Kingston After Dark: A hostile alchemy

Dave Brenner

Dave Brenner is a sound architect and mind-pirate who performs in the noise project Gridfailure, and also does PR for some of the gnarliest bands in metal and punk via Earsplit PR. Gridfailure sounds somewhat like what renovating a haunted insane asylum might sound like — a parade of jackhammers and banshee screams mixed with moments of uneasy calm. I have a collaboration album with him out this week called Suicide by Citizenship on Nefarious Industries Records; he’s bringing his chameleon-like sound project to Tubby’s on Broadway with local hardcore band Parkbench Messiah and Philly black metallurgists Zud in tow this Thursday, May 2 for a special night, especially if the Vampire Weekend show at UPAC the same night isn’t your cup of platelets. So gird up your loins, ye prophet souls — it’s about to get weird.

 

As the project has gone on, do you think the way you view music making has changed? Or were you always interested in sort of deconstructing and reconstructing things in unique ways? You have some very linear but also some out there influences. Everything from Mobb Deep beats to crust punk to noise music.

Nothing about Gridfailure was planned and therefore most of it remains that way. I envision sounds or moods and work in that direction. I think of Gridfailure as more like art class than band practice; it can be anything. I create something by accident and it triggers an idea. I merge random tests, generally resulting in total nonsense, sometimes creating a prime foundation for something terrible to happen, and I just lean in and see where the experiment leads.

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I am not sure how my own influences actually influence the sound of Gridfailure. I love music from virtually all genres and like to think of this project as genre-free, so it just goes wherever it goes. So, I may have a thought from Nas or Mobb Deep, Integrity or Earth Crisis, Ministry or the Misfits, Tommy Guerrero or Ô Paon, when getting a thought down, however, none of that may translate into the song; it’s just there in thought at best. I make percussion on acoustic, electronic and hand drums, metal tables, garbage, by looping incineration, or recording the train that blasts through my backyard all day.

 

How did the tour with Zud come about? How did you know them?

I’ve known frontman guitarist/vocalist Justin Curtsinger from the band for many years, through my work operating Earsplit PR. He does this vagabond DIY print zine called Bogus Rendition, and he’d cover some of our stuff in there and more. When I was trying to get Gridfailure from my garage solo project to the stage last year, I had already turned down very cool show offers. Justin asked if I would play some shows and I instantly just said I’d do it, before I knew how. I asked two of my close friends and regular Gridfailure contributors — Benjamin Levitt of Megalophobe who plays accordion and effects, and Richard Muller from Vise Massacre, The Third Kind (members of All Out War), and more — to join for some shows; both immediately agreed and we just started doing this improv thing. The first two Gridfailure shows ever were last spring, on Zud’s Springtime in the Abyss tour. We all had an amazing time with those shows, and since then, Gridfailure traveled up to Zud’s hometown of Portland, Maine and played with them for a one-off benefit show for their local Planned Parenthood in December when we couldn’t get a tour together in time.

 

What do you like about the Hudson Valley and what can we expect from your Tubby’s appearance?

I love the Hudson Valley. I’ve lived in Rockland County for 10 years since we moved up from Brooklyn. Kingston is a cool little town and it’s somewhere I have not played, but we have a lot of friends throughout the area and may drag some of our contingent from down here in the city to motivate a bit north for this one. This tour is going to be odd; while Gridfailure is all over the place on record it remains more of a dark ambient project with lots of other elements. Live, it takes on a much more direct, driving, merciless dark hardcore attack because of Muller’s drumming and our overall energy, but retains the harsh noise/ambient vibes with the lighting, effects, noise, and Ben’s insane accordion/effects. I’ve also now got a reel of dizzying visuals created from some of the videos I’ve been creating for the albums, which will be projected onto our set or the audience this run.

 

Suicide by Citizenship is out on 4/26 and obviously I made it with you, but what made you want to do records that also touch on current events or social consciousness in the first place? It was a pretty amazing process sort of coming in with our basic beliefs and then kind of trusting it would develop into something coherent. It felt to me more like we were writing some fucked up dystopian musical play than a traditional album, which is dope.

I grew up in Boy Scouts, doing conservation projects and doing charity work and gathering cans for food banks and doing roadside cleanups and things. We’re watching our society be ripped apart by us, humans. Waves of resentment and hatred for our kind pour out in my lyrics because of the damage we do to the planet. The band’s sound is created to resemble a post-apocalyptic word; wind and dust and fire and echoed screams of anguish pouring over millions acres of ravaged, scorched earth. I’d love to find a way to make money on this band to help pull some plastic out of the oceans or jail coal-rollers, but that’s easier envisioned than accomplished when you make such caustic music; it’s difficult to develop a fanbase, and absolutely everything I do is a cash loss, so how do you help that way? I’d like to raise awareness and money to help in the treatment and understanding of Lyme disease, which I have been suffering with for the past four years. Ben and I did the first Gridfailure & Megalophobe collaborative album Dendritic together, and set it up where every preorder placed would plant a tree. We got like four preorders, so I bought 50 saplings anyway and rogue-planted them around my area, in the city, in Pennsylvania, and beyond.

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