Grave Concerns: Hey there Aidan, it’s lovely to make your acquaintance! So you live in Dublin, Ireland---how cool! I’d love to go there one day. I’ve actually fantasized about it---wrote a story too, back in my high school days. It was a fantasy story, and had to do with kissing the Blarney Stone. Anyway, enough of my rambling---how are you?
Aidan Casserly: Hello Lynda! I’m very well thank you very much. We appreciate you taking the time out to interview us and wish you and all at Grave Concerns the very best! You sound like the perfect person to visit Ireland – which is full of folklore, music, history, ghost stories and humour!
Grave Concerns: You mentioned that Holly Johnson (ex Frankie Goes To Hollywood) sent you an e-mail in regard to your music, noting how much he really likes the best of “Popularity?” How wonderful was that to hear an artist such as Holly Johnson, praise you on your music? Please share with us too, the other wonderful artists that have given you support.
Aidan Casserly: Having positive feedback about ones music is always a pleasure, but it’s especially pleasing when it’s your peers and artists you admire a lot. Martyn Ware (Heaven 17 and The Human League) was the first peer to contact us about our version of “Empire State Human”, which he thought was a gas (that was a hidden track on our debut CD “Pop Robot”). John Carpenter’s (Halloween Director and music composer) publishers contacted us to congratulate us on hitting #1 in the dance charts of iTunes in October 2004.
But in the last year though, we’ve had some extra wonderful compliments from people such as Steve Bronski (Bronski Beat), Anni Hogan (ex-Marc Almond, THE THE), Paul Masterson (International DJ, Hi-Gate, Yomanda and Pete Burn co-writer), Mark Moore (S’Express). This has been amazing for us. Having compiled the liner notes for the upcoming best of, there was certainly a sense of looking back and then with Dave Richards (Ninthwave Records) kind words about us for “Popularity?”, that really made amazing reading for us.
Grave Concerns: Please tell us about the new album “Audio Gothic” you’re working on.
Aidan Casserly: “Audio Gothic” is the current studio album we’re recording for Ninthwave Records in North America and we’ll hopefully obtain a label here in Europe for it too. It’s progressing very well and will take us into 2008 to complete and execute the way we want it to. We’ve written more tracks than needed for the album itself and we’ll write a few more over the next 6 months to make sure the final set works really well. It will be produced by Seán Barron (ESH) at Electric Eye. New songs are “Audio Gothic”, “Camera”, “Seeing Stars”, “Too Drunk To DJ”, “River Of Souls” and “Viva Glam!”. It’s got pop and gothic themes but it’s not a goth album or indeed a dark album. We’ll still be mixing up electro songs with acoustic sounding ones. We’ve a blues track called “Moonspinners Blues” started which I hope ends up on it, as it’s got a cool feel to it. Exciting times for us alright!
Grave Concerns: If you were able to put on a concert for charity, which one/s would you be supporting, and which artists would you like to headline?
Aidan Casserly We’d pick a mix…Children’s charity, hospice and cancer/Aids charities. These are issues that can touch us all sometime, and they’d be something we’d be really proud to work for or help in a tiny way. Headlining artists? Well the bigger the names the higher the costs to get them, so we’d pick mostly smaller acts and one large name. Heaven 17 would be a band I’d love to see live myself and we’d open for them. I’d like to get an actor to read some of Oscar Wilde’s Children’s short stories, which I think are beautiful and moving. Someone with a great speaking voice, such as Patrick Bergin would be amazing http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000920/.
He has a great stage presence. I’ve met him and he’s a really nice guy. Boy George set would be rather interesting too.
Grave Concerns: Please tell us about the side projects being created---such as The Garland Cult Project?
