Saturday, January 15, 2022

Interview with Brett Clarin of Journey Into Darkness by Daniel S. Crane and Dave Wolff

Interview with Brett Clarin of Journey Into Darkness by Daniel S. Crane and Dave Wolff

Daniel S. Crane: Let’s go over Sorrow here in heavy detail before we go into JID, what were the ways of things back then that stood out the most to you as opposed to what you are doing now? Was it a big change for you? Or do you still think or plan at some point in time to have your former bandmates end up doing music in JID with you? I am very new to your older music and I am surprised it’s been under my radar till recently through JID. Is there a reason for that, Brett? Only real tough multiple choice question I’ll ask here, haha.
Logistically and the way I create music now is very much different than how Sorrow worked. The most obvious difference is having a band and doing it solo. In Sorrow, I would write a song (music and lyrics) and then present that to the band. Mike, the drummer, would figure out what he wanted to play to it and we would rehearse. The bass player would also figure out what he wanted to play. The way I do it now, I must create all the parts myself, but there is less rehearsing as this is all studio music now. Then there is also the amount of music I have to write. In Sorrow I wrote half the songs and the other members would write half the songs (or more). So I need to write many more songs by myself. There is also a difference in the way I write music now. Back then, I would write all the music on guitar as there were no synths at all. Now, I do a lot of my writing on keys and then create guitar parts around those melodies. It keeps the music more original rather than just relying on palm mutes to sound heavy.
The short answer about having my old bandmates in JID is no. I really have no interest in putting a band back together. We are all still friends, which is great, but our musical tastes have differed over the years and I prefer not to compromise what I want to play.
My only guess as to why you didn’t know about Sorrow before is we weren’t that popular! Haha.

Dave Wolff: How long have you worked and released material with Sorrow? Did you release anything nationally or mostly regionally with the band?
The drummer, Mike, and I started a band Apparition around 1987. We soon recruited another Guitarist, Andy and a bassist and singer. We released a demo in 1988 which was more thrash. Mike and I wanted to be death metal so we asked the singer to leave (he didn’t want to sing death metal). We then released another demo “Human Fear” in 1989. Both demos circulated in the tape trading community but we played mostly local shows. Then in 1990 we released a 7” on Relapse Records that was their first death metal release! In 1991 we got signed to Roadrunner and changed our name to Sorrow. We released an EP and then a full length. In 1992 RR dropped us and we soon after broker up. So in that respect we were an international band as we were distributed in Europe and Asia. But we never toured, in fact, we never played further than about 300 miles from our home in New York.

DSC: Now Brett, times have changed after 30 years since the glory of Apparition/Sorrow… is JID a band you do that might be able pull off any dark extraterrestrial covers remolded from the old days of Sorrow?
I will never cover any Sorrow/Apparition songs. Those songs were written for Sorrow and the style we were playing at the time. I don’t think porting them over would come out well.

DSC: When did you decide to go solo with the cosmic extreme metal style you have now?
Towards the end of Sorrow, I had already been experimenting with MIDI and synths (you can hear that at the very end of Hatred and Disgust). I loved the intros and interludes on death and black metal albums and after we broke up I started writing full songs using my keyboard. At the time, dungeon synth was just getting started, but I didn’t like it much as it was too minimal. So I started adding programmed drums to the synth sounds and I really liked how it came out. This was around 1994 and I just continued to write music. I enjoyed the freedom and creativity of doing everything myself so I just continued writing and I decided to write a full album and make it a full solo project.
As a bit of history, in late 1993 I also opened a record store, None Of The Above, and then started my own label (also called None of the Above) in 1995. I decided to put on my own music as well as a few bands I was friends with at the time. The initial releases, besides my own, were industrial followed by a few hardcore bands. I sold off the store in 1997 and closed the label about one year later.

DW: In what ways does writing and composing with MIDI and synths make Journey Into Darkness different from all of your previous bands?
With synths, there is a whole new dimension to what I am able to create. I can add more complexity to the texture of the music. Not necessarily complexity to the individual parts, but having more layers of sound to work with. With my other bands, I did all my writing on guitar. With JID, I do most of the writing on the keyboards. As I mentioned, I do not want to just write palm mutes to make the music heavy. When writing on guitar, it is easy to get caught up in syncopation rather than melody. Now I focus on writing music that sounds heavy, emotional and sinister on orchestral instruments and synths. Then I work on guitar. The combination, to me, is extremely potent and then when I add drums to it, I just get a feeling of euphoria. This method of writing, I hope, gives my music some uniqueness.

