Dan Barrett Have A Nice Life Interview Essay

After harrassing him on social networks, Dan Barrett accepted to answer our questions and gave us the occasion to go deeper in the understanding of his past projects and the ones to come.

 

 

O.M. : Your album covers show several mediums of art. Paintings, movies… What works of art (including literature, cinema, music, painting…) inspired you the most?

Tim is actually the deeper cinema-phile…he is endlessly collecting films, old VHS tapes, etc. He’s also far better-read than I am.

So I don’t necessarily have the deep rooting in the great works that some people assume I do. I was deeply influenced by Bertrand Russell when I first read him; H. P. Lovecraft also completely shifted the way I thought about the world. When I was very young I split my time between comics, books on philosophy I didn’t really understand, and ghost stories.

I’ve always been drawn to fantasy, and in general anything that seemed to have a whole teeming world behind it – movies and tv series and novels that were densely populated. I’ve always loved the feeling that there was a great deal to explore below the surface of the “main storyline;” I still like that feeling today.

What does the figure of Marat mean for you? What is its link with Deathconsciousness?

I’d always loved that painting. The historical Marat didn’t have any deep connection to the material on the record, but it matched up with the bath tub imagery I used in the “Big Gloom” lyrics; I also just loved how cropping the painting the way we did left an enigmatic smile showing, but little else. It just seemed to make everything much more mysterious.

Both Giles Corey and The Unnatural World show a connection with the theme of possessions, while Deathconsciousness and the song Destinos seem to question the nature of God. I know it’s a personal question, but can you tell us about your beliefs, if you have any?

About god? Well, intellectually I’m fairly nihilistic. I don’t think there’s an underlying meaning or motive to anything; it’s all materialism, through and through. I tend to drift towards cosmic pessimism and feel that consciousness is a double-bind that creates suffering and not much else; I don’t think awareness of the universe imparts us with anything other than the sinking realization that our time is limited.

Emotionally, though, I’m drawn to religious and heroic imagery. I’m a pessimist in my thinking but actually live my life as an optimist; I’ve always tried to pursue the clearest modes of thinking I could, and often experience something like transcendence, either through beauty or melancholy or whatever. I often feel like I could have been a priest in a different life…it’s hard to square those two sets of feelings, but I don’t think it’s particularly important that I try to do so, so I don’t bother.

What did you feel after watching Mother Joan of the Angels (a 1961 film by Jerzy Kawalerowicz)? Why did you choose a picture from this movie for your album? What can you tell us about your interest for the Loudun possessions and also the Salem witch trials?

There’s a definite connection between the personal and artistic themes in Giles Corey and The Unnatural World. I was really interested in mass hysteria and possessions at the time – I continued working through those on the Giles Corey albums Deconstructionist (via suicide epidemics)and more subtly in Hinterkaifeck (via the idea of a sort of meta-murderous human spirit).

There was something about the idea of a permeable self – the feeling that we think we are who we are, but that our environment has far deeper and further reaching effects on us than our conscious minds will allow us to appreciate. It’s kind of terrifying – you have a stable and continuous picture of who “you” are, but since you are continuously being affected by your environment, and continuously re-imagining this “continuous self”, you’re never really aware of the changes you’re undergoing. There is never really a “you” to remember yourself.

That theme emerged over time, I didn’t really plan it that way until I got to Deconstructionist…which is one of my favorite things about art, noticing the themes that emerge subconsciously.

You wrote several books that go along with your albums. Do you plan to separate these two means of expression one day and to write something that would not have any connection with your music, or is it more important for you to support one with another? Do you consider your works as a total work of art?

I might try writing something separately one day. I do think of the things we put out as total experiences, and plus I just enjoy fleshing out the world, giving people something interesting to find if they put in the effort. It just makes things more enjoyable for me.

It’s a ton of work, though, and I have to really be caught in the right mood to get it done, especially where writing is involved. I hope to continue it, but I haven’t been driven to write for a while.

The lyrics of your several projects are sometimes violent and raw, sometimes abstract and pure, but most of the time very pessimistic. However, they left a great mark on your fans. Do you consider them personal, or do you think that you found words that many people can understand and be concerned by? If so, how does it make you feel?

I think the personal is always understandable to a large number of people – we’re not that different. It just isn’t the case that our problems are terribly unique.

