Please tell us about your very unconventional band name and the band’s history.
First, the band name. I was at a time with Cea Serin’s music when I was seaching for a name. Of course I wanted to have a name that represented what the band was about: musically, mentally, lyricaly, etc.. I also noticed how so many bands have names that just sound cool and don’t represent the band at all. I didn’t want to go this route. So instead of picking some words out of the dictionary that sounded good together, I opted to just make up a name and define that name how I see fit. I’m aware that the words “Cea” and “Serin” exist in the world and mean various things but for some reason that name just popped in my head, so I stuck with it. The name essential is a representative to what you hear on our CD, and if you know me as a person you’ll also know what “Cea Serin” means. However, it is not a name that only applies to me. If someone asks you a couple of questions about yourself, basically wanting you to define yourself and your beliefs and such, you would be giving them a taste of your Cea Serin.
Second, the history of the band. I was in a band called Ashen Dawn and we were mainly just a progressive metal band. More in the vein of the Crimson Glory and Fates Warning type stuff. However, we were together for a while and nothing ever materialized with the band. Towards the end of the Ashen Dawn life Keith Warman (who was also in Ashen Dawn with me) went in halfs with me for a Roland D-20 keyboard. I soon learned how to program and sequence songs on there and that was the first stage of Cea Serin. I remember Keith came over one day and I showed him what I was working on for fun. It was what would become “Dead By My Side.” He really liked what he heard although he wasn’t into Death Metal. See, I’ve always been into a variety of different music. I would drive around in my vehicle and sing death metal parts over Dream Theater, and clean vocals over At The Gates, so that was another aspect of what I wanted to do with Cea Serin. I also wanted to get away from the lyrical hangups that I was faced with in Ashen Dawn. Not everyone in the band felt comfortable with my subject matter.
After Keith and I did our 1997 project with Cea Serin, Ashen Dawn just faded out.
I understand you have your own studio. How did you build it and how much does one need to put up for one? What are the most important equipments needed? Also tell us how you recorded the 4 songs on the demo and how long?
Yeah, whenever Ashen Dawn was around we desperately needed a place to practice. My father has this big shop in our back yard where he works on antique cars and hot rods, so we just added our own space to it on the side. It’s quite a nice size studio and it took quite a while to build. We first went about by figuring out a floor plan and what exactly we wanted the studio to look like inside. Then we just went from there. Since my father made his own shop to work on his cars, he helped us build our studio, and as we went along he instructed us on what to do next.
As far as cost goes, I think one member of the band put up 250 dollars and I put up the majority of the rest. I didn’t want it to get to a point where the band would break up (which it did) and there would be a big, “Well, I paid for that wall over there,” thing. So i decided to just fund the vast majority of it. Keith Warman (guitarist for Cea Serin) had a lot of recording equipment on his own so he brought that in on his part. We did go in halfs for a mixing board and stuff like that. When Ashen Dawn did break up we just decided that if any member of the band decided to get another band they could use the practice room. It’s worked out quite well. The drummer still has his kit in there and we’ve been able to help other local artists record. I guess the total cost would go past a couple grand.
The most important instruments to have in a studio I guess would of course be the mixing board and the actual recording instrument itself. You want quality so a little four track isn’t going to cut it. We have a lot of quality equipment. I have an entire Hartke bass rig, Keith has a nice Crate set up, the drums are a decent Mapex series and we have a tube mic for recording vocals that works excellent. I’m quite happy with what we’ve come up with over the years. We recorded the new songs on a Fostex Digital 8-track recorder using a Mackie 16 channel mixer. Not to mention the many effects we have piping through it. Of course we record the drum tracks first, keyboards second, then comes bass, rhythm guitars, lead guitar, and last comes the vocals.
What instruments and gadgets do you use?
