Alessandro Ballini: “Hi J, I know you’re already working on the new Cea Serin’s album, but we’re here to talk about your extraordinary debut, so let’s start from an unusual starting point, the way your music changed after recording Where Memories Combine.”
A.B.: “Would you like to list the main emotion you would like to express for each of the 9 tracks on the disc?”
Well, first let me say that the last 2-and-a-half tracks are bonus tracks. I guess you got the advance of the limited edition. Those last 2 and a half songs (“Sudden Faith pt. 1 and 2,” and “An Evening at the Suicide Cafe”) were thrown in there for the limited edition release. “Sudden Faith” was a song from the Chiaroscuro album and “An Evening At the Suicide Cafe” was something that I was working on for a Cea Serin II thing.
The first 4 tracks go together. There is an intro and then a trilogy of songs. The intro, which is called “A Fracture in Forever” is like a setup, if you will. I want certain songs to have an intro to draw the listeners mind into that specific frame of thought. Since each song is its own entity, I don’t want listeners to turn on a Cea Serin song right after hearing something vastly different and not be able to relate. So, “A Fracture in Forever” is meant to lull you into our world and prepare you for what is to come. It acts as an introduction to the non-linear motion of the songs message.
To save some space here I’ll just touch briefly on some of the subtleties of the next three songs. “The Surface of All Things” is a unit which includes tracks 1 through track 4. The lyrics can be both interpreted as from the point of view of an individual or a mass of people. Each song represents either an Id, an Ego, or a Superego (for the individual) and also a moment in time (for the masses). Track 2 is in medius res and represents the main psychological impulses of both the masses and individual. The main emotion for this song would be best summed up as a Moment of Realization.”
Track 3 is “Meridian’s Tear” and is the self-esteem or how the self reacts to society. It is the coming of the storm and the beginning of sorts. The main emotion for this song would be Regret and Overwhelment of the things that rest in the back of your mind that you know should be brought to the front but are neglected for one reason or another.
Track 4 is “The End of Silence” and is the conscious reacting to social rules. This is the end, the aftereffect and the culmination of all that has been stirring. It is the death of everything and the pain beyond stinging or heat, but the ache of acknowledgment, helplessness, and the affirmation of the neglected. It is a nihilistic take on life’s upfront simplicity in an indirect and evasive manner.
Track 5 is “Scripted Suffering: Within and Without.” This was the last song I wrote for the album and it is important to note that it is not based on one person or one experience. It is, however, a personal account of the way I make my decisions. I’m the type of person that will always choose the hard way. I put myself through hardships and make decisions based on how their outcomes will polish me. I insist on torturing myself in what I do and how I live because once I come out of each situation I’m a stronger man. Most people take the easy way out, I’ll always choose the most difficult. I don’t like asking for help and swallow the pain and stress and turn it into fuel. I might have to say that the emotion is Tempermental: much like someone may temper a piece of metal to make it stronger and more durable, and much like someone’s temperament is an adjective for who they are.
Track 6 is “Into The Vivid Cherishing.” The emotion for this song is Complexity of dire situations, Awe of an impeding circumstance, Early Grief, Dedication.
A.B.: “Could you explain to the readers that don’t know your album the use you make of vocals? And I also mean the fact you sometimes replace them with samples.”
Well, I use a variety of vocals styles but I don’t really consider that to be a gimmick and I don’t really think of it as black metal, death metal, prog metal, goth metal, etc etc. style singing. I learned a long time ago from singers outside of metal that the most important lesson is to know how to serve a song. I think metal is a dynamic form of music that would necessarily require for singers to fully use their voices to their extent. I have a violent song and that would require me to sing violently. I may have a lush moment that would require a very melodic singing style. It has always come naturally for me to sing this way. I remember when I was honing my skills, I would sing along to my favorite bands and I would weave in styles that I thought were appropriate for the moment but weren’t actually present on the recording.
As far as samples go, I don’t really use them in place of vocals but I use them as a way to create drama and space. There is a lot of instrumentation so to fill those gaps where there is no singing I will place a sample that is pertinent to the theme and idea of the song’s moment. This sample can be from a movie, a book, a poem, or my own text-to-speech.
I think of it like when you watch a movie and the actors are conversing while the soundtrack begins to swell in the background. It’s an important aspect to our sound I think and I always have my eyes and ears open to relevant lines.
A.B.: “How was your band born? Do you consider Cea Serin a band or what?”
