DAMIAN C. Of SLEEP CITY CRISIS

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Sleep City Crisis is the solo musical project of Damian C. Which combines different genres of music mainly in the experimental category combining elements of IDM, Glitch, Trip-Hop, Industrial, Ambient, Electronic rock and Prog Rock. The Akashic Records is an upcoming series of instrumental albums/mix tapes based off the book of life or better described as the book that contains all knowledge of human experience and the history of the cosmos that can be assessed through Astral Projection or deep hypnosis. 

The Akashic Records Vol. 1 explores the belief of the occult and the sections explored through astral projection and deep lucid dreams which invokes feelings of fear, anxiety, hopefulness, and euphoria. In this interview, music creator Damian C, steps back and takes a look at how has arrived to this point, and the music business that surrounds him.

1. How long have you been doing what you’re doing and how did you get started in the first place?

Damian C: I’ve been making music since I was 14 and started with the bass but since then I have played in several different local bands and worked on my own music on the side. Originally, Sleep City Crisis (SCC) was going to be a 3 piece band; I was planning on fronting the band and playing the bass. At the time, I was playing bass for a local jam band but I really wanted a side project that would allow me the musical freedom to do whatever I wanted. But, I only knew how to play bass and keyboards and worked on electronic music software’s so, rather than wait to find the other two musicians to finish off SCC I just decided to do it all myself.  And thus my solo experimental electronic project was created.

2. Who were your first musical influences that you can remember?

Damian C: My uncle turned me onto Guns N’ Roses when I was a kid. Then a few years later I got sucked into West Coast Rap and then somehow found myself knee deep in the grunge music scene around the age of 11 or 12. Nirvana was probably the biggest influence in terms of me wanting to learn to play an instrument and then Nine Inch Nails was absolutely my biggest electronic influence.

3. Who do you consider the most influential and successful artist(s) in your genre today and why?

Damian C: That’s kind of tough to answer. Honestly, I’m not even sure what genre I belong to. I guess I’ll have to split that into a two part answer. If we’re talking about experimental electronic music, then Aphex Twin. I’m guessing that when you say “success” you mean music that has reached a lot of people. Aphex Twin did that with the weirdest, most outlandish music out there. People didn’t even consider it music and yet he has appeared on MTV2 in the U.S. and he did it before being an Indie artist was the thing to be. To me, Aphex Twin is the modern version of the Avant-Garde composer, John Cage. When it comes to the other side of electronic music it’s absolutely Nine Inch Nails. Trent Reznor started off making music that was underground industrial and would never have reached the  #1 spot on the Billboard charts. He evolved his sound and the genre as a whole and ended up dominating the charts.  

4. Describe the first piece of musical equipment that you actually purchased with your own money.

Damian C: A Zoom Pedal for my bass guitar when I was 15, I think. My best friend and I volunteered for an experiment that some college students were doing and with the check I got for being a lab rat, I bought the pedal and Final Fantasy 7 for the PS1.

5. Tell us something about your instrument set-up. What are you currently using, and is this your ideal setup, or is there something you’d like to add?

Damian C: On the computer/software side, I was using a black 08 Macbook but just upgraded to a MacBook Pro. It’s loaded with Ableton Live 8 and some really good software synths by Gforce and Native Instruments. As far as physical instruments, I use a Fender jazz Bass hooked up to a Rig Controller 3, M-Audio KeyStation 49e, AKAI MPD18 for playing “finger drums”, AKAI APC 40, RedSound Dark Star analog synthesizer, and a Roland Juno-D. Considering I’m a one man operation, I think I have way more than I need in terms of tools for actually making the music.  I definitely wouldn’t add anything new unless it were to upgrade one of my software synths.  Eventually, I would like to be able to play live shows, and adding a Midi Foot Pedal controller would make a one man setup possible.   

6. Live gigging or studio work, which do you prefer and why?

Damian C: Sleep City Crisis is mainly a studio project. I love studio work because there’s not as much pressure and you can take your sweet ass time doing what you want and perfecting your sound. But I do love performing which is why I’m figuring out a way to deliver a great performance without just standing there and pushing buttons.

7. Which one of your original songs (or albums) do you feel has had the most success and response from fans?

Damian C: Honestly, I prefer not to ask my friends/fans what they thought about my music.  It puts people in an awkward situation if they haven’t heard it, or if my music just isn’t their thing.  I would rather people that like my stuff just let me know when they do.  Having said that, out of all the tracks I’ve released I’ve had the best feedback from 3 Dreams Deep and Keeping the Ghosts Away both from The Akashic Records, Volume 1.

