Peter Gray: The Darkness Between Us
by Daniel Coston
Pete Gray has made an album that he doesn’t intend to play live. And he’s okay with that. The Charlotte-based musician spent three years on The Darkness Closes In, with no intention of taking its thickly layered rhythms and stylistic whiplashes on the road. For Gray, the album was a chance to throw his ideas onto a larger canvas of sound, and the record say what he wished to be said. After years of playing with Benji Hughes and many others, The Darkness Closes In signals that Gray can step out on his own, and has no fear in doing so.
Gray checked in via email, and discussed the new album, and what comes next.
Tangents Magazine: When did this album come together?
Peter Gray: I guess it came together as I was making it. I wasn’t making an album when I started (sometime in 2013. I’m terrible with timelines.) I was just trying to learn the software and get some music recorded. Once I started getting the hang of it, the idea to go ahead and make a record happened pretty quickly. It’s expensive to make a record and I decided I wanted to just do something different. I had a lot of music that I wanted to record and this was a way to do it. Once I really got started, the record came together kind of naturally. I know the music is varied, but to me it really fits together as an album. I’ll admit I have less perspective on that than most.
Tangents: Were you aware that it would be difficult to perform live?
Gray: Yes! But I decided I wanted to make it anyway. I’d love to have a 20 piece band to record and perform with, but that’s just not happening right now. I wanted to make that particular record, and yes, it is a bitch to promote it.
Tangents: What were your influences on this record?
Gray: Some of them are really obvious. Zappa is a big influence for me. I’m not saying I’m in the same universe, but I’m partial to the lydian mode and odd time signatures and polyrhythms. Mr. Bungle was a big deal to me, as well as John Zorn and that’s definitely there in places. There is a Beach Boys vibe on songs like “Wrong” and I can here it in “Big Dumb God” and even “Never Gonna Fall In Love.” My family and my friends were also a big influence on this record, as well as world events, popular culture. And Kurt Vonnegut.
Tangents: What came first, the songs or the concept?
Gray: A lot of the songs were at least mostly written before I started recording, but they were all songs with similar or complimentary subject matter. They just seemed like a bunch of songs that belonged together. That made it easier to write the rest of the music for the record. Filling in the gaps and making a sort of chronology.
Tangents: How much of your life and the world at large influenced this record?
Gray: A lot. All of the thematic material comes from my experience of the world. I don’t always write from such a personal and direct perspective, but I did with these songs. They are not all about me, but they are all basically an explanation of an aspect of the way I see the world. Believe it or not, I’m not morose. But these were not good years for me in a lot of ways and towards the end of the recording of this record, the world definitely seemed to be heading in an ugly direction. I named the record during the campaign but wasn’t set on it. When Trump won, I thought, “Yeah, I’ll keep it.” It’s a silly name for a record, and that’s the only thing that makes it okay for me.
Tangents: How long did it take to record the album?
Gray: It took about three years, but a lot of that was just trying to learn the software. I’ve gotten better at it, but it took me a while to get some of that stuff down.
Tangents: Have you begun working on your next record?
Gray: I did start it, but I took a break to write some music for a band to actually perform. Maybe we’ll record it after we’ve rehearsed and performed it! That would be novel. It’s all instrumental, seven piece band and I’m really excited about getting it together. I’ll get back to making another record after this project gets going.
Tangents: Who else are you playing with at the moment, and do they have plans for new music?
Gray: I don’t play with any bands right now regularly, but, fortunately, I do get to play with a whole lot of great musicians in Charlotte in different situations and I am definitely hoping to play some original music with all of them at some point or another.
Tangents: How much influence did the musicians that you have played with, or play with currently, have on this record?
Gray: In a general sense, I’d say a lot because we are partially shaped as musicians by the others we play with. I’m a huge fan of both Todd Busch and Benji Hughes. It would not surprise me if Todd had some influence on me since I have been listening to his music since I was maybe 17. I always loved just about anything I ever heard. I’m sure I’m still being influenced by the musicians around me all the time.
Tangents: Is there a sense of joy or relief after completing this record? A mixture?
Gray: I was happy to see that I could let it go and be finished with it. Of course, there are things I’d love to change now, but I’m happy with the record and ready for people to hear it.
Tangents: Finish this sentence. The Darkness Closes In is……
Gray: The Darkness Closes In is a pretty great f--king record.