It is my upmost pleasure to announce a very cool interview for Technical Music Review…..the obscure and dissonant Coma Cluster Void! These guys (and gals) are a band based out of, well…..a few countries. The big name metalheads will immediately know is Mike Disalvo one of the vocalists……he was the vocalist Crypotopsy as well. It has taken almost 2 months to complete this interview and I truly hope you enjoy it.
COMA CLUSTER VOID
Thanks to the internet (when people aren’t debating their lives away or airing dirty laundry) for finding this insanely cool and unusual band. What makes them stand out from your average metal band? Well, lets start with the fact guitarist John Strieder uses 10 string guitars and isn’t really a fan of guitar picks. Is that enough? No….there’s four vocalists! John also loves dissonance, which is also proved through his classical compositions. He also used strings on their debut album Mind Cemeteries. They also released an equally as creepy and killer EP last year that powered its way onto my best of 2017 list Thoughts From A Stone.
Truth is……music in general has been watered down for years now. Thankfully I ran into this bands original work. Coma Cluster Void goes against commercial beliefs, and stick to their own beliefs and opinions. They are truly original, and are like nobody….which makes them just as amazing as the rest. Now, onto the interview. I hope you all enjoy this as much as I did.
TMR: What inspired John to use 10 string guitars? Extended range is popular these days but why the biggest guitar of them all?
John: Haha! There are multiple factors that led to this instrument. First of all, the tuning. If you write tonal music, the standard tuning is certainly a convenient tuning. But I have no interest in that kind of music, so when I went into guitars, the first thing was to find a tuning that makes the instrument suitable for my kind of music.
My tuning reduces the range, so it was logical to compensate this with more strings. But this leads to another advantage for my writing: For me, melody is often unfolded harmony. And in fact, all melodies on our albums are such unfolded harmonies where the notes ring into each other. Having more strings enlargens the possibilities. And last but not least my inspiration to have really low strings came from the band Crowbar who tuned down to B already in 1988!
TMR: I love Crowbar too! Every metalhead shouldn’t need an explanation of their greatness.
TMR: What motivated the band to write such unusual and interesting music combining dissonance, down tuning and orchestral arrangements? There’s barely any band I can truly compare you guys to, and that would be an insult because there is absolutely nothing like you guys out there!
John: Thanks for the kind words! Well, no special motivation needed, it’s just how I think and write music. Music (and art in general) is something were you can truly be free – given you allow yourself to be an individual. Conventions and boundaries don’t interest me, they are not mine. I just express my feelings with music to the best of my ability.
Mike: Simply put, John is writing some of the most innovative and interesting material I have ever heard . It’s just such cutting edge songwriting with a tremendous sense of unbridled brutality and beauty that I gravitated towards it and felt immediately comfortable with being part of the project. It was an easy decision.
Chris: Upon listening to John’s first demos, I knew he had something to offer as a composer / bandleader no one else in metal did. He consistently encouraged novel rhythmic ideas that would be typically thrown out in every other project because most ensembles couldn’t handle tackling rhythm and stacked dissonance at such a high standard, while also making it musical and emotive. I’ve pursued countless hours practicing polyrhythms, polymeters, syncopation, grids, and rhythmic space that I couldn’t pass an opportunity to contribute to albums that are as meticulously composed as it is beautiful, unrelenting chaos.
Sylvia: It feels totally natural to play this music, and to be a part of John’s wild ideas – no way to say no to something like this!
Austin: It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I had lost faith in death metal but John’s demos had revived it. How could I say no?
Chris: There is always a feeling of excitement you get from joining a quality ensemble, especially one that you feel will push you to new limits as a musician and perhaps even as a person.
TMR: Where do you guys come up with the inspiration for your lyrics? There’s some weird sets I’ve noticed. It adds to the creepy themes you guys have mastered so far.
Mike: I generally get inspired by human emotions, typically on the darker side of life. I have always found it easier to write from a negative perspective. For whatever reason, it’s like “emptying the garbage” for me. Clear out the negativity through words. It’s not always personal, I do reckon with what others have experienced, or in TFAS’s case, it was purely based in storytelling with a linear appeal to where we all stand today. I draw from as many sources as I can, I think it’s important to do that.
TMR: Are there plans for any sort of live show at any point? I have a feeling it would be very dark and creepy if you ever do.
John: No plans yet … bringing together five people from Oregon, Michigan, Montreal and Berlin on one stage – also considering the various other commitments of the members – seems to be impossible as of now.
Sylvia: But never say never;)
John: However, XelmYa (Sylvia on recorders, Alexa on violin and guests) tours quite a lot (next station: Tehran, Iran), and they also play compositions by me. Chris tours with different bands, and would be happy to hold drum clinics for CCV and other material.
TMR: What inspired the band name and where was it derived from?
John: In a predecessing project, I had a song named “Lux Aeterna Void”. “Lux Aeterna” means “Eternal Light”. The song and song name depicts a depressive image of the hoped eternal light being just a void, a black hole. The Coma Cluster of galaxies became a real-world meaning for “Lux Aeterna”. Also, Cluster chords are my favourite kind of chords and are used throughout our records (and my music in general) in all different kinds and flavours.
