It’s no surprise that musicians put a ton of themselves into their work. Just the act of creating is, in and of itself, an incredibly intimate process of putting something of yourself into your art that, you hope, will deeply affect its particular audience in some way. How much of yourself you put into that work depends on your comfort level with how much you are fine with your audience knowing about you and how much you feel safe to reveal about your inner life and struggles. There’s no right or wrong amount to divulge, great art has been made from very guarded individuals and from creators who are open books. Paul Kuhr, vocalist for Novembers Doom, falls into the latter category.
Kuhr is a bracingly open and honest lyricist. To many, myself included, that’s part of the appeal of Novembers Doom (outside of the absolutely killer instrumentation on each and every record). Don’t get me wrong, I love bands that just sound like a horror movie or that focus exclusively on, say, goblins. That being said, bands like Novembers Doom are incredibly special to me and so many others because of Kuhr’s emotional honesty. Seriously, if you are going through something in your life and need someone who understands, Kuhr’s lyrics are a more than apt balm for the troubled soul. Just hearing someone sing about going through similar trials and pain can help you to feel like you’re not alone, that someone else out there understands.
I was very fortunate to talk to Kuhr recently over Zoom about Novembers Doom’s history as well as all the cool stuff that’s right around the corner for fans. Much like his lyrics, Kuhr was very forthcoming in our chat and not afraid to discuss topics that others might easily shy away from. For anyone who has followed Novembers Doom for years, anything else just wouldn’t feel right.
How did you get into music and then how did you make your way to the heavier stuff?
Paul: I grew up with music. My sister is six years older than me, she loves when I tell people that. She was into Kiss and bands like that early on, before me. I’m 50, so my sister is 56 years old so as a kid, I kind of looked up to my sister. She was into Kiss and AC/DC and bands like that back in the ’70s. I grew up with classic rock and ELO, and my mom was into The Beatles, and a lot of bands like this, so I kind of had an edge on some of the more rock ‘n’ roll and classic rock and things like that from an early age. I think I got into music early, (through) I’d have to say Kiss. It was more of the visual, and the makeup, and all of that kind of thing. It attracted me at five, six years old. I remember going to school and I had, at the time, the notebooks and it was the Kiss notebooks, and I had the Kiss lunchbox, and that kind of stuff. At an early age along there is kind of when I got into music.
As I got older, I’m lucky at my age…I’m not lucky, I’m old as shit…I’m lucky to be at the point of my life where I got to watch (music) evolve and I got to be a part of the extreme music scene. I watched it grow and I watched it birth and my band was a part of, I believe, helping that along in a way. I’ve been there for all of it and I’ve seen a lot of the classics. After Kiss and AC/DC I moved on to Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, and then I discovered Slayer and Metallica and bands like that. Then I got into the late ’80s, early ’90s death metal and things like that.
If you’re looking for direct influences of mine, Chicago bands had a lot to do with that. Chicago bands that people probably never heard of like Devastation from Chicago, Sindrome from Chicago, those bands back in the late ’80s. When I heard that stuff, I went “That’s what I want to do.” Bands like Forbidden for me, like Russ (Anderson) from Forbidden when he would go into the thrashy voice and then he did those clean passages…I went “I want to add that in.” I wanted the guttural of Devastation or Sindrome or Grave, and I wanted to have the clean passages. I didn’t have bands like that that were doing the back and forth. The closest thing would maybe be Celtic Frost. It’s funny because we get compared to these bands throughout the years and we’re accused, because we’re an American band from Chicago, (that) we couldn’t possibly have come up with our own ideas. We must have taken them from European bands or things like that. Totally not true. It’s just that we’re all the same age, and drew from the same influences, and we kind of arrived at the same place in different ways. I’ve been into music my whole life and I came up through the ranks I guess. I’ve been there for all of it so I like a little bit of everything.
Variety is the spice of life.
Paul: I agree, I absolutely agree.
How did you get into playing in a band?
