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Pressure Cooker: Petbrick Interviewed
Kez Whelan , December 30th, 2022 10:34

Wayne Adams, one half of extreme noise-pummellers Petbrick (with former Sepultura drummer Igor Cavalera) speaks to Kez Whelan about their behemoth of a new single recorded just for Quietus subscribers, and the joys of working with limited resources

Photo by Al Overdrive

To receive Singularity track 'Sleepless Eternal' by Petbrick become a Quietus Sound & Vision subscriber

It’s been a good year for Petbrick. After releasing their intense second album Liminal, Big Lad mastermind and producer extraordinaire Wayne Adams and legendary former Sepultura drummer Igor Cavalera embarked on a triumphant European tour with Converge and Full Of Hell. Now, to cap it all off, they’ve recorded the gigantic ‘Sleepless Eternal’, their most ambitious piece to date, now available exclusively to tQ subscribers.

“It’s a bit of a mad thing, isn’t it?” Adams laughs. “I got about halfway through it and I was like, ‘Holy crap, I’ve recorded albums that are maybe only a couple of minutes longer than this!’” tQ had set Petbrick a brief to write a 20 minute long song. With most of their songs averaging around three or four minutes, constructing this behemoth presented a whole new kind of challenge. “It was kind of about me getting my head into my process and how I can do that. It might be the longest song I’ve ever written,” he says. “Especially with the pace of the music that I tend to write, I suddenly realised that I was getting through time quite quickly, so I needed to slow things down and make things last a bit longer than I normally do in a track.”

Impressively, Adams in fact managed to piece the whole thing together in just two and half days. “Obviously I had a couple of good starting points,” he says. “The drums that we used were from album outtakes, so it wasn’t actually fresh tracks or anything like that. It can be kind of fun, weirdly, working like that, more so than starting from scratch. Just digging through what me and Igor had drum-wise that wasn't used on the album and using that as a launchpad for the track. That was kind of how I started, I wrote the middle of the song and then gave it a front and then gave it an end.

“Remember when Aphex Twin dropped that first SoundCloud dump and it was like 200 tracks or something like that? I loved it because they weren’t what I would say are finished songs,” he continues. There were a few, but there were a lot of ideas in there, and because it was such an expansive, huge amount of work that had obviously spanned maybe thirty years or so, you could hear him figuring stuff out, bits of technology were changing and so the sound would change. I really found that inspiring, that you can hear the different bits of technology and everything like that, and not really these super polished, fully formed kind of songs. I’m getting this real insight into the way someone works.”

He embraced that same sense of fluidity and experimentation for ‘Sleepless Eternal’. “I was not overly precious about the movement that the songs are going through, but figuring out ways to join them together,” he says. “It was a very different kind of process to how I would normally write a song – it was super fun to think of it as like four or five ideas that didn’t need to be completed, and then tying it together.”

Despite this fragmented approach to writing, the track sounds remarkably organic, flowing in a natural way that gives the impression the two are jamming it out in real time, as opposed to being meticulously cut up and engineered by Adams in the studio.

“Getting the flow right with Petbrick has always been important,” he points out. I am kind of genre hopping a lot, especially with the electronics and stuff and figuring out like a musical language, how to move from one to the other. It can be abrupt, it doesn’t have to always be smooth. That’s kind of like dance music production – you know, you have the drop, as it were. I think this track has a nice kind of drop bang in the middle of it, where the whole mood changes. Normally in a dance track, you’d do that over one minute thirty, but I’ve done it over ten minutes!”

Whilst he and Cavalera are becoming more fluent in their shared musical language each time they work together, Adams also points to his experience recording other bands as being an invaluable part of his process. “You always have to have…” he chooses his words carefully, “not the final product in mind, but you can’t be scared of what the final product will be so you don’t get overwhelmed by the prospect of doing a twenty minute-long song. That’s how I have to think when I’m making a record with a band, too. I don’t want to get overwhelmed about the idea of trying to finish a record and I definitely don’t want to overwhelm the band, so you really have to relax into that process and trust yourself that, if you’ve only given yourself two days to do an album, you’ll do it, you know? You always do. And if you’ve got like three weeks to do an album, then you’ll also still do it.”

“I was on that tour with Converge recently and me and Kurt [Ballou, Converge guitarist and fellow producer] were having a natter about that. He was saying, ‘We always don’t quite have enough time, whether it’s two days or three weeks, and somehow you always manage to just almost get there but not quite get over the line with it.’ I think because of working with DIY punk bands on limited budgets and stuff like that, if the band’s like, ‘Oh, it’s got to be finished,’ I will deliver a piece of music that could be deemed finished by the end of it. I think we move around in that realm of music where we’re not really striving for perfection, as it were, it’s the vibe, and that kind of knowing when to stop is a really fun and interesting moment. It’s only done when the artist says ‘OK, that's now going out into the world’ and that’s the moment that line gets drawn. From making records I got quite comfortable with that idea of taking on something that can be quite challenging and moving forward, so in a way that helped me produce this piece of music. I dug into all my production side that enabled me to write a twenty-minute piece of music on a deadline.”

Whilst the thought of creating such a complex and elaborate piece of music in less than 72 hours may sound terrifying, Adams clearly relished in the added pressure. “I love working to a deadline – even if I don’t have one, I’ll give myself one,” he smiles. “I say this to bands when they’re booking in with me at the studio – budget is a great way of deciding when something’s done. If you run out of money, great! If you’re like, ‘OK, we’ve only got enough money for a day and we want to record a whole album,’ cool. Great, we’ll do it. And you work within those barriers, you put up those boundaries to push against. It helps you make decisions in the middle of the creative process as well. You’ll be like, ‘I’m not going to try these 10 amps out, I’m going to use this one, and it sounds great, so go with that!’”

“I’m a big believer in the idea that next piece of music I write is going to be better than the last one – whether or not that’s true, I don’t really care,” he laughs, “but I like moving forward. That’s always really excited me, getting something finished and being like, ‘Right, that’s done, I'm gonna move on to the next thing now.’ That’s always been a part of me, I definitely don’t get bored in the process, I use that energy to drive myself forward, get excited and then finish it and be like, ‘What’s next? What’s the next idea? What can I do now?’”

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