A little over a year ago, I released a split cassette with Gridfailure. Since that time, I've issued a mere two songs. Gridfailure, on the other hand, has presented five albums/EPs and appeared on two compilations. As if that weren't enough, 2018's just getting started with yet another brand new, 13-song full-length—Irritum—due out next Friday, February 23.
Suffice it to say that David Brenner is absolutely one of the busiest people making noise—or industrial, dark ambient, "power-dementia"... whatever you'd care to call it—today. So, sink into Gridfailure's ceaseless unease below with a premiere stream of "Internalizing," followed by another ever-informative chat with the man behind the madness…
I must confess that you're so prolific that I'm a little behind on your discography as a whole right now. Without the full context of what you've been working on as of late, the vibe of "Internalizing" stood out to me as sort of a "controlled" take on Gridfailure's more chaotic side. There's a rhythmic churn to it, and that eerily melodic atmosphere with the dissonant acoustic guitar fighting to be heard, but its chaotic nature becomes more evident as the track continues—the hyper-distorted vocals intentionally muffled and buried in the mix, the organ, increased layering, etc.
Yeah, I don't know what's going on over here either. I always have several albums and lots of random collaborations and projects with other folks going on at once—there may be eight or more titles coming out this year alone.
This album has no collaborators or contributors. Like my first album, Ensuring the Bloodline Ends Here, and the Scathed album from last year, among other recordings, I performed everything on Irritum. The word "irritum" symbolizes worthlessness, nothingness, hoping in vain, and it's something I've had set aside for the past couple of years. As random recordings fit this image, I held them aside for a record, but I never fully brought it to realization. Last year, as I finished the I Shall Not Survive Another Winter album and the first installment of a new series, When the Lights Go Out—the latter of which is a more ethereal, ambient series void of actual lyrics and verses—I felt the need to make a horrifyingly brutal album, and decided it was just time to pound Irritum into form. So, in maybe December, I started working on the record heavily with a goal of releasing it for Gridfailure's second anniversary this month. I wanted to replicate the paranoid sound and theme of the first album and expand upon some of the ideas from that: a suffocating sense of anxiety, unhinged madness, self-immolation, revenge, hopelessness.
"Internalizing" is the second of 13 songs on Irritum. The song also has a counterpart: the next-to-last track on the album is "Externalizing." The simplistic acoustic guitar chug you hear on "Internalizing" has a more melodic and fleshed-out version of the same riff beneath it, which breaks out at the end of the song. This riff is also the main jam for "Externalizing." The tension builds through "Internalizing" with lots of scathing noise and industrialized sounds, many layers of vocals, and that simple acoustic guitar riff, then explodes on "Externalizing"—which is stripped down to mostly that creepy main acoustic riff and one of the most scathing vocal torrents I've unloaded in probably 20 years.
There is another odd interplay on the record: the lyrics for "Grid the Impaler" are the same as "L'alteration du Sang," only the latter is in French. I don't speak French, but with Gridfailure I try to write and sing in random languages. Spanish, Latin, and more come into play on the next few releases.
I haven't had time to properly explore Irritum in its entirety yet, but at a glance it seems like this aesthetic sort of applies to the album as a whole—that "controlled" balance of atmosphere and discord…
I am not sure I put that kind of exact thought or planning into it, but my whole goal with all Gridfailure songs and albums is to instill a sense of paranoia, anxiety, and impending fear upon the listener. I'd like to think of the music as more of an immersive soundscape—horror movies on tape—rather than "a band" playing. Spreading out the tension between 13 songs was somewhat of a challenge, but I tried to make it a fairly diverse album while still trying to stick to a central sound or theme. I don't profess or pretend to be a talented musician. However, I play about 10 instruments on most of my albums. I like to leave in the off-kilter beats and loops, add some extra delay to things, and generally keep the listener confused rather than applying a straightforward head-nod beat where you can feel a chorus coming up next. Rather than think in genre terms, I just think of it as sound, and whatever I feel like fucking with or trying out makes it into the record. I don't really own any industrial albums with acoustic guitars on them, and don't own any jazz records with eight layers of tormented vocals on them, so why not smash it all together?
You mentioned to me yesterday that you're working on a video for "Internalizing" as well. How's that coming along, and what should viewers anticipate?
I would like to make physical versions of all releases and make fully visual accompaniments to each release. However, being a solo outfit without a label or budget leaves it all up to me to pull off. To date, I've made four Gridfailure videos, but I've got hopes of making at least two videos per album beginning with this release. We'll see where that goes. I'm the only member on Irritum, so I'll be the only one making the video. I've got some footage bearing a similar aesthetic to my other videos—creepy shit out in the woods, walking the streets at night, hanging out alone in the rain. I'm hoping for a brutal snowstorm to hit so I can finish this video in a blizzard at night, but I can't control the weather, so I'm not sure exactly how the video will end up. I suppose you'll find out once I do…
Perhaps due in part to the abstract and exploratory nature of noise, there's just so much out there under the umbrella of this primary genre. I'm curious if being a part of Earsplit PR and having that mechanism as another tool to try and increase visibility has benefitted Gridfailure? One would assume that it has, though—at the same time—operating within such an overcrowded underground niche may simply pose the same challenges regardless? This might be a goofy question, but I am legitimately curious, because the topic of "getting people to give a shit" comes up A LOT when I'm talking with any of my acquaintances within the noise "scene" in general.