Paul: When I was a kid, 12 or 13 years old, we had thrash bands. When Novembers Doom started it was called Laceration and it was more of a thrash band and very quickly we thought “Oh, let’s slow it down, let’s tune down, let’s get heavier” and I had to rethink how I did my vocals. I started at, like, 12 or 13 years old and I actually played bass and sang at the same time. I hated that. It was interesting but that’s more or less how I started with things, through just some friends and some bands and then I got some better musicians and thought “There’s kind of something here” and we went from there.
What was that Chicago scene like when you were starting out?
Paul: Chicago is great. Unfortunately at the time, where Chicago had amazing bands, most of the eyes were on New York and Florida. There was a big Florida scene, Suffocation in New York, so you had the big New York and the big Florida boom and all eyes were on the east coast, and Chicago got criminally missed. You had (great) bands in Chicago. Anyone (reading) this, on YouTube, go look up Contagion, go look up Afterlife, go look up Devastation, Sindrome…Chicago had incredible bands.
I’ll go on record, right now, saying the Swedish death metal sound like At the Gates and that really popular (sound), that kind of death metal was invented in Chicago. I say that because, go look up Devastation and Sindrome and look up Erv Brautigam, and now go look at all of those bands, Carcass, Entombed, At the Gates, go look at all of their early albums and demos and see who they credit in their thanks list and it’s Erv and Devastation because he was doing something no one had done at the time. He was incorporating death metal at the time, mid ’80s before there was truly a death metal (scene), and adding that Yngwie Malmsteen neoclassical guitar into death metal and influenced that entire scene. In my opinion, Chicago invented that style of death metal. Whether anyone agrees or not, it’s fine but go look those bands up and tell me I’m wrong. I guarantee you’ll be like “Yeah, I think Paul might be right on that.”
I live in the state and I’ve always thought Chicago was an underrated scene but I never really know if that’s just regional pride or it I’m accurate.
Paul: We had great, even doom bands back in the day when no one knew what that was. We had Eve of Mourning. We had amazing bands that got so criminally overlooked because all eyes were on Florida and New York, and rightfully so. There were amazing bands coming out at that time. We came about at a time where, we get compared to “Oh, they’re My Dying Bride ripoffs.” Those guys are some of my best friends in life, and you look at their first album and I’m thanked on their album. We traded demos before any of us had albums. We were doing the same thing at the same time but the European hierarchy at the time, all eyes were there. So you had Anathema, My Dying Bride, and Paradise Lost and all eyes were there, not on Chicago at all. So anything that came after the popularity boom of those bands, you’re obviously ripoffs of those bands. “Novembers Doom, you’re obviously ripoffs of Opeth.” We were around doing this before Opeth was even a band. We are a victim of geography, more or less, and only because the eyes were elsewhere and they should have been. I’m not taking anything away from those bands. Those are fantastic bands and they deserve any bit of credit they get but Chicago got overlooked, unfortunately, and there were amazing bands that should have been that big that never got their due. By the time the eyes came over to this part of the country, it was already done. Most of these bands were already over and finished, unfortunately.
Do you have a favorite hometown venue?
Paul: Watching shows or playing?
Paul: Playing in Chicago, the House of Blues. They take care of you like you are royalty, no matter who you are. You can be the opening band and you get the most amazing green room with a shower and amazing catering. They take care of you so well. Reggie’s is another really good Chicago venue. They take good care of the bands and it’s a great room to play. Seeing shows, man that’s tough for me. I’m kind of a snob when it comes to that kind of shit. If your venue doesn’t have easy parking, I don’t want anything to do with it because parking in the city is a bitch. It’s tough for me, especially being 50. When I was a kid, I’d go to the Aragon Ballroom to see Slayer and I’d go at seven in the morning and get in line just to be up front and things like that. These days, ah hell no. I’m showing up late and if I can’t get good parking, I’m probably not coming (laughs). I’m just a jaded old man now. It just sucks, getting old! If it’s raining, I have tickets to the show and if it’s raining, do I really want to go to the city? Drive an hour, try to find parking…I’m just old.
No, parking in Chicago is a real pain in the ass, no matter how old you are.
