The Whipping Post presents...
Novembers Doom Interview - Added 07/29/05
When I think of bands that I enjoy listening to the most in this current time in my life, Novembers Doom is right there near the top. The band's brutal metal sound and growled vocals mixed with mellower moments, fantastic clean vocals, and honest lyrics just keep me coming back for more. Lead vocalist Paul Kuhr was diagnosed with a spinal disease recently that is slowly crippling him and making him live in constant pain. This fact alone may be part of the reason for the sense of urgency in the band's music. Read along as I talk with Paul and guitarist Larry Roberts about the band's new album, The Pale Haunt Departure, and what makes them different from the rest of pack in the extreme metal genre.
The Whipping Post: Hey, I hope you guys are doing well. Since this is the first opportunity I’ve had to interview you guys, I’d like to start by asking if you could please give the readers of The Whipping Post a brief history of Novembers Doom.
Larry Roberts: Novembers Doom were formed in 1989 by vocalist/lyricist Paul Kuhr, originally under the name of Laceration. As the band's sound got darker and heavier it was decided to change it to something more fitting of the mood of the music, hence Novembers Doom. Demos and 7 inch records were recorded and released in the early 90s, until finally a deal was inked with Avantgarde/Nuclear Blast for the debut cd "Amid Its Hallowed Mirth", which was released in early 1995 and contained material written and recorded over the previous few years. After some lineup changes, the band recorded the self-released EP "For Every Leaf That Falls" in 1997, which garnered them much praise and led to a new record deal with MartyrMusicGroup, who released their second full length cd "Of Sculptured Ivy and Stone Flowers" in early 1999. After this albums success, Dark Symphonies approached MMG about purchasing Novembers Doom's contract, and a deal was struck in time for the release of the third full length cd, "The Knowing", in 2000. The acclaim and good sales of this lead to the band taking a step up by hiring noted producer Neil Kernon to work on their fourth album, "To Welcome The Fade", which was released in 2002. This release got the band the most favorable reviews and attention to date, including being voted Top Album of 2002 in Metal Maniacs by Mike G. After more lineup shuffling, the band set to work in 2003 on writing the next album, which resulted in the fifth full length cd "The Pale Haunt Departure", which features the mixing talents of Dan Swano and the talents of James Murphy on mastering. This album was released in 2005 and so far has gotten the best reviews and attention to date.
TWP: You guys just released The Pale Haunt Departure earlier this year. What has been the reaction of the fans and media?
Larry: So far the reaction has been mostly positive. Every time you take a step forward you run the risk of certain people not being able to progress along with you, they'll always tend to prefer the "older stuff". But that's okay, because we do what we feel is best for us musically and try not to worry about the detractors so much. The main thing we hear now is that people who had previously written us off because they thought we were some typical doom metal band, are now getting into us because they heard the new cd. That's great because we want to continue branching out to new fans and not be stuck in just one small niche. We love playing these new songs so I'm glad that people are taking to it so well.
TWP: The Pale Haunt Departure is easily my favorite Novembers Doom album yet. It just seems like you guys were hitting on all cylinders from start to finish. I can’t think of anything I don’t like…from the music, to the lyrics, to the packaging. Tell me a little bit about the meaning behind the title “The Pale Haunt Departure”, the inspiration behind the very eye-appealing artwork, and what you guys were trying to accomplish musically.
Larry: Well musically, one thing we were conscious of from the start was that we wanted to make a more aggressive album. That's not to say that there isn't still plenty of mellower moments throughout as well. But we wanted to especially concentrate on making songs that were more hard hitting and driving, basically songs that really brought out the more aggressive side of us. I think the main reason you caught onto the "hitting on all cylinders" factor was because we wanted to make sure this time around that everyone in the band was on the same page and was working towards the same goals in the end. We've had problems in the past where certain members would be pulling too much in opposite directions, which resulted in some albums being a bit "all over the place". This new cd shows a band who are all working towards the same musical goals. As for the meaning behind the title and artwork, I'll let Paul touch on that one....
Paul: All the lyrics in the band are written by me, and they all come from a personal place. I get criticized from some people about the lyrical content, but the day I decided to not follow the standard, and not write the typical metal lyrics every close minded metal fan would expect, I knew the backlash would start. I do this for me, first and foremost. I really don't care who approves and who doesn't. I wear my heart on my sleeve, and that opens up doors for people to attack that, and I'm good with that. As far as the title and the meaning, the name is a general synopsis of the entire CD. It sums up a lot of what the lyrics are about. It's about the struggle between faith and hope, desire and loss. It's about wanting to believe in something so badly, and then the time comes to realize you may have been wrong. It's about waiting for the light to come take you to a better place, but you're left here waiting forever. I've always felt that the artwork is just as important to the CD as the music and lyrics. It's all used to tell a story, and the images illustrate that story. People are visual, and I believe that when you create imagery that compliments the story, as well as this did, it will really draw them into the music that much more. I worked closely with Attila on the artwork, and took a good amount of time to get it all complete. I would send him the lyrics, after I had given him the general theme, and he illustrated each song specifically to what he got from them and any input I had. He's a brilliant artist, and I will certainly use him again.
