FEW of us take time to get away from our cosy…
tastes and explore music we would not normally experience. Drums and Bass is a genre that still seems reserved to a clique: a small sector of music fans; it is hard assimilating the genre into the mainstream. Hot young talent is coming through and making it more exciting and accessible for those taking their first steps into that arena. I have been talking with Surrey-based D.J.-producer-songwriter Cassi following the release of her debut E.P., Sonder. She discusses her career so far and plans in the pipeline; her reaction to the positive feedback of Sonder and the single biggest influence behind her music.
Hey Cassi. How has your week been? What have you been getting up to?
Hi Sam! My week has been good thank you. I’ve been at lectures all week although I’ve come down with Freshers’ Flu - so I’m currently under the duvet with a Lemsip and Logic!
For those new to your music, can you introduce yourself, please?
Of course! My name is Cassi and I’ve recently got into the music scene. Considering where I am now; it’s a bit crazy to think it was only half-a-year ago I actually started producing music properly. But I am more determined than ever to ‘make it’ in the music industry so I think I'm definitely on the right path. I also run a business with Jamie Ford called Quantum Arc Ltd. We are predominantly a graphic design company but have expanded to music and commissions on other artwork as well.
Sonder is your debut E.P./mini-album. Have you been surprised by the reaction it has received so far?
To be honest with you I have been utterly overwhelmed by the support I have received throughout.
I was unbelievably lucky enough to meet Jayline, Levela; Intraspekt and The Qemists who have listened to my E.P. and shared it. Now, that is just unreal. I’m very lucky! The best support has come from my friends and family - I wouldn't be here, doing what I’m doing without them. The tracks from my E.P. have had 498 views so far on SoundCloud; WOW!
The song titles are really fascinating and get the listener guessing. How do you come up with song titles and what inspired the E.P.’s name?
I’ve got a thing for finding deeper meanings; in everything. It means I question everything in life but it also means I never take anything for simply what comes across. I don't judge books by their cover, you could say - I read every word in the book first and then read in between every line too! I have also loved music and lyrics with deeper meanings than simply what is being said to the listener. 'Sonder' is actually a made up word from The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows but it has become quite recognised. It refers to the realisation that each and every person is living a life as deep, vivid and complex as your own. The lyrics in Sonder are: “Don’t you know? One day you’ll have to be your own hero. ‘Cause everyone else, is too busy saving themselves”. You can piece the rest together… ;)
Your music mixes Drum and Bass and Electronic. Are these genres that deserve more mainstream exposure and what attracted you to these styles of music?
It’s difficult to say. Yes, I do think Drum and Bass deserves more understanding and respect. I know a lot of people who negatively stereotype Drum and Bass listener but D’n’B is a community with a lot of passion and energy - again, try not to judge books by their covers.
On the opposite side: I like that D’n’B is not in the limelight and being played everywhere. I have no disrespect for the music we hear on the charts and in 90% of clubs in Guildford - those songs are popular for a reason! However, I feel that D’n’B has a certain personality to it; it’s more underground, more thrilling, more dangerous - and so, for me, that makes it more exciting.
How did you decide to get into music-making and producing? Was there a point in life that compelled you to follow that course?
Jack, my boyfriend, is my soul inspiration and reason for why I'm here. He is a Drum and Bass producer, who goes by the name Mania. We had been together for a year before I even thought about actually making music myself. I taught myself to play piano at the age of nine and carried that on throughout. I have written some (awful!) songs on my guitar which have equally awful lyrics to them! I picked up Ableton very quickly and the first track I ever wrote was That High which features on my E.P. Without Jack, I would still be very lost and there is no chance I’d be producing if it weren't for him.
Music can be very healing and escapist for a lot of people. What effect does music have on you and how important is it in your life?
As well as Jack; music has absolutely saved me. I’m not going to go into my ‘sob story’ but I have had a pretty rough time for around 8 years, and thanks to Jack and music, I am happier than I ever have been.
Music has always been an escape for me but actually making the music gives me a whole different experience. You become the music and with Drum and Bass’s upbeat tempo; even the dark music makes you feel better and stronger. Music has been a huge influence in my own personal healing.
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Sonder brings together some great vocal talents like Roxi Yung and Luna Ward. What was it like working with them and how important have they been with regards the songs on the E.P.?
Working with Luna and Roxi is incredible. It can be challenging working with some people but these two are absolute stars. Luna has been a big part of my life for a long time. I started off recording with her and we have so much fun: she’s fantastic at inputting ideas and is a phenomenal singer… not to mention she's actually studying marine biology!
Roxi is just extraordinary. She’s given me a new look on life and really makes you believe in yourself. Working with Roxi is so easy. It’s as simple as ‘here are the lyrics’ and half-an-hour later we have a song. She’s such a unique person with an unreal amount of passion and talent, and together, those bring out some absolutely beautiful results. I know she’ll go far.
But let’s not forget Mania. He’s the inspiration behind the whole E.P. and features on the track Sonder. The E.P. wouldn't even exist without him. I owe my whole musical journey so far, and life really, to him.
I hear whispers there might be a new song coming up? What can you tell us about that?