DW: Are you looking for a balance between melody and syncopation when writing first with keyboards and synths and then with guitars?
By starting on keys, it's more about melody and then rhythm. To be clear, when I say syncopation, I am thinking more about palm mutes and Morse code metal. On guitar, it's easy to fall back on doing a few palm mutes and skips. Sure, it sounds heavy, but there is nothing unique to it, nothing that stands out. Every way you can syncopate a palm mute in 3/4, 4/4, 5/4 and 7/8 has been done. There are only so many combinations you can do. I like palm mutes of course! But after 35 years of hearing those riffs it gets boring. I prefer to use that technique only for accents. So the syncopation on guitar gets added last (usually)!

DW: Where was the None Of The Above record store located? Did you advertise your label a lot through the store? Why did you eventually shut down both entities?
The store was located in Centereach, which is in Long Island, New York, about one hour from New York City. Of course I did push the label in the store, but I also did a lot of advertising for the label outside the store. This was part of the reason I shut down the label. I spent way too much money advertising the bands on the label and it just became a losing venture. This was more the case for the first bunch of industrial releases. Everything sold well in the store, but not so much elsewhere. I sold the store because I was planning on moving to California and I would have continued the label there. But after the second batch of releases, which were hardcore bands, I felt like I was running in circles. I shut the label and I never ended moving. To quote myself: “Throughout your life the decisions you make, Put the rest of your life at stake, Behind your life an infinite tree, what could have been you'll never see”.

DW: Would you consider restarting the label and record outlet if you could?
Well, I guess the short answer is no since there is really nothing stopping me from doing it again if I wanted to. As a source of income these days you also have to carry other styles of music outside of metal, and I have zero interest in other styles of music haha. As a hobby it might be fun, but I prefer to spend my extra time writing music.

DSC: What has your experience been like working amongst Spirit Coffin Publishing and Grizzly Butts (lol sorry I just can’t get past the name)?
My first interaction with Josh was when he published a list for 2020 in Grizzly Butts and my second album was on it. When I was working on the new album I sent him a copy of the music and the cover artwork. He really liked both and was just starting up his publishing company, Spirit Coffin Publishing, and asked if I would like to be on his label. Josh is very meticulous, professional and very honest so I told him I would be very happy to work with him. Since he liked the music it made working with him easier, we were both very excited for the release. He did all the CD, CA and vinyl layouts and handled a lot of the PR for the first few months. It’s been an excellent experience. You can check out the Grizzly Butts website for an explanation of the name!

DW: What bands besides yours is Josh helping support through Grizzly Butts? How much traffic does that website receive as far as you know?
Grizzly Butts is his webzine, so he supports and covers hundreds of bands. But on the label, Spirit Coffin Publishing, one of my favorites is Zetar, they are a sci fi based blackened death band. He also has some tech death bands, as well as some thrash bands. I really don't know how much traffic Grizzly Butts gets, it seems to be fairly busy. As far as webzines go, his is one of the best. Very well written and organized. I'll plug some of the websites here:

DW: Who else of note has Grizzly Butts featured? How entertaining and informative were said interviews?
The features and reviews in Grizzly Butts are always very informative. He has a vast knowledge of music and is able to dig beneath the surface when he does the articles. He's featured too many bands to list here, but he gives equal weighting to the lesser known bands as he does with the well known ones.

DW: Did you have a chance to be interviewed for Grizzly Butts?
We have not done an interview yet, it's being planned for the near future. The vinyl copy of the album just came in and I think he will be doing a feature in Grizzly Butts on the whole release, from start to finish. I am sure it will go well! We have gotten to know each other in the past few months, and he always has insightful questions.

DW: What is your frequency of zine interviews these days? Are you doing more print or live interviews?
If I count your questions, it's about once a week haha. I'd say about one to two interviews per month. Definitely more print interviews, I've only done a few live ones.

DW: How do your live interviews go? Were you comfortable enough answering questions live, or do you prefer to answer in print so you can put more thought into it?
The live interviews went well. One was with Zach at Metal Devastation Radio, he's a big fan of metal and really likes my music so it was a well thought out interview with good questions. One was with Necropolis Podcast which was really interesting, we discussed music but also my love of physics and science. Another interview was just some guy asking random questions and clearly had no idea about the music. I was comfortable and able to answer the questions. Of course after listening to them there are some things I would have said differently. But live is fun, you can get a feeling for the personality of both the interviewer and the interviewee, and the interview can take different random paths. However, I do prefer written interviews, so, as you put it, I can put more thought into it.

