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A long, long time ago
I can still remember how
The forums used to make me smile
And I knew if he had a chance
Ramsey could showcase his talents
And maybe we’d be jammin’ for a while…

I’m not really sure what bastardizing Don McLean lyrics has to do with anything, but as a friendly reminder, links to Mars Module’s music are located at the very bottom of the post or embedded throughout the feature for your convenience.


When thinking back to when the forums were far more lively than they are today, we’re rewinding by a good 6-7 years.

Knowing what I know now, and given the ability to travel back in time, I’d punch 7-years-ago me so hard in the face to ensure that my life would be more Groundhog Day than Hot Tub Time Machine (although, even if I had to relive the same day over and over again, I’d still somehow manage to screw things up).

Talk to anyone who joined Musician Forums before Sputnikmusic launched in 2005 (anyone with a later join date and tries to tell you what’s up is just a poser who cannot be trusted), and you’ll probably get some decent information along with a lot of hilariously-distorted revisionist history.

However, this entry isn’t entirely dedicated to site history. As wonderful as nostalgia can be in moderation, the thought of reminiscing about a site I’ve frequented for 11+ years makes me want to barf.

I have met some very fine folks via the Internets, though, and as some of you can attest, it’s not uncommon for there to be Sputnikmusic meet-ups that are fun and free-wheeling, as opposed to being a tragic display of people’s social awkwardness or unfortunate neuroses.

Courtesy of Doug Savage, savagechickens.com

Instead, What I’d really like to do is introduce Ramsey Kharroubi, Ozy Hreish, and Kai J√¶gersen, otherwise known as Mars Module, who play an even-keel split between instrumental metal and electronic music. What makes this composition unique is how the recording, mixing, and mastering takes place on separate continents. The trio is a well-traveled group of dudes as it is: Ramsey and Ozy are life-long friends born in Kuwait but now currently live on the East Coast and West Coast of the United States, respectively, and Kai hails from Oslo, Norway. In the following feature, Ramsey (and, later, Ozy) and I have a not-so-little chat about growing as musicians, distance-based songwriting and recording, and the trials and tribulations (and also the fun) of being in an online band.

Sputnikmusic: Well, as if this isn’t going to force me to re-evaluate my life when this is all over. It’s great hearing from you, man!

Ramsey: Hi, hello!

Listen, I have to get this out of the way: before we showcase Mars Module, I have a quick confession to make. I still have a song of yours you wrote for the forums in 2005.

Uh, oh. Oh, God!

As fun as it’d be to be all circlejerky about all the time-wasting we did on the forums way back when, I have to have you listen to this.

[laughs] What are you doing with a song I wrote from 2005?

I’m not sure. I’ve saved all sorts of bullshit from the forums — how to have a user title longer than 25 characters, Neoli stories…


Anyway, anyway, the context of this song came from one of the many sexual bloopers threads, and this was at a time when DBJ or Jeremy or somebody enforced a five character minimum for posts instead of the three we have today, and you were the one who championed “Lawl.” as a valid response to fight the man or whatever.

Yeah, I don’t remember this at all. Not even vaguely.

Well, it’s probably because you’re doing something constructive and meaningful with music now! Anyway, apparently you decided to write a song called “Lawl.” and me, being some stupid hoarder, saved this thing.

Uh, oh. Oh, God. I need to hear this.

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Ramsey – “Lawl.” (0:57)

[laughs] I can’t believe you saved this thing. What’s wrong with you?!

Because, obviously, I was going to use this as a jumping-off point to talk about your new band. Obviously, you’re miles better than you were in 2005, and although your music is sans lyrics — I’m sure nothing can compete with 60 seconds of “lawl” —


— I’m sure you want to at least start this thing with telling everybody a little bit about yourself and what you’ve been up to before we get to Mars Module as a whole.

Well, I’ve been doing alright. I actually compose music for video games at the moment and I do band production and sound design. I’m currently in Montreal right now, actually, although I permanently live in New York. Relocating for the summer was a big help professionally, but also, I get a chance to see the world a little bit. Montreal is a real neat city.

What kind of games did you work on?

All sorts, really. I created a bunch of sound assets for various games, like this fishing one called, shockingly, Fishjn’. It’s a cool concept, my friends wanted it to be a rhythm-based game, where the music gets gradually funkier and funkier the closer you are to snaring the fish. It’s like, ah, looking at the line tension while reeling in the fish, and the music gets groovier as you get closer and closer to catching the fish.

The music gets funkier the closer you get to capturing your fish.

[After playing through the game.] The wire art is really cool, man.

