GENRE: Progressive/Electronic/Experimental Extreme Metal
LOCATION: Germany (Munchen, Bavaria)
MEMBERS: Oliver Kaah - All Instruments, Vocals
1. Before I talk about the recording process, I would like to ask you about your inspiration for the album. When you were first thinking about conceptual ideas for Antigravity, what were your inspirations for the disc? What bands in the metal and electronic fields were you listening to at the time, and what do you think is the main influence to the work?
In the spring of 2010 I was going through a lot of stuff in my life. I was 17/18, I was about to graduate, I had a lot going on, I had to take decisions, I was socially dysfunctional, and I just wanted to have a way to escape. In a way it's very irresponsible. But I guess there was a sense of escapism in my motivation for making music since my very beginning. And at the time I was completely uneducated about electronic music. But as I was searching in old stuff I found an album from the band Antiloop that I borrowed from my brother ages ago. And while listening to this stuff I realized it had some really epic moments. And from there I've been interested in electronic music more and more. I got a lot into goa, and I used to download hours and hours of goa trance and have mental trips with it. But with Antiloop came also a lot of memories from when I was 6 or 7. Stuff I had completely forgotten. Like that time when I used to build a spaceship with old cardboard boxes. I was a weird kid haha. And with that in mind, I just went to town with ideas, and the album wrote itself basically. I had all 14 songs done in a couple of weeks. But I think in terms of musical content the band that influenced me the most for this album is Arcade Fire, which has nothing to do with metal or electronic music, but is very epic in terms of musical content. A lot of the musical ideas come from there I think. I had such a strong emotional connection with „Funeral“. When I first got my driving license (around that time), I used to go to huge field trips listening only to Arcade Fire, and Wardruna interestingly enough. And in terms of metal artists the closest to that would be Devin Townsend, and I've been a huge fan of him for years, and more than just the music he has been a massive influence on a personal level. His attitude of being 'himself' drove me to try to be ‘myself’, and sort of accept certain things around me, and of course this had some impact on the music as well.
2. Antigravity is an impressive piece of work. I've heard several artists in the electronic metal field, (and even made some electro metal stuff with midi guitars called Ebon Etheric) so I know quite a bit about electronics and metal. Explain the process for the recording of this album, right down to the very bare bones. What were you trying to achieve with the disc? Do you think that the finished product is exactly what you planned on from the beginning?
Thank you. The recording process has been a labor of love to say the least. I recorded every instrument in my spare time, studying on the side, learning how to mix on the go, etc. I had to take care of the gear, of getting things done. It was a nice experience however, and very eye opening. Basically, once I decided to record the album, my goal was to have to best sound possible with my limited gear, and sort of do more with less, and exploit my gear to the maximum, if that makes sense. It was a way for me to train, and gather experience in recordings. I started by recording the drums in my bedroom, I had done that a couple of times before with my previous band Synesthesie. So I had the gear already. But my previous band was organic sounding black metal, and the sound I was going for in this project was totally different. I had a lot of trouble getting a catchy sound. The worst part was making a performance sound mechanical since this was the theme of the album. Guitars and synthesizers I recorded later in my apartment. I also had to buy a guitar and learn how to play haha. I had long experience with synths and already had a very good one, so that part of the recording went quite easily. Vocals were pretty much the last thing I recorded. It was also by far the most difficult thing to do and I'm not even completely satisfied even though it sounds much better than my first tries. And once everything was recorded, the difficult part started, and I had to make sure of every detail at any point, learn how to mix, edit a lot of stuff etc. That's when I added a lot of extra electronica and noises and sound fx's. I think it gives an extra dimension to the music. All in all I think it couldn't have come out better given the gear I had, the recordings I had made, and the time I spent. At some point I just had to stop it. And well, there are some elements I think could have been better, but the music represents what I wanted to express, and I think the emotions are conveyed, so I am proud of my work.
3. Now I've got to discuss my favorite part of any album, (being an indie author and writer for this blog, of course) the lyrics. Explain Antigravity. I've noticed song titles with both magical and futuristic concepts, like IO, Alchemist, Nap Re-Tap, Spaceship, Eries Icca Nob If and the In The Blur Of Rain and After The Rain "center piece" if you will. Could you elaborate more on some of these? I'm also curious as to what Eries Icca Nob If and Nap Re-Tap mean.
