Hi and thank you for sparing time to chat with us.
Thank you, I’m glad to be here to chat with you.
Could you first introduce yourself and your project?
My name is Alex M and compose music as The Cassini Projekt. I play rhythm, lead guitar, bass, keyboard and sing vocals. For drums Ronan Murphy of Scathed was kind enough to lay down some stellar performances on the tracks for my new album Blue Ocean Event. I also had bass ace Dmitry Lisenko play some amazing stuff on Go Down and Lightning Tesla. I started The Cassini Projekt as a mostly one-man endeavour because I thought, why not do it all myself? It was very tricky to get a stable line up with previous bands and many people either weren’t interested in making prog rock or couldn’t make the time commitment for being in a band, so I decided to go it alone rather than being held back. When starting out I was originally influenced by guitar solo driven rock by bands like The Darkness and Dragonforce, which was somewhat out of place during the postpunk revival and that’s what made me gravitate towards it! I wanted to rebel against the taboo forbidding extended solos. I also liked throwing curveballs into my songs and doing things that were unexpected. Gradually I evolved into more progressive avenues with the influence of bands like Meshuggah and Opeth and that’s how the vision for The Cassini Projekt fermented in terms of evoking an alternate, esoteric and unpredictable imaginative universe.
How would you define not only your sound but the creative character of the band?
Good question! In terms of my sound, it sits on the edge between hard rock and metal with progressive elements. For example, I’d say Hell’s a Place in Mexico, Go Down or Fight to the End are all hard rockers with heavy guitars. Lightning Tesla on the other hand is just straight up metal whereas Cauterise is industrial metal with synthwave elements. Variation and incorporating multiple genres are another facet of my sound and creative character. There is a pressure to conform to one style these days, but I harken back to bands and artists of the past who would experiment with multiple genres on a single album like Queen. If you listen to A Night at the Opera, you have 1920s jazz, prog and heavy metal…or Thin Lizzy for example, they played metal, hard rock, soul, pop etc. I take a leaf out of that book in having many different styles because I get bored playing in only one genre so I will do things like mixing synthwave with metal as on Cauterise and then following it up with the trip-hop inspired prog of Neurotic Insomniac, which features jazz flute. Unpredictability is another aspect. Whatever someone might think is going to happen, will not happen in my songs. With Exile it goes from hardcore punk to a wistful section, transitioning back into hard rock and then ends up proggy; the structure of the song is winding and hard to pin down and that’s deliberate. In a way my music is reaction against rationalism, it’s meant to be expressionist with a “do what thou wilt” attitude. If I want to go to a particular conceptual space, I will. Lightning Tesla is purely informed by this approach in being a sequence of curveballs to throw the listener off their balance. In this I was influenced by that leftfield transition from Megadeth’s Hangar Thirteen where you expect another verse or a bridge and instead out of nowhere comes this epic solo layered over a Middle Eastern style chord progression. Finally, I like to make my music unusual and exotic; rather than following standard tropes, I’ll use different chord voicings, timings and melodic progressions in my quest to be prog. But ironically when I was working with the studio engineer for Blue Ocean Event, he compared many of the songs to Blink 182! So maybe my sound is ultimately more punk? On the one hand, the attitude of defiance in punk is a guiding creative principle – be different, provocative even and upend the status quo. On the other, I’ve also been compared to Rush a lot, though I don’t listen to them.
What are your previous musical experiences before The Cassini Projekt and how have they been embraced in the project?
Yes, I think it’s beneficial to be open-minded and accept new ideas from collaborators or recognise that your own ideas aren’t always the best. I think where once I relied on the raw power of inspiration, being that lightning rod for song to be transmitted into my brain, now I take a more crafted approach. I’m more analytical about what works and what doesn’t. Originally, I would sometimes write incredibly long songs with a lot of ornamentation, solos, layers etc. to have “the most epic song in the universe”. However, it often backfired when later, I’d think to myself, “hang on, that’s a bit rubbish”. So now I’m more aware of what goes into making a good song and am more reflective and methodical about it. I think that transfers to a band context too. It’s better not to be the prima donna “genius”. In essence you have four or five minds working together to create something rather than just one so it can sometimes yield better results. Of course, the flipside of that approach is “design by committee” where an idea gets watered down to please the most people. However, I still think it’s important to recognise and respect individual band members’ contributions because they could inspire you and vice versa. We are relational beings; we don’t grow up in a vacuum. Our thoughts, experiences, narratives of self, are informed by others and a wider societal context. So, the same applies to writing music. Working with different people and opening yourself up to new ideas and experiences are all part of the creative process. In fact, operating in this way enhances creativity since we’re optimising the networked architecture of our minds.