Thanks! So this is some of the electronic stuff that I have done with friends and colleagues. I’ve also contributed tracks to a video game called Kung Fu Volleyball (trailer teaser above), which is part of the reason why I’ve been in Montreal, and then some other projects, like Skipping Stones, where your actions within the game create the soundscape. It’s not out yet, but will be very soon. Actually, Kung Fu Volleyball and Fishjn’ are games I worked on for a game jam, where I had to write and score the music in 3 days! It was dubstep, taiko, and metal. Not that that matters [laughs]. It was intense! Skipping Stones is my first big game; it’s actually been a huge challenge and undertaking for a team of our size and experience! But what’s cool is that we got into FIG and Eurogamer¬†Expo – we are really proud of this and you’ll be able to play them at those festivals!

That’s an incredible achievement, congrats! And hey, I’ll link to your portfolio at the bottom of the entry, if that works.

That would be amazing as long as it doesn’t look like I’m whoring myself out [laughs]. Hey, we all need the work, man!

Ha, yeah, tell me about it! So let’s get to Mars Module, then.

So we make metal and electronica; let me recommend a bit of both if that’s okay.

Sure, sure. Go for it.

“Comet Collapse” is the new single from our current release, which we debuted in May. I think that would be a great metal song to showcase. As for electronica, I feel that the title track from “Motions” and “Androids & Astronauts” from our newest release work well to display.

Alright, so why these songs? Why should people bother clicking to listen at all?

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Mars Module – “Comet Collapse” (04:00)

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Mars Module – “Androids & Astronauts” (04:14)

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Mars Module – “Motions” (2:27)

Well, a little bit of a background here: Ozy and I started Mars Module in 2006, and then Kai joined up last year. We basically strive to write songs that we would want to hear when seeking out music.

Is this where I tell everybody that your first username on the forums was chimairaforlife?

[laughs] Oh, God. No! Don’t do that!

Anyways, you were saying…

Album art for 'Constellation', released May 2013.

Ah, right, okay. So I like to describe Mars Module as being “an aggressive exhibit of razor-sharp, emotive riffs with some progressive drumming and delicately-built synths on a spacey backdrop.”

I can see why you’d pick “Comet Collapse”, then. I love how the song opens and those choked high-hat taps segue into that bombastic riff.

Hey, thank you!

The song is connected so well. I like how the spacey layer is just audible enough below the guitars, but that transition after the ambient middle section at around 1:45 is real good, too. The last minute-and-a-half is awesome. Everything is real smooth; there’s nothing choppy or sounding out of place or anything like that.

Thanks! Yeah, we’re really happy with how it turned out.

Speaking of ‘we’, and how you guys are all over the world, how did all this come about?

We collaborate from different corners of the world. I live in New York, but the other two live in Irvine, California and Oslo, Norway respectively. I met Kai, whose project is known as Iceythe (Soundcloud available here) over the Internet — he frequents the sevenstring.org boards often and that’s sort of how we linked up. As for Ozy, he’s actually one of my best friends of 11 years. We’ve been through a lot together and we started the band roughly 6 years ago. We know each other from high school, and we were both raised in Kuwait. We’re also both American citizens. Well, I don’t think that last bit is essential…

No, no, it just means I can’t have you be in my film, then.

What film?

I’m going to have some immigrants and some child molesters in a battle royal and I’m going to call it Aliens vs. Predators and totally not get sued for copyright infringement.

At least he slowed down in school zones...

[laughs] No, I suppose not!

Anyways, you were saying…

So Kai’s our newest member and joined upon this release. We are currently working on a new album of lo-fi electronica songs, the bulk of which are written by Ozy. After this, we are planning a full length release for 2014.

With you guys all being geographically all over the place, what does the collaboration process look like? What programs do you use for recording, sharing, and mixing the tracks?

Ha, actually, the collaboration process is very lenient and relaxed. A general rule of thumb among us is to never force it. The three of us write our compositions at our own pace, really, and we give each other feedback whenever we can catch each other online. We lead fairly busy lives, I’d say. Kai works full-time, I have been wrapping up my summer in Montreal where I was finishing up an audio contract for a video game, and Ozy attends university and is working on a second degree. We try to find time to write music when we can and when we feel we have something cool, we seek each other out to gain feedback and bounce off ideas.

It’s interesting that there’s no real strict structure. I’m a pretty Type A person, but I’ve played in plenty of bands at university and now and there always seems to be that one guy who’s kind of a dick about having a concrete plan and sticking to it.

Of course, this collaboration between the three of us is still sort of fresh with Kai being the newest member, so in a lot of ways, the chemistry between us is not all there yet, and so the band is still kind of discovering its voice.

Oh, sure, I can totally envision that, and I think that that’s a fair point. I can see that with songs like “Spaceshifter”. The dichotomy between the metal side and the electronic side of your music is most stark there, but in “Androids & Astronauts”, it coalesces seamlessly.

