Catch up with Orissa creator David Dodini and listen to the new album Resurrection, out now.
What would you say first got you interested in music?
Gosh, it's been a while. I guess, it was probably a little bit of wonderment. I remember my brother said, "I want to have guitar lessons," and so we got this guitar and it was half this sense of awe and wonderment at this thing that made sounds and a little bit of forbidden fruit because it was like, "oh, we got that for your brother and you can't play it," and I would find a way to sneak around and taste the apple a little bit [laughs]. Those were the two sparks. And then, once you start making music with an instrument you just can't stop.
What made you decide to start Orissa?
Instead of the David Dodini project? It's really for artistic reasons in the sense that I never really ended up doing everything by myself because I wanted to do everything by myself. In an ideal world, I will find some other collaborators who want to be part of the project and who have a compatible and complementary vision and temperament and everything that works with what I want to do with this project. It's not about me and promoting myself as a guitar player and a writer, so one of the reasons that I presented it as an art project and forgetting about who's doing it is just to focus on the music and artwork and poetry itself. The name is a part of several layers of metaphors that are a part of what this thing represents to me and what it might represent in the future as I grow as a person and if I find somebody else to collaborate with on it. I want to focus on the art, I don't want to focus on me. I feel like when you encounter some project where it's the person's name and it's about them, I listen to it differently or approach it differently than when I encounter something presented as a band. Even if a visual artist does a show, the show will have a theme, so you're there to see a theme and by focusing on that instead of the name of the person, you're already going into a different place. You are surrendering your connection with another ego and another human identity and instead going straight to the source of it, which is the human heart. So, I just want to focus on the art.
Which musicians have you been influenced by?
My influences are pretty nonstandard for a typical project. One of my biggest influences was my teacher at the conservatory. Aside from the technical aspects of what he taught me, it was really about that creative aspect and being a creative person with music, everything from the language and the approach to creating music, so Dušan, my teacher at the conservatory, was a major, major influence on me; in a lot of the stuff and the language that I use and also just my approach as a writer. I'm kind of experimenting a little bit with phrase structures, harmonic structures, contrapuntal textures and stuff like that that you wouldn't really find in so-called progressive metal, I'm playing with that and condensing these two worlds that live close to each other so there's some experimentation there and I definitely get that from him. And then, I listen to a lot of Carnatic folk music, music from Eastern Europe, all kinds of stuff like that, so that has imprints all over my language. I've been inspired by a lot of the more traditional bands from the '90s, too. I was way into how, in the '90s, music went away from that show-off-iness and back into song: when that whole grunge thing popped and it was like, "hey it's about the song now, again," and the influence on the poetry and the message in those early, mid '90s bands. Tool was an interesting band and none of these bands influenced me really, because I don't sound like them, but they inspire me.
In a weird way, my other sources of inspiration are just other forms of art altogether, like visual art. I'm really into a lot of what's going on in the visionary art community so that inspires vibrations that turn into music [laughs]. Those are a few of my influences. A lot of world music, folk music - but not the stylized pop version of it, straight from the source - and that's where some of peculiarities towards melody and mode come from.
How would you describe your sound to someone who had never heard your music?
I don't think I could succeed at that [laughs]. I feel like it would be much better to just say, "hey, you know what, just go give it a listen and figure out for yourself what it sounds like". Or, don't even worry about what it sounds like, just get lost. I can't say. Probably because, on the one hand, I know it's easier to say that Orissa is a progressive metal project, but it also does not fit into any of these categories that exist underneath that broad umbrella. For me, there are some bands where it's just, 'the band'. Like Karnivool, to me, there's no style that they play, they're just Karnivool and I really respect that about them and, hopefully, if I'm succeeding, that's true of what I'm doing, as well. I'm just writing the music that I hear as opposed to being like, "hey, I really like this thing, so I'm going to go and do this". When you're recruiting band members or other people are recruiting band members, you start to hear the difference. There are people who are like, "I want to form a band that sounds like these bands and that band and this band," and they probably end up sounding like that, and then there's people that go, "I just want to write music and we'll see what happens," and I'm probably in that camp.
