5 Things That Inspired ‘Almost Gone’ by Freak Dream

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Freak Dream’s self titled debut E.P. is out November 25th via Popgang.

‘Almost Gone’, by electronic industrial punk one man band Freak Dream, is an unrelenting blast of swirling feedback, tense synths, saturated vocals, and tightly wound songwriting. Drawing on the likes of Ministry and Nine Inch Nails at their most confrontational and aggressive, the track blasts forth at a near uncontrollable pace that seems to be constantly at the point of complete descent into chaos and dissonance.

We spoke to the man behind the noise, a current member of Big EviL and Togetherness and former member of SSRIs, The Rebel Spell, and Spring, about what inspired the track both thematically and sonically.

1. Todd

I wrote this song after my friend Todd Serious, lead singer of Vancouver punk band The Rebel Spell, passed away suddenly after a rock climbing accident. I played bass in The Rebel Spell for four years. I, and many others, looked up to Todd, and he was super influential in the Vancouver punk scene. I was lucky to get to know him as a friend. Almost Gone references his lyrics (his song “Bring ‘Em In”). He was very committed to both his music and his political ideas, both easy things to lose sight of as you grow older. He was an amazing singer and lyricist, anyone who’s into powerful political punk rock should check out The Rebel Spell. His memory inspires me to try to keep going and stay motivated with music, and his sudden death serves as a reminder to try and do the things you want to do NOW.

2. Teenage Nine Inch Nails fandom

When I was 14 or 15 I was at a garage sale somewhere and this guy had a CD wallet full of Cds. I think I gave him $30 or $40 for the whole thing with 20 or 30 Cds in it, and one was “The Downward Spiral” by NIN. At the time my musical diet was a mix of classic rock and 90s radio rock, so this NIN album was some of the heaviest, angriest and noisiest music I’d heard, and also some of the most sonically dense and layered music I’d heard. I know the vocals are a turn-off for some people, but I am still blown away by Trent Reznor’s skill at arranging so many interesting layers of guitars, synths, and samples. I’ve always sort of wanted to have a project where I tried to do a similar thing, masterminding a sonically dense project, and doing all the writing, performing, programming and mixing. Freak Dream is that.

3. Screamy spazzy weird bands

I have pretty broad musical taste, and have played quite a variety of genres, but weird spazzy punk bands are kind of my favorite. I love the catharsis. When I was 20 I was super into the Blood Brothers. I loved the chaos and complexity of the music, and I loved that they were abrasive and heavy, but they had this deliberately un-macho vibe to them, particularly with Johnny Whitney’s high singing. My friend Travis (who played drums in The Rebel Spell) turned me onto Coverge a few years ago, and Jacob Bannon’s intense emotional singing, screaming and lyrics hit me hard. A few weeks after Todd died a bunch of us went to see Converge and all lost it when they played “All We Love We Leave Behind.” In the middle section of “Almost Gone” I was kind of trying to alternate between Johnny Whitney and Jacob Bannon inspired screams.

4. Headphones

I just Wikipedia’d it, and the Walkman came out in 1980, so I guess it’s been a while. But if you think about music having existed for thousands of years, and recorded music having existed for over a hundred years, it’s relatively recent that you can privately listen to music. I was talking with a friend the other day about bands that we’ve mostly listened to on headphones. For me headphone music is often music that’s too angsty, emotional, personal, weird or crazy to want to put on with others around. I remember going through a phase of working at a café where we were allowed to pick our own music, and so I’d put on Neil Young or Radiohead or Curtis Mayfield there, but once I got on the bus home from work it was Melt Banana or Health or Venetian Snares blasting in my headphones. I don’t expect a song like “Almost Gone” to be played at a party or a café, but I hope that some people throw it on on headphones while on a long bus commute. I also mostly worked on the song in private, on headphones, so this song was played on headphones many times before speakers.

5. Caffeine fueled forced-writing mania

When I decided I wanted to start a new project last year it felt daunting. I wasn’t exactly sure even what sort of genre I wanted to do. But I knew I had to start somewhere. So one day last fall, I went into a small windowless jam space with a guitar, bass, piano, synth, some pedals and a laptop. I slammed some energy drinks and tried to come up with as many song ideas as possible. But by the end of the day I had a folder with 23 very rough song ideas, guitar or keyboard riffs and drum machine beats. Some were ideas I’d had kicking around in my head for a bit, lots were improvised right then on the spot, and a lot of it wasn’t great. But a handful stuck out as having a common thread through them, and those initial ideas evolved into being the songs on the first Freak Dream EP.

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