The War Inside My Head: An Interview with Gonemage
Garry Brents is not a person I would call "lazy." The man of a thousand projects and faces has always been "at it," so to speak, whether through his work in the wonderful Cara Neir or his other bands. But something happened to dear Garry a couple of years ago – maybe stepped on radioactive metal slime (this is not a song prompt, Garry!) which caused his already frenetic mind to explode into a supernova of creativity. Maybe it was the pandemic, maybe it was about fucking time, and maybe it was the pandemic again, but that hive brain was unleashed unto the world with even more Cara Neir, new projects (Homeskin), older projects and were revisited and ceremoniously killed off (RIP Sallow Moth), and the rise of Gonemage. I don't actually remember if Gonemage had anything to do, perhaps birthed by, the wonderful Cara Neir album Phase Out, but there was a feeling that that album (beautiful album, really great) opened a portal into another chip-tune heavy, breakbeat-inspired, Orchid-fueled, black-metal infused multiverse, and it has just gotten more and more insane and wonderful since.
Which brings us to the newest twist in the Gonemage saga, the mammoth Handheld Demise that's due out very soon. Yet another tour-de-force of Brents' manic musical mind, it brings together black metal, post-hardcore, chip tune, screamo, and, uh, Aphex Twin (?) and forms a pink-black vortex of chaos and beauty. So, yeah, check it out. On top of that (!?) it showcases guest appearances from some of the best and brightest of the global underground scene. Actually, I think it just features all of it, including Brendan Sloan, Déhà, Saidan and many (many) more. It's basically a festival with one band, blaring black metal in an arcade.
All of which seemed like a good time to check in with Garry and have him as the latest in this "let's geek out about music" series of mine. Loved his answers, mostly because I identify personally with basically every pick (except the bands I've never heard of), and so a world of zany wonderment is at your feet.
As always, check out our various interview projects and other cool shit. And if you'd like to keep abreast of the latest, most pressing developments follow us wherever we may roam (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Spotify and now also a tape-per-day series on TIK TOK!), and listen to our shitty podcast (YouTube, Spotify, Apple), and to check out our amazing compilation albums. You can support our unholy work here (Patreon), if you feel like it. Early access to our bigger projects, weekly exclusive recommendations and playlists, and that wonderful feeling that you're encouraging a life-consuming habit.
Also, we JUST released our latest benefit compilation MILIM KASHOT VOL. 4, featuring 29 amazing tracks from some of the best of the best of the extreme underground. On to Garry and Gomebage.
What was the first album you bought with your own money, and where did you buy it?
I’m pretty sure it was Rammstein – Live Aus Berlin and it was from one of those CD buying catalogs back in the 90s. Technically, the first CD I owned was the Mortal Kombat soundtrack but that was a gift given to me. I remember wanting my first CD(s) to be Korn’s S/T and Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle but I was seven at the time and my dad said I probably shouldn’t have that kind of music yet.
I believe it was 1998 when I was able to buy the Rammstein CD, when I was 11. I still have it tucked in an old CD binder. And I think the reason why I got that live album instead of one of their studio albums was due to availability from the CD catalog and being familiar with it due to a friend already owning it.
What 2-3 albums did you hear the most growing up?
Korn – Korn: I spent a lot of my younger years listening to this band and album. They were one of the first bands I was exposed to from my friends and a little bit of MTV. I always felt a bit of uncomfortability listening to it because as a kid, I wasn’t fully aware of the context of this album’s lyrics and themes, but musically it hit me hard and that’s what I focused on and enjoyed. My first favorite band.
System of a Down – System of a Down: My first exposure with them was a friend in middle school lending me his headphones imploring me to listen to “Sugar.” He kept talking about mushroom people earlier that day and I kept asking what he was referring to. I think I burned a copy of this CD immediately after and then bought a copy. The uniqueness this band displayed really made an impact on me and they quickly became my new favorite band, for a couple years until the next band/album.
Cradle of Filth – Midian: This wasn’t my first exposure to more underground or ‘extreme’ metal, but it was the first band I latched onto in that regard. Hearing, but not really digesting, Cannibal Corpse in Ace Ventura was the first time I heard extreme metal, but I was about 7-8 and even though I enjoyed that, I was still wrapping my mind around Metallica, Korn, NIN – things with clean or clean-ish singing. Also, my view of music and ways to access music would not have helped me digging into underground metal yet (pre-internet and no friends or older relatives into it to guide me). But back to the point, Midian really spoke to me because I was already on that path to wanting heavier/darker/and weirder metal. My first gf showed me them and I downloaded some from Napster just to get a taste and I was simultaneously in awe and confused on what I was hearing. I instantly bought this CD and a few of their prior albums all at once. Then I remember reading the lyric booklet front to back dozens of times and wrapping my head around harsh vocals like this while reading along, just experiencing the album in full. It was a pretty fast obsession, so Midian was probably my most played album during my early teen years. My friend circle hated it and as a teen, I relished in that and held it as a badge of honor that I only liked this ‘extreme’ stuff. Eventually, they came around on death metal and some black metal, though.
