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Interviews of Prog

D'Angelo & Cushma
Frank D'Angelo & Linda Cushma

VM: Hello Frank, Hello Linda! Oxygene 8 is a very young band, and your first CD "Poetica" was released only about a year ago. However, this is probably the best debut album I've heard last year, and I am so impressed with it that I'd like to learn more of your work on it and your creation in general. Let's start from the very beginning:-). Please tell me about yourselves and your first listening experiences.

LC: First, we'd like to thank you for your support and interest in our music. My first listening experiences included "basement vinyl." My father was a musician and dancer; he would play big band music: Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Al Jolson, Louis Armstrong; we would dance together for hours downstairs in the basement sometimes my Dad would pick up his clarinet or harmonica and play along to these records. I also have a background in dance and have performed and choreographed to modern, jazz and classical works, and this has undoubtedly had an influence on my playing and composing.

FD: I grew up on The Beatles, and my parents were always playing varied music: 60's pop and rock, jazz, classical, rhythm and blues, Motown soul music. I grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana and that city has a rich musical tradition. I heard jazz, Dixieland, Cajun music, etc.

VM: What bands and performers have made the strongest impression on you and, thus, formed your musical tastes?

FD: When I first started playing guitar as a teenager, I fell in love with the aggressive sound of rock music, electric guitar in particular; Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Led Zeppelin, Frank Zappa. From there I discovered progressive rock, and I went crazy for this music. Gentle Giant, King Crimson, Yes, Genesis, Gong, Jethro Tull, UK, Brand X, Focus: these were the bands that influenced me the most. I also began to listen to Jazz-Rock / Jazz-Fusion: bands like The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Tony Williams Lifetime, Return To Forever, and Weather Report.

LC: To be honest, Frank is the person that has influenced me greatly because of his playing style and he has introduced me to many artists I wasn't aware of before. Recently, I've been listening to King Crimson, Gordian Knot, Attention Deficit, Cabezas de Cera, Liquid Tension Experiment, Tony Levin, Trey Gunn.

VM: Did you participate in any professional bands or projects before Oxygene 8?

LC: It might be of interest that I once played bass in a band with Tim Alexander before he joined Primus. Tim and I also recorded a CD project together years ago. The music is very different from Oxygene8.

FD: No, I played in lots of semi-progressive unknown bands!

VM: What were the circumstances that led to the formation of the band?

FD: Linda and I have a long history of playing together in various bands. About five years ago we decided to once again put a new band together, and the result was Oxygene8.

LC: We've played in various musical projects and have always enjoyed playing and creating music together. When there was an opportunity to play with Frank again, I was very excited to be a part of another project with him.

VM: Why did you name the band Oxygene 8? Why not just Oxygen, and why 8?

LC & FD: The name has a very significant and personal meaning to us. During the recording of this CD, Linda's brother, Larry, was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and had a very difficult breathing. Oxygen took on a whole new significance. By adding the "8" to "oxygen," the pronunciation became "oxygenate," a play on words. In English, "oxygenate" means to infuse with oxygen. It was symbolic, a tribute, to Larry's struggle to get enough air. There were already a few products with the name "Oxygen8" with a copyright on the name, and we chose to add an "e" on the end to make it the French spelling and we liked the sound of it.

VM: How were you able to engage drummer Tim Alexander (of Primus fame) to become a member of the band, which was going to record its very first album?

FD: We did not have a permanent drummer, and Tim and Linda had played together before and had been friends for a long time. She made the arrangements!

LC: Tim has always been a gracious friend and would always be willing to lend a hand if he was able to. He was our studio drummer, not really a band member, and was very instrumental to the creation of "Poetica."

VM: Please tell me of the process of creating "Poetica".

FD & LC: Linda and I have always worked very well together, and it has always been a highly creative and rewarding musical partnership. When we decided to start Oxygene8, we began writing new material immediately. We both had ideas and we began working on compositions. I acquired a midi electric guitar, and she a midi Chapman Stick. We also acquired looping devices and guitar synthesizers at this time. This led us into lots of new ideas, sounds and textures. It really stimulated us to become even more experimental. We sometimes had bits and pieces of melodies, chord progressions, sometimes, ideas from loops. Other times musical passages appeared while we played, improvised.

VM: Both of you play MIDI instruments: MIDI Chapman Stick and MIDI Klein electric guitar. Please tell us briefly of each of them. What are the instruments you use via MIDI?

FD: I now play Brian Moore Guitars (MIDI) exclusively! I switched to them last year as they were the perfect midi instrument for me. I use this electric midi guitar to trigger sounds from my Roland GR-33 guitar synth. I sometimes use the stock sounds, like violin, orchestra strings, flutes, etc., but more often than not I create custom patches and sounds or mix things up a bit. I also often mix the synth sound with the electric guitar sound thru a mixer, sometimes with effects as well. I have so many options this way.

