Bassist Alex Pickard, vocalist/guitarist Matt Smith, ad guitarist Casey Trask serve as guests of honor at Wacken Battle round two on March 14, 2020
Bassist Alex Pickard, vocalist/guitarist Matt Smith, ad guitarist Casey Trask serve as guests of honor at Wacken Battle round two on March 14, 2020

Well… as of this writing, self-quarantine and stay home is still implemented for everyone’s safety and all nonessential personnel. Hate to be that guy but it must be addressed. The Klown feels you, some have free time and don’t know what to do with it after a couple of days, let alone weeks. Yes, times are uncertain but the Klown gots you covered. In an effort to keep your butts glued and indoors even for a brief moment, the Klown has once again managed to get another independent band to lend us their time. 

The Klown became the straight version of Anderson Cooper (take that as you will 😉) and got in contact with local thrashers, Monarch. For those who just stumbled upon this article for the first time, by either coincidence or for whatever reason, we have featured Monarch before. Several times, in fact. 

For those unfamiliar with Monarch, their name has become more a matter of fact in the local San Diego metal scene. In 2017, the local thrash titans released their debut LP Go Forth… Slaughter and a year later they entered the Wacken Open Air Metal Battle, and though they did not win the competition as a whole that year, they were the victors in 2019. Monarch instantly became hometown heroes when they returned from the biggest stage that metal has to offer, the Wacken Open Air Festival! This Handsomer Cooper found one hell of an interviewer in guitarist Casey Trask and gained more insight on their saga.

Guitarist Casey Trask in Wacken Battle 2018, the year before they rightfully took the spoils and tore a new one in Wacken Open Air 2019.

Ugh Metal: Why did you choose the name Monarch for the band?

Casey Trask: I had to text Alex Pickard, our bass player, for this answer. He said that when he came up with the name with Aaron Chipp-Miller, our original vocalist/guitar player, they wanted something that represented a rebellion against the normal system of government and thought Monarch was just perfect. Short and simple.

UM: How did the band first meet?

Trask: Alex and our original guitar player/vocalist Aaron Chipp Miller met in middle school and started writing the first couple songs around 2010 that turned into the songs from our first album. Songs like “Kill Or Die,” “Decadence,” “Memories of War,” “Bloody Assault,” “Dawn to Night.” Then I met them shortly after and played a few shows with our drummer Christian but the band fell out of touch for a few years but started up again when Alex, Aaron, and I met Adam West, our incredible drummer, after we had all gotten through high school. We started gigging around playing local gigs getting crazy, we made a 4 song EP that you can probably find on YouTube. Aaron ended up leaving after a couple years to pursue his career, we’re still good friends.

UM: When did you officially form?

Trask: I think this version of the band officially formed when we got Matt Smith (Nihilist, Damcyan) on Guitar and Vocals around 2014. We had played some shows with his bands and had become friends over time and always thought he was just an insane guitar player and we were all pretty stoked when he agreed to join the band and learn the songs.

Vocalist/guitarist Matt Smith and guitarist Casey Trask play at the Wacken Battle Round Two on March.14 as victors of the 2019 Wacken Battle!

UM: Was thrash your first choice when you first started the band?

Trask: Absolutely, Aaron and Alex had such a solid base of rad brutal thrash riffs with those first couple songs and that was just a great jumping off point from there, I think our band has developed gradually over time and we kept it going into what it is now, which is just a big combination of everything we like.

UM: Which bands are your biggest influences?

Trask: We’re all influenced by so many different things it’s hard to narrow it down. Adam, Alex, and I used to jam Zeppelin, KISS, Sabbath Deep Purple and Skid Row all the time but also heavy stuff like Slayer, Pantera, and Death but when we met Matt he brought such an amazing element. He is schooled in classical guitar but also brutal shredding death metal like Kalmah and Children of Bodom, and is just a riff master. We also really enjoy music scores in classic video games, like Megaman X, F-Zero and Sonic the Hedgehog. Super rad stuff.

UM: Is there any band or artists in particular you would like to collaborate with?

Trask: We haven’t really thought about it but it’d be cool to do something with the other San Diego band Nihilist or Immortal Guardian from Texas, Exmortus is pretty amazing as well.

UM: Do you have a pre show ritual?

Trask: Not really we usually just take every show as it comes but we all just usually end up hanging out together because we’re all good friends.

Matt Smith and Casey Trask shredding at Wacken Battle round 2 on Mar.14, 2020
Drummer Adam West pounds away while Matt Smith and Casey Trask are shredding at Wacken Battle round 2 on Mar.14, 2020

UM: Any funny or interesting stories that have happened on a tour?

Trask: Monarch has yet to embark on a tour but we did accidentally crash an open mic night in San Marcos that resulted in some broken tables and chairs.

