I probably started playing music when I was 13 years old. I got my first drum set. I had been intrigued with that growing up. I grew up around music my entire life. It was always played around me. Of course when I was old enough to actually get an instrument, I picked the drums. I'm not really sure why. That was my primary instrument until I was probably 18 or so. During that time I started playing guitar because it's very difficult to write songs on the drums. I started picking up a guitar and just watching other people play it and figuring out how to play it. That began my foray into song writing.
What kind of bands were you in before you embarked on a solo career?
I grew up as a teenager listening to a really lot of heavy stuff. I was definitely a Slayer kid and Testament and the harder metal. I was definitely not a glam rocker. A lot of the bands that I played in reflect that. I played drums primarily in my first two bands. Just really heavy stuff. Later on I went on to do a project where I sang and played drums which was not an easy thing to do. I knew after that project that I didn't want to play the drums anymore. I needed to sing and probably play guitar. That's when I started more song writing by myself. I went out and bought a keyboard so that I could program my own drums and my own sounds and basically do everything by myself. That's what led me into this whole genre that I'm in now.
Tell me about your band Circle Of Dust.
That was the first project that I ever did that I actually had a record deal for. Everything I had done up to that point was just practice for Circle Of Dust. Circle Of Dust I guess was labeled industrial. It was an industrial style. Obviously I was into that kind of music although that wasn't my only influence. That was my experiment combining my previous instruments which would be the drums and the guitar and regular organic instruments with a lot of electronics and programmed sounds and drum beats. This is an experiment. I never really had a teacher with anything that I've done. If I had a desire to do something, I would dig in and figure out how to do it myself. I put out many records with Circle Of Dust and a lot of it was experimentation. Just figuring out my chops. How to combine electronics and organic instruments and making them sound like they belong together.
What got you interested in electronic music?
Coming out of my background as far as very heavy music and aggressive music, I just tend to be a type of person that gets bored with things very easily. That was the case with that kind of music. I wanted energy but I was sick and tired of being limited to just a few instruments. At some point along the way, people had introduced me to bands like Depeche Mode and stuff that was on the softer side of electronic music and that completely intrigued me because of the sonic capabilities and possibilities. I got intrigued with that and then somewhere along the way somebody handed me a Skinny Puppy record and I think that changed my musical life. Here was a band that was primarily using electronics and almost no organic instruments and carried an energy that was reflected in the heavy music that I had been listening to up to that point. I remember my first Skinny Puppy show that I had ever gone to. When I saw them live I bet I saw more people come out of the pit bloodied than I had at some of the metal shows I've been to. I think I had found my niche right there. For me right now and since that point, electronics are just far more intriguing, far more interesting. There's far more possibilities than just a set of 6-strings and some drums. I love those instruments and when primarily when I write, I use guitars and organic instruments because that's easier to write to but at the end of the day, the electronic side of things, that's my true passion.
What's the story behind Celldweller?
It's hard to trace back completely but I guess in 1992 sometime, I wrote a song called "Helldweller" and my studios and even places I have lived have traditionally been in basements. In cellars so to speak. I am also a fairly introverted guy and I hardly ever come out. It was almost a joke initially from family and friends calling me a cell dweller or a cellar dweller. It evolved into Celldweller although that name holds more significance than that. Celldweller is more symbolic of an internal bondage. Being restricted and retained internally so the name has many meanings. At the end of the day, it rolls off the tongue very easily so there it is.
Tell me a little about your debut, Celldweller.
It's something that has been in the works for a number of years actually. Although that story is fairly long. It wasn't me working on one record straight for that length of time. This record, it's a miracle that it's finally done and over with. It's been through quite a lot of changes and I have many versions of the songs that ended up making it to the disc. I've written them and rewritten them and then mixed them and then taken them back apart and redid them. At the end of the day, hopefully I have a cohesive record.
Are there any specific tracks you'd like to discuss that have some stories behind them?
It would be safe to say that every song on the record has a story behind it. Really at the end of the day, this disc is a piece of me. I'm not about political agendas or any other kind of agendas. This record is completely internal. I wrote this about a lot of issues in my own life and I wrote it for me and not really for anybody else or trying to make a point to anybody else. Of course at the end of the day, I do hope people can pull some relevance from the lyrics and apply it to themselves. Every song, whether it be musical or lyrical, there's obviously a story behind every one of those tracks. This record, like I said, it was written over a span of a few years so my musical styles and tastes have changed while I was even in the middle of writing this record. It's reflected in different styles that are on the record. I'm not even really sure what direction I would even be heading for a new record because it's been so long since I've actually written a track. Like the most recent tracks I've written on there were a track called "Frozen" and "I Believe You". Those are two of the newest tracks that I have written. Really song writing for me is just what kind of vibe I'm feeling at that moment or waking up and feeling a certain vibe that day or being inspired by a certain artist or a certain idea. That can shape the course of a whole song and I've always decidedly not restricted myself when it comes to song writing. If I'm feeling something, I'm going to write it although sometimes that can make me look and sound a bit schizophrenic. It's still something I try to adhere to. Not just whatever comes out, comes out. Sometimes it will be completely, extremely heavy or sometimes it will be very electronic. Sometimes a combination of all of those things. Whatever influence I'm feeling or whatever kind of vibe I'm feeling, I'll run with that. I think that's reflected on this record because there's a lot of different elements combined on this disc.
