Chain D.L.K.: Since the release of “Cycles” on CD in 2005, it’s taken four years to release your new album “Audio Gothic” on CD. Can you tell what happened to Empire State Human during this time?
Empire State Human: In the fours years since the last ESH CD “Cycles”, we’ve all been incredibly busy with a number of ESH related digital releases/re-releases in “Popularity?”, “Rarity?”, “Music For Humans”, “Live On Mars, “Digital City”, “Terra Incognito: parts 1>5” and a few remixes for other artists. As well as that work with ESH, I’ve released with The Garland Cult “Impossible (promo single CD), “Protect Yourself From Hollywood” (CD album), “Talking With Aliens (digital single),”Talking With Aliens – Steve Bronski remixes” (digital), “boygeorgeIcon” (digital single), “All Good Things” (digital single) and “Glitterazzi” (digital album) and a solo electro album under the name of Figaro called “I Am Figaro” (digital). Seán Barron has been busy remixing, co-producing The Garland Cult and also working with Lectrosoul. More crucially, Seán also researches new equipment and software for the ESH studio Electric Eye, to keep it up to date and full of the best new sounds. We don’t like to use the same software, from album to album of course. We did some promo videos too with ESH and The Garland Cult. ESH played Retrofest (a festival in Scotland in 2008 with top 80s artists). That is quite a work load… considering we’re all in full time jobs.
Chain D.L.K.: Your line-up has slightly changed over the years. Did these changes affect your sound in any way?
Empire State Human: When Brian O’Malley left ESH in early 2004 and Seán Barron joined us full time, we thought that was probably the only change we’d ever make. But a good opportunity came up when Warren K joined us in 2005 for our “Cycles” CD, as a co-writer/co-producer. Having Seán join was actually the real turning point and then with Warren on board for an album, it really helped us shine as a band on our “Cycles” CD.In 2006 late Warren stepped back from the creative side before the beginning of work on what would be the new ESH album “Audio Gothic”, and worked full time as a DJ and with the dance project Lectrosoul, with whom Seán also joined for a short period of time in 2006. We also had a friend of Seán’s called Lyndy Lou join us briefly in early 2008 during the writing/recording of “Audio Gothic”, which was something that was probably too soon both her and us and she left soon after unfortunately. Apart from Lyndy, each change did affect the sound and the direction, and that’s probably why we’re now more involved on full production and song choices for our albums now. We’ve been extremely lucky, to have been able to meet new band members and share releases and creative experiences with them. Each step on a road is a valuable one you must remember.
Chain D.L.K.: Audio gothic” is the title of your new album. How did you choose such a title? Is it a reference to something in particular?
Empire State Human: We mostly come up with an album concept and title very early on, so as to help us produce a collection of tracks with subtle themes and productions. For “Audio Gothic”, we began writing a number of tracks first, without a concept at all. Not every track we wrote appeared on the album (18-20 in total started but only 10 appear on it), but by about the fourth track in, we came up with a song called “Audio Gothic”, the title of which came from something I read. It was then very clear to us as to where the album would go and also what songs would eventually go on it. “Audio Gothic” is about being obsessed with a new love …. the opening line “I lost myself in you, between the living and the new, the cipher is the truth”. It’s got dark elements, as well as a pop side. Gothic themes can be subtle or big, but yet they’re always dark and rich. Those words can describe the new album and the songs on it. To our ears it’s like a best of and a definitive release for us. There’s no references to one particular thing, but to many state of minds and situations or interests.
Chain D.L.K.: My opinion is that this album is the strongest of all your albums. Can tell something about its work in progress?
Empire State Human: Thank you for saying that. We also believe this is the case, but you know we’re very close to the release and it can be hard to judge. We did set out to make everything work in our favour, to make it the best album yet. We feel we’ve succeeded. The work in progress was first getting the production style correct and adding quality control to both song choice and order. Before, we would literally include the 12 or 14 songs we wrote for an album. But this time we wanted to pick what we felt was either the best 10 or the most suitable 10. We had some amazing songs that didn’t make it, but that didn’t mean they weren’t good but that they were not suited to this particular album. We had many, many recording sessions and adjusting of production styles on programming and mixes. It was a very long and arduous process and I hope that the experience will help us on future albums and how we handle the time lines next time around. It was very tough and I hope we won’t need to spend the same amount of time using that system again. Experience is key.