I have an Ibanez 6-string, Carvin 6-string fretless bass, Ovation acoustic bass, Peavy 4-stringer, Hartke 2-15/4-10 cabs, 3500 Hartke head, ART Nightbass SE bass effects rack, Samson wireless, I use a Peavy tube microphone, I use to use a Roland D-20 keyboard/sequencer but now I have a kick ass Kurzweil 2500S. A drum module for the drum sounds as well, getting a new one of those.
Keith Warman uses a Westone and Jackson guitar with a Crate set up. He is going to soon change set ups though, probably to Peavy.
Your sound is very much progressive but I hear traces of Swedish Death, Power Metal, and Industrial/Soundtrack music as well. How would you define your music?
I would define Cea Serin as a “Mercurial Metal” band because we don’t really adhere to any particular sound. I just do what I think is cool, translating what I hear in my head and to what is appropriate to the lyrical content. I’ve grown up on country music and also classical. I later got into metal, but still retain that classical influence along with the likes of Yanni and some new age. I love so many different kinds of music and I try to incorporate that appropriately into my music. Latin, folk, jazz, metal, new age, etc. It has to fit well together though. A lot of bands use a lot of different influences and they do it poorly. I strive these days on my song writing and not just how I play bass or sing.
I gather you write all the songs and lyrics. Most of your compositions are very lengthy and well-thought of. How do you create such long and technical pieces?
It starts off in my mind, like a single thought. I’m fortunately at the point now where I can hear something in my head and be able to translate to my instrument without losing quality and compromise. It’s not that I particularly like long songs, it’s just that I don’t want to quit writing a song just cause it has passed the four minute mark. The song is done when it has completely finished what it has to say.
I ponder and slave over a piece of music for a long time. The pieces have to work together and compliment each other. What I’m doing these days is even more complex. Now that I have the Kurzweil sampler I have access to real violins and traditional instruments. I can utilize these instruments to finish off unplayed notes in a guitar chord, contradict themes, and compliment passages. It’s a labor of extreme love for me and if I don’t feel like it is happening with a particular song I will either put it away and come back to it when it is time or scratch the song all together. I have to be 100% satisfied with the song. At the moment at least, things always change.
What are the songs all about? What particular message are you trying to convey to the listeners?
The songs range from many subjects. To tell you the truth I’m not very happy with my past lyrics. I’ll tell you a story for a brief moment. I was coming home from work one day and I was listening to the new Kamelot (which I really like) and I happen to look in my rear view mirror to see the woman behind me. She was crying and wiping her eyes, about what I have no idea. But I’m listening to this song on my CD player about Arabian Knights and here is this woman behind me who is probably getting off work or leaving early because she found out a family member died, or she was fired and is worried how she will support herself, or maybe she got some bad medical news. That’s an example about how I’m starting to grow apart from the “topic” style of writing lyrics to the “personal” style of writing lyrics.
“Into the Vivid Cherishing” is some of my favorite lyrics work because it is so important to life and documents such an important moment in a loved ones life. That song is about my exgirlfriends mother. She had found out that she had pancreatic cancer and had three months to live. Towards the end of her life she was bed ridden and had deteriorated to a point where she couldn’t even move her mouth to close it or eat for herself. My ex girlfriend had stayed awake for three nights because she just knew that she was going to pass away soon and she had to be there for her. For that song the reoccurring image in my mind was an image of her and her mother sitting in a room together. One wants to say everything in the world to the other but can’t find the words to express, the other has everything in the world to say but can’t physically bring herself to it. They wanted to say how it was going to be alright and talk about going on vacations together and remembering Christmas and old birthdays and times when they were together, and those moments have come to this final moment, and no words were necessary. That is life. And that is real.
I don’t want to write songs anymore about cliche topics that have been done to death. I’m sick of seeing metal songs that deal with one thing. In that respect I’m getting sick of metal. There is no particular message I’m trying to send to my listeners. I’m just trying to write and construct pieces of art that deal with moments in life that can be experienced and cherished by others.
How much do you put in the lyrics? Do you think its as important as the music itself?
