At Ride the Tempo we have featured the likes of Red Panda, Blakkr Nio, The Unquiet Grave and Dead Land, without realizing initially that these were all simply monikers for the same guy – Ottawa’s Peter McNestry. Intrigued, I set out to discover just who this fellow is and what’s with all this music he’s putting out:
Tell us about your music.
Well, I like to explore different genres and have done so with my many music projects. My best work is with The Red Daggers and my solo project Blakkr Nio and The Unquiet Grave. The Red Daggers is psychedelic garage rock project. I contacted this guy in Austin, Texas named Jesse James and we started a project with aesthetics deeply rooted in ’60s psychedelia and making nods to bands like The Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Dead Skeletons and my favorite guitarist Rowland S. Howard. We both love ’60s music and I always wanted to create music that was somewhat experimental but had accessible elements too. Anyone can noodle around with the experimental genre but it’s actually harder to craft a song in a more traditional structure. I do love experimental music but don’t want to just stay in one box, so to speak.
My other project Blakkr Nio is definitely more experimental, that project is more synth/drone based. I like creating soundscapes that sound like they are coming from outer space. I explore lots of themes with Blakkr Nio such as the Chernobyl Disaster, the Situationist Movement, using abandoned urban space to make modern music, number stations on transistor radios and deep space exploration. Having no lyrics allows the listener to create their own images and interpretations of the work. I really admire bands like Godspeed You! Black Emperor who create dystopian soundscapes that reflect living in the 21st century. There is real power in music not having lyrics. You have to listen in a different way to more conventional material.
My other project The Unquiet Grave is more of a gothic blues project. I have gained some nice press from The Quietus and other blogs for that project. I have always loved Michael Gira’s work with bands like Swans. I wanted to create a project that embodied a similar primal, apocalyptic energy. I really like the tracks I have created with all these projects. Music is supposed to be explored. I have never stuck to one kind of music — I am quite open to all different styles. Your mind expands in ways that can be surprising. I also feel I need to translate my life experience into music. Being creative is the best addiction that has ever happened to me. I see all experience as equal — whether it’s good or bad, they are meant to make you think about life and use them in different ways. Translating experiences has helped me better understand the good and bad moments in my life. It has been a healing experience, making music.
Why so many guises/monikers?
Well, my monikers reflect different sides of my personality. Like a hive, my creative brain has different sections that I need to be aware of and explore. All these projects also reflect my many influences from all genres. I like to create aesthetic differences which each project. The music is obviously very important to the project but I also have fun thinking up names and making the cover art for each project. It’s like creating different worlds — some are hopeful, some are not. I like exploring the full spectrum of human experience, moods and life. Creating all these different projects and monikers has made me more aware of life and how precious it is. I had spent years being an observer of music and I have collected in my mind a lot of different styles and approaches. In hindsight, that time was a period of research allowing me to open my mind and ears to different styles and visions.
Does each moniker represent a distinct style of music?
Yes. I embrace the hive metaphor — made up of different parts but all part of a collective vision. I started my creative journey writing poetry about my travels around the world and life experiences in different places. I moved on to music, taking my poetic interests to another level. I love combining my experiences with instruments — the sounds enhance the experiences and create some real perspective. The musical styles I explore reflect the ups and downs of life and how the full spectrum needs equal parts of darkness and light. Being aware of these sides of life and exploring these elements can make you more enlightened and ready to take on anything that life throws your way. I’m not fazed by failure, and because of that I have gained more success with my music. I make the music for myself and if some people are inspired by that then I feel content.
What are you trying to do with your music? What should listeners take away?
I am trying to explore different styles and tonal textures. Layering different sounds can truly create out-of-body experiences. I totally lose myself when I’m creating – it’s a great feeling. As I mentioned before, I weave personal experiences into my music to give me more insight and perspective. Well, listeners can take whatever they want from my projects. I hope my music speaks to people in different ways. I hope it evokes different emotions in people and allows them to think and explore their own experiences in the world. I don’t want to preach — I just want to create work that allows me to gain more perspective about my own life. Despite the many ugly aspects of human behaviour in the times we live in, I am hopeful of a bright future. It’s easy to get jaded. I want to explore the darkness to appreciate the light. I make a lot of dark music but enjoy my experience in the world. It’s a baptism through fire, so to speak After creating my different projects I become a new person each time.