TWP: How did the recording process go with the new album in comparison with past albums? Is there anything that you would do differently next time around?
Larry: The recording process for this album was probably the most overall enjoyable experience we've had in the studio. We've enjoyed making all of our albums but this time we were more focused and we knew what we wanted. Recording at Studio One with Chris D. at the helm was great, he knows what to do in order to get the best out of us, and he's easy to work with. This is one of the only times where I can look back and say that there isn't much I would do differently. In fact, the whole situation worked out so well that I'd say it's likely that we'll do the same thing with the next cd.
TWP: What are your live plans for the future? Do you plan on doing any touring in support of the new album?
Larry: We've done some sporadic traveling in the States since the release of the new cd, playing some festivals and stuff in different states and whatnot. We still haven't found the right U.S. tour for us, but we do plan to do a small tour in Europe this October, which kicks off with us appearing at the ProgPower fest in the Netherlands. We'll also appear at the Equinox festival in Toronto as well.
TWP: If you had a chance to pick two bands that would be your dream bands to tour with around the world…who would they be and why?
Larry: That's really tough, picking just two bands. There's so many different bands I love and that I'd love to tour with for different reasons. I'd love to tour with Moonspell because they're friends of ours and musically I think it'd be a good match. I'd love to tour with Katatonia, as well, or a band like Atrocity. I'd like to tour with any band who I think would fit in with us musically and personally.
TWP: I’m a big lyric reader. Many people could care less about anything other than the music. And while I love the music, I think that most bands that care about putting out quality music also spend a good deal of time writing quality lyrics. I’ve noticed that you guys spend a good deal of time singing about topics like faith and regret. Some of the references to faith seem to be in a positive light, but others tend to have a bit of anger associated with it. Pardon the long question, but with most bands, their lyrics can be interpreted different ways. They write about personal things that the fans just don’t know about and it makes it difficult to determine the true meaning of a song…, which is part of the fun. To me it seems like some of the lyrics are expressing an anger at a higher being in some way…or maybe at some past experience that went bad that has to do with faith. So, all that leads to this two-fold question…one, am I way off base with my interpreting of your lyrics. And two, what are the different beliefs that you as band members hold and do they play any big part in the lyrics you write?
Paul: Well... I have always wanted to believe in a higher purpose, and a better place then this, but I've also been the type of person who needs to have something solid in front of me to believe in it. I have much more hope then faith. I'm hopeful, but doubtful. I do have a lot of anger, so your assessment is right on. I think any spiritual belief or disbelief is questioned on a daily basis, and sometimes, when the hope outweighs the disbelief, I can get angry at... something. It's all about the struggle for me. The light and the dark, the good and the bad. I see both sides, and try to find a middle ground, and sometimes it can get emotional, and I pour it into the lyrics. Most of the lyrical content is past experience, and present thoughts. It's hard for me to write it down, and most of the time, I regret doing it after the fact, not for the criticism I get, but because I allow myself to put this on paper, exposing my weakness for everyone to see.
TWP: Ok, how about a lighter question. What are some bands that you guys really enjoy now-a-days that really stand out from the pack? They don’t necessarily have to be metal bands.
Larry: I listen to alot of different music, not just metal. The stuff that stays in pretty constant rotation in my stereo lately has been stuff like Katatonia, The Killers, Coldplay, H.I.M, 69 Eyes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Norah Jones, Bloodbath, Strapping Young Lad...I've always got on my old standards like the Beatles, Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Iron Maiden too. I'm getting alot pickier about newer bands as I get older and keep reverting to the classics, so to speak.
TWP: Paul, I noticed that your bio says that you enjoy Coldplay a lot. I’m a metalhead through and through, but something about Coldplay draws me to them as well. Their music is simple yet profound and moving. What do you think makes a band like that so popular? Anybody can write a catchy song that sticks in your head for days…and Coldplay can definitely do that. But what makes a band like them stand out from so many others that play styles so similar to what they play?
Paul: I think that a band like Coldplay, plays from the heart, and you can tell. There's a genuine quality to the band, and the music, you don't see every day. Here's a band I feel writes exactly what they feel, and got lucky enough people responded to it. It may not be 100% original, but in my eyes, it's so filled with truth, and emotion, it's f**king brilliant. When things click, they click, and you get something special. That band has something special that touches me.