Aidan Casserly: Well after the last ESH album “Cycles” in 2005, we didn’t want to go straight into the next album (as we’d album done since 1999). We wanted to recharge the batteries and seek inspiration first. End of 2005/early 2006 myself and Lar talked about started another band, which we ended up calling The Garland Cult. A music band, with glamour, electro, pop, film and great singers of the past as our inspiration. We were lucky to sign TGC to Ninthwave and to work with a load of great producers on the CD debut “Protect Yourself From Hollywood”. It was with TGC we first worked with Steve Bronski. I have worked with Steve one more time on a solo project I’m calling FIGARO. Seán and Warren worked on a band called Lectrosoul (DJ and electro music). There’s still been room for ESH and I guess we’ll all continue to work this way in future.
Grave Concerns: I read that you had a number 1 on iTunes back in 2004 with the “Theme To Halloween”, and soon, The Garland Cult Project is going to have a video out on You Tube with Electric Fantastic Sound called “BoygeorgeICON”---please tell us more…
Aidan Casserly: “Theme To Halloween” hit #1 in the iTunes US dance charts October 2004. That’s was an excellent feeling, and it helped make the album that came from “Alpha & Omega” become our most successful album. Some people thought it was an opportunists #1 because it was Halloween and people would source iTunes for a cover to the film’s Theme. We felt it was a compliment to us for making a cool retro cover of a great film theme.
The Garland Cult have a digital deal in Europe with Swedish label Electric Fantastic Sound http://www.electricfantasticsound.com and with EFS we released the Steve Bronski produced single “Talking With Aliens” in January and have a new song out as a single in October called “boygeorgeICON”. We’re shooting a promo video for it, which we’ll also put up on You Tube. There is already a bootleg live recording of TGC at You Tube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vrycqQuN35E
Both “Talking With Aliens” and “boygeorgeICON” are not on the debut CD by The Garland Cult but are songs for the second album “Glitterazzi”. It’s fun to be working on so much new stuff though. It’s when we feel the most creative and happy I guess.
Grave Concerns: I’d love to spend many weeks---well, who am I kidding…I’d love to live in a castle…a haunted one to be more precise! So I’d plan my Ireland vacation like it was actually going to happen---one day I hope it will. Which castle would you recommend me to say in? And while we’re on the subject, what other cool and unique places would a first-time traveler enjoy seeing?
Aidan Casserly: I think you’d need to check out
http://www.fantasy-ireland.com/Ireland-haunted-castles.html. They say that “Any one of the haunted castles of Ireland can scratch that itch, but they’ll make the back of your neck tingle as well”! If you’re looking for unique places to visit, check out http://www.ireland-fun-facts.com/ireland-travel.html I’d suggest Clare, Kerry, Galway and Sligo and also a trip to Wicklow, which is called “The Garden Of Ireland”.
Grave Concerns: I love ghost stories, dark beings, magical creatures, and unexplained occurrences, in general; what kind of unusual and wonderful stories have you heard about Ireland’s history? And do you believe them?
Aidan Casserly: There’s a Ghost Bus that does Tours in Dublin (Capitol of Ireland) on a Saturday evening, and that’s a blast especially in the winter months…normal bus outside and Gothic interior. They visit all the spooky places in Dublin and let you in on a few secrets ones as well. I certainly believe in mystery and spirits. Theirs is more to Earth than Heaven or Hell. You should look into the Banshees, now there’s an image I wouldn’t want to meet on a cold, dark Winter’s night http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banshee that is also were Siouxsie got the idea for the name from.
Grave Concerns: How did you come up with the name Empire State Human?
Aidan Casserly: Empire State Human was an early single by The Human League…it’s really mad song about being so tall, in fact as big as a wall. We liked the ring of it and the idea behind the lyrics. Which to us represent seeking greatness for oneself and having aspiration and desire to be bigger than you are. It still gets people thinking, when they hear the name. Of course, many people know it’s a song by The Human League but there’s quite a few that don’t.
Grave Concerns: How do you define happiness and love?
