G”day. Thank you for your time today. Hope you are safe and well.
Project 34: Hey Sparky!
Thanks so much for listening to our album so intently and tailoring these questions; it’s fair to say you completely understand our vision and comprehend the significance of the outcome. Thank you for your kind words and appreciation of our works. It is very humbling.
Renee and I completed this interview together, however, responses have come from me directly (Chris Lahoud) as per below 😊
MR: The idea behind Project 34 and the idea to create music without boundaries and normal conventions?
Project 34: The idea behind Project 34 was to create a unique sound focusing on emotion. Having been in other bands and recording environments, we had noticed the over production of music which removed the essence or ‘feel’ of the performance. We wanted to capture the organic and natural texture from a ‘live jam environment’ (i.e. the emotion captured between individuals in a room) and transition that same emotion to a recording.
We then felt it pertinent to intertwine this feeling or mood with a plethora of different musicians through multiple genres in order garner a ‘collective’ human emotion. i.e. A ‘oneness’ or ‘holistic consciousness’. This is where things took an interesting turn with the upcoming album.
The result was an extremely diverse musical journey.
What formed was a collaborative network of musicians; and the upcoming release tethered local and international talent across a range of genres to collaborate in a way that enhanced the creative process during a period of isolation.
MR: Was the traditional way of creating music tired and too conventional for your concept?
Project 34: We believe the heavy metal scene has become oversaturated. Every day we receive updates regarding new bands, most of which have the same production ‘sound’ and offer little to nothing unique in terms of vision and resulting in just a rehash of their influences. This is particularly the case in Australia where we have bands who attempt to be Australian ‘versions’ of a foreign success. This is not necessarily a bad thing; however, that direction was not for us.
Our main goal was to create something extremely different, that focused on emotion and the ‘feel’ of the individual performance, as opposed to the ‘perfection’ of such performance.
Having been accustomed to many different recording environments, some high production, it was apparent that the perfection of each performance, as opposed to the ‘feel’ of the performance, was being prioritised. Click tracks, gridding, multiple takes of the same section etc, all resulting in little to no ‘emotional cohesiveness’ of the finished product.
We wanted to flip this on its head and revert to a more traditional method where elements of ‘live jams’ and ‘live recordings’, capturing subconscious feelings between individuals, became our priority.
MR: With the technology available now, is recording remotely the future?
Project 34: We understand remote recording will be a significant element moving forward, however sincerely believe in physical human connection and the sentiments and energy prevalent during the performance. Having someone physically present creating music is far more emotionally connecting than doing so remotely. Human contact is a hallmark of our evolution as a species and reinforces living in the moment; we shouldn’t take this for granted.
Though technology can also connect people. The foundation recordings of this project are true examples of the human connection, whilst technology bridged the social distance during lockdowns.
MR: The inspiration to chronicle the life of man through musical textures?
Project 34: Due to the ever-increasing volume of material, ‘album’ listening has become less and less popular. Generally, singles and playlists seem to be the norm of listening now. We felt it pertinent to not only return to the basic elements of music (i.e. the emotiveness of it), but also the listening of album ‘journeys’ which seem to have become lost in time.
Furthermore, given the recording process went over a long period of time, many different events took place in our personal life and the world around us… things changed quite rapidly for us individually. So, it felt natural to incorporate this ‘life journey’ into the creative process. The album evolved somewhat naturally in accordance with this transition of time.
MR: The idea to divide it into three acts and the emotions to express?
Project 34: The idea to divide three acts (i.e. three chapters) was to represent the transition of the three main phases of humanity. i.e. birth, life and death. Each act/chapter represents a different ‘theme’ and is articulated through different ‘tones’ presented in each chapter, in turn expressing different emotions. Francesco Petrelli did a great job engineering this vision.
MR: Beginning in 2017 and with all the musicians from all over the world, how did you decide what musician thematically fit what part of the journey?
Project 34: Vol1 (2017) and Vol2 (2018) (Demo and EP) were precursors to this new release… Each volume focused on the fundamentals of Project 34 in its ‘emotive sense’, however, we did not explore the international realm of musicians or the merging of multiple genres until this new release.
The musicians of Vol1 and Vol2 were Sydney based and are some of our closest friends as well as previous band members. They were always going to be a thematic fit given our personal relationships over many years.
