Join Rodney as
he shares stories from his distinguished music career – his fascination with
spirituality, cyberpunk innovation, forming The Cassandra Complex band in the
80’s to his ever-evolving industrial, goth rock and synth-pop style. He will
also discuss the inspiration behind critically acclaimed voudou inspired album
The legendary solo album by The Cassandra Complex singer, recorded in 1995 in Hamburg, Germany, and also featuring Patricia Nigiani (Project Pitchfork, Aurora Sutra) and Marcus Giltjes (Pink Turns Blue, Girls Under Glass).
This is a completely remastered version of this magical album based on voudou themes, and is a must-listen for all fans of The Cassandra Complex!
Available now on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, and all other major digital streaming and download sites.
Remastered versions of classic studio recordings from 2000 get first streaming releases
20 years ago (has it really been that long?) influential goth-electro-industrial-cyberpunk band The Cassandra Complex released Wetware. Now it is finally being made available again in fully remastered and resequenced versions, spread over three releases.
The songs were originally written in 1999 in Los Angeles and Hamburg, and were seen by the band as the culmination of the work they had been doing in the previous 15 years of near-constant recording and touring.
“From the moment I started The Cassandra Complex we had basically never stopped working on music – when we weren’t touring we were in our studio in Hamburg doing production and remix work for other European alternative bands. I literally lived in our studio.” says the band’s lead singer and producer Rodney Orpheus. “We had gotten fairly burnt out by that stage which left us wondering where to go next.”
With the band lineup down to just Rodney and guitarist Volker Zacharias, Rodney was offered a job with music software company Steinberg in Los Angeles, and things looked bleak for the band’s future.
“Getting out to LA forced me to look at our past from a new perspective. I started listening to our older records in order to rediscover what had made them so good in the first place. I had also been doing some work with Kraftwerk, which got me involved with their interest in the Man Machine interface. I realised that was something also intrinsic to what we were doing with The Cassandra Complex – the synergy between very rigorous and computerised rhythms and human improvisation and emotion. That got me thinking about computer systems, where you have Hardware, which is the chips in the machine; Software, which is the information running on it; and Wetware, which is the biological operator controlling and directing the whole thing i.e. us. That became the working basis and title for what we wanted to do next.”
Working on the record meant frequent trips back to Hamburg where Rodney and Volker would feverishly work on finishing songs in the limited time they had together. The final mix was then completed back in LA.
For this new version, not only has the recording been fully remastered, it’s now being presented in three linked releases.
First up was the 3 track Twice As Good EP on November 22, featuring legendary electronic acts Front 242 and Apoptygma Berzerk, who were now both called in to do remixes.
“I’ve long been an admirer of Stephan (Groth) of Apop and his ability to combine rock and dance elements in a song,” says Rodney “I am also a huge fan of the guys from F242. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to work with them.”
December saw the release of the other songs from Wetware split into two parts: Hardware and Software.
Rodney explains: “When we were originally working on Wetware we ended up writing so many great songs that we couldn’t fit them all into one 70 minute CD, so we had to leave some songs off. When it came time to remaster it for streaming I realised that I could now add in the missing stuff, and split the whole thing into two albums instead. So now Hardware contains the harder, faster, more in-your-face songs, while Software contains the longer, slower, more psychedelic pieces. Listening to each one individually is a much more coherent experience – it’s the two halves that make up the totality of The Cassandra Complex.”
WonderWorld is a song about the English Midlands town of Corby. For most of the 20th century it was a classic British industrial town, built around a thriving steelworks, until Conservative Party government policies shut it down, leaving the town with no money and a huge unemployment problem. Then some corporate businessmen came along and promised to rebuild the town based around a gigantic theme park called WonderWorld. They received millions of pounds of funding, got given an enormous plot of land, and told everyone it was going to be the British version of Disneyland.
There were due to be 13 “worlds” including Story Village for children, Computer Park which allowed visitors to see the latest technology and Safety Place which was a bizarrely-themed world featuring safe play.
There was Energy World, which was described as an Omnimax Cinema and Air Space, which gave people the chance to experience the latest space technology.
There was also due to be 15,000 car parking spaces, 120 acres of housing and 2,000 hotel rooms. On the same site was supposed to be a 10,000-seat sports stadium and a 4,200-seat concert hall with a 30,000 capacity open-air theatre.
Of course we realised that this was a gigantic con, but the local council didn’t, and they kept the project going until 1990, even though no work was ever done – 4 years after we released this song! The only thing they ever built was a big sign in front of a huge empty field, and a (fake) hut for the workmen who never came. They spent years telling everyone what an incredible new exciting thing this was going to be, but instead just stole what little money the working people had left and built nothing at all.
We thought this was a perfect metaphor for Britain under the Thatcher government, and so the song Wonderworld came about.
I first heard the prototype of March when I did my “famous” interview with the band in early 1984. It sounded quite different then. It was slower and had bass guitar on it but no keyboards. The sequencer was less defined. But all Rodney’s words and the beat were there and they have never changed. I was very intrigued.
When I joined the band we changed the music quite significantly. Paul played keyboard rather than bass. My guitar was upfront and aggressive. It was faster and harder.
The single version was the sound of us learning to make a record and the video we made shows how we were then. It was filmed in the cellar where we recorded the single. More rock and roll than the original version but looking at the future.
When we got to record it again for Grenade we set the live band up in the studio and blasted it out as we would onstage. You can hear the chaos that could be witnessed at our gigs. The sequencer now angrily and remorselessly hammering away and John’s sax adding wild spice to the recipe. Finally attaining a kind of freedom.
Since we have just released the newly remastered version of our first album Grenade, we thought it might be interesting for people to hear the background of how the record came about.
So let’s start with the first song: March.
Rodney: “This was the first song I ever wrote for The Cassandra Complex. I had just moved to Leeds, and had built a little studio in a spare room at my house at 4 Ashville Avenue in Leeds 6. One day while I was in there messing around with my EDP Wasp synthesiser and Spider sequencer I came up with the basic sequence that forms the backbone of the song. As it was playing I heard lots of men start shouting and chanting outside in the street. I looked out of the window and saw a huge crowd marching past with banners. It was a Right to Work march, where unemployed people were marching to London to protest about not having jobs.
As someone interested in technology and science fiction I found it very odd, and very short-sighted, to be protesting about needing to “work” and get paid by menial wages by some capitalist industry. Surely they should be protesting about not needing to work? And that became the inspiration for the lyrics of the song.
I wanted to write something really simplistic and direct that expressed the shortsightedness of this working class mentality that couldn’t see or reach for anything more than going to work at a grinding job every day and then coming home and watching TV every evening. And that considered that to be “freedom”.
In the end, the song became something like an extended meditation on the nature of freedom itself, and what it meant to be “free” – and freedom from what?
I started singing the lyrics and playing guitar along with them. I knew instantly that I had hit upon the formula for what I wanted The Cassandra Complex to be: an intense, robotic rhythm track, powerful lyrics, and distorted guitar over the top. And that was the start…”
Many months later we recorded the first, very minimal version of the song and released it as our first 12″ EP on Complex Records. It got great reviews and sold quite well, but it still wasn’t as powerful as we wanted it to be. So when it came time to record Grenade we decided to take the opportunity to re-record it and throw everything we had into it. And that’s how it became the first song on the first album.
The full 70 minute show from Wave Gothic Treff is now on YouTube, complete with sound recorded directly from the mixing desk, so it sounds pretty damn good. Only one static camera positioned on the balcony, but at least you get to see the whole show from there 🙂
So for you guys who couldn’t make it to any of the shows this summer, at least now you get the next best thing!