Aidan Casserly: Happiness is being satisfied in your own skin 24/7. Love is being happy in someone else skin! I think if you can sleep at night with a clear conscience, than that helps. We’re all seeking happiness and love is really what makes you happy in the end. Dorothy Parker has a brilliant saying –
"Love is like quicksilver in the hand. Leave the fingers open and it stays. Clutch it, and it darts away." - Dorothy Parker
You can’t be over powering in love and that’s still respecting you’re individuals within a couple. I got married in June just gone, and you certainly see the world a little differently when that someone is by your side for the ride. Happiness is something you can’t find (you can find love) you chose happiness. Bette Davis said –
“You will never be happier than you expect. To change your happiness, change your expectation.”
Now that is worth thinking about!!
Grave Concerns: Favorite drink? Favorite pub? Or just simply, a favorite hangout you like to mention?
Aidan Casserly: A pint of Guinness is still a brilliant drink. It’s a very social one too and a legend in Ireland. Old pubs of Dublin are my favourite for chatting, and maybe the modern ones for feeling chilled and excited. The Irish are famous for their drinking ways and lifestyle. I think many issues and talked about and over in Irish bars – no one ever brings anything small into a pub (opinions being one for example). Our culture is built that way, more than any other Country. The Irish was very social but there’s a nastiness underneath sometimes. It is said never discuss religion or politics late at night in an Irish pub.
Grave Concerns: Hobbies? Pets?
Aidan Casserly: Hobbies would be film, art, pop culture, comedy (I’m a massive Laurel & Hardy fan) and select sports. I like looking at boxing .. the big names not amateurs stuff. We don’t have pets …our synths are our pets and of course music is our biggest hobby.
Grave Concerns: Ireland is such an extraordinarily beautiful country---do you have a favorite spot you like to go to and relax?
Aidan Casserly: Wicklow in the nearest and nicest place to relax, that’s got everything you’d need to relax in. If you don’t mind a long drive, you can’t beat Kerry or the West coast, those places are amazing and have something spiritual within them. Ireland will always inspire painters, poets and singers. It’s just the way it is. We’ve a troubled past and there’s a lot of tragedy, and it comes out through the scenery and landscape. The weather is always mixed, In fact this summer we had 51 days were it rained every day – it was truly an awful summer. Many people who visit Ireland, always make a return journey.
Grave Concerns: If you had the chance to have any dream within your lifetime come true, what dream would that be? And this is actually a dream---you know the one that comes to you in your sleep. (:
Aidan Casserly: I’d love to be able to cure people by touching them …I know that sounds very weird, but I think reading about Jesus Christ when I was a child, laying his hands on people that were about to die and healing them is something that stayed with me. It struck me when my wife’s dad was passing away and his suffering at a young age, and how amazing that gift would have been then, to see him pain free and like new. That would be a most amazing dream!
Grave Concerns: What would make you guys happy to hear, in regard to how people are responding to your music? Would it simple be “yeah, I like them”, “they sound cool”, or would it be something else…something deeper that you hope your audience will pick up on?
Aidan Casserly: I think “You’re album has hit #1 in the US” would be a great experience! I would also like to write for big pop artists and write songs for films. So if that was an opportunity to be given, I’d love that. Of course, hearing any positive comments, even a simple email saying you’re cool is still a great feeling. My favourite review I’ve ever come across was on CDbaby.com when a review for “Cycles” (this was a normal CD buying guy) wrote the following ….
Beatles "White Album" of Synthpop.
This is an Album of the finest crafted pop around, coated in a soundscape of the 80's and early 90"s Brit-Dance scene. Would be the simplest way of describing the album.. Re-definition of the genre of synthpop would a closer one, by a group that has given IDM (Intelligent Dance Music) / Intelligent Pop a Re-definition in song-craft and production from day one. Or go to Synthpop Net and read their review, then come back and buy the album!
The above is the most accurate and nicest comments we’ve ever had for an album. That gave me the most pleasure ever.
Grave Concerns: You’ve found an old, oblong key with a jade colored jewel in the center, and some sort of inscription in the back, when the tide washed it up onto the beach---what are you going to do with it?
