Multiplication / by Marcell Marias

Funny thing happened in the studio.

We went in with one project and came out with 3. 

Oddly enough, that’s part of the plan.  It’s still weird when something actually goes according to plan. 

I’ve gone on at length in the past about how Shai Azul is an ensemble, not a ‘band’ per se.  I’ve been in a million ‘bands’.  I know how they breathe and work.  And I wanted something else.   I wanted a creative place where people could come and go as they were able and interested. That has its’ own set of headaches, yeah.  But it has some upsides. 

This summer, while in the studio, some of our ensemble had drastic changes in their availability.  Nothing toxic or dramatic, just changes in life and careers.  Thing is, if you’re a ‘band’ and a key player steps aside… you’re pretty much done.  In our case?  Projects that existed as concepts and back-burner ideas emerged to fill the vacuum. 

The scary thing is that these other projects have arisen in addition to Shai Azul, not as replacements.  These days, it’s a case of listening to a new scratch track or composition and wondering “Hunh… who gets THIS tune?”

The first, which I’ll call “Caligula”, is closer to my original vision for Shai Azul; electronic/industrial dance hall music.  Some have asked me what the difference between the two projects is.  It’s admittedly kind of arbitrary. The best way to say it is that Shai Azul is far more lyrical, and became so early on.  Songs MEAN something, with an emotional content we want to communicate, whether it’s a heavy, fast tune or a more atmospheric one.  Caligula, on the other hand, is all about having fun. Nothing to prove here. Just thumpy, sweaty, have another gin and tonic, turn-it-up-loud and dance/drive/do housework/whatever fun.  Some of it is strictly instrumental.  Some of it is a chance for Vic and I to try our hand at singing.  Caligula is developing a sci-fi bent, from the actual name of the project to the proposed artwork to the tonalities of the keyboards to some of the lyrics (one tune is based around an HG Wells quote).  We’ll see how much that sci-fi thing ends up sticking.  At this point, it’s mostly me and Vic; we’ll probably drag Oily and Carl and one of the girls into it at some point.  We have about 7-8 scratch tracks for this one so far. I’d like to have about 12-15 to choose the best from.  Having this out by the end of the year or early next is realistic.

“Operation Bluebook” is Oily’s baby, and a bit harder to explain. I’ll try to get him on one of these blogs at some point.  Oily has an ambitious science/horror/ambient concept that he wants to get across in about a 5-6 song EP.  Instead of producer, I’m a player and arranger.  It’s already pushed me musically.  I mean, how do you compose something that emotes rising panic, or claustrophobia, or dread of an undefinable horror without the lyrics spelling it out?  The whole project is like this, and I am enjoying it immensely so far.  We had a great session this week where we collectively figured out our overarching direction.  This will also probably be the first project where we’ll need to recruit some folks from outside the usual Shai Azul orbit.  Hard to say when this one will come out; look for first quarter 2012 as a guess. 

Shai Azul remains cohesive and vital, if somewhat delayed.  I’m not ready to announce any lineup changes yet; some things are still in flux and I want to let those things sort themselves out a bit first.  And in an ensemble like ours, nobody ‘leaves’ permanently unless they decide they don’t want to be a part of it anymore.  We are continuing to record Infernal Divine (did I just mention the name of the second CD?  I guess I just did…); in fact, it’s about 85% done and mixing will commence in October.  We are still looking for the right vocalist to complete 1-2 of the songs.  AND we are already writing scratch tracks for the third CD.  This is not the kind of energy you put into a project you’ve written off. 

So, yeah… change seems to have made the ensemble even more creative and vital. Between Shai Azul, Operation Bluebook, Caligula, and all the other projects in the works, it’s going to be a busy fall…