Built like the high-school wrestler he once was, Weston Coppola Cage is a big dude. When he rolls into the lobby of the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills with his publicist and his wife Danielle, he’s pushing a stroller containing the couple’s three-month old son. The kid is fast asleep. “He can sleep through anything,” Cage tells us. “We went to an event the other day and the DJ was playing super loud techno, but this little guy didn’t even flinch.”
At just 23 years old, Cage is already on his second wife. Which may or may not put him on pace with his dad, Nicolas Cage—yeah, that Nicolas Cage—who has gone through three and counting. Like father, like son, right? Sort of. While the elder Cage is known for his bug-eyed histrionics in films like Raising Arizona, Wild Aa Heart, and Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, Cage the younger has a completely different set of eccentricities. As a teenager, Wes started a band called Eyes of Noctum, which wouldn’t be unusual for a Hollywood scion with unlimited resources except for the fact that they played black metal, easily one of the least-accessible musical genres one could possibly choose to play. Taking full advantage of the family bank account, Wes flew his band to Sweden so they could record with legendary producer Fredrik Nordström, the man who helmed albums by massive Scandinavian extreme-metal acts like At The Gates, Opeth and Dimmu Borgir. Back in L.A., Wes regularly wore guyliner or full-on corpsepaint to red-carpet events, making even his dad look normal by comparison.
Before the year is out, Wes plans to unveil his first solo record, which combines metal and industrial music into something he calls “ghost metal.” He hopes it will help him reconcile with his estranged mother, actress Christina Fulton. But he’s also not holding his breath.
Noisey: How did you get into metal?
Wes Cage: I gravitated toward it at a very young age. I started with more atmospheric music, but I wanted to hear that coupled with something. First I found out about bands like Rammstein, who were using industrial elements, and System of a Down.
Those were your gateway bands?
Yeah, very much so. As I grew up a little more, I started to appreciate the more extreme stuff, like Cradle Of Filth and Dimmu Borgir.
What about more underground stuff?
For the more true black metal, I’d have to say Emperor. Ihsahn’s voice just delivers so much emotion, I really appreciated that when I was younger—and still do.
Did someone turn you on to these bands, or did you find them on the Internet?
I kind of found my way into black metal on my own, just navigating the web. Before I knew it, at 17 years old I was in Norway hanging out with those guys. It was an honor. I actually had my 18th birthday party there, that’s where I met everybody. The party lasted three days. [Laughs] I remember the first 24 hours, but not the rest. I’m still pretty close friends with Hellhammer from Mayhem and [former Dimmu Borgir bassist] ICS Vortex.
Did you go over there specifically to meet them?
I went there for vacation, but also to get inspired. I’m big on the input-output theory, that you have to keep feeding the engine with as much information as possible, so I wanted to see the fjords and everything.
How did you start your old black metal band, Eyes Of Noctum?
Eyes Of Noctum started in 2006. It was a passion of mine, but at that time I was still in high school, doing wrestling and martial arts. When I’d come home on an endorphin rush, I’d want to be artistic. After a few years, the band became the priority in my life. My friend Alex and I wrote an entire album, hired some other guys and went to Sweden to record with Fredrik Nordström of all people. That was a titanic time in my life. We were in Gothenburg, and Fredrik was an exceptional person to work with. Some of my bandmates didn’t understand him when he said things like, “This should sound more medieval,” but I got him totally.
So Alex was a friend of yours from school, and the other guys were hired guns?
Yeah. I saw a guy playing classical guitar outside of my school, and he was being picked on by a bunch of people. I just couldn’t take watching a bunch of guys bullying an artsy person, someone who was passionate about his craft, so I defended him and from there we got close. That was the beginning of him and I being friends. But his head got really big so we’re not friends anymore. He’s very weird now.
Were your parents reluctant to let you go on tour at that age?
My father was very supportive, but I was stepping away from my mom at that time. She was trying to get a hold of me while I was playing with bands like Book of Black Earth and Cattle Decapitation, and it was like, “I can’t talk right now.” [Laughs]
The reviews I read of the Eyes of Noctum album were all very positive, but they all went out of their way to say, “We didn’t expect this from Nic Cage’s son.” How do you deal with that sort of thing?
I deal with it the same way someone would deal with racism or being persecuted for their religion. People have this preconceived notion that I grew up with a life of many privileges, but they don’t know how dark it can be in a house like that. So I used it as my gasoline, to play out the vengeance in my heart.
Does part of your drive to make music come from revenge?
Yeah, basically. But I try to convert the negative energy of revenge into something positive. My lyrics are philosophical—they have kind of a self-empowerment vibe to them. I use certain formulas to encourage people to reach their inner god or goddess, stuff like that.
