Celldweller Interview by Aborted Life |
I have a splitting headache right now from trying to listen to the two CELLDWELLER CDs and watching the ::SWITCHBACK:: DVD which took me all draining afternoon. But first, let me get your confirmation on a few essential observations:
Well then you and I have a lot in common. I would have a splitting headache and be drained too if I tried listening to 2 of my discs and watch the Switchback DVD.
That, from noting your many influences, you're an autodidactic artist who knows his thing well mixing different genres of music that it gets to a point wherein it surprises me just how complex the whole approach truly is, bravely pushing the idea of sonic fusion to the limits. Is this a way to cover as many fanbases as possible?
Absolutely not. It’s more based on the fact that I am musically schizophrenic. I have always adopted the “do it my way” approach to writing music. I am not concerned about who will like it and who will understand it. I have simply been fortunate enough to exorcise my musical demons and have people actually like and understand it. I have to do this to keep it interesting for me because if I’m bored or dissatisfied with it, how can I present it to the rest of the world? Also, having the foresight to mix styles just so I can appeal to a broader fanbase makes me sound far too intelligent.
That, sometimes, you get so carried away that each track could last for as long as 7 minutes and you also overdwell on making so many versions for a single song. I just can't quite grasp how wonderfully detailed you are in expressing yourself. It is, in my opinion, a kind of deep self-therapy so to say. My question now is, just how much time do you usually spend on your creative process be it in your studio or beyond?
Time doesn’t actually factor into it due to the fact that my life is essentially my art and my art reflects my life. I am a bit envious of those who can go to their 9-5 job and just hang up their work when they hang up their coat at the end of the night. I often dream of that as a possibility but I’ve never had the ability to turn it on and off, so the ideas and work are constant. Boo hoo…
Let's transport ourselves to the past a bit, and we'll try to discuss your evolution as an artist...
What was your role in Klank? What was it intended for and was it a good learning ground anyhow?
Klank used to play guitar for the live show element of my first project, Circle of Dust. When I decided to lay Circle of Dust to rest, he went off to do his own thing and I produced, recorded, programmed etc his first CD and then did a few remixes as well. That seems like another lifetime ago to me now. How was your experience like with Criss Angel (Mindfreak) when you're both in Angeldust? I've seen his stuff on cable TV but I can't recall your music being played in the background of his magic show, but what's weird though is that I've once heard your song "Switchback" while watching LG Motocross Championship on a sports channel - a bit like hearing Chiasm's "Isolation" in a porn video compilation, and it's true! I just think it's kind of sick that I said that, but oh well...
Criss and I have been friends for a long time. In fact I am in the studio as I’m doing this interview mixing the theme song to Season 2 of his Mindfreak show. I co-wrote and co-produced the track with him and played all the instruments, did the programming and threw down some secondary vocals etc. Again, I’ve been so focused on Celldweller the last few years that even the albums I wrote with Criss (Systems 1, 2 & 3) seem distant to me now. You will be hearing a lot more of that music as well as new music we’ve been working on in the upcoming season of Mindfreak. In fact I just got back from Las Vegas recording his vocals for the “Mindfreak” track and shot some footage for this season. So lucky you if you watch his show this season – you’ll not only get to hear me, but you’ll also get to see my ugly mug on TV too.
And, what's equally confusing are the aliases/identities used for your former group, "Circle of Dust". Were you the sole driving force behind that particular entity as well? I found a few images on the net with you and some other guys. Do you mind clarifying this?
I had an anonymity crisis back then. I didn’t want anyone to know my name or know what I looked like. I did everything you heard on the cd’s back then – wrote, performed, recorded, programmed, mixed etc. A Circle of Dust CD was generally 100% me. I loved the challenge of seeing if I could pull it off, so I would just hole myself up in my cellar studio and work. I had a live band for touring, but that was the extent of it. I changed my name all the time to help confuse the facts a little. Kept me more anonymous and less prone to human interaction.
Okay, lets travel back to the present where it matters most importantly...
It seems as though your new CELLDWELLER style is slightly experimenting with upbeat electronica, like the uber fast BPMs reached in your technofied "Kemikal" and "The Beginning of the End" pieces. But the remarkable part is when you decided to pair rock-metal with pure electronics in "The Last Firstborn" - that was mind-blowing by the way and my favorite so far!
Well, Kemikal and Beginning of the end were technically “Klayton” tracks and not “Celldweller” tracks. Those were written for different reasons. “The Last Firstborn” is very much a Celldweller track. I remember very specifically where I was at musically when I wrote that. I was listening to 2 CD’s a lot, one being a Goa-Psy trance ‘band’ and the other a post punk/metal band. In my simple mind, there was no reason why these worlds couldn’t co-exist. Again, I wasn’t thinking about who would get it, I was concerned about how to effectively combine styles that moved me to produce the feel I wanted. Anything goes. I would jump from a guitar part into a very synth oriented piece, then have an idea for a drum beat, so hop on my drum kit and work some parts around that. I love being free of restraint and being able to grab any instrument at any time to create a feel I’m hearing in my head.
But the base or medium for the most part is still a hard stomping and edgy variety of industrial music with metal guitars, so could you at least point out the differences of this new type of sound from the old ways or mannerisms of your earlier works.
I’m afraid I’ve never really thought of it in those terms. I’ve never considered Celldweller ‘industrial” nor have I really over-thought my musical style. I do what I do and what I was influenced by while making the debut Celldweller CD was considerably different than what I was influenced by in the Circle of Dust days. What I am influenced by right now as I am writing the next Celldweller CD is considerably different from the debut CD. I try to keep my head clear of genre and stylistic restraints and just write what I feel like writing. Then I’ll go through and sort what I feel represents the feel of that particular album and the rest of the songs go in a demo bin waiting to be used for something else.
