Track Premiere: Oblivion – ‘Awaiting Autochthon’ – Decibel Magazine (September 19, 2017)
“Nick is like the Bruce Lee of avant garde metal composing…” Sanders says. “He is a madman… He is untouchable and from another planet, wildly innovative and creative.”
Dawn of Deathcore: The Story of Antagony – Metal Injection (July 24, 2017)
Nearly 5 years in the making, “Dawn of Deathcore: The Story of Antagony” is a documentary on the seminal Bay-Area based band Antagony; mostly known as the ‘fathers of Deathcore.’ Directed by Brandon Hunt and featuring appearances by members (past and present) of All Shall Perish, OBLIVION, Fallujah,The Zenith Passage, Antagony, Burials, and more. The 32-minute doc takes you from their beginnings as Bay Area outsiders to the purveyors of a major genre of extreme metal. Founding members of Antagony are currently in All Shall Perish (Ben Orum), OBLIVION (Nick Vasallo and Ben Orum), and Connoisseur (Carlos Antagonyy). OBLIVION’s 2nd album is scheduled to release in November 2017 by Unique Leader Records and is the first collaboration between Orum and Vasallo since Antagony’s first album in 2001.
People of DVC: Dr. Nick Vasallo – DVC Welcome (July 12, 2017)
As an avid music lover and pianist, I am very excited to tell you guys a little more about one of our great music professors, Dr. Nick Vasallo. Dr. Vasallo created and runs the music composition program for our school. He is also in a death metal band, OBLIVION, which makes him one of the coolest professors we have on campus! After a quick email interview, I was able to pick his brain on what inspired him to become one our area’s greatest music professors:
Dr. Nick Vasallo honored at CSUEB 40 Under 40 Alumni Awards ceremony – DVC Success Stories (May 1, 2017)
“It is such an honor to be awarded the inaugural 40 Under 40 Award from Cal State East Bay. As I have attended and taught at both schools, I consider DVC and CSUEB my homes. Music composition has given me such a purpose and direction in life that I feel obligated and honored to pass my knowledge and experience on to students. I believe if you have the desire to compose, you should not only have the opportunity to learn how, but also hear your music performed. That was truly a life-changing experience for me, and I have had the good fortune to see it come full-circle. Years ago, my first composition was performed at DVC, and now I have the privilege of creating music composition courses for the next generation of composers.”
Introducing Cal State East Bay’s 40 Under 40 Awards – East Bay Today (April 26, 2017)
Vasallo is an award-winning composer, sound artist, teacher, vocalist and guitarist. His music reveals an eclectic array of influences and his compositions have been internationally performed by world-renowned groups such as the Selesian Philharmonic, Contemporary Music Ensemble Korea, Music Now, Bridge Chamber Virtuosi, Atlanta Schola Cantorum, Borromeo String Quartet and Watsonville Taiko. He currently composes, sings lead vocals and plays bass for the modern extreme metal band, Oblivion.
OBLIVION Is Working On A New Album, Premieres New String Quartet Song – Metal Injection (March 21, 2017)
Vocalist and classical composer Nick Vasallo says he turned toward classical music after the album, but is now making his return to metal! We’re stoked to premiere a new Oblivion song today, though it’s not quite metal – it’s something Vasallo wrote that’ll turn into an Oblivion song!
Meet The Father of DEATHCORE! – Riffshop (March 1, 2017)
Introducing RiffCast: The Songwriting Podcast #1!
Signup to our Mailing List: http://bit.ly/RiffshopMailingListFB to Listen to the full 1 hour podcast with Nick Vasallo (aka The Father of Deathcore). Riffcasts are where we take deep dives with noted songwriters and talk about their mindsets/mentalities/techniques and beliefs when it comes to songwriting.
Nick Vasallo on the ties between medieval music and heavy metal – Elevate Ensemble (February 14, 2017)
Around the end of graduate school in 2010, I began a new way of composing. It’s a lot like binge-writing. It isn’t for everyone as I spend a lot of time just meditating and pondering the entirety of a work. I don’t listen to music in the car or at home, I just daydream and get lost in my own head. I don’t even write a single note until I have the complete picture in my mind. Then, I shut out the world completely and focus on getting it all out. Like there is something in my body that needs to be expelled or my soul cannot rest. This is a relatively short period of binge-composing and it can become very taxing on your surrounding life.