I don't really know how to classify Gridfailure, so that's all up to interpretation by the few listeners, fans, and writers who have been drawn into this madness over the past two years. The project was born while scoring actual horror music, so that's the main vibe of the sound. I've seen it called industrial, dark ambient, power electronics, drone, noise… I suppose it's all of those things. I like to think of it as infected dark hardcore, world music for the apocalypse, Eraserhead meets Terminator. I generally refer to it as "power-dementia" in my social networking excursions and whatnot. I'm happy no matter what it's called or considered—even reviewers who bash my brains in with critiques are met with thanks, since I know they at least listened to the record. I can't ask for much more than that.
Earsplit is my job. Representing these bands and artists is our livelihood and they take all priority. Gridfailure is what I get to do after work: unloading the stress of the day and destroying beers and equipment in my gnarly little bunker after a day on the computer. We only promote the music through Earsplit because it doesn't make sense to hire the competition! I know that the noise/experimental scenes are much smaller and more niche than thrash, death, hardcore, and everything else, so I don't expect much from these albums. I spend much more time securing coverage for the other harsh experimental and underground artists I work with through Earsplit than I do for Gridfailure. I just kind of throw the records out there and move on. I get a few reviews, some interviews, random airplay, and so on, and it's expanding a bit with each release, but I don't sit and cultivate albums for long at all… by the time I'm doing a couple of track premieres like this for a record, I'm already on to the next three titles. Instead of finishing my video for "Internalizing," I was mixing some tracks for the upcoming Teeth Collection album last night.
Since I'm sure you've got another 500 irons in the fire, I'll have to end with the stock final question of, "What's still on deck from Gridfailure?"
I've been working on collaborations with a wide range of acts lately, including two new records with Brooklyn experimentalist Megalophobe. We did the Dendritic collaborative album last year, and now we're finishing up a fucking crazy thing called Tasukete (which means "help me" in Japanese—I got it from the language lab in The Exorcist) for release in March or April. We've got a much more immersive and time-consuming third album in the works together as well, but that won't be out until late this year or early next year most likely. I've been working on a collaboration with upstate New York anti-folk/punk act Walking Bombs as well. I collaborated on their anti-Trump song "Demagogue" in 2016, so we decided to really clash things and do a full record together. That, too, will be out this spring—it's at like 75% right now, and there are a ton of killer guest musicians taking part in that. Also in the works is a collaborative ambient EP with Fyrhtu—a new project formed by Leila Abdul-Rauf (Vastum, Ionophore, Cardinal Wyrm) and Nathan A. Verrill (Cardinal Wyrm)—and what will be a fully audio/visual collaborative release with Pornohelmüt, which is the side project of Neil Barrett of Austin-based experimental/grind metal act Blk Ops and Novel Concept TV, among others. That one is totally insane and brutal, Neil's drums are ridiculous.
Collaborative titles with other bands aside, I've been cultivating two full-length albums over here since the outfit began two years ago: Teeth Collection and Drought Stick. These are concept albums under the theory of sixth mass extinction skullduggery which pair off each other in concept; yet Teeth Collection is a very dark, moody, woodsy, tribal, cannibalistic venture and Drought Stick is more of a guitar-heavy, dusty, western/desert-aimed sound. These will both see release this year—likely June for Teeth Collection and early fall for Drought Stick. I've also got a new series of collaborator-heavy albums dubbed Rattenkönig coming together, which will see me using more of a "traditional band lineup" with several close collaborators, rather than the "random collaborator" style most of these other records saw. I have two full Rattenkönig albums structured, but will likely get one of them finished and released this year. A second installment of When the Lights Go Out will likely come together somewhere in there, and I'm trying to do more spit and collaborative releases with more hardcore, grind, and punk bands.
I just made my first run of shirts, am working on getting some of these Bandcamp-only titles out on cassette or limited CD runs, am talking to a few labels about working together on some of the upcoming titles, working on my live setup to finally start playing live in the coming months, and have more videos and other projects in the works. I usually always have about 10 active recordings in the works, so there's never a shortage of inspiration, insanity, insomnia, broken gear, horrifying noises, or serial killer-style piles of notes lying around The Compound—only a lack of time. Every sale, listen, click, or mention helps small acts like mine tremendously, so I'm eternally grateful to every collaborator, listener, and follower.