TWP: What do you see as the future of Novembers Doom? Are you working on new material? Do you plan on doing this till you guys are old and using walkers, or do you have a time limit on how long you guys are gonna do this heavy metal thing?
Larry: Honestly we're just taking things one step at a time. With the factors of Paul's health and the fact that we're all getting older, it's hard to say just how much longer we'll be doing this. I just hope that we can achieve as many goals as possible before we have to pack it all in. Currently we're just preparing for the upcoming shows we have booked, and we are starting to work on new musical ideas too. I would like to see us return to the studio sometime in early 2006, perhaps.
TWP: According to your website, you all have different occupations outside of the band. Is it your goal to do the band full time in the future…or do you even think that would be possible?
Larry: This band will never provide us with the kind of financial support to be able to survive off of it solely. We can barely get the money we need to be able to pay for things like tour support and new merchandise much less actually pay our personal bills. My goal is to be able to make something of a living off of playing music, but I don't think it's going to happen while playing music like Novembers Doom's type. We do this as a labor of love, honestly, and financial gain isn't really a thought for us when we play with this band. In order for us to get to the point where we can make enough money from cd sales and touring to live off of, we'd really need to get some serious support behind us in order to help make that happen, and well that hasn't happened yet and I don't see it likely happening in the near future.
TWP: When you guys aren't playing music or working your day jobs, what are some of the things that you enjoy doing the most with your free time?
Larry: I spent alot of time with my girlfriend and I spend far too much time on the internet of course! I like to collect things, like old Mego superhero toys from the 1970s, which Paul also collects, so we share that interest. Plus I just enjoy playing music, even if it's with cover bands or for fun, I almost always have something musical going on.
TWP: My wife is not much of a metal fan at all. However, recently she’s taken a liking to about two or three metal bands. One being the gothic doom/death band Morphia from the Netherlands, ( http://www.morphia.nl/ ), and the other one being Novembers Doom. She absolutely loves your new album. What do you think it is that allows a band that plays such heavy music like Novembers Doom to be able to cross those musical divides to attract those people who don’t normally listen to metal and yet still please their hardcore fans without being criticized for “selling out” or something like that?
Larry: I think it's very cool to hear that your wife enjoys us, and it's not the first time we've heard comments like yours. I think one thing that helps attract people to us like that, is the fact that we concentrate alot on melody and being memorable. Plus we have lyrics that people can relate to, things that deal with personal emotional subjects, and that helps us connect to people who aren't really interested in the usual metal lyrics. And believe me, we do get criticized for our lyrics, but when you're singing about something that's more personal and perhaps takes a bit more of a mature mentality to appreciate them than some people have out there, then you can't always please everyone.
TWP: I really enjoyed the song “Autumn Reflection” and the subject matter of the song. It’s definitely a departure from the usual topics of metal songs. Do you think it’s an important quality for metal bands to have the nerve to sing about their passion and love for their child or some similar topic instead of the more popular topic choices that bands sing about…like death, violence, hate, etc. Those subjects have a place, but they tend to be over sung about at times I believe.
Larry: Yeah well like I said, we have no interest in singing about those more "popular" metal topics, and there's plenty of bands who still do, so I think having a few bands like ours who don't isn't such a band thing. It's just something were past now, we're all adults and singing about fantastical subjects or trying to be shocking and offensive is of no interest to us at this point. Funny that people consider Paul to be wimping out by singing about such personal honest subjects, because I think in fact it takes alot of balls to open up like that, especially knowing that you're going to be open for criticism because of it. I'm sorry but it's much easier to just put on the "I'm so brutal and metal and manly" facade, than to really open up and sing honestly about the pain you deal with in real life and such. Most of these detractors we have would probably be crying themselves to sleep daily if they had to deal with all the pain that Paul has to deal with every day with his disease, so I'm sorry but it's just too easy for some people to criticize when they don't understand. Paul singing about his newborn child has a particular resonance to it when you understand his personal situation and the facts regarding his health and his future. But alot of people don't get that, whatever, you can't expect everyone to understand I guess.
Paul: She saved my life in more ways then anyone will ever know. Anyone who can't openly show love for their children, deserves a life of sh*t. My life was already sh*t, and she was born giving me a way out, and giving me more hope then I even had. She is my faith, and that's 100% honesty there.
TWP: Thanks so much for taking time to answer these questions. Do you have any final comments?
Larry: Thanks alot for the thoughtful questions and for your time and coverage! We'd like to encourage people to visit us at our website http://www.novembersdoom.com where you can sample music and video of ours and join our forum, etc. Thanks to everyone for their support, hope to see you on the road soon!
Thanks also to Adrian Bromley of The End Records for making this interview possible.