Paul: It’s awful but we have some venues where parking is easy. They have parking lots but you’re going to pay for it. I’m fine with that. I’ll pay for parking if I can get good parking, in and out whenever I want to leave. That’s a big plus when it comes to any kind of show in Chicago.
When you were starting out, melding those death and doom influences was very much a new thing. How did you know that’s where you wanted to take the band and how did you guys come up with your sound?
Paul: This is 100% where it came from. I wanted, if you go back to the bands I mentioned and listen to Devastation from Chicago, cause there’s a Texas Devastation which is different, Chicago Devastation and Sindrome, they were heavier than thrash bands, not quite death metal bands, but the one thing they shared was clarity in the vocals. When I started out, if I’m going to do death metal, like early Grave or those early Bolt Throwers, I want my vocals to be audible so I tried very hard from early on to pronounce my words, even through a growl as much as possible, and I think that sets me apart from a lot of death metal vocalists. I do believe that even my death growls are pretty audible, you can understand what I’m saying. I make a point, when I do my death growls, to do that. I took a lot from that early on. I wanted to be audible. I wanted my clean vocals which…I was terrible in the beginning. It took me…I’m still not comfortable with it. I never took a singing lesson in my life, I never thought I was a good singer, but I believe I’ve pushed myself and got better and better throughout the years. I truly believe I improve with every album.
That’s something that came from Russ in Forbidden and then I drew from some of my earlier (influences) like Peter Gabriel and Jim Morrison from the doors. Jim Morrison was never the greatest singer in the world but what a frontman. What he did for that band was perfect and that’s what I always try to do. I try to be what I could be, the perfect version for Novembers Doom and I drew from a lot of different influences.
Even when it’s time to start writing albums, I’ll try to stay away from metal as much as I can and I’ll try to draw from singer/songwriters. One of my favorite singer/songwriters of all time is Greg Laswell. He’s become one of my close friends and I draw a lot from his influence and Dead Can Dance. I love melody and harmony…Alice in Chains’ harmonies are some of the best ever. Simon and Garfunkel, some of the best ever. If I can bring some of that influence into what we’re doing, I consider it a win. I draw my influence from very talented people. It’s how I built my band. I never thought I was good enough to do what I do so I surround myself with the best musicians I possibly can and it makes me sound better. They bring out better in me and they challenge me to be better and that’s kind of what I go for.
What’s your process like for writing the music and how much has that changed over the years?
Paul: It varies. I’ll call it 50/50 per album and I’ll say that meaning I can sit down, if I get in the mood to write lyrics, and I can just start writing lyrics and I’ll have pages and pages and pages of lyrics. Then the guys will be like, “Alright, we’ve got these couple songs we wrote” and I’ll listen to the music and say “Ah, I’ve got the perfect lyric for that” and I’ll bring in some of the stuff that I wrote and I’ll start to incorporate the melodies with that into the music, or I’ll have nothing and I’ll hear the music and be like “I got it. I know what I want to write about for that song.” So, it varies in that regard.
Dan Swanö, I write all the lyrics for his Witherscape project so I’ve done the albums, I’ve done the EPs, I write all the lyrics for that stuff. Dan sends me demos for those albums and he sends them to me with nonsense words but he knows the melodies he wants and the syllables he wants and the consonants he wants where he wants them. So I’ll get those albums in demo form and I have to try to write lyrics to match his melody, his flow, his consonants, his vowels, and that’s a challenge in itself, to write a story like that. That has helped me to write. I can listen to music and I start doing melodies first and writing my music to my melodies. I can go either way now with that and it just depends.
If I hear music that the guys give us, I may say “I got lyrics for that, I have it already.” Or I’ll say that I have to write to this or rework some things. I think, over 11 albums for this band and writing for Dan Swanö and things like that, I have been able to adapt to what’s needed for the song more than what’s needed for my own needs. I put the song before me and I think that’s what’s helped over the years as well.
You seem like someone that actually likes the process of sitting down and writing then. How much of an outlet is that for you?