8. On which one of your songs do you think you personally delivered your best/worst performance so far, from a technical point of view?

Damian C: I think Nebulas was probably my best. The Akashic Records Vol. 1 is a conceptual album so it all ties together as one long track. I finished Nebulas in one day and instantly knew that I was going to tie it into Lifting Curses. I was in this weird euphoria when I was composing it. Every time I hear that track, I just get pulled back to that moment. The worst was Scatterbrains, as funny as that may be. I almost tossed it out, but I had some beta listeners that really liked the track and wanted me to keep it. So, I kind of did it for them and just found a way to fit it into the story.

9. How many releases are under the belt of Sleep City Crisis?

Damian C: The Akashic Records Vol. 1 is my first release, but, this is actually the second time I’ve completed it. The original version of The Akashic Records Vol. 1 was done in 08, but I wasn’t confident enough to mix and master it. One day I sat down to listen to it and realized that there was no way I was putting that shit out, it wasn’t where I was musically anymore. So, I deleted the tracks from my music submission accounts, hid the project away in the bowels of my external hard drive, and then just rebooted everything.

10. If you were forced to choose only one, which emotion, more than any other drives you day after day to stay in this tough uncompromising business. Is it joy, anger, desire, passion, hysteria or pride etc., and why?

Damian C: Passion, because when you are passionate it drives you to turn something completely mundane into so much more, something interesting and weird and new. That’s what The Akashic Records Vol. 1 is all about. It’s a conceptual album about personal things that are better left hidden and transformed into art. You’ll more than likely never hear me write a song or an instrumental track that leads you directly to the story I was trying to tell. I would rather turn something I might be upset about into an interesting, twisted story that has an indirect connection to my emotions.

11. What aspect of being an independent artist and the music making process excites you most?

Damian C: Having COMPLETE control over what you want to do.

12. What aspect of being an independent artist and the music making process discourages you most?

Damian C: I don’t get discouraged about the music making process. Not everyone is open to experimental music and the music I make for that matter. But I would much rather make the music I like than the music that everyone wants to listen to.  If I got discouraged every time someone told me they didn’t “get” my music I would have stopped making it a long time ago.  

13. How involved are you in any of the recording, producing, mastering, and marketing processes involved in the Sleep City Crisis project.

Damian C: I do it all; but I’ll admit, mastering is not my strong point. I honestly feel that people that mix their own stuff shouldn’t be involved in the mastering process. That’s why during the mastering I had El Lou come in.  Having an extra set of ears is really important when you are the one that composed, produced and mixed it.  You become completely non-objective after listening to your own work that long.  If it weren’t for El Lou (who also co-produced), then this release wouldn’t have sounded the way it did. I believe we have to wear all hats as indie artists, and I definitely do, but some hats just fit better than others, and making the music is the hat that fits best for me.

14. The best piece of advice in this business you actually followed so far, and one you didn’t, but now know for sure that you should have?

Damian C: The best advice I’ve followed so far is, “not everyone’s going to love your music, but you use your own voice because if you love it someone else will as well.” Yeah, you really shouldn’t give a shit what people think about your music. Make the music that you feel proud of and then make sure it’s the best quality you can put out there. The one I didn’t think was as important before was keeping up with press inquiries to promote your work, but the longer I’ve been in the music industry the more I have learned to really appreciate what press can do for you.  So, I’m making more of an effort now, lol.

15. Tell us the story about the concept in The Akashic Records Vol. 1

Damian C: The Akashic Records Vol. 1 is the first in a series of albums and mixtapes that will each tell a unique story. The name was chosen because of the actual Akashic Records which depict a specific record of human history that can only be accessed through astral projection.  I chose the name because I felt that it gave me a blank slate to tell a completely different story with each volume. As if, much like the astral projections, with each volume I would be telling someone else’s history.

Volume 1 explores lucid dreaming, the occult, and other related subject matters. The story is in a way, my version of a silent film, in that there are no lyrics or vocals. I wanted to give listener’s the option to interpret the story their own way.  The story I envisioned while composing it was about a guy that is seeking something above the spectrum of reality (Everything is Artificial) to solve a problem which is unknown (Dark Matter). So he journeys into a realm that is split between lucid dreaming and astral projection (3 Dreams Deep) and enters a state of euphoria while traveling to an unknown place among the stars (Nebulas). Here he is set to solve his unknown problem (Lifting Curses). His subconscious mind begins to guide him (Dimensions Corrupted) and he gets sucked into a Vortex (Vortex I, and II) that may lead him to the solution he’s been looking for. The Vortex takes him to a lounge (Otherworldly Lounge), but night time comes and the lounge in which he is in disappears and he’s left floating in Nirvana while the rest of the realm he is in falls asleep. Somehow only our hero and one other Ethereal being remain awake and explore the world together (Ran Faster than the Sandman Once Again).