Aidan Casserly: I’d certainly try and trace the door it opened. If I couldn’t locate it, I would contact an historian to help out. It’s sound like the start of an adventure…a mysterious key, leading to an exceptional story. There’s a singer from the 60s I like called Scott Walker (he was part of The Walker Brothers). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scott_Walker_(singer)
He’s originally from the US but moved to UK in the 60s and is a fascinating man with an amazing voice. He in 60s Scott threw himself into intense study of contemporary and classical music, which included a sojourn in Quarr Abbey, a monastery on the Isle Of Wight, to study Gregorian Chant. This Monastery was run by monks, and they gave Scott his own room, which had a really old key to open the door. When Scott left, he took this key with him for inspiration and guidance and wore it around his neck on a chain. I think I’d do the same with this key, to see if it leads to anything special for me.
Grave Concerns: Name a traditional Irish meal that you like---along with three other non-Irish meals most enjoyed.
Aidan Casserly: An Irish stew dinner is amazing, especially on those cold winter nights and its wrap up time. I love Italian and Thai food a lot, so I’d pick a classic Italian pasta dish and a classic Thai chicken dish. I’m getting hungry just thinking about all this food... so I’m off now to have something to eat. I’ll be back in 20 minutes.
Grave Concerns: As a musician, how does the music in movies affect you? And if you were asked to compose a song for a soundtrack, which genera would that be in? Now let me take that question even further---actually backward; if you were to go back to the past, with your current music in hand, and were asked that same question, would any of your songs stand out as a good fit? If so, which song and movie would it have been?
Aidan Casserly: For me the music in film is as crucial as the acting and writing of the script. You look at Hitchcock’s films (my favourite director) and the music that Bernard Herrmann did for those classic films. That’s the best film music ever. Another favourite is of course the legend Ennio Morricone. To me the most naturally talented of all the film composers the last 50 years. I think if we were to go back into the past with an ESH song for a film, I’d pick “Wait Until The Night” (the last song on “Popularity?”) as an example, and put it in the 1959 film “Room At The Top”, starring Laurence Harvey and Simone Signoret. It’s an incredible film, very moving and worth the price of any ticket.
Grave Concerns: Sweet, sweet idea you had to cover the classic Eurythmics song “Love Is A Stranger” for your 2007 compilation for Ninthwave Records “Electricity III”. What made you choose that song? And what were the other standouts for you on that album?
Aidan Casserly: Thank you very much. We originally were asked to cover a classic 80s electro-pop song for an album of covers. We love Eurythmics so much anyway and saw the opportunity to cover “Love IS A Stranger” for that CD. That covers album didn’t happen, but Dave Richards loved our cover and wanted it for “EIII”. It is a really hard song to sing, as the range is vast. Annie Lennox must be one of the great female pop voices of the 80s. I think I did a fairly good job at it and the production ESH did is strong too. It’s a really fun track to listen back on. If I remember we did the cover along with 2 other tracks during sessions for “Rocket: a tribute to Dead or Alive”, which we were executive producers on for Section 44 label. We did a cover of The Fixx’s “Saved By Zero” at that time too.
We were thrilled to have a track on the series anyway as they’re great compilations. Very high quality. Our favourite artists on that CD would be Astromill, Eight To Infinity, Glow and Scarlet Soho. We’d love to see another series come out sometime.
Grave concerns: As team collaborators, what have been the most difficult compromises to been made, regarding lyrics and music? How do you move forward, when something you’d really wanted to be considered, is not mutually felt?
Aidan Casserly: I think the main compromises are not just the songs but deciding on the right direction the mix/production should go in. The songwriting is always a joy, and very exciting work. Thankfully, we’ve not had too many writers-blocks in that department. If I say start a song or fully write one that’s not fitting into the ESH vision, I will end up using it somewhere else. Tracks used for The Garland Cult or my FIGARO project are classic examples. The thing is, you mustn’t be too precious when bringing in ideas or even songs into a group atmosphere. I trust opinions, and if sometimes I don’t see the reason why something doesn’t work, I still go with the decision to scrap it, as I want to value opinion and I trust too. We actually recorded our “Urbanism” album and then decided to re-record it all over again. Also, we wrote and planned an album called “Futura” which we completed scrapped and wrote a different album instead called “Cycles”. These were tough decisions yes but ultimately right ones.
