For someone who’s not massively into noise/drone/experimental/whatever music, Gridfailure has been a bit of an eye-opener for me. It differentiates itself from a lot of its peers simply by being pretty damn good. That’s it, really. The soundscapes on Ensuring the Bloodline Ends Here are made up of just good music; here we have something that builds, turns, changes and emotes, exactly what you want out of an album, no matter what it’s composed of. David Brenner, the evil genius behind the band, was kind enough to give a bit of insight into the birth of Gridfailure…
Introduce us to Gridfailure!
Gridfailure is comprised of only myself, David Brenner; the act is as of now a solo project that happened “by accident”. I’ve been playing live and recording with Theologian since last year, Summer 2015, and within that time have heavily expanded upon the bass/vocal or vocal-only responsibilities I’ve had with any of my prior acts many moons ago. All of a sudden I was unloading a wealth of accumulated ideas, recording for Theologian, in the meantime creating a plethora of toxic runoff that would not be used on our records. One day this past February I was playing with unused recordings from random sessions basically just learning how to use music creation software. Suddenly these songs just kind of “happened” within layering this dark waste, and I started creating new material to merge them together in a very Frankenhooker fashion. Gridfailure was a random name I came up with while writing lyrics for a then non-existent band in the dark during our blackout of Hurricane Sandy, then just sat there in a folder… it just popped out while these tracks were aligning, and the project was brought into existence right then, randomly dicking-around with abandoned source material and old scribble.
What influenced the creation of Ensuring the Bloodline Ends Here?
The three or four random movements I’d sewn together in the aforementioned accidental creation process bore a semblance to the Theologian material we were then just starting to create for the Cadabra Records spoken arts label, scoring titles for readings of H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, and others. I’d recorded hours of material for the Lurking Fear LP which comes out in a few months, and with the record only being forty-two minutes in length, there was virtually hours of residual recordings, samples, noises, soundscapes, and such just laying here… a pile of useless limbs that would never be put to use. So I put them to use in a different way, using some random five or eight minute jams we’d previously used only a few seconds of, amassing freak recordings of equipment tests as I broke in new pedals, keys, mics, whatever, and began writing and crafting other tunes from scratch with a mix of these unused parts and brand new recordings. The title and lyrical content of the album bears a lot of personal meaning in some ways, but the entire record is a metaphor-stricken rant, taking from life, and also just creating mean fucking music as well, all morphing into this creature it became. I didn’t run the lyrics in the CD layout or anything, but they’re not some kind of cryptic secret code; they’re miserable, horrifying, diseased passages as murky and confusing as the cover art and the music and the whole blurring concept of what this “band” now is to me so suddenly. The photos of the cover I took at a substation back in Pennsylvania where I grew up; I randomly came across them at the same time the name kind of fell out of the folder on me, so it just aligned itself perfectly. All of it flowed into this – my shitty outlook on our planet because of human overconsumption of the planet and the bleak future I like many of us feel is coming, personal tribulations, and lots of random ideas just mutated into this horrifying concept, which became a song title, “Ensuring The Bloodline Ends Here.”
Where did the album title come from?
Once the record’s theme came together, the title was initially Maiden Caravan Into The Void or some such shit, basically a metaphor of my first foray into this recording, new band, whatever it was I was doing. But something about it kept bugging me; mostly because it’s stupid. So I just lifted Ensuring The Bloodline Ends Here, since that little mood-shifting track seemed to open up a new view on the album, and the title aptly suited this demoralizing theme of tragedy that was suddenly smelling up this thing I was now calling a record.
Tell us about your latest release – any themes or concepts you want to discuss?
The record doesn’t really bear some kind of political standpoint by any means, since it was created in such a random way with no real forethought. But as the theme started to become present, the tone and art and everything else took a turn towards extinction, which has basically become the theme of the project. I do have a lot of personally socio/politically-charged feelings and a lot of that pours into the overall tone of this project, as with most artists’ work, but this is just about sound, music, exploration. The state of the world freaks me out every day – the extinction agenda is only magnified in the other newer material I have in the works.
Tell us a bit more about the cover artwork?
As I mentioned, I had these close-up photos of a power substation I took a few years ago, right by a hydroelectric dam my dad worked at my entire life until just last year. These random shots just popped out at me the same day I was digging and the Gridfailure name fell out of my notes, so it was immediately perfect. I dropped them into a CD template just to dick around with them; played with the levels a bit and they just went haywire; another instant, random alignment of stored ideas that helped birth this thing.
Tell us more about how you went about constructing the music?
On this record I played a dozen or more instruments, but I’m not good at any of them. There are several electric basses, and tons of different vocal layers, as those are what I’ve always mainly done. But I also abuse electric/acoustic guitars, mini and standard size violins, a drum kit as well as bongos, maracas, den den daiko, and other percussion, harmonica, chimes, bells, chains, saws, random tools, and more. I used self-obtained field recordings and samples, incorporating things like a bizarre freezing rain storm, an ominous Winter thunderstorm and tornado system, incineration, illness, wildlife, and more, recorded myself playing instruments for the first time, and anything that fell into the groove. My recording room is a half-garage with wood panelling and a window. So sometimes the recording of weather happens right there, with mics aimed directly out the window into the storm, with efx loops hot. I use a Sound City 120 head that weighs as much as I do, pumping through 4×10 and 1×15 cabinet in this tiny room, so whether I’m recording super loud or barely on, it sounds crazy sounds in there. I’m pretty sure I sawed boards in half through an efx loop on there, I recorded vocals inside a box, strapped contact mics to violins… all kinds of ill shit. And most of it was doused by the manipulation of six to like fifteen pedals and all sorts of tomfoolery before I even got to the mixing phase.
