Music & Interview
Magna Pia … one half of Cassegrain
hello Hüseyin. Nice to have you for our “Music & Interview” series. As always I would like to start from the very beginning and hear something about where you were born and raised. And how your childhood/ youth was. When did you discover music as an important part of your life? What kind of music did you listen to at that time?
Hi there. Thanks for the invite. I was born and raised in Istanbul and lived there until I was 20. My music life started when I was 7 years old, learning to play the piano at the conservatory. From that age, I was more or less raised like a racing horse, years and years practicing the piano everyday for hours and having all that pressure. Apart from that, I was really into reading books from a very early age. I had to deal with a big surgery when I was a little kid so I was not really able to do a lot of sports for years. But there was not much time for that anyway.
I always loved the music but mostly hated to practice the piano. So I started writing music pieces on the paper when I was 13 and this led me eventually to study composition in Istanbul and later on in Salzburg, Austria.
Apart from that, there was a lot of sun, sea, amazing food and lots of love from family and friends and I happened to grow up in a very open minded environment. Because I was playing the piano, I was always into the classical music. But I had quite a journey between different genres. around 1989, I was 11 years old and really into the acid house. I used to find find some mix tapes and dance to them and wear neon coloured tights and t-shirts with smileys on it. Between acid house and techno, I’ve been listening, playing and producing metal, jazz, free jazz, Uyghur folk music, IDM, break core and other experimental music.
(Magna Pia, promo pic)
You’re born in Istanbul. Lately DJs/artists from Turkey popped up but also the country gets discovered by DJs from Germany, UK etc. Are you still connected with the Turkish scene there? How would you describe it? What’s different to Berlin, where do you live now?
I left Istanbul in 1999. In the 90s, there was a small but strong scene for techno music as I can remember as a kid. After that, it completely disappeared from the scene until a few years ago. Now there is a new techno scene growing there. More and more artists have been invited every week until the pandemic started and there are many local artists who are very talented.
I do feel somehow connected to the scene as an outsider. I’m in contact with many people there and try to go to Istanbul and play twice a year. Although there’s a big potential for a growth, there are two massive problems:
The first problem is that the economy and the currency is not stabilised and to book a foreign artist is a very risky thing to do, the government policy towards the club scene (opening hours, police raids etc.) doesn’t make the situation easier either. It is very difficult to make any dance event without any financial sponsorship and this mostly kills the underground vibes very easily.
The second problem is that I find the local artists and promoters do not support each other enough. There is a big competition between people. A lot of young people in the scene try to reach to the top too quickly and there’s also a certain condescending attitude towards the artists who live there, a foreign artist is always more valued than a local one. It happened even to me a several times that I received ridiculous offers and behaviours, just because my name is Turkish although I’ve been away for 22 years and built my career completely somewhere else.
(full stream of “Veering” by Rhyw, the other half of Cassegrain )
You’re part of the duo Cassegrain. How do you work with Alex creating new Cassegrain music and how do you work on solo stuff? What are the differences? Which equipment do you use in the studio? You also collaborated with different artists e.g. Tin Man more frequently. How does this differ from your solo and duo activities?
We have a studio together and all the Cassegrain tracks are done when we’re both in the studio at the same time. Basically for me there’s no difference but connecting with other creative personalities and find the spots where we’re all happy with. I don’t really follow a different process of making music. The difference comes out through different artists collaborating together.
Since the pandemic started, I moved back to my home studio and unfortunately we didn’t get to do much music together because of the isolation. We worked a lot on our solo projects though and right now we’re trying to figure out a way we could keep making music on distance.
(full stream of Cassegrain’s remix of Border One’s “Toolbell” taken from ESCAPISM006)
Beside Cassegrain you use the moniker Magna Pia for your solo stuff with releases on Counterchange Recordings, Soma, Arcing Seas and Feral Note. Especially the stuff on Feral is very special and different. More classical music. Some electro-acoustic stuff. You also presented it with a piano session. Could you explain a little what’s idea behind your solo act in general? How does it happen to make this special stuff for Feral? What’s the idea behind this special project and how did you develop it? In the former days many artists used different aliases if they wanted to present different styles. Is it easier to have all the stuff under one name or does it make sense to split it?
