Knife-throwing studio partners, animated characters called Choowie, choirboy memories and a whole load of random sounds combine forces in Cass’s latest album. Welcome to the wonderful world of Rogue Audio…
Cass – of Cass & Slide, Cass & Mangan, and now Deadset fame – is clearly a man who can’t have too much going on at once. After releasing the debut Deadset album (alongside Tom Mangan) at the end of 2007, he’s just dropped another artist album, this time as Rogue Audio. Titled Haphazard, it’s a move away from his usual housey territory via a load of musical experiments with the likes of Sam Evans (aka Vandal), Aidan Lavelle from UNKLE, Luke Chable, MC Rizla and Dennis and Jamie from Infusion. Haphazard also marks Cass’ debut on vocals…
But it’s not just about the music. Cass says the album artwork and its cover star, Choowie – created by animator Jon Burgerman – are just as important. In short, Haphazard isn’t your everyday album – fortunately, that lot at Global Underground know good music when they hear it, and they’ve thankfully got right behind Cass. It’s not been an easy journey though – in fact, the album’s been 10 years in the making. Maybe Cass – or is that Rogue Audio – can tell us why…
What’s the thinking behind the new alias? How does this project differ from your others?
The name is one I’ve had on file for about 10 years. A mate of mine who I worked with a long time ago used it as a description when I asked him what an errant noise in a track we were doing was. He said it was a piece of ‘rogue audio’ and I instantly thought it was a really cool term. As for the nature of the project, I always felt the name was perfect for my grand designs of putting together an album that would contain pieces of disparate music that weren’t house based.
Haphazard seems to be a bit more experimental that some of your other work. How far has this album been a chance to try new things?
It’s something I’ve wanted to do for ages, but due to a combination of other musical commitments and general procrastination, it’s taken a little longer than it probably should have. It’s really come together over a long gestation period, with me intentionally absorbing as many influences over time as possible. I constantly saved little sounds, samples, noises, cinematic references, anything I thought was interesting, and then used them as a palette for the tracks on the album whenever I had the chance to work on it. I’ve been lucky that Andy from GU believed in what I was doing and gave me the forum to put it together. I’ve got a lot of respect for that because when I pitched him the idea, the art wasn’t even started and I’d only completed four tracks.
How has it been going down with Cass fans?
I think that considering I’ve never really done anything of this nature before, it’s naturally going to be a surprise for most. But so far it appears a lot of people seem to be really into it – and that’s very gratifying. Having said that, there are also some people who can’t get their headspace into it, but that’s also fine. I’d rather create some kind of intense reaction than just have everyone say it’s only okay. Musical appreciation is one of the most subjective topics, so I’m just happy that a lot of people seem to really like it.
It’s not been that long since the release of the Deadset album. How far did working on that project with Tom influence this one? Or was this album influencing Deadset?
I think the main influence from doing Keys Open Doors with Tom was that he said I should stop faffing and just get busy finishing the Rogue Audio album. I also wanted to make sure the two things sounded nothing alike as the projects are at completely different ends of the electronic spectrum. Deadset is about house music. Rogue Audio is about anything but that.
Tell us a bit about the collaborations on Haphazard. How did they come about?
To be honest, I’ve just been very lucky to work with a whole load of artists I’ve been into. Most of the album was written with Sam Evans, who understands really intuitively what I’ve got in my mind and is then able to translate that in the studio very quickly. That makes working a real pleasure. As for the other combinations, they were a lot of fortunate engineered serendipitous happenings as it were. I either found myself in another country on tour and had some spare time to get into a studio, or was able to get somebody into my studio when they were here in the UK. I’d love to spin you a yarn about a grand master plan, but it would be a lie.
How far did the collaborations shape the sound of the album? Do you think the extra producers helped give the album its wide range of sounds?
Without a doubt. It’s one of the most enjoyable things about collaborating with producers whose audio output you’re really into in the first place. Each one of them brings a little bit of themselves to the album, and I think it’s a much richer and superior piece of work as a result of their varied input.
What sparked your move into vocals?
I just wanted to roll back the years to when I sung Little Donkey on Capital Radio as an eight-year-old choirboy. Call it an itch I’ve wanted to scratch for a long time. Some people believe it should have remained unscratched. Ha!
It seems that the artwork has been an important part of the album. Tell us about your work with Jon.
Jon was absolutely integral to what I wanted to do with the album. I first contacted him about four years ago after seeing his work and just sent him an email telling him I thought it was really cool. I also sent him a few of the tracks I’d already done and explained to him about the project. As I completed tracks I just kept sending him stuff and luckily he was into the vibe. I don’t know what I would have done if he had said no, as there was no fallback plan, no second artistic choice. The nature of his artwork and it’s brilliantly organic randomness inspired the album as much as anything else.
What’s been the most memorable part of this project?
One of the collaborators used to go to circus school when he was a boy. I didn’t believe him, so he decided to show me his skills. He’s a little rusty and quite severely cut my ear with a throwing knife. True story.