solid.grey.sky Recordings Artist- negative_crush Interview
1. To myself and readers you’re a very new project. Tell us about negative_crush.
tn: negative_crush is a distillation of every damaged relationship, every suicidal thought, every blackout, every tear, every sleepless night i’ve ever had. i had this idea to make a record that would essentially be the sound of giving up, knowing that it’s never going to get better, you’re never going to be loved, your problems are never going to be fixed, you’re a failure. dark stuff. music that i couldn’t really make with other people in the room, so i had to do all of it on my own, from the very first note until i sent the cd out to mastering, i had to force myself to express it all and turn it into something else, hopefully something other people can relate to. the album itself is a few years old, but i just couldn’t bring myself to touch it for a long time, let alone release it. so here we are.
2. You were working with Metropolis records, a very electro-industrial label. Why the change to a much more post-metal meets shoegazing doom project?
tn: i’m still close to the metropolis records team, on a personal level, but our business relationship had sort of run it’s course by the time i started working on ‘invisible_weapons’. my former bands had done reasonably well there, but today’s music business climate makes it hard for labels to take financial chances on new bands. on a musical level, i was definitely finished with club-focused dance music, which is sort of their bread and butter; and even for fans of my other bands, it was never going to be an easy sell to get people to listen to extremely slow and depressing post-metal doomgaze. i pitched negative_crush to them, but it just didn’t work out. no hard feelings.
3. If you could make a video for any track on invisible_weapons what would it be and why?
tn: it’s a tough call. for me to consider what a video could look like for any of the songs on the album is pretty difficult…the material is so dark, it would be hard for me to do something visual that could match the music on an emotional scale. and since there’s really no budget for these things, i’m wary of trying to exceed my reach in terms of doing something on my own…i would hate to pour myself into something that ends up looking ridiculous. i do explore video art quite often, but i haven’t put anything together for negative_crush songs so far. my guess would be that the best songs that i could translate to video would be: ‘starling’, ‘the capitol of pain’, or ‘twilight hospitals’. i definitely have ideas for them, it’s just a matter of not fucking up the execution.
4. I have not heard of solid.grey.sky.recordings before. How did you start working with them or is this your own label you created?
tn: solid.grey.sky.recordings is my own label, built mostly to make my solo or collaborative work available, although i may have some releases coming this year from other artists. throughout my career, i’ve worked on a wide range of music projects, from super long-form ambient to dance music to black noise, and i’ve made somewhere close to fifty records. i’m perfectly happy releasing things myself, since i control the entire end to end experience. the downside is that i don’t really have a lot of time to properly promote things, which is why it’s nice to occasionally work with other labels.
5. Will negative_crush be performing live or is it a studio only creation?
tn: i always had it in my mind that i’d want to do some live performance, but so far i haven’t been able to motivate myself to get it done. i have a hard time accepting help from people, and an even harder time asking people to listen to my music at all; two conditions that sort of make it difficult to put a band together or book shows. as someone who’s been on both sides of the performer/audience coin, i have pretty high expectations for anything i’d want to do as a performance… since i made the album completely on my own, i kind of want to perform it that way, but even with machine assistance, it’s a tough sell. so for now, i guess it’s a studio only project.
6. What bands out there are impressing you currently?
tn: my personal tastes are really diverse, and i’m always looking for new bands and new records. when i was recording ‘invisible_weapons’, i was in a pretty bad place, emotionally, and i was listening to a lot of bands that were mining the same terrain that i was; jesu, earth, Isis, sunn o))), nine inch nails, sigur ros, and so on. while all those acts are still awesome, i listen to them less these days. mostly i listen to ambient music, where there are a lot of really talented people being overlooked. some lesser known artists i’m really listening to on a daily basis would include: alio die, hotel neon, federico durand, helios, clade, nils frahm, porn sword tobacco, bvdub. anyone with even a vague interest in ambient music should immediately go check those artists out.
7. Is social media and digital pr a blessing or curse? Some feel it’s like the tape trading and fanzine days or does it water down scene for the bands that should get noticed?
tn: this is something i spend a lot of time thinking about, without reaching any firm conclusion. on the one hand, i loathe social media and everything it stands for. can you imagine black sabbath using twitter? i despise the fact that artists are pretty much forced to “be engaged” with their fans, forced to constantly be “creating content”, to constantly post “selfies” on their instagrams, etc. i don’t like having to focus on anything beyond just extracting the most powerful expression of my emotion and turning it into a record that other people might want to listen to. i don’t want to have to manage social media on top of all that, i’m quite bad at it…it feels really disingenuous to me, and when i feel disingenuous, i can’t help but think that people pick up on that, so it really turns me off because that’s not how i want to be perceived.
the flip side of this, is that i constantly find all manner of great music being either self-released or on really small boutique labels, so having outlets to make that material available is really fantastic. i’d imagine a lot of those artists share my conflicted feelings about this stuff, but who knows.