I write personal lyrics because otherwise I don’t get the same release from writing music – and in the end, that’s why I’m doing it. I don’t need the money, and though I’m intensely gratified that people connect with the music, I don’t need that either. It’s the act, in itself, that is enjoyable…and to get that feeling I need to dig a bit, find something in myself that’s uncomfortable or personal in some way, and let it out.

 

 

How Tim and you started to make music together? Did you share the same influences and intentions back then or is it something that grew on both of you?

We met when we were playing in different bands, back in college. We just immediately hit it off – I’m not sure why, but we shared the same sense of humor. In many ways we’re quite different…but we’re the same in all the ways that matter, and compliment each other very well.

When we started writing music together, mostly just on two acoustic guitars, we had very different writing styles…but when we played together, we were able to put them together with the same kind of overarching vision. He made all my songs much better. I trust his opinion implicitly.

Black Wing is very different from Have A Nice Life and Giles Corey, though you started using electronic sounds with these two projects. How do you incorporate Black Wing in your discography? In your eyes, what is its meaning or purpose? Black Wing is still dark but there is a kind of naivety in it, for example the artwork could be an illustration from a children’s book…There must be a link between Black Wing and the rest of your discography but it is not as clear as it is between your other albums. Can you tell us more about it?

I’m not sure how it fits in, necessarily. Many of my projects grow out of specific constraints I give myself: Giles Corey was meant to have no electronic instruments (though I broke that rule), and to be influenced by country music, and the songwriting style grew out of that. HANL has always been Tim and I, and there aren’t any constraints placed on what we do other than that we both be involved.

Black Wing started just as an excuse to learn a bit more about electronic production, and to experiment with a more upbeat sound. It kind of veers back and forth between more pop-influenced stuff, and more industrial influences. It’s also tended to cover what I consider more “adult” topics – if Giles Corey was about my depression, Black Wing was about learning I had a heart defect. The Black Wing material I’m working on now seems to be focusing on marriage, and parenthood.

Different styles just seem to be easier at certain times in my life. I try not to overthink it.

You have been involved in Nahvalr, a nightmarish electronic project which delivers a kind of twisted doom/black metal by manipulating various sources of sound.  You define this project as an “Open-Source Black Metal”. We can read that you define it with these words : “What does that mean? It means using the internet, using the solitude and separation caused by home recording and digital distribution, to bring together sounds, songs, and lyrics from dozens of artists, each working in complete ignorance of the other.”. The concept of your work reminds us of the Beat Generation and most particularly the art of William S. Burroughs and his utilisation of the Cut-up technique. Are you familiar with his legacy? When the concept of Nahvalr has been organized, this artistic movement may have been a guiding light for you.

I loved Burroughs in high school and definitely thought of the Cut Up stuff when we were putting Nahvalr together. We were also just looking for an original take on a genre that was pretty well-defined by that point. We’ve always been interested in ways we can use or abuse the internet to do cool things. It seems a waste to just use this massive technological leap to put out the same old kinds of records.

Deathconsciousness was released in 2008, Giles Corey in 2011 and The Unnatural World in 2014. Any good news for the months to come?

Haha…we are roughly a 4-5 year schedule, but I’m never sure why that is.

HANL has a record that’s nearing completion but has been moving fairly slowly, due to scheduling constraints. I’m also working on a Black Wing record that’s coming along a bit more quickly….after those come out, it’ll be on to a new Giles Corey record, most likely.

We’re always working, even when we’re quiet. But it’s nice, because we feel no pressure to put something out until we’re ready….we like to emerge when people least expect it.

Enemies List : site

The Flenser : site

Questions written by O.M. and L.G.

 

Dan Barrett, Giles Corey, Have a Nice Life, MITHRA! Templezine, Nahvalr

Interview with Dan Barrett


Well, It's finally here. My interview with Dan Barrett, runner of Enemies List Home Recordings, and member of the bands Have A Nice Life and Giles Corey. Enjoy.