TMR: What inspired John to not use picks? I saw the one play through video and it blew my mind as a guitarist.
John: It’s just how I started to play guitar. I use the flesh of the fingers similar to like harpists. Not using a plectrum gives interesting opportunities, like using more than one finger to play a chord using strings that are not next to each other. In general, I just do what works best for me.
Sylvia: *cough* i am the one using a pick – the skin at my fingertips is simply too thin for playing the bass without it.
TMR: How tough is it to keep these unusual rhythms and tempo changes under control especially from Chris’s and Sylvia’s points of view in regards to the rhythm section? There’s so many odd sections and speed changes it takes serious talent and patience to perfect this music you all are creating.
Sylvia: Haha, yeah, sometimes it’s tough, but always fun & definitely worth all that work. In my case, dealing with weird-ish rhythms in contemporary classical music is helping a lot
.John: These tempo changes are actually changes of the subdivisions, like from regulars to triplets or quintuplets. So there’s always one tempo each song (the whole “Thoughts From A Stone” is based on 80 bpm!) as a red thread. Somehow Chris and I are both no fans of arbitrary tempo changes, we prefer to have calculative relationships.
About the rhythms, I want them to be expressive and convey certain feelings. Making a note longer or shorter can add a lot of tension – or release.
Chris: There’s no speed/tempo changes, every new rhythmic motif is modulated fluidly and precisely. Though it sounds like we’re high on ayahuasca or falling down the stairs simultaneously, we have an intricate road map that guides and prepares us for each section.
John: Aya … wut?
TMR: What initially motivated everyone to get into classical music and eventually adding orchestral parts to Coma Cluster Void as well?
John: It’s just my way of thinking music (melody, harmony, rhythm) poured into different ensembles of instruments. For me, it’s the same, just different instruments. It seemed logical to me to frame the “metal songs” with this side of my music on our records. But also, contemporary “classical music“ is where I came from. I was always a metal listener, but starting a band came many years later.
Sylvia: As a classically trained musician, my musical socialization began with baroque and renaissance music, much Bach, and also contemporary music and jazz.
TMR: How come there aren’t any videos of John playing the classical pieces he has written? I personally loved “To Abandon Oneself”.
John: Thanks! Well, in classical music, composers and performers are specialised. Composers spend their time in mastering the craft of composition, and performers spend their time mastering the craft of performace and interpretation. So for me it’s rather weird to play in Coma Cluster Void – and I still see myself primarily as the composer in the band.
TMR: What led to Sylvia’s choice of the recorder and inspirations behind it? Excuse my lack of knowledge on the instrument, my only experience with one was the cheap plastic ones we were supplied with in grade school…..lol!
Sylvia: I started playing the recorder at age 7, first in a group at the music school from the second year on together with a friend. Since I grew up in the country side near the coast, sounds of wind and water were always present, and for me are best represented by the instrument recorder. Being a professional player, I often hear remarks like yours – it’s a pity that the instrument is rarely played on a concert level because children are tortured with it in school. Feel invited to explore my music and my videos on youtube and soundcloud ( https://www.youtube.com/sylviahinzrecorder / https://soundcloud.com/sylviahinz )! the recorder is an amazing instrument.
TMR: John you mentioned you did the artwork for both CCV releases and Thoren’s Brennenburg….do you have any other drawings/paintings/artworks you have done you would like to promote or share?
John: I do mixed media paintings on canvas and paper, but also digital artworks for my own band and other bands. There’ll be a lot more in the future (more dark, more grim), but for now there’s some recent, old and very old stuff on my deviantart-account: https://johnstrieder.deviantart.com
TMR: The most overused, stereotypical and annoying question in any interview that is asked every time……any new music on the horizon? 🙂
John: Definitely!!! I already have a good concept for the next record, and I’m full of riffs and ideas 😉
TMR: Thoughts From A Stone has a vinyl version I’m tempted to grab……any plans for Mind Cemeteries? The record itself looks hauntingly beautiful as well. That’s one thing I like from current vinyl releases, a lot of them are very artsy….my favorite being Between The Buried & Me’s Parallax EP and Parallax 2 full length box set vinyls. Absolutely stunning.
John: Yeah, I love good looking records and booklets you can dive into. Something that demonstrates to the listener that our music is everything to us. It was a great opportunity to create an etched vinyl. And indeed, a vinyl version of “Mind Cemeteries” is in the making. Thanks to the good people at Translation Loss!
TMR: Who are some of your current favorite bands in the technical/progressive scene and the metal scene as well? And do any of you feel bands overdo themselves just to grab attention? That tends to happen occasionally in those genres.
John: My favourites are death metal bands especially of the 90’s that pushed metal to new heights and wrote albums that continue to be a great listen. Well-known bands like Morbid Angel, or forgotten ones like Excruciate.