Grave Concerns: When it comes to writing new material, which do you feel comes first in the creative process---the lyrics or the music, or doesn’t it matter?
Aidan Casserly: It actually doesn’t matter to us anyway, because in the past we’ve worked in every way possible…music first, vocal melody first, lyrics first, titles first, themes first etc. You name it and we’ve done it. I’ve often seen a title of a book, film or TV show and hey presto, there’s a new song. I think it’s healthy not to work in the same way again and again but to let the ideas take the lead. You see, there’s no right or wrong way to write songs, and I’ve often read about songwriting classes being held and wondered how do you teach that! There are so many variants to juggle.
Grave Concerns: How do you spend your holidays---and which one is your favorite?
Aidan Casserly: Depending on the holiday, I like to mix chill out with doing things. Sight seeing is important, but it even better to walk around the non-tourist places and get a feel of the local side. Italians eat in good restaurants, so when we are in Italy we eat where the Italians eat. The same logic applies to other countries. I love the sea, so being near the sound of the waves or near a mountain area too is amazing. We went to Canada and did a tour type holiday and it was brilliant. Canada is an amazing country. They are quite like the Irish. Croatia is where my wife and I went on our honeymoon and that was stunning.
Grave Concerns: What is it about Ireland that makes you most proud?
Aidan Casserly: The history is varied and the art and writing incredible. I love the natural part of our history too, the wit and sadness in lots of the creative fields. I think there’s a sense of humour in the Irish unlike any other nation. We’ve struggled in the past, but worked hard to achieve things. We’re more establishing internationally now and that’s good for the economics of the country.
Grave Concerns: America has the bald eagle as our national emblem---what is Ireland’s?
Aidan Casserly: The shamrock is one that’s seen as our national emblem...(Shamrocks have been symbolic of many things over the years. According to legend, the shamrock was a sacred plant to the Druids of Ireland because its leaves formed a triad, and three was a mystical number in the Celtic religion, as in many others. St. Patrick used the shamrock in the 5th century to illustrate the doctrine of the Holy Trinity as he introduced Christianity to Ireland.)
Grave Concerns: In a log, in a forest that you frequently travel, you found a red sack---inside was money, $986.22 to be exact. What do you do with it?
Aidan Casserly: If I couldn’t locate the previous owner (who would have been American, to have left US$ in an Irish forest). I would take all my friends out to dinner and make a good night of it! There’s no point in being stingy with lucky money, I think the experience of doing something generous with it would lead to something positive anyway.
Grave Concerns: I’m a 80s gal---will always be, and I LOVE the movies and the MUSIC of that era. What 80s flicks and songs do you most enjoy?
Aidan Casserly: You sound a cool girl Lynda. I love 80s electro pop such as Soft Cell, Dead or Alive, Pet Shop Boys. But there was a lot of good pop back then. Pointer Sisters, Madonna, Prince and Chaka Khan. Great melodies and unique sounds. Any party is a better party because of the 80s, let’s fact it people!! Movies? Good balance too – “The “Silence Of The Lambs” through to the Spielberg classics, Star Trek ones. I love John Candy films and also Gene Wilder’s “Stir Crazy” always makes be laugh. Can you forget “Back To The Future” and the buzz over the first “Batman” film with Prince’s super soundtrack??
Grave Concerns: Other than your phenomenal talents as artists, name three things about your band members that make them special, in your eyes. And what do you think they would say about you?
Aidan Casserly: Thank you for the compliments. The ESH guys are best friends, loyal and kind and ever patient. I can get less patient in the studio sometimes during a long session, as it involves a lot of listening back and programming. I think and hope they would say similar things about me, and that I always make them laugh with my train of thought comedy voices I do. I find I burst out quotes from films (some imaginary ones too) to break a studio moment in two. I mimic synth and drums sounds to explain the sounds I hear in my head and that can crack them up. I tend to sing dirty lyrics to our songs when they least expect it too.