The Ethereal being teaches him how to solve his problem by showing him psionic powers (Scatterbrains). In order to attain his goal he needs to reach deeper into his subconscious to defeat the “ghosts” of his past, and he must cross the darkest and most disruptive parts of his current reality (Dimensions FUCKED!). Instead, he gets sucked into a final Vortex (Vortex III) where the “ghosts” from his past overpower him (Keeping The Ghosts Away). He uses his psionic power against them and blacks out.

When he awakes, he is in limbo. (Wishing Stars) He failed to defeat the “ghosts” and can’t seem to get out. He wishes for a solid solution to his problem, and the more he wishes the brighter the purgatory sky becomes. Until it reveals a beautiful night sky which lead him to a door. The location on the other side is unknown but he is so eager to leave limbo he walks through it.

The door has lead him to The Akashic Records, a book that can only be revealed through astral projection.  His entire journey has been a lesson in embracing the past, learning from the good and bad that is thrown at him and developing his inner strength while interpreting the hidden meaning in life through divination of dreams. His Ethereal friend, who also disguised himself as the “ghost” from his past, was an interpretation of his subconscious (Nothing is Genuine). Once all becomes clear to him he leaves this world and wakes up in real life, satisfied with the outcome of his journey. The main message in The Akashic Records Volume I, is you can’t change the past, just learn from it and become stronger.

16. Do you consider Internet and all the new technology, as fundamental to your music, or indie music in general, or do you think it has only produced a mass of mediocre copycat artists, who flood the web, making it difficult for real talent to emerge?

Damian C: Both. There’s a lot of great talent out there that wouldn’t have emerged without the tools we have right now. At the same time, current pop stars aren’t like pop stars from the 90’s and before. A lot of them don’t really sing and can’t play an instrument. So they rely on auto tune and over produce everything to hide their lack of talent. Their only real talent is stage presence and a bad ass stylist. Having said that, I like to focus on the great artists that have emerged thanks to all the technology we have. Even I use the technology available, but I am the one using them, I don’t let them create for me.  Even though I make electronic music, I still play my instruments live, the only time I use technology to enhance the music is for sound design, or adding a live breakbeat to give some of my drum beats a livelier feel. It really also depends on how you use the tools it’s not the car, it’s the driver.

17. You have moved through many musical genres in your career so far. Why has Experimental electronic music become your principal creative genre as opposed to other musical genres? 

Damian C: I don’t really like labels so I have never really felt that I belonged to one genre or another.  I just did want I enjoyed at the time. I guess I sort of landed on experimental electronic music because it defies labels, its the anti-genre of music. And by experimenting with new sounds that don’t conform to a specific type of music I end up with something that I love.

18. Is going Platinum or winning a Grammy important to you? If you were forced to settle for only one choice, which of the two would you go for and why?

Damian C: If I had to choose between one of the two, I would pick a platinum album. So much of the Grammy’s is politics, and I’m not all about that. But having a platinum album means that a lot of people bought and loved my music despite its avant garde nature.  And that would be kind of cool.

19. What do you think is the biggest barrier you have to face and overcome as an indie artist, in your quest to achieve your goals and attain any commercial success?

Damian C: Since commercial success is not where I see my project going, I would say the biggest hurdle for me to overcome in order to reach my goals, is time.

20. Tell us about your latest projects and ideas that you have set for the future?

Damian C:  Right now, I’m working on my next album; but I’m taking my time with it so it may not even be released until next year or so. I want to improve on a lot of things from my first release, especially in terms of making it more performance friendly by incorporating live looping while keeping the same full sounding production as the previous release. So far, I have a couple of tracks done and about 97 unfinished tracks, lol. It has a different vibe, it’s still weird, but it’s a bit more positive than The Akashic Records Vol.1. The best way I can describe it is, the feeling you get when you leave work on a Friday and it’s a beautiful day. I am still planning on releasing non-album tracks throughout the year.

I’m doing loads of collaborations this year because I kind of want to get away from my solitary music making process in 2012. I tend to be very “method actorish” about concept albums I’m working on and I was really stuck on a lot of things with the first release. So, I’ll be collaborating with a lot of artists this year including metal guitarist Stevie B from The Killing Hours, frontman Seth Riggenbach of the band Signal Down, and more. I’m also doing a visual arts/music project with artist Jeremy Acosta.

Aside from that I will also be working under my individual composer name to score music for short films and get some compositions done for licensing.

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