Genessier's two masterminds make music with a dark menace, as if every day were Halloween
Genessier will be providing at least some of the inspiration for the music provided at HorrorHouse Fest 2013 (this Saturday, November 16, at 3 Kings Tavern). Genessier is the latest project from Ryan Policky and Eddie Breidenbach, a duo who previously performed together in ambient/soundtrack project Parallel Light. In contrast, the music of Genessier reflects the dark menace of late-'80s industrial music, tempered with experimental synths and ambient music, creating an overtly immersive environment with layers of flowing atmosphere. Genessier's recently released Graces the Bone recalls early Skinny Puppy, with the textured atmospheric sensibilities of Tim Hecker.
HorrorHouse Fest 2013 will be an interactive event that includes appropriately dark music provided by Breidenbach and horrific art of various kinds, including comic-book horror. The night will culminate in a screening of ThanksKilling 3.
We recently spoke with the Policky and Breidenbach -- the two knew each other for a long time before they played music together, both as co-workers and from traveling in similar musical circles around town -- about Policky's roots in the Denver goth scene, their mutual love of synthesizers, and why the name of the project seemed eerily fitting.
Westword: You started this project in 2012?
Ryan Policky: Yes, we started this project in October or November last year because we wanted to try something completely different. Eddie and I worked together a long time ago at an ad agency in town. We started hanging out and playing video games.
Eddie Breidenbach: Ryan has every game that ever comes out, so we'd just go over there. If I didn't drive, Ryan would pick me up, and we would buy whatever game just came out.
RP: He invited me to DJ with him at Sputnik, and I would bring in shoegaze stuff and whatnot.
EB: You'd always be so afraid no one would be into it, or it would freak people out, but everybody always loved it.
RP: That was our first foray into doing music of some sort together. Then Eddie started getting into the performance side of the Omens.
Was it a keyboard or some kind of synth?
It was a '60s combo organ, a Yamaha YC-5 or YC-10.
RP: When he ended his time with the Omens, he started really getting into keyboards and more into synthesizers, modular synths. We started geeking out together about what effects were cool with one synth and what to do with another. He started building a whole collection of these things.
EB: I started collecting them, and it became the opposite of me going to Ryan's place, and I'd say, "I just got this new synth. Come pick me up at work, and we'll go back to my place and check it out. The first synth I got was a Roland Gaia, and we saw the potential in that. It was brand new plastic thing. That was my stepping stone to buying older synthesizers and having more of an appreciation for that.
What's the oldest thing you have? If you tell me a Buchla, I will have my mind blown..
EB: No, not a Buchla. A Kawai SX from the '80s. Nothing too dusty.
RP: That's when we started doing Parallel Light because we were experimenting with tones rather than progressions and melodies and whatnot. We thought it was awesome for dreamy, sleepy music.
EB: We would be at Ryan's place and put on a movie and hit record and play our own stuff over it. It turned out to be more moody, soundtrack pieces.
RP: Sleep soundtrack. So a lot of people were praising us on helping them fall asleep at night, which is what we were trying to do. Basically, we said let's take the total opposite side. I had done an industrial song a long time ago with Pure Drama, and I loved it. But we never did it again. We did one song that was like that.
I had always been into the goth scene and the industrial scene and the Denver Dark Arts Festival and all that stuff. I just wanted to go back and do that stuff again. We started going to the Goth night again. We were going to Milk Bar, but we were also going to the Church. I used to be a booker at the Church for goth night. I used to book goth and industrial bands.
Scary Valentine was a band back then. My band, Pure Drama, would play there, and Faces Under the Mirror. I love that scene, and one of my goals was always to get songs playing at Goth night. So we went down to goth night to see what people are really into right now. We loved the sound of the old Skinny Puppy days. So we wanted to take that, and bring in some new school production techniques, and give it something that can really stand on its own like its own entity.
