Empire State Human (Band Interview)
Today we speak to Empire State Human.
Let’s start with this: What’s the history of Empire State Human?
ESH formed in Dublin, Ireland in 1999. With the sole purpose of creating a retro, electro analogue pop sound, with a touch of Sci-Fi, Futurism and electronic pop. I always felt this was going to be a project for the long run, with an appetite for many, many releases. At least one a year. In 2002, upon the advice of the 80s band Alphaville Manager we sent demos to North America, as the Electroclash movement had begun and there was a real taste and interest in synth bands. The timing was perfect and we were snapped up by Ninthwave Records, who at that time has signed Heaven 17 and Whitetown (remember the UK #1 ‘Your Woman’?). Our debut album ‘Pop Robot’ was released, to many positive reviews and interest. It’s today listed in the top 100 Electroclash albums of all time. This is a real buzz, even though I never saw or see it as Electroclash, it’s still an honour to be remembered and rated. Since 2002, ESH have had 22 official releases out (the album ‘Romo’ released June 2017 on CD / Digital with ScentAir Records being the last), had a #1 in the US iTunes dance charts with a cover of ‘Theme To Halloween’, played live in the legendary venue Albion Batcave in NYC, became the first Irish band to work with an original member of Kraftwerk, in Wolfgang Flur on the ESH single ‘Melancholic Afro’).
What’s your musical history? (Trained or Amateur)?
I’m self taught musically, but I have had some vocal lessons early on, which I learned about breathing, technique and pitching. All of which helped me maintain a decent stand in the studio and in live work. We played Retrofest in Scotland a few years ago, on the back of our album ‘Audio Gothic’. Our backing tracks were played back, three keys higher, which for a regular pop singer, that is suicide. Luckily for me, I was able to pitch my range up for every song, to keep in tune and range. I thank my lucky stars for my early training.
So what can you tell us about your album “Romo”? (Inspiration. Sound. Style.)
‘Romo’ comes 15 years after the bands 2002 debut ‘Pop Robot’ and is their 21st release.The album is inspired by synthpop, outsiders, subtle social comment, and of course electronic pop. An eclectic mix of retro and modern, yet containing all the unique elements that go into the music created by Empire State Human. Mastered by Martin Bowes, at The Cage Studios and artwork by Philippe Laurent.
ESH founding member, Aidan Casserly says – “We’re delighted to be teaming up with the Moscow based ScentAir Records for our 21st release since 2002. It’s a perfect fit of album and record label. ‘Romo’ is a pure electronic pop album, with great chord changes, and surprisingly inventive riffs. It’s a fine pop album too, and maybe our best ESH album in quite a while. No fillers or lulls, and each song delivers either a cool verse, memorable chorus, or just a great electronic vibe.”
How did you go about making it?
It was made over the course of 7 months in 2016. I noticed an increase in hits and interest in ESH from late 2015, and more digital sales of our back a catalog, along with an increase in electronic pop record labels and bands from 2015 onwards, there seemed to be a timing thing going on. All of this wasn’t lost on me, so I began to think about a new album soon after. I wrote deeply and consistently on what would be our ‘Romo’ album. When writing for ESH I write from the outside in, but when I write for my solo, intimate/acoustic releases, it’s from the inside out. So, approaching any new ESH album, is about personal timing, creative focus and understanding the special and unique difference between my own styles and influence. I count myself lucky, that I’ve always had record labels for a number (*not all) the 40+ releases I’ve written and produced since 2002. This experience, is vital when the creative part begins. Not having that to lean on, would frustrate and undermine this elements for me.
Anything you’ve learnt as you’ve gone along? Or have you simply tried a bit of everything to see how it works?
Musically, I’ve done pretty much everything – Film Scores, spoken poetry, instrumental classical music, remixing, electronic synthwave, dance music, folk, rock, pop. That ability to move around genres, has been a vital part of who I am and what I’ve learnt. I’m a seeker, someone who challenges themselves. I guess I still remain and music fan first and foremost. I see myself essentially as an artist. For me, an artist is a frame of mind and working method. Every day I create something. A mix, a song, a poem, a lyric and chord change. It’s never ending and a beautiful, sensual approach.
What sort of technology and instruments do you work with?
I work with computers, electronic and acoustic sounding instruments. My voice is merely one of my instruments. I see myself as a vocalist, not essentially a singer. But the one thread and strain throughout all my music, is I seek the truth. For me the best singers and not always the most technically perfect. All I ask for is to believe in what I hear coming out.
Anything you’re keen to use on your next album?
