If you haven’t encountered Gridfailure’s work before then I highly recommend you check it out. I normally have quite a standoff-ish relationship with anything of the experimental/electronic/noise/whatever variety; it takes something quite special to get me interested in a style that’s largely guitar/drum-less. Enter Gridfailure. The debut album from this one-man project is exactly that – something quite special. It hit a note with me in a way that few others in the style have. As such, I have no problem with highly recommending it to all and sundry, far and wide.
The man behind the outfit is Dave Brenner, who is a very busy man; not only does he mastermind this project, but he’s involved in many others too, not the least of which is a successful PR company – Earsplit PR.
Before we start the interview I’ve embedded the Bandcamp player for ‘Ensuring the Bloodline Ends Here’ below. Hit play, then have a read.
Transcending Obscurity (Nigel Holloway): How was Gridfailure started?
Gridfailure (Dave Brenner): I started Gridfailure early in 2016, while still a part of Theologian, where I was a live and recording member for approximately a year. I had been recording parts for several titles which have since been released or are just now seeing release; these include the collaborative album with Lament Cityscape about to see release on Battleground Records, and several horror titles for Cadabra Records spoken arts label including the deluxe vinyl issues of H. P. Lovecraft’s ‘The Lurking Fear’ and ‘Pickman’s Model’ (‘Pickman’s Model’ is still pending release) as well as the ‘Inferno’ 7” with S. T. Joshi reading poems from Clark Ashton Smith. I had amassed hours of odd musical experimentation which I was creating for these backing/horror soundtracks, and when I began experimenting with unused portions of these recording sessions, something completely new started becoming of the mess. I called it Gridfailure, put eight songs together, and within four months of formation we released ‘Ensuring The Bloodline Ends Here’ on our in-house The Compound Recs in May.
I now have somewhere in the midst of three dozen new songs in some form of limbo. The new ‘Further Layers Of Societal Collapse’ EP is being completed this week and I’ll give that away digitally for Samhain. Just behind that is a split cassette with Never Presence Forever, several other EPs and splits, and the nearly-completed second album, ‘Teeth Collection’, with plenty more planned.
TO: How is your music formed?
Gridfailure: Much of Gridfailure is inspired by feelings, senses, surroundings, premonitions, fears, landscapes; the goal is to inspire more of an aura of uncomfortable paranoia rather than a memorable chorus. Field recordings and elements of nature and human fear many times lay the foundation for what will become a song, then I’ll just create random instrumental chaos of some sort around that, playing just about anything I can get my hands on.
There is a possibly predominantly power electronics element to the material, so usually everything is recorded with stacks of pedals and/or EFX, but I play guitars, basses, synth, keys, drums, harmonica, xylophone, violin, didgeridoo, chimes, garbage, or anything I can get a cogent sound out of. Tons of vocal layers, tons of effects; whatever comes to mind, over and over until I’m like, “Fuck it, that’s done.” On the first album I performed everything, but on the new EP, album, and other upcoming releases, I’m collaborating with random musicians, friends, and family, and things are getting even more expansive and demented.
TO: As you started to piece the release together, what themes did you find emerging form the work?
Gridfailure: The ‘Further Layers Of Societal Collapse’ EP is something created in the past few weeks. Most of the tracks were already mostly completed but not slated for specific releases yet. I was working on the ‘Teeth Collection’ material – at the time slated to be a free EP series – but that ended up just becoming too involved and turned into the second album. Wanting to release something immediately, I have spent the past three weeks hammering the shit out of these seven tracks to get them out.
The theme of the new EP is just very scattered sounds; apocalyptic remnants of collapsed society. More digital world intrusion; more reverting to primitive ways. My friend Morgan Evans asked me to collaborate with his project Walking Bombs on an anti-Trump anthem called ‘Demagogue’ which was premiered at Blow The Scene a few weeks ago; Tad Doyle mastered the song and is mastering the full EP now. He referred to having Gridfailure add, “additional layers of societal collapse” to the song, and as this EP was just coming together right then; it just instantly worked. But the new shit is definitely getting weird.
