INTERVIEW WITH CALEB BEAL OF MIDNIGHT MALICE
Date: February 19, 2016
Photos: See credits under photos below where applicable
ONCE UPON A TIME, MIDNIGHT MALICE WERE DUBBED “TORONTO’S BAD BOYS OF METAL” AND A PROMISING BAND WHOSE DEBUT ALBUM ‘PROVING GROUNDS‘ HAD REACHED THE #10 POSITION ON SLEAZE ROXX’S TOP TEN ALBUMS OF 2014. DURING THE LAST TWO YEARS, THE BAND HAS BEEN PLAGUED WITH LINE-UP INSTABILITY WITH ONLY THE GROUP’S FOUNDING MEMBERS, CALEB BEAL (VOCALS, GUITAR) AND HUNTER RAYMOND (DRUMS), AS ITS TWO MAINSTAYS. AT THE BEGINNING OF THIS YEAR, MIDNIGHT MALICE SUDDENLY ANNOUNCED THAT THEY WERE PLAYING THEIR LAST GIG ON JANUARY 29, 2016. SLEAZE ROXX CAUGHT UP WITH MIDNIGHT MALICE’S FRONTMAN AND LEADER, CALEB BEAL, TO FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENED AND WHETHER THE RUMOURS ARE TRUE THAT THE BAND HAS INDEED DISBANDED.
Sleaze Roxx: A while back, Midnight Malice announced that it was going to be playing its last gig, which I think certainly took a lot of people by surprise. So, what is the status of the band?
Caleb Beal: It’s non-existing at this moment. It’s over.
Sleaze Roxx: So what happened?
Caleb Beal: Basically, over the years, we’ve had so many changes in the band — members and stuff. Focus just gets lost. We were constantly teaching the same songs to different people. I mean the setlist that we played for the final show was probably not that much different from the setlist that we played for our first show. There was not a lot of new material. We were kind of stuck playing the same stuff. It was kind of getting stale man! We came down after — [Diemonds’ guitarist Daniel] Dekay played with us for the Wacken battle stuff last year. We were back at being a three piece — me. [bassist] Tommy [Gervais] and [drummer] Hunter [Raymond] — and the jams were just not coming out. We were writing songs. We were trying to get stuff done. It was becoming tedious. I just have never been like that and that’s not what I am in it for when I am playing and I am not enjoying it. It’s like everybody was on the same level really. We just haven’t been able to get it back. When I kind of had my moment, we were just jamming and it wasn’t sounding good and that’s why I cancelled the Venom show originally.
I wanted to keep the last show that we were playing — the one from a few weeks ago — because just the opportunity to play with Alex and JJ of Final Trigger. They’re really good friends and we never really had that opportunity. And [long-time Midnight Malice supporter] Craig [Rose] was involved in the show so I agreed to do it. And Brian [Stephenson of Old James] of course who played in Japan with us came back for it and it sounded incredible. There was still something there but I mean, I talked a lot to Craig [Rose] about how I feel about what’s going on and keep him in the loop because he’s done so much for us, you know — like, laying it on the line. I told him how I felt — that I am not into the songs and not enjoying it. When I’m sitting at home writing and playing, I am enjoying writing and playing music. When I was doing something for Malice, it was just becoming this chore of playing these songs that are irrelevant now. I was bound and chained by my past visions. I kind of explained it to him and he just said, “Well. Just stop. Just don’t do anything that you don’t want to do.” He kind of leaned on me just to write and write. Write an album, let’s do it and let’s get things done, you know?
Sleaze Roxx: How come you guys were having such a hard time finding the right bandmate?
Caleb Beal: I mean, I think that band members are always hard to find. We had a pretty strange set up too just because in the beginning of the band, it was so wild as well you know? It was just so fucking crazy. I don’t know. I guess that there are just not a lot of people around. Everyone are in bands. You can poach them and stuff I guess. I never wanted to put ads out. It’s just hard to find people to fill the spots. It’s really personal. That’s something that I think a lot about now moving forward thinking about playing with different people and how hard it will be to find the right people and stuff. But I mean if you network with the right people, musicians and stuff, there are a lot of people that will just play or that will help you out in the studio or whatever. You can’t be held back by that kind of thing. I just kind of have to commit forward and hope that I find people in the future.
Sleaze Roxx: Fair enough. And since when have you been feeling this way — that things aren’t right and that perhaps it would be time to stop?
