Empire State Human Interview for Wicked Spins Radio
Empire State Human Interview for Wicked Spins Radio
WSR – I used to work for Grave Concerns all them many years ago when I first got to know you Aidan, now Empire State Human did nothing for roughly about 3 years. What made this time perfect for another Empire State release?
Yes indeed Phill. Such great times those were. We were so lucky to have met, through the creative process and get to such an understanding.
When ESH closed up shop so to speak, after the release of ‘The Dark’, in conjunction with the label Werkstatt Recordings, I went straight into recording three film soundtracks (‘The Amityville Legacy’ being the most recent), as well as many more Aidan Casserly releases. I had so much music building up inside me. I felt like I would explode. Much of this was in a non-electronic genre; intimate and also what I’d call soul-searching. My brother Neville, had recently died from cancer. I was looking for answers, with regards to loss and understanding. I think loosing a sibling could be one of the worse experiences, other than the death of a child or parent. My artistic journey, was a long one and ultimately, time heals, life moves on and you begin to feel more positive and want to experience, sometimes familiar, and well as unfamiliar musical challenges.
In September of this year, I released a fully electronic solo album called ‘Incubus’, again with Werkstatt Recordings. It was as near to an Empire State Human album, without actually being ESH, there could be. I found, that some reviews picked up on this. It was a light bulb moment for me, in that what if there was more ESH music to compose and release? At this time I noticed that the ESH facebook page, had a surge in likes, interest and shares. There seemed to be something drawing me back in, and from the outside first. There was a number of unreleased recordings we had completed, which seemed to be crying out for an official release. We also had a melancholic Christmas song called ‘Christmas Long Gone’ unofficially released, and the idea of putting them together as a new EP seemed a good starting point, and testing ground. I decided to approach a new, young and hungry label. Banoffeesound had released the new Spray album and, when ESH was with Ninthwave Records, we were label mates of Spray. That felt like a good omen and things literally got agreed on, within a day and a half. ESH were back on a label, with a plan for a new EP and back writing a new album. I think the quirky side of the ESH songs, the melancholy at times of the songs, just seemed to fit a gap in the music scene. People seem to remember us. 20 official releases since 2002, seems to carry some weight too.
WSR – Now with Halloween just gone I’m keen to know more about the cover you did of the Halloween theme tune. I know it achieved great things, can you tell our readers all about your cover but also the heights that cover achieved?
Well, in 2002 we debuted with our album ‘Pop Robot’ for Ninthwave Records. That album and our signing to Ninthwave, was at the time on the back of the Electroclash movement coming from the US. In fact, ‘Pop Robot’ is now listed online in the top 100 Electroclash albums of all time. That surprised us and delighted us. As being based in Dublin, Ireland, you never imagine, connecting with labels and people from around the world and making an impact. It’s a special bond and one we never took lightly or for granted. After ‘Pop Robot’ was released, a Mexican label approached us for a new record. We weren’t exclusive to Ninthwave Records at that time. Dave Richards agreed to let us release ‘Music for Human’s with the Pur Zynth Label in Mexico, but we agreed verbally on another album the same year for Ninthwave. That was ‘Alpha & Omega’. We recorded a few covers for that album, as a fun thing. ESH never do covers. We always prefer to write and record original songs. But we covered Kraftwerk’s ‘The Hall of Mirrors’ (which is now listed online as one of the better Kraftwerk covers recorded), and also we completed a version of John Carpenter’s ‘Theme to Halloween’. We played live in New York in October 2002, at the legendary Albion Batcave. A wonderful experience. One year later, our version of ‘Halloween’ made it to #1 in the US iTunes dance charts on word of mouth alone, and in doing so broke the top 80 of the US iTunes song charts. We were literally charting with the big guns of the US music scene. A staggering achievement really. Back then, the digital market place was only beginning. It was uncharted territory so to speak. John Carpenter’s publishers rang us from London and congratulated us. What an honor. That really was a proud moment, for me especially. Only recently we saw John Carpenter perform here in Dublin. Amazing night and another moment of coming full circle, in relation to ESH returning.
WSR – You had the pleasure of working with a man that can only described as one of the fathers of the entire electronic music movement, Wolfgang Flur. What was the whole experience of working with Wolfgang like and what did you do?
Yes, we did. An incredible experience for a young Dublin based band. Empire State Human became the first Irish band ever, to work with an original member of this legendary electronic band. They even turned down U2, which is quite amusing in retrospect. We were at that time, recording an album called ‘Audio Gothic’, which would turn out to be our final album for Ninthwave Records. Wolfgang had by then played a live DJ set here in Dublin, which is where we met him. Sean Barron, who was then a member of ESH was the connection there. We wrote this quite rock orientated/electro track called ‘Melancholic Afro’. Kind of T-Rex meets electronica. We asked Wolfgang if he would join us on this song, as it was a song that was very different to anything either one of us had recorded up until then. He kindly agreed and the collaboration was born.He recorded spoken parts, which we incorporated into the song. The track was then picked up by Laptoprockers, for a remix competition, which we released a remix EP of the best remixes sent in. Many big publications picked up on this collaboration and we got some excellent news mentions. We were proud and delighted. A real sense of achievement, to work with someone of such important, in the music business and in electronic music.