Ah! I’ve got a new track ready and will be collaborating with Roxi for the vocals. There’s talks of Roxi and I producing and recording a whole album together which is very exciting. I’m really looking forward to getting the vocals down for this new track!
Not only are you a musician but you are an artist too. Your drawings are particularly memorable and beautiful. How do you think your art and music connects and is the visual side of music important to you?
Thank you! Art has always been a massive part of my life. I actually had a place at art uni. but I dropped it to pursue music. Art and music come hand-in-hand; art can really add to music in so many forms. Logos for starters. I have created a few logos for artists at A.C.M. which really adds to the professionalism of their work and persona. But art tells just as much of a story as music does . I’d love to learn how to animate so I can create animations as music videos but I’ve tried and I think that’s a little beyond me!
You are currently based out of Surrey. What is the local scene like there and any musicians/artists you’d recommend we check out?
I live in Guildford. Musically, it’s sad that there isn't much variety; but there is a Drum and Bass night coming up soon which is a fantastic step towards an open music community. I know a lot of people at A.C.M. are pushing for more variety in the genres played around the area so I really hope we succeed in accomplishing that. Uhuru is a band based between Guildford and Southampton which I really believe will go far in the music industry - you should definitely check them out! Here’s a link to their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/uhurumusic/?fref=ts
Music can be cathartic and meaningful for so many people in so many different ways. What do you hope your music does to people and has it changed you as a person?
Music has given me so much: it’s given me life, confidence; a sense of self. I hope that it does the same for those who listen to my music.
Drum and Bass, in particular, can feel like you’ve left Earth and you're completely in another realm. It’s a world that you can take everywhere and you eventually see this world through the lens of the other. It probably doesn't make sense, but music is like a shield I wear - it helps me get through life and enjoy it too. I know that probably won’t make sense to a lot of people but hope that my music at least brings a feeling of freedom and energy to people.
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Of all the songs you have written and produced so far, which is the most meaningful to you?
Sonder. Absolutely. The lyrics alone mean so much to me. It reminds me to fight for myself and not rely on others - because at the end of the day you have to keep yourself above the water.
It reminds me to remember that everyone is fighting their own battles and to respect and support them with that - and it also reminds me that I'm not alone.
The male vocals, by Mania, are powerful and strong. They represent the more demanding, almost forceful voice in the female’s head. The female’s vocals are more passive, emotive and almost desperate - as if she is stressing to herself in desperation what she knows to be true. It is supposed to represent a battle of will: a fight to save yourself; an understanding that everyone is treading water.
As a D.J. you will be premiering a new show on Kane F.M. What will the show entail and are you excited about it?
I’m excited and super-nervous for the radio show! It’s an incredible opportunity, but as a ‘D.J’, I need a lot of practice. I wouldn't even call myself a D.J. at all - a radio presenter, yes; but I need a lot of work to allow myself the title of a D.J.! It’s a specific talent which requires a lot of skill - so I’m working hard on refining that!
The show will be an hour-and-a-half of Drum and Bass and then will follow with half-an-hour of local talent; songs from up-and-coming artists from A.C.M. I think it’s a great opportunity to support my peers and give those who often go unnoticed a voice. I love that Kane F.M. is a radio station that promotes underground, independent music: it gives those that don't fit into the stereotypical ‘box’ a way to connect and express. I’ve been sent some incredible tracks by my peers to play on the show (which will be every Sunday from 7-9pm on Kane 103.7).
You study at A.C.M. (Academy of Contemporary Music). What has the experience been like so far and are there a lot of like-minded creatives there?
It’s opened my mind to how much talent is out there and how hard you need to work to make it. The music industry is a big and saturated world and you really need to put in 100% to even get a chance. I’ve met some incredible artists at A.C.M. - you’ll hear their talent on the radio show! I’m looking forward to the course. It’s very hands-on, industry-related and will definitely set us up for the music industry! The tutors are incredible. We are very lucky to be taught by such people.
In terms of the albums and artists you grew up listening to: which have been most important to you?
It may seem odd but Ludoviccio Einaudi is my biggest inspiration in music, and being a classical pianist, it seems strange - even to me. But I learned to play piano because of his music and I try to incorporate the way he layers and layers different parts into my own songs. The melodic layering and composition of his music is outstanding and without his music I probably would never have learned piano - and therefore wouldn't have gotten into music as I have now. His new album is my favourite: it’s called Elements and like D’n’B does; it takes me to a whole different planet - I get utterly absorbed by his music.
For musicians/D.J.s tempted to follow in your footsteps: what advice would you offer them?
Work HARD. It’s a difficult reality but with 40,000 students applying to music production courses each year you really do have to be unbelievably passionate and determined to get there.
Learn to have confidence in yourself. Believe in what you do and truly believe that you're going to make it.
That’s what I do anyway. Be humble and always take the opportunities you're given if you want them - even if you don't feel ready. Sort of like my radio show: by no means can I D.J. but now I need to it has massively pushed me to learn. These are all things I want to be doing and I create pressure for myself to keep me focused. Also, you never know when opportunities will come around again so grab everything with both hands and just run (and keep running)!
Finally, and for being a good sport, you can select any song (other than one of yours as I’ll put that in) and I’ll play it here…
Einaudi's Experience: the reason I am where I am today.