You were using the stage name “Arcane” with Eyes of Noctum. How did you choose that?
I came up with it when I realized how misunderstood I was and how enigmatic I was my whole life. No one could put their finger on me, so when everyone else was choosing demon names, I went with “Arcane.”
You’re doing your new solo project under your own name, and the press release even mentions who your parents are. How do you strike the balance between trying to succeed on your own terms and not hiding the fact that you’re the son of a famous movie star?
After Eyes of Noctum, I kind of had a reality check and realized that I could not change who I am. I had no control over where I was born, and I take pride in it now. I know I had privileges growing up—I was able to travel and attain wisdom from the places I went to. All I want to do is take that and share it with everyone rather than trying to hang onto it selfishly. There’s a lot of stuff I’ve read and seen that I want everyone to know about, that I wish was more accessible to the world. That’s the reason I want to be more commercial now, so I can share it with a larger audience.
I’ve dabbled into the occult my whole life—poetic Eddas, Necronomicon, the Book of the Dead, things like that. When I traveled in Italy and Greece, I saw places that were quite magical, like Stromboli. When I was in Corfu, I felt like Poseidon was right beside me in the waters.
Do you find that it’s difficult for people to relate to that sort of thing?
Yeah, definitely. People see occult references in my lyrics and just think I’m crazy. Which is weird because all the first scientists were alchemists.
So what happened with Eyes of Noctum?
It was like a huge divorce. People weren’t being upfront with me about work or their living situations—one guy went back to Idaho, one guy went to Wisconsin to work at a restaurant and teach bass. Everyone started to kind of follow each other’s footsteps. It was like a trend. But it was also irreconcilable differences. I used to have a very democratic way in that band—I told them they could veto my ideas. So they all ganged up on me and wanted the removal of the orchestra which was so dear to me. I think that set us apart from other bands, but when they wanted the removal of cellos and violins, I started to despise the band. It definitely made me depart and go solo.
You’re calling your new musical style “ghost metal.” Why?
My priority when I write this music is to induce the chills. I incorporate a lot of ancient instruments now, like the bouzouki, to invoke that ghostly feeling. That’s also the reason I’m calling the album Prehistoric Technology. I feel like this record has a lot of “ghost metal” moments, but I still feel like I could execute it better on the next one.
You’ve already released the first single, “Tell Me Why (Matriarch of Misery),” which is more industrial than black metal. Was that an intentional change in direction?
Yeah, definitely. Black metal will always be a very large portion of my heart, and I’ll always do that on the side, but this new genre is my main project. But I’ll always keep doing black metal on the side. I think I have some interesting ideas.
Your wife wrote the lyrics to “Tell Me Why.” What else do you want people to know about the song?
It’s awesome because it’s a very good song to ease into the album with. It’s got that distinct ghost metal chorus that took me a long time to create, but the verses are a more traditional thrash vibe. Danielle wrote the lyrics one day when we were at her mother’s house. I read them, and I could already start hearing music. I knew they were profound, so I had to use them.
What’s it about?
It’s an outside perspective on something that was very difficult for me growing up. I had a very tumultuous relationship with my mother—I was actually gonna write a song about her myself, but it would’ve come out a little less graceful than what Danielle wrote. [Laughs] It would’ve been a little more grotesque. I mean, if you look at the first letter of each word [in the song’s subtitle], “Matriarch of Misery,” that’s who it’s about. [Editor’s Note: That’s M-O-M, FYI.] She hasn’t heard it, though.
Do you want her to hear it?
Absolutely. She has a victim complex, and the lyrics are interesting because they kind of mock the things she would say. It’s a very powerful phone call, I’d say.
Do you have any expectations of communicating or reconciling with her as a result of the song?
I’d love that. The things I have an issue with, all my arguments with her, stem from things she doesn’t realize exist. That’s the hardest thing. The two diseases she has are Munchausen by Proxy Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder. With that combo, she’s always the victim, and I’m the most diseased person in the world. It’s disturbing.
How long has it been since you’ve spoken with her?
More than a year now. One of the main reasons is that I don’t want even an echo of my childhood around my son. If she started telling him he had disorders, I’d be appalled. I think if you start telling people they have disorders, they’ll slowly begin to believe it.
What does your dad think of your music?
He really loves it. The one thing my father always urged me to do was to not lose sight of the integrity of what you’re doing. So I thought I’d invent my own genre, and I think he appreciates that.
I heard you turned him onto Darkthrone.
Yeah! It was when I was 16. I was playing a lot of different black metal bands for him, but I wanted to see how he would respond to ones that had more rock or punk roots. So I played him Darkthrone’s “Too Old, Too Cold” and “Transilvanian Hunger” and he just thought it was awesome.
J. Bennett agrees that Darkthrone is awesome.