I'm just going to write the music that these emotions push out of me and so it's less about style and influences. It's like me trying to figure out what it sounds like is like a road map without any 'X' at the end of it, just draw your own map for yourself. It's probably more fun anyways, because I'm probably wrong [laughs]. I could probably say what it is and someone else could have a completely different opinion. Yeah, I would say give it a listen and see.
Could you tell us more about your album Resurrection and how it compares to Omens?
Yeah. First of all, Resurrection is a full-length album whereas Omens was an EP. [On Omens] I was just going to record a demo and then it came out better than a demo and I was like, "this sounds like my first release so I'll put this out as an EP", so that leads to another difference: besides that one is an LP and one is an EP so the amount of music is different, what I did for Omens was, I had songs that I had already that I thought belonged on different records but, since I was making a demo, I thought, "okay, I'll do these songs and maybe reproduce them in the future," and so Omens has a flow and there's definitely underlying themes and stuff that flow together, but it wasn't really created as an album. Resurrection is a consistent, cohesive thing from end to end. And then, production quality is much higher on Resurrection.
My music is always pretty vibe-y and pretty visceral, in terms of the emotional, and the cathartic theme is always there because of the author, [laughs] for better or for worse. But for Resurrection I took the potential of the ambience and built on it with many, many layers so there's much more lush, harmonic language; it's super large scale. I call Resurrection a sonic novel because there's a dialect inherent in the music, there's multiple layers of story where I started out and had these ideas - or emotions that were sparked by ideas - both verbal and nonverbal. So those are my songs, and I think that's probably how you would write a book, like go, "oh, okay, I'll have this character and that character," and then, as you start writing it and fleshing out the details, all these other subtexts make themselves known to you and then, even when you're done, you're like, "oh my god, look at this connection that I didn't even make consciously!" So, because of that, there's a lot of depth on Resurrection that isn't there on Omens because I spent more time on Resurrection and I conceived it as a whole. It's just much more lush language, much more large scale movement. All the same characteristics of large scale form and drama and catharsis and with a wide range of tension, but even bigger, bolder, and more lush.
You've got extra players for your live shows, so how would you say your recorded sound is different from your live sound?
The recording is about capturing the perfect representation of the songs but keeping enough spontaneity in the performances so that there's magic in there and I'm really proud of the work that I did with that. There's both, there's great execution, but with an edge to it, because i just turn it on and it's like, just take it and play it like it's live. And then, for the live shows it's different, because now there's musicians in a room interacting and playing off each other and the ebb and the flow and the energy, so you might articulate something different and, emotionally, that changes or enhances the arc of the song in terms of the way the sections flow together more, just because you have 4 different human beings spontaneously grooving out to this music. Right now, we play the backing track from a laptop and what I'd really like to do is move away from that because I'd really like us to improvise a little bit more. Like, take a section and, if we're feeling like extending it or shortening it or creating a new section, I'd like to bring some improvisation into the live performance, because the music wants it. There's some sections where it's like, "hey, we should play this riff longer just because we love it," but, by the time we're way into it, the song has already moved on. In the future when we can figure out either to jettison backing tracks or have other people come in and perform them, I'm really looking forward to getting even more improvisatory with the songs. That's something that's on the horizon that I'm definitely shooting for.
Would you say you have a favorite track to play live?
Yeah, our by far favorite song to play is "Blue Communion". We love them all, they're all awesome, but "Blue Communion" has a very special magic and the audience reaction to it is interesting because it's a fifteen-and-a-half minute song, but people suspend their sense of time for some reason and it's like being in a temple and everyone's just sort of in a trance and we're all on the same page and it's really cool. There's something magic about that one.