Sylvia: Since i am constantly surrounded by sounds and noises, i don’t listen to music at all – only to the stuff my collaborators send to me for remixes or whatever action required. my favourite artist is silence.
Mike: For technical metal bands, I really dig Gigan, Artificial Brain and Gorguts to name a few. I am a big progressive rock/metal fan so I relate to that style more. Some of what I am or have been listening to are Caligula’s Horse, Wobbler, Porcupine Tree/Steven Wilson, Opeth, Anekdoten and Mondo Drag. This just scratches the surface because I listen to alot of prog. I do find some of the tech bands are too over the top for my taste. What I find happens is that, yeah they can play but it ends up lacking any real soul. Personal preference, that’s all.
Chris: Symphony X, Sikth, Meshuggah, and Opeth laid the groundwork for everything about great composition in progressive metal to my ears. There are many others of course but if I had to choose the top 4 it would be them.
TMR: What are you guys listening to these days in general and who are your favorite artists and bands?
John: In the metal realm, Albums like Cannibal Corpse’s „The Bleeding“ or Crowbar’s self-titled never cease to be a joyful listen. For dissonant art music, I have to mention Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg and Anton Webern, Ruth Crawford, György Ligeti, Sofia Gubaidulina, Brian Ferneyhough, Isabel Mundry, Rebecca Saunders, …
Sylvia: Rarely i listen to old school punk oder stuff like bone dance or einstürzende neubauten to survive bureaucratism.
Mike: All I do is listen to music. It’s a sickness I think, haha. I am heavily spinning the last two Tribulation records, all Hexvessel, the new Steven Wilson, Dunbarrow, the Miles Davis electric era, Pallbearer-Heartless, Dungen, Neurosis, Songs: Ohia, Spelljammer, Spiritualized – Ladies and Gentlemen…….damn I could go on and on…
John: So in other words, when Mike is finished with all the listening, there’s nothing left for Sylvia anyway.
Chris: These days Thoren, Jordan Rakei w/ Richard Spaven, and Kimbra (lots of other trip pop artsists, too) are my #1 listening pleasures.
TMR: How did such a band from totally different parts of the world come together? Its not like you all live in the same neighborhood…..this is totally unique.
John: I just searched for the best musicians willing to go on a ride with me 😉
Sylvia: A couple of lucky coincidences & loads of listening & tons of messages – voilà!
TMR: How was it going from a heavy and technical band like Cryptopsy to CCV for you Mike? They’re both metal, there’s no denying that….but they aren’t even remotely close as far as sound goes. Did you want to try something totally different you haven’t done before?
Mike: Yes for sure, the last thing I want to do is to repeat what I have done in the past. The past is the past, it’s all about moving forward. I never want to rehash the same shit. That said, there is a style to what I do that is wholly me but by opening yourself up to different approaches, it certainly helps you grow as a musician. I love a challenge and CCV has given me a chance to bring different ideas to the table, in a very extreme manner of course.
TMR: If any members have any music or art in general they want to plug in they have released or working on, please feel free to do so right here.
Sylvia: I have several ensembles, the most active ones are XelmYa, (a trio with me on recorders, Alexa Renger on violin and guests on violoncello: https://www.facebook.com/XelmYa ), and Umbratono (a mexican-german collaboration, consisting of me, and Antonio Rosales on bass clarinet, as well as guests on violin and violoncello). XelmYa can be heard on Mind Cemeteries and Thoughts From A Stone. I also do solo recitals, master classes, conducting, and other projects (https://www.facebook.com/Sylvia.Hinz.Recorder ) …
Mike: I have another project called Akurion ( https://www.facebook.com/AkurionOfficial/ ), it’s with Rob Milley on guitar (Neuraxis), Oli Pinard on bass (Cryptopsy) and Tommy McKinnon on drums (ex Neuraxis, ex Augury). We just finished up recording and it’s now in the hands of the wizard himself, John Strieder, who is handling the mixing and mastering of the album.
The album is called “Come Forth To Me” and we have several guest musicians helping out. Listen for the likes of Lord Worm, Luc Lemay, Jean-Marie Leblanc, Sylvia Hinz, Austin Taylor and Genevieve DiSalvo. It was great bringing in such talent to be a part of what we were doing. We are hopeful that the record will be released in October 2018.
John: Besides my pieces for classical instruments ( https://www.facebook.com/john.strieder.composer.artist/ ), I’m currently revisiting a 2007 founded microtonal metal project called Infinite Nomad ( https://www.facebook.com/Infinite.Nomad.Official ) with Lee Fisher on drums (ex Psyopus, Commit Suicide).
Austin: I make heavy sounds in Dimensionless ( https://dimensionless.bandcamp.com ) and recently I’ve been working on a new project: Self-Destructionist ( https://selfdestructionist.bandcamp.com/releases ).
TMR: It’s been great chatting with you guys and getting to know you all, and your artistic visions. I personally hope CCV is around forever, as are John’s uber creepy and awesome classical compositions. I have a new found respect for your group. Stay true to your art my friends.