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JOURNEY INTO DARKNESS's Brett Clarin: “(My) lyrics are inspired by the fragility, bleakness, shortness of life, science, nihilism, existentialism, and the human experience...I don't ignore the immense failings of humanity, & the cruelty of the universe.

Interview with Brett Clarin from Journey Into Darkness
by Suicide Cliff at 19 November 2021, 4:26 AM

After reviewing the new album by JOURNEY INTO DARKNESS “Infinite Universe, Infinite Death”, Metal Temple writer “Suicide” Cliff had the fortune to interview the mastermind of the ominous symphonic black metal project, Brett Clarin.  In this interview we discuss his motivations, inspirations, label experience, work process and some pro tips for any aspiring musicians.  I thoroughly enjoyed hearing his responses and gained a lot of insight into the madness behind the band.

What are your main influences when it comes to music? And what genres influence you outside of metal?

After 35 years I’d say there are a lot of influences! Rather than name bands, I’d say the styles that influence me read like a genre list: symphonic black metal, symphonic death metal, black metal and death metal, and a bit of doom and maybe even some hardcore. I still listen to the classics but I try to listen to a lot of newer music too. When I write I am not thinking of any particular style, I am taking elements of all the styles I like and writing what I think is the best element of each.

Outside of metal, I listen to a bit of classical and very rarely some 70s rock.

How were your experiences with Sorrow and being under Roadrunner?

Being on Roadrunner was both great and terrible. The excitement we felt when we first signed to Roadrunner was euphoric. Being in our early 20s and being on of the biggest death metal labels at the time was a huge achievement. Unfortunately it went bad real quick. Roadrunner’s modus operandi was to sign a lot of bands and hope a few get big. The label quickly lost interest in us and gave us practically no support. They didn’t even bother printing up shirts for us. This was back when labels helped bands tour, printed merchandise for them, lined up press and reviews, etc. After we did the first EP, they didn’t even want to do the first LP. We had to convince them to do it. After its release they quickly dropped us. In fact, we did not even know they dropped us until Suffocation told us! After that happened, we tried to look for a new label, but couldn’t find one. After 5 years we just called it quits.

Have you ever considered performing live with Journey into Darkness?

No, I will not be playing out. There are many reasons. I do not want to go through the process of getting a band together, and I certainly don’t want to ‘hire’ anyone to play out with. It’s just something that does not appeal to me. Also, my ears are pretty bad, I have tinnitus and I have lost a little hearing in my left ear. Rehearsing and playing out would do more damage.

The vocals on the album were amazing. Is Jei Doublerice currently in any projects or bands?

Jei is an amazing vocalist! He’s worked on a lot of music, but the bands he is actually in full time are Despite Exile, Sensory Amusia, Every Hour Kills and Abiogenesis. However, they are not black metal!

I personally know what it’s like to do a solo project where you have to wear all the hats. Sometimes it’s hard to keep focus and push forward when writing. How do you stay motivated through the writing process? Do you finish one track at a time or do you bounce between them?

What I find most difficult about writing on my own is the lack of feedback from other band mates. Sometimes when you share your music with other band mates they can give you some ideas you may not have thought about. But the good thing about not having feedback is that you don’t have to take crappy suggestions either! LOL What can also be difficult is getting writer’s block. There are times when I am stuck on a song or even one riff for weeks or more. I prefer to stick to one song at a time, but when this happens I will go onto another song. I never have more than 2-3 songs I am working on simultaneously, although I always have a bunch of riffs recorded so I do not forget them. The motivation comes from listening to the track as it progresses. Every riff I write has to get me excited for me to continue working on it, and then putting them together to form a song gives me a lot of inspiration.

The lyrics of the album really struck a chord with me. What inspires you lyrically? Are there any authors or writings which you admire that influenced these ideas?