What albums taught you the most about the technical aspect of making music?
Darkthrone – A Blaze in the Northern Sky: This one might be a strange one to think about in regards to the aspect of making music, but it fascinated me because of the production and how dirty and visceral it sounded compared to everything else I was listening to. This album and band were probably the first to turn on that lightbulb in my head with “I want to make music and I want to learn how to play guitar and record it.”
Death – Symbolic: Maybe my first brush with the more technical side of Death Metal. It was a wave of checking out Death’s discography, Cynic, Atheist, and Pestilence to an extent. But Symbolic was the first album of theirs I really latched onto. I loved trying to dissect how it all fit together and how catchy the songwriting was, which is what blew me away. Some of the other prog/technical DM weren’t as impressionable upon first or second listen, but this was. So, this planted that seed of writing more complicated music while still being memorable. Not that that’s the only way to go about writing complex/technical music, but that it could be done so well.
Atheist – Unquestionable Presence: This album sort of follows my thoughts on Symbolic but it took me longer to digest and fully appreciate it. However, over the years, I listened to this album more than Symbolic. This album really opened up the brain space for me on how non-traditional Bass lines can be utilized in metal, and how proficient one can get in that realm. This made me want to push myself in how to approach Bass when writing a song, whether by myself or jamming with others. For years, I wanted to go against the grain of the typical Bass mirroring Guitar. Sometimes I still follow that feeling, like in Homeskin my Bass lines are absurdly out-of-pocket at times in its relationship to the Guitar, but then with Gonemage or Cara Neir and Sallow Moth in the past, it’s the opposite. And since Bass has been the instrument I’ve known the longest, this album has a lot to do with my appreciation for the instrument in writing.
What is the last album that absolutely shocked you?
I would say P.H.F. – Purest Hell, which is also my favorite album in 2022. It took me by surprise and was a total blind discovery the day it was released. I saw it in one of those Bandcamp emails that tailor to genres one might follow. I can’t remember what it said exactly but the album cover reeled me in and then I instantly became hooked. It’s like breakcore meets hyperpop with a garage punk sensibility in the production and even some sludge motifs poking through. There’s no other album I’ve listened to the most this year. I guess the shocking thing about it is me not expecting this barrage of sound and the way it impacted me.
What album relaxes you or centers you the most?
Ulver – Bergtatt. Maybe my favorite album of all time and definitely my favorite band overall. This album has such an unparalleled level of comfort for me. It just puts me into a relaxed, yet focused state of mind. It’s very meditative, but not the way drone or ambient could be. But it’s just very warm and enveloping, which is funny, because second-wave Black Metal is supposed to be cold, mostly.
What are the 2-3 albums you’ve listened to the most recently?
P.H.F. – Purest Hell: Reiteration on my thoughts above. Super catchy, abrasive, highly imaginative, playful. A lot of things I like to hear and also emulate in my own music.
Digifae – Digifae: My very close second favorite album in 2022 so far. For almost all the same reasons I love Purest Hell, but this time it’s very pristine, ultra-precise in production and ear-candy that hooks you in. This is my pop year. Of course, I’ve alluded to this on social media that there is a future Gonemage pop album in the works. You can thank these first 2 albums for the huge inspiration.
Gravesend – Methods of Human Disposal: I really liked this album last year but I didn’t give it enough listens until earlier this year. It’s one of the most pure albums I’ve ever heard. Filthy and knows exactly what it’s doing. It doesn’t overstep in any form of technicality or hyperspeed/brutality, but rather an intangible disgust that lends to its heaviness. I can’t say enough good things about this album. It also had a big influence on me because while there’s a pop Gonemage album in the works, there’s also a purely filthy death metal-centric album in the pipeline. And not necessarily as pure as Gravesend, because let’s face it, it’s Gonemage and the chiptune aspect will always be present in some form. But I’ll just say that Methods of Human Disposal was the album I was listening to the most during the writing of this future album.
What album is grossly underrated?
Alpinist – Lichtlaerm (probably my favorite album in the umbrella of hardcore/punk). This cracks my top 5 albums overall of any music. I don’t know how this band never got as much as love as their peers in hardcore or even their project after this one (Jungbluth), but this is the ultimate album for crusty, dark hardcore for me. It has a frenetic sense of urgency while also knowing when to break it down and use tension and release to grab the listener. Very influential band to me and highly slept on record.
What album would you recommend from your local scene?
Cleric – Gratum Inferno. Very underrated homage to Swedish Death Metal that I recorded/mixed back in 2012. Straightforward and crushing. No double kick anywhere too. Heavy reliance on the d-beat angle and pure cymbal-catchy grooves under death metal riffing. You could say this band and album was a big influence on me wanting to revisit making death metal with my Sallow Moth project.