Links
New Year's Resolution (Blog)
Twitter
Enemies List Home Website

Me: How Many Bands Have You Been In?
Dan: How many bands have I been in... Uh.... Hmm... I don't know that's a good question. *Laughs*
I've been in bands... More or less consistently since I was in 6th grade, which was a while ago now.... Like a lot of people who played music, I was in bands in high school and sorta started doing music seriously when I got to college.. So since then, I've been in about 4 or 5 bands.
Me: So Which Bands Are You Currently In?
Dan: Uh, well I'm currently in the band Have A Nice Life, Which is myself and Tim Macuga, who's a really good friend of mine, And we started Have A Nice Life when we were in college. And then I'm currently doing a side project called Giles Corey, which I released a first record for just this year. And you know, the are always those.. Offsite projects that are, in my head and that I want to address but don't really exist, but those are the 2 that.. Take up my time.
Me: Tell Us A Little Bit About Enemies List Recordings.
Dan: Well, Enemies List Home Recordings is the record label that Tim and I actually started about 5 or 6 years ago  now. And it basically started as a way to put out Have A Nice Life stuff. We were just kinda recording on our own and didn't really know anybody. We were very disconnected, and still are, from the regular music scene, because we don't really play concerts, we don't really.. You know where just not quite tapped into that regular scene. We were very skeptic. We didn't really know anyone that would want to put out our stuff, or even knew we where in a band, so we started Enemies List as a way to release our own music. And, ya know, its kinda grown from there. Essentially, it's a label that releases home recordings, so we really focus on people who are recording outside of the kind of studio system. And we really just try to put out music that is.. Interesting, or important, or shares our aesthetic sense, you know. It doesn't really matter what genre it is, it's really more of an issue of sharing a similar philosophy and sharing a feeling of what music and good music.. is. And its just grown steadily since then, still the same people, and we still use it to put out our records and records that we like.
Me: What other artists have you put out music from on Enemies List?
Dan: Um, well, theres a couple different.. Yeah, one of the first records we put out was an album recorded by my brother, my brother Will Barret, who records under the name AfterLives, And he's kind of the perfect example of what we put out. He had never recorded a record before, never even written music before, so it was really interesting to hear. You know, you could like go back in time and say "what was the first song I ever wrote?", It's just this thing that comes out of you, and that's kinda what we got out him. We  put out our friend M. Kestigan, who has a band American Addio, and it's this really fanatic, almost like hyperactive synth, sorta pop project, but it's mainly stuff that is really fun to listen to. He has these really... Intellectual lyrics, and it's really incredible. We have this guys named Mamaleek, who are really bizarre, black metal brothers from San Francisco, who have, ya know middle eastern influences, world music influences, stuff like that. The next album we're releasing ia from a band named Dweller On The Threshold, an they are... Just, completely amazing. Just really amazing. They have all these members from other bands. They have a really.. Sprawling, epic kind of... It sounds like a  western scene. Lots of Indie or post rock. It's just essentially people who send us stuff that we like.So it's a lot of different bands, but they're all pretty awesome I think.
Me: Could We Ever Expect A Have A Nice Life or Giles Corey Tour?
Dan: It's not really like we made a concept decision that we wer never going to play out, not play shows, i mean, I love playing live, It's one of my favorite things to do. The problem is really 2-fold for us, and It's a kind of problem that show us up for most of the music that Enemies List puts out, is that 1): these songs are part recorded, you know, It's not like we get together in a basement and we write songs and we play them, kinda like you would with a more traditional band. You know Giles Corey and Have A Nice Life are written as recordings! There's... a lot of instrumentation, there's parts for you know 7 or 8 people, but there is actually only 1 or 2 people there recording it. Like, for Have A Nice Life, It's really hard for us to re-create some of that stuff live, without having a lot of it pre-recorded. And were not really interested in becoming that kinda of band, or playing like that. And 2): The second part of it is that, you know it's really really hard to try and get prepared, get people together, make a practice schedule, and get stuff really ready to be played live. And it's really hard for us to get people together. I mean, Tim and I, we really don't see each other too often. We both work full time, he has a lot going on, and I'm running the label and doing all this other stuff too. So, when we do actually get together, we focus on recording music. We can't together 3 times a week to make music. You know, it's not something that I would say won't happen, I mean I'd love to play out with Have A Nice Life, or maybe even Giles Corey, but it's just a very difficult proposition. And if were doing that, were really not making new stuf or working on the label. So my typical answer is that I'm just waiting for the right thing. Alcest came from Europe and we played a couple shows with them, cause I love that band, and it was really cool. If we have a lot of pre warning, we'll try to do it. I mean, I'd love to play out all the time, It's kind of how I got into music, and did a lot when I was younger, but it's hard to fit that into a stable life. It's one thing when you're 21, and you're just kind of touring around all the time, but i'm getting older. I have a job, and it's really hard to manage that stuff. So, you gotta pick your time and place.
Me: So, who are some of your musical Influences?
Dan: Well.....It's kind of a funny thing. I kind of have a rack of inspirations it seems for every project. Like, for Have A Nice Life, our goal was kinda to hit Sisters Of Mercy, Joy Division and My Bloody Valentine. Those 3 bands are 3 HUGE bands to me, and they really changed the way I thought about music. The Smiths are my favorite band, and ironically i don't feel they influenced the way I play. I mean, I just love that band, but I don't really hear much of them in the music I write. In terms of Giles Corey, I was really thinking in terms of old country singers, like Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash. I really like that era, you know with people like Willie Nelson, And just kind of smashing that into stuff like Elliot Smith, you know kinda that brand of indie-folk.... I don't know, I mean I don't really see a lot of connections between the music i play and the music I like. *Laughs* And I think that that might be because I'm not too good at music *Laughs Again*. I can't play The Smiths on guitar, because I'm not very good at guitar, so I have to work around my limitations, and that has a really big impact on how what I play sounds. But those are my big influences. Those are the big guys. To me.
Me: So are your home recordings made straight to tape?
Dan: Uh, everything we do is digital, I mean when we started, I literally knew NOTHING about recording. And I still know very little *Laughs*. I'm really can't stress this enough. i really don't know much about recording. Our first album was recorded almost entirely on Garage Band. Because it's what we had. It was free on my computer, and for the longest time I couldn't figure out how to plug a guitar into a computer. So it took me a while to figure that stuff out, I mean I didn't have any of that knowledge. I was always the singer in all of my bands. So i didn't have the equipment, the guitars, i mean that's just how we did it. Know, we use a logical recording program, and its done with guitar space, and looping drums and stuff like that. I mean people go to school just to learn all this stuff, and we just kinda fell into what we used. Literally just, add a little piece here and there. I used to just record into the microphones that went into my computer, cause it was all I had! So i mean I think it says a lot about where we are in our music and recording music. But those songs, like when I find an older song from that.. Era, I mean it sounds bad, but it actually also sounds partly decent! Even the horrible recording, even with not knowing how to record music, can be good enough to put a musical idea on paper and send it to someone. You don't really know a whole lot about it to at least start making music on your own.
Me: This is on topic, believe it or not, but have you heard of a music website named The Needle Drop?
Dan: Yeah. Anthony Fantano, he's from Connecticut. Definitely.
Me: Did You Know he made a review of the Giles Corey LP?
Dan: Yes I did. I saw it.
Me: How did you feel about it? I mean, he gave it a good one so...
Dan: Yeah. He's awesome. And he's from Connecticut, which is where I'm from, and so our local NPR station plays his show, which is also called The Needle Drop, And it's great. The dude is really goods at what he does. He knows a lot about music, he plays really interesting music, I really like his style of review, yeah. So I felt pretty honored to be on there and felt really good that he liked it. And he's a really cool dude. Hope to meet him sometime.
Me: Just had to ask, because that was how i found out about you, through the Giles Corey review.