Selecting the international musicians was a bit of a hit and miss to be fair. There was a bit of trial and error here, and we discarded multiple musicians whose performances were unfortunately not suitable. However, our main decision for selection was around their feedback and proactiveness to be a part of our vision and the project. We didn’t beg anyone, and if anyone showed little to no interest in the actual music itself, their ability wasn’t considered, and we parted ways. Those involved in this album genuinely enjoyed the music, could identify with our vision and were more than happy to be a part of the Project 34 community. They are now some of our closest friends, as you can see via their testimonials, as well as their willingness to contribute via video playthroughs some months or years after their original performances.
MR: Did it ever get to the point where it became too big and unwieldy? and did you ever think you would finish it?
Project 34: Haha most definitely. To be completely honest, it wasn’t a smooth journey given the significant number of personalities involved. Some of our closest friends had certain ideas in conflict with our vision which hindered the process somewhat. I think its important to understand, that regardless of the collaboration, Renee and I were ‘conductors’ in a sense of the word… we always had a vision and we were not willing to stray from that vision regardless of opinion. We, therefore, tried to compromise with some musicians, however as time went on it was becoming apparent that our vision was a bit ‘too out there’ for some and this caused some conflict from time to time. Collaborating on this level does come with some challenges.
We also had certain tracks and the production lined up with certain individuals that did not come to fruition. It delayed the project completion by about 6-8 months, but it was a godsend at the end of the day. This allowed us time to really hone in on our vision, produce the album to meet the exact specifications of that vision and work with Francesco Petrelli who did an absolutely amazing job engineering this album.
MR: As being the songwriters, it contains many genre-crossing elements from the serene to the brutally heavy. Was this organic or was there “stimulating ” discussion over the heaviness of “Words” or the dissonance beauty of Memorial Vale.
Project 34: Firstly, thank you so much for your kind words regarding this project and some of the tunes involved. Words is a beautiful example of the project as a whole. It was completely organic… in fact, we’re happy to share the full process of creating a track like Words for you.
Words were written via a live jam between Chris and Renee Lahoud, as well as one of our closest friends and massive contributors to this album, Matthew Walker on 29/11/2018). The whole foundation of the song was recorded that fateful night.
The jam on that night was drums (Chris), bass (Matthew Walker) and orchestral keys (Renee) in which the introduction was written and recorded. Matthew is generally a reggae artist, and this influence is apparent during the introduction bass line.
From there we knew we had a special song brewing. The emotions in the room that night were unreal.. and I actually get goosebumps speaking of it right now. There was just something really really special in the room that night… so we continued the tracking.
We basically jammed every section of the song.. organically moving from section to section until we had a template of ‘rhythm guitars, ebow, drums, bass and orchestral keys’ completed that night. There were absolutely no rules or external influences – we tried to keep things as real and raw as possible.. this theme moved across the whole album.
From that point I recorded vocals – again focusing on emotion; Similarly, with the other ‘foundation instruments’ from that live jam, the vox were recorded in a single take without any drop-ins. This is somewhat consistent throughout the whole album. I believe this accentuates the emotional response of the listener and creates a sense of realism.
Anthony Delvecchio (ex Sanctium and Switchblade member) recorded solos and leads, this performance we produced together.
Jiro Yoshioka then replaced Renee’s keys with ‘cello’ – using her written layers as well as expanding on this based on his emotive response to the song.
Oleg Bezuglov then played the violin section as per the key version written the night of the jam. Oleg’s performance here really sealed the deal in terms of our vision..
Drums were finally completed and performed by David Pietersz (Sanctium) who expanded on our drum templates provided for the final polish.
All rhythm guitars, bass guitars, ebow, and effects are the original takes from that fateful jam.. and I think the results speak for themselves with regards to the emotion captured… it is far from a technically ‘perfect’ performance, however, the feeling in the song is extremely prevalent due to the foundation night in our opinion.
The performances of the individuals outside the room that night colour the track into a point where it merges various influences.. e.g. Jiro provides a visual element to the performance, whilst Oleg provides a classical clarity in the violins that cements the merging of genres. The rawness of the drum performance also accentuates the feeling of the drummer, which seems to be lost in many heavy metal performances of late.