Thank you for bringing up lyrics. For me lyrics are equally as important as the music. And I am actually quite happy with the result in this case. Essentially, there is three of four different stories overlapping and going on at the same time, with some interactions between the stories. I used several layers of metaphors in most of the song lyrics to hide some of the obvious content. I don't want things to have an explicit and direct meaning in music. So I sometimes coded the original and obvious meaning of the songs, to make it more interesting and 'deeper'. It's possible to have your own interpretation. But one of the main themes of the album is about the notion of an artificial entity that would be capable of human like emotions. And at this point would it still be an artificial entity? Our society is surrounded by artificial things. Even our relationships and our behavior are becoming artificial, in the sense that it's coded. We get hypnotized by TV shows and we reproduce the situations we see, which are not even realistic in the first place. The music we hear on the radio is all artificial. But at the end of the day, I don't know how I feel about that. We are still dealing with something which is made of a human core, and has a human intention and feeling. But beyond this pseudo philosophical aspect, the lyrics are just about life stuff. IO is obvious enough I think, Alchemist is about superstition and where it can lead. Spaceship is about going away, In The Blur Of Rain is about being stupid, After the Rain is family stuff. But I try to elaborate all these trivial things with stuff I find cool, like Sci-Fi, robots, aliens, planets, horoscope, mathematics, flying devices, magic. It's like exploring space and dealing with human issues on the way. It's supposed to be a trip, without really leading you somewhere. I guess it's leading you to the next album, where things get ugly and full of sorrow. Nap Re-Tep and Eries Icca Nob If are secret (but well, anyone can figure it out, it's not a big crazy thing). Maybe I can give you a hint: I made a typo when writing Eries Icca Nob If, because it should actually be Eires. But these two songs were born when I was making transitions between songs. Some ended up being longer, and even became own tracks. I actually took the vocal part from Nap Re-Tep from an old recording from 2008-ish when I was first recording some atmospheric rock tracks. It's now probably my favorite track with Spaceship. They share the same aerial theme, and Nap Re-Tep works great as an introduction to that. It's like taking off ground... all right that's enough hints.
4. Why do you think that black metal influence and electronics work so well together? There are plenty of bands who do it out there, and it seems that the two meld together perfectly in most aspects.
To be honest with you, I don't know a lot of bands combining black metal and electronica. But I believe you when you say it works really well. It's true that both mix very well. And the reason for that I think is not necessarily style but more so sound. The nice and gliding electronic sounds contrast with the distorted guitars which makes it easier to hear both and discern every part. So it makes for clarity even in a bad mix. I personally don't really associate Antigravity to black metal, even though I know a lot of people do. But I guess the black metal element is in my blood now and showed up anyways, despite the fact that there was no intention to that. Electronic elements work great to create big atmospheres, and sounds out of this world. I really love the electronic tracks from Burzum, as well as Jean-Michel Jarre and Vangelis.
5. Let's talk equipment, as this is a section that I'm also very curious about. What did you use to compose Antigravity? What made you decide to first start making music, and what bands could you consider influential to that process?
Strangely enough I wrote the whole album on a small cheap keyboard, on which I wrote most of my music back then. I'm more of a keyboard guy than a guitar player actually. But the equipment I used for the recording was not optimal, especially since I was left by myself with a lot of technical problems I had to solve on my own. As an 18 year old you don't have so much cash. But yeah, before Antigravity I had recorded one album with my former band Synesthesie, and I have built a small home studio for that. I also recorded an electro black metal solo album playing all the instruments. Both of these were about three years before recording Antigravity. So I already had a drum setting and a set of mics. I used a Gretsch ash kit, which is fine, and a set of Shure mics. I had to use a big interface for all these inputs, so I got a Tascam 1641 back then. And I had some serious problems with the drivers. I need to upgrade my interface. For all the keyboards sounds, I used my trusty Korg m3 88, which is really great. It's not only for porno music despite what some might think. And well at the time I didn't have a guitar, so I had to buy one and learn how to play the songs. So last summer (2010) I bought a wine red Les Paul Epiphone, because of Opeth, and recorded this album with it. But recently I got myself a Steinberger Synapse, and I'm recording new stuff with it. I also borrowed the old bass from my brother, which is not a good bass. I need to get a better one at some point. But on some of the songs the bass is actually a synth bass, sometimes synth bass and real bass. For softwares, I used Abelton Live for this recording session. Now I mainly use Reaper. And I used a lot of free plug-ins, for guitar sounds, and mixing. When it comes to why I started playing music, this is going back as far as I can remember. I always had a passion for music, and always wanted to make it, and be part of it. When I was five I built a small drum kit with boxes and played along to cassettes. But for the recording, it wasn't really bands which influenced me to start recording but more the realization that I could do it all by myself. And for that maybe Burzum is responsible. If he can play all the instruments so can I. And from there on it was just a matter of getting the gear together...