Paul: I use it tremendously as an outlet. I’ve had a lot of issues in my life and I’m kind of fucked up. I’ve got a spine disease so yeah, I’ve been through a lot in 50 years. I’ve been married, I’ve had two fiancés, I’m with someone now. I’ve been through a lot and it always ends badly because if it was good, it wouldn’t end, so of course it ends badly. I’m kind of fucked up in the head at times and I’ve always used my lyrics, especially…I went through major depression when I got a spine disease. I was a martial artist for most of my life and my spine disease kind of took that away from me and went into a deep depression. I thought I was done. I was ready to die, I didn’t care. A lot of my early albums, lyrics were personal but vague and kind of dumb and poetic, and I thought that’s what I needed to do in a doom band, just write shit.
It wasn’t until around To Welcome the Fade where I really got personal with my lyrics, really, really personal and I’ve done that since. From that album on, yeah, there’s a lot of really personal things. It’s helped me tremendously get through a lot of very hard times and a lot of issues in life and a lot of that sort of thing. I’m thankful I’ve had Novembers Doom as an outlet to be able to do that because a lot of people don’t. It’s helped me. For instance, “Swallowed by the Moon” off of (The) Pale Haunt (Departure) was actually a suicide note to my daughter. Yeah, I haven’t thought about a lot of this in a long time. I haven’t done an interview in over two years because of COVID so I haven’t really thought about this in a long time, but I definitely use my lyrics as a release, as a way to get (things) off of my chest, it’s my therapy. I’ve used it as my therapy for many albums now and this next one should be a doozy.
Speaking of your albums, how did that first one come about?
Paul: We signed to an Italian label called Regress Records, they were Regress/Better Than Them and they sold to Avantgarde, so our first album came out technically on Avantgarde Records, which later signed Katatonia and bands like that. We got lucky. This is where I think we succeeded where a lot of Chicago bands failed. The Chicago bands of the time were really focused on Chicago and the local scene and playing shows and bringing all their friends out. We all went, “What’s that gonna do? Let’s focus on Europe, that’s where the scene is. Let’s go after a European label, let’s try to do that.” That’s what we did back then, we shifted our focus to overseas, and I truly believe that’s what helped us have longevity and why we’re still around and why a lot of other bands that should be around aren’t. I think they just had their focus in the wrong place at the wrong time. That’s really what it came down to.
We did the first album back then and it was on a shoestring budget. It was a local studio and we did it over years. That first album is rough. We didn’t even have a bass player at the time. We didn’t have a bass! The guitar player, they used a pitch shifter in the studio to shift his pitch down to a bass level and he played bass on a guitar. If you listen to Amid Its Hallowed Mirth, that’s on a guitar with a pitch shifter. That’s how low-budget crazy that shit was. Nuts, nuts when I think about what we got away with back in the day.
Were you more comfortable with the follow-up, Of Sculptured Ivy and Stone Flowers?
Paul: Yeah, we did. We went to a better studio. We went to Brian Griffin, who is now the sound man and tour manager for Lamb of God. He doesn’t even do studio work anymore. He’s gone on but yeah, we definitely had a better experience and a more professional experience the second album on. We learned every album what to do, what not to do. We definitely took it further and further in our career.
The turnaround then for the next album, The Knowing, was your shortest ever. How were you able to jump from two to three so quickly?
Paul: We had a lineup change. We brought Larry (Lawrence Roberts) in. He joined after Of Sculptured Ivy was recorded and came out so The Knowing, we had momentum going, we had new blood, we had people fired up who wanted to do more so yeah, we started writing right away. We didn’t tour on that album or nothing like that. We made some lineup changes and we immediately started writing the follow-up and then we got interest from Dark Symphonies at the time, who was an up-and-coming, and they were doing good stuff. They signed us and we got the opportunity at that point, when we did To Welcome the Fade to work with Neil Kernon, who had done Hall and Oates. He’s the guy whistling on the end of “Bennie and the Jets” at the end of that song, the live version. Neil’s (a) Grammy winning, masterful guy. We had the opportunity to work with him and Dark Symphonies was like “Yeah, let’s do it.” We jumped on that opportunity.
