TovH sat down with Garry Brents, the prolific stylistic chameleon behind Cara Neir, Gonemage, Homeskin, and Sallow Moth, to talk about the self-titled debut album of his nu metal revival project Memorrhage, out June 16.
You’ve covered a lot of stylistic ground in your other projects Cara Neir, Gonemage, and the now-completed Sallow Moth. What made you decide to throw your hat in the Nu Metal Revival ring with Memorrhage?
For sure, and notably Homeskin as another project that covered a lot of ground itself. Even some overlapping ideas that I’ve covered from the others, just from a different approach in hyper spontaneity.
Memorrhage was a lightbulb moment but some things led up to it. I’ll preface with Nu Metal being the first style of music I latched on to as a kid in the 90’s, first with Korn not long after they arrived with their first album. But I dove into other music and further down the umbrella of metal years later in 2001. By 2003 I’ll admit I kind of brushed Nu Metal aside and from then until 2022 I only revisited a few albums in a cursory way. Summer 2022 comes around and a wave of nostalgia hits me in the form of watching the Woodstock 99 documentary and seeing Korn on there was the lightbulb for this redirect. Coupling that experience with the ‘Crazy Ass Moments in Nu Metal History’ account on social media, namely Twitter, really got me doing deep dives on the bands I used to be super into and then some, all the deep cuts I never really explored. So fast forward to November 2022 and something clicked where I just sat down and made a Nu Metal song and the idea for Memorrhage right then and there. Published the track ‘Memory Leak’ and instantly got to brainstorming for this project’s debut full length. By December, I finished the album and spent the early part of 2023 gathering guest appearances.
How do you feel about the constant bickering over what does and doesn’t constitute “nu metal”? Obviously there’s a 20-plus year history of people bending over backwards to say that the nu metal bands they like are actually alt-metal or industrial or experimental or any damn thing but “nu”, and now it kind of feels like its swung in the other direction with nu revisionists retroactively claiming basically anything with a guitar and a syncopated rhythm (“Crazy Ass Moments in Nu Metal History” has posted Modest Mouse tracks, seemingly in earnest). What actual defining traits make a record “nu metal”?
I definitely see both sides to the coin, to an extent. I’ll admit I can get a little loose with the genre. For example, I can consider Godflesh‘s run of Songs of Love and Hate to Us and Them under the umbrella of the genre, while not necessarily being purely nu metal. I do contest the notion of stuff like Modest Mouse or any of the alt rock or post-hardcore being considered a part of the genre. I can understand mentioning Glassjaw and Snapcase in the conversation, but only due to their proximity—and also the Ross Robinson connection with Glassjaw. But I don’t necessarily hear enough of the nu metal musical traits in those bands. I have also seen people’s perspective of nu metal as an era and culture more than a sound, but I personally think a band or artist has to have enough of the musical traits to be considered a part of it. Bounce riffs and/or a hip-hop element are the biggest keys, in my opinion.
What actually is the juice that makes a nu metal riff a nu metal riff? Its got something to do with rhythm and downtuning, and probably something to do with texture–there’s a sloshy, noisy element to a lot of it–but I’ve never done a deep enough dive to put my finger on it.
That’s a great question and I often think about it, or at least have been for the past 9 months or so based on the general observation of others labeling something with it. I agree that rhythm comes first with downtuning as probably the next needed element. They just go together for the riff although I guess you could still do nu metal riffs in standard tuning. But rhythm has to be the first thing. Like you mentioned with syncopation, it has to be the focal point with how the riff and drums interact with each other. Tone certainly ties to all the above. I know Korn started with popularizing the nu metal tone with Mesa Dual Rec amps. I believe they used a modified Big Muff pedal that Ross Robinson had and that added to the juice of the tone. It certainly is sloshy, but also weighty, especially when downtuned. Not necessarily tight at all though. Like trying to play really fast thrash riffs with that tone might not yield the precision you’d want. But for slower, percussive rhythms or drawn out chords, it does the job perfectly. Although, over the years other tonal approaches came through where more precision was needed in the faster nu metal bands.
How do you feel about the “revival” part of the nu metal revival? Memorrhage doesn’t feel as purely recreationist as, say, some NWoTHM bands—who I won’t mention—but at the same time it feels more “authentic” to the old nu metal sounds than certain other nu-metal-in-name-only bands that have popped up in the last few years—who I also won’t mention. In particular, something like “Lunge” genuinely feels like it could have cracked the Top 40 back in the day. How do you approach mixing newer sounds with the obviously retro vibe of the record?
I’ve spent quite a bit of time with the whole spectrum of the revival and overall it’s fascinating to me. I definitely have more of an enjoyment for the ones who I can tell have the influence and awareness of the original era. I think more and more younger artists getting into the genre will pull more from that while also keeping it fresh, taking it to new levels, which does fit the spirit of the genre and culture. It was always a melting pot of sounds. And thank you for the kind words on “Lunge”. That one has become a favorite among the people I’ve shared the album with early on. The way I’ve approached it has been from the angle of culmination of knowledge and experience. The past 20 years listening and/or making all kinds of music has poked its way into Memorrhage. That culmination fused with my own nostalgia of nu metal was the key to shaping the album.
One thing that’s obviously different is the lyrics—the original wave of nu metal was pretty damn fixated on interpersonal belligerence, but Memorrhage is all sci-fi. Was the personal hostility something that you actively shied away from when you were writing the lyrics, or was the sci-fi stuff a natural extension of your usual lyrical approach?
I would say a mix of both but primarily the latter. I’ve always been into storytelling, having themes and anthological approaches to albums. So this was an interesting approach to the genre because vocal delivery needs to be intense and typically angst-driven. I channeled that through the lens of hypothetical characters within this sci-fi lyrical backdrop.
You definitely have an affinity for storytelling and for writing overarching narratives in some of your other projects, and while I didn’t discern any high-level plot on Memorrhage, are there any hidden connections that longtime Brents-heads should be on the lookout for?
Thank you. Being able to delve into world building has been a really fun pairing with music. You’re right, not necessarily a full fledged plot across the album but more like vignettes. I’ve divulged a little bit about this on social media but I’ve considered Memorrhage itself as a divergence from Gonemage. Where Gonemage resides in dreams/nightmares, Memorrhage is like a technological anomaly exiting that universe and creating its own.
Thanks for talking to us today. Anything else you wanna say to The People Out There?
My pleasure. And thanks for having me. Thanks to everyone out there for showing interest in my music and this project.