6. Are you planning on a follow-up to Antigravity? If so, then what can we expect from it?
As a matter of fact yes! I've been recording another album at the same time than Antigravity. I actually wrote it while recording guitars for Antigravity, and then decided to record it as well. My initial intention was to release both together because they are linked, but that next album „Photosynthesis“ still needs some work. I'm working on it right now, and it's almost done. But I'm so busy with university and other stuff that it always gets delayed. That being said, don't expect Antigravity II because it's completely different. It's sometimes so different that it’s the antagonist. Photosynthesis is a lot post-rock/doom oriented, with lots of my black metal background surfacing as well. Where Antigravity is mechanical sounding (intentionally), Photosynthesis is very organic and natural. Lots of cleans sounds. Only six songs. All around ten minutes. The longest is over 15 minutes haha. So in a lot of ways it's the counter part of Antigravity. The last song of Antigravity is even going through the first song of Photosynthesis, and when it's all done it should be possible to listen to both in a continuous way I hope. I hope to release it soon so keep an eye open for that!
7. What media were influential to the lyrical construct of this project? Books, films, life experiences, video games perhaps? People derive inspiration from many sources these days.
At the time I wrote the album I was going through a lot of stuff in my life, and mainly the pre graduation period was very stressing. I had a lot of pressure from everywhere because I was supposed (and sort of forced) to go to this elite school system we have in France after I graduate, because I was a smartass in school. And all this stress made me really uncomfortable and I wanted to escape it. And music has always been there for me in this type of situations. It was a bit harsh as well because I had a bunch of family issues, and the few friends I had (who are a bit older than me), left the city to go study at some other places. So I was basically left alone. And I guess to compensate that I wrote a bunch of stupid songs and made up stories and so on. I guess that's also why the overall vibe of the album is happy: I tried to balance my dramas by forcing myself to be positive. But as far as movies goes, I think Battle Star Galactica is a posterior influence. When I discovered it shortly after I was done with Antigravity I realised a lot of the stuff I wanted to say with my album was common to the TV show. I think Asimov and K. Dick had some distant influence as well. I love these writers. For videos games, actually yes, the game R-Type on super Nintendo played a big role in Antigravity, as being part of old memories. I don't get to play video games anymore unfortunately. But I remember the intro to R-Type really had my imagination going about flying spaceships and so on.
8. What do you believe in on a personal level, and how does that factor into the music?
I have very awkward beliefs, and I am still very unsure of what I believe in. What is sure however is that I am not affiliated with any religion what so ever. But as far as I can remember I always had some sort of spiritual connection with nature and life. I usually choose to believe in things I find cool or interesting or things that make sense. And I think music, being one of these things, is an incredibly powerful natural force. Music can make you feel a lot of things, it can make you go to place you can't even imagine. I think I definitely believe in music, as a tangible spiritual force; beyond the fact that music is really cool in my opinion. I also feel really connected to mathematics and science, on a spiritual level. I actually started studying math because of that. I think what attracted me was the idea of a world where everything is defined, or can be explained, or makes sense. A place where every problem has a solution, or at least if it hasn't, there is a reason why. It's quite different from the world we live in. And I guess I've used mathematics to escape this more complicated world many times, and go where things a mentally relaxing and „simpler“, if that makes sense. So yeah, of course these elements have had an important role in my music and in my way of writing music. Math is very present on Antigravity, mainly as a metaphor. The nature element was not very present in Antigravity, but it will be a lot more in the next one Photosynthesis. I really love nature and feel connected to it. I like the tranquility that comes from it. And the fact that it's bigger than you and that you can be part of it as much as it's part of you.
