Interview: Gonemage


Garry Brents, the brains behind Memorrhage and Cara Neir, was kind enough to talk to me about Spell Piercings, the new record from their black metal/chiptune project Gonemage. We talked a little about the project’s influences, its background and the Gonemage writing process.

Aaron: Hey Garry, thanks for the interview. You describe Gonemage as an “alternate reality” project to Cara Neir’s Phase Out, an album which also brings together—among other things—chiptune and black metal. Could you talk a bit about Gonemage’s connection to Phase Out and Cara Neir?

Garry: Absolutely. Gonemage was created as an alternate reality and timeline from that album Phase Out in the way that it’s centered around a different version/entity of my character from that universe, just splintered off into its own separate reality. Initially, the two realities were “unaware” of each other but some crossover happened on Gonemage’s Astral Corridors album.

A: Memorrhage saw you working within the trappings of nu metal, is there much nu metal influence that bled over into Spell Piercings? The cover art gives me vibes of Korn’s Issues, slightly.

G: Yes, definitely. My thought process sonically was taking the sound of early Korn up until Issues and warping it as if they were unexpectedly influenced by black metal in the late ’90s, among a few of the other elements of Gonemage already (chiptune/electronics). The cover is my own nod to Korn’s Issues.

A: Chiptune and black metal seem so disparate stylistically, is it a challenge to marry them together or was it a natural combination?

G: It felt like a natural combination for me by seeing those aspects in the same way symphonic BM was and is made, but instead using 8-bit/16-bit style sounds in place of the traditional symphonic instruments. Compositionally, utilizing tremolo riffing with some of these chiptune MIDI parts alongside black metal riffs on guitars was another form of reinforcement of this combination. I haven’t done that in every case of this combination but it’s usually the easiest one to implement.

A: The Bandcamp description for Spell Piercings gives the back-story to the album and its art, detailing a purple clown toy discovered in a suburban house that turns its surroundings into a dungeon and nearby people into toys for its amusement. A lot of your records have that sort of context to them, is it important for you to have overarching concepts or themes to your albums? Be they settings, stories, etc.

G: I think for the most part, yes. I have a fascination with creating stories, whether it’s fantasy, sci-fi, horror or some combination of each one. It usually helps bring me uniformity in crafting the songs along to a concept or setting.

A: Black metal has been a part of your broader discography for well over a decade now. What attracted you to black metal to begin with?

G: The possibilities of it being open-ended in terms of how well it can mix with other styles, especially from my perspective and experience. But initially before I made music, it felt very open to experimentation and that always spoke to me. Other than that, the sort of “outsider” attitude it has. Even within its own scene, there are many offshoots that could feel strange to the others, i.e. symphonic BM vs 1st wave-influenced BM vs post-black of the late ’90s/early 00s like Solefald or Dodheimsgard, and so forth.

A: What’s the writing process for Gonemage, is it very methodical and compositional or do you improvise a track’s skeleton and add onto it later?

G: Mostly a mix of methodical and improvisational processes, like putting a puzzle piece together with concrete goals in mind as I am approaching a song or set of songs, then add new ideas afterwards that might spontaneously arise. This method tends to start with programming drums start to finish, or at least what I might initially think as finished. Some improvisation comes into play while I write and record guitar over the drums, maybe editing or adding new drum parts if a new idea comes to mind, then finishing the rest of the instruments and vocals.

A: You’re a machine when it comes to productivity; is it difficult to release records at the pace you do? And is there pressure to keep that pace up?

G: Thank you. I don’t think it’s difficult as long as I’m feeling inspired. My attention span gets diverted by random sparks of influence, so that tendency when coupled with a lot of free time yields productivity. The pressure to keep pace, however, does become difficult at times because I love to collaborate or have a solid number of guest contributions, but other schedules might not line up with mine at the right time. Or getting the album art done might take longer than expected.

A: Black metal historically has a lot of uniformity to its aesthetics—two-tone, monochromatic, satanic imagery, etc. The past few years have seen you—with Cara Neir and Gonemage especially—break away from that. Was it hard doing that, incorporating pixel art etc., in a genre that can be so hostile to change?

G: That’s true. I wouldn’t say it was hard to commit to, but it definitely has been an aesthetic that’s a tough sell with a lot of fans of the genre, which is understandable. But I always believe that if a creator is passionate about their vision, even if it’s unusual, then keep going.

A: What were your biggest influences on Spell Piercings, musical or non-musical?

G: Korn 94-99, Ulver (mostly all eras), Coal Chamber, SOAD Self-Titled, Darkthrone, Craft, Sigh, Arcturus, Khold, Dodheimsgard, video games like Star Ocean: Second Story, Legend of Mana, Chrono Trigger, and also the original TV show Are You Afraid of the Dark?

A: How is it like releasing music in 2024 versus releasing it in 2014? The Internet is such a different beast now in such a short amount of time.

G: Mostly different. Much more centered around social media in terms of netting exposure and planning ahead with various social media outlets to help ensure one’s exposure. More networking helps, or shall I say experience of networking of 10+ years definitely helps. Facebook isn’t as helpful as it was in 2014. In fact, it feels useless without paying for ads. Being savvy with Twitter, Instagram, Bandcamp/emails typically helps a lot with bringing attention to releasing new music. Having a personable approach helps more than ever. Big advice is just to be yourself in how you present your music and art!

A: Finally, what are your plans for the rest of 2024?

G: 1: Memorrhage’s next full length. 2: A different nu-metal solo project that’s more focused on hooks than Memorrhage. 3: A nu-metal side project album of Cara Neir (but totally different project name). 4: Possibly the next Cara Neir album (the final one). 5: Begin writing the sequel album to Spell Piercings. 6: Hoping to do more music for video games. I started working under the guidance of a friend on an upcoming game involving mechs meets rhythm/music based gameplay.

Thanks again to Garry for such an insightful interview!

Gonemage’s Spell Piercings is out now.

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