8. Is there a theme or story behind invisible_weapons?
tn: i wouldn’t really say there’s a story, in particular. thematically, i’ve spent most of my career picking at my personal obsessions: sex and death. so, in a sense, this record could be considered a continuation of that. but this record is more of a document of a specific period in my life, where i was part of a seriously unhealthy relationship, when i was dealing with serious drug and alcohol addictions. in making the album, i was really trying to purge all of the emotional blackness and trauma out of me, with varying degrees of success and failure. the individual songs track against my attempts to either engage with, or escape from, aspects of my life that felt beyond my control. looking back at that time period, i can’t help but feel that i was deluding myself into thinking that making a record was actually helping me deal, because it’s pretty obvious to me now that i wasn’t. in some ways, i’ve managed to keep my train wreck of a life going for many more years, with more carnage in my wake. i suppose that will all end up in a record someday, but to be honest, right now i’m too numb to feel capable of doing anything creative any more. at this point, professional help is the only thing that’s going to make a difference.
9. What do you want to achieve with negative_crush?
tn: i want to make people have an emotional reaction to the music. i feel like there are a lot of people out there walking around in pain, and i want to connect to those people. so they know their misery isn’t a totally isolated experience. ultimately, we’re all moving through the universe together, but alone. when i hear music that makes me have a strong emotional reaction, even though it makes me feel terrible, in a way it makes me feel better because i’m less alone. i often say that ‘invisible_weapons’ is a perfect soundtrack to jump off a bridge to. i own lots of albums like that and i haven’t jumped off a bridge yet. it’s still possible, even though we live in a world made mostly of pointless effort and meaningless noise, to make a deep connection to an emotionally affecting record.
10. If you were offered a major label deal, would you even think about taking it or is it something that wouldn’t work for negative_crush?
tn: depending on how the deal was structured, i’d probably take it. realistically, there’s no major label that would ever want to release this music, but if there was…well, i’m no steve albini. even though my music isn’t particularly popular, i don’t labor under the delusion that obscurity is some kind of ‘pure artistry’ or anything. the more people whose ears i can reach, the more people i can make feel sad. the more people i make feel sad, the better i feel, because it means that the record connected to them. people who claim they don’t want their work to reach a wider audience are lying.
11. When recording negative_crush is it done layer by layer or do you work with others for more of a live element?
tn: for negative_crush, i really needed to prove that i could do one hundred percent of the work on my own. because i worked completely alone, i pretty much have to do everything one step at a time. i try to keep things fresh by trying a new approach with every song; some songs start from a recording of me playing drums, which i loop and then start writing guitar parts over. some songs start with programming synthesizers, others begin from a guitar or bass. i always seem to make extremely dense music….i constantly strive to make more minimal music, but it never seems to work for me. the shoegaze sound, for me, is really all about smearing textures and distortion. but while a lot of what people consider ‘shoegaze’ feels very happy to me, i wanted to take that sound and make it super depressing and slow, which is where the more ‘doom’ elements sneak in.
12. If you could work or collaborate with any artist on your next album, who would it be and why?
tn: the ultimate dream, for my whole life, would be brian eno. i’m positive he would hate my music, but i feel like he would push me to go beyond any internal barriers that i have. i respect him as an artist and producer more than anyone else. but there are plenty of other people i’d die to work with: justin broadrick, alva noto, alan wilder, the list goes on and on. one band i would especially like to work with someday would be a winged victory for the sullen, who i think have released two of the most perfect records i’ve ever heard. i doubt i’d be able to keep up with any of these artists, but it would certainly be fun to try!
13. You work as a engineer and producer as well, correct? Does that make it harder for you to work with others to record your music in other studios?
tn: it depends on the project, to be honest. i enjoy collaborating with like minded artists, and wish i had the bandwidth to do more of it. for this record in particular, it was so personal and so emotionally difficult that there was no way i could consider bringing someone else into the studio to work with me. i spent a few days at faultline studios in san francisco, just recording acoustic drums, and even that was very difficult for me…i’m not really a great drummer, so it was pretty embarrassing even working with an engineer who’s a friend of mine. i’ve been making records for a really long time, and i have a reasonably professional studio in my house. it’s much easier to work at my own pace and schedule that way, and i can really drill down into the raw emotions without feeling ashamed or embarrassed in front of someone. plus i can really spend a lot of time perfecting the mix without running up a bunch of costly studio time. it took me about four years to get everything where i wanted it, and even though there are still things i would probably change or fix, i feel like the album is a solid statement of what i’m capable of doing entirely under my own power.
14. Thank you for your time. Any closing thoughts?
tn: i wonder if i’ll ever be able to make another record like this one. it makes me uneasy to think of living through a period that would even get close to inspiring more music like this, but we will see. i have been working on some songs for a while now, but so far nothing is really converging. i hate to think that my best work is behind me, i guess only time will tell. thanks for taking the time to ask me about the record. i really appreciate that.