The writing is highly personal, actually the songs "Stay With Me (Unlikely)", "Under My Feet" and "So Sorry to Say" almost convey the same message - a struggling/discomforting phase in your life and a sense of yearning for somebody (that you lost?)Do your lyrics represent your current situation?
Catharsis. That is a very important concept in my creative nature. It is very much about self-therapy. That and of course the musical schizophrenia thing I already mentioned. These things drive me to experiment and write songs that aren’t typically formatted for radio. I don’t think I ever even realized that there were certain typical structures to pop songs until after I had already written 5 or 6 albums. I’ve never really cared about that. So hooray for me. I get to write any self-indulgent thing that I want and not have to worry about whether it will be played on radio or music television etc.
Lyrically, I had to write what I did to work some things out in my own head. It’s a way for me to verbalize my deepest and darkest thoughts, desires and fears without anybody really knowing what the hell I’m specifically talking about. I’m not about laying out my problems on the table for everyone to dissect and criticize, so I need to say things in a way that isn’t cut and dry. The beautiful thing I’ve found in the process is that others have been able to relate the lyrics to situations in their own lives and it somehow moves them on some level personally.
I did mention in my review about how capable you are of creating mainstream music, and that there are too many opportunities for you to try, say dark movie sountracks and the like. "Frozen" being the perfect example. My query is, have you tried breaking into the film industry?
Actually no I’ve never really tried to do anything but make music that moves me and keeps me inspired. I am fortunate that the film/tv/video game industry digs what I do, but I never set out to make music for that specific reason. I will at some point naturally move into scoring films etc. if/when opportunities present themselves. I am so busy right now, that it’s not a priority for me but I certainly have that on my list of things I’d like to take on.
Speaking of extreme publicity, where was your ::Switchback:: video shown? Did it gain significant exposure on popular music channels?
I don’t know where it’s been shown, truthfully. I don’t keep tabs on things like that because I am onto something new. What I’ve done doesn’t usually maintain my interest but what I am about to do certainly does. I was disappointed with the Switchback video on a personal level and it ultimately did not reflect the concept I had originally created, so I detached myself from it the second I was done editing it. Next video…
I'm so lucky to be one of the recipients of your very generous package, and I am sure they cost a lot, but on the other hand this could only suggest that your present label is succeeding where it should. What do you wish to say on this matter?
Well I’m glad you liked my generous package. I was born with it, so I’ll just be thankful for what I’ve been given. As far as my label is concerned, any success it may have comes hand in hand with the success of Celldweller. I have only released Celldweller music on the label but that is all about to change. I am changing the name of the label very soon to “FIXT Music” and will be releasing the new Celldweller CD through it. I will also be signing a few other artists that I will be working with and distribute them through the label. FIXT will not only be a “record label” but will also be the home of my new clothing line as well. ( http://fixtclothing.com ) Conceptually, the success of different parts of the company helps propel the other parts as well.
I see you also have an on-line store for CELLDWELLER fans. How is business so far and are you willing to expand your marketing ventures much further?
Now that I’ve already mentioned FIXT, I can now mention that all Celldweller merchandise and music will be manufactured and distributed through FIXT from now on. There will be more marketing for the next Celldweller CD than I’ve had in my career combined. There is an old business adage – “you have to spend money to make money.” I would add to that saying “you have to spend money to make money as long as you don’t have a shitty product.” I’m doing my best to avoid having a shitty product.
What is the effect of moving to a different location music-wise, have you found a better source of inspiration?
I am all about electronic music and Detroit is a place where certain prominent styles of electronic music and culture were born. I will always love New York and I will always be a New Yorker, but I needed a change and was excited about be around more of the electronic subculture. Unfortunately for me, I don’t often leave the confines of my studio so it was a great idea in theory to move to Detroit for awhile. I have pulled inspiration from some of my surroundings but I’ve found that I grab inspiration from my own sources on the web. I stay in touch with music and fashion more through the internet than actually venturing out in public.
I did go to Bleu in Detroit last week to see my friend Kenneth Thomas spin with Paul Oakenfold. It was his last night on the Oakenfold tour and he tore it up.
What are your plans lately? Do you have tour schedules or other performances that you might want to promote? And what can we expect to see if ever we attend your concerts?
Thank God above, no touring plans. I hate touring passionately and am so thankful to be in the studio right now. When the CD is done, there may be plans to tour but it’s too early for me to decide that yet. Depends on whether or not anyone gives a rat’s ass about seeing a Celldweller show. As far as what you’ll see at a show, you can see some video clips at http://celldweller.com and also on the Switchback DVD. I am not about presenting a boring rock show. Yawn… Unfortunately for me, I tend to like things a bit more complex and potentially entertaining, so this ups my workload to prepare a live show. Live, there is full video running throughout the 90 minute set, in addition to performance art segments, and custom built instruments. If nothing else, it keeps me from getting bored.
So what's next for CELLDWELLER, I'm sure you're already working on yet another release. Can you please give us a teaser of you upcoming album. Ironically, management has posted a preview of a song that will be on the upcoming disc at myspace.com/celldweller . I decided to cover the Bee Gee’s song “Tragedy” and it will be available for sale digitally in the next few weeks. I hope to have the next full length Celldweller CD done later this year.
We already know it, CELLDWELLER is one of the best bands around! You have outdone yourself, and yet you're still very active. There's no stopping you, I'm afraid. So, to sum this interview up give us your final message.
I’m tired. Everyone reading this interview should come over sometime soon and let’s all take a nap together.