With probably one of the most wide ranging musical backgrounds I’ve come across in a while, Huseyin Evirgen, one half of the inventive duo known as Cassegrain (the other is Alex Tsidiris) is playing his first gig in NYC for the Clubbersguidenewyork summer party. Here’s a little of our conversation.
CGNY: So tell us Huseyin, when did you start out in the music field?
HE: I started when I was 7 years old studying piano. All the way through school I was involved in or was studying music. I knew at an early age that I was going to do something in the musical world for a living.
CGNY: What kind of music (apart from classical) were you into growing up?
HE: I was always listening to a lot of classical music. but when I was a kid I was also into acid house (of course, rather the commercial side of it) and then I moved to metal. I had a school metal band from the age of 13-15. I was playing guitar also. Then I got into free jazz, atonal experimental jazz. So I was always into the more obscure side of music. At school I submerged in a hard core suppressive musical education environment, so many hours of practicing piano. But I was not making my own music at that stage. i started composing when i was 16 years old.
CGNY: You went to study abroad on a musical scholarship correct?
HE: Yes. I finished my studies at 21 in Turkey, my native country and went to Austria to study at the Mozarteum in Salzburg where I mainly studied composition. During composition we had to learn a lot of electronic music. So how I started was not with Fruity loops or any of the software programs. I was in a super studio at the Mozarteum surrounded by all this complicated machinery that we had to learn. That was really my first introduction to electronic music.
CGNY: And you were still not really into EDM?
HE: I wasn’t a clubber at all. I was listening more to metal or jazz – music like Art Ensemble of Chicago, Cecil Taylor and lots of contemporary classical music. Sometimes drum and bass; Goldie, Photek etc. then later on Aphex Twin, Autechre, etc.
CGNY: So you were still on the classical track as it were?
HE: Yes I was, but I was feeling a bit stuck up! At the same time I met a friend, Nikola Jeremic from Serbia who was also a composer but who knew a lot about electronic music. We used to play chess at nights and listen to loud early trance music. We had no money and really bad computers at home. We started making music: messing around with break beats initially, Squarepusher-style, that kind of thing. Eventually I started going from Salzburg to Vienna. I gave out some demo CDs to some places. Then Cheap Records booked us for a few good gigs. It was kind of amazing and very different from the more formal environment of composing that I had been used to.
Eventually Nikola moved to Berlin. I was still in Vienna so I started dabbling in minimal. I felt the contemporary scene was dying for me. Times were tough then. I was doing a lot of dull survival jobs!
CGNY: Were you djing at the time?
HE: I was deejaying like crazy – any gigs I could get. I had a few tracks signed on Dub Kult Living Records too and I was dabbling again in contemporary. I started combining composition with techno and contemporary music. Doing experimental sound but doing it with four to the floor, with a real bass drum, real percussion.
CGNY: Then Red Bull Music Academy happened!
HE: Yes. I applied for Red Bull Music Academy in 2008. I was almost had given up on the dance music scene in a way. But I got accepted and there I met Alex (Tsiridis). We became good friends. We started doing some dark stuff there (at the Academy).
We did one track together with Benga´s vocals and it got signed on Kevin Gorman´s label Mikrowave.
So the track came out 2010. We decided we should continue making music together. We met quite a while after RBMA in Berlin. We had some studio sessions. after that, I got a job in Shanghai as a musical performer with the Expo World Fair in the Austrian Pavilion (where I also met Tin Man, this is how we ended up collaborating (Ed note: Carnal, Tin Man/Cassegrain release is superb out now!). I had some time to myself and was able to be quite productive – working with Alex via the internet. And that EP was what got us signed to the Prologue label.
CGNY: So how does it work with you and Alex? What’s the dynamic in your team work?
HE: We’re really tough on each other but we work really well together. Sometimes we get together in the studio. Sometimes we work over email – giving each other feedback on our various strings of music that we pull together. Alex has a really good taste and is a really brilliant producer. He’s great at analyzing smallest bits but he doesn’t read the notes. I have the academic background but I want to get rid of that a little bit so it’s a good combination.
CGNY: And your focus is the sound that we know from Prologue?
HE: We are experimenting all the time. We try lots of things. We love Prologue's style but we have very different sounding tracks as well.
CGNY: How would you define the Cassegrain sound?
HE: Hmmm. It’s almost undefinable really. I suppose Just techno ultimately!
CGNY: So what drives you (and Alex) to work on a new piece of music? What propels you into the studio?
HE: Well for me, the first idea is the mood, I guess. That’s the starting point. And you just have to make music all the time, until you end up with something alright.
CGNY: Like writing I suppose. Even though you may discard a lot of what you write. 10 pages may yield one good result.
HE: Yes. You spend all day making music. You get used to having ideas in your head and ready to go. Even if you’re not inspired when you start, eventually something will come to the front. Besides ideas, lots of heart too. Without heart its nothing.
CGNY: So you also have some other projects going – tell us about them?
HE: Yes I work with an experimental theater/dance/music group in Salzburg called Toihaus Theater. I'm also composing/co-organizing for Taschenopernfestival in Salzburg as well. I compose a lot on demand too, like for visual artists and choreographers. I'm also going to produce and direct my second dance theater piece this October.
"Besides ideas, lots of heart too. Without heart its nothing"
CGNY: Sounds wonderful and quite a deviation from techno! How did that come about?
HE: I had some ideas and I found some nice people who believe in what I’m doing. I wanted to see if I can do it or not and whether it would be interesting.
CGNY: So what are you expecting from your NYC gig?
HE: No idea! I guess I will see in the moment how it goes.
CGNY: What are you listening to these days when not working on your own music? Do you go out clubbing now that you spend a lot of time in Berlin?
HE: I go to Berghain or Suicide Circus sometimes but that’s about it. I’m not a clubber. Alex is the one who filters all the promos and tells me ones to pay attention to. I like Luke Slater a lot. Marcel Dettmann of course, Surgeon too; all great musicians. Ben Klock´s earlier releases used to be my secret weapon years before he found his fantastic style and became huge. Really into people like Ancient Methods, Regis, Peter van Hoesen, DVS1, Milton Bradley, Cio d´or, Donato Dozzy and the whole Prologue crew.
CGNY: Why do you love techno?
HE: I think for me techno is completely abstract. There is so little race/gender/nationality/color in techno. It’s always constantly evolving. Techno has also very limited forms which gives you endless freedom within very strict frames. If rock music was so innovative I would be into that. If hip hop was innovative I would be making that music. All that music is cool and I do like some of it but techno I feel is moving forward and yet at the same time it is also standing on its feet. Like the music you heard 30 years ago from Detroit – you can still play it in a club and it will still sound so good.
I am a composer and I go to the club and I can make and play music with a pulse in it. The beat, the moving/driving thing with syncopation and straightness at the same time. The groove is actually the syncopation. So why shouldn’t I do something more driving and interesting with the academical classical tools I have?
Huseyin will play Arlenes Grocery - 95 Stanton Street, July 5th. 10pm til late - FREE!
For all other info on Cassegrain - go their page/soundcloud - http://cassegrain.tumblr.com
Also you can check out Huseyins interview and dj set recorded in the Bentwave studio July 2nd here and here. Thanks to Miss Eleanor for these links!