Grave Concerns: How do you differentiate a real good song, from a classic? In other words, what really makes a song stand out and last? And with your music, which song or songs do you feel have met that challenge, have come close to it, or are you currently just enjoying the creative bliss?
Aidan Casserly: If it’s easy on the ear from first listen and catchy as hell because of it, then it’s got a reasonable chance of being a classic. Because we’ve not had conventional hits (chart hits) but songs that get on play lists and college radios I’m not sure I can comments on what makes a hit or if we’ve had one. Assuming we have, I’d say songs like “Hand On The Gun”, “Film Star”, “Apollo”, “Stars Shine Bright”, “Shoot The Breeze”, Liquid Blue”, “Chase The Ace” and “Wait Until The Night” would be as best an example of our ‘hits’. They would come close to have met some sort of challenge. The upcoming best of “Popularity?”, is certainly an example of our ‘hits’. We think it’s a really solid release that for the first time includes tracks from all our 10 releases to date. We’re currently enjoying the bliss of trying to write many future ‘hits’.
Grave Concerns: You have your own Recording Studio called Electric Eye---tell us more about how you started it up, and what’s going on with it currently?
Aidan Casserly: Electric Eye was set up by Seán Barron (ESH member, programmer and producer) to complete both our “Urbanism” and “Cycles” albums. This is when Seán joined and in doing so, his studio and skills as a songwriter and programmer became a big part of the creative process. The title Electric Eye is from a David Bowie song. It’s mostly soft-synths (Software synths) and all run by the latest Cubase program and an incredibly powerful hard drive. It’s a neat and tidy set up. It’s presently where we’re recording the next studio album “Audio Gothic”.
Grave Concerns: I read that you guys composed music for Sony Playstation 2 advert “Anything Can Happen” and for the film “Screwback”---many congratulations! That truly is an honor. Please tell us more about how that came to be…
Aidan Casserly: Thanks again! The director of both Brian O’Malley was a part of ESH from 1999-2002 and through him we submitted music for consideration into both projects, as he was Director on both. The producers picked us for both and we went on to write original music for both. For the SonyPlaystation 2 advert we wrote apiece called “Chimes” that we went on to re-record and get a remix of done for our “Alpha & Omega” album. The “Screwback” soundtrack was probably the hardest work we’ve ever had to do. Writing for a visual is so difficult and time consuming. The results are worth the effort but it’s such a hard task. The trailer to “Screwback” can be seen by clicking the Screwback button at: http://www.redragefilms.com/OMalleyBrian_frame.html
We would certainly recommend this line of work to other bands/producers. The money is excellent and there’s a creative high to it and a buzz seeing your music on TV/Cinemas.
Grave Concerns: Who are Empire State Human’s favorite bands?
Aidan Casserly: We love so many different bands and artists … between us all it’s a diverse list. The Cult, Soft Cell, Heaven 17, Scott Walker, Elvis Presley, The Beach Boys, Human League, Boy George, The Smiths, The Beatles, Dusty Springfield, Johnnie Ray, Bronski Beat… all very different all great bands.
Grave Concerns: You’ve been asked to create a new word defining your style of music. What is that word?
Aidan Casserly: I.D.M. …intelligent dance music…that’s a quote from that review above and its bang on the mark for what we like to do. We can be very pop too…so to quote ourselves…we’re “pop robots”.
Grave Concerns: Aidan, anything else you care to share?
Aidan Casserly: Other than what a great set of questions Lynda and thanks for the effort and opportunity. Please check out all the upcoming ESH digital releases via http://www.ninthwaverecords.com and play special attention to the ESH best of album coming soon “Popularity?”.
Grave Concerns: Aidan, Seán, Lar and Warren, it is a pleasure to know you and your music. We here at Grave Concerns wish you an absolutely fabulous musical journey, and hope for lots of exciting and beautiful inspiration toward your new album “Audio Gothic” and with your future endeavors! Please keep in touch.
For more information about Empire State Human check them out check at: http://www.myspace.com/empirestatehuman
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