DSC: If you had a choice of bands to gig with if you did gig with JID who would your top five bands be currently you enjoy or associate yourself to? (Please don’t say my music)
I guess I can start with listing some of the classics: Emperor, Limbonic Art, Immolation (we played together back in the early 90s!) and I’ll plug a few bands that I have become good friends with that would be fun to play a show with: Tattva (France) and Chestrcush (UK/Greece).

DSC: Can you tell the readers what equipment you use to record with and what guitars you own? Also do you have experience playing drums?
For my DAW, I use Cubase, I’ve been using Cubase for 20 years. I own only one guitar since my Sorrow days, it’s a Yamaha RGX 1220S. All my recording is done DI (direct in), my amp sims of choice are ML Sounds. I have very modest experience on the drums. When I record, it is a mixture of me playing live MIDI and programming. Although I do a lot of touch up on the drums (my playing is not too good) I spend huge amounts of time on making sure they sound natural. I do not want them sounding robotic, and I prefer to have control over them rather than have someone else interpret what beats should go over the music.

DW: Do you ever think of working with a professional drummer to continue expanding the band’s sound?
I've thought about it, it would certainly make it easier for me. But there are two things that prevent me doing it. The main reason is I prefer to write the drum parts myself. The other reason is money. Hiring out a drummer would be another expense I wouldn't recoup. If someone were willing to do it for free, there would still be the problem of style and sound. I am not convinced it would make the music sound any better and to say ‘no thanks’ after someone put in the time is not fair to them.

DW: What are the other advantages of doing JID as a solo project?
The main advantage is artistic freedom of course. But another advantage is there is no time constraints. I can write and practice anytime I want. I'm not the type of person who needs a schedule to get things done, so I do not need specific rehearsal times. This leads to another advantage, I do not need to rehearse as much! I can spend the majority of my time creating and writing new music rather than having to rehearse with a band.

DW: When anyone and everyone can start a band or solo project and stream online, how important is creative control, originality, and creativity?
And it seems everyone has! Haha. I have mixed opinions on this. It seems that the bands that are generic, cliché and play music that fits nicely into a genre have an easier time getting some attention. They have an easy 'first impression' that people can latch onto within a few seconds. And I fully understand that, you throw on a track and it smacks you in the face with the familiar and you can bob your head. But, if others are like myself, after a while you need to hear something besides the basics. It takes more than a generic riff to get you excited. This is starting to sound weird haha. So I think there is room for both, there will always be room for the basics, but there are plenty of others who look for originality, who crave something creative, and that does not have to come at the expense of heaviness. I like to think that I am doing something original and creative, but still heavy, aggressive, and powerful.

DSC: Last question on my end… what do you hope to accomplish in 2022 and what is your favorite movie from the Alien franchise or sci-fi in general? (Even Horizon / Predator / Alien 2 & 3 for me… notable mentions… The Black Hole (Disney) and Supernova (2000)
That’s a 2fer question! Haha. In 2022, I’d like to focus more on writing music than on promotions. I do not have much new material right now, so I hope to have enough written to make another album by the end of 2022. Out of the Alien franchise, I like the original! For my all time favorite sci-fi movie – Terminator 2. It’s a perfect movie (T1 was amazing too even with crappy special effects, but after T2 the rest were total garbage). A notable mention is every Star Trek movie, including the first!

DW: Have you or would you consider basing lyrics on the science fiction movies you’ve seen? How do you think you would fare in that regard?
I've thought about writing science fiction lyrics, but not based on any movie, I prefer to have my own original ideas. If I were to write a sci-fi story, it would still need to have meaning. As mentioned, the lyrics need to have meaning to me, so a story would have to have some point to it, some message or idea that I am trying to convey. It's possible you may see something on the next album!

DW: Are there any other projects you have in mind for the coming year?
I may try to write some music that would be more suited for movies, TV, games. There is the whole library and sync licensing part of music I've never explored. Some of my songwriting skills I think would be well suited for those, so I may give it a try. But JID is my priority, it has become my life.

-Daniel S. Crane
-Dave Wolff

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