One of the most significant Canadian events in heavy metal each year is the Wacken Metal Battle Canada, which brings together the best in independent, unsigned metal talent for an epic competition with only one survivor. That survivor earns the right to play at the epic Wacken Open Air festival, occurring this summer from July 31st to August 2nd in Wacken, Germany.
This year’s lucky, surviving Canadian band, the one which outlasted all others, was Toronto’s The Slyde. The group have earned the privilege to represent the entire country in the upcoming international festival. The Slyde are a melodic, progressive metal five-piece who really started to turn heads with the release of their 2018 album Awakening (buy now via Bandcamp). The album is a thought-provoking, high-octane travel through ten tracks of prog rock for fans of Rush, Dream Theater, Haken, Coheed and Cambria, and Megadeth. They’ve now played somewhere around 200 shows within the eastern part of Canada and have made previous appearances at Ottawa Bluesfest, Canadian Music Week, IndieWeek, and Cornwall Lift-Off.
In anticipation of Wacken Open Air starting in about a month and a half, we have a special chat for you today between 2019 Wacken Metal Battle U.S.A. winners Monarch (with whom we also recently chatted) and Wacken Metal Battle Canada winners The Slyde. Monarch is a San Diego, California-based thrash metal band who released their most recent album in 2017 with Go Forth...Slaughter. The following is a conversation between Monarch bassist Alex Pickard and The Slyde singer and guitarist Nathan Da Silva wherein they discuss The Slyde’s Canadian victory, what the metal scene is like north of the border, and what makes Wacken Open Air so special to them.
You must check out The Slyde’s music video for “Back Again” off Awakening.
Congratulations on your well-deserved victory in Canada. How was the journey leading up to your final victory? Were there multiple rounds you had to play and how many bands were you up against? Nathan Da Silva: Thanks, Alex. It certainly feels good, man, as we’ve also been grinding away for a long time like Monarch (ten years for us). We played four rounds in total: a Prelim show, an Ontario Final, and an Eastern Canada Final (all in Toronto, which was convenient for us), and the National Final was held out west in Calgary, Alberta. We competed against nine other bands directly in those four shows, but there were over 80 bands that competed nationally, so there was a shit ton of talent coast to coast.
To be honest, we were a little nervous about playing on the West’s turf for the final, but six out of the eight judges were from Calgary, so we must have done something good to impress them as the “visiting team” to snag the victory. It was an extremely close competition, and I want to give shoutouts to Fjell Thyngor, Blackwater Burial, and The Myopia Condition for giving it their all onstage at the final.
While Monarch has been denied access to your beautiful country, we always wonder how the metal scene is out there for you in The Slyde? Are there certain cities that are stronger than others? Are there any specific venues that you like to personally play? Da Silva: I would say the metal scene is, to put it in a metal way, small but mighty. Like with any niche genre of music, the scene is tight-knit and very supportive and has a strong sense of community. Since our Calgary trip (first time out West for us), we hear that the metal scene in Western Canada is very supportive of each other, and we were happy to have been welcomed so warmly, despite us being a crossover/multi-genre act (more on that later).
Toronto, being "Hollywood North," has scenes for every genre you can imagine, but Montreal and the province of Quebec is definitely the place to be for heavy metal and other extreme subgenres of metal. So many amazing metal bands come out of Quebec (Unexpect, Quo Vadis, Voivod, Augury, The Agonist, Cryptopsy, Kataklysm, the list goes on...).
It’s been a struggle for us to break into Quebec due to politics (put it this way; I play with French bands from Ontario, who sing in French, that struggle to break into the Quebec scene), but we’re working on it! Les Katacombes (Mtl), Rivoli and The Mod Club (Tor), Mavericks (Ottawa), and This Ain’t Hollywood (Hamilton) would be our favourite venues.
The Slyde’s most recent album Awakening was released May 18th, 2018.