It kind of evolved on its own. We would sit down in my dark attic room and create this weird sounds. He would bring over a synth or two, and we would figure out what kinds of sounds we had that we could add to each piece that we were working on. It turned into that album. At first, we wanted it to be nightmarish, but as it progressed, it became dance-y. We found that people that weren't normally into industrial were into what we were doing.
EB: Overall, there's the concept of spaces and different environments. Let's make this particular piece sound like it's coming from a scary attic and this other song sounds like it's coming from a weird industrial plant. Like bigger spaces and smaller spaces.
RP: We have the first track where it sounds like you're coming out of an industrial night and the whole place blew up. At first, it was sort of tongue in cheek in style.
EB: We were listening to a lot of Type O Negative, as well. I absolutely loved them, but they didn't take themselves that seriously, so I felt alright about wacky that was. If I my friends didn't get it, whatever. I didn't care.
Listening to this album, it's interesting how much old industrial and goth is leaking into some of the more sonically adventurous new artists, and you've leapt ahead of that curve a little because it was already a part of your life, and you didn't just begin discovering it.
RP: Yeah, it's not part of their everyday life. I grew up with that. So we just wanted to create that kind of vibe. I think we hit it a lot of the time, but sometimes we just came up with something we didn't even think it would be, but it still fit the mold of what we were trying to do. Which was making it dark and sounding like it's in the basement of some crazy ass place that's epically gigantic with somebody getting tortured in the corner.
Oh yeah, of course. Hopefully no one takes that comment too literally. Anyway, this is just you two with synths? Did you use drum machines?
EB: It's all programming. Some of it's from synth programming the drums then tweaked and re-manipulated back into the computer.
RP: Everything was experimental and its own entity, as we were building it. Sometimes we went out to an industrial plant and recorded sounds out there at that weird concrete plant off of 93.
EB: Or just recording sounds of your cat meowing and pitch shifting it down on my synthesizer and making it sound like some death metal growl. So there wasn't one production technique. Overall mixing made it make sense as a whole.
RP: As Eddie said we weren't trying to take ourselves too seriously. We were just trying to make it sound like it was serious but you see that element of that as hilarious.
You've made horror movies, Ryan. What is it about that ambiance that you like?
RP: I don't know. Ever since I was a little kid I was drawing haunted houses and trying to figure out how to scare people.
EB: Or drawing diagrams of haunted houses.
RP: I think I've always had this drive to scare people. I worked at haunted houses growing up. I worked at Brutal Planet during its heyday. Distortions built some of those props, and I actually work with them a lot even now. Alice Cooper was part owner of it for a while.
My house is naturally a place to make scary stuff. If you saw my house, it looks like a haunted house. It's not a Victorian but it's an 1800s house, and it's a weird, barn-looking thing over in Barnum, which was owned by P.T. Barnum. When you walk in there, you're just naturally into the darkness.
EB: Even before that, you pull up into your scary driveway and the red light in the attic. Then you walk in and you see the skulls and the vines.
RP: My kitchen looks like castle walls, and right now I have an Elvira pinball machine in there. So I'm just all about it. My dream is to have that vibe at all times. So I made the horror film company that makes horror films that are basically horrible but it's hilarious. At Mile High Horror Film Festival I was telling people how terrible they were, and every time they wanted to buy them. "Yeah, I want that!" They're not unwatchable because there's some cool things that go on, and they're funny, but they have that darkness factor.
The only thing that hasn't been super dark and scary is A Shoreline Dream, of all the things I've done. Well, Drop The Fear wasn't scary, and Brim Liski isn't. Parallel Light won't give you nightmares. But I was in death metal bands and doom bands and all sorts of stuff before Pure Drama. So this was a fun reuniting the past project. We were so excited about it when it was done we had to push it because we thought it was pretty cool.
Who shot the amazing cover photo?
RP: An artist friend of ours, Scott Craig. He was actually doing a lot of industrial artists back in the day like Clairvoyant. He hadn't done an album cover in a long time, so we told him we were doing this industrial project and it would be cool if he came in and helped us do something. So he went for it, and it was perfect. We just told him to just do something scary and has a cool space because our music has that spatial sort of thing like we were talking about.
