Empire State Human is the most high-profile project of musical powerhouse Aidan Casserly, having released under that name for fifteen years. After a short hiatus, he’s again active under the ESH banner, with his most recent album coming Romo coming out this June.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What’s the story behind Empire State Human and how would you describe your sound?
Firstly, thank you for allowing me to be interviewed by you Mark and for your excellent questions below. I hope I don’t bore you too much with my answers!
Empire State Human, create a retro, electro/synthpop sound with a slight touch of Sci-Fi and Futurism. Based in Dublin, Ireland, ESH have created music for film, TV adverts, released a single featuring Wolfgang Flur (ex-Kraftwerk), had a #1 in the US iTunes dance charts with a cover of John Carpenter’s Theme to Halloween, played live in New York in the legendary Goth venue, Albion Batcave, played Retrofest in Scotland. In June 2017, ESH released its 22nd album Romo, with ScentAir Records, the first album being Pop Robot back in 2002, on the US electronic pop label Ninthwave Records (which was then the US home to Heaven 17 and Whitetown, who had a UK #1 ‘Your Woman’). I (Aidan Casserly) have always been the main creative within the band, and through a number of line-up changes, I’ve been the main man in keeping ESH releasing and networking.
What motivates you and inspires your music, aesthetic and vibe?
I see myself as an artist, so I see creating artistic elements as being a way of life, an essential part of my life and inner satisfaction. Every day, I either create a song, or a lyric, a poem, a mix, a remix. Something with a creative motivation and emotion. When writing and producing with ESH, it’s a process of working from the outside in. I have about 20 releases under my Aidan Casserly solo name, and the process for that, is very different to ESH, it is writing from the inside out. ESH being an electronic, organic side, there are specifics that are particular to writing for Empire State Human. It’s less poetic, intimate than my solo work but there’s a sheen or an electronic pop edge to those vibes.
Could you tell us about your new album, Romo I’ve listened to it a few times now and I’m loving it. I especially liked Walking With Bowie – it felt liked in captured some of his essence! I could imagine him strolling through Berlin in the small hours with this as his soundtrack!
Romo is about outsiders, night people, loners and Sci-Fi. I set the songs in the near future, but with a nod to the retro, electro of the early 80s. I wanted it to be a mainly up beat, intriguing album. The last ESH album The Dark, was a sinister, slow affair and whilst it appeared to be the final ESH album, I noticed in late 2015 a bigger increase in interest, downloads, traffic through the ESH Facebook page. All of this wasn’t lost on me, as I firmly believe in timing and intuition, with regard to ESH. I felt that may be missing, after The Dark was released. Also in 2015 I saw a bigger increase in synthpop record labels and new bands. This also gave me focus to venture out again, seeking a new record label. Walking With Bowie (is very filmic, I’ve done three feature film soundtrack albums, The Amityville Legacy being the last one released in 2016 and I’ve composed music for an upcoming Sci-Fi called Nemesis 5).
Walking With Bowie, was based and inspired by Bowie’s unplanned train stop in Warsaw in the mid-70s, which went on to inspire a track from his ‘Low’ album (the track being Warszawa). I wanted to create a soundscape, mapping and matching out his footsteps. The search and mood and ambience. It’s one of my personal favourites on Romo, so I’m delighted you like it too. DJ Rusty Egan (from Visage fame), contacted me to play that track on his show, and that interest, lead to the label ScentAir Records, contacting me regarding the CD/Digital release of Romo. So it’s proved rather important and special now.
For me, the new album felt darker in tone than your previous releases –maybe lyrically, but certainly tonally. Would you say that’s a fair assessment?
It’s funny you see it as darker, as I see it from the opposite position. There’s the coldness of retro there for sure and with some lyrical nods to loners and night people, I saw Romo as an opportunity, to create an up album. Now, bearing in mind the last ESH album in 2015 was The Dark, which is a rather bleak (at times), dark romantic album, I feel coming on from that experience, Romo was always going to be an up kind of album. But, that’s the beauty of music and of how someone connects or links with an album.
You got Martin Bowes from Attrition to master you new album, Romo. What do you feel he brought to your sound – his style is very different from you in your Empire State Human guise?
Martin mastered three albums recently for me (Spoken, Aidan Casserly & Friends, Creatures as Aidan Casserly (released July 2017 digitally) and Romo. So that was a wonderful voyage of sound working with Martin. He’s had great experience in the alternative scene and that was a big factor for me approaching Martin. His approach to music, understanding and sensitivity is extremely wide, so with these three very different albums, being mastered by him, it really is a compliment to his range and technique.
What’s up next for Empire State Human? Any upcoming gigs, is there new music on the horizon, other projects? I know you’re a very busy guy!
No live plans, as I’m focussed on a massive release/recording schedule. In 2016 I had six albums out and in 2017 I’m likely to have nine! In July I released my new solo Aidan Casserly album Creatures, following by a new solo EP called Dirk Bogarde Suite in August. Also, in August sees the debut album by Ferrochrome (a project I did with Dirk Krause of Armageddon Dildos fame) called Medusa Water, on CD and Digital with Meshwork Music. There’s plans next for a Deluxe Edition release of an old Empire State Human album called Urbanism, followed by two more albums (Winter Papers with Monica Brito and Moments with Caesar Gergess). I’ve also recently relaunched The Garland Cult, for a new album called Gothic in 2018. So, plenty of activity, creativity and expression for me.
Romo is out now via ScentAir, and the physical format is also available for purchase via Poponaut. Artwork is by Phillippe Laurent, whilst the album was mastered by Martin Bowes at The Cage Studios. Instruments used in recording the album include the following: Analog Lab, Synclavier V, B-3 V, Mini V, Piano V, Stage-73 V, Matrix-12 V, Farfisa V, Solina V, SEM V, Wurli V, Jup-8 V, ARP 2600 V, CS-80 V, Prophet V, VOX Continental V, and a Modular V!