How ancient mythology inspires Nick Vasallo’s composing – Elevate Ensemble (September 15, 2016)
It’s definitely a symbiotic relationship. The piano and ensemble function as two totally different entities that work together but oftentimes antagonize one another. When they are working in harmony, I tend to use color to bind them together. I wanted to make some sounds that do not sound like a piano. Because this is a concerto, the piece is very sectional. There are several main sections in the work, and each section has its own atmosphere that collides with the others. Rests are active and full of resonance.
Nick Vasallo, our heavy-metal-influenced composer-in-residence – Elevate Ensemble (August 2, 2016)
I can actually pinpoint a single event that led to my path towards composition. When I was 14 years old I saw a live performance by Nirvana. After the performance, the band trashed their instruments and their set ended with lovely feedback. I thought to myself, “I could do that. I want to do that!” So for my birthday, I asked for an electric guitar. My parents bought me a black Squier Stratocaster with a practice amp. I’d wait until I was alone at home, then I’d turn all the knobs up and play. I didn’t know how to tune or play anything, so I would basically improvise noise. I bet the neighbors loved it.
Exclusive Premiere: Chopin’s “Prelude in E-Minor” Performed as a Black Metal Song – Metal Sucks (May 20, 2016)
As longtime fans of the connective tissues between classical music and metal, we here at MetalSucks simply could not resist debuting this video of Frédéric Chopin’s “Prelude in E-Minor (op.28 no. 4).” As arranged by Oblivion’s Nick Vasallo and performed by the Mobius Trio with Luis Martinez (The Zenith Passage) on drums, this legendary composition is now fit for an Immortal Emperor who sits atop a Darkthrone. Chopin has never been this evil.
AN NCS VIDEO PREMIERE: SURROUNDING THE EARTH — “PART I” – No Clean Singing (May 20, 2016)
“Part I” was originally titled “East-West Doom Test”, reflecting both the bi-coastal locations of the two clarinetists and the composition’s integration of classical experimentalism and sludge/doom metal. The music is heavy, vibrant, and fascinating — and the video is just as fascinating to watch as the music is to hear.
Compositions come to life – Stockton Record (November 4, 2015)
“As a composer, I try to remove myself,” said Vasallo, 36, who plays guitar in Oblivion, a Bay Area “death-metal” band. “I haven’t looked at it for months. I wanna be objective. I almost don’t remember every moment. So it’s brand new. I’ll be reacting to something new.”
Dr. Vasallo Reviews Maestro Classics Stories in Music – Maestro Classics (June 18, 2015)
“Dr. Nick Vasallo, composer, sound artist and college professor, has been making waves in the classical music world as both a contemporary composer and beloved teacher. I was introduced to his music and teaching abilities at the Univserity of California at Santa Cruz where I was fortunate to have him as a teaching assistant in one my undergraduate theory courses. Since graduating from UCSC with a Doctorate of Musical Arts, Vasallo has served on the music faculties at California State Polytechnic University and California State University East Bay, and this fall will be taking over as Director of Music Industries at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, CA.”
IN THE DARKNESS: THE GLOWING SOUND OF A WILD RUMPUS – New Music Box (June 16, 2015)
“I began thinking: what if I took a moment, an energy, and let it grow as organically as I could into a huge moment, and then stretched that moment out? To do this I needed to change time perception continuously, from one range to another, from a rhythm into a pitch, or a tone or a noise into a formal structure. I also decided early on to compose the music entirely using duration, so the performers would use a timer to follow the music. This approach probes into the nature of duration itself, particularly as it relates to human experience. I needed to convey that the dynamic of duration is not only change but growth through change.”
Composers, Inc. presents !BAMM! – Peninsula Reviews (May 10, 2015)
“…every moment of the music felt natural, emotional, and expertly constructed. It was thrilling, and the performers looked like they were having a blast. This piece was one of the most organic and affecting of the evening.”
New Music Industries Director brings wealth of musical experience – The Inquirer (May 5, 2015)
Composer, metal-head and former Diablo Valley College student: all of these titles describe new DVC Music Industries Studies Director, Nick Vasallo. His passion for watching students make their own music is what keeps him coming back. “There is something truly special about creating something,” he says. “It becomes alive. It exists. Whether it be a beautifully recorded song, or a gorgeous chord progression–witnessing students exceed their own expectations while being creative is an amazing thing.”
