Interview with Mike Armine (Rosetta)

Headshot Rosetta

Rosetta are a metal band from Philadelphia, USA. They met at University and they had all played in different bands. Their first gig as Rosetta happened in 2003. After writing more songs, touring and eventually releasing their demo, they were spotted by Translation Loss Records.

So far Rosetta have released 3 studio albums (The Galilean Satellites, Wake/Lift, A Determinism of Morality), a companion EP to Wake/Life titled The Cleansing Undertones of Wake/Lift, a split EP with Balboa (Project Mercury), a 3-way vinyl release with Year of No Light and East of the Wall where Rosetta covered The Cure track Homesick.

Love-It-Loud were lucky enough to get an interview with singer Mike Armine.

Hi, Mike. Thanks for taking the time to talk to Love-It-Loud. Who would you say are your main musical influences, and how did you get into making music?

Influences vary and have changed over time. The influence that have stayed consistent have served a purpose in constructing my sound and even my ambition to play music.

Bands like Hot Water Music and 400years made me want to be in a band. They seemed to love what they were constructing. Sean Ingram from Coalesce is an obvious influence in my vocal approach, however it’s Aaron from Disembodied who really impacted how intense I wanted to be. He was always so cold and yet explosive on stage. Mick Harris really and his work with Scorn really got me interested in producing electronic music and incorporating it into Rosetta.

But none of these influences would have meant a damn had I not met Jessie Yanielle from The Rise of Because. Jessie really pushed me to blend all my influences and helped me focus what I am doing with Rosetta

When you aren’t making music, what kind of things do you listen to when you relax, or rock out?

I listen to a lot of electronic music. Projects like Scorn, CSSC, Terminal Sound System, Kid606 and others of that ilk. House of Low Culture, Theory of Abstract Light, Set Fire to Flame and others of that ilk I really enjoy as well. The best of that genre has been produced by Tribes of Neurot. Adaption and Survival is one of my top 5 favorite records to date and never grows old.

Rocking out… Circle Takes the Square, Hot Water Music, Helmet, Catherine Wheel and I really really really like Hum. I don’t listen to much metal aside from my previously stated influences.

Independent hip-hop really has had my ear from the last 10 years or so. Aesop Rock, Common Market, Blue Scholars, Sage Francis, Oddjobs… all that stuff really has me interested right now.

If you were able to collaborate with any artist, living or dead, who would it be?

I’d like to work with Philip Glass. That would be dreamy. There is an element to his experimentation that can’t be beat. A lot of noise these days is random and not planed out. Philip Glass however, scripted everything out first on sheet music. It’s intense and I’d like to see it happen in person, add to it in a way that makes sense.

Where did the name Rosetta come from. Is there a significant meaning behind it?

Believe it or not their is no meaning behind out name. We gave ourselves very strict parameters to work with in regards to giving out project a name: Must be singular, must be feminine(to contrast the abrasiveness).

Dave put it right out there for us and no one objected. In fact, their was a very quick collective agreement that Rosetta was our name.

Do you prefer the creative process of making the music, or do you prefer to go out and play live?

It all depends on where I am. Five weeks into a 6 week tour and I just want to murder everyone. It’s too long and I just want to go home and write new material. Touring involves meeting new people and seeing the true variety the world has to offer. I appreciate the fact that Rosetta is the vehicle that drives my ability to do this. Being away from home for too long begins to chip away at me however. Three weeks is the most I’ll do anymore. It’s a great compromise between time and stress: I get to see old friends, watch new band, see new places, and goof off until late hours of the morning. Yet I don’t have to worry about missing home, being away from my dogs, or getting anxious about the other stuff I could be doing instead of driving cross country. People don’t realize that tour is not all that it is cracked up to be.

Yet when we are at home writing, I get antsy to play shows. There are elements to each setting that are some what addictive. For example, the interaction with an audience is a real adrenal kick that I really am quite addicted to. Yet, the feeling of writing a new song, something that is fresh, and the desire to showcase it for the first time is also really stimulating. So while touring and writing shows are somewhat polar sides of a spectrum, their is a cyclical connection between the two that is as indescribable as it is addictive.

It’s come to certain people’s attention that Rosetta prefer playing on the floor rather than an actual stage. Is there a reason for this?