Naturally, the Klown got a little curious as to what Trask meant about that incident. So the Klown sent his intern to do extra footwork on this matter because he ain’t paying him anyway and he too had curiosity. So, Alex Pickard stepped in and filled us in via phone call. 

Pickard: At around 2010 or ‘11 but we booked a show at The Metaphor Cafe in Escondido, when it still existed. And the guy booked us, and we weren’t a well-known metal band at the time, and the guy had an open mic night planned for it and he didn’t tell us about the open mic night. 

Bassist Alex Pickard playing at the Brick By Brick in Wacken Battle Round 2 on Mar.14, 2020. Catch him at an open mic night near you!
Bassist Alex Pickard playing at the Brick By Brick in Wacken Battle Round 2 on Mar.14, 2020. Catch him at an open mic night near you!

So we show up, there are candles, and tables, and chairs like around, and people are playing acoustic music and just chillin’. And I was like “Dude, this doesn’t look like a show to me. Look we’re a thrash metal band and I got a bunch of fans coming to the show and they’re probably gonna have a mosh pit.” And the guy was like, “Oh no, no, you can’t do that!” And I was like, “I understand what you’re saying but it’s not up to me on what the fans are gonna do.” He laughs. “Look if you don’t move the chairs something’s going to happen.”

So he ended up not moving the chairs for the open mic night and we just played and all of our homies went fuckin’ crazy and knocked over all the tables like broke up two chairs. The guy was all mad and I was like “Dude, you booked a metal band for a mic night!”

After getting the scoop from Pickard, the Klown switched back to Trask. 

UM: What are other big names have you shared the stage with?

Trask: Well if you count playing the Wacken festival last year, which was incredible, Slayer, Hammerfall, Sabaton, Testament and couples others were there. Around here, we’ve played with Havok, Exmortus, Warbringer, and the awesome Powerglove who we have always been fans of. It was also great to play with Chris Broderick’s Act Of Defiance. I’m sure I’m forgetting some.

UM: What are some big name bands that you would like to share the stage with?

Trask: Judas Fucking Priest, Children of Bodom would be really rad.

As the Klown had previously mentioned, this band has been one of the fortunate few from San Diego to have taken it all the way in the Wacken Open Air Metal Battle since it’s American inclusion in 2017. In 2018, Monarch competed in the final round at LA’s Viper Room but didn’t savor sweet victory till 2019 where they represented the country in the world’s biggest metal stage. Of course, the Klown was going to ask about this experience, it’s not everyday you get a champ’s perspective on a competition for the biggest stage of them all.

Naturally, winning is envisioned for these types of competitions for it can be a great motivator. We’ll never forget Casey Trask’s face of disbelief when they were declared the victors of round 2 in 2018. 

UM: Did you actually picture yourself actually winning a second time the following year? 

Trask: I never thought that any of that would actually happen because I hate to get my hopes up or have any kind of expectation for these things because it’s so hard to “judge” bands, but yes I was shocked. 

UM: Winning Wacken altogether, last year, how was that like for you all? 

Trask: It is heavy metal heaven, the promised land, everybody should go to it someday, people there are so happy to be there and celebrate what we all love so much, heavy metal. We would all love to go back someday. 

UM: Is there any kind of advice or word that you would like to give to an up-and-comer/independent band that competes in WOA: Battle of the Bands? 

Shred master Casey Trask strums his stuff in Wacken Battle round 2 on Mar. 14, 2020
Shred master Casey Trask strums his stuff in Wacken Battle round 2 on Mar. 14, 2020

Trask: Let loose and give ‘em hell, even if you don’t advance you need to do what we are all here to do, play like its your last night on earth. 

UM: Assuming you’re all working on a new album, is there a process, ritual, etc for your songwriting preparations &/or recordings? 

Trask: Well the first album was a lot of our older material before we had Matt but he did play a part in how we wanted to execute it not that we had him. “Sonic Reaper” and the 2nd half of “Go Forth… Slaughter” are good examples of his contribution to that album. This new one that we are in the mixing stages of is a lot of Matt’s unused material that we all really dug, so he brought those to us and they formed into Monarch songs, Alex contributed a song as we all and I think one we just came up with on the spot one time at practice and that ended up being one of our favorites. So I guess we don’t really have rituals, we just kind of take everything as it comes.

UM: Assuming that you all caught and garnered attention from many record labels, would you consider signing on to one? If so, is there a preference to which you would like to sign to? 

Trask: We’ve discussed it and as long as it’s something we all agree with we are onboard but we are all fully prepared to do our best on our own if we have to.

As the Klown has mentioned, Monarch has been featured before in Ugh Metal. Such as the time they opened for Death Angel a couple of years back, Round 2 of Wacken and their album. The Ugh Metal YouTube channel even features some of Monarch’s performance in case you need to see it to believe it. The future’s bright for this quartet and who knows where it may take them, maybe a headlining spot in Wacken? Who knows? The world is their oyster. In any case, check’em out and support them in whatever way possible.