Novembers Doom – Continual Growth Part IMonday, 15th May 2017
Dead Rhetoric: What does it mean to the band to have Paul’s daughter providing background vocals on a few tracks for this record – and what’s the process like working with the iconic Dan Swanö for the mixing and mastering?
Roberts: We didn’t go into this record knowing that Paul’s daughter was going to sing on it. That was a last-minute decision, and there’s two reasons why it ended up happening. One- Rhiannon’s really coming along with her voice and singing. I’ve watched her get better and better over the years, and become a little more confident in her abilities, it made sense to have her take part in this. She loves to sing, she takes after her father. She’s actually probably better than him. (laughs) That’s okay, I’m taking a dig but he’ll say the same thing, he’ll tell you she’s a better singer. The main reason for her being on the record was because several of the songs on this album were very personal not only to Paul but to her, because he was singing about things that had to do with her, different private things that had gone on in recent years. He felt like it made sense now to collaborate with her on this because the lyrics she singing mean something to her, it’s not just ‘here kid, sing this’. I think it’s a cool thing and the right time to do it. Eventually we are just going to kick his ass out and get her to be our singer, you know! (laughs). She’s way cooler.
Dan usually throws a little something in there, and we welcome it- we love having him on there. Before we became friends with Dan, we were fans of Dan for many, many years. Even though we’ve been working with him for a while, it’s still a treat for us to have him put his talents on our record. Working with Dan is great- it’s been consistently good. He’ll sit there and tell us, every time we turn a new record into him he can hear the growth. I can say the same about Dan, his mixing abilities and ear have gotten better since we first started working with him however many years ago. It’s cool, that’s been the one nice thing- everybody whether it’s been Dan, Chris (Wisco) our engineer, everybody has grown together over the years. It’s a team that makes sense now. We could find other people to record us or mix us but everybody comes back to the same conclusion, this makes sense. We don’t just have Dan Swanö working with us because he has a big name, we have him working with us because he totally gets Novembers Doom. You can listen to how we sound, he brings out the best in us, as does Chris. We are so lucky to have those two.
Dead Rhetoric: You also took a unique approach to the lyric video for “Zephyr” as far as the handwritten lyrics on notebook paper being torn away as the song goes along – how did this concept come about, and what are your personal feelings on the video medium today compared to the past?
Roberts: To be honest with you, the way it originally came about is Paul is a big fan of a singer / songwriter guy named Greg Laswell, who collaborated a little bit with Paul when we were writing Bled White. He helped Paul come up with some of those vocal melodies and things I talked about earlier. Greg had done a lyric video thing that was similar, Paul always thought that was a great idea. To do something a little more organic like that as opposed to something digital, words floating on a screen. There’s nothing wrong with that and I’ve seen some great lyric videos from bands, but it’s gotten to the point where everybody does it and it’s harder and harder to think about something that’s going to stick in people’s minds. Especially because those lyrics for that song in particular are personal to he and Rhiannon, the idea of them physical writing it down made sense, and it looked cool. Let’s not look over the fact that we are broke! (laughs) It was an affordable way to do it- it took a lot of work and it may have been cheaper than hiring some company to do a big fancy music video, but it required us to be more creative. I have to give all the credit to Paul, that video was his baby and I think it came out great.
I love videos, I think you and I have talked about this in the past I’m from the MTV generation. Music videos mean to me the same thing as they did 20-30 years ago. I think it’s still important to us because the visuals that go along with our music are super important to us. That’s why we put a lot of thought into our album artwork, into the booklet that comes with the CD, how our videos look and the concepts. I think it’s an important part, I’m really grateful for things like YouTube, because I like the visuals. To offer interpretations of the songs, and sometimes let people try to interpret our videos- we try not to make anything to obvious. The other day you posted a video on your Facebook page for “What Could Have Been”, there is symbolism in that video and we leave certain things to interpretation. We are always going to do more video things because it’s fun to do, it’s a part of the whole package with us.