I put a huge amount in lyrics. There is nothing worse to me than a great band with horrible lyrics. Some people can over look this, but it just gets under my skin. I mean, you work so hard on the music and then you do a half-ass job with the lyrics. The lyrics are the soul and the mind of the song. It’s not equally important to the music for me, it’s more important to the music.
Did the band ever take music lessons? Do you recommend it to other aspiring players? How much do you practice?
Let’s see, I started off with a year of piano and later had to teach myself. I went from piano to the bass guitar where i took over 2 years of lessons. I then went to the voice lessons and took a year from one instructor and then went to school for voice. However, since I use death and black metal vocals in my routine I have to be cautious as to what I’m doing vocally. I can’t really go full tilt with the death and black metal stuff cause I won’t be able to last the night with my clean voice being ripped to shreds. I’ve only recorded one song with all clean vocals and it was for a project with some other band. Cool song too.
As far as practice goes I used to practice ten hours a day. Maybe not that much everyday but it was quite a lot. I didn’t play sports and didn’t have that many friends so I practiced a lot. I believe Keith Warman took several lessons as well, including instructional home videos.
Have any labels shown interest in your craft? Any record deals comin’ up?
We’ve had a couple but that kind of fizzled out for some reason. As soon as I say “send me some paper work to look over” I never get anything in the mail and never hear back from them. For the new material, I have even sent it to labels yet. I just recently started sending letters out asking their permission to send them material. So, we’ll see.
Why do you choose to thread the progressive side of things? Who are your influences?
I remember as a child being into Willie Nelson, and the BeeGees. I also remember being into Barry Manilow. I still like those performers too. I remember my turning point was seeing an Autograph video and really liking what I heard. Here is a stupid story. I remember being over at my grandmothers house cause I was sick from school. I was lying on the floor and I changed the channel to MTV where I saw some hair bands. Then I started to feel better. Then my mother called to see how I was doing where I said, “Mom, I think I found something that makes me feel better…Heavy Metal.” That sounds so lame to tell but it is true. I then heard the Megadeth song from “Metal Years” and was completely in love with it. Megadeth was a big influence on me, as well as Yanni, Sentenced, Anacrusis, Dream Theater, At The Gates, Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan, T-Ride, and Randy Coven. There are so many, and the list is still growing.
I know that Keith was influenced by Journey, Giant, and bands like that. It’s weird, cause he’s not even really into death metal, and not at all into black metal. However, he likes Cea Serin.
What is the musical climate there in Denham Springs?
There is no musical climate in Denham Springs. There is no musical climate in Louisiana. At least I don’t think so. We used to have a couple of cool bands, but not anymore. It sucks here, and we’re thinking about packing up and moving to Sweden or something.
How many times have you played live? Tell us about some of your most significant moments.
Cea Serin has yet to play live. For two years we have been trying to get a label to represent us and get us some high caliber members. We could never find a drummer either. The reason why Cea Serin started off as a duo was because we simply had to do it by ourselves cause we couldn’t find anyone. I chose, however, to now play with only a sequencer because I’m sick of dealing with drummers who constantly say stuff like “that’s not my style” or “I can’t do that.” Screw that, that limits me and my skills.
In a live trio, Its difficult or even next to impossible to play everything at once. Do you hire sessionists or do you use samples?
This is how we are going to do it: We now have a second guitarist for rhythm playing. I will find a bass player to hit the road with us. I will have my sequencer where the drum set would go with some drums by it so I can play certain drum parts. There will be a bass and a third guitar on stands by the sequencer so when I have to play those third guitar parts I will. And when I have to play lead bass I’ll do that as well with the other bassist holding down the low end. That way we can do the dual harmony guitar while having the third guitar backing it up, a real drum set playing with dozens of percussion sounds as well that could only be played by three drummers, and a keyboard sound that is layered like an orchestra. And how close are we to doing this you ask? Well, I need to buy an ORB drive for my keyboard, a vocal processor, find a bassist and that is it. Hopefully it won’t be that difficult.
