Florida's Lascaille's Shroud is a unique entity. While one-man projects might be dime-a-dozen, very few manage to create music that is both thought-provoking, transcendental, and yet undeniably metal. On January 8, 2013, Masters of Metal Productions released the debut full-length album from the band, intriguingly titled "Parallel Infinities, Interval 01: The Inner Universe". We have managed to sit down with Brett Windnagle, the vocalist, composer, and chief instrumentalist behind Lascaille's Shroud, and to discuss the release of the band's new album, life, universe, and everything in between.
ThrashHead:So, let's start with the basics. How would you describe Lascaille's Shroud's music to someone who never heard it?
Brett:Well a friend of mine jokingly called it "Progressive Cosmic Death Metal" and it kind of stuck I suppose. The emphasis on sci-fi isn't just lyrical, I really try to embed an atmosphere into everything. I am much less concerned with showing how skilled I can be or anything like that, I prefer to create a unique setting and feel, almost like a novel or good movie gives off, and just build Metal music around the ideas and concepts that come up.
ThrashHead:"Parallel Infinities" is a concept album, and, as I understand, the first of a multi-album series. What made you decide on a conceptual approach to music?
Brett:I always hate to say it but the world that Parallel Infinities is built on comes from a negative place, actually. When I was a kid, about 14-15 and just getting heavily into science fiction, I had a lot of problems in my family sadly revolving around drug and alcohol addiction. So when I wasn't playing guitar, or reading, or playing games, I would gradually create this story in my head and write it down. It was originally called "Daughter of the Universe" and was about 25 songs I had done lyrically. But as I matured, and gained more knowledge I slowly made my ideas and characters more mature and sophisticated. Eventually, after an innumerable amount of re-writes on lyrics, it settled into what you hear now. I have a lot of other songs outside of this written and some even completed, by my immersion into this world I am creating is an obsession that has yet to waver.
ThrashHead:The story behind "Parallel Infinities" is a complex science fiction epic with massive scale, covering the breadth of galaxies and time beyond human comprehension. What were some of the inspirations behind that story, and how important is the story to the compositional process? Do you have any thoughts of turning it into a book?
Brett:Alastair Reynolds, my most beloved author. Lascaille's Shroud's name comes directly from his novels, and his concepts are beyond epic. Stephen Baxter's "Ring" was also a novel that heavily influenced me. I wish to try and match the level of conflict described in that book, where there are two entities basically immortal going to war, so how do Gods battle each other? In this case they throw entire galaxies around, devour star systems in cosmic seconds to fuel armadas larger than solar systems. My plans for the sequel are attempting to match that level of epic, and go beyond it.
The story was incredibly important to the composition. While I haven't gone to the extent of making every song a direct representation of how the lyrics are, like say Ayreon might – the songs instead create the background of a painting, very clear but very suggestive when the viewer sees it. The lyrics are the foreground, and as the viewer sees and pays more attention to this foreground piece the background changes with it, eventually forming a cohesive whole that complement each other.
As for a full novel or more? Yes.
ThrashHead:Lascaille's Shroud released an EP last year containing one of "Parallel Infinities" songs, and several other tracks which did not appear on the album. Are those songs going to be incorporated into the concept on future releases?
Brett:Absolutely. The song "Prometheus" was obviously about the movie (which I adore) and I wrote that about 1 hour after seeing the movie on debut night. I ended up seeing it three times in a row for three days and wrote that piece along with it, so that was for fun. The Light This City cover was also just for fun, as I really love that band and wanted to do a band people won't expect me to do.
As for the others, "Creation" was intended to be on the first album, but problems recording it kept frustrating me. Thankfully since Patrick [Hoyt] joined Lascaille's Shroud, and I since I joined Masters Of Metal [Productions], I had some major inspiration to fill and give details about a character who plays an incredibly major role in the second album, that song was "Resist", and I love it so much it had to go in place of "Creation", as problems with the construct of the song made me a little unsure – and I was deathly in love with what sir Patrick did on "Resist", I never thought twice about its place on the album.
"Memory" is absolutely going to be on the second album, the song is actually 90% done as it is now. I did that one a bit soon because it was unfortunately inspired by the events behind my mother's battle with cancer, so putting the song out there just kind of helped me in that whole thing.
ThrashHead:You were able to secure the contributions from several guest musicians for "Parallel Infinities", including Patrick Hoyt on clean vocals, and Tyler Sherrill on keyboards on one of the songs. How did these collaborations come about? Do the other musicians participate in the creative process, or are you responsible for all writing and arrangements?
Brett:I wrote all the lyrics, but when I write them I have specific singers in mind, or styles I should say. So for myself writing lyrics I know I will do comes very easy, but when I worked with Patrick I thought very carefully on them. With myself, I do odd word placements because I like the obscurity some times, and with Patrick I had to consider not only placement but melody.
So you are probably thinking that I had to do some different process to write lyrics for him to sing. Well not really, I wrote lyrics that were more open, but Patrick himself came up with melodies and placements for the songs, adding some stuff in on the fly that turned out impossibly great. He has a really incredible sense of feeling, less concerned with showcasing himself, he does what makes the song better as a whole. It just so happens, that includes incredibly epic pieces from him. Without him, the album would be shit, plain and simple.
With Tyler on keys, I sent him a backing track – and he sent me back magnificence. He tore that last song apart and made it truly epic, after I heard his solo on that song I don't even think I gave him a choice on whether or not he would be on album 2.
I met Tyler through one of MOMP's [Masters of Metal Productions] managers, Tony Cordisco. He directed me to check out his band Steamforged and I did, eventually as I got to know him I asked him if he would contribute, and like I said before, he's fucking magnificent. Patrick I met by just becoming involved in MOMP, we talked and stuff, and he originally was just going to do the small narration on "Evolve", but I ended up asking him to do one small 6 minute song, and that landed him being the clean vocalist for the second album and taking two songs to high levels of epic on the first.
