Chain D.L.K.: “Identity”. What’s the story behind the title?
Cesium 137: Vince: There is no over arching story on this release like our previous two. We wanted to loosen up our writing style a bit and almost return it to more of an “elemental” mentality where we would have a wider array of stylized tracks. Underneath all of that we were going for more of an 80’s and early 90’s clean retro sound mixed with modern production techniques. We wanted to show our listeners that Cesium can do many different genres of electronic music but still have a consistent sound. In the end, that’s who we are. We have some veryangry club industrial tracks on this release and some very instrumentally uplifting ones as well.
Isaac: To put it simply, every album is a snapshot of where we are mentally and musically. We realized that this is sort of “who” we are. With this album its most evident as we really took the shackles off and went to work on an album we knew we would love. This album is our essence.
Chain D.L.K.: Who is Meg Moyer, the person behind female vocals on “Identity”? Sheseems to be into acoustic music, how did this cooperation start?
Cesium 137: Isaac: Vince and I met Meg through a few people. I actually met her ina very life-changing college course, but lost contact with her after.Vince met her through mutual friends and she wanted to work with us.She had never heard our music before and has a TON of raw talent, so she helped us quite a bit. We are always looking for outside influences on our releases, such as working with IDM producers andwhatnot… and working with Meg just clicked well from the beginning.Working with her certainly raised the bar, pushed me to take my ownvocals to the next level and adding her voice and an instrument was anincredible experience.
Chain D.L.K.: Since we’re talking about vocals, Tom Shear produced them in his studio. Was this his only contribution or perhaps he did something more?
Cesium 137: Isaac: Tom did an amazing job with the vocal mixes. We worked very closely with him on them, in spite of the distance. I believe we putthe power of the Internet to good use in this collaboration. Tom hasalways been a kind of “older brother” to us, since the beginning and having him on this project for the first time in almost a decade was agreat experience. We speak the same language in terms of what we like, want and expect from music and vocal performances. He also kept me on my toes with the mixes I was sending him… posing questions or simply making suggestions.
Chain D.L.K.: What are your inspirations? Music, literature and anything else that you find inspiring…
Cesium 137: Isaac: I find life to be my biggest inspiration and not listening tomusic from this scene during the writing and production of an album tobe the most helpful. Just observing how things happen, how people interact and react. The older I get, the better I become at just sort of standing back and watching. I do read a lot. I’m a big HP Lovecraftfan as well as Harlan Ellison and a few others. My family is always a huge influence and I think that’s very obvious on our last few albums, perhaps not as much as on “Identity”, sadly.
Vince: I’ve been pretty much exclusively listening to electronic musicsince I was 18 so my influences are far reaching when it comes to writing. My favorite genre is epic trance because of its constantly moving melodies and big breakdowns. I’m sure that’s pretty evident when someone hears our music though. Other influences would be 80’selectronic stuff such as the Pet Shop Boys, Erasure, NEP, and DM. Classical music plays a role as well. I don’t like to limit myself and everything is up for grabs.
Chain D.L.K.: I’ve noticed that the visual side of your releases is quite important to you. What does the cover of “Identity” symbolize? Also,what was the meaning of the pixelized rose from “Intelligent Design”? I understand it as technological intervention into nature and feelings, but what was your original idea?
Cesium 137: Isaac: It’s always been about order versus chaos, chaos finding order within its self for us. Between “Identity” and “Intelligent Design”that theme almost repeats but is a bit more personal this time. Its not about man and nature, its about the nature of man himself.
Vince: Yes, the pixelized rose does signify the intervention of technology into everything around us. I love that cover. I have itframed in my home.
Isaac: I’ve always loved album art and packaging. When you own a physical album you hold a piece of culture in your hands. You truly”own” it. Visuals have always been important to us and we have a desire to keep fidelity between our visual and aural presentations. With the cover art for “Identity”, I spoke with our artist andexplained what the album meant to us, and showed him samples oflyrics. He came back to us with a few ideas sketched out and the”hand” image won. It touched upon all of what we wanted with great simplicity and elegance. We had asked for even more simplicity to be present in the interior art. Sam basically took geometry and physics and warped them within the booklet! To me the hand stirs the chaos, gives it order while it’s falling apart as well.
Chain D.L.K.: Most of the lyrics on “Identity” seem to be full of sadness and disappointment (Broken, Dither). Why are they so pessimistic?
Cesium 137: Isaac: Most? All of them are just so negative (laughs). Let’s just say it’s been a very rough year or so for both Vince and I. My family ismy strength and I’m fortunate to have a great wife and wonderful son,but outside forces were threatening that happiness. I did a lot of fighting to say the least. I’m actually a bit disappointed that the whole thing came out so dark in tone and I found the vocal recording process to be the most intense its ever been. It was far from my intention to write such lyrics; but they are some of my best and forthat I am content.
Vince: I think Isaac and myself both learned about the value of familythis year and how good and bad people can really be. One good thingabout going through rough times is that it does push your music to places you normally wouldn’t go. I think we have some of our best songs ever on this release.
Isaac: Amen, brother. I feel like we have to bump fists now (laughs).
Chain D.L.K.: Your first albums were quite aggressive and now you play fairly melodic music. Many bands seem to undergo such an evolution, from aggression to melody, but some of them, as their next step, start toplay kind of emo rock music (think of Apoptygma Berzerk or Informatik for example). The question is: will you ever get yourself some guitars and emo hairstyles?