Caleb Beal: It’s literally been a couple of years — like not necessarily as openly. When we first got back from Japan, I was really inspired. I started writing all this new material and it just wasn’t coming out. When we were trying to jam it out or finish these songs, they just weren’t coming out the way I wanted them to. It kind of felt hard. We got kind of drowned in all these commitments of shows that we had to play and all this stuff. We never really stopped working so even than, we weren’t able to write and just kind of expand, or progress and move forward, you know? We just kind of got stuck in this void of always doing the same thing over and over again until it’s like so dry that it lost just all intention. I just can’t… I can’t focus. It’s insane. Playing music is something that I enjoy and when it becomes something that over and over again, is the same shit… I mean, it’s so hard to organize to have all the people there at one time, you know? The whole band was kind of built on a shaky foundation to begin with and the more stuff that we piled on top of it, we just couldn’t handle it. You know, we just weren’t going anywhere. So that’s what I am saying when a couple of years ago, when I first kind of started thinking about it, and started expressing it maybe last year, and then coming into this year, I just wasn’t feeling it. I turned 27 this year man and for some reason, that’s just really on my mind. Like that is heavy. I really just want to establish something and I had to make the move.
Sleaze Roxx: Your debut album ‘Proving Grounds’ came out back in January 2014. Sometimes, you have expectations of how things might turn out. Were you disappointed or happy with how the album was received and how the band was progressing from there?
Caleb Beal: Yeah. At the time, it was certainly a milestone and I remember being very happy with the album when we initially first recorded it. But as time went on, the things that I did not like about it just became more and more like out to the front to me. I guess that it is probably normal. I mean, it’s probably a curse of writing for me. You’re ever conscious of all the little bits that are fucked up or whatever. You can never truly enjoy it the way someone ignorantly listening to it would without the understanding. I remember that I was happy with the sound and at the time, it was a great thing. I can’t say anything bad about how it was received you know. I mean, we were fortunate enough to go to Japan and stuff with Spiritual Beast and all the other stuff that we did in Canada. Yeah. It was well received and that was cool. I am glad that we did it. There are no regrets with it but could it have been done better? Yeah! Could we have made a better album? Of course! It’s like living under that and not being able to get out of that, not being able to release something new and always being what’s representing you, it was kind of eating at me as well I guess.
Sleaze Roxx: What exactly did you not like about the album?
Caleb Beal: Uhhh. I just don’t think that we were prepared going in. Everyone was — it was our first time doing anything to that extent. I always kind of recorded on my own and worked with some people but it was the first time definitely for me that I involved other people and where everyone is coming in doing their parts you know? Jared [Verlage] — he was an awesome dude but he wasn’t a musician. He joined the band. He was a friend of ours and we just taught him these simple bass lines you know? And they did not shine on the album — nothing you know? There was nothing there. The rhythm on the whole album I thought was just dragging. It never was good. It was done without a metronome and that’s not something that I am into. I just did not like the sound of it. It was carried by guitars and I did not like the tones of them and that was my fault you know? I am not blaming [producer Ian] Blurton. He was incredible to work with. What he did with what we gave him was incredible. It’s just kind of frustrating working with other musicians and stuff. That’s part of it. I get it. But when you are used to being in control with more of the variables yourself… I don’t know. You actually listen to anything you record a million fucking times, or after time passes, you grow out of it or you’ve exceeded it. You look at it differently I guess. I wasn’t happy with it. It did not sound pro to me you know?
Sleaze Roxx: Fair enough. You guys have a reputation of being big partiers. Do you think that had an impact on the band not progressing the way you thought it would?
Caleb Beal: Oh potentially but I also credit it for getting me where I was in that band. That was kind of the shaky foundation it was built off of. And maybe that’s more of the reason that is something that I am trying to step away from now as it’s not as big a part of my life. You know, you get into music and are into the partying and all this stuff, and you kind of get out of that after realizing what you really want. And what I really want is to play music. I could probably say the same for the other guys in the band but when we are all together, it is certainly harder to maintain that vision.
Sleaze Roxx: Do you think that if you guys would have made it onto Wacken last year, that things would be different?
[Interviewer’s note: Midnight Malice made it to the Wacken Metal Battle 2015 Canadian Final with the winner, which turned out to be Vesperia, getting to play at Wacken Open Air festival in Germany in the summer of 2015.]
Caleb Beal: Potentially. At that time, I already knew that I would be leaving the band. I already knew that it was over for me even at the beginning of that competition but I kind of agreed with Craig [Rose] —
in the end, we just talked and said that we would just let this — not let it decide but you know, we were playing it a lot by ear. It was kind of going by the seat of your pants. So would it have changed it? Possibly but no more drastically than any little thing would have changed that you know?
Sleaze Roxx: And what about the rest of the guys? Are you guys still friends? Did you part amicably?
Caleb Beal: We still are good friends of course. We’ve been playing in another project together with our friend Mike who is kind of writing these ’70s songs. I am playing an organ in it.
Sleaze Roxx: Oh! Wow!