It looks like he went to Pripyat, Ukraine like out of Chernobyl Diaries.
RP: If you look at the original photograph of this, it's a parking garage in Oklahoma City. He just brings out the detail in a way that makes it look scary and old and about to fall over. But it's just a parking garage that's in use. Same with the interior stuff. The way he treats photos is so perfect for the sound.
You're doing this at the right time in the arc of development of music in Denver. Velvet Acid Christ played its first show in thirteen years or so in Denver, and it's second ever. Twilight Garden is doing some impressively beautiful, dark music, and there's other stuff going on that fits in with that aesthetic that isn't part of a scene so much, but aiming toward similar things informed by similar interests -- sonically and creatively.
RP: It's crazy because back in the day, when I was doing Pure Drama, there was one album in particular, On the Surface, that I thought was our best. It was the scariest, and darkest and what I was trying to get with that. I was working with the producer from Scary Valentine, and we produced right next to where Velvet Acid Christ was. Two dark, scary bands next to each other, making stuff. All these people living their normal lives around us, scary!
Where can anyone find Pure Drama's music?
They're on latenightweeknight.com. I don't really sell them, but if someone, at some point, wants to get them, they can get them there. They were distributed, so they're on iTunes and stuff. We had one song that was on Cleopatra Records that was on a Marilyn Manson tribute CD. We were on that album with Haujobb, and that was a huge score.
What was your introduction to this kind of music, Eddie?
EB: A lot of it was through Ryan, honestly. I listened to Type O Negative in high school. What got me interested in it was synthesizers, and collecting synths, and building my own, and wanting an excuse to buy more, or take what I have and push it to the limits. It's just a completely different way of thinking about music, so that's what really drew me to it. When Ryan said he wanted to do this project, I said, "Oh you have to let me help out on that."
What kind of movies did you watch when you were starting out?
EB: We didn't watch movies so much with Genessier. With Parallel Light we'd always throw on some sci-fi stuff. A lot of the first album was watching Dune and Solaris. A lot of the pacing of those albums came from that. The original Solaris and how long and drawn out the scenes are really plays into how long the tracks were.
RP: And I'm always watching disturbing movies, so it always influences me. Like Antichrist. I know that I was watching that movie at that time, and it's super disturbing. A lot of his movies are disturbing to me. Enter The Void and Irreversible, god, that stuff makes your brain just shut down almost.
Have you seen A Serbian Film? That's on another level of disturbing.
RP: I haven't seen that yet, but we were just talking about that. Brutal, right?
A friend gave a copy of that to me before it was readily available in the U.S. and I thought, afterward, "I don't think I can watch this movie again." It's not like Salo: The 120 Days of Sodom, which is also very wrong and disturbing. Some of those Jodorowsky movies are very unsettling to people for some reason.
RP: We were watching House, the Japanese horror movie, so that's definitely an influence. I'm always watching these things. Name off any horror movie, and there's a good chance I've seen it.
EB: I was more into Tales From the Crypt. Twilight Zone.
The name of your project has an interesting origin.
EB: That also came from a movie, Eyes Without a Face. The first track we did actually had this quote from Halloween about "the devil's eyes." Another track we did had a reference to eyes in it. We didn't have a band name at the time, and the name Genessier is the evil Dr. Genessier that kidnaps the girls from Paris and chops their faces off in Eyes Without A Face. The premise is he feels guilty for having disfigured his own daughter in a car accident, and then kidnaps girls and tries to graft their faces on her face.
RP: At first I was like, "I don't know, it's kind of hard to say that." But it just made sense so we went with that.
And the title is Graces The Bone like a bullet grazes a bone?
RP: It has kind of a religious vibe to it, but I'm not religious at all. It kind of rolled off the tongue when making the songs because a lot of the songs were improv, as far as lyrical content. Which has been a recurring theme through all my bands -- this improv element of lyrics. It just did that and heard that and it related to my thinking. It's crazy because a lot of those lyrics turned out to be exactly how I was feeling at that time.