Tuesday, February 8, 2011


"I'm sitting in the cafe, Brian sits across from me at the table, his
cape unfurling across the floor, the sharp tips of it's collar jutting up and out
past his ears.  The girls at the bar look back at him, their eyes
curious and in awe.  Brian looks straight ahead, uninterested in their glances.  As
I reach for my cognac, before asking him my first question, thunder cracks

Here are the questions:

9:  For people that have heard music from your personal recordings
(recordings that you haven't released to the public), the Highschool Guitar release might
not be that much of a surprise.  But for fans who've only been familiar with the more 

drone/ambient/experimental areas of your work, it might.  
How did this release come about?

B:  The short of it is that the sound of Highschool Guitar is largely the kind of
music I started out making, or tried to make, back when I first picked up a
guitar in 97. I've never been shown how to play anything and so this sort of
style has come out of the chaos of me scratching around, playing with things,
trial and error, emulating stuff I like, or failing to emulate something and
ending up somewhere new. In basic musical terms, this stuff does exactly what a
lot of Milieu records do - there are melodies, a couple simple chord changes,
maybe some rhythm, and the emphasis is always on the "how" and not so much the
"what"...how one change complements another, or how certain sound-palettes layer
together. That's generalizing it all though. The fact of the matter is that
Highschool Guitar is pop music, at it's core, captured through an out of focus
lens of tape hiss and lo-fi limitations, completely unreliant on computers, so
as for how it came about - I think that was the part Attacknine played in coming
to me and saying "This stuff is worthwhile, you should release it" where no one
had really said that to me before about material like this. It was pretty
exciting then, to work on stuff like this and know there was a destination for
it...and so I wrote, recorded, re-recorded about six hours of material from 2007
until early 2010. From all that I put together three demo tapes of the best
stuff, and worked it down to an album and this EP. There's also a decent amount
of outtakes/alternate versions that make up a pretty solid little bonus release.

9:  What was the recording/creative process for you on these tracks?  Did it differ
in any way that you usually work?

B:  My recording process varies greatly from project to project. Mostly this is due
to my studio space being sort of small, so if I want to record some drone music,
I have to plug things in this way, or if I want to do something with
electronics, I have to plug things in another way. It also depends on where the
songs are initially created - I improvise a lot and so very often, a piece of
music will originate from the first or second recording I do, but with
Highschool Guitar, all of the music was written on guitar well before (sometimes
years) I set it to tape for this EP. For example, "Star Collector" was a jam I
used to play as far back as
2000-2001, and it stemmed from me attempting to cover The Beatles' "Tomorrow
Never Knows" and just continued to mutate through the years every time I played
it. By the time I sat down to record this instance of the song (which was
actually 2007) a lot of the things that came into focus were largely aesthetic
decisions. I had a lot of very visual ideas that referenced places I had lived
or grown up around, people I used to know, and even drugged experiences I've
had, and I wanted to funnel all of that into this bedroom pop sound. Like
straight verse-chorus-verse pop songs that weren't afraid to get warped or dirty
or even kind of long and psychedelic. In the end, I know the music is where it
needs to be if it feels self-referential enough to me. Ever since I started
playing guitar, my father (who is also a guitarist) and I always managed to tap
into some sort of unseen, unnamed sound that we could never really identify. We
had to call it something so we could talk about it, so we called it "Western
Farmland Music", and the songs on Highschool Guitar are most definitely part of
that ethos.

9:  You were recently asked to score the music for the Animal Planet
original movie "Into The Dragon's Lair".  It is the first time ever that men have
journeyed into these areas with crocs, photographed them, and lived to tell
about it.  I watched the film and found it fascinating, tense and beautiful.
A very inspiring piece.  And your music was a perfect fit.  How did
this opportunity come about for you, and what was the process like?

B:  The opportunity just sort of showed up, actually. A very devoted fan and
follower of my work literally emailed me, after years of buying nearly every
record I put out, to say "Oh yeah, I neglected to mention that I work for the
Discovery Channel and we'd really like you to do some work with us". So from the
start it was very much a project forged out of someone loving what I had
previously done, and really knowing my material well enough to ask me to do this
or that, and realistically expect the kind of stuff I was able to do. It was a
really good feeling to have, since most often when I am asked to contribute to
existing projects, most people only have a very small frame of reference for the
scope of my work...which is fine! I certainly do not expect people to really
keep up with everything I do, or even like all of it. Lord knows something like
drone music probably won't appeal to someone who likes my melodic electronic
stuff. So when I meet someone who really enjoys all the different twists and
turns my music takes, it's really gratifying all by itself, and that for me was
its own reward. Process wise, it was all fairly technical stuff, doing edits of
longer pieces to fit the flow of the visuals. The only other soundtracking work
I had done prior to "Dragon's Lair" was nearly 3 hours of material for the UK
video game Eufloria, and coincidentally I'm working slowly towards a new
soundtrack for another game from one of Eufloria's creators, Rudolf Kremers. I
love the format of the work and how it poses new challenges that I have to adapt
my music to, and that kind of project pretty much guarantees that I'll be
learning something new along the way, which is ideal to me.

9:  Do you have any future plans for more music in the vein of Highschool Guitar?
     What else can we expect to see from you in 2011?

B:  As I mentioned earlier, there's still a forthcoming album that Highschool Guitar
is essentially a "single" for, called Summer's Parting Ways, which should be
released sometime within the year, along with a collection of "b-side" type
material (outtakes, alt. versions, etc). There is also a split 7" between myself
and Biathalon due out soon on a new Portland label, and I'm also working
steadily on an album with longtime friend Jason Adams, for our new band Silver
Honey, which is sort of a lo-fi Melvins meets Smashing Pumpkins sound. On top of
all this, I'd love to find an interested and capable drummer sometime this year,
and record more of a "full band" follow up to the HG/SPW material, so any
drummers reading this should get in touch! Beyond that, I've got probably 30 or
so releases sitting in the vault, waiting to be put out at my own label, Milieu
Music, and also another 20 or so that other labels around the world have signed
on for (seriously)...so between all that stuff, and of course continuing down
the road with my best friend David Tagg on the good ship Install, I'm keeping
busy enough for a whole building full of Graingers...

9:  Anything else you'd like to add?

B:  Yeah, mostly I just want to thank Attacknine for being a dream label to work
with, for having the faith in this music I've made that may not have ever been
released had they not dug it up, and for taking the time to put it out in such a
beautiful way (I'm talking about you, Mr. Thrill Of Death!). Also, they
convinced me that putting my last name on a t-shirt was cool. Now, if only I
could get it emblazoned on this cape...

Norman Records

U.K. FANS, Brian Grainger's "Highschool Guitar" is now available at NORMAN RECORDS. You can read their very nice review HERE