Modern technology has been kind to me. I’m taking the strange road that Samael, Seraphim Shock, and Nine Inch Nails took. I want to create a different look for a rock band. Not just the normal and trite guitarist/bassists/drummer/singer formula. Cea Serin is going to be a special experience for those that see us.
Progressive has always been labeled by critics as a masturbatory kind of music wherein the musicians are just showing off their chops or how fast they can play or how intricate their songs are. Is this true and can you say that you are a victim of this accusation to a certain degree?
Yes, I do believe this is true. I’m sick of hearing bands trying to top Dream Theater. Sick of the progressive metal singers that are in competition in who can sing higher, what guitarist can top Yngwie, and who is going to be the next Mark Zonder. The music is lagging because of this.
Dream Theater did a smart move by coming out with “Falling Into Infinity” cause they didn’t want to associate themselves with all the other prog metal bands out there trying to out do them. Then when they followed that up with their new album they blew everyone away. I know a lot of people will hate me for saying this but I can’t stand to hear bands that fall in that “technical” metal genre cause it doesn’t even sound like song writing. It sounds like they wrote a ton of licks, and whether they were in the same key or not doesn’t matter, then they just throw it all together and say, “there is our next song.”
There are very few progressive metal bands that I like who can manage to combine technicality with good song writing. I’m willing to say that over 90% of prog metal bands out today aren’t worth a damn to listen to.
Do you have any limits on your music in terms of:
– LENGTH OF SONGS
– LYRICAL CONTENT
– OTHER VOCAL ELEMENTS (FEMALE VOX ETC.)
– INSTRUMENT WISE
No limits, no boundaries. I have stressed in the past that I extremely shy away from using female vocals. It seems like every band and they’re grandmother is using female vocals these days. I get a new CD and not even a track into I’m saying “Oh, a female vocalist part, what an original idea.”
When you’re not involved in any musical agendas, What do you do?
Working on my book, Ashen Dawn. That’s where the band name came from. I practice a lot still, and I’m working a lot as well. I’m working two jobs right now so I can a) pay rent, and the other job to b) buy musical equipment so Cea Serin can hit the road.
Do you live the Rock N’ Roll/Metal lifestyle?
No. I don’t smoke cause it will mess up my voice, if it weren’t for that I’d be smoking cause frankly…it looks damn cool. I don’t care what people say, when you have a cigarette your cool points go up anywhere from 5 to 10 percent. And if you have a cigar and you can pull it off…forget about it. No other kinds of drugs either, except an occasional beer, but that is rare since that stuff will get you fat. I’m not promiscuous either, but that isn’t exactly by choice.
Have you heard the new Dream Theater (Metropolis PT. II)? I believe its a step ahead of the progressive metal ladder. What do you think of it?
I thought it was wonderful. Jordan Rudess is a fantastic addition to the band as well. They are still, in my opinion, the best damn prog metal band out there. They are a great example of a band that can combine technicality and good song writing. I can’t wait to see how many bands will be taking their names from the song titles off that album now.
Can we expect more grandoise and exceptional music from Cea Serin in the near future? What are your plans?
We’re about to record some new stuff that is by far my favorite Cea Serin stuff. Complicated still, but not in terms of playing but as in terms of layering and concept. Very much the Cea Serin, but expect Cea Serin to always change and experiment.
Alright, Thank you very much for the very intelligent interview. Any final comments?
Thank you very much for the opportunity to be in your magazine. Best wishes to you in the future. I want everyone to know they can come hear us at: www.mp3.com/CeaSerin
Our CD is available through there as well. We also have some merchandise as well if anyone is interested. I also want to add to the many metal fans out there to not be leery of other music that is out there, including the mainstream. Go out and seek out new forms of music, there is so much in the world, don’t limit yourself. And don’t take shit from anyone.