In a time when it seems that progressive rock isn't that progressive anymore, it is nice to see bands that make a real effort to be fresh, original and most important: progressive. One of these bands I recently came across, is Invisgoth. They released their debut album Alcoholocaust early 2007 on the ProgRock Records label. You can read my review of the album here.
Invisigoth is a two man band, consisting of Cage (all instruments) and Viggo Domino (vocals). Since the album both surprised and impressed me, and the fact that the band is clouded in mystery, I became curious about the people behind the music. When I came in touch with Cage through MySpace, I took my chance and asked if he was willing to do an interview...and he was :-)
Marcel Haster: A few months ago your debut album, Alcoholocaust, was released. A surprisingly fresh and original album, but shrouded in mystery. Can you tell a bit about how you became a musician?
Cage: I can't really remember a time that I wasn't listening to lots of music. My parents were hardly prog fans, anything but really, and weren't especially music fans in general, but for some strange and utterly bizarre reason they actually owned a copy of Jethro Tull's Thick As A Brick and I immediately fell in love with it and managed to commandeer their copy for myself. A few months later I heard Queen's Sheer Heart Attack record and it was Brian May's solo on "Brighton Rock" that convinced me I wanted to be a guitar player.
MH: How did you meet Viggo Domino?
C: Well... Viggo and I were both veterans of the Buffalo music scene and our various bands had done numerous double bills together, but we had never actually worked together until Invisigoth.
MH: When was the moment that you started working on music? Was an album the goal, or did the album come naturally out of the music you guys created?
C: It was really a pretty organic and unscripted process. Initially there was no real plan to make an album. I tend to write a lot of songs and during my writing process I don't really think too much about genres, so... I had accumulated a rather sizable stockpile of songs, in any number of genres, that still needed vocals. I then ran into Viggo at a club one evening and suggested we try working together. Several drinks later, he was finally somewhat convinced. For whatever reason, the first song I gave Viggo to work on was the instrumental version of what became "Poison Drip" and as we listened back to the final mix of it, we began to see the possibility of making a whole album in that kind of vein. No grand designs, we just sort of took it a song at a time.
MH: The band name, Invisigoth, does suggest your music is in the gothic direction. How did you come up with it and what does it mean?
C: I think our sound is considerably more "cinematic" sounding than "gothic," so in that regard the name might be slightly misleading, but as far as there being an actual meaning or relevance to the name, well... I really just liked the way it sounded and thought it had a certain mystery to it.
MH: As you know, everybody likes to label music. If you had to put a label on your music, what would it be?
C: People ask me this question all the time and I really wish I had a better answer for them, but I honestly don't know what label I'd give it. However, when you can't categorize your own music people tend to look at you a little odd, so for convenience I generally tell people it is "prog/metal" but I think that is probably something of an oversimplification and I think we incorporate elements that aren't usually found in those genres.
MH: Do you think this labeling effects people when it comes to choosing what to listen to and what to not?
C: Yeah... I'm sure the labels are very important for most listeners, and the consumer in me can certainly understand why, but I love so many different styles of music that ultimately I find labels not so crucially important after a while. I give them no thought at all while I am composing.
MH: Are the songs on the album linked by a common theme or thought? What is the story behind the album?
C: There isn't really a common theme or narrative thread, but I suppose there is a kind of overriding ideology to it. It is perhaps something of an exercise in social anthropology, for lack of a better term. Viggo's lyrics tend to be a little more tongue-in-cheek and filled with double entendres than mine generally are, but we both are doing a bit of social commentary.
MH: Of course the title Alcoholocaust is another subject to speculate about. Why this title?
C: Actually, "Alcoholocaust" was the name of a bar in a William Gibson novel, but the reason I liked the word was because it suggested something potentially deeper, something that is essentially human and tragic and that is the propensity we have for self-ruination or self-destruction, and yet I think the word still has something humorous about it. Personally, I think it is quite a provocative little piece of terminology and something we've chosen to use semi-satirically, but undoubtedly there will be those who find it trite, if not downright silly, and will presumably fail to see the intended humor in our usage, but you can't please everyone, I guess.
MH: Is there anything autobiographical on the album?
C: I suppose you always write a little bit of yourself into your work, because your experiences help formulate your opinions and how you view the world, but I don't believe there is much in the way of specific events from our personal lives that are divulged in the lyrics. It is a lot more commentary than personal experience. Opinions I'll freely offer up, but my personal life is my personal life and I never feel compelled to make it public in song.