What are some of the bigger acts that The Slyde has played with in Canada? Have you had the chance to play with any major influences? If not, what bands could you recommend that you love playing with from your area? Da Silva: We’ve opened for Pain of Salvation, Angra, Protest The Hero, and Fuck The Facts, amongst others. When we played at Ottawa Bluesfest back in 2010, we played on the same day as Rush, so that was pretty sweet. Still holding out hope to one day open for Dream Theater or Megadeth (laughs).
As far as Toronto-area bands go, huge shoutouts to Superchucker (classic metal), Chainfall (party/thrash metal), Prismind (prog metal), Warmachine (melodic/classic metal), Odd Ones (prog metal/rock), Pyramid Theorem (prog metal), Dumpster Mummy (proggy death metal from Halifax) and BornBroken (death metal from Montreal).
What’s your opinion of streaming apps and royalties paid out to bands these days. What would you change about the way bands get paid in this ever-changing industry of music? Da Silva: I have such mixed views on this topic. On one hand, if you’re a low-level exposure band, getting your music heard should be of highest priority, and there’s no easier way to do that nowadays. Anybody and their grandma can be in a band and have their music available on streaming platforms. On the flipside, with the rise of music piracy in the late ‘90s and torrenting at the turn of the century, and now streaming being the norm, society just assumes that music should be free. The socialist in me says, “yeah, let’s spread the love and share the music,” but the capitalist in me says, “come on, man, this is not financially sustainable.”
Unfortunately, you have to play the cards that you’re dealt. I read an article a while ago about how Periphery still doesn’t make a living off their career. I’m sure both of our bands are ten of thousands of dollars in the hole. It’s a labour of love, and if you follow the heart, do what you do the best you can, and if the music speaks to others, that’s all you can ask for. Our keyboardist, Sarah, once told me that we don’t play music for a living because we want to; we do it because we have to. There are many avenues in the music business, and some are just less (or not at all) lucrative than others. You find that balance and shit usually works out. (End rant.)
Another great tune from The Slyde is the melodic “Fading.”
How did The Slyde choose their name? How did the band meet and become what it is today? Da Silva: We started out as just “Slyde” because we just wanted something that people could remember easily. We recently made a slight name change to "The Slyde” as a way to distinguish us from the other “Slydes” in the music world (frig off, we were here first, laughs), and we found a meaning in the name after we started writing lyrics about sociopolitical issues and environmentalism. I guess you can say “The Slyde” is a euphemism for where we’re heading as a society. Sarah Westbrook (keyboards) and I (guitar and lead vocals) met at music school at Carleton University in Ottawa, and are the “founding members.”
Other founding members are Nicholas Favretto, who played bass with us 2009-2013, and Brendan Soares on drums and vocals since 2010. Our current lineup is Sarah and myself, along with Alberto Campuzano (bass and vocals; ex-Annihilator) whom we met at a Warmachine gig in 2015, and Andrew Suarez (drums; ex-Fatality), who is currently drumming with us full-time while Brendan is touring with other bands.
What makes Wacken Open Air special to you? What are you expecting on this awesome journey? And what do you all hope to take away from such a killer opportunity? Da Silva: Probably goes the same for you guys, but it’s a huge objective checked off of our checklist for The Slyde. Getting an opportunity to break into the European markets is something we’ve always hoped for since day one, knowing that our quirky brand of melodic prog metal would most likely be well-received overseas. Years and years of perseverance, people discouraging you and saying you’re “playing the wrong music,” but ultimately sticking to your guns and doing what you love to do for the right audiences; that’s what it’s all about, man.
We just want to make friends at Wacken (think we already did with you guys), rock out to the sea of metalheads at the festival, and hopefully connect with people in the industry and establish some European connections for the future. We’re thrilled that we were selected as the Canadian ambassadors, considering some of the backlash we received from the elitists here and how we’re “not metal enough.” I mean, fuck off, Danko Jones has played Wacken three times! We’re all about metal attitude, rocking the fuck out onstage and delivering a passionate performance, musicality, and diversity in songwriting, and incorporating multiple genres into what we do. And we’re super pumped to show Wacken what we’re fucking made of!!!
Are you guys ready to shotgun some beers and do a full send with Monarch? Da Silva: Oooooooooooo fuck yeah, good buddy!