Empire State Human’s ‘Romo’ album was released in June 2017. But I’ve a new solo Aidan Casserly album out in July called ‘Creatures’, a new solo EP out in August called ‘Dirk Bogarde Suite’, and debut album for my Ferrochrome project called ‘Medusa Water’ out August on Meshwork Music on CD + Digital. Ferrochrome is a project with Dirk Krause from Armageddon Dildos fame. In September, ESH hope to release a deluxe Edition of our 2005 album ‘Urbanism’. Finally, I’ve an album called ‘Moments’ coming out with Caesar Gergess and an album called ‘Winter Papers’ coming our with Monica Brito. That’s a long, long list of styles and influence. So 2017 is shaping up to be a banner year for me. Let’s see what 2018 brings.
Any future plans for your solo work, or do you have other projects on the horizon?
Well, the list above relates to my solo output for 2017. Last year I composed the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to the horror film, ‘The Amityville Legacy’ for Director Dustin Ferguson. This year I’m working on his new film ‘Nemesis 5’, which is a Sci-Fi film. I’ve already begun writing a new solo album for 2018 called ‘Future Diamonds’, as well as something Oscar Wilde related. Also, there may be a new album as The Garland Cult. I released three albums as The Garland Cult, and there’s been some emails and interest about a new album. We’ll see what comes from all these wonderful opportunities.
Any plans for upcoming live shows?
I played live recently with PolyDROID here in Dublin. Brian O’Malley is PolyDROID but also my other half of KuBO (a dark synth song based project we create with). There’s live work from time to time with KuBO, as well as releases. I’d love to do some cool live events with KuBO, as it’s a perfect balance and sound for the live genre.
Let’s have a few general questions now. What do you see as a musicians role in society?
For me being a musician isn’t the same as being an artist. I am an artist, but a musical artist. So, this is a way of life, a method and an outlook. Artists can represent the stress and emotions of the every day person. The hidden or subtle parts of our secret desires. I like to think, the artist puts into a creative format, the secrets, desires of the everyday man or woman. That balance of what you’d love to achieve but maybe can’t figure out the details.
Anything unique happening musically in your country? (We are based in England and South Africa).
Ireland has always been a spiritual and artistic or soulful country. It’s had violence, oppression and aggression drilled into its fibers and heartache come through it’s history. We’ve seen a radical element sweep across Europe, and Ireland has also seen this. Through the arts, these all fuse and simmer, in music and literature.
There’s always been rock, pop, traditional music, but there’s a new found sense of electronic, ambient and modern music. An increase in the arts via the younger generations. This pleases me greatly. I think the best years may be ahead. From music, film, art and literature. Dear Oscar Wilde would be so proud, if he were with us still.
Where do you stand on music videos?
I love them. I really feel it’s becoming even more important and vital again. These are changing times, and the standard of software is unbelievable. I’ve had the great pleasure of working with Caesar Gergess on a number of videos from a number of our collaborations, as well as video created for my music with Monica Brito by here amazing husband Hugo Gonçalves
-Do you see their value in today’s world?
I do, but they must have elements of beauty and art. I truly hate the overtly sexualised videos that seem to be the trend. An empty and vacuous medium. Sensuality is far more superior and more rewarding. Through such approaches, art can dwell, and can show us added beauty. What I worry most, is that the lowest common denominator approach, will far out way the beauty of art due to the vulgar and empty music that it serves. A concern I have of the software age, is that anyone can create high, quality and professional output, with the essential element of beauty, depth and higher talent. People get into music for a number of brutal and base reasons. It’s not the immediate home for the true artist. Loosing someone like David Bowie, a true icon, talent and original thinker, proves there’s a slip in the standard, and tear in the fabric of talent.
What’s your take on the “new” technology? (Bandcamp, Soundcloud, MP3)
Again, we need to embrace these areas, but also remember to put inspiration and talent ahead of the technology. Otherwise, we tend to run the risk of further diluting the beautiful world of music even further. Tastes vary and so do fashion and tastes, but what is considered world class or high end, seems very low.
If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?
Added morals and added beauty in the bands and artists entering into it. It’s overloaded with trite and overloaded with labels who won’t seek beauty and artistic content. People who buy music need to realize they do have the power to change mindsets. There’s power in seeking beauty and I hope that will be understood better.
Any advice for new bands?
Be true to yourself, push yourself with every song and never reply on critics and positive reviews. Treat each review, good or bad as merely an opinion. Never be disheartened by bad reviews. We all get them and we all get colds too. We recover. Create what’s deep from within yourself. If your music truly pleases you and you alone, that’s a beautiful thing. Then there’s hope, it may please others. Being an artist isn’t a career move, it’s an essential part of your nature and who you are. If you see it as a career move, you’ll ultimately fail yourself.
Anything you’d like to tell our readers?
Continue to support 925Rebellion.com by spreading the word, sharing links and commenting on reviews and articles. The world is still a community and interaction is essential, without it, the world is left quiet and motionless.
Any last words for our readers?
Thank you, if you have read this interview. If I’ve bored you I apologize and if I’d opened up the possibility of you creating something, whatever the medium it is, I’d be forever proud and happy.