MH: I don't want to ruin the magic of the album, but there are a few titles I do have some questions about. Like "Talitha Cumi." This is a Hebrew/Aramaic expression, found in the Bible. Are you religious?
C: Apart from the obvious Biblical reference, it is also the name of an X-Files episode. I was a pretty big fan of that show. As far as being religious, I am more fascinated with theology itself than with any one particular denomination or religious ideology. So... I guess I could be considered more of a Universalist, but I do have something of a secularist streak and tend to view the Bible as being largely allegorical. In any event, the lyrics, although rather vague and ambiguous, kind of speak to, what I see as, the inherent danger in unquestioned faith, or faith without a healthy does of skepticism.
MH: Why did you chose a title like this?
C: Again, I thought it was a provocative title and had a certain bit of mystery to it, that I thought really complimented the feel of the music. I was calling the song "Talitha Cumi" long before I ever sat down to write the words for it.
MH: "My Absinthe Lover," I take it there is a link to the well-known drink? And also a link to the title, maybe?
C: This is a Viggo lyric and one heavily rooted in parody and satire, with a lot of word play. The lyric is kind of a playful look at some gothic stereotypes.
[I think of the play-on-words titles of Robert Aspirin's books? not familiar? See here www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/a/robert-asprin/ - SF fan ed.]
MH: The closing song is slightly remarkable, a cover of Led Zeppelin's "No Quarter." Why did you include a cover on the album? And why specifically that song?
C: Led Zeppelin was a pretty big influence for me and "No Quarter" was a song that I thought conveyed a certain mood to it, one that wasn't out of place with what our own songs were trying to capture, so... it seemed like a logical enough choice. I just love the song and thought we could do something interesting with it.
MH: Insvisigoth is a two man band? are the songs composed by the both of you? How is that arranged?
C: I'm sure the process will change a bit on the next record, but since I had the overwhelming majority of the music already composed and recorded before Viggo came on board, the instrumental part of the process was a singular one. Viggo is a considerably better piano player than I am, so I am sure he will be contributing in that way on the next record. The lyrics we sort of divided up and the vocal melodies were something we pretty much worked on collaboratively, or probably contributed equally to.
MH: You play all instruments? Which instruments were used to record Alcoholocaust?
C: I'm assuming we will bring in some other players for the next record, specifically a live drummer, but yes... that is me playing them all on this one. I played guitar, keys and bass and programmed the drums.
MH: The album is released on the ProgRock Records label. How did you get in touch with them?
C: I met our fearless leader and ProgRock head honcho Shawn Gordon on a prog message board and we exchanged some emails. I asked if he'd be willing to hear our music and he said he would be and that was that, as they say.
MH: Was it easy to get a record deal?
C: Funny thing is, we both worked in bands for years and years that never managed to get signed to a deal, and yet it happened extremely fast for Invisigoth. I'd say within 2-3 weeks of doing our final mix we already had an agreement with ProgRock.
MH: Worldwide many record labels, even the major ones, are complaining about sales going down due to illegal copying and downloading. Is that something you experience too as a musician?
C: Well... it is something I guess we are about to start experiencing. I suppose I am old school, because I still enjoy the process of getting in my car and driving to the music store to buy my CDs, but I'm probably part of a dying breed and therefore the industry probably needs a new business model.
MH: How do you view the potentials of the Internet at present? Is it a necessary evil or does it open new ways to reach people with music?
C: Well... since retail seems to be going the way of the dinosaur, I'd say the Internet is absolutely essential and it is a great vehicle for reaching people.
MH: Do you think it is still possible to earn your bread as a musician in the present world? And I don't mean musicians like Madonna or Justin Timberlake, of course, but more musicians like yourself.
C: Yeah, I still think it is possible, but smaller bands are going to have to look more and more at developing other ways to bring in money, besides just CDs sales.
MH: What can be done to get people back to appreciating good music and albums again? And most of all, getting them to respect the work of the musicians?
