There are so many bands out there doing so many interesting things, it's hard to know where to turn. That's why we've created Uprising, a recurring feature offering a concise introduction to a band or artist that we think slays, covering their origins, process and vision.
Our latest subject is Trace Amount — the solo vehicle for Brooklyn-based musician, visual artist and ex-Coarse/Old Wounds member Brandon Gallagher — whose grisly experimental industrial metal is displayed on their debut record Anti Body Language, which drops today (April 15th) via Greg Puciato and Jesse Draxler's label Federal Prisoner.
We recently caught up with Gallagher to find out what makes Trace Amount tick: from how COVID's grim impact on NYC influences his art to his multidisciplinary approach to "continuously push the boundaries of extreme music" through a mixture of rabid industrial EBM and arresting visuals.
WHO IS TRACE AMOUNT? PLEASE GIVE US A BRIEF HISTORY ON WHAT INSPIRED THE BAND.
BRANDON GALLAGHER Trace Amount is my solo experimental industrial audio/visual project. I started it after a stretch of activity came to an end with Coarse — we released a 7-inch vinyl, toured Japan, and had a Groezrock Festival appearance. It was hard to keep it going though... Ryan [Knowles] lives in Portland Oregon, and I live in Brooklyn, NYC. I had begun to incorporate industrial and electronic elements in Coarse but living in NYC I wanted to create a project I could go and play out without needing any band members. I also wanted to challenge myself with something new and tap into a different way of approaching music — for me that was going solo and using unconventional ways to create extreme music.
I released my first EP Fake Figures in the Sacred Scriptures in November 2019, and haven't really slowed down since. I've put out a ton of singles, videos, remixes, and collaborations: Alien Dust with Qual, Under the Skin with Blake Harrison of Pig Destroyer to name a few, all leading up to teaming up with Federal Prisoner to release my debut LP: Anti Body Language.
IF YOU HAD TO DESCRIBE YOUR BAND'S MISSION STATEMENT, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Trace Amount was created to continuously push the boundaries of "extreme" music, visually and sonically through elements of sampling, sound design, and drum machines.
HOW DID YOU FIRST GET INTO HEAVY MUSIC?
On the last day of 4th grade I fucked myself up terribly skateboarding. Had to get 40 stitches on my leg, and I was stuck in bed for a few weeks before it healed and I could start walking again. My cousin's boyfriend at the time brought over his CD booklet and told me to dig around. The first page of the booklet was Full Collapse by Thursday and Calculating Infinity by the Dillinger Escape Plan. That was it. I was hooked from there. I was already playing games like Tony Hawk Pro Skater and obviously there were a ton of old-school punk bands on there, but nothing to this degree of "scene." I bought the Hellfest 2003 DVD, and that had the Locust on it, which opened a whole new can of worms and my general interest in music with synthesizers.
IN TERMS OF MUSICAL INSPIRATION, WHO WOULD YOU SAY ARE YOUR TOP THREE INFLUENCES WHEN IT COMES TO TRACE AMOUNT?
Nine Inch Nails is the easy answer here for sure. You can say a thousand things about Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, but for me it's mainly their production with soundtracks, song composition, and their production from a live perspective. Seeing Nine Inch Nails live is an incredible experience.
I'd say the real reason why Trace Amount became what it is, is because of HIDE. I saw them in January 2019 with The Soft Moon and it was a game changer. I couldn't turn off their first LP, Castration Anxiety, for months after hearing it the first time. Their minimalistic approach using percussive samples was something I hadn't really heard a lot of previously, and it's done so well. Heather Gabel is someone I respect heavily, especially as a visual artist — I obsessively wore this The Bled shirt she designed for years. But what she brings to HIDE is unmatched.
Ho99o9 is another huge influence of mine. They've been truly groundbreaking in everything they do creatively and I think they're going to be the reason there is more of a focus on "nontraditional" extreme projects and artists.
TRACE AMOUNT HAIL FROM BROOKLYN. DID YOU GROW UP THERE? HOW WOULD YOU SAY YOUR BAND FITS INTO — OR STANDS APART FROM — THAT BOROUGH'S MUSIC SCENE?
I grew up in New Jersey and moved to New York City about 5 years ago. I was heavily involved in the music scene [in New Jersey]: playing in bands, booking shows … and yeah there's always been waves of great eras of bands from emo to metal. I grew up going to see Thursday, My Chemical Romance, and Dillinger Escape Plan as like "local" New Jersey bands, and was really spoiled in that respect. As I got older and was touring heavily with Old Wounds in the 2010s, we were torchbearers of a new era of a historical New Jersey scene. While I was losing interest in playing in metalcore bands and spending more time in New York City, I was gravitating to the scene that exists here, which is far more experimental and nontraditional.