How about your songwriting, is there a particular process to it?
Yes, a lot of the songs have come from dreams. For example, Neurotic Insomniac was a dream about a lost Portishead song from a parallel universe. I woke up and thought; “oh I must have been dreaming of a Portishead song” except it was original! I had written it. So, I decided the lyrics would be about dreaming of parallel universes and the creative possibilities therein (or more succinctly, nicking songs from alternate universes!). I also find it’s cool to write collaboratively. It takes a while for the gears to start moving but after a while someone will play something that contains the seed of a song which can be extracted. I don’t think there’s a formula I can follow for song writing. Sometimes I find it’s like being an antenna and you’re receiving it from a Platonic universe and just being a channel for it to come into being in this reality. However, even then sometimes songs emerge from a more craftsman-like approach and are often better! I guess this is to say the creative process is intangible and can’t be formalised, it’s spontaneous yet can also be deliberate, and in that way it’s paradoxical, which I guess is the essence of creativity; it comes from out of nowhere.
Would you tell us about your latest release?
My latest release, Blue Ocean Event will be on Spotify, Bandcamp, Deezer, Tidal, Apple Music et al on July 18th. The album is most about the collapse of civilisation and the end of the world. The title refers to the melting of the polar ice caps resulting in a blue ocean event, which isn’t far away now give or take a decade. The catastrophic environmental consequences of this event cannot be overstated. The first song, Exile, is about a refugee seeking asylum in a war-torn world. Cauterise details the corruption of the judicial system and its overthrow. Fight to the End similarly concerns revolution against corrupt elites. Go Down explores environmental collapse through global warming and vengeance upon those elites who have caused it by the “globes ghosts who ascend”. The End of Everything is a bit more detached in that while it still focuses on inequality as a driver of political and economic stagnation, it’s also about human evolution through technology. In addition, it grapples with predeterminism with respect to our choices having any meaning if they are the illusion of free will. The theme of predetermination is also explored in The Sacred Song. Roadwave might seem uplifting on the surface but is actually about a dude “spreading his wings” and jumping from a great height to commit suicide in order to escape financial ruin.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom. Some of the other songs are about more abstract ideas. False Dawn is partly about me having a bit of a transcendent experience when I was brushing my teeth and asking myself, why am I this particular person right now and not anyone else? Cue a brief self-induced psychedelic experience lasting all of 5 seconds where I saw multiple versions of myself across multiple timelines and universes in a hexagonal lattice structure. The lyric “enneagrams are unified, fly like a photon through the universe” express this incident. Hell’s a Place in Mexico, the only moment of true frivolity on the album, is about a dude who goes to Mexico, drinks too much tequila and experiences a psychedelic vision quest, much like Homer Simpson after eating too many ghost peppers.
What are the major inspirations to its heart and themes?
Excellent question. On a global level I wanted to make an album as consistent as The Bends by Radiohead (there’s not a weak song on it) so it had to include my best material. I also liked how The Bends was so guitar driven. Therefore, for my own album, you’ll hear that’s very guitar based, it’s about the solos, tones and layers. On a more specific scale some of the songs had key inspirations. For example, Lightning Tesla was heavily influenced by Death’s The Sound of Perseverance whereas for Roadwave I wanted to make a djent inflected version of Siouxsie and the Banshee’s Kiss Them for Me, but then I also went Led Zeppelin with that one towards the end. Artists like Lazerhawk had an influence on the making of Cauterise which I intended as a synthwave metal track, again with added polymetrical elements. I guess I want to ape Meshuggah because I’m so in awe of the complexity of their rhythms. I’m not really a rhythm player nor even understand time signatures that well, being more of a melody guy, so that made me more determined to incorporate weird rhythms into my songs, because I wanted to push myself. You could say I fell way short of the mark in the heavily polymetrical sections just before the chorus in Roadwave. Someone who listened to it said it sounded like a drunk person trying to ascend the stairs and I kind of liked that because I wrote it to convey an OCD thought loop where you constantly truncate, extend and repeat a pattern over and over again, until you reach the number of times which you feel syncs. So, I guess in not achieving the rhythmical pulse you have with a Meshuggah song, it’s something unique to my music instead, kind of like what I read Thom Yorke saying once about how they were trying to emulate Miles Davis on OK Computer and didn’t quite get it right, thereby making something specific to their own sound. For Go Down, I was influenced by The Prodigy for the electronic middle section. David Gilmour, John Squire, Eddie Van Halen, Brian May, Jimmy Page and Jimi Hendrix have all had an impact on some of the stylistic choices for the guitar solos.