WSR – Can you please tell us about your plans for Romo please, it’s style and why you feel that its important for you to do that specific style at the moment?
‘Romo’ is the new studio album, we’re currently recording for release in 2017. The beginning process for a new ESH album is a period of complete and utter concentration. I must internalize, a series of ideas and emotions.
I wait until the creative light clicks on. I came across a musical term from the 90s called ‘Romo’. This is a mixture of early 80s synth influence and indie music. A term that was short-lived, but for me it let me consider a new reference point. The first 5 songs flowed. They’re in production at the moment. Songs such as ‘Waiting for Bardot’, ‘Nomophobia’, ‘Night Boy’, ‘Kill the Blonde’, ‘Into Grey’ and the instrumental ‘I Kick Ash’, are really the beginning points of this rebirth of ESH. The style is at times pure electro pop, synthwave/synthpop and a touch of techno. There’s many distinct parts, which go into what I see as the ESH sound. The titles need to pull in the listener, the melodies shift from bright to melancholy, sometimes mid song and there’s an emotional lift for the chorus. It’s quite exciting and challenging beginning this album. It was hard to get to that point, but when the artwork was designed by the genius of Philippe Laurent, that was a break through moment. Normally, we only get the artwork designed, when the recording is done. This time, I decided to turn that around, to arouse my creative senses. It worked, this time.
WSR – Physical releases are becoming rare in this digital world and you don’t often release your albums and EPs other than digitally. Why release ‘Christmas Long Gone’ on CD and the extra track, what will set the extra track apart from the others on the EP?
That was a choice we wanted to try to make happen, when talking with Banoffeesound. It’s not always possible to obtain physical releases everytime, as the music scene has changed so much since even when we began. The idea of adding an exclusive track to this EP, was a way of making the CD version, more unique and desirable. ESH releases, seem to go for large amounts, once either sold out or indeed deleted. Physical, means you’re part of a bigger story. We’ll always opt for physical, if there’s a possibility to do so.
WSR – Why do you feel that Empire State Human is such a unique pop project?
I wish I knew why that is. I can guess and assume but I’m not 100% sure on the reasons. I feel that a band that has 20 official releases since 2002, is putting their heart and soul out there. Making a stand and fighting to get your art out there, is a battle. Sometimes it’s too hard a battle, but you dig deeper. I’ve always fought to get everything I do released. Sometimes, there are mistakes and they’re less cohesive releases, but there’s an honesty about that. Sometimes the albums are weaker and sometimes stronger than previous ones. But you know, creating is not about quality control. It’s expressing yourself in a moment in time, because you have this need to. Like a vampire, needs blood.
Writing so much material and seeing it released is a great thrill. It’s a wonderful opportunity to feel a greater sense of personal worth and pride. Maybe, people pick up on this and feel it somehow. Bands like Sparks, are similar and create their unique world. You just get a sense of them giving you everything with each release. It’s like a love affair.
WSR – Have you noticed any popularity peaks for Empire State Human during the bands life?
Most definitely, there’s always a time when you’re in and out of fashion. I’ve noticed the last few months, many young labels, who are not afraid of releasing electronic pop music. That’s a brave outlook, as it’s easy to dismiss pop and easy to portray it as weak and of less value. I’ve always seen pop (electronic pop) as a supreme model, and a larger than life pursuit. I’ve noticed a lot of traffic to our facebook page the last three months, in likes and views. My gut reaction, is that we’re back in vogue or at least, that’s what it appears to me anyway. So, that kind of feeling can enthuse you, inspire you and make you feel creative.
WSR – Tell us more about you scoring music for various films and adverts, just where has your music been placed?
I’ve personally composed three full film scores (horror) the last 18 months, the last being ‘The Amityville Legacy’ for the Director Dustin Ferguson. Film work is a big, big challenge, and has a new set of rules and talents required musically too. With ESH, we composed music for films too (‘Screwback’ for Brian O’Malley) and for TV adverts (Song PlayStation). A wonderful way to learn your strengths, and to improve on your weaknesses. I’d encourage anyone to try to do it, if the opportunity arrives.
WSR – Your vocals are haunting, seductive and in many ways angelic. How did this happen? At any point in your life where your vocals a different tone or were you just gifted with the wonderful vocal tones you have? Did you ever get lessons?
Thank you so much for such high praise. Every singer plays to their strengths, so I’m no different. I always look to do my best, and sometimes I fall short and sometimes something special can happen. I’ve had no formal training. Everything I can do, I taught myself. Regarding my tone, I remember, many years ago I was doing an interview for Side Line Magazine, and the opening question was that I sounded similar to Antony, from Antony and the Johnsons. At that stage Antony and the Johnsons were an art band in New York. I hadn’t actually heard them, but before I answered the question, I researched Antony. I fell in love with his voice immediately, and whilst the music genres for ESH and Antony were totally different, I could hear a similarity. Antony and I began a communication, we sent each other releases and I really admire him and what he’s done, creating against the tide of musical and social norms.