In Brooklyn there are a ton of artists that I think could be lumped into one scene, but for a long time it was kind of divided just because there is always so much going on. I always wanted to cross over any scenes that I could, and I think that is happening with Trace Amount. I'm able to play a metal show with Uniform at a venue like Saint Vitus, but then I can also play the curated basement show with an experimental noise artist like Dreamcrusher and it all makes sense.
BEING IN A BAND, WHAT'S THE HARDEST CHALLENGE YOU HAVE COME ACROSS SO FAR, AND HOW DID YOU OVERCOME IT?
Honestly the hardest part about Trace Amount is that it's just me. I have a vast vision of what I think this project can be and continuing to learn the tools I need to execute these ideas is always a challenge, but that's why I love doing it. Luckily along the way I have met artists and collaborators who are extremely open to sharing their knowledge.
THESE PAST TWO YEARS OF COVID HAVE BEEN COLLECTIVELY, AND INDIVIDUALLY, CHALLENGING. YOU DREW FROM THOSE EXPERIENCES TO CREATE ANTI BODY LANGUAGE. PLEASE TELL US WHAT LIFE HAS BEEN LIKE FOR YOU — AND DID YOU DEVELOP ANY NEW CREATIVE ROUTINES OR HOBBIES TO HELP YOU COPE WITH THE CHAOS?
If anything it's helped grow Trace Amount more into what it is considering both the audio and visual elements are made with computers and analog gear. I had a full U.S. tour booked for April 2020, so I was preparing to push as a live artist. Even with COVID really coming on, the tour being canceled, lockdowns being put in place... I had already planned to upgrade a bunch of my gear, but as soon as it became obvious we were going to be locked down for a while I really went for it. I had more time to watch YouTube tutorials and learn more within After Effects and Ableton, and the gear I had accumulated. I'm generally introverted so no one was breaking my arm about spending more time in my studio to get my chops up in either video or audio production. Honestly it was therapeutic and probably helped keep me sane.
TRACE AMOUNT HAS A STRONG VISUAL IDENTITY AS WELL. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THAT ASPECT OF YOUR CREATIVITY?
I was the driving force behind the visual aesthetic of all my main projects: Old Wounds until I left in 2017, Coarse, and now Trace Amount. When I conceived Trace Amount I planned on having a large visual aspect with it, especially now that my body of work has bloomed beyond just graphic design.
Aesthetically, I wanted there to be a strong sense of metaphysical feelings and anonymity through the imagery leaving it open to interpretation from the viewer and listener. At the beginning I was designing everything for Trace Amount, but now I've adjusted my role to somewhat of an Art Director. There are so many talented artists out there who I think can express an extension of my vision through their artwork, so I get a lot out of curating merch design or teaming up with a rad 3D artist and finishing up the project through editing or layout design to bring it all in together.
SPEAKING OF ART DIRECTION, JESSE DRAXLER CREATED THE COVER ART FOR ANTI BODY LANGUAGE. WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THAT COLLAB?
Anti Body Language is my first LP that I've released with Trace Amount, so I wanted to commemorate it with a piece of art that would immortalize it beyond the music. Jesse Draxler has been one of my favorite visual artists for a while now, and I thought his style would accompany my sound perfectly. When I reached out to him, I had instrumentals and the lyrics written, and gave him some general ideas and concepts. Once he told me he was into the project I ultimately gave him free reign on the design because I had no doubt he would nail something that would give my record a ton of meaning.
OUTSIDE OF THE BAND, AND MUSIC IN GENERAL, WHAT ARE YOUR PASSIONS?
My day job is being a freelance creative: designing and animating. Currently one of my biggest clients is the hip hop / pop label 300Ent — Young Thug, Megan Thee Stallion, Tee Grizzley — so I'm pretty busy with them. I design and animate a large majority of their marketing and video assets. It's really refreshing to be able to crossover into a world even more removed from where I came from, but to be able to execute my art style in the same way. When I started working for them, they mentioned my animated short film, Gloss of Life, and wanted me to bring elements of my design into their creative assets. When I need to turn off my brain creatively I beat myself down with cardio. Running and biking mainly. It's mind numbing. I've been getting back into playing soccer a bunch as well. There's a really awesome park with a turf field in Queens that I can walk to in 10 minutes. It's right next to a massive cemetery so it's definitely a vibe.
