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There's a big difference between music you just “like” and music that actually is “you”.

Interview: COMA CLUSTER VOID / Monday, 19 December 2016

As you may have noticed, the year is coming to an end. And 2016 will remain, undoubtedly, a quite exceptional year for the metal universe (and beyond). It was for all tastes, in all styles, and often very, very good. 

For me, the biggest slap of the year in extreme metal, the record that has permanently shaken my mind, is Mind Cemeteries by Coma Cluster Void. A metal 3.0 experience: a new band, international (with members from USA, Canada and Germany), and a landmark “brand new sound”.

So when the group members agree to give one of their first interviews for “Shoot Me Again”, it became this …


Hello everybody !  First of all, could you briefly introduce the group?

Strieder: Coma Cluster Void consists of Mike DiSalvo and Austin Taylor on vocals, Chris Burrows on drums, Sylvia Hinz on bass and myself on guitars.


Are you involved in other musical projects? 

Mike: I have another project called Akurion with guys from Neuraxis, Conflux and Cryptopsy (Rob Milley, Tommy McKinnon and Oli Pinard). The material is downtuned yet technical but also lies in the classic death metal arena. Real good stuff!

Strieder: I am a composer and artist, and besides that, I focus completely on CCV.

Chris: I'm the animal that bangs pots and pans (laughs). So far I haven't been told to stop, so I'll keep doing that while everyone else does the actual music part. I also do rhythm stuffs for Detroit metal band, Thoren, and electronic beats for pop/r&b group, Wonderbox.

Sylvia: besides being bass monster @ CCV, I am performing solo, with my ensembles XelmYa ( also involved on Mind Cemeteries ), UMBRATONO, the bewitched project, and conducting and curating, also improvising and recording my own music, like “Windserie”, and working interdisciplinary with other arts. In other words: world domination.

Austin: I have currently two other projects; Dimensionless, atmospheric death, which has become a studio project, and a downtempo project which as of right now is called Selfdestructionist.


How did you meet to form CCV?

Strieder: I've always been drawn to contemporary “classical” music and extreme forms of metal equally, and now it was the right time to start this project ! Me and Sylvia searched a while for the right people for this project: people who are passionate, reliable and able to record from home.

Chris: I met Strieder through mutual friend and Thoren guitarist, Anthony Lipari. Strieder and Sylvia hit me up on Facebook not too long after, resulting in a chat full of Spaceballs memes and a mission to make some discordant, dissonant chaos.

Strieder: And from the beginning, we had Mike in mind for the vocals. Austin we couldn't resist bagging also.

Mike: Strieder and Sylvia approached me online almost simultaneously with a warm welcome to check out some of their material. Of course I was blown away by their abilities and without any hesitation I jumped on.

Austin: When Dimensionless and Anthony Columbus' grindy, down-tuned project Wolcott Falls did a collaboration EP via the internet, Strieder wound up producing it. At some point, Strieder asked me to join Coma Cluster Void.


Who composes and writes the pieces? 

Chris: Strieder is the primary composer and mastermind, but sometimes I lay down a rhythmic idea or drumset phrase that becomes the foundation for a new riff.

Strieder: It usually starts with me writing a song, recording scratch guitars and programming drums. This I send out to all members, and each starts writing and recording their parts. It has become a very streamlined workflow.

Sylvia: well, we are heavily using the internet – sharing ideas, re-inventing stuff, discussing. In the beginning and the end, also in-between, Strieder makes decisions.


I guess it was hard to record "Mind Cemeteries" from so many different places. Technically, how did you manage the production ...? 

Strieder: We work via e-mail and facebook chat, and send big files back and forth. Since everybody plays her/his part her/himself, we don't need to write them down, we just memorize it. Only Chris prefers to notate his drum parts down, typically in Guitar Pro. He's also the only one using a metronome, and both makes sense: He's the pulse of CCV, and we track our guitars and bass onto his final recordings, to build a tight unit onto his natural groove. Nevertheless, having things a bit open until the last moment gives great room for spontaneity. Something I feel many records lack these days.

The final takes are then compiled together by me, for arranging, mixing and mastering. Since I do mixing and mastering for a living, hence having the capabilities, it was natural for me to also create the sound(s) myself.

Chris: I've always been interested in engineering and production. It's something I've been working on for over a decade. Strieder has been a valuable mentor in that department, and I'm fortunate I can continue growing and working on the technical aspects of sound with him (he helped me troubleshoot many recording snags).

Sylvia: I am throwing weird bass lines wherever possible !

Mike: I am set up in my basement to record ...away from the children!

Austin: I yelled at a microphone in my living room and sent the files to Strieder !

Strieder: LOL?


I can't find any credit about the artwork. It seems to be a beautiful allegory of a "Future Eve" rising up and walking through ruins of a desolate world, crossed with Georges Lucas THX 1138 and, of course, with "Gravity" last shots. The survivor of the future?

Austin: Strieder did.

Sylvia: Strieder did.

Strieder: Haha, yes. It's credited in the CD Booklet. The Artwork displays the Iron Empress, which is sung about in the song of the same name, as well as have her say in the Prologue, Interlude and Epilogue. She's also expressed through Sylvia's singing into her double bass recorder (singing and playing at the same time).

But on “Mind Cemeteries”, we showed just one side of her. Her origins and true nature will be the theme of our upcoming EP “Thoughts From A Stone” !


You have created, without a shadow of doubt, a very new sound with Mind Cemeteries. Which of your influences has helped you to develop these sound innovations? 

Strieder: That would be Arnold Schoenberg and the composers of the 2nd Viennese School in general. Their philosophy, as expressed in writings, private mails and so on deeply influenced me. For them, music was an expression of oneself.