We learned a lot from album to album to album until we got to (The) Pale Haunt (Departure) and we got Dan Swanö, I pulled him out of retirement and we got him mixing again and he’s credited us in interviews. He was done with music. I was like, “Dude, we want you to do our album. Please!” and he was like “Ok, I’ll do it” and he got back into it. We’ve worked with Dan on every album from Pale Haunt on and I don’t see that changing. He knows what we want. I don’t even have to tell him anything. I just send him the album like, mix the album, and he does. We’ve learned a lot through the years.
Was there a point in there where you realized the band had legs and was taking off?
Paul: Pale Haunt. The Pale Haunt Departure did so well for us, especially in Europe, that it got us invited to European festivals and it got us invited to a lot of things. Pale Haunt opened big, big doors. It’s our best selling record to date, it has done extremely well for us. Then, when (The) Novella (Reservoir), its follow-up, came out, there was a Belgian record store chain out there that it outsold everything for the year, everything. It was a top selling record so we got invited to Graspop and we sold out shows in Europe. Pale Haunt, Novella Reservoir really blew up for us over there and opened up doors. We took advantage of that and ran with it. I give a lot of credit to that scene at the time.
That has to have been a wildly exciting time to have put so many years of effort in and then finally see it taking off like you wanted.
Paul: I was almost done. It was like, “What else are we gonna do?” and then those doors open and it was, yeah, extremely exciting. Because of that hype, we toured Europe like 10 times and we played festivals. We probably played 15 major European festivals over the years and that lead into opening doors. We played 70,000 Tons of Metal like four times and yeah, it all just kind of cascades and it built us to (the) point we’re at today and I’m so thankful for all of it, 100%.
You mentioned lineup changes earlier. What do you look for in a new member and has that criteria changed over the years?
Paul: Oh absolutely, we were sticklers early on about one band. You can only be in Novembers Doom and, as time went on, we’re not that kind of band. We’re not a band that does this for a living. It’s a glorified hobby, is what Novembers Doom is. We don’t do it for a living, we don’t make money off it because we don’t tour, because we have families, and we’re all older and we have health issues, and there’s so many reasons why we can’t do this full-time and we’re ok with that. The criteria, now, if we had to replace somebody, you have to be on the same page. You have to be able to understand what we’re trying to do, what we’re trying to accomplish, what we want the music to be. You have to fit that mold and we have to get along with you because we’re gonna travel. We’re gonna go to Europe, we’re gonna be in tight quarters. We’re going to be sharing, sometimes five guys in a hotel room. We have to get along. We’ve literally had to get rid of a member because he had physically threatened another band member. It’s like, “You’re gone. We can’t have that.” The criteria is not just musical but it’s also personal at this point. We have to make sure we pick the right people when it comes time.
I wanted to talk a little about the last few records, first 2017’s Hamartia. What was the creation process like for that one?
Paul: Hamartia was really difficult for me. Literally, the band was in the studio recording the drums and I’m looking at the schedule going “I need to go do vocals in two weeks” and I had nothing. I didn’t have a single lyric. I didn’t have a single melody. I had nothing for that record so literally, that first week, I wrote lyrics. The second week I wrote melodies and then I went and recorded. It was that down to the wire, “Oh shit what am I gonna do?” I had a hard time with that album, I really did. I’m happy the way it came out but I struggled with that one. I had writer’s block and I was in a kind of different place in life. Luckily I got through it.
How do you get through writer’s block when that happens?
Paul: I get drunk and then I write.
Paul: Unfortunately, if I can’t write, if I have writer’s block, I’ll start drinking and when my mind starts to ease in I’ll start writing. Then, the next day, I’ll weed through it and pick out what was good and what wasn’t (laughs).
Was the most recent one, Nephilim Grove, any easier?
