Jul 2023 11

System Syn founder Clint Carney speaks with ReGen about his artistic process, spanning the realms of music, cinema, painting, and more.


An InterView with Clint Carney of System Syn

By Stitch Mayo (StitchM)

Exploring the vast and diverse realm of Clint Carney is a fascinating endeavor. As an artistic polymath based in Los Angeles, he defies conventional boundaries with his remarkable talents and versatility – from music to visual arts to filmmaking, Carney’s creativity knows no limits, leaving an indelible mark on each medium he explores. As a musician, Carney’s brainchild System Syn took flight in 2004 and has continued to soar, while his collaborations with esteemed bands like Imperative Reaction, God Module, and 16volt have solidified his position as a driving force in the underground music scene. Beyond the sonic realm, Carney’s artistic prowess extends to prop design and artwork, with his creations subtly enriching numerous films, TV shows, and more. In this InterView, we dive into the depths of Carney’s latest album, delve into his artistic process, and explore the intertwining of his music and visual craft.


First of all, how are you, and how was Mechanismus? I’d love to hear about your experience at Mechanismus and the return to it! How did it feel to be back on that stage? Did it spark any reflections on your artistic journey thus far or provide a fresh perspective on your music?

Carney: Thanks so much for the InterView. The Mechanismus Festival was a blast. We played there in 2019, and that ended up being our last show prior to the pandemic, and the 2022 festival was our first post-pandemic show. The festival had grown bigger and better since we were last there – new venue, a ton more bands, and a much larger crowd. I ran into so many friends from all over the world, which is always the best part about playing festivals. I had released new albums in 2020 and 2021, and Mechanismus was the first chance that I had to play some of those songs in front of an audience. It was a nice reminder that there are still people out there that are interesting in what I’m doing musically.

Going by the mention of the pandemic, how did the events of that time affect you as an artist? Did it shift the way you worked or the trajectory or tone of things that were already in progress? Did it inspire or did it even put pay to some projects? Was there anything you learnt during that period that’s stuck that perhaps wouldn’t have been something you’d have done in a certain way previously?

Carney: Generally speaking, I don’t really get out of the house too much. I do all of my creative projects from home, so initially, it really wasn’t a big change for me. In the long run though, I think the turmoil in the country caught up with me and I feel like I aged 10 years over the lockdown. Ha! The film industry shut down for quite a while though, so it did give me the chance to put out a new album, which I had already started pre-pandemic, and then a follow-up remix album.



As an artist, you express yourself through a very impressive array of outlets. How do you find the creative process differs between creating audio and all of the visual mediums you work in? How do you find one informs the other and to what extent? Are there any particular creative processes that you feel favor each other more, or have there been some surprises?

Carney: To start with, the preparation process to create anything is different from one medium to the next. With painting, you have to set up your easel and paints, prep your canvas, create or find reference material, and so forth. Similarly with music, you’re making the space to perform and record in. And I think a lot of times, the preparation can be the thing that slows down or prevents the creative process from happening. So, I like to always have a canvas on the easel, always have a space for my instruments to live within arm’s reach, and always have a notebook and pen handy for when I want to jot down an idea. If you’re always ready to create and have an environment for yourself that allows you to do so when inspiration strikes, with a little luck, you’ll be able to execute ideas as they come to you. As far as which creative processes inform each other, I find the biggest parallels between painting and filmmaking; composing the image, telling a story, or conveying a mood. If you learn how to do that on canvas, it can only help when you try to do it on camera. Music though, is kind of its own thing. Of all the artistic endeavors I pursue, music is the one that keeps me breathing.

How do you manage your many creative hats, both broadly and across any project, and do you have a particular medium that you find most fulfilling or challenging?

Carney: I’m fortunate enough to be able to do creative things for a living, so I’m always in that mode. I don’t get creatively blocked like some artists do, which I’m very grateful for. I can always sit down at the blank page and write a story, stand before the blank canvas and paint a picture, or noodle around with a keyboard with the intention of creating a new song, and something will come out. It’s not always gold, but I can always make something. You do that enough times, odds are you’ll eventually make something you like. I think anyone can become skilled in any medium with enough time and practice, but you have to have the drive to do such things. There’s something in me that just always wants to create. I can’t turn it off, nor would I want to. It’s just who I am. I guess that’s the long way of saying that I don’t ever feel like I’m ‘managing’ wearing different creative hats, because to me, I’m just being myself. As far as the medium that I find most challenging and also fulfilling, that would be writing… though music is the thing that I feel compelled to do. Really, I love all the forms of art that I do, and thankfully, I don’t have to choose just one.