Schoenberg said: “Art is the outcry of those who experience the fate of humanity. Those who do not accept it, but look into it. Those who do not blindly operate the engine of 'dark forces', but throw themselves into the spinning wheel to understand its construction.”

Through studying them they tought me to search for my own voice, to express myself. There's a big difference between music you just “like” and music that actually is “you”. There 's no “why” in art, only “because”. Sometimes “because fuck you!” (laughs)

Austin: The raw, trudging dissonant sounds the rest of the group had already been developing were very inspirational to me. Mike and Strieder pushed me in different ways; Spoken word sections, tone requests, matching Mike's sections etc .... By the end of the album, I wasn't even the same vocalist. It became an equally emotionally liberating and technically demanding project.

Mike: Likewise, everyone in this band pushes you to be better, get out of your comfort zone. It's how we grow and it's why this project works on so many levels.

Chris: To name one is nearly an impossible task but an interesting challenge ... Perhaps Virgil Donati. He is a master of utilizing polyrhythms in ways that have a voice of their own. Even though I utilize mathematical concepts to compliment the music, I always think it's important to build upon the base and give each riff a feel of it's own.

Sylvia: And, of course … life itself, all the experienced sounds.


Of course all of you are technicaly fantastic, you play 10 strings guitar like no one else. But I've got the feeling that Chris sounds like the real new paradigm of this new sound. Just an impression?

Chris: Well, I can't say I'm not flattered by your inference! I think this “new sound” is due to Strieder and I having a similar, no-holds barred approach to rhythm as a horizontal landscape (vertical being the harmony, which is certainly just as ambitious). I typically arrange my drums to the riffs Strieder composes, although there are some instances where it is the reverse, which leads to very unique motifs. “The Hollow Gaze” is a pretty awesome example of putting our heads together and bouncing ideas back and forth.

I also have a valuable background in rudimental drumming, which helps me approach the kit using a series of combinations and dynamics, rather than trying to achieve intensity through speed alone. I really felt like this payed off in complimenting Strieder's guitar parts in “Petrified Tears”; consistently switching between subdivisions gave that song a sense of stretching and compression I don't think I've heard too often.

Strieder: This is a concept I called “notated agogics”. Agogic is a term from classical performance practise. It means changing the tempo to emphasize the musical expression. Classical music is a history of theorising and notating things that hundred years before were only oral history. I did the same with agogics; and for Mind Cemeteries, we put this concept into the world of metal.

Austin: Chris stands before time. His thunderous tidal wave of calculated chaos is understood by few gods and even fewer mortals.

Sylvia: … and it's good to know that he is living on a different continent !


The contribution of XelmYa on this album is simply great: prologue, interlude and epilogue. Can we imagine that the future of CCV will be more a fusion between the two entities? 

Austin: “As I walk amongst the sick” is the heaviest track on the album !

Sylvia: Thank you! Hehe, we definitely enjoyed this intense collaboration like hell. Let's wait and see what future holds in her bag ...

Strieder: Yes, we plan some convergences on the upcoming EP, but just because we have the possibilites and the skills to do something doesn't necessary mean we do it (laughs) We don't like to do the obvious or the expected. And there has to be a very strong motivation (justification) to do something. Stay tuned !


You both (Sylvia and Strieder) seem to have an interesting musical background. Could you explain to us how the concept of “dissonance” (which in 19th music, for example, needed a “resolution”), is often obsolete in metal music? 

Strieder: I never agreed with that anyway. In western-european music, we have two consonant chords seen as the pinnacle of human achievements. Everything else is seen as dissonance and as something to spice consonant music up, sometimes more, sometimes less.

Contrary to those two chords, we have unlimited other chords, and they to each other can serve as resolution or (increase of) tension as well or even more.

Other cultures don't create music based on these concepts either. They know them, but it's not interesting for them. For example, the Baganda Musicians in East Africa tune octaves on their instruments at first perfect, but then detune them. They prefer to sharpen other intervals, too. They know the concept, they hear it ... but they decided against it because for them, it's not interesting.

The world is full of musical approaches that are completely differnet to those of the western-european world. None of them is less valid.

I am not interested in conventions of a culture I was accidentally born into – I decide what I want and what I don't want! (laughs)

Sylvia: I do not tend to think in harmonic lines and “antique” ideas of horizontal chord systems and satellisation. If the vertical dissonance is conclusive and forcing, the piece is developing horizontal as well. But it's more the general idea of sound, something also displaying e.g. non-sugary emotions, not about consonance vs. dissonance.

Surprising the listeners, catching them off-guard, giving ideas regarding hope or solace to them, creating a unique place for the soul ... that's more the things we are after.

On the other hand, studying music which was written earlier than today, helps me to always question and adjust my ideas.

Strieder: The best example on the album is again the song “Petrified Tears”: It features the softest as well the hardest dissonances of all songs on the Album. We hear soft dissonances imaging feelings of tenderness, nostalgia and loss and in the middle this all culminates in the most harsh dissonances imaging anger, outrage and complete despair. Under the hood, it's based on very few motifs that you can recognize, in transformations, in each riff.


Do you have any touring plans? Have you ever played together on stage? 

Chris: I would love to play live with this band. The energy and atmosphere would be amazing in a live context ! I would also love to play a drum clinic including CCV material if anyone would have me.

Sylvia: no, not really, who knows ?


Finally, can we expect new material soon? 

Strieder: We are working on the next release already, which will be the mentioned EP “Thoughts From A Stone” We're also already collecting lots of ideas for the next LP, too!


Thank you all and very soon for a second musical chapter that we hope is just as phenomenal as the first!


Author : Pascal