C: I remember visiting your myspace page and you had a great quote from Steven Wilson on there and I think he really captured the essence of what I too find somewhat disconcerting and disturbing about some of today's generation of music listeners and that is that many of them don't really think in terms of whole albums anymore, but rather view music as individual songs to be downloaded and put on shuffle mode on their IPods. Because of this, the art of creating flow, mood and atmosphere throughout the course of a record is in danger of getting lost and I'd hate to see that happen. I also find it a little strange to hear people refer to themselves as, let's say .... Led Zeppelin fans merely because they have "Stairway To Heaven" and "Whole Lotta Love" on their IPod, but don't really know much of anything else about the band and don't even consider the possibility of buying an actual Led Zeppelin album.
MH: We already talked a bit about the album and what it means. What are the things that move you to write songs? What inspires you?
C: From a musical standpoint, I just enjoy the writing process so much that it has become its own reward, so to speak, and therefore I require very little in the way of inspiration to sit down and write a piece of music. I am much more excited about where the artistic journey is going to lead, so it tends to be a more organic thing. Lyrics, on the other hand, require some inspiration and is something that doesn't come as naturally or as easily for me.
MH: What music do you listen to yourself?
C: I listen to so much music that it would probably take me all day to answer this question. I own well over 2,500 CDs and if I were to start listing all the artists I really like, I honestly wouldn't now where to stop.
[Oh, I know the feeling - ed.]
MH: What is the last book you read? How long ago? And the last movie you've seen?
C: I'm one of those people who are always reading and often have more than one book going at a time. I tend to read a lot of non-fiction these days... books on history and politics, etc..., but I am also a big fan of fiction authors like Chuck Palahnuik, Kurt Vonnegut, William Gibson and David Foster Wallace. Recently though, I received an email from sci-fi author Kevin J. Anderson, and he told me he had a copy of the Invisigoth CD and that he was really enjoying it and was even kind enough to mention us on his blog, so... seeing as how I was a big sci-fi fan when I was younger, I decided I should pick up some of his stuff in return. Since I was a huge fan of the original Dune series, I picked the Dune books he co-wrote first and I am about 75% through The Butlerian Jihad right now and I am really enjoying that. Mr. Anderson was also nice enough to send me an autographed copy of the first book of his The Saga Of Seven Suns series, so I have that one on deck. We've exchanged a number of emails now and Kevin seems like an incredibly nice guy, but I am starting to sense a sinister plot on his behalf to completely monopolize my summer reading list.
[Anderson has also written or co-written a number of Star Wars related books and a few X-Files related, too (more info) - SF fan ed. again]
MH: With you playing all instruments, will there be a time we can see Invisigoth live on stage?
C: Well... I would certainly love to be playing live shows and I'm sure there will come a day when that happens.
MH: The debut album is out now for several months. How are the reactions to it?
C: Actually, the reactions have been quite good so far. I'd say a good 90% of the reviews have been positive and some extremely so.
MH: Are you already thinking of a follow up album, or is that too soon?
C: I'm always writing, so it is never too soon. I will most likely start writing for the next Invisigoth record shortly. I am in the process of converting my home studio over to a Pro Tools based studio, so... there will be something of a learning curve involved before I am completely operational.
MH: Outside Invisigoth, what are you doing in life?
C: Well...Viggo and I have another recording project that is separate and quite different from Invisigoth and we are about 50% finished with that. No idea what we are going to be calling that yet, but expect that one in late 2007 or early 2008. Call it our alter-ego project, if you like. Or was Invisigoth the alter-ego project? Hmmmmmm......
MH: Dreams and fantasies are often a driving force for people. What are your dream or fantasies, musicically speaking?
C: I guess mine are a little different than most rock musicians, because my dream job in music would be scoring films or TV shows. I do love to perform, but there aren't many things I enjoy more than sitting down and creating atmospheres with music. I'm a bit on the reserved and quiet side, so I am not really the social creature that most musicians are and as a result I generally prefer to work alone when I write and I seem to enjoy solitude much more than the average person does.
MH: I wish you all the best and hope to hear more of this great music from you guys. Thank you so much for this interview.
C: Well... thank you so much. It really does make us feel good to know people are enjoying what we do and it was my pleasure to do the interview with you. Also, I can't stress enough the importance of people like yourself, who help spread the word and make the effort to keep the music alive. So I thank you as both an artist and a simple lover of music for that. Ciao!
[Incidentally, Invisigoth is a reference to an episode of the X-Files, specifically in "Kill Switch," written by William Gibson - SF ed. yet again]