ThrashHead:What is your songwriting process like? What inspires you to make music, and what are your long-term aspirations with Lascaille's Shroud and any other projects?
Brett:This might sound odd, but all my songs start off with a color, and its really hard to describe exactly what I mean. Most of my writing comes from imagining visuals, so its something like this.
Color, color forms obscure shape, shape makes object, objects form a scene, scene starts moving, fill in scene with details. Then, hit record and play some guitar.
And if I attempt to elaborate it will take up pages honestly. As for inspiration, everything inspires me. Music, books, movies, random sounds, games, art, science, math (even though I am not proficient in it), anything I see or hear is a potential idea. The verse riff for evolve I thought up while I was at work, and the particular sound a hammer was making on a piece of metal and it subsequently ricocheting a few times created what sounded like the first few notes of the riff.
ThrashHead:Listening to both "Parallel Infinities" and its predecessor EP, there is a distinct ambient feel to the songs, and the music occasionally incorporates electronic and even somewhat industrial motifs. What inspires this side of Lascaille's Shroud? Do you have any favorite non-metal artists that influenced this unorthodox approach?
Brett:Honestly a lot of electronic music is hard for me to get into. Most of those electronic influences come from video game soundtracks and movie soundtracks. I have a lot of favorites outside of metal, but those odd ambient pieces, I don't even know if I can trace the influence to anything direct. Referencing the last question, it's the music that usually fills those scenes in.
ThrashHead:The storyline of the new album paints a rather bleak picture for humanity's future, with totalitarian regimes and ecological catastrophe making it an unenviable place. Do you think this is the future we are heading towards, or is it more of a dramatic storytelling device?
Brett:It's very much based off of the current condition of the world in a much more extreme manner. The small tidbits of back story on Earth actually are setting up the third album for Lascaille's Shroud. I probably shouldn't say anything about the third album seeing as I am recording the second, but anyone that's worked with me knows I plan really far ahead., so I'll leave it at that. The regimes controlling earth, are religious zealots really, who just happened to come out in power after the near destruction of Earth. I think the fanaticism in my particular story will likely die out this far in the future, but will only be replaced by a different form of dangerously blind devotion to something if the world doesn't change. The future of humanity in here is most certainly bleak, seeing as how the "slogan" for the album was "To preserve existence, he must destroy existence" and the EP just as bleak with "You are being hunted". Humanity has no hope, they will die off and only one man remains in the end. The story lies in how the last remaining mind of a human deals with drastic, unimaginable trauma and changes to the entire universe. In that respect it's really a finite mind attempting to under the infinite.
ThrashHead:The very name "Lascaille's Shroud" is a reference to Alaistair Reynolds' Revelation Space novels, which you have mentioned as a significant influence on the concept. This merits the question, what are your interests in science fiction? What are some of the literary inspirations behind "Parallel Infinities"? Do you have any favorite books you would recommend?
Brett:I recommend every single Alastair Reynolds book, ever. I have read them all multiple times and none of them disappoint. The Revelation Space trilogy heavily inspired this story, "The Swarm" and "The Inhibitors" in his novels have many similarities. Also his novel "Pushing Ice" is... It's perfect, easiest way for me to say it. Stephen Baxter's "Ring" was also a huge inspiration for this as well.
My interests in Sci-Fi besides the obvious like time travel, immense explosions, aliens, laser beams, and of course, the slight possibility of Asari existing somewhere – can be summed up by the words of Isaac Asimov:
"Individual science fiction stories may seem as trivial as ever to the blinder critics and philosophers of today - but the core of science fiction, its essence has become crucial to our salvation if we are to be saved at all."
ThrashHead:Your label, Masters of Metal Productions, is quickly becoming known for releasing albums for free, or pay-what-you-can download. What are your thoughts on this approach, and on the future of music as a digitally distributed commodity?
Brett:I am a diehard physical collector, if it is a physical release it's the only version of it I want. Any digital albums I have are because it is digital only. I never pirate music, but I realize most people seem to prefer to just download what they want. Metal for me is a brotherhood/sisterhood, I lovingly support my friends and label mates because in a sense, we are family. I know a lot of people see it this way and think like me, and are willing to donate when they can, what they can because of a love for the music.
We put out our music for free because we love what we do, and want to share it with those who will listen. The management guys at MOMP are some of the nicest and clear-headed people I've met, they all have a passion for the music, and their concerns lie with making good tunes, profit is secondary – and any they make goes right back into making even better tunes.
I also put a small amount away to search for the Asari homeworld, no luck yet.
ThrashHead:As I understand, Lascaille's Shroud is primarily a studio project. Are there any plans to recruit a full lineup and perform live?
Brett:Honestly I don't know if it will happen, I never had a certain plan for it but if the chance arose it would be a dream to share the stage with the people I have and am going to work with this for Lascaille's Shroud.
ThrashHead:So, what does the future hold for you and Lascaille's Shroud? Any plans you can tell us about?
Brett:Lascaille's Shroud is the beginning of something much bigger. The universe I have set up will not be limited to it and will branch out into other forms of metal and maybe even other forms of music. Lascaille's Shroud right now, has a solid three albums planned – so plenty of work to be done!
ThrashHead:I have to ask this one. Star Wars or Star Trek?
Brett:Lightsaber any day of the week, Star Wars for me.
ThrashHead:Thank you for taking time to answer these questions! Do you have anything you would like to tell our readers?
Brett:Go check out Steamforged and Project: Roenwolfe, those bands both lent extremely talented members to this album, without them it would not be possible for me to feel comfortable releasing this. Many thanks to Patrick and Tyler.