THE CASSANDRA COMPLEX

by Daniel Hinds

Rodney Orpheus began The Cassandra Complex in Leeds, England in the early 80s. Combining guitars, electronics, drum machines and unique vocals, the band pioneered a lot of the elements currently popular in the industrial scene, with albums like Grenade, Theomania and Cyberpunx. The lyrics were particularly sharp, with a genuineness and humor seriously lacking in most bands.

Just this past year, Rodney has branched out with a new project called Sun God, a total departure from the Cassandra sound, with the focus on rhythm and feeling more than anything else.

Now, it is 1996 and Rodney is begining to put together the latest Cassandra Complex album, called Terminal.

How did you come up with the idea for the Terminal project?
RODNEY ORPHEUS: I've been on the net for years and years and years, unlike most people, and I wanted to do somthing that was based on the internet. One of the things that has been important for the Cassandra Complex right from the very beginning is that we like our music to be a two-way process. When we play live, we're always talking to the audience. I don't believe you can do any form of art in a vaccuum, that it's only a complete form of work when people actually relate to it. In a sense, that was the obvious idea, to take it right to the people so they can contribute to the music themselves. Before, there was no real method of doing that, but using the net, it is easy because people are always mailing me and logging onto the pages all the time anyway. I want to make an album that is as universal in scope as I could make it. By getting people to send in snippets that mean something to them about what's going on, we can get a wider world view. I've already had a few samples from people and they're pretty interesting, actually, so we'll see what happens.

How do the last two albums compare to the earlier ones? I have not been able to locate copies of either of them here in the States.
RO: The War Against Sleep was kind of odd, it was really romantic, it's all love songs and stuff. A lot of people really like it and a lot of people really dislike it, so it's kind of contentious. It's most melodic and song-oriented one anyway. Sex And Death is the complete opposite, it's just total noise terror, like Ministry on really bad acid. Most of the people in the States really like that one because there's lots and lots of guitars. We got kind of sick of people coming along and going, 'Wow! Look at these great new bands that use synthesizers and drum machines, but they've got all these great noisy guitars over the top.' We're kind of scratching our heads going, 'Hang on.. We did that over ten years ago!' So we thought, maybe we better sit down and show people how it is done. It's an ultra-noisy album. That's why it is called Sex And Death, too, because it's like, what are the most basic things that we can think of? Sex and death.

You did a brief US tour last year, is that correct?
RO: Ummm, winter before last winter, actually. We did a couple of gigs in New York, we did San Francisco, Minneapolis, Vancouver, a couple of shows in Edmonton, and Phoenix. It was a good tour. Like most independent gigs in America, there weren't exactly a hell of a lot of people there, not compared to what we get over here, but that's not the point. We had some great shows and I'm still getting e-mail over a year later from people going, 'Wow, that was the greatest show I ever saw.' The show in Minneapolis was amazing and in San Francisco, we played at the House of Usher and that was just fabulous. At Christmas, we did the Canadian Space Center (in Edmonton) for two nights with a half a million dollars worth of lasers and that was kind of interesting. (laughs) I've been a space travel nut since I was a kid, so having a space center to myself for two days was a pretty cool Christmas present. I'd like to get back again in the Fall, if things work out.

On your web-page, you talk about the difficulty you had getting the concept behind Cyberpunx past the record label (Play It Again Sam).
RO: Ohhhh...(sighs) The used to be one of the best labels in the world, but a few years ago they decided they wanted to become economically viable in the sense of being a major label and started signing all these scrutty, indie-pop bands, then they started signing heavy metal bands, god help us. When we first joined PIAS, it was us, Front 242, Borghesia, The Young Gods, a;GRUMH...it was just fabulous being on this label, all my favorite bands. It was really exciting, the whole atmosphere, because everyone knew we were creating something new and special. But then the guys at PIAS got married, had kids, got mortgages, cars, and maybe they weren't too interested in saving the world anymore and they were more interested in feeding their children. So basically, anyone on PIAS that was any good has left in the last two or three years. We left, Legendary Pink Dots have left, Borghesia left, I think maybe Manifesto have left now as well.