Cea Serin was born out of the frustration I was going through with another band. I wanted to do my own stuff and just write for fun and get away from the democracy of a band setting. So that’s how the first stuff came about. One day I showed Keith (cea serin guitarist) some new material and he was really into it, despite that it wasn’t appropriate for our band, Ashen Dawn, at the time. We decided to do a project at the time for fun and that was what became Cea Serin. Cea Serin is a testament to accomplishing your goals when you avoid the rules and avoid doing what other people think you should do.
Of course I consider Cea Serin a band. We have regular rehearsals now and, at times, have a full line-up. At one point we had a full time drummer, separate bass player, myself just singing and playing keys, and the current Cea Serin guitarists. We’ve played live shows as well. However, when it comes to recording I don’t see why I should hire a drummer, a keyboardist, singer, and bassest. I can do that stuff myself and Keith can do all the guitar work and also does a fantastic job engineering and producing. Our unorthodox methods work well for us.
A.B.: “Please spend some words on the other arts you’re interested in and the way they influence your music or even mix with it.”
I have a deep love for the literary arts. I love writing and researching. My next goal in life is to be either an author or a comedian…which ever comes first. I love the artistic structure and well placed timing in stand-up comedy. It’s a very hard profession and requires great delivery and verbal skills, two of which, or my weak points. I’ve been working on a book for a while here and there but my time has usually been mostly spent in music.
As far as how things bleed into music – I would have to say that the forerunner in crossing over would be my philosophical and theoretical leanings on life. The way I perceive things and the way I judge things plays a large role on my music writing. For example, when I hear a band do what’s called a “build up” in a song, I think that that is just a weakness or a crutch that this band relies on to get them out of a corner they’ve painted themselves into. I use a variety of vocals because I think most singers are scared of how they will be perceived if they scream or have flaws in their voice. I embrace that and exploit it.
Obviously my literary love has seeped into my love of writing lyrics. I should also mention my love for applied mathematical aesthetics. For instance, the use of Phi to help construct song structure. Phi is what is called “the golden ratio” and has been used by many painters and architects to construct beautiful designs. This can also be utilized in music.
I also love performance art such as tap dancing, interpretive dance, and other forms of non traditional performance art, i.e. theatre of cruelty, and the avant garde
A.B.: “Your band is definitely unusual and I imagine you won’t like to label it as “prog metal”… so please tell us how you feel respect to the actual music, metal and prog in particular, scene.”
Correct, i don’t consider Cea Serin to be a “prog” metal band in the sense of the association that the word “prog” brings to mind. I could talk about how most prog bands aren’t progressive at all, not moving forward but staying in one spot, if not regressing at all. And I could discuss when a truly “progressive” band comes around they are not only shunned but ridiculed. But I want waste time in saying things that haven’t already been said a million times in discussion rooms all around.
I consider Cea Serin to be a “mercurial” metal band. Meaning, we can shift from style to style freely without worrying about audience reaction. If I feel like releasing an all piano album one day I should have no heat coming my way from disappointed fans. This is something they should come to expect. The new material for the next CD is different already. There is a Cea Serin signature sound but there will be evolution from year to year.
As far as my feelings on any particular scene right now, I’ll be honest with you, I don’t associate any more. After seeing professional musicians like Yanni perform and how they take things seriously and deliver a great show filled with emotion and vigor, I just can’t see metal bands anymore. I remember going to a “prog” metal festival and being disgusted how the bands acted both onstage and off. Bands that I thought were all serious about music and guys who I thought might be deep individuals were spending their time getting drunk, watching strippers, or making themselves and their band look ridiculous.
So no, I’m not happy with the current scene at all. I’m more inclined to the avante garde, the contemporary instrumentalists, and classical crossover, the underground and the bastards of the deaf.
A.B.: “Thanks for your answers, please close the circle promising something for your new album!”
I know that every time someone goes out to buy a new album by a new band, they are hopeful that this new CD will be what they are looking for. I know that I’m always looking for that new band that will blow me away and change my life. I’m always looking for that next CD that will always be in my CD case and will have a duplicate copy on my CD shelf, still in its wrapping, for use one day in the future when the current copy won’t play anymore. I’m hoping that our debut album will be just that album for some people. I know that the time, energy, thought, and love that we put into this effort will pay off when people out there actually get their ears around something unique and not something derivative.
But we seek no validation for what we do. I don’t care about the reviews or the accolades. I just want to give people something they can cherish for the rest of their lives. I know that this is something I can always hold on to and look at, listen to, and embrace for decades to come. And I think that if I can wholeheartedly avow that, than others out there will see things the same way. Hopefully the memories and times we all put into this venture will combine with others around the world.