What’s your favourite track on the album and why?
“Apparitions Revenge.” This is a song that helped me understand what the fuck this record was becoming. Since this was all an experiment/accident to start, once I had tracks in place I learned a lot through a few shitty mistakes. The original files of “Apparitions Revenge” were labelled “new song maybe” or “third song TBA” or something. So after I had made this INSANE new track out of nowhere one day, I changed the name of the folder or the file or something, like you would with most file types, thinking it would just be fine. All of a sudden it wasn’t opening; couldn’t find data or something. I was flipping out. The song was so rad and I just dicked it all up. I had exported the track as a WAV a day earlier to send a friend or some shit, so there was some documentation of the track and it was a decent version, just not at all what I had turned that prior version into the following night, which really pissed me off. There was all kinds of popping going on, and blown levels and a different sequence than what I had made it… and I was about to throw the whole track away completely. But I imported that WAV and took some of the other ideas to it and all of a sudden a new track came of it, and while it was way more restrained and not the explosive thing I’d created, this mistake all of a sudden became a mission… salvage that fucking track. As soon as the album was done I moved this song to a new place and it just clicked… set a mood. We chose “Apparitions Revenge” for the first single, which our friend at No Clean Singing premiered. I was just happy the record was done and I could move on to something new with the project, but when people actually started hearing it and hitting me up about it, I got really stoked. It’s not the heaviest song on the record, but it’s all fucked up in every way which I feel somehow worked.
How do you think Gridfailure will progress in the future?
This first record, I did 100% of everything. As soon as it was under way, I wanted to infiltrate the record with recordings from my friends, I wanted to get somebody to help me organize it, I wanted to ask for help about a hundred thousand times throughout it, but I decided that I had to just do this one all the way. It sculpted what the band now is in many ways, but now I’m having a lot more fun now that this record is out of the way and I can move on. I’ve started album #2 already, and this one will have a plethora of guest contributions. Unlike Ensuring…., this album is being planned in advance, and I have a structured manifest created. There is going to be basically twice as many tracks, and the level of oddness will continue to increase. I’m also working on a few split and collaborative releases, a possible self-released EP before the second album, and more.
You seem like an incredibly busy person, what with your work in other projects, as well as Earsplit PR – how do you fit it all in?
I don’t know, man. I really don’t know how to answer that. We do Earsplit PR, our mailorder branch Earsplit Distro, and our label The Compound Recs., all on location here at the Compound, and I record everything here now too. You just fit it in, like anything else in life… you get the urge and do it.
With music becoming increasingly digital in nature, what’s your take on the digital/physical debate and the current state of the music industry?
Music itself evolves on its own. Technology makes it easier to do what you want to do or learn how to do new things, but you still need to be able to envision, be creative, have a lot of patience, and carry out your vision, weather you’re in a legit studio with a full band and producer putting it on tape, or jacking-around at home on a totally makeshift setup like myself. As far as delivery, vinyl is my favourite format and what I buy most of the time. I will buy CDs, but I almost never buy digital. I love physical media; no screen resolution or instant download can top pulling the wrap off of a new LP and checking out a 12-page spread with beautiful artwork while crushing the wax on a real stereo turntable and booming speakers, not a 128kbps mp3 on earbuds from a phone. I did this record on CD since I can’t justify vinyl on it yet, but likely down the road I’ll sort a vinyl version of the record, and probably everything I ever release will be available in at least one physical format. Digital is convenient, until a drive takes a shit on you and your collection is gone in an instant.
Will we ever see a live incarnation of Gridfailure?
Absolutely; Gridfailure be infiltrating the public live by this Summer, either solo or with collaborators. I’m working on how to incorporate and coordinate everything and amplify it properly. As far as I’m concerned, playing live is the most fun you can have with a band, when anything can happen, and trying to replicate some of the outlandish bullshit I’ve been getting away with in these recording sessions in front of humans should be interesting.
What are the next steps for the project?
I’m plotting the filming/creating of a video for one of the songs on Ensuring The Bloodline Ends Here – I’ve never filmed a video before so that should be interesting. I’m currently working on the second full-length a bit every day, and am gathering material from friends and kin to infuse into that and other upcoming releases. There are several split and collaborative titles being devised, I’m figuring out how to deliver the material live, and will be exploring virtually any other options that present themselves.
Finally – name five things you’ve listened to recently that you’d recommend
John Carpenter – Lost Themes II
Extermination Temple – Lifeless Forms 7”
Nekrasov – Negative Temple
Tommy Guerrero – Perpetual
Spektr – The Art to Disappear
Thank you very much for the interview and the support on the album.