TO: To what extent does the record mirror your own viewpoints on the world?
Gridfailure: Listen to Gridfailure the way you deal with humans, tides, tectonic plates: listen at your own risk. Never turn your back on it. Expect nothing but anticipate anything.
TO: Walk us through the newest release, track by track – what’s going on and what do they mean to you?
Gridfailure: 1. A Severing Of Ties
A scathing anthem for a parting of ways; brutal layers of power electronics and hate-fuelled vocal tirades to start the party off with a by-the-throat ditty. My buddy BJ Allen from Full Scale Riot supplies drumrolls to the end of the track; biotech/biomech chaos. “Now you’ll feel my rapture, through 206 fractures…”
2. Digital Crush
Another horror-electronics biomechanical nightmare soundtrack. Another step further into the post-Sixth Mass Extinction wastelands where primitive ways and artificial intelligence cannibalise each other for survival.
3. Android Infusion
See above, only set to a loop caught from a live jazz album left unnamed stuck on a scratch. Listen as technology overthrows man, literally hear it happen…
4. Get Fucked Dance
Imagine the empowering underground dance scene in the second Matrix movie, only taking place knowing for sure that within hours your population will be extinct. Pure end-time debauchery set to a mangled industrial dance beat massacre.
5. Broken Systems
Culled from a session with The Drunken Monkey, this is part of a debilitating search for the black scorpion at the bottom of a bottle of mezcal delivered courtesy of the Greenskeeper. Ghastly remnants of some sort of trauma, which lasted for several days, sputter through the mangled recordings. Some technologies are better left broken. Some sounds should not be unearthed.
6. Indian Point Direct Proximity Warning Tester
Just this week we received our annual emergency guide from Indian Point in the mail, the nuclear power plant that powers much of NYC and the surrounding area. The plant is just miles north of us, and monthly they fire off a warning signal throughout our community; the sound of what happens in case of a disaster, which seems virtually inevitable considering the plant sits on an active fault line.
7. Woodlands Of Self-Impalement
As the world continues to draw closer to extinction, larger populations of humanity will be driven towards mass self-annihilation in order to save themselves from a more prolonged suffering. The woodlands that remain in the wake of ecological failure will become like Japan’s Aokigahara on an incredibly widespread scale, with entire populations caravanning into the forest for self-immolation.
TO: Are you happy with the release as a whole? If you had to do it all over again from scratch, would you do it all again the same way?
Gridfailure: Yeah, sure. The more I learn the more I experiment through trial and mostly error, caught on tape, and exploited.
TO: As someone who works on pretty much all sides of the music industry in one capacity or other, what’s your views on the state of it in 2016 and how has it changed since you first got involved with it?
Gridfailure: Computers. I’ve been going to shows and involved in local scenes since I was like thirteen, started playing shows since before I turned sixteen, and have been working at record stores, labels, magazines, distros, promoting shows, and much more since the mid-ate 1990s. The pre-Y2k zine/letter/tape-trade circuit went the way of PCs and message boards and Napster, and now nearly two decades later it’s a like a different universe in the terms of creation of music and promotional materials as well as their delivery. Pros/cons are in the eyes of the android beholder and/or vinyl collector.
TO: What’s the future for Gridfailure?
Gridfailure: To release the ‘Further Layers Of Societal Collapse’ EP for free download on Samhain (followed by a cassette version a few weeks later), finish several splits including a tape with Richmond-based Never Presence Forever, finish the ‘Teeth Collection’ album and plan its release, and get back to work on several videos for the first album and new titles. That’s for the next month or two.
Beyond that, there are several other splits and EPs in the works, and I’ll turn the project into a live entity hopefully by the end of the year. There is going to be a fairly constant barrage of updates and announcements coming for the immediate future.
Thank you very much for your support and interest in this project, Nigel. You’ll be spared in the end. Liberate Te Ex Gridfailure.