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
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
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
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.