Magna Pia has been so far basically a techno project, with a room for sound design, experimenting, ambience and composition. I really want my music to be driving, trippy and story telling though. It doesn’t matter if someone listens to it on the dance floor, on the bed or in the nature, it needs to have a certain drive. I aim to have a specific aesthetic in the music no matter what style or genre it is. So I don’t see my album Daiauna on Feral Note much more different than my techno tracks. Also I generally think that picking a new alias for every different genre can be really exhausting.
Of course the album is a special one. Pretty much two years ago, I was going through a life changing period and at the same time, I had a residency at Feral Note Studio for two weeks and had a chance to completely isolate myself during that time and tried to stay honest and personal. The only limitation I had was to replace drum machine with a piano. All output I had at the end of the 2 weeks period became the album.
My only live gig since the pandemic started this year was a seated concert at the “Arch” Events by Ed Davenport at Prince Charles Berlin last summer. It was a limited covid safe seated event where all the artists were playing ambient sets where the audience was not allowed to dance. I had two questions in my head: “How can I make people dance inside their bodies when they’re not allowed to dance freely?” and “how much sensitivity can a one hour electronic music set can handle?”. I had only five days to create a whole set from the scratch and I worked day and night. At the end it was some material of melodic yet detuned synth lines and a few slowed down IDM and Traditional Central Asian Music influenced patterns on a few hardware synths and a few effect pedals. I had the complete intention of playing my gear just like in the same way I would play the piano and create some kind of animistic rite in the space. I think at the end, it was one of the best gigs I ever had in my life.
(full stream of Magna Pia’s “Jericho” taken from ARCH001)
Being well-known for your techno and now for this more acoustic stuff the next question has to be asked… what are influences? Please name 10 tracks/records that are important for you and explain why.
I just would like to give 10 tracks which were really important for me while I was recording Daiauna, 10 out of 100. I don’t think any of those need any explanation to be honest:
01. Decks Dark by Radiohead
02. Nisagul by Sanubar Tursun
03. Things Behind The Sun by Nick Drake
04. Parallel Suns by Autechre
05. Liberian Girl by Michael Jackson
06. True Love Waits by Radiohead
07. Keyed Out by Tim Hecker
08. Lover, You Should’Ve Come Over by Jeff Buckley
09. French Suite No.2 Bwv 813 – Allemande by J. S. Bach
10. Das Lied Von Der Erde – Der Abschied by Gustav Mahler
(stream of “French Suite No. 2 in C Minor, BWV 813 – Allemande” composed byJ.S. Bach, interpreted by Maria João Pires)
You run the label Arcing Seas together with Cassegrain partner Alex (also known as Rhyw). What is your label philosophy? Do you have a special (visual) idea of it? What kind of music do you want to present there? Is it only for your own output or will you sign other artists too? How do you decide which music you have on it and which on other labels? What are the main issues/struggles if you run a label nowadays?
Basically at some point we realised that it was about the time we have our own label. At the beginning it was only for the Cassegrain, Rhyw and Magna Pia output. Later on we had some curation ideas and started the Collabs series. In the pandemic time, we released a massive digital compilation “in_vurt” with the 28 artists including us to give a bit of a support to our most beloved club VURT in Seoul, South Korea.
Alex is the one who’s behind the special visual idea of the label and he’s very precise about it. There is no specific way of deciding which track goes to which label. It just happens organically. I also don’t think that we have more or less issues than any other label.
(previews of Magna Pia’s “ARCS-05”)
As mentioned above you played a piano concert but also do live and DJ sets with Alex. What means touring/being on stage/djing in other cities for you? What is important? What creates a good night?