All game artwork screenshots courtesy of G.P. Lackey: narwolf.tumblr.com/

Yeah, as I said, we’re still working on it! And you wanted to know about how we go about writing songs, like, what programs we use to collaborate online?

Yes, exactly!

The three of us use Cubase for all the production. Often, we will use Guitar Pro to flesh out certain concepts that need more commitment than a simple Cubase session, and so we use the MIDI from those projects to create all sorts of layers and ideas. The production, you can say, is shared among the three of us. The first two albums were mixed and mastered by me, the third was a collaboration between me and Kai, and our upcoming electronica EP is all Ozy. Let me take a photo of my set-up so that everybody can see:

Laundry bag for additional ambiance points!

So you’re saying that all the engineering is pretty evenly distributed between the three of you, then.

Oh, for sure. And after that, we have a full length coming out that will be produced mostly by Kai. We encourage each other with our projects and so we also encourage each other with injecting each of our influences into releases.

Would you say that Constellation is a preliminary example of what that process looks like, then, considering that you guys are still cultivating your songwriting voice?

Oh, for sure. We’re definitely proud of this record and we really relish opportunities where we can work together. I’ve felt that our approach is the most sustaining for a project like ours because of our living circumstances, and it also allows us to go kind of wild with ideas and experimentation. As our ideas and tracks start to come together, we use Dropbox to share projects with each other.

Okay, so if you could, enlighten me a little bit further about how a Mars Module song typically gets written.

Songs get written in a variety of ways. The three of us are guitarists who are more or less hobbyists and not at all virtuosos [laughs, then a long pause]. Well… maybe Kai, though. He is a beast on guitar and bass. Sometimes I write songs solely with my mouse, in that I will write out the electronica parts in MIDI in Cubase first and then hopefully add tasteful guitar to the tracks! But also sometimes I will lay down a riff or two of guitar and go from there. Personally, there is no real “logic” to my writing except that I try to have a critical ear of what I’m writing and be selective in its overall composition. Actually, Ozy wants to join in on our Hangout, is that cool?

Whoa, yeah, for sure. Hey, Oz!

Hi there! You probably already know how Mars Module functions down to the nuts and bolts [laughs], so instead, I’m gonna try to give you a little insight to some other things that you might find cool about our little musical project.

That’d be wonderful, cheers.

Well, Ramsey is the reason I play guitar. We became friends when I was in 11th grade, and he used to play some riffs by The Offspring – one of my favorite bands at the time —

I can confirm this! [laughs]

[laughing] … on his guitar and I thought it was the coolest thing and figured that I had to learn how to do the same. So I bought a guitar! This was about 10 years ago.

It’s amazing how that worked out, eh?

Ha, right? By the way, I played the trumpet all through middle school and early high school, so I had prior musical knowledge.

Nice, I did the same! I probably should have stuck with trumpet because I’m not nearly as successful at the whole guitar thing. I can still sightread and know some theory, still, at least!

Check marsmodule.tumblr.com for more topical photography.

Well, that’s part of the battle, yeah! Circa 2005 until about 2007, we started to record on Ramsey’s Pod some crappy covers or out-of-tune riffs and ideas that pretty much never lead anywhere; it was us just sorta messing around whenever we got the chance to hang out. It wasn’t until 2008 or 2009 that we actually sat down and started trying to write proper songs. [laughs] We wrote a lot of music between 2008 and 2011, but a lot of it is unfinished and some of it pretty crappy. And with us being self-conscious about our music, it took us a while before we were confident enough to put some of our songs online. I believe it wasn’t until 2012 where we started to have a steady output of songs, although a majority of them still haven’t seen the light of day, and felt comfortable with the direction that we wanted to take Mars Module’s sound. And later that year, we finally released our first EPs.

I appreciate hearing all this, because it exemplifies how, regardless if you’re a band in a garage, studio, or collaborating online, it’s easy to lose sight of what drew you to this in the first place.

Right, which is why we commit to making sure that the writing process is spontaneous and free-flowing rather than being forced. Wish I could talk more, but I have to run — thanks for letting me chime in! I would like to recommend one of our older songs for your readers to listen to, if that’s okay. If I had to summarize the sound we were going for on this, it’d be “spacerocktronica”! [laughs]

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Mars Module – “Glacier” (04:34)

Sure, of course. Thanks for taking the time – all the best!

I hope that helped illuminate some things that I wasn’t quite clear on earlier, or at least hear some things from somebody else involved in the project.

So when you say that Mars Module is the three of you writing music that you guys would collectively like to hear, I also heard you talking about how you each give one another the autonomy and ability to infuse your personal likes and influences into the music, too.

That’s right.

Well, what are some of those likes and influences that you bring as a songwriter?

Oh, I am a huge fan of thematic writing and buildups in music!