Paul: That was a much easier album to write, for me, because I had a lot to say at the time. I was with someone at that time and I knew it was close to over, so a lot of that album is really personal to my personal life at the time, which she just found out fairly recently and wasn’t happy about it but it is what it is. It’s what happens when you’re in a band like this. A lot of your personal things get into the lyrics and it just so happens that you hurt feelings. That’s been a problem of mine all along and when you’re with somebody and you write certain lines or certain songs, they can take it personal. I don’t mean it in that way, I never write something to hurt someone. I write to get my feelings off of my chest and sometimes, in doing that, hurt somebody and I never like that. I never want to do that but Nephilim Grove was one of those albums for me. It was a very personal type of record with a lot of personal meaning behind the lyrics and things like that.
For a lot of different reasons, that one came very easy. I wrote that album easily, lyrically and melody-wise. I had stuff for that early on, unfortunately. I don’t say that with pride. I beat myself up a lot, hard, cause I don’t like to hurt people in any way, shape, or form but I also feel like this is my therapy, and I need to say what I need to say and unfortunately, in doing so, the people that they’re about kinda know that it’s about them. That always sucks a little bit but it is what it is. I do what I do and it helps me get through the day and it’s helped a lot of other people. If I upset one person but 500 people say “I connected with that” then I did (my job). If one other person, and that’s the most humbling thing about being in this band and doing what I do, sends me a message and says “You got me through a rough time in my life, the death of my father or sibling or loved one or whatever and your lyrics really helped me get through that,” it was worth it to me. It’s humbling and I get that more often than I think that I should and it makes me proud to do what I do. Even though some of the shit is personal and somebody is gonna be buttsore about it, it works. It works for what we do.
Do you ever find yourself pulling back from how much you put into the lyrics?
Paul: All the time. Yes, I pull back a lot a lot. If I said everything I wanted to say, it would bite me in the ass down the line. Because I don’t want to hurt people, I try to be as vague as I possibly can. I want to write lyrics where someone else will listen to them, someone else will read what I’m doing, and go “Oh yeah, you too? You went through that too?” I try to generalize, to connect with as many people as I can with the words. Oh, I can get really focused and it would be really bad but I don’t want to do that. I want to be better than that. I want to be a better person than that. It would be so easy to call people out who deserve to be called out but I won’t do that. That’s not me. They’re probably lucky that’s not me (laughs).
Being that the material is so personal, are there songs you won’t do live or ones that you find it hard to get in the right frame of mind to sing?
Paul: “Swallowed By the Moon” I generally will not do live because it was, like I said, a suicide note to my daughter. There are certain things where I regret writing, I regret making as songs, because of personal issues and things like that. There are certain things I regret putting down on paper so I am more guarded with what I do and what I write and what I actually put out as songs these days, for sure.
Although every album retains the Novembers Doom sound, each one also sounds unique and there are different variations album to album. How important is it to you to keep things fresh and not repeat yourself each time out?
Paul: I think we are to a point in our career where we could put out a straight-up death metal song or a ballad and they’d both sound like Novembers Doom. We kind of manufactured that from the beginning, which also makes it difficult to put us into any type of genre. You can’t just call us death metal because we’re not just death metal. You can’t call us just goth metal cause we’re more than that too. We touch a lot of different styles of music and therefore it’s really hard to put us into any type of category. I just always say we play dark metal. It’s depressing, dark metal. Whether it be heavy metal, goth, emo, doom, death, we’re a bit of all of that so we draw from all of that influence, add that into our music, and it’s just kind of where we’re at. I can’t really lump us into one category.
You mentioned the new album, what can you tell me about your progress on that one
Paul: Honestly, 100% honest with you, I haven’t heard a note from the guys yet. I don’t know. I know they have music, I know they have songs. I have not personally heard any of it yet so I have no idea what’s in store. I know the things I want to do, vocally. I want to up my game from the last album. I want more harmony, I want more range. There are things I’m going to attempt on the next record, but I have not officially heard anything from the guys yet even though I know they’re writing. I know they have stuff. We are getting very close, they have a few songs going. Give us another six months and we should be ready to start booking studio time. We’re not too far off yet. COVID, two years shut down just deflated all of us. We’re slowly coming back. We’re almost there. We’ll give another good album, I’m sure.
How much did COVID and the lockdowns hit the band?
