[Interview] Dan Barrett (Have a Nice Life, Giles Corey, Nahvalr)

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.


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