Cesium 137: Isaac: I’d say our first album was super-aggressive and we’ve evolved from there. I was also between the ages of 17 and 19 when I wrote myparts of that album, and full of teen-angst. I certainly hope anyadult would lose that over the years (laughs). Our musical tastes have broadened, we learned how to work together more efficiently and thuswe have evolved. We love it when kids get on our shit about”Advanced/Decay” and they say “you sold out”. Really? Who the hell isbuying this shit by the boatload? What would motivate us to consciously alter our sound to such a major degree? Oh wait… w edidn’t. Melody has always been a key factor in our music, we focused a ton on harmonies within the instrumental parts at first, then moved onto writing more complex melodies and vocal harmonies. We’re grown men who know who we are… as the album suggests, this is our “Identity”.Formless and doing whatever we want, when we want with our music.
Vince: Hell no. I hate emo. I hope it’s just a passing fad for upset kids.
Chain D.L.K.: What do you imagine the average Cesium 137 fan to be like?
Cesium 137: Isaac: A smooth, jive-talkin’ bad mother fucker? (Laughs) I don’t know. It seems we draw people who subscribe to many different styles of music and sub-cultures to our sound. I think that’s what sets us apart from a lot of other bands in this whole EBM-scene.
Chain D.L.K.: Now something a bit more private, if you don’t mind me asking. Is playing in Cesium 137 enough to make a living? If not, where do youwork?
Cesium 137: Isaac: I think it could be if we both had less responsibility.However, this is not the case. I produce and master other artists’work at Subversive Sound Studio. I’m fortunate to have been able towork with some great, well known artists and a collection of inspiring, lesser known bands as well. So in a way, I’ve made thisband work for me beyond its own solitary existence. This also feeds Cesium_137 to some degree in terms of inspiration. The debut album “IItransmuter” by genCAB and Ander Manga’s “X’s and The Eyes”, which Iboth co-produced, paid me more in terms of inspiration and creativity.It has its rewards!
Vince: I’m a mechanical engineer and CNC programmer in our family manufacturing company. We are based in the southern suburbs ofPhiladelphia.
Chain D.L.K.: You seem to make use of the internet quite well. Digital re-releaseof “The Fall” and “Advanced/Decay” prove this. Do you approve of free mp3 downloads?
Cesium 137: Isaac: It’s the most popular format available. It gives people a much greater sense of flexibility with their purchase, so why fight it? Being willingly adapting has always kept us working at the same pace of the music industry. Do I think it should be “free”? No. If you enjoy something, pay for it. There are enough ways to preview an albumout there that people have no excuse to not purchase it. Can we do anything about it? We offer extensive previews of our music and that’s about it. I think free EPs and singles are a good promo idea, but theyneed to be attached to an affordable product in some way.
Chain D.L.K.: Are you going to play some gigs when the album is released? Are yougoing to visit Europe?
Cesium 137: Isaac: Europe has always been a tough market for us. We’d love toperform at festivals if the opportunity presents itself and it makes sense. The European fans we have are awesome, supportive people and we’d love to meet them.
Chain D.L.K.: Could you offer any hints to people who would like to make music, but all they currently have is a laptop and a head full of ideas?
Cesium 137: Isaac: I’ve always said this and will never stop: When writing andproducing a record do NOT listen to anything that is currently popular within the genre you are writing for. Instead, focus on what got youto love music in the first place, and influences outside of the genre that get you excited about music. Learn your gear, even what may seemto be the most mundane functions, know it inside and out and you mayfind great use for something you might have never considered usingbefore. Don’t be a monkey in space, pushing button, barely knowing anything beyond the cause and effect of the process. Dig deep into everything you do and don’t stop until you have impressed yourself.
Vince: There’s nothing wrong with toying around with music but, I’m a firm believer that software alone is not a strong enough foundation to do so. Hardware, virtual and analog synthesizers are necessary to have a well rounded professional sounding product. I can tell right away when an electronic song is all software and then I lose all interest, because everything sounds the same. Electronic music is a fiercely competitive field and if you want to put yourself ahead of the pack you’re going to have to at least give yourself that extra edge. Allthat aside though, knowing how to put together a good flowing tracktakes time and patience to learn. Don’t be afraid to scrap something you just spent 3 hours on. Believe me it happens all the time, but you will grow and become a better writer from it. Finally, I see a lot ofpeople write tracks then leave them half finished and move on. That’sa bad habit to get into. If you are stuck on a track, then dig deepand push yourself through it. It’s those times when you are sittingthere for hours trying to figure it all out that you will get better. Just because it’s all computers and buttons doesn’t mean it’s a skillthat comes easily. That’s a big misconception.
Chain D.L.K.: Would you like to add anything?
Cesium 137: Isaac: I can’t say enough how excited I am for people to hear this record. I usually take a lot of time off at the end of production tocasually listen to my own material, and even then it’s a rarity. Bythat point I am burnt out on the material. We live and breathe thismusic until the mastering is done. It takes us a long time and a lotof work but the songs need to get out. For the first time in my life I’ve been listening to my own music actively since the last day of production. Its our most dynamic and powerful work ever. Thank you.
Visit Cesium 137 on the web at:
[interviewed by Krzysztof Kramarz] [proofreading by Marc Urselli]