empire kinda sucks.

I have to admit I couldn’t get into Shadow of the Tomb Raider, even though I loved the previous two games, but every time I listen to Cadence of the Cursed: Revival/Rapture I want to start playing again. Its also the longest Ice Howl song to date. Was it a conscious decision to create such a monstrous track?

Shadow of the Tomb Raider has a pretty dark story. Without going into spoiler territory I will say that it deals with personal decisions that have profound effects on everyone around you. Then it takes a turn that deals with deities, death, sacrifice, and redemption. That’s why I picked it. To answer your other question. Yes, the decision was very conscious. I wanted to make a longer track. I wanted an excuse to put a drum solo in a song. Haha

The beginning of the year saw you begin with Project 2020 where you were releasing a song every month before Cadence of the Cursed came in out of nowhere. Any plans to revisit Project 2020 or something similar?

Oh boy. An honest person will admit when they had a bad idea. What I found was that there wasn’t much response to Volume: 2020. Not only that, but the decision to come to an abrupt halt was directly due to the pandemic. The last song I released for Volume was in March, and I decided that working on a cohesive full-length album was a better idea.

And the end of the year has brought us a Christmas song! What inspired you to write this one? Will you be putting lyrics to it once you’ve recovered? Are you a Christmassy person at all?

Just to make this known. I contracted the Covid-19 virus, and it was awful. But that’s all I will say about that for now. People are getting depressed. The pandemic has taken its toll on everyone, and I wanted to make a cheerful song about Santa Claus being a Dragon Slaying bad ass!

Your first full-length album, Crack the Earth, featured a full lineup. How did it evolve into a solo project? Do you find it easier or harder working by yourself or with other musicians?

I recorded Crack the Earth with Niko Albanese. He is a well-known drummer in the central Indiana area. He was in several metal bands(now he plays drums in a Country band for a living. GO NIKO!) and he offered his talents if I wanted to play some live shows. Tucker Thomasson from Throne of Iron is also a good friend of mine and he offered to play bass on that record! So we played a couple of shows, and I felt it was time to hang up the towel for a bit. Schedules were getting complicated and interests were going in other directions. I decided a couple of years later that continuing on solo was my only option. So that’s what I did. I learned how to record, and I’ve been doing it ever since. I find it easier to write by myself at times, but I do have to say that I miss getting in a room with like-minded musicians to write songs. I’m a control freak, but I do like taking the back seat at times and just being a part of something.

In February you announced Seth Critchfield had joined Ice Howl as a second guitarist/songwriter. Is he still involved with the band?

Once again. Schedules are complicated and the pandemic has made it harder to get together. I will say that he isn’t involved with anything currently, but the door is always open to him. He is a great dude, and a wonderful guitarist! He is actually working with a group of dudes right now who kick ass. I’m excited to see where that goes!

Before the pandemic you were trying to make an Ice Howl live show a reality. Is this still something you’d like to do once things start to get back to normal?

Yes! I’m still working on that and how I will approach that. I’ve had the idea of just playing backing tracks over a house PA system. I’ve also thought about getting a wireless rig and traveling around. A few years ago Angel Vivaldi played a solo show nearby, and that’s all he did. The only concern I’ve had is that it would feel too much like a NAMM booth. HAHA!

If you had the chance to play a show with any band, which would you choose?

If you asked me a few years ago I’d say The Sword, but I would probably say Visigoth today.

What does the future have in-store for Ice Howl? How is the next album coming along?

The future is to keep grinding. I have literally just finished writing the next full-length album and I’m working on finishing up vocals. That’s it. It will be completed. I’m going to send out the songs to some labels and hopefully I can finally catch someone’s attention. 

Fantastic news! Really hope a label jumps on this one. Do you have a title and is there a theme with the songs in this album?

I have a title and a concept. The concept is 80’s Arcade/Fantasy. There are some songs about 80’s Arcade Nostalgia and songs about Wizards and War. Typical Ice Howl Themes.

How long have you been playing and how did you get into metal?

I have been playing music since I was at least 16 years old. I’m going to be 30 next month. How I got into Heavy Metal is all because of Tucker from Throne of Iron. We went to high school together. He introduced me to Megadeth, In Flames, Soilwork, and many other bands. He basically taught me. He is the hero of the story. HAHA!

How about singing? You’ve got a pretty good voice and it seems like you can easily switch between clean and growled vocals. Had you done any singing before Ice Howl and do you practice often?

No formal training. I just try to be me, and no one else. I don’t really practice, but I really should. I am pretty self-conscious about my voice, and it’s difficult to accept that it’s fine.

What gear do you use for your home recording? Any tips for other budding DIY musicians?

I have a 10 year old iMAC. A Scarlett 18i8 Focusrite interface. Two Sterling Monitors. A ESP LTD Les Paul. A Peavey Milestone III Bass Guitar. That’s it for hardware. I use garageband for my DAW. Toontrack EZ Mix2 for Bass and Mastering. ML Soundlabs Root for my amp. Izotope plugins for mixing and additional Mastering. That’s all you need to sound like me. Believe me. This is pretty inexpensive and it has potential to get some pretty great sounds.

I know musicians are always looking to upgrade so what’s next on your list of instruments or home studio equipment to get?

Drums and maybe a future live amp rig. That’s what I’m looking at the moment.

Who would you say are your biggest influences?

My friends to be honest. Throne of Iron and Wolftooth being two big ones! Members of other bands/ex-bands such as Archarus, Catalytic, Spirit Division, The Gates of Slumber, Apostle of Solitude, and other Indianapolis bands give me inspiration to do what I do. If we are going to ask what “big” bands influence me I’d say Metallica, In Flames, Iron Maiden, and Dragonforce. But I’m a sponge. I listen to all types of music. Djent, Country, Folk, Pop, and whatever else. I will literally listen to anything.

I got roasted last time I asked a musician this but can you pick a favourite song from all those you’ve written? Which songs would you most like to play live?

Light the Bonfire is probably my favorite song I’ve written. I’d really like to play that one and some form of Rapture. I also have other songs written that will never be released that might go well live! 

You played drums in your old band, Thorr-Axe. Do you still play now or do you generally concentrate on guitar now? Would you like to record real drums for Ice Howl or do you find software easier/better?

I have not picked up sticks or played on a kit since I released my very first single by myself. Kyteler. It’s on the ice howl bandcamp as a single. I’d love to put real drums on this album. We will see what happens *wink

Aaaand just some general questions and silliness to finish off…

What albums have you been playing a lot lately?

I’ve been listening to a lot of Coheed and Cambria. Other than that I’ve been listening to new albums by other NWOTHM bands. Haunt, Oath SC, Smoulder, etc.

What was the last gig you went to, back in pre-covid times?

I went to The Vogue in Indianapolis where I saw Jinjer and The Browning. That was two Octobers ago….

What was the last piece of band merch you bought?

I bought a CD from By Fire and Sword. Pre-ordered Oath SC Computer Warrior Vinyl. Buy their stuff!

Album of the year 2020?

I really enjoyed Trivium’s new album. I love that band, and I don’t care if I get judged for that. Matt Heafy is a great guy and he is a metal genius. That being said…Eternal Champion. Nothing more to say.

Favourite drink?

No alcoholic drink: Diet Coke. Alcoholic Beverage: Long Island Iced Tea

Pineapple on pizza, yes or no?

Strong No. 

https://icehowl.bandcamp.com/

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