Caleb Beal: Yeah. I don’t think that it will affect our friendship or anything. We are all on the level. We are all cool with each other you know? But I can feel in the room that everyone is burnt out and tired when we are going to jam you know? It’s not like anyone is excited. Except for me, everyone drags ass you know? I just think that it was inevitable. Somebody had to kind of make the decision.
Sleaze Roxx: Since you guys are jamming in another project together, could it be that it was just the weight of Midnight Malice on you guys and that specific genre, and you just needed to expand and get out of that?
Caleb Beal: I mean, not really. The stuff that I am writing right now is not unlike Malice. I mean, it’s more polished and I get to explore a little more of what just interests me in music. You’ve certainly caught up in something but the limits are beyond your own, you know? Like playing in the band, my limits are as high as Hunter’s or as high as Tommy’s you know? You are certainly only as able as any other man is. I just feel that I am stronger by myself. I write stronger. It’s not to discredit the way that they play. It’s just that’s how I started and that’s how I feel that I can accomplish my best.
Sleaze Roxx: It sounds to me and you can correct me if I am wrong that you were sort of doing a lot of the heavy lifting in the band?
Caleb Beal: Uhhh. In some respects… I mean, things changed so much in the end. I can’t say that those guys weren’t hard working. From the beginning — right from the start — I have definitely been the driving force that without, it wouldn’t be possible. Same thing with Craig [Rose] you know? But certainly as far as getting merch and everything, it definitely was a heavy burden that maybe wasn’t shared equally. I don’t know. That had nothing to do with breaking up at the end. When your own interest is wavering plus someone else’s, what’s the point? Why I am carrying this if nobody else is interested either?
Sleaze Roxx: Now, what about the last show? How did it feel playing that?
Caleb Beal: The last show… I had very mixed feelings going in and before but it was awesome! It was by far the best moment since I made the final decision that it was over for me. I think that it was the best way that we could have gone out and we could not have done it without [Old James guitarist] Brian [Stephenson]. That guy’s ability for two years… The morale that he raises. I had so much fun on stage. It was great to see a bunch of people out and play with some good friends that I never had the opportunity to before. To go out with a successful show, it felt great. It was awesome. I think that people received it very well. It was great because of the closure, the finality of it. It did not inspire anything to keep that going.
Sleaze Roxx: So, what’s next for you? Obviously, you’re writing on your own. What else do you have planned for the future?
Caleb Beal: I have been planning pretty heavily for this for awhile in some respects. I haven’t stopped writing. Where Craig [Rose] guided me as I mentioned before was not to get too tied up in what is going on and how it is going to happen but just to get it out and start recording. Get it out and get it all done you know? I mean, I couldn’t say exactly what will happen next — not necessarily because it’s not planned. I can’t say anything or commit to anybody to anything at this time but I am writing and recording. I will be cutting an album soon hopefully. I am working with some dude in the studio as soon as this month. It won’t be long until I am back.
Sleaze Roxx: So what would you say were the highlights for you in terms of your time in Midnight Malice?
Caleb Beal: It would be experiences and stuff. Just being in a band and stuff at that age. That in itself was incredible the whole time. There were so many small moments that were big at the time but by far, the hugest moment in that band was going to Japan. Undeniably, I think that everybody would agree. It was life altering and the pangs of reality that shook even my soul are still there with me. Undoubtedly, the biggest life time achievement — as part of the band, that was so incredible. To be able to go out and perform, it was out of control.
Sleaze Roxx: Cool! And what would you say were the lows during your time in Midnight Malice?
Caleb Beal: Aaaahhh. There are a lot!
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Caleb Beal: [Laughs] There are a lot of lows man! I don’t know. I don’t focus on the negatives a lot but I mean, fuck!
Sleaze Roxx: If there are a lot, why don’t you give me a couple?
Caleb Beal: I remember the first time that we ever tried to go into the studio and record, I fucking got into a fight with [guitarist] Chris Nascimben when he was in the band. I fucking punched the shit out of him. He was fucked up. It was lows like that. There was times when we — fuck! I don’t know man… It was all drunken madness. It was all based on drunken insanity. You know, people are fighting with each other. Fucking gear is getting broken. I got freaked out once and smashed all of my shit and tried to walk to Calgary [Alberta, Canada].
Sleaze Roxx: Oh geez…
Caleb Beal: Mayhem! Mayhem!
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] To close off, the stuff that you are writing, what direction is it going?
Caleb Beal: A lot of it, I have been writing for the last couple of years — little bits of it anyways. Some of the newer stuff, more recent that I have been writing the last couple of weeks, it is an exciting vain for sure. It is old school heavy metal sound but maybe, there are more melodies and it’s a bit more polished. I am certainly trying to bring out the more melodic side of the music that I am into. I just want to control some different emotions rather than just rage. There’s rage and speed and power in songs but I want to be able to try to cover the other spectrum a bit and bring it down you know, and try to control softer emotions and stuff.