A small room makes for a better transfer of energy. It’s not that we prefer to play on the floor over a stage, but we do prefer playing a small venue over a large one. The reason is very simple: In a smaller venue, (house shows and warehouse spaces are great examples of this), we are closer to the audience and can have more non-verbal interactions with them. On a stage, like the Troc in Philadelphia, it’s harder to feed off the energy of the audience. My favorite place to play is The First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia. The sound system is decent, the room holds about 250 people, and the stage is only knee high. So while we are still on a stage, we are very close to our audience and can make a very clear connection to them.

Rosetta are obviously evolving with each release, where do you see the band in 5 years time?

It’s hard to say. Personally I’d like to see us still producing music and touring to the extent that we do now. However I think in 5 years time that will become less of a reality. We have professional responsibilities outside of Rosetta that I think are only going to become more complex and involved. Maintaining the balance will become a struggle. If we end up like Neurosis I’ll die a happy man: Playing only the shows that are attractive to them, while still producing amazing records. That is really where I would like to end up.

Bands that are road warriors have a shorter shelf life than those that spread touring out across a large span of time.

Matt and I both own homes here in Philadelphia, and are very much apart of our communities. Neither of us want to give that up nor leave the area. So I think he and I will be collaborating still long after Rosetta is laid to rest. It’s hard to say where Bj and Dave will be. Both have degrees and are talented in their fields. Moving far away to put their talents to good use is a reality as we all grow older.

How did recording Project Mercury with Balboa come about?

There are very few moments during Rosetta‘s inception where I can say Balboa were missing from the picture. We were all good friends long before Rosetta was even a thought in anyone’s mind. Our bands shared a practice space together, and did a few tours of the north east and Midwest in 2004-2005(I think those were the years). That split solidified our friendship while at the same time leaving a small piece of history behind for others to hear. Recording the song Project Mercury was a whole lot of fun: Everyone was in the room all at the same time and we jammed out on a few ideas. After about 3-4 sessions we had a solid hold on what we wanted to lay down. The fact that we knew each other so well musically made it less of a head ache and more of a collective writing piece.

I miss those guys very much.

Clavius is possibly the best thing I have heard from Rosetta. How strong is your obvious interest in astronomy?

Aside from thinking it’s really really cool, It’s not strong at all. People really read into only the surface on that one . I’m truly interested in human isolation. The entire space theme is a metaphor for self isolation, while at the same time possessing the desire for human interaction from afar.

What made you decide to record a cover version of The Cure song Homesick?

Dave was the brainchild on this. We go through phases in the tour van of what we listen to, and we went through this phase where we listened to Disintegration a lot. Dave said we could probably make any of their songs super heavy but if any, Homesick would turn out the best.

How did the formation of Zodiak come about?

Christian from Translation Loss was the brainchild behind Zodiak. He wanted to get a group of friends together and jam. We recorded a few hours of material together and Mic Mullen started mixing and matching various takes. After several months Mic had a full CD ready to go. Most of the songs on that record were never written as people hear them, they are actually various pieces of different jams that Mic put together.

Are Zodiak working on new material, if so, will we ever see you play in Europe?

No. Everyones put that project behind them. By the time we wanted to work on new material, myself and Christian were fighting over Rosetta related matters. That sealed the deal on my involvement. I know they got together with another line up a few times but I do not think anything came out of it.

Do you think you would ever be interested in starting a solo career?

I’ve played a few solo sets here that were successful in that the set ran smooth. Every time I have a break from school I try and play an open mic night but I often talk myself out of it. On my home PC I have about 2hrs of music that I’ve compiled and have deemed, “Finished”, but have yet to let anyone hear it. Every now and again I get the urge to put it online for download. Seeing that I’m so hot and cold about playing solo and releasing my music, I seriously doubt I’ll ever do a solo career.

Rosetta live

Uncompromisingly beautiful and absolutely devastating, 'A Determinism of Morality' proves to be Rosetta's most cohesive and trail blazing creation to date. Greatly anticipated and widely revered, Rosetta's third Translation Loss full length creation solidifies their ascension as one of the most important bands of the decade.
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2 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. tomzanz October 25, 2010 at 11:18 am -

    Solid interview. Amazing band!

  2. marisa December 13, 2012 at 9:55 pm -

    lol this is my sociology teacher. no joke.

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