Most (all?) of your music can be downloaded for free. What are your thoughts on this, i.e. music being free? What does the future hold for the industry? For the artists?
Well, that’s a tough one. On the one hand, I like sharing my music with as many people as possible, but earning some money certainly helps to make more. I do feel the old model of the record industry is totally archaic. It’s a dirty business, and it’s full of smoke and mirrors. Some people are willing or persuaded to play the puppet and be molded into something or someone they are not. I subscribe to the DIY approach. I’m fairly new to the music thing so I’m just having fun at this point. I have been able to make some dough from releasing tapes through labels like Arachnidiscs and Jeunesse Cosmique. They have been really cool and I enjoy make limited edition tape releases. I think it’s cool that young dudes are making their own labels and it embraces a punk DIY approach. It’s fun seeing people who are genuinely into the music creating a platform for underground artists like myself. Maybe down the road I will find better ways to make some dough from music, like soundtrack work or something, but at this point I’m just enjoying the ride. I really dig Weird Canada and the Weird Distro — it’s a great idea and allows people from all over Canada to get their hands on independently released music. The technology that is out there is great for sharing and creating. Hell, I haven’t even met the people I have been creating music with over the last few months. They seem like awesome dudes and we share a similar love of weird and eccentric music. It’s so cool you can just create a project over the internet and gain a fan base.
It’s a fun time right now. This country is brimming with amazing talent. I have been collaborating with the following artists: Tristan Bath aka Missing Organs (UK), Marty Smith aka King Brude (CAN), Jesse James (USA), Michael Malloy aka Newgrange (IRL) and Jason Brown aka Happy Sadness (UK). They all have their own project on soundcloud. They are seriously talented dudes and its been great working with them over the net. I also have been inspired by people past and present in my life, like my good friend Alex who was in a pretty popular band from Montreal called Parlovr and is now recording a new record with his new band Holy Data. I have heard some stuff and it’s wicked. They are also on soundcloud. I also love music from some old friends from my Montreal days like Chanteclaire from Katie K. She is so great She makes minimalist electronic stuff and has been a big influence to me. She also makes some amazing video art. She is a great artist and person. Another connection from the past is a girl named Emily. She has an amazing voice and inspired me to get back into guitar. A truly special artist and person.
Pick 2 or 3 of your songs and tell us about them.
The Red Daggers “Psychedelic Visions:
This is a fun instrumental piece that I did which is influenced by The Brian Jonestown Massacre. It’s just a homage to psychedelic music and creating weird tonal combinations.
The Unquiet Grave “The Night Guard”:
This is a dark brooding piece. It is from the perspective of a night guard at a prison, watching men going to the gallows. He is dead inside and becomes aware of how the experience of watching the man die affects everyone in the room, including the priest and the criminal. I like to write material from different perspectives.
Blakkr Nio “Meet Your Maker”:
This is soundscape that explores drone and tonal texture. It’s about the universe breathing and exhaling humans in and out of different dimensions. I was really inspired by soundtrack work from sci-fi movies like Blade Runner and Apocalypse Now.
Spectroscope “When I’m Talking To You (I’m Already Gone)”:
This is from another project of mine called Spectroscope. This is some sad pop stuff. It’s about being in love with someone who doesn’t love you back. It’s about the struggle with feelings and realizing the person is on a different wavelength to you and struggling with that hard pill to swallow. It’s a pretty common theme with people – it’s nothing new.
The Red Daggers “Cold Star”:
This a new Red Daggers track I just released today, May 18th. This is an instrumental for a girl I loved. It’s kind of dark but beautiful. Women inspire me — they are strong and beautiful. I listen to more female singers these days, like Diamanda Galas, Karen Dalton, PJ Harvey, Neko Case and Patti Smith. All very strong women who never compromised their music. I really admire them.
Where to next?
I’m working with Jesse and another Texan named Charles on another psychedelic music project called Pink Elephants. It’s kind of krautrock/psychedelic inspired. I also want to make some videos for my projects — that would be a lot of fun. I hope to apply for a grant to make a music video for The Red Daggers material. I might also create some merch for The Red Daggers and The Unquiet Grave, like t-shirts and badges.