LC: Yes, I also play Roland GR-33 guitar synth with my midi-Chapman Stick. When I first started playing midi, I was so intimidated by the new technology. I customize my own patches and also use some stock sounds and am still amazed at the unlimited potential that is available. I love the string sounds, (I use a customized violin patch in a couple of tracks on "Poetica," and I really like some of the patches that emulate certain Eastern instruments. Seems I have a natural affinity to the more rhythmic and percussive sound patches and use them a lot also.

VM: IMHO, "Poetica" is an outstanding album and is a complete masterpiece, though my opinion on it is well known to you. In short, I only wonder if there were any negative reviews of the album or maybe those you find not that fair, unprofessional etc? I hope it's not top secret:-).

FD & LC: Thanks for the compliment. We have had a few bad or mediocre reviews, not many. Generally the reviewer did not seem to understand what we were doing, did not "get" our music. Look, it's always nice to get good response, but not everyone will like what we do. Our attitude is to do the best job we can, be sincere and honest with what we create, put our hearts into it, have fun, and if people like the music, then great. We can't worry about validation from others. You have to believe in yourself and your music. Having said that, being only human, of course it makes us happy when people do connect to the music in some good way!

VM: The music on "Poetica" is in many ways innovative and, often, doesn't fit any of the 'classic' genres of Progressive Rock. As you know, I used to call such music forms as Fifth Element. And how would you yourselves determine your style?

FD: That's a bit hard but I would say we are progressive in the sense of trying to create new innovative, interesting music, moving forward. Our music is eclectic for sure and sometimes experimental. We're not schooled players. We're self-taught rock musicians who listened to and loved many kinds of music. So having listened to rock, jazz, progressive, classical and world music surely influenced our writing and playing but not consciously. Let's just say we are progressive/experimental rock, but labels sort of pin you down and we like having lots of options.

VM: Why did you decide to release "Poetica" at your own expense? I am almost sure that you didn't send the album to any Prog labels; otherwise it would have certainly been released by one of them.

FD & LC: It was important for us to make this album for very personal reasons, and we took it upon ourselves, and it was only when the CD was being manufactured did it occur to us to solicit any labels. By then it was almost too late. We certainly would welcome the kind of promotion and financial resources a label could give. It all worked out fine, as we had total artistic control, and did not limit our music or style, and felt free to experiment and perhaps include a variety of disparate compositions. Because we were able to do this we set it up for fans of our music to expect an attitude of experimentation and growth that we hope will always be present in our music.

VM: Whereas your new album, as far as I know, you would like to release through some of the Prog labels. Why? Did you make any choice already?

FD & LC: It would be nice to have wider distribution and promotion, and some help in the recording and manufacturing costs. Lets face it, "Poetica", while attracting good critical success and attention, did not reach a great number of people. We did the best we could independently, but it could have possibly reached a greater audience. We would be very open to possibilities with any Prog labels.

VM: Did you ever play live in general and as Oxygene 8 in particular?

FD & LC: Oxygene8 played in Mexico City in May 2003. We also toured Spain in June and July of 2003 with world re-known Argentinean Chapman stick player Guillermo Cides and the great Catalan drummer Gerard Mallorqui as part of our live band. Guillermo arranged everything for us; it was he who gave us our first real opportunity. We played at an outdoor festival near Barcelona, many club dates throughout Spain in addition to a live ? hour TV concert on TV2 on Spanish National TV from Madrid. This was later re-broadcast to millions of viewers in September 2003.

VM: Do you have any side projects or participate in some other projects? If so, who are the musicians that you collaborate or collaborated with?

LC: No, not at this time.

FD: None!

VM: Do your work on the follow-up to "Poetica"? Will it be going under the name of Oxygene 8 as well?

FD & LC: The follow up to "Poetica" is planned, and it will be under the name Oxygene8, although there is no timeline set for its release. We are currently composing some new very interesting music for it.

VM: Will Tim Alexander be part of the line-up on your next album, too?

FD: Possibly, but Tim has re-joined Primus and is very busy with that band.

LC: We plan on getting together with Tim during the Christmas holidays, and we'll have a chance to talk with him about it then. We are definitely leaving it open to the possibility that he will be able to join us on our next album.

VM: What music should we expect to hear on your new album? Will it stylistically be in the vein of "Poetica", at least on the whole, or something completely different?

LC: Definitely Fifth Element!:-)

FD: The music will stylistically be in the vein of "Poetica," but already other elements have introduced themselves. Jazz, and Avant-garde influences are making their way into the music. We will not limit what might develop. We are continuing to advance the new midi technology and new sounds and textures. I think you will hear both a continuation of "Poetica," and other ideas, which move in a slightly different direction.

VM: Well, I only have to wish you that all of your most cherished dreams to come true. Thank you very much for doing this interview.

FD & LC: It is our great pleasure to do this interview and many thanks to you, Vitaly.

VM: January 7, 2004

Related Links:

Oxygene 8

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