Me: What was the last concert that you went to?
Dan: The last concert that I went to.. I actually very rarely go to see live music. It's weird, I used to go all the time, but as I get older, it has to be something really special for me to go out, because I'm crazy busy all the time, and the way I listen to music now, like when I'm walking or in quiet space. But the last show I went to, was actually the band Bear Hands. It has 2 people from the band In Pieces, a band I used to be in, and they're really good friends of mine, and now they're in Bear Hands, which is a really poppy, dancy band, and they're doing super well. They write really cool music. So it was a good night, got to hear some good msuic and see my friends. So yeah.
Me: What was the last album that you listened to [prior to this interview]?
Dan: Let me think.. That would have been... yesterday. What did I listen to yesterday... I think the last album that I listened to was... Actually i just listened the other day to the new Roots album, which is called Undun.
I listened to that, and thought it was pretty interesting. I actually really like Hip-Hop, but very rarely listen to it anymore. I mean, every day I listen too, all the bands I mentioned earlier, and all the bands I'm used too, so it was kind of a nice, branch out moment. So yeah. It was cool. It was a good album.
Me: Well, that was my last question. Any random stuff you'd like to say?
Dan: Uh, nope. Thanks for the interview, and tell people if they want to know more, visit the Enemies List website or Twitter. And that would be awesome.

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