Paul: It was bad because Nephilim Grove came out, and shortly after the world shut down. We couldn’t tour on that record. We had an Australian (tour), it was our first headlining Australian tour…Australia, New Zealand, somewhere else. We had announced the tour and literally one week later cancelled the tour because of lockdown. We were ready to start hitting the world for Nephilim Grove and touring on it and COVID robbed us of that. We’ve done maybe four shows for that record, that’s awful. It is what it is and hopefully we’ll be able to actually promote it a bit more. We’re still talking about doing one more video for the record for “(The) Witness Marks.” We’ll probably get that video out eventually, hopefully. Our focus is starting to shift to the new stuff already, and that’s a shame because this record is not gonna get what it deserves because of the state of the world. That’s every band, unfortunately. It’s all of us, businesses, bands, all of us.
How excited are you for Maryland Deathfest?
Paul: I love Maryland Deathfest. This will be our third one. Great time, great bands. Yeah, it’s gonna be awesome. I can’t wait. I cannot wait. We have a great slot, great stage. It’s gonna be a good time.
How much did you miss that live aspect?
Paul: It’s funny. I get anxiety real bad when I have to travel. I hate traveling. I hate flying. I hate traveling, all of that. I hate airports. I hate waiting. I hate all of that, enough to the point where it’s like, I should just fucking quit because I don’t want to do this anymore. It’s that bad for me so I hate every aspect of it until I walk out onstage. In that moment, it’s like, this is why I do this. It makes up for all of the shit so, at the moment, my mind is going “Oh fuck, I gotta travel in a month.” My anxiety level is through the roof thinking that I have to travel but once I get there, I have the time of my life. It’s a love-hate relationship with traveling and playing live.
What is it about performing live that makes it all worth it to you?
Paul: Man, this might make me sound like a jag-off but really, it’s the power. It’s the control over a crowd. It is being the last member of the band to walk out onstage and the crowd goes fucking crazy. I feed off that energy. I want that energy from the crowd and that moment, where I know I’ve got everybody in the palm of my hand, and it’s mine to either excite everyone or make everyone not care. I love that moment where my goal is to kick your ass and I’m gonna do the best that I possibly can. I love that moment of knowing that I’ve got all of you right now, right here, and it’s my job to keep you here. If I don’t, I fail. Not my band, because my band is spectacular. If I don’t have everybody, right here, at the end of that set in my hand, I failed and that’s on me. I owe it to myself and my band to just kill it. That’s what it’s about for me. I love that feeling and I love that challenge.
I tell ya what, being a band like us, at a show like MDF, we don’t alter our set for MDF. We don’t go into a show like that going “Let’s do all our heavy death metal songs.” No, we’re doing, like, “Just Breathe” and we’re doing ballads. It’s my job, at a death metal festival, to keep that crowd engaged. I look at it as a breath of fresh air. After hours and hours of nothing but grinding death metal, we’re going to be that band you want (to) relax for a few minutes. We’re gonna bring you up, we’re gonna hammer it in. We’re gonna take you on a roller coaster ride with us. I like bringing multiple emotions out of a crowd when I can. That’s the power for me, that I get to try to do that.
Looking back on the discography to this point, do you have a favorite album or a couple favorites
Paul: They’re all my children. Of course, I will always say the last thing I did is the best, every band does, but I mean that, where we are the kind of band that, I think, has evolved and gotten better record to record to record. I can’t say that about my band members, they’re fucking great. They’ve never produced anything even mediocre in my eyes. My band is incredible, every musician. But for me, personally, I know I can do better than my last record and I will push myself to do better and better. For me, I have improved album to album to album so I will always say our latest one is my favorite and my best because I feel it’s the best work I’ve done.