Whatever song we're playing is my favorite at the time, but when you look back it stands out. I just shot two music videos, one for "Blue Communion" and one for "Verse V" and for "Blue Communion" there's so much story in the music - it's sort of a left brain rational sub-story and then a right brain emotional, visceral story - that I'm exploring bringing more visual art into what I do; and so, for "Blue Communion" - I don't want to give away too much, but there's performers that I used for this music video and we did several takes with them and there was one take where they did their routine in front of the band - they're two dancers - and you could just feel - [laughs] it sounds really corny - but you could feel an energy connection and a soul connection with them the whole time. It was crazy. And they turned around afterwards and I looked at them and I was like, "did you guys feel that, too?" and they were like, "yeah, that was amazing, that's never happened to me," and they're performers who have toured all over the world doing what they do, so that was super cool to find that in the song. You're playing songs and the song you're playing at the time is your favorite every time, but then you look back and it's like, "oh, there's always a magical moment in this one," where you connect with the audience and another performer and it happens more in this song than in others. The video is going to be pretty cool.
How would you describe Resurrection in one sentence?
Resurrection is an imperial erotic psychedelic sensual sonic novel.
[Laughs] I accidentally was prepared for that question. In the full album stream video I was like, "oh it's like a novel," and it's a little bit of invented words, but I think all of those words kind of capture its source. The imperial erotic is kind of like soulful, explore the spirit and Eros and passion in relationships and those connections because they're not disconnected; sometimes in religion, they're presented as either the material world or the spiritual world, but they're all connected. And then the psychedelic sensual is sort of like, there's a psychedelic aspect to it that, again, ties back to the sensual realm. Psychedelia and sensual experience are related to each other, too. In the end, I think the record, because it is about so much but so little, that it's about relationships and it's about how our relationships with others are really about our relationships with ourselves. I'm exploring my relationship with myself as a complete being and then relationships with others and with these other aspects of our humanity, so there's another sentence: it's about relationships.
What do you hope listeners are able to take away from your music?
i just hope it captures their attention and that they connect with it and that it speaks to them and they're able to appreciate the depth of what it is and get drawn in and go deep with it, because there's a lot there. I was thinking about this the other day because I'm getting ready to start writing another record and it's like, we live in this time where so many people are putting out music and it feels like there's a temptation to always put out music and my process can be pretty labored and tortured. I remember once, after I graduated from the conservatory, I just wanted to be around Dušan and I wanted to keep learning from him so I did private lessons with him and we had been studying all these classical masterpieces and one time we were going through Schubert's Quartet and Schubert is this crazy amazing harmonic genius, he's at a whole other level, and I was like, what is it that makes the guys who we think of as 'masters' compared to the lesser composers who most people don't know their name, what's the difference between them and why is their music so much more interesting? Dušan was like, "you know, I think it's because they heard the formulaic response and then they heard the other response, the response that came from somewhere else". Music is like that, it can be like a jigsaw puzzle where you put together the right response after you say something, and that really stuck with me. That influenced my process because I want to go deeper because there's something else on the other side and sometimes I'll go searching and be like, no, that's perfect, but sometimes it's like, "ah, I'm glad I didn't just settle for that answer and I went looking for something else to say".
I hope people get that, that there's that kind of care in there. You have to ask yourself as a musician or someone who is making art, what do I want to do? Should I do something that's less dense and is more hooky and catchy and write a bunch more of those things, or should I keep going down this path? I'm just going to keep being who I am and who I am is probably the person who is not going to be releasing 5,000 songs just to keep my name in front of the public, but I'm just going to go deep and do the ones that i feel are the ones that are meaningful, really, really meaningful. I'm sticking to those guns, even if it means it's harder for me to find an audience. But I also think it's very respectful of the audience that I do find because it's like, "yeah, go in there and dig around," and so I hope that they do that and find and take a lot from it. That it's something they can just keep listening to over and over again once they get used to it and make a lot of discoveries.
Is there anything you want to add?
If anybody has any questions, I'm happy to take follow-ups and just thank you very much!