9. What is the album art a representation of, and who came up with the design for it?
The album art is another part of the hardcore DIY thingy: I did it myself with no knowledge of design. But I'm happy with it. It's quite crazy and detailed. It's a bit abstract, but it's like a spaceship made out of energy in a space of mathematical bliss. I guess you have to use your imagination to see something haha. Friends of mine have seen a face, others have seen a butterfly, some saw a device, and finally some didn't recognize anything from the picture. I had tons of other pictures in my mind, but I don't really have the time to create them. I wish I could just connect my brain to Photoshop and create what I have in mind.
10. How do you feel about the internet, and this new age of digital music streaming/sharing?
The internet for me is really important. I have discovered so many bands, and kinds of music through it. I have met a lot of really cool people as well. I educated myself with it; I spend most of my time on it. It's just such a flood of energy and information. People get a way shorter attention span. There is new music, and with that a lot of good one, getting published every day online. It's really difficult to give credit to every awesome artist out there. Nowadays it's very difficult to earn money from your music, at least if you try to do it the old way. I personally put my music for free, at least for now, which is basically years and years of hard work given away to anyone. I have been given some donations though, which I really appreciate. That means a lot. That being said, since my music is there for free I expected some sort of payback from the people who really like what I'm doing, which would be just telling people about it, liking my pages, sharing my links, to make it bigger, because ultimately that's the only way I can continue right now. I think, more generally, that the streaming and sharing business can be both beneficial and detrimental for the artists. It all depends how it's done. For example, people have been making torrents of my album which is completely pointless since it's … for free. Musicians and the whole industry have to adapt and in a few years we will see who managed to adapt and who didn't, but fighting against is not going to work. Essentially the process behind has not changed since the 80s. Back then you had the bootlegs and unofficial pressings. Now you have digital sharing. Some do it to spread good music; some do it to make money off musicians. If you are a music fan, find ways to support the artists you like, and if you are an artist, find ways to connect with your audience.
11. What is your current outlook on the state of man? Do you think that our race could continue for another 50 or even 100 years? If so, how could we improve our current condition?
In regards to the standard view of morals if you will, I think mankind is going both ways. We are capable of so many awesome things, with science, and with good intentions and by being smart. But we can also be so cruel and useless and wasteful. I feel, being one human and therefore an example of the species, I'm experiencing sort of the same thing of my own level: every day I feel like I'm getting both wiser and dumber. I'm just getting old I guess. But yeah, mankind is a pretty tenacious species if anything. I think man can stay around forever with a little bit of luck. We can adapt well, at least with the help of technology. But I don't really know how we can improve our condition. I guess the technology to teleport would be quite useful. We have the resources; we just need to transport them. But in the meantime, just try to help yourself, try to improve yourself as a human being before trying to change the world. If anyone would just work on themselves first we could do some cool stuff. But at the end of the day we are just a bunch of animals on a rock. Nothing special... I don't think humans are more valuable as living things than any other living thing on earth or in space. We are not so important.
12. Lastly, I've got a question that comes out of nowhere; but you might have an answer for it. Some who study metaphysics have said that the world is possibly going into a new age - a shift from the current third to a new fourth dimension. Have you heard anything about this, and what does it mean to you?
To be honest I don't know how to answer this question. Many people have predicted a new age of some kind. I personally don't think it's a big deal. It's like the end of the world conspiracies... So what? We might all die, sure. Whatever. But in this particular case I don't really see what adding a fourth dimension would do. Assuming it would be a spatial dimension. We can already study mathematical objects in four and higher dimensions. We would just have to adapt our perception of space. But well anything is possible I guess. Let’s wait and see, and go on with our lives meanwhile.
As a final note, I would like to thank you and your readers very much for your questions and your interest in my music. It's means a lot. Best of luck to you and your blog.
Thank you for your questions, and I hope to hear more unique music from you. Whatever age we're going into, I'm glad to see that there is now a time in our history where a man who has an idea can put his idea into motion with the tools of the age and then bring it to the masses of his own free will.
Check Out The Album Here: http://oliverkaah.bandcamp.com/
(Tabs for all the songs are included in the download!)