Grigax Breathe Life Into “Nascita”
“Nascita”, the closing track on Grigax’s upcoming album Life Eater begins with a human voice breathing heavily. This voice belongs to Alyssa Maucere, the project’s mastermind and sole performer, and is quickly drowned out by a thunderstorm of her own making. With a “bottom of the well” quality, the music is mixed for depth, not breadth. “Nascita” doesn’t expand, it burrows deeper into itself and further away from the listener. For a record written in the midst of death and loss, this introspective tone is more than appropriate.
“Life Eater’s pain isn't made up, unfortunately,” Maucere tells us. “I know people can hear that, and it makes me uncomfortable showing it to others, but honestly, there's something beautiful about it, too, and maybe someone can find solace in knowing that level of darkness is really there."
That hint of hope is essential, as Life Eater does not subsist on suffering alone. It’s the product of outlasting suffering itself and making it to the other side alive. How fitting, then, that the breathing which opens “Nascita” is an unintentional replication of the lamaze techniques used during childbirth. From death comes life; from an end, a birth.
We spoke to Alyssa Maucere about “Nascita” and the long process that led to Life Eater, which you can read alongside a premiere of “Nascita” below. Life Eater is out this Friday, July 21st, on Dullest Records.
When did you start working on Life Eater and what inspired you to start the project?
End of 2014: I worked on a marijuana farm in the mountains of Humboldt county, hidden under 100 acres of dense forest, shared with a total of ten people. There I had time to disconnect from society and began to recognize how much bad energy I absorbed while in Philadelphia. For about five months, I reflected on it all, and it allowed me to refocus my energy back into art and guitar playing. Every night I played guitar till I couldn’t keep my eyes open. And every night, I walked through the pitch black woods, back to my tent, humming out the harmonies that should go over top of what I was playing earlier that night. That’s when Life Eater began to form.
Prior to Grigax, you were part of the metal scene in Philly. How did that scene influence the music you made on Life Eater?
There’s not a short answer to this one. I grew up a musician, listening to classical and 90s grunge/metal/hardcore, but couldn’t find anyone who was into starting a band like that. By 2004, I was meeting artists and musicians who led me down an experimental rabbithole. I listened to Neurosis and Darkthrone as a kid, but I didn’t get it then. It was in my late teens when I finally sat down, smoked weed, and zoned out with a few like-minded people, and I began to understand it. I started blowing my paychecks on anything heavy at the record store. I was going to shows religiously, in basements and in venues. I was downloading music I knew nothing about per the suggestion of a peer, then buying their records and merch to redeem myself for downloading it in the first place. Hearing how prolific some of these bands were influenced me to buy my first rig, a 1973 Sunn Concert Lead with the matching cab. Shortly after, I bought a Fostex digital 8-track recorder. And in 2008, I began doing Grigax, which I never knew it would come of anything. I kept sending Danny Katz (who I met in a Death And Dying class in college) solo tracks I was coming up with. He was probably one of two people that ever heard these early songs, and encouraged me to keep going.
2009: I was booking shows in our basement, designing posters/flyers/merch for bands, and became a hired gun to play bass in bands. I got to tour often as a roadie and by 2011 I was touring up and down the East Coast, playing in my own bands.
Some personal matters got in the way of being involved in the music in 2013 to 2015. That world was tight knit, and god forbid there was a rift between personalities. I had no desire to be a part of a conflict that would quickly be exacerbated by public opinion, so I laid low on the pot ranch in Humboldt, and kept to myself upon my return to Philadelphia. That same year, I got the guts to join a band again, that quickly went down in flames, no thanks to an extremely misogynistic bandmate who was hell-bent on making my life miserable.
Danny knew I was going through hell being back in Philadelphia, but also heard the tracks I made as a result to having a traumatic couple years, and immediately wanted Grigax to record an album. Dullest Records gave the green light, and here we are...
How is Grigax different from your previous projects?
Grigax developed naturally. Bands past required a democratic approach with more “trial and error” and cohesive style of writing. I never worried about it would sound like, aside from the quality of its structure and its ability to be played live one day.
Describe the writing process for "Nascita".
When I write, I would meditate on a riff that I would loop and try out all sorts of layers. The initial loop dictated everything from beginning to end. The variations just build and build as far as the intensity goes. I used the Bogner Ecstasy Blue for the subtle crunch and the Earthquaker Devices Spires Fuzz Doubler to destroy everything. Often I would write sections of songs in this manner, but this one felt right, riding it the whole way through, relying on my voice and the frequencies to break the song apart. I realized the heavy breathing mimicked lamaze techniques, what they use when a woman gives birth.
Why did you decide to end the album with this song?
The fact that it's last… both myself and Luis Hernandez (who engineered the recording) reviewed the track and said, "that's the end." It felt like the end when I made it, too. It wasn't intentional. Even when I tried to change the track listing up, I couldn't hear it any other way. There was even an eighth track and I scrapped it because I knew, we knew. It was just the end.
Are there any plans to perform as Grigax live?
There's a plan in the works. I knew of a few people who were interested in executing this live with me on the West Coast long before this was totally done. In the next month or so, I'll be working on transcribing the record so that we can get started on that process.
Follow Grigax on Bandcamp.