For around 20 years, Toshi Kasai has been a fixture in the world of heavy, offbeat rock. He’s engineered and played guitar and keyboards for the Melvins and various projects in their orbit, along with dozens of other acts. Now he’s launched a solo project, Plan D, built around Melvins drum ace Dale Crover and other giants of rock percussion, including Pearl Jam’s Matt Cameron and Blondie’s Clem Burke.
Plan D finds Kasai melding live drums with triggered analog synths to create dense experimental soundscapes. The results will be heard on four limited-edition 12-inches due out this year from Joyful Noise, as well as in the digital format. The first release, SW — named, like the others, for directions of the compass and featuring treasure-map-style artwork by Mackie Osborne — is out in April and features contributions from Crover, Cameron, Burke, Big Business’ Coady Willis, Qui’s Paul Christensen, former Shins and Modest Mouse drummer Joe Plummer and Troy Zeigler, who has worked with Serj Tankian and Juliette Lewis.
The first track to be revealed from SW, “Golden Voyage,” starts out with tumbling beats blended with ominous synth lines, which become increasingly scrambled as the drumming grows more hectic. Later, the track breaks into a prog-like series of shifting synth-drums passages, as different drummers come to the fore.
“I was listening to a soundcheck take I recorded with Dale on DAT,” Kasai says of the origins of the project in a new teaser video that shows his studio setup with its many synths and pedals. ” I thought the drums themselves [were] singing and I was wondering if I could trigger some other instruments by the individual hit of the drum take and put some notes over it. Around the same time, I was really getting into analog synthesizers.”
He explains how he tried sending the drum audio through a vintage synth before finding a Moog that was better suited to the task.
“Plan D is a musical demonstration built for dimension, duration and dynamics,” Kasai says in a press release. “My long-time desire became real and it’s even better than I planned because of the support from talented, experienced drummers. The unique and individual styles of drumming each tell a different story. It became an experimental, conceptual project. I directed their stories by writing notes on the synthesizer and triggering them by drum hits.”
“Toshi Kasai understands us drummers,” Matt Cameron says of the project in the release. “This amazing collection of drum vignettes is a perfect example of how Toshi hears the music in our rhythmic patterns. I am not sure how he did it, something including MIDI I presume, but none of that matters, Plan D stands on its own as a completely new musical entity and I’m super proud to be a part of it.”
Other renowned drummers will be featured on future volumes in the EP series. In a whiteboard shown in the studio video, we see names such as C. Smith, G. Bissonette and M. Chamberlain, suggesting that we may hear contributions from the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Chad Smith, live and studio veteran Gregg Bissonette and Matt Chamberlain, who has worked with everyone from A Perfect Circle to Bruce Springsteen. For more info on the project, visit Joyful Noise’s website.