When it comes to guns blazing, hard-to-believe-they’re-real guitar players, Nelson Brooks has been damn near the top of our list for many years now. When Save Us From the Archon released How Terrible, the Undergrowth’s Jaws that Tangle into the world in 2012, it hit us like a shadow planet bursting through our atmosphere.
Even up until the band’s acrimonious 2018 split, there were few, if any projects that could satisfy that the same craving for such visceral melodic carnage, and Nelson’s fretboard acrobatics were no small part of it. So when we first heard that Nelson was back as Everything Left Unsaid, we were jumping for joy. Or head banging for joy, whatever you’re more comfortable imagining. Turns out it’s kind of weird to jump in the house as an adult.
The Everything Left Unsaid debut EP We Are All So Insignificant hasn’t left our playlist since 2020, and it’s classic Nelson through and through. In fact, Brooks managed to recapture a lot of what made SUFTA’s debut such an incredible experience. He even upped the ante a bit on his latest single, “Saudade.”
We were lucky enough to catch Nelson on a day off and finally managed to pepper him with some questions, after a decade of obsession. We go over what gear he used to record, the bands that still blow his mind from the Sumerian Records golden age, and what inspired the We Are All So Insignificant remaster, which coincidentally, comes out today. Enjoy!
FB: It gives us goosebumps to be hearing this stuff at an elevated level of production, but we definitely still loved it before. What inspired the WAASI remaster?
Nelson: First off, I just want to say thank you for taking the time to reach out to me about this project and giving us a chance to catch back up. It really means a lot! The remaster was ultimately inspired by my general disdain towards my own work, and my passion to improve. As someone who considers myself a hobbyist that masquerades as an artist, especially among such incredible peers within the subgenres of technical/aggressive music, I wanted to give anyone that has ever supported my work in any capacity an honest effort that I was proud of and that I felt belonged alongside the artists I look up to. When I plugged these tracks into a scratch mix/master template I had been working with, I felt like I was hearing them for the first time all over again except this time it was much closer to what I had originally envisioned in the writing process.
FB: Would you say it’s pretty difficult to program the drums? Or at least, in the style of ELU?
Nelson: The programming process is honestly pretty seamless. I use an antiquated MIDI editor that I’ve been working in since my middle school days (I’m 29 now) that in all seriousness is pretty clunky to use and very linear. To me though, it’s like a second language at this point. Even with newer and most likely (definitely) superior options available, I still stick with what I know. I think that kind of stubbornness definitely shows in a lot of areas in my life and these tracks are no different. I would love to be a fly on my own wall watching me do it though. I sit there and air drum to my best ability then feverishly type numbers into a staff during the writing process. Kinda cringe.
FB: Which guitars did you use to record WAASI?
Nelson: On these tracks I used my 2017 Paul Reed Smith S2 Standard 24 and the only bass I have laying around which is a Fender Mustang. Recently though I’ve added a couple pieces to my collection. I got very lucky to stumble into a 2002 LTD H-302 which I am in love with. I’m constantly on the hunt to find older Korean LTD Horizon models which I feel are criminally undervalued. I used that guitar on my newest track “saudade”. I also got a .strandberg* Boden Metal 6 which I’m dying to get tracks of. That guitar did sneak it’s way onto the WAASI remaster in a very small capacity, though.
FB: Was production something you were always interested in, or is it something more developed out of necessity?
Nelson: I think it’s a little of both. As a teen getting into bands I remember being blown away by what you could do with a Line 6 POD and a PC. I probably annoyed my buddy to no end wanting to constantly go track at his house every day I could. Back then, seeing what Bulb was doing on his Soundclick was really inspiring and kind of an affirmation that you didn’t need a record deal or big studio to just put tracks out and have people hear them. I eventually got my own little setup and started working on stuff on my own. In no way would I consider myself a producer or anything close to it, though. I’m still adding techniques as I learn along the way and chasing that elusive sound that’s in my head.
FB: Was “Saudade” written at the same time as the other songs?
Nelson: That track was kind of born on it’s own, as are most tracks I come up with. That’s really the way I operate with music in general, every track coming from a little idea then expanded upon. When I write, I try not to envision my ideas as a part of or a piece of anything. I think that kind of mindset can be limiting. I am truly a passenger to my own inspiration which is really kind of a blessing and a curse. When it strikes, I just have to put my all into it and squeeze every little bit out that I can. Sometimes I get more than one or two tracks at a time and that’s when I’ll start thinking about potentially formatting things into a cohesive release.
FB: Sometimes it feels like you play a thousand notes in a song, if not more – which of these songs was the most difficult to perform/record?
Nelson: Easily the final track “I need you to open up” was the most challenging. I’ll usually attempt in some way to push myself outside of my comfort zone with writing and that song is a perfect example. Take something that feels comfortable and make it uncomfortable. Everything about that song does that from the key itself not doing me any favors in terms of where the notes land on the fretboard, the speed, the breakdown patterns – it’s all brutal.
FB: Your breakdowns are reliably insane – who are some of your influences when it comes to playing such off-the-wall, odd-time rhythms?
Nelson: I could go on for days on this topic, but looking at rhythmic patterns alone I’d have to say Born of Osiris‘ The New Reign would be a top contender. That record really punished me the first thousand times I heard it and I’ve always wanted to try to emulate that chaotic, confusing element within my own music. I could say the same about most early Sumerian Records stuff. Veil of Maya, After the Burial, The Faceless, Periphery, obviously you’ve got Animals as Leaders in there too. That era was so awesome for -core music and definitely helped push me in that direction. Shout out to Misery Signals, Between the Buried and Me, The Contortionist, The Helix Nebula, Meshuggah, ERRA, It Dies Today, Within the Ruins, even stuff like Tera Melos contributed to that kind of idea for me. I know I’m forgetting a ton, but yeah that kind of stuff.
FB: Do you ever think about ELU playing live, or do you see it as more of a studio project?
Nelson: It’s something I’ve thought about for sure! As of right now, there aren’t any concrete plans for a live production of ELU. Playing live music is something that I miss dearly and I’d love to get back to it. If something comes along where an opportunity presents itself that helps out that goal, I’d be more than ecstatic to pursue it. Right now it’s just me trying to give people music to listen to, which is another thing that I missed dearly while I was away from it. If I can give somebody music that means something to them, that gives me purpose. That’s my focus at the moment.
FB: Would you consider WAASI a concept EP?
Nelson: Absolutely. I think all music could be considered “concept”. With ELU being instrumental, you lose a bit of a medium for that to come through but this EP and everything else I’ve ever done has specific meaning to me. I’d like to leave it to interpretation of the listener/reader because I think that’s an important aspect of concept music that needs baked in for it to work. I didn’t go in and tell myself that I was making a concept record or anything, but where I was and what I was feeling at the time is definitely in there. Humans are emotional, reactive beings and having a way to channel that is really important.
Well said. It’s interesting that the cover of WAASI is now greyscale, but sounds so much more colorful and varied thanks to the remaster. While both versions now live on our phone, this one definitely takes the cake in terms of clarity, and even has a couple little additional guitar parts. But we won’t spoil it. Listen to the whole thing here on Bandcamp, and buy us a coffee here why don’tcha, it’s getting cold! Regardless, we’ve got Upright Forms, Yowie, Garrett Gleason and the legendary NY engineer Martin Bisi coming up. Thanks for reading, and thanks again to Nelson for answering our questions!