WSR – In 2003 Empire State Human played the legendary venue in America The Batcave, for a band that were so young at that point just 3 years old how did you come to play there?
Well, that was literally contacting promoters myself and asking. At the time, we had a number of positive reviews, three releases out in one year and had some success on the US College radio stations, and appeared on a number of popular compilations. We were added to the bill with Seabound and Stromkern. Totally different bands to us, but there was a connection with the audience. I remember, singing David Bowie’s ‘Five Years’ to great acclaim on that show. Having traveled from Ireland, we were introduced to very kindly over the PA. People maybe thought we’d sound like a traditional band (Irish rock) and we were the polar opposite. There’s never been an Irish band exactly like us I feel. That could be a bad thing or a good thing. It’s debatable lol
WSR – Now I have had the pleasure of knowing you personally and you becoming a dear friend to me. There was one point in our friendship where you became very close and that was Millie Munster. Why did you decide to write Millie Munster and record it releasing it on one of your albums when you knew me only a little, I mean I knew you were a great and talented man but you took all my pain and created something wonderful. You immortalized that cat that felt like he was a son to me? What was it about Millie Munster that inspired you?
I felt an immediate connection with you Phill, the moment we emailed. You’re someone who gives of himself 100%. It’s a rare and inspiring quality. You bring out, the best in people. I’ve met many people since, and only a handful have that same quality. I understand the love of a pet, I understand love. I’ve experienced loss of somebody I love, and at that time, your experience, was indeed my experience. I put myself in you, as I knew you understood me and my loss. I like to think of us as brothers. A bond of pure truth. People that don’t have those qualities, probably will never understand that. When I wrote ‘Millie Munster’, I felt I could reach out and touch him. I saw him, running around the garden in my minds eye. Being care free, being himself. I wanted people to remember his name, put him down in song. The was recording an album called ‘The Lazarus Effect’, which is an album about putting in song, and in a way bringing back from the dead, those we love. Millie Munster lives on today. His name and song is on very digital store online around the world. I’m so glad we had that opportunity to share and to express ourselves to each other.
WSR – Why do you have reservations on meeting the idols of your youth?
I feel, when you’re young you have no fear, no limitations and have no sense or being held back or aware one day, you’re going to die. You are going to live forever it feels. With age, you realize you are going to die, and that you’re human and with limitations. Now, people say “If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your younger self?”. I actually feel, it’s the younger self, who should be giving the advice. As you suffer from fear, as you get older. You become less brave.
Most of the idols I had when I was young, I probably can’t relate to me today. But their powerful musical influence, of their young selves and who we all were back then still resonates with me. I do remember meeting Bronski Beat, and that was a positive and inspiring experience. I was lucky enough to release a single called ‘Talking with Aliens’, produced by Steve Bronski, when I did three album as The Garland Cult.
WSR – Aidan your talents are just limitless in the music field, now please can you tell us abut your music career as a whole. Of course we know about Empire State Human, but can you tell us more about your other projects over the years and also what you have been involved with and the amazing artists you have worked with?
Well, thank you for being so supportive. I’ve always admired those artists who strive to do more than their talent would allow. People such as David Bowie, stretched himself. I was saddened, depressed and shocked by his death earlier this year. It felt so sudden and so shocking. A few days after it, I felt that I was probably wasting my talent and should strive for utter production in 2016. To this end, I released ‘Muse’, a duets album of original songs I wrote for Kriistal Ann and I to sing, ‘The Amityville Legacy’ (original motion picture soundtrack album), ‘Music X’, an album of european inspired music, with two songs, ‘Persona’ EP, a vocal and piano, and poetically written songs based collection, ‘Incubus’ album, a fully electronic and song based album, ‘Child of the Moonlight’ single, featuring Monica Brito (poet and artist), ‘My Friend Pawel’ (piano and voice, single dedicated to my dear friend Pawel Lopatka), and now the new EP ‘Christmas Long Gone’ with Empire State Human.
I’ve worked with many producers, bands, singers and all of them taught me something. Some of these things where good and some bad. Music finds people out. Who are true, who are users and who are lifelong friends. I tend to think, my ultimate journey, my life path, has been set to music. I also write poetry (two books released, the most recent ‘A place for the Skulls’). I’m currently writing and recording a spoken poetry album called ‘Spoken’. It will feature many people I admire speaking new poems I written, and I compose minimalist musical backing.
– Thank you so much for giving Wicked Spins Radio this interview, any final thoughts?
Just to say thank you for such honest, and beautiful questions. You always bring out the best in me. I always enjoy answering your subtle and intelligent questions.
If people are willing and interested, I would encourage them to check out the new EP by Empire State Human called ‘Christmas Long Gone’, released via Banoffeesound on limited edition CD and digital November 11th. Support independent artists and record labels. They rely on YOU!