By Natalie Zina WalschotsKnown for their searing live performances and examining the darker aspects of human nature in their style and lyrics, metallic hardcore misanthropes Pristina have taken misery to the next level with their latest release, Hopeless*Godless. While topics like addiction and emotional devastation have certainly been influences for primary songwriter Brendan K. Duff in the past, especially 2010's The Drought (Ov Salt & Sorrow), this latest effort plumbs new depths. The lyrics and vocals are nothing short of anguished, and are supported by drums that reach to capture every manifestation of physical misery — from laboured breathing to an irregular heartbeat — and guitars that seethe with rage one minute and wail the next. It is a demanding, draining record that requires a kind of vulnerability only rarely conjured in aggressive music. Even the production, handled entirely by the members of the band, has a skin-to-skin intimacy that is rarely matched. Vocalist and bassist Brendan K. Duff, who has already referred to the inspiration for Hopeless*Godless as "the darkest period of my life," was incredibly candid about the demons that he faced and eventually exorcised through the creation of this record.
Pristina has been quite quiet lately. After becoming know for an aggressive touring schedule and an extremely dynamic live show, the band effectively dropped off the face of the earth. What has the last two years been like for Pristina and has it changed the identity of the band at all? A lot. It changed the direction of the band, it changed a lot of things. Well, like you said, the last record came out, and everything was going really well, and basically — I feel weird — well, fuck it. My wife ended up leaving me out of nowhere, and that was the beginning. I thought I was happily married, and then one day I wasn't anymore. I got kicked out, I didn't have a home, I was living in a motel, I started feeling so bad about myself. She blamed it all on me, but later I found she was leaving me for someone else, but she never talked about that, she put it all on me. And me, as a somewhat sensitive human, I totally blamed myself for it and started hating myself for it, and ended up falling off the wagon. I had a problem with heroin, an I got so depressed that I didn't care anymore, so said "fuck it," and started using again. The whole last album, The Drought (Ov Salt & Sorrow) was about using and getting through, and I wanted it to be a success story, but no. I ended up getting so low that I didn't care any more. I had a near fatal overdose, and almost died on my couch.
This is all in the span of about two years, things went from bad to worse. At first the band was still going, and we'd still play shows, but I was in no condition to tour, I was in no condition to do anything. Luckily the band are really supportive, they're good dudes, and we're all really close friends. They saw what was happening to me and they stood by it. Even though Pristina is my vision, it's not like it's the Brendan Duff Experience, I need the other guys.
You've always had a static line-up, especially over the past few years, and it's clear there is a very solid core to this band. It is good they were able to stick by you during this time. They are great. They stayed when I was about as low as you could get. After the overdose, I started having a lot of health problems from it. I got pneumonia, and the flu several times, my system was so weak. I don't know exactly what happened, but that dragged me down too, being sick all the time on top of hating yourself. Huh. You know, I wasn't going to say literally what happened, and then I did.
Are you comfortable with all of this appearing in the interview? I'm not sure yet, I'll think about it.
You can always get in touch later and let me know. I completely understand if you don't want to share everything, as someone who has gone through a divorce and very dark times afterwards. Yeah, we'll figure that out. I guess you can relate then. I don't know what it is about a divorce as opposed to a break-up, but it's two different worlds.
I agree, it is a different level of loss. I think part of it is the fucking paperwork. There is something about the paperwork that is a special kind of bureaucratic hell, filling out forms that say you hate me. Yeah, it was definitely the catalyst for me. Getting divorced was the worst thing. Heartbreak is bad anyway, but divorce is a whole other level that I hadn't experienced before, and that set it all off. It's hard to really put someone's complete downfall into words, but basically, for two years I spiralled completely out of control. My drug problem was out of control again, I am one of those people who do so much that I overdose pretty regularly, I'm just a weird person like that, I always need to see if I'll live through this thing. I'm no stranger to overdosing, which is ridiculous to say, but this one was particularly bad. I was basically dead, and made it through it, and if I didn't wake up. I also know that if I didn't wake up, I wouldn't have been found for a day or two.