Chain D.L.K.: I also think that “Audio Gothic” is the best arranged album you’ve done. Acoustic and electric guitars are added here and there. Added to a combination of catchy synths and vocal melodies, into the electronic sounds and layers. The results are balanced and rich. How did you achieve this result?
Empire State Human: It’s really very rewarding for us to hear these words, as that is what we wanted people to feel when they listened to “Audio Gothic”, so thank you again. Whilst it’s by no means a perfect album … as what is a perfect album? It certainly has the quality elements and productions that we look for in the releases we like ourselves. The dynamics, layering and possibilities were all taken into account to help make it as sonically pleasing to us. To our ears the songs were strong begin with, so that really helped when finally getting them into the ESH studio Electric Eye.
Chain D.L.K.: “Leap of Faith”, “Ghosts in America”, “Melancholic Afro” and “Seeing Stars” have all great potential and should help you reach a wider audience. Have you any plans to “conquer the world” with this release and these songs mind?
Empire State Human: “Melancholic Afro” was part of an excellent remix competition with Laptop Rockers. There were 53 entries and the best 4 will be released as a digital EP in the coming weeks. Also “Seeing Stars” is to feature on a compilation by Major Records in Germany, with I Am X and Client … so, there’s the proof to the potential of these tracks.Other than trying to promote it to the best of our abilities, there’s no big world plan other than put it out there and see if people buy it. It’s certainly good enough to license in other territories outside of North America (Ninthwave Records) …. That would probably be the most pleasing thing to happen for us, with regard to a break through. Time will tell …
Chain D.L.K.: For “Melancholic Afro” you collaborated with an electronic music legend, with ex-Kraftwerk and now Yamo’s Wolfgang Flur. How did this collaboration come about? Please tell us everything about it…
Empire State Human: Seán was asked by the promoter make a DVD of Wolfgang’s DJ set, and appearance with Dave Ball (from Soft Cell) here in Dublin last year at The Tivoli Theatre. In doing so, he got on really well with Wolfgang and they clicked, as both are very relaxed and easy going people, who talked music on the same level, it was clear that a bond had formed firstly, as we are the more pop than he’s ever worked with. He expressed interest in hearing our music firstly, and was very positive when after he heard it and when we asked him to join us on a track.We choose a song that was certainly not associated musically with either ESH or Yamo or indeed Kraftwerk in sound or style with “Melancholic Afro” as a song. Wolfgang responded so well as it was different and not expected. His contribution is so good. Also, he’s one of the nicest people we’ve ever met in the business. He’s a class gentleman and true artist. I can’t pay him a higher compliment, other than he’s just SO COOL!!!
Chain D.L.K.: What are the themes to these new songs? What inspired you when writing the lyrics especially?
Empire State Human: When I am writing songs or lyrics I try not to get into pre-arranged themes and choices too much as it can stagnate the experience and make it formularized and affected. But what I do go on, is feeling and mood and hopefully in doing so, let my ‘little grey cells’ take hold of the situation and give me guidance and direction. I work totally in a natural state of mind and sometimes I don’t even know what the songs are about until they’re written …. Creative impulses can be sometimes unexplainable. But obviously, there’s a method and style to an ‘ESH type song’ … the title must be memorable and there should always both vocal and musical hooks … the more synth riffs we can manage the better of course. The themes to “Audio Gothic” would be in my opinion, love/lust/obsession/guidance/spiritual longing/solitude and double agents. I refrain from going into the roots of things too much and leave the listeners to relate in their own way to a lyric or melody.
Chain D.L.K.: Does it feel different to you having “Audio Gothic” released on both CD as well as digital considering the previous releases (the ESH best of “Popularity?”, an ESH rare tracks set called “Rarity?” and the unreleased album “Urbanism”) having all been available digitally only?
Empire State Human: Yes it does feel very different. Having an album released on CD is the real deal for us. We’re old fashioned in some ways and feel that a release is worth so much more when you can physically hold it, feel it and play it … downloading is for sample only .. anyone can set up a download, but to get a release to the CD stage is definitely setting out your stall and your intent. It’s a quality statement from both the band and label. Having said all that, we’ve had plenty of brilliant stuff that only made it onto digital, as there wasn’t the money to finance a CD pressing. That is also part of the business, in that for many reasons not every thing we complete is going to make it to CD. We’re just very lucky we’ve been able to return to Ninthwave and see the new CD make the light of day. The last ESH CD that Ninthwave released was in fact “Liquid Blue” in 2003 and that was also a really great release too in our opinion.