That explains where your next direction will be. Anything that strikes you.
Well, yeah, like I said, my creative juices I guess are affected differently on a daily basis. It depends on what's going on around me. At this point I wish I could project where I would be even heading song writing wise but I have no idea. I think there will always be elements of electronics. There will always be elements of aggressive heavy type music. There will always be melody involved in my vocals. Things like that. There are some basic tenets of music that I will always have as part of my sound. Where those go from there, I'm not so sure. I guess we'll have to find out.
I was looking at the booklet and I was curious. Is all of that drawing on you a tattoo?
I am so surprised at how many people actually ask that question. That is body art so that is not permanent. That was done by a very talented artist, Nelly Recchia. She's a very talented artist and she painted that on my body with airbrushes and pens and pencils. Eleven hours worth of makeup. It would be a great tattoo though, wouldn't it?
Yeah, because so many people have their entire bodies tattooed. I just thought that was the most intriguing thing I've ever seen.
Why did you decide to sit through 11 hours of that?
My philosophy is that for an end product, you should be able and be willing to subject yourself to whatever it takes. She had warned me it was going to be a long day but we had talked about the idea and I really liked it. At the end of the day, it was worth it because a lot of people talked about that image. I'd be willing to do probably more extreme things than that if I felt that artistically it was conveying what I think Celldweller is about. I felt like the idea that we discussed was cool and I was willing to sit it out. It was 11 hours of makeup and probably 45 minutes of the actual photography. At the end of the day, it's a very quick process with the photography part of it but the actual preparation is extensive but it's worth it.
You worked with Prong on one of their albums.
Yeah, a couple actually. I found out through a mutual friend that Tommy Victor from Prong had one of my Circle Of Dust discs and he'd liked it. They had played the Limelight in New York and I met up with them there. It just so happens I was working on a project at the time called "Argyle Park" and so we talked for a little bit and I asked him if he wanted to be part of that and he agreed. Later I ended up programming and co-producing a track they did for a Misfits cover album called A Violent World. It's a song called "London Dungeon" from The Misfits and I had programmed and co-produced and mixed that track. I co-wrote "Controller" off of their last record, Rude Awakening, as well as remixing the title track, "Rude Awakening". I did a remix of that track that I split with The Orb.
You've worked with Criss Angel.
That's true. Criss had approached me years ago towards the end of Circle Of Dust. I wasn't really sure where I was going career wise. I was on a label that really couldn't do anything with me. They had lost their distribution and Criss had heard one of my discs from someone. He wanted to update the sound of his music and he approached me. It was just the right time in life. I was looking for something to get into and be involved with while I was trying to figure out what was going on with my work from the label. That was the beginning of him and I working together. Ended up writing three discs worth of material that support his show. That's it.
You've written various tracks for different movies. How did you get involved in that?
Some of the tracks that I've written were specifically for movies and then other tracks, a majority of the time movie houses and video game companies use your existing tracks. They look at stuff you've already written and then request to license it. It's more about that although I did write some music specifically for MTV and things like that. My manager had hooked that up. He has a lot of contacts in the film and television world and the video game world. Once Celldweller has gotten out there and people are starting to hear it, I think it's just kind of a natural marriage because of the style of music that I'm playing. It lends itself for video games and film and television. It's again that whole rock and electronic music combination that seems to work so well. It's been a fun little trip. It's almost weekly that we're getting requests for licenses for films and television. The more that you're out there, the more people are aware of you and hopefully the awareness of your music propagates.
Are you doing any type of touring?
Yes. There is no specific tour lineup yet. I'm still in the process of putting the show together but I'm anticipating that this spring/summer, I'll probably head out and start the whole touring process.
What can we expect at a Celldweller show?
One thing I firmly believe is that if you're going to go "entertain" people and perform for them, then you should be entertaining. I've never been one to embrace the whole concept of being a rock and roll band just getting up on stage and playing every thing you hear on the disc note for note. To me there's nothing really more boring than that. I feel like there are so many other forms of art that can be incorporated into a live show. Unfortunately some of that stuff, you're restricted due to finances and space depending on how big the stage is. On a base level, you will get an element of an energetic rock band at a Celldweller show because the music itself will carry that energy but there are some elements of performance art. There are still moments on stage where every one of the musicians there will be playing percussion and we'll be doing these synchronized pieces that are also synchronized with the video. It's a multimedia experience as well. I hate to toss around such overused terms like multimedia and performance art, but to sum it up in a nutshell, that's kind of what it is. I think really it's a type of thing you'd have to just see for yourself to understand.
Any other comments or ideas?
I'm sure I have many.