I am glad you mentioned the lyrics and how they meant something to you. A lot goes into my lyrics, they are always personal and mean a lot to me. Before I was into metal, in the early to mid 80s I was into hardcore, and the lyrics were just as important as the music. I’ve taken that concept into my songwriting. Although the music is more important, I feel that lyrics that convey a meaning and have thought provoking ideas adds a tremendous amount to the music. Good lyrics allow a deeper connection to the music and make the song better.

Many of the lyrics are inspired by the fragility, bleakness, and shortness of life, as well as science, nihilism, existentialism, the human experience, etc.  I am not a negative person, I am usually not depressed, but I do not ignore the immense failings of humanity, and the cruelty and indifference of the universe.  I could write pages on this stuff! A lot of my thoughts about these things are in my lyrics.

I am a big science buff and most of my reading is of science magazines.

Mixing and mastering is definitely a different beast compared to playing and performing music. I find it extremely frustrating and confusing at times. Many tweaks one does are so subtle it’s hard to see the big picture. How do you determine when a mix is finished and you are satisfied with the result?

As in all art, the mix is never finished, you just decide to stop working on it! There is a concept of diminishing rate of return. At some point you put in a lot of effort and get very little in return.  When I find myself spending hours making minor changes that don’t make a difference in the quality of the music, I’ll stop. Of course, deciding when there is no difference in the quality is the hard part! I probably had 10 ‘final’ mixes. LOL

Have you found a writing methodology you adhere to? (Such as programming first, then guitars, then bass, vocals, etc.) Or do you start from different instruments and angles each time and change the writing to fit it all together as things progress?

A lot of the music is written on keyboards first (piano, violins, synth), it allows me to develop the melody and mood early on. If I were to write exclusively on guitar I think my music would sound very different. When writing on guitar it is easy to rely on palm mutes to get heaviness, but it’s also generic and in some ways shallow. Of course I do love palm mutes, they are heavy, but there are only so many ways you can syncopate a palm mute. I want the heaviness to come from the melody of the music. I want the feeling and emotion to be ignited through melody, not syncopation. If I can play a part on the piano, or on a violin and it sounds heavy, deep, emotional, and powerful, I know it will sound even more so with guitars. But it does not always work in reverse, a part may sound heavy on guitar, but if I play it on a synth it may sound dull and unexciting. So there is a back and forth I do, playing on both keyboard and guitar to build up a song. I think this process gives my music some uniqueness.

I will add bass when the guitars are done. Drums are added as the song develops to help give me a sense of arrangement. Typically I know what style of beat I want on a part as I write it, but if I need to bridge from one part to another and I am not sure how many measures or how the bridge will sound I will add some basic drums to it. Later I will go back to the drums and then really spend a lot of time on them. Basic beats will usually change into more complicated and interesting rhythms (not always though, sometimes basic is best) and I need to add all those accents and fills. The drums can sometimes take almost as long as the music.

I do usually finish the music before adding lyrics. After a song is done, I will get a feeling from it that will inspire lyrics. Occasionally I have an idea for a song, no lyrics, just an idea, and I will sculpt a song around that idea. But the lyrics will still be done after.

What’s the future of Journey Into Darkness? Do you have new material you are working on?

The immediate future is to continue to promote this release like this - CD and cassettes are out now on Spirit Coffin Publishing and vinyl is coming in November. So we still have work to do promoting! But I will continue to write, I don’t have a choice, I need to do it. Hopefully this album will do well enough that I can put out more physical copies of future albums.

I am working on new material, but I did take a few months off from writing when the album came out. There is a lot of work that goes into promoting and unfortunately that takes away time from me writing music. But as the promotions wind down and I will write more frequently.

Is there any advice you would offer aspiring musicians? What’s a piece of knowledge or experience you wish you had when you first started creating music?

I’m sure this is cliché, but there’s no easy path (for most people, some just have that special spark LOL). Plan on working hard and putting everything into your music but don’t expect much in return. That’s not meant to be discouraging, but realistic. Keep your expectations low, but your enthusiasm high!


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Edited 03 December 2022

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