I am always intrigued as to how artists choose track order on albums and EP’s and whether in hindsight they would change that. What has been the deciding factor for you or do songs for the main do that organically?
Ah yes, I thought carefully about the track order for this album so I again modelled it on The Bends more or less. Therefore I chose Exile as my “Planet Telex”…ok so it’s less understated than Telex as I wanted a grand opening but then Hell’s a Place definitely would be super guitar oriented like the title track of The Bends. I followed this with my “High and Dry” – the more acoustically driven False Dawn. The End of Everything was my open-ended tune like Fake Plastic Trees while Cauterise pivots back to rock as with Bones. You can see where this is going; I’m matching every track from The Bends with what I consider to be my own equivalent. The reason I did this is that the track order on The Bends is perfect, you’ve got two rockers that open the album, then it slows down a little with some ballads before going into overdrive and that pattern between loud and soft oscillates throughout. I used the same idea for Blue Ocean Event.
What do you find the most enjoyable part of being in the band and similarly the most cathartic?
The most enjoyable part is creating a new song you know is good, then recording and bringing it to life. Live performances are also adventures of sorts, where you create an atmosphere and temporary escape from the banal reality of the outside world. In many ways music is a window into a separate little cosmos in one’s mind. It’s a nice place to stay. For example, if you listen to Black Sabbath, you’re in Black Sabbath’s universe. Ditto for any artists’ creation, I built my own microcosm and everyone’s invited.
For anyone contemplating checking you out live, give some teasers as to what they can expect.
Yes, I want the audience to have a good time. Expect illuminated pentagrams, lots of red light and dry ice, that alien dancing girl from Metropolis and a focused, intense show, but with plenty of engagement with those who come to see us.
What has been your most thrilling moment on stage to date?
I’d say playing in Durham UK, was a lot of fun, particularly during the summer. The performances were tight and the best bit was some random dude running up to the stage giving me the flying v horns during a guitar solo.
Do you have live dates coming up?
Not in the immediate future but possibly 2023 there will be a tour for Blue Ocean Event.
What else can we expect in the near future?
I’m in the process of recording a new album, Grass Messiah which bears a passing sonic resemblance to Moby Dick, the great white whale, in that it is rather heavy, rather big, almost arcane in scope and sound and very labyrinthine. I’m also soon to release a metal cover version on my YouTube channel of Brahm’s Violin Concerto in D Major, which featured in the film There will be Blood. I regularly post covers and original material to my channel so watch that particular space!
What are the major inspirations to you sound wise and as a musician?
Great question. In most recent years Mick Gordon’s soundtrack for Doom and Doom Eternal alongside Meshuggah have had a massive influence. I’m just envious of that mathematical understanding of polymeters. I can’t do it myself that well but have incorporated it into my own music because it’s pushing the boundaries. It’s another dimension you can add to your music along with melody to make the overall song more interesting. When I was growing up Queen and The Beatles were the two biggest influences. Queen’s guitar and vocal harmonies, solos and grandiose songs had a huge impact on my earlier music starting out. When I was a teenager, I used to listen to Phantom FM which was an Irish indie radio station. I got into Joy Division, Jeff Buckley, The Smiths, and Beck. No surprises, I used to be a Radiohead fanatic as well, so indie rock shaped my formative youth although I also listened to a lot of classic rock like Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd in addition to At the Drive In and The Mars Volta. Then in college I got into metal and industrial music like Nine Inch Nails, Trivium, Metallica, Opeth.
And finally what song or release would you say was the spark to your passion for music?
I would say watching Jimi Hendrix shred on guitar really ignited that spark for music, particularly as a fellow lefty.
Many thanks once again; anything else you would like to add?
Yes, be sure to check out and download my album Blue Ocean Event on July 18th 2022. Also, if you enjoy rock/metal covers and originals please like, comment and subscribe to my YouTube channel.
Blue Ocean Event will be available on my Spotify https://open.spotify.com/artist/6U7RkRtMus7YYkzRIl1YAp and https://cassiniprojekt.bandcamp.com/
I also like to preview experiments on https://soundcloud.com/the-cassini-projekt
I’m also active on https://twitter.com/CassiniProjekt https://www.facebook.com/TheCassiniProjekt/ and https://www.instagram.com/cassiniprojekt/
You can also find my music at
The RingMaster Review 11/01/2023
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