Crescendos, dissonance, Tubular Bells

Sure, sure, all those work, certainly! But what’s most important to me is that the listener feels like the songs are telling a story. Bearing this philosophy in mind, we can compensate for the lack of vocals by placing an emphasis on composition and music. Ozy and Kai have more methodical approaches to the writing. Ozy tends to write only with his guitar and with Guitar Pro. Once he feels it’s ready, he will import the guitar pro project to Cubase and continue adding and tweaking the song until he feels he can share it with us. Like he mentioned earlier, this means some of his projects have never seen the light of day! [laughs]

"(It's important to me) that the listener feels like the songs are telling a story."

You can get away with that since you started this project with him!

Right, right! Kai is also somewhat unique in his approach, in that he will flesh out complex guitar parts with clever and subtle editing and I believe he just builds on top of it from there. The three of us are very into layering in music, and chord dynamics, and rhythm… all are essential to helping the audience feel something.

To that end, how do you make your listeners ‘feel something’ with your rhythm section? Is there an egalitarian approach to the drum programming, too?

We all give suggestions to the drum programming and it is really something that we all take part in. I have programmed a majority of them, but if Kai feels that something can be groovier or more appropriate, he does not hesitate to change that, which I love, and he will send me back a project with a more fitting groove. Ozy gives his own feedback to the drums and tells me what he feels can suit a riff better. Bass, up until now, has been programmed with a program called Trilian. The reason for this is that I have felt that I can write better bass parts than I can play them, if that makes any sense.

Of course.

Also, too, is the fact that bass is notoriously difficult to balance in a mix if you don’t have decent gear, so Trilian’s library is perfect for a band who wants to collaborate overseas and perhaps does not have access to the best sound rooms or bass guitars. However, upon Kai’s inclusion to Mars Module, the bass will mostly be handled by him from now on, seeing that he can actually play bass pretty amazingly, and having an element of the band be “real” felt important to us in giving our music a broader dynamic.

That makes sense, sure. Now, how is the band’s electronic music handled? Is having an electronic flair to your music something you’ve always wanted to do?

Well, the synths and the electronic parts have been something we have been playing with and intentionally including in our songs from the start. The three of us are big electronica fans and we have been finding ways to mesh the genres of prog, metal, and electronica in a tasteful blend from the start. It hasn’t been easy, as you can tell from listening to our first two EPs, but I feel that the more we write, the closer we are to achieving a sound that feels cohesive but eclectic.

So Constellation is more representative of the sound you think Mars Module would like to shoot for.

Oh, yeah, for sure! Our more recent release is kind of the fruits of that labor. With the addition of Kai, me and Ozy can focus more on the compositional and synth-heavy aspects of the music, and Kai, being the amazing guitarist that he is, can bridge that gap between awkward writing and emotional resonance. However, as I’m sure you’ve caught on by now, I discourage giving ourselves any kind of arbitrary roles. The three of us jointly share the writing process, and we understand that it is an open space where ideas are encouraged.

Well, Ramsey, I’d say that that’s a solid way to wrap this up: it’s heartening to hear that you’re still having fun and it’s great to hear about all your successes.

Thanks for letting me take part in this! If anybody’s interested, here are some more links for you:

Mars Module Soundcloud

The ‘Constellation’ album’s Bandcamp

Mars Module on Facebook

Our Mars Module Tumblr!

My professional portfolio

My KO-OP MODE team’s website

Our album art artist’s portfolio, Patrick Makhoul

This is me (at left) with my KO-OP MODE team! (Courtesy of criticalhitmontreal.ca)

Also, the guy on the far right? I’ve known him for 11 years, and Ozy’s known him for 17. We all went to the same school as kids!

Whoa, what a story! It’s awesome that you guys have been working together on something so cool for so long!

We haven’t punched each other out yet! And because I know how much you like things in fives, and because you really like the Elder Scrolls series, here’s a fifth song for your readers!

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Mars Module – “Moon Sugar” (03:49)

May your road lead you to warm sands!

Musical footnotes, in case you scrolled to the bottom:

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Mars Module – “Comet Collapse” (04:00)

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Mars Module – “Androids & Astronauts” (04:14)

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Mars Module – “Motions” (2:27)

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Mars Module – “Glacier” (04:34)

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Mars Module – “Moon Sugar” (03:49)

So, these guys are Khajiits?

lol damn good at sneaking

For real, though, this is a phenomenal interview. This is some awesome music, and I can relate to these guys as well. If things go according to plan, I should be making songs for videogames in my near future-- I'll keep this piece bookmarked for future reference.

Great interview, man. Thanks for sharing.

They're nice dudes! I can't believe they were able to write, score, and perform an entire soundtrack for two games in three days. I get bored doing almost anything after 15 minutes.

Needless to say, but awesome job Jom! Will check the sounds links as soon as possible.

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