Chain D.L.K.: In our last interview you mentioned new tracks “Viva Glam!”, “River of Souls” and “Too Drunk To DJ” as tracks recorded for “Audio Gothic” but they don’t actually appear on the new album. Have they changed titles or did they not make the album?
Empire State Human: No, those song titles weren’t changed and included under new titles, but were in fact just set aside as they didn’t fit the album style and feel to us. It wasn’t a quality of the song issue, but merely we wanted this album to be a rebirth of the band release, with a tight cohesive sound with 10 listed songs only. It was definitely the best decision, as it sounds like a complete album even though not every song written is included. That’s not an unusual thing for a band to do actually .. I’d say most bands write many more songs for an album and then hand pick 10 or 11 in the end. When I mentioned those songs in our last interview, I was sure they’d feature but that was before we had the full vision of what we wanted to complete.
Chain D.L.K.: I read that you are already recording new ESH material. How do the new songs sound? Have you enough material to complete another new album anytime soon?
Empire State Human: Some are going very well and others are at a very early stage. This time I won’t give you a full list of titles as I don’t want them returning to haunt me ?I would certainly love to be able to include “River of Souls” and “Too Drunk To DJ” on the next album as I think they’re great songs, but we’re going to have to see which way the album develops and what songs make it. We wrote a song called “Harvey Milk” which we tried to get to the producers of the Sean Penn film “Milk” but were too late. That also has great potential and may feature. There’s plenty fermenting nicely but plenty yet to write of course.I would love for us to follow up “Audio Gothic” in 2010 but we can’t guarantee anything as the variables are large in the synth scene. Unfortunately, illegal downloading sites are seriously harming bands like ESH I’m afraid. Sometimes as little as 20-30 CD sales can make a big difference to independent labels such as Ninthwave Records and it’s a sad state of affairs that after one week of its release, our new album had leaked into the illegal download blogs/sites on full free download. The people running these sites are killing and raping the synth scene as we speak.They hide behind the opinion the internet is a free sharing service and call themselves fans. Scum I call them. We got some sites closed down recently, as they were abusing us and bands like us. But not enough bands, labels and scene supporters have the balls to make the efforts we make to stamp them out and stop the illegal sellers continue to operate by giving albums away without the permission of the copyright holders. Labels and artists have the right to recoup their losses, as much as any other business.
Chain D.L.K.: What’s next for Empire State Human?
Empire State Human: We’re currently remixing “Mon Amour” for a new project called MAGGIE & MARTIN .. who are Maggie De Monde from the 80s band Scarlet Fantastic (remember “No Memory”?) and Martin Watkins, who is Marc Almonds keyboard player and song writing partner.We will continue to promote “Audio Gothic” as much as we can, and also set aside studio time to continue recording new songs for the next album. If some live opportunities come up we will take them. We’re also down to the last 3 to compose a feature film which would be a great opportunity.
Chain D.L.K.: Any news about both your Figaro project and also The Garland Cult?
Empire State Human: Figaro was the name I used for a one off solo electro album called “I Am Figaro”, which got positive feedback but also felt to me like a learning curve, instead of an on going musical project. The Garland Cult are signed up to record a brand new studio album called “Monster” for 2010, some of which is already completed. It will be a pop-tastic album, less dance orientated than TGC’s “Protect Yourself From Hollywood” CD debut and a little darker/more organic sounding too. I will be releasing an acoustic album under my Aidan Casserly name called “White Soul” this year. Also, my two co-writes with People Theatre will feature on CD 2 of his 2 CD album. The songs in question are called “Catalina” and “In Memory”. Both are very good, in very different ways. We’ve a close friendship Peter and I and the writing of these songs show this closeness. Poetry and melody working in total harmony with my voice. I hope others will like the songs and react as Peter and I did. We went nutty over them!So there’s plenty of new music on the way for anyone who wants to hear it. Check out Ninthwave Records site for myspace links to all the above http://www.ninthwaverecords.com
Chain D.L.K.: Final words?
Empire State Human: Just to say thank you for the interview opportunity and also those who have supported us and Ninthwave by purchasing the new album.To keep up to date with us, then become a friend on myspace http://www.myspace.com/empirestatehumanmusic
Visit Empire State Human on the web at:
[interviewed by Maurizio Pustianaz] [proofreading by Aidan Casserly]