I also play techno dj and live sets on my own as Magna Pia, not only as Cassegrain. I’ve been on the stage since I was 7 years old and it is the place where I can completely let myself go and feel comfortable. Therefore the best moment of touring is to be on the stage, second would be seeing different countries and catch some untypical characteristics of every culture through the night life, third would be the food you get to eat.
I stopped playing piano concerts years ago and just started doing it again last year. I realized the biggest difference between a club gig and a piano concert for me is that I need to embrace the crowd at a club completely and I need to close myself into my own world at a piano concert.
A good night is when the crowd and artist really connect with each other in the right space with the right sound system.
(Magna Pia playing piano)
We already mentioned your several artist names & label name. Could you please give us an explanation for each? How did you come up with them? What do they mean? What are your favourite spots? Any anecdotes?There is a new discussion about the travel trips of DJs and artists regarding the impact on the climate. What do you think? Will it have consequences in the near future for you and your colleagues?
Well Cassegrain is quite simple and we came up with it really quick back then. It comes from the telescope type. And Arcing Seas is just an anagram of Cassegrain. I really can’t tell you what Magna Pia means. The only thing I can say is that it is also an anagram.
I don’t really have favourite spots to play, sometimes you have an amazing night at a certain venue and the year after it can be totally not the same when you get back there. But I can definitely say Vurt, Berghain and Bassiani were never a let down. To be honest, there’s really no place that I would say that I don’t enjoy playing music. Basically wherever I go in the world, I find the like minded people who come to my gigs, with subtle differences. And I would say, this is the best part of touring. Meeting the like minded people.
(Magna Pia, promo pic)
Do you also have another profession or something else you do to have your daily income? Which hobbies/interests do you have beside music? Any activities you do in spare time to relax and get new inspiration and energy so you can be creative?
I work as a composer, mostly working in collaboration with theatre, dance and visual artists. Since the pandemic started, I haven’t been able to do any of that or playing any gigs. Because of the pandemic, I work now as a private music theory teacher for electronic music producers who like to know more about music theory.
I have many hobbies and interests. I constantly try to learn something new. My main interests are all kinds of arts, history, languages, coffee beans, plants, martial arts, cooking, etc…
(Hüseyin giving some lessions in producing during the covid pandemic)
Already at the end of our small interview. So we would like to ask you about your future plans. What’s coming next? Any ideas which you want to realize?
Thank you very much. Right now I’m working on my second solo album and trying to be finished within a month. Apart from that, I’m just trying to keep fit and healthy in my mind and my body like anyone else. It is very hard to cope with the situation as an artist but I’m trying to stay positive and calm.
Magna Pia’s “Tocharian EP” on Soma Records
Magna Pia’s “Narcissist EP” on Soma Records
Magna Pia’s “Eostre EP” on Soma Records
Magna Pia’s “Daiauna” on Feral Note
Magna Pia’s “Incantations” on Counterchange Recordings
compilation “Life On Small Planets” w/ Magna Pia on Arch
compilation “BRBL004” w/ Magna Pia on Brothers Black
Tracklist of Exclusive Mix:
01. Magna Pia – NovaFuture Intro
02. Eduardo Dela Calle – Aynanma
03. Pris – Flagrant Foul (Ruhig Remix)
04. YANT – Contained In A Vein
05. Magna Pia – Kurgan
06. Lady Starlight & Rodhad – 200616
07. Yan Cook – Quicksand
08. The Lady Machine – Resilience
09. ANEW – Airborne (Tensal Remix)
10. Kill Reff – Subbaculta
11. Setaoc Mass – Complete To None- Clergy
12. Aiken – Second Law (Doug Cooney Remix)
13. Oscar Mulero – Gradiente De Voltaje
14. Magna Pia – The Beauty Of Loulan
15. Donato Dozzy – Tao
16. Rune Bagge – How Would It Be
17. Kosei Fukada – Airen
18. Magna Pia- Jericho
Source Artists for Magna Pia & Cassegrain