YOU MENTIONED HIP-HOP, DOES THAT INFLUENCE YOUR MUSIC AT ALL? OR ARE THERE ANY OTHER "UNEXPECTED" STYLES OR ARTISTS THAT INFORM YOUR OWN CREATIVITY?
It might not be so blatantly obvious but M.I.A. is easily one of my biggest influences for Trace Amount. I think she is hands down one of the most underrated yet influential artists of the last 20 years. One night in high school, lurking Myspace till the crack of dawn, I stumbled upon "Bird Flu" and was like holy shit this is so cool. It was pop, but it was extremely obscure and the sample usage was way ahead of its time. Portishead is also an all-time inspiration of mine. Not so much from a music influence, but just their overall creativity and musicianship. My friend Jackie had "Machine Gun" on a CD in her car and that was it for me. I think it was important that I heard these artists in high school when I was more impressionable, because while I was listening to a ton of terrible Myspace grind that absolutely did not hold up. I think because of that I've always been into more ethereal and experimental artists like FKA Twigs, NAKED, Eartheater, which I definitely find influence from.
YOU'RE ABOUT TO RELEASE YOUR DEBUT FULL-LENGTH ANTI BODY LANGUAGE. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE IT TO REVOLVER READERS?
Anti Body Language could be perceived as a bridge from the metal to the industrial, EBM, electronic world. It might come across as a metal record, and it has the intensity to be heard that way, but obviously without traditional metal instrumentation it lives in the industrial/EBM world. You can mosh to it, but you could also hear it at an after-hours club.
THE ELECTRONICA SINGER/PRODUCER KANGA APPEARS ON "TONE AND TENOR." TELL US ABOUT HER CONTRIBUTION TO THE PROJECT.
The overall production and vibe of Anti Body Language as a whole is very brutal, harsh, and cold. There's hardly any melody, and if there is, it's by true accident. I thought it would be a nice twist to have a melodic and more structured track on the album. Kanga was on my initial list of artists I wanted to reach out to about contributing something to the album. When I began working with Federal Prisoner, Greg had reached out to her [because] the Black Queen toured with Kanga a few years back, and she was stoked on it. Her voice is incredible, but I think she's a super talented producer as well, so I didn't want to restrict her input by any means, and gave her full reign to do whatever she wanted: vocals, added synth, whatever. This is one of my favorite tracks on the album, and I hope to have the opportunity to play it live with her at some point.
YOU WORKED WITH INDUSTRIAL MUSICIAN/PRODUCER FADE KAINER, AKA STATIQBLOOM, ON ANTI BODY LANGUAGE. WHAT DID FADE BRING TO THE MIX?
As I began making songs for Anti Body Language, I felt it was missing some dynamics that would really bring out the dread and gloom. My strengths as a musician are the rhythm and structure, so I would give Fade the meat and potatoes of the track, the drums, the samples, the session... and he went in and would add textural layers to season the dread I was trying to achieve sonically. At the time I was listening to his record Asphyxia a lot so I hit him up with that as the benchmark sonically. That record is intense. It's heavy no frills EBM. It was in the middle of quarantine, and because we can both work remotely, it was easy to team up and pass along Ableton sessions to each other. Fade is one of the easiest people to work with, and has a wealth of knowledge that he isn't afraid to share: whether it's a deep-cut Ableton Plugin, or a mixing technique, whatever really.
IF YOU COULD PLAY ONLY ONE OF TRACE AMOUNT'S SONGS FOR SOMEONE TO INTRODUCE THEM TO YOUR BAND, WHAT SONG WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
The opening track off Anti Body Language "Anxious Awakenings." I think it has all of the elements that I really strive for with Trace Amount. A towering rhythm, polarizing samples and brutal vocals. Lyrically it falls in line with personal experiences I've had throughout the pandemic, but it also connects a lot of the metaphorical puns I bring in to keep it all relatively ambiguous and open to interpretation.
WHAT'S ON DECK FOR TRACE AMOUNT FOR THE REST OF 2022?
I am currently preparing for a full U.S. summer tour taking place this June, the first series of dates since releasing Anti Body Language. In the meantime, I've been working on producing remixes for Kanga, Confines, Orange Crystal, and a couple others that will probably come out at some point this year. I have an A/V collab with Jesse Draxler featuring the "Tone and Tenor" artwork that will drop at some point this year. I am also in the editing stages of a pretty in-depth animated video alongside the 3D artist Arnau Gates, which will come out some time this summer. I'm always cooking something up...