The War Inside My Head: Andrew Curtis-Brignell of Caïna
I have been a fan of Andy Curtis-Brignell's work at Caïna for a few years now. And I think that it was probably two main reasons that made Caïna stand out from a seemingly endless sea of contemporary black metal. The first of those was and is songwriting, as Curtis-Brignell has an incredible knack to write menacing, earth-shatteringly heavy, noisy compositions that still make sense as very good songs, a talent seen, I believe, in the impact he had on the most recent Crowhurst album. There's a sense of frail humanity in some of the compositions and melodies, one that pierces through the seemingly impenetrable wall of noise. Which, I guess, leads me to the other reason that made Caïna stand out, which is that its sense of menacing darkness felt real, personal, and ultimately human and fragile and thus that much more terrifying. I say "made" because Caïna, up until recently, had been a project on something of an haitus, one initiating following the release of 2015's amazing Setter of Unseen Snares and 2016's fittingly scorching Christ Clad in White Prosperous.
The reason for that haitus, which is something that Curtis-Brignell has always been quite open about, was both his own very real struggles with mental health as well as the birth of his firstborn. That haitus will end officially as the next Caïna album, Gentle Illness, is due to come out November 1 via Apocalyptic Witchcraft Recordings (demos collections and a wonderful split with Cara Neir notwithstanding). As is clear from the album's title, art, and songs, Curtis-Brignell demon's are very much at the center of his newest offering, the same he had been tackling in his past and, perhaps, the same that had given his music that dual sense of urgency and humanity that had been Caïna's hallmarks
Before we get to the musical questionnaire that stands at the heart of the The War inside My Head series (here's the previous episode), and as always, if you like what you see around here, the feel free to check us out on Facebook, Instagram, Spotify, and even Patreon. Stay tuned for super cool stuff, like more from our Albums of the Decade series of interviews as well as our first compilation album of local bands Milim Kashot. But, in the meantime, enjoy.
What was the first album you bought with your own money, and where did you buy it?
I only got bought full lengths for my birthday etc until I was about 11, as it was pretty expensive to consume music in the mid 90s. The first cassette single I bought with my own money, which I prized and still own, is the version of Smashing Pumpkins "Tonite Tonite" with "Meladori Magpie" as the B side. I saw them on Top of the Pops and was hooked, but it never came up on the radio for me to record. We used to go to a narrow, dark shop called Our Price which sold vinyl, tapes, VHS tapes, and later CDs and minidiscs until it turned into a Virgin store. I think it's a phone shop now.
What two-three albums did you hear the most growing up?
Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds, Led Zeppelin III, and a colossal amount of ecclesiastical music, because my father was a choirmaster for many years. Also a bunch of ABBA. I think my interest in composition started at the same time as I learned to walk, read, think. Whatever else happened, I'm grateful to have grown up in a house with a lot of music.
What two albums by other artists taught you the most about making music (mixing, production, performance)?
For me music has to be transportational and transcendent – technicality generally doesn't come into it for me from either a creative or production standpoint. I'm more impressed by how these things combine holistically to help the artist express themselves. Vespertine by Bjork completely blew my mind when it came out, and I'm still learning secrets from it 20 years later. There's something about the way in which the composition intertwines with the production to create this super intimate psychogeography; it's like you're skin to skin, or deeper – molecular. But not claustrophobic. Rather than trying to ape any particular aspect really it's just continuously inspired me to rise to that level of emotional communication in my work.
I think NIN's The Fragile is another good example, from the standpoint of a piece of longform narrative storytelling without necessarily having to explicitly tell a coherent story with words. The other lesson from it is how to keep a lengthy piece of work consistently interesting and varied without becoming too disconnected from the core of what you're trying to do. It's not even my favorite album of theirs, but it's the most honest answer.
What is the last album that absolutely shocked you?
I literally can't think of anything. That fact shocks me, hahaha! I find the majority of extreme music of all genres compositionally mostly conventional. Maybe the last Kamasi Washington because of how good it was?
What album relaxes you or centers you the most?
Has to be Manuel Gottsching, Inventions for Electric Guitar. Totally hypnotic, great for astral projection or the end of a party.
What are the two-three albums you’ve listened to the most recently?
Mz.412, Burning the Temple of God, Carly Rae Jepsen, E-motion, Depeche Mode,Violator.
What album is grossly underrated?
The masters to King Crimson's Red should be secured in a 24-hour-guarded-hermetically-sealed vault, and the simple fact that they're not is proof that it is a grossly underrated album.
What album would you recommend from your local scene?
Wode's full lengths are both incredible, and I also encourage everyone to get into my ex-collaborator LT's project Natural Orthodoxy.