Dead Rhetoric: Discuss the importance of the players within the band not just using the metal genre as a reference point to create the material for Novembers Doom… as we’ve talked about in conversations online the importance of even new members like Mike Feldman and Garry Naples showcasing a wider stylistic palate?
Roberts: Yes, that is… that is a mandatory part about being in Novembers Doom, that you can’t just be some rivethead metaller that swears only by Slayer and Cannibal Corpse and what not. There’s nothing wrong with being that way if that is what you are into, it won’t last in this band though. So much of what we draw upon for inspiration and what influences us has nothing to do with metal or underground metal. It’s really important- everybody in the band, Vito comes from an interesting place. He provides some of the prog, shoegazer kind of influences but likes technical metal as well. He likes shoegaze to djent, so he’s young and I give him a pass on that. (laughs). Garry has loads of different influences, his approach to drumming is totally different than anyone else we’ve ever had in the band before. He has this way of making things jazzy and complex while not losing the groove and managing to keep the vibe still there. It’s amazing, I love playing and writing with him. And Mike, he’s more of a traditional rock and metal guy, he loves that straightforward Geezer Butler, Steve Harris, Geddy Lee, Cliff Burton kind of style. That works really well with us because it’s another element. And Paul and I are all over the place with our influences. Bled White and Hamartia sound the way that they do because these particular five people are in the band.
If somebody else was not in the band, it wouldn’t have sounded the same. I don’t even really listen to heavy music anymore, a lot of what I listen to is old classic rock, classical, jazz – more so than Behemoth. It may not sound immediately apparent when people listen to our music, that this is the kind of stuff that is influencing us, but I know it’s there. It just makes a world of difference.
Dead Rhetoric: You still record albums even in today’s fast paced, digitally driven music times. How do you absorb most of your music these days, and does it scare you that many in the younger generation don’t see the artistic merit in physical mediums compared to your days growing up with it?
Roberts: It doesn’t scare me, but it does bum me out. It’s natural because they are young and think they are right about everything, we did too. They just don’t realize that they are missing out on stuff. And to a degree some of them are starting to realize it now. You are seeing more younger fans getting into things like buying vinyl and cassettes. Not only because it’s the hip, trendy thing to do lately, but I think there’s something to be said for having something that you can hold in your hands that’s yours- not just some digital files that are flown in through the ether. It just makes me sad. I feel like so much of what goes on nowadays with all forms of entertainment, movies or music, it’s become so expendable to people. It’s something that they download on their phone and they forget about two hours later. What can we do about it? Ultimately we keep making albums, pressing vinyl and CD’s, doing big 24 page booklets and putting thought into our artwork and videos, we do it because we want it there. It has nothing to do with whether it’s trendy – hopefully someone who is going to appreciate it.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you have a preferred medium for enjoying music: vinyl, tape, CD’s, or digitally?
Roberts: It depends on the music I’m listening to. I think there are certain things that don’t sound good on one format compared to the other. I’ve bought certain thrash and death metal records- meaning actual vinyl records- that just sound like absolute garbage on vinyl. I learned a long time ago from working with various engineers and producers that things that are put onto vinyl, especially when you start getting into music- they need to be mixed and mastered for vinyl specifically. It’s not going to translate right. That’s why with Hamartia, we are going to do this on CD and vinyl, we did two completely entirely different mixes. The mix you hear on the vinyl is not what you are going to hear on the CD or digital.
If I’m listening to Relayer by Yes or a Cheap Trick album if I can, I prefer to listen to it on vinyl because I think it sounds better. If I want to listen to a Dissection album, chances are I’m going to prefer listening to that on CD or digital format- it’s meant to be heard that way. I’d love to hear more 90’s and early 2000’s underground albums be remixed in a format to make it sound better on vinyl – especially since so much is being pressed and repressed on vinyl. As much as I love vinyl, some albums sound like shit.
Part II of Matt Coe’s chat with Larry Roberts will post tomorrow night, May 16th.
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