Some Weird Heavy Music For Your Wednesday (A Cross-Continental Experiment From Nick Vasallo) – No Clean Singing (February 25, 2015)
“So I’ve always been fascinated with paradoxes and I try to use them in my music. I wanted to blur the lines between control and anarchy. Each musician has instructions of what they can do and a timeline. So, instead of using harmony or melody to designate form I use absolute time and texture. I also think composers don’t trust musicians enough. I totally trust these players to interpret my music in their individual ways. The title reflects the overall game plan of the piece, the performers are so close to freedom but don’t quite reach it. It also reflects on how there are things in this world that need a drastic change, but things won’t change unless we all have a common goal.”
An NCS Video Premiere: Nick Vasallo (with The Living Earth Show and Friction Quartet): “OZYMANDIAS” – No Clean Singing (August 14, 2014)
“The video is a combination of footage of these two groups performing the composition outdoors near the shores of the San Francisco Bay (filmed by Taylor Joshua Rankin) and an award-winning 2012 short film named Elefante, written and directed by Pablo Larcuen. Vasallo saw thematic similarities between Shelley’s poem and Elefante, and although they may not be apparent at first blush, there’s no question that the story told in the film and the music fit together like hand and glove. We’re pretty sure you won’t hear or see anything like “Ozymandias” today, or any other day, and we’re damned glad we get to show it to you. After the video, we’ve got our short Q&A with Nick Vasallo — and Shelley’s poem.”
Mobius Trio Video Premiere: Nick Vasallo’s Dark Matter– I Care If You Listen (March 31, 2014)
“Bay Area composer Nick Vasallo smelts heavy metal aesthetics with Western classical techniques to create new sonic alloys never heard before. Vasallo’s work is a fresh music that may help usher in a new audience for classical music. It is dramatic, aggressive, moody, introspective, and thoughtful. Vasallo is dedicated to a multilingual stylistic pluralism spanning Western art music traditions, indigenous Asian musics, and heavy metal genres. As a staunch advocate for local musicians, he is committed to serving the San Francisco Bay Area new music community not only by curating the annual Bay Area Modern Music festival (!BAMM!) but also by featuring many Bay Area performers in his music videos.”
Meet the Maistro: Dr. Nick Vasallo– Cal Poly Pomona Publicity (September 18, 2013)
“I got over performing years ago. I’ve been on the road with my extreme metal band, Antagony, since I was 19 years old. We would go from city to city and sleep on the way to the next town. I loved it but academia took over my priorities as a touring musician. When I started as a music major I wanted to be a film composer (and was a film composer for years). After taking Music Theory with Dr. Frank LaRocca at CSU East Bay–a new vision appeared. I wanted to be a professor of music. I wanted to instill the passion that I felt when learning about music into others. To me, teaching a class IS performing.”
VASALLO: “BLACK SWAN EVENTS”– No Clean Singing press release (September 6, 2013)
“The integration of metal and classical music in this concerto goes well beyond the fact that it was written for electric guitar, drum set, and orchestra. The integration occurs at a much deeper level…Needless to say, I think the very idea of setting out to do what Vasallo did in creating Black Swan Events is metal as hell, and the music itself is fascinating. It’s discordant and vibrant, soft and droning, very complex and at times very simple, and ultimately I think Nick Vasallo succeeded in finding a synthesis in the power of all the seemingly divergent styles that are interwoven in this piece.”
Nick Vasallo, CSUEB alumnus/teacher, earns ‘Music Educator of Year’ recognition – Inside CSUEB News Blog (May 23, 2013)
“While Nicholas Vasallo may be a composer, vocalist and bass player for an extreme metal band called Oblivion, the group’s name in no way describes where his musical career is headed. Nick Vasallo’s musical influence is only continuing to grow. His teaching has been recognized. The San Francisco Classical Voice, a music news Web site, honored Vasallo as its “Music Educator of the Year” first runner-up after he received 27 nominations for the honor from students, CSUEB alumni and fellow faculty members.”