There’s a little bit of a difference. I will always love Pale Haunt, because of the doors it opened for us and I look back at that fondly, with good memory in that regard. Novella, for other reasons. Hamartia, Aphotic, really, I’ve got fond memories of everything for a different reason but Nephilim Grove, vocally, is my best and I plan on topping that with the next one. So, we’ll see. I just did the new Saturnus album, which is phenomenal by the way. I’m lucky enough (that) they’re labelmates of ours now and I wrote the full lyrics on one song called “Even Tide” on their new album. It’s one of those songs that I wrote, and after I wrote it and gave it to Saturnus, and I’m on the song, I sing on the song with Thomas (Akim Grønbæk Jensen), I go “It’s so good, I should have kept it myself!” I’m always challenging myself to do better and better and better, and I think the next Doom album will be no different.
I meant to ask, who did the art on Nephilim Grove? I love that cover.
Paul: His name is Pig Hands, that’s what he goes by. He is an amazing artist and I may use him again for the next one cause I already have the concept for it. I already know what I want the cover to be and I may go with the same artist with the same style of art for the next album, we’ll see. I’m almost there.
How much direction do you give the artists for the covers?
Paul: Depends on the record. Most of the time, I’m heavily involved. I’m a graphic designer myself and I truly believe to paint a full picture, you need audio, you need visual, you need the cover, (it) all paints one big picture so I have a lot of input on what I want for the actual cover. I don’t care about the inside art as much as I do the album cover. I don’t design it myself because I’m over-critical of my own work and I don’t want, in my own band, to be looking back at album covers going, “Ugh, I shoulda did this, I shoulda done that, I shoulda changed this.” I’d rather just pay someone and look at the cover and go, I love this and be done with it. That’s why I don’t do our own album covers.
How up-to-date do you stay on what’s going on in extreme metal?
Paul: I didn’t and then, with my current girlfriend, she’s very up-to-date with the newest (music) so I have learned to really love and appreciate a lot of new (music) and I’m going to shows more than I have in a long time. Currently, my favorite new band is Gatecreeper. Old school death metal, man, they’re truly incredible. I am more in tune with some of the newer stuff now than I was even in the past 10 years. She’s yelling down, “I keep you young!” She does, she does.
So for fans of the band, what’s the best way for them to show their support and their love for Novembers Doom?
Paul: It’s hard to say. If you see us selling something on our Facebook page or website, that is always the best direct way to support the band. Because I own my own screen printing company, we print our own merch. It goes right to us. I am working on a deal for Europe, because it’s very expensive to ship to Europe and I hate charging people $25 to ship a shirt but that’s what it costs, it’s ridiculous. Spotify, stream our music. Buy our music from our label directly through Prophecy. Buy T-shirts and merch directly through the band, that’s the best way. Look, I don’t care if you steal our shit, download it. If you download it, awesome. Become a fan of the music, come see us live, buy a T-shirt from us, I don’t care about that shit. I really don’t and the label hates when I say that but I don’t. Support us any way you can. If you have a few bucks, buy a song, streaming, go to Apple Music and buy a song here and there. Like our pages. Hit like and subscribe to our YouTube page, that kind of stuff helps us out. Facebook, go like our Facebook page and follow it. All of that kind of stuff supports us more, I think, than actually spending your money. We’re not in it for the money, we never have been. We just want to build a following so when we come to your town, if we come to your town, come see us. If not, support us any way you can. We’re not greedy, we’re not picky. If you enjoy the music and you love the music that we do, just do what you can and we’ll be just fine. We’re gonna stick around for awhile. We’ll do what we can for as long as we can. As long as I have a voice!
So last question, what kind of hobbies or interests do you have to keep you busy outside of music? Outside of Star Wars, obviously! [Note: the wall behind Paul was covered with Star Wars memorabilia, more than enough to make a humble zine owner quite jealous].
Paul: What? Why did you assume that (laughs).
I don’t know, just psychic perception I suppose.
Paul: I’m a Star Wars nerd. It’s blurred out but (behind me), those are very high end lightsabers. They’re not the toys, they’re not Galaxy’s Edge, they’re high end. I have $1,200 lightsabers and helmets up and down and yeah, Star Wars is a passion of mine big time. Even my company, my screen printing company, I’m rebranding and it’s called Anchorhead Rebels. Star Wars is a passion of mine. I’m big into pop culture, nerd shit. Marvel, Spider-Man, yeah. I’m a big old nerd.