It's sad because it seems like, if they had stuck with their bands, they would have achieved what they wanted anyway.
RO: Exactly, that's what's ironic. If they had stuck with what they had, and really went for it, they would have done okay. I don't want to bring them down too much, because they're really good guys and they really did a hell of a lot, but after a while they just got tired of having to keep up the pressure in the face of an industry that didn't care. I think their biggest problem was, and you'll love this one, the day they turned down Nine Inch Nails for not being commercial enough. That may have been a small mistake. We're not supposed to talk about that one. (laughs)

Let me ask you about what inspired some of the lyrics over the years. The first thing I ever bought by The Cassandra Complex was the Gunship single.
RO: Still I think our best single ever. I love that record. That came about when I was reading a magazine while watching Apocolypse Now. The magazine had an aritcle in it about a woman who had been raped and she was talking about how it felt and how she coped with it and so on. She was saying that at the moment that she was penetrated, she looked in her rapist's eyes and she realized that she was stronger than he was because she didn't have that same desperation and that same inablitiy to cope with things that he did, that had driven him to do what he did, and that she would always be stronger than he was no matter what he did to her. That got me really thinking about the whole Vietname war situation and those two things got entatngled in my head. In a sense it was a similar situation. I mean, Vietnam was this poor defenseless little country that got totally raped by American military interests, but it still managed to defeat its enemy simply by the fact that it was there. It didn't actually have to do anything other than be what it was. That's why the lyrics don't make any sense at all until you know that both those stories are entwined together. I was also interested in reverse colonialism, if you like. If you go to England now, for example, the most popular kind of restaurants Indian restaurants or Chinese, because of course, England colonized India and China and of course America is filled with Mexican restaurants, Vietnamese and Korean shops, things like that.. I was kind of interested in this idea that the subjugated races come back and end up taking back what has been taken from them, so that kind of got mixed in it as well. In the song, the person who gets killed ends up possessing the body of the person who killed them.

Okay, how about "Let's Go To Europe."
RO: "Let's Go To Europe." (laughs) I wrote that in Nice when we were doing a video "Penny Century" single and it was full of American students and they were all carrying these stupid, little red books. And I thought, what are these guys? Are they all Christians or something? And then I got close to someone and saw that it was called 'Let's Go To Europe' and I was just flabbergasted by this concept. I met a couple of American tourists in a club and one of them had this book and gave me a copy. And I was just amazed at this book, it was saying things like, 'Ok, seventeenth day: we take the train to blah-blah-blah-land, have a look at this and..' It was basically how to see the entirety of Euorpe in one summer and I thought, well this is just the ultimate in capitalist, imperialist, you know that Euorpe has several thousand years of history and millinos of people, but I'm going to do it in a summer and understand everything about it. Having said that, though, I do adore Americans and I really enjoy being there. I love California.

Same album, "Nice Work If You Can Get It."
RO: That's an interesting song because I was doing an interview on German radio and, on the way over I was in the car and had the radio on and it was some German band playing really bad American AOR music. The night before I was in a bar where a bunch of Germans were playing blues. And all of these Germans were obviously like incredibly middle-class, they had really expensive instruments, had obviously been on social security most of their lives or been students for six years or whatever, and they were like middle-aged boring old men playing blues. A few weeks before I had been in New York and saw an old, blind black guy on a street corner playing blues and this guy really had something to sing about and it was one of the most moving things I ever saw. So, I was doing the interview and was saying how I don't understand why so many German bands are trying to re-careate Americana. You have these Germans walking around in Levis and cowboy boots and it's like, what the fuck does that got to do with Germans? Why do thse people all sing about driving down Route 66? Why does no one ever sing about standing on the autobahn outside of Stuttgart? And I thought to myself, hang on, I've never written a song about standing on the autobahn outside Stuttgart either! And I wrote it in the car on the way back to the hotel.

Sun God is quite different from The Cassandra Complex.
RO: Yes, that was intentional. I had the Cassandra Complex for ten years and that was the only band I ever did. When I wanted to do something else, I decided to something that was radically different. So, that's why it's all live drums, no bass and no guitar, everything the Cassandra Complex isn't. I always wanted to music that was really spiritual as well, really religious, and that's really hard to do without coming across as a total moron. But to me, music, espeically rock 'n' roll music, has a really strong shamanic function in our society, about the only thing that does anymore except for maybe doctors. I wanted to really follow that aspect of it. And I really wanted to do something that was totally fucking weird. (laughs) When I first started working on it, up until about halfway through the album, I was thinking, 'god, nobody is ever gonna want to listen to this.' And I really didn't even know what I thought of it myself. I can write a basic Cassandra Complex song in fifteen minutes, standing on my head, because after ten years, you kind of figure out how it is done. But with Sun God, there were no verse/choruses, no chords, basically no music as such. It's mainly just percussion and samples, there's hardly any tuned instruments at all. So I had to radically re-think how I was writing things, which was a great exercise. By about halfway through, we realized we were doing something really, really speical. We still didn't know if people would like it or not, but thought so. But people really seem to like it and the live shows are amazing, because we do the full voodoo ritual, lots of flaming torches on stage. No artificial lighting, just bowls of flaming petroleum. We all get possessed on stage.

I must buy longer tapes! Rodney and talked for a while longer and he is one of the most genuine and personable people I've had the pleasure of interviewing. If you'd like to learn more or contribute to the next Cassandra Complex album, check out their web-page.

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