“Nick Vasallo is a die hard prog fan’s dream come true.” – The Circle Pit article (April 20, 2013)
“Nick Vasallo is a die hard prog fan’s dream come true. The man is a doctor of music and a critically acclaimed composer of classical music that is played worldwide. Dr. Vasallo finished a new piece, titled “Only One Survives,” and debuted it April 9th 2013. This epic 18 minute piece features various “characters” that fight throughout the music until only one remains.”
“One of the things the band have had going for them since the beginning was a lot of instrumental talent, plus the significant songwriting contributions of a guy (vocalist/bassist Nick Vasallo) who happens to be an accomplished classical composer. Vasallo’s classical training and interests shine through in different ways on Called To Rise, but most clearly on the song “Canon 1 in E Minor”. As Vasallo has explained, the song was “a conscious effort to bridge the worlds of Metal and Classical music””
“Nick Vasallo teaches music at CSU East Bay and at Gavilan College in Gilroy. He was the most-nominated teacher in the SFCV Music Educator Award: 27 of his students wrote in to give him the nod. It’s easy to see how Vasallo makes such an impression on his students: He’s indefatigable and always available, and he can relate to the age group. Students come to his classes wary and leave enriched, having really learned the material. He teaches as much as 23 units (that’s five or more full classes) in a semester and brings the same high spirits and energy to every one of them.”
“San Francisco Classical Voice Announces Winners of First Annual Music Educator Award” – San Francisco Classical Voice Press Release (April 5, 2013)
“All of us were touched by the sincerity of feeling of the letters of nomination, but not surprised. It is evidence of the deep devotion that great music teachers inspire, and the reason SFCV inaugurated this award. The nominations came from parents, co-workers, but mainly from students, including one 89-year-old woman who went to Prof. Vasallo for help writing a classical memorial piece for her daughter.”
“Vasallo was finally able to rebuild the band and, 4 years later (an eternity in today’s music scene) in 2005, Antagony released Rebirth – their most critically-acclaimed album to date. It received a 8.6/10 from MetalReview.com, higher than any Deathcore release. It was deemed more “epic” and something that “stood apart” from the other bands of the genre by Teeth of the Divine, and that reviewer even stated “Abacus Recordings, Lifeforce, Nuclear Blast and Metal Blade” should sign them immediately.”
“Commented OBLIVION vocalist Nick Vasallo: “As a band,OBLIVIONdoesn’t want to just fit into the typical death metal category. Sure, we come from primarily a death metal background and we fulfill all the stylistic criteria associated with it. But we want our music to have broad conceptions and extreme depth. I composed a piece called ‘Multiverse’that exists within two universes: metal and classical. The notes are identical and the music functions both as modern art music and modern extreme metal.””
“Music alum, lecturer releases CD, two pieces to debut on campus this spring” – CSU East Bay news article (April 30, 2012)
“Asian-American composer Nicholas Vasallo, ’07 music and current music lecturer, has released his first CD. CSUEB music students will perform two of the pieces in concert this spring. Described as “heavy metal to heavy classical,” Vasallo’s “Moments Emerge” fuses Western classical music, Asian classical music, and heavy metal. “This CD is culturally significant because there are very few Asian-American composers represented in popular culture, let alone art music today,” said Vasallo. “I consciously mix styles which I feel are underrepresented in academic music today: notably Taiko and Metal music. Both are empowering in a sense, and struggle to find credibility as a “high art” form,” he said.”
“Composers, Inc. celebrates local talent at Old First “ – SF Music Examiner (October, 2011)
“Energy levels were maintained (along with a preference for strings) in the following selection, “Collapsing Obsidian Suns,” by Nicholas Vasallo. The composition involved a shift from the extreme dynamics of the metal movement to extreme virtuosity that captured both the rhythmic intensity and the wailing melodic lines of that movement. This was not modern chamber music pretending to be metal. It had its own unique voice from a composer equally comfortable in both worlds, and the Bridge Virtuosi gave a spirited and highly appealing account of that voice.”
“CSUEB grad Nicholas Vasallo helping to revitalize CSUEB’s music department” – CSU East Bay news article (June, 2011)
“He teaches music history, literature and songwriting. The most exciting news is that he is teaching here at CSU East Bay and currently developing new possible courses. Last, but not least he just passed his oral exams and turned in his dissertation, he is officially Dr. Nick Vasallo.”