A few years ago, Dry Blood marked your first full-length film (both on the writing and acting front), which garnered significant recognition and awards. How did the transition to acting in a full-length feature influence your creative process, and what drew you to the horror genre initially? Are you working on any new possible film scripts?

Carney: Dry Blood was the fifth or sixth script that I had written, but the first to actually get made into a film. Director Kelton Jones and I basically just willed it into existence… with the help of many wonderful people who contributed funding and their talents to make it happen. Neither Kelton nor I initially sought out to act in the film (Kelton also plays the lead antagonist), but that’s the way things worked out, and honestly, it was just a wonderful and unique experience. I really fell in love with acting, and I welcome the opportunity to do more of it in the future. I’ve had a handful of roles since, but nothing quite like Dry Blood.
As for horror, I’ve loved the genre since I was a kid. Horror has always been a part of me, just as much as art. And yes, I’m working on new scripts all the time. I’ve lost track of how many I’ve written now. I simply love writing them. Some I hope to make into films, and others, I just wrote for the pure joy of it. But yeah, I think I’m long overdue to make a new movie. If anyone wants to finance my next film, hit me up. Haha!

Music videos have become an integral part of your artistic expression, and you’ve produced some incredible visually striking videos to go with your own and others’ music. How do you approach the creation of music videos and the visual storytelling aspect in enhancing the overall impact of your songs?

Carney: The music videos that I direct tend to fall into two different categories – story driven and tone poems. The first step is deciding which type of video will work best with each song. If there is no story per se, then the visuals become a representation of the emotions that the music makes me feel; again, not too dissimilar from the painting process. But, if I’m telling a story, I always ask the artist/band that I’m creating for to send me the lyrics to the song and give me a little insight into what it means to them, as far as they are willing to share that. Then I try to convey that message through allegory as best as I can. I’ve never made a traditional story video for System Syn though; I think mostly because I know the real stories behind the songs, so it’s always felt more genuine for me to just convey the emotions through visuals instead of a narrative.

What are your favorite music videos by other artists, or which ones do you draw inspiration from? Are there music videos that have been produced for songs with moments where you just think, ‘Wow!’ in terms of how the production changes your perception of the song?

Carney: The videos that Adam Jones directed for Tool were huge inspirations for me. They remain some of the best and most creative music videos ever made. When other directors were simply making performance videos or telling mundane stories, those videos weren’t afraid to do something completely off the wall and beautiful. His work showed me that music videos could be a work of art, and more than just a marketing tool for the music.

Your artwork has been featured in major films, television shows, and music videos. How does it feel to see your art integrated into different forms of media, and how do you approach creating visuals that resonate with a specific project’s atmosphere or narrative?

Carney: Sometimes I’ll be watching a movie or TV show, forgetting that I worked on it, and then something that I made will pop up on screen. It’s always a cool feeling. It’s nice to have some of your creations live on in a medium that so many people will get to experience. Every gig is different, but my favorites are always those where I’m able to work directly with the directors. Then my job is really about helping to get their vision across.



There are two new singles about to drop, with a new album, Kill the Light, hot on their heels. Can you give us a glimpse into the inspiration and creative direction behind it, and what listeners can expect from its sound and themes? Have there been any events that have given energy to some of these ideas?

Carney: I’ve been working on this album for a long time now. I started work on it back in 2021, but just casually. I’d write songs here and there as I felt inspired. But then in September of 2022, I wrote a song called ‘The Muse,’ and that’s when something clicked, and I decided to dive headfirst into making the album happen. I wrote so many songs, and ruthlessly threw away most of them, in pursuit of creating an album where each track would be just as strong as the next. So, at least for my taste, I think this is my best work yet. As always, it’s deeply personal. I explore some familiar themes, but also some topics that I’ve never touched on before. The music is some of the poppiest that I’ve ever written, but lyrically, it’s very dark. That won’t be surprising to anyone who’s listened before though. I’m hoping to launch pre-sales soon over at http://www.systemsyn.com.

Looking ahead, what artistic ventures or projects are you excited about exploring in the future? Are there any specific genres or mediums you’d like to further delve into or combine? Or even more creative arrows to be added to the quiver?

Carney: I’m working on many things all at once – slowly chipping away at a novel, exploring the world of VR video game creation, always trying to keep up on the latest tech and explore new ways to create with that. And music too, always more music. There just aren’t enough hours in the day. Ha! System Syn will be performing at Coffin Club in Portland, OR on July 21, and at Funhouse in Seattle on July 22 – really looking forward to that too.


System Syn
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Stills from “Ashes in the Wind” music video – directed by Clint Carney
Portrait by Kelton Jones
Photography provided courtesy of System Syn


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