This process was replicated with many other tracks, including Prayer and Ebony (foundation instruments from jam night with Chris, Renee and Matthew Walker) as well as Emit and Silent (foundation instruments from jam night with Chris, Renee and Matthew Sorrenson)
Memorial Veil is another story altogether. Having worked with Oleg Bezuglov for some violin performances in other tracks, Oleg was really taken back by the music. He was somewhat scared at first haha (not having been accustomed to this style of music) but his wife Natalia found something beautiful upon listening to ‘Prayer’ and encouraged Oleg to work with us a bit more. He is a classical music genius who holds a PhD in music and is an honoured worker of the Russian Musical Society. He started to critique our music in a way that was very foreign to us, noting classical artists influences, key changes, etc. He was really keen to collaborate on an original composition given that is his expertise. At this point, the album was pretty much complete and we didn’t have room for another track. Renee and I put our thoughts together and decided to have an album ‘interlude’… i.e something to transition ‘Prayer’ into ‘Ebony’ – we, therefore, provided Oleg with a general ‘idea’ regarding the track to which he made his own. He decided to go one step further and compose a full quintet, featuring Cello, Piano, Violin and Violas.
This composition was then gifted to Renee and me by Oleg which was so humbling. This is a unique track on the album which was not composed by and doesn’t feature Renee and me. It’s a one of its kind 😊
To be fair, having someone of Oleg’s credentials and musicality speak so highly of our music and wanting to be involved to the extent he did, really cemented for Renee and me that we were on the right path… for someone that wasn’t into this style of music at all to walk away loving the album, was very humbling, to say the least.
MR: The guitar solo on Ebony is simply beautiful. Did it surprise you when you received some of the musical submissions?
Project 34: Most definitely! Ebony is one of that genre-merging tracks that was written as an atmospheric instrumental. The guitar solo was performed by a very close friend of ours, Michael Iannotti. Michael is generally a blues/funk and reggae guitarist.. a very talented one to say the least. However, having seen Michael play for many years, I knew there was more to him in terms of his ability. I had heard some little guitar solos and leads from time to time, but I sincerely felt Michael had a Joe Satriani ‘esque’ about his feelings on the guitar.
Michael hadn’t really done anything like this before, similarly to a lot of the other musicians, so I knew whatever the outcome was it was going to be fresh. We went through a couple of ideas together over the course of a few months before Michael finally submitted his finished product.
It’s fair to say we were pretty blown away. Surprised, somewhat… but taken back by the feel of his performance, most definitely. Most people that listen to it are pretty blown away at the relaxed yet extremely technical performance. It is probably one of the most acclaimed features on the album by the personnel.
The other equally impressive and surprising submission was Jiro Yoshioka and his cello performance on ‘Prayer’ – he not only replicated Renee’s original key performance but enjoyed the emotion of the song so intently that he decided to expand on Renee’s vision. What resulted was an amazing visual element not previously present, that took the song to a completely new level.
MR: The idea to merge very heavy sections seamlessly with classical?
Project 34: The idea to merge classical, as well as other genres using very heavy sections, was always a vision of Renee and I. We wanted to ‘merge’ genres in a unique way. It transitioned gradually during the course of the album recording… especially at the start of the pandemic in 2020 where Renee and I had the vision to expand the reach even more globally by utilising musicians from a multitude of other genres such as Mexican salsa, movie ‘scores’, funk, blues, reggae, RnB etc.
These influences are apparent throughout the album.
MR: Are there any outtakes that didn’t quite make it?
Project 34: Yes, there are quite a few… in fact we have about 6-7 tracks that didn’t make the cut for the album. We also experimented with a number of musicians that didn’t quite meet our vision and were replaced by some of the final personnel. There was a little bit of trial and error here as I’m sure you can appreciate.
MR: The plans for release and hopefully physical formats?
Project 34: We are currently on the lookout for a record label and hope to release this in early 2022. There has been some interest however we are being patient here to ensure the right fit. With regards to physical formats, most definitely. Pending label discussions, we are currently considering a limited-edition vinyl press. The artwork, by Matthew Lahoud, is very thought-provoking and represents a significant element of our vision. We would therefore like to incorporate this artistry into the physical release.
MR: Will we see a follow-up? Or is it too early?
Project 34: Most definitely.. Given the significant network of musicians Project 34 now as we are in a position, not only continue this but expand it further. We have written and recorded one track that will pave the way for the soundscape, theme and tone of the next album. However, our priority at the moment is getting this out to the world and we are not rushing anything given the significance of this particular release.
We are so very excited to share this with the world….
MR: Thank you for your time and congratulations on an amazing record.
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