“All the Cool Parts 2010 Idol Winner: Nick Vasallo” – All the Cool Parts podcast interview (June, 2011)
“This week on All the Cool Parts – Our 2010 ACP Idol winner, composer Nicholas Vasallo. We spend some time with this young, up and coming composer and discuss his music among other topics. Come check out some cool new classical music!”
DIRECT LINK: http://www.anthonyjosephlanman.com/acp/acp26.mp3
“Synesthesia: Three Composers And Their Sensory Inspiration“ – Bullett magazine article (Spring 2011, Vol. II)
“Just as all of us experience flavor through both taste and smell, Vasallo experiences groups of pitches through both sound and color movement. Whenever he sits at the piano, closes his eyes, and plays two notes that make a tritone (think the sound of the European siren), he sees “ a deep red ripple through and settle back down into the black.” The interval of a fifth, however, is “ a strong color of gold, old and metallic looking.””
“Skilled instructor inspires songwriting“ – newspaper featured article from Gavilan Press (April 25, 2011)
“He said the key to teaching or learning is to be open-minded and evolve with the curriculum, “I’m always going to be a student. Teaching requires us to learn all the time. We’re adapting to new crops of students all the time.” A lot of Vasallo’s inspiration comes straight from his students. “I love the light bulb that goes off when you see that students get it!” He loves building rapport with the individuals.”
“Music alum, lecturer ‘guest composer’ at Feb. 24 Symphony concert“ – CSU East Bay news article (Jan. 12, 2011)
“Two compositions by 2007 grad and current music lecturer Nicholas Vasallo will be performed Feb. 24 by the CSUEB Symphony Orchestra at 7:30 p.m. in the Music Building Recital Hall, room 1055. The first pieces he composed following graduation and the first for the orchestra, “Coalescence” was the “April in Santa Cruz Music Festival 2009” official selection and, “Expand the Hive,” was the 2009 University of California, Santa Cruz student composer’s award winner.”
“Filipino, Taiwanese” – a featured article from Hapa: A Celebration of Multiracial Asian Identity (Sept. 26, 2010)
“I feel most new music today is geared towards specific pockets of audiences; art music for the scholarly, pop music for the average listener, and in between those two extremes exist countless other sub-genres of music and audiences. Perhaps what is missing is an amalgamation of what inspires people to witness the beauty of music performance; this is what I intend to bring after in depth research into World Music.”
“UC Santa Cruz student Nick Vasallo used to wail on guitar in a heavy-metal band. Now he’s UCSC’s first music doctoral candidate to win the $21,000 President’s Dissertation Year Fellowship, which covers tuition for the upcoming school year. “His music has an impact on people no matter what background the person has,” Saldana said. The composer’s pieces have also garnered respect from UCSC faculty. “He’s a really visionary composer,” Jones said. “He’s a creative guy, but very modest.””
“Time to Face the Music” – newspaper article and interview from City on a Hill Press (Sept. 2009)
“I remember my first musicianship lab, an often tedious requirement in the Music Department that accompanies any introductory music theory course at UCSC. When my roommate and I got to class, our TA, Nick, was zoned out, staring off at the wall, and effortlessly conjuring one obscure chord after another. “Watching my students discover relationships in theory is the best feeling,” he said, smiling, of his experience teaching Music 13 and14. “Light bulbs are going off over everyone’s head, and you know – instantly – when someone suddenly gets what you’re talking about.”
“Classical Mayhem” – interview and article from Anti-Mag (March 2008)
“Sometimes I meet people and I find they are flying at the bare minimum to “get by”. Sometimes I meet people and they blow me away. Such is the case of Nick Vasallo. This California native is a musician and composer and although started his venture later in life, has really grown to understand the inner workings of great musicianship. “
“Nick Vasallo: Composer of Eclecticism” – interview from The Harbinger (June 2007)
“Well I was bouncing around a lot from 1998-2005. I was touring with my band Antagony and trying to go to school full-time and working. It was crazy. I first majored in Psychology and then went into Computer Science. Then I dropped out for a whole year and just wrote music. I then realized I needed to go back to school for Music. A friend once told me, “find what you love most in the world and never let it go.””
“CSUEB Choral Composition Competition Winner: Nick Vasallo” – interview with Buddy James April 2007