NECRONOMICON may not be a band you're all that familiar with. Label problems, musician problems and death are just a few things that have kept this band back since their inception fifteen years ago. But with a new album on the horizon, proper label backing from one of Death Metal's great labels (Unique Leader) frontman Rob The Witch feels NECRONOMICON are poised to take their rightful place in the metal world.
You and your band have been around for a long time…
…but you still don't have all that much exposure since you've only released one album ("Pharaoh Of Gods").
Actually, that depends on the way you see it. We've got an album, a mini album ("The Silver Key"), and way before that we did a demo tape, which was actually very popular at the time, we sold around 3000 copies, and we were independent. So that was the time that we made a name for ourselves, and the people got to know us then because at that time we were the only independent band to sell that many tapes, and people started to talk about us a lot because of that "Oh my God, they've sold so much" The only reason that NECRONOMICON haven't be so exposed is because we've been through a lot of problems with rip off labels, and death.
What do you feel sets NECRONOMICON apart from the other bands you're in 'competition' with?
I don't feel like I'm in competition because I think we're really different from other bands. The only bands we can be in competition with is maybe KATAKLYSM and CRYPTOPSY, but even at that we're not the same.
I don't mean in the sense that you're the same, but in the sense that if someone is in a CD store and they're going to buy one CD, what do you think sets you apart to make them say I'll buy a NECRONOMICON CD instead of whatever else they're looking at?
Honestly, I don't know (laughs) I never think about that. NECRONOMICON is the kind of band you like or you don't like. We get a lot of reviews saying that we're somewhere between Black Metal and Death Metal, because the music is very Black Metal in some parts, and the vocals are typical Death, not Brutal Death, although you can hear the difference from "The Silver Key" to "Pharaoh Of Gods", and the next one is going to be another story. It's going to be very powerful. So, the people who like us, are crazy about us, and I'm really happy about that.
In you music, aside from the Metal aspect, you've got all kinds of other aspects, like soprano vocal, chimes. What made you think to do that, what inspired you?
My main inspiration is not Metal. I like a lot of stuff like DEAD CAN DANCE, and a Japanese composer called Kitaro, a kind of New Age music. NECRONOMICON is inspired by stuff like that, New Age music, stuff that breathes a lot. A Rock band that we're more inspired by is RUSH, with the chimes, bells and atmosphere. I've always liked that kind of stuff, it's stronger than me. I'm playing Metal because I've always played Metal, and that's it. That's the way I feel. I'm inspired by almost everything, trees, birds etc…My inspiration from metal isn't very strong, aside from older metal like JUDAS PRIEST, MERCYFUL FATE. I think my inspiration is from life. That's why there's atmospheric stuff.
So do you ever see yourself having a side project where you would play something closer to your influences?
Doing that kind of stuff would take too much of my time. NECRONOMICON is already taking a lot of time, it's almost like a full time job. I've got a few little things on the side, but my main 'attraction'; the thing I do practically every day is working on NECRONOMICON. Maybe one day I'll try that, but not for now.
When your female bass player who did the soprano vocals left, you got a male replacement. Was that a choice you made beforehand, or did you pick him when you saw him, or…?
That's an interesting question actually because Dominique (bass, vocals) was an ex Power Metal singer. He was playing guitar as well, but he wasn't that good, and he always felt like he should be on bass, and he tried out for the band, that's all. Before that I was working with a female bass player who would handle vocal duties, but we were having personal problems so it didn't work. When Dominique came, he was an old friend of Kathryn, and Kathryn called me and told me "I think I've found somebody for you who's going to be very interesting to work with." So I got his phone number and I spoke with him. This is going to change for the new album though, because there's more complicated female parts on it. So it's too much stuff for him to handle. On the "Pharaoh Of Gods" album it's very basic, and live we just cut the low mid frequency. For the next tour we're going to have a girl doing vocals, so we're working on getting a fourth member for the band.
And would she just sing?
Yup, because more than half of the new stuff has female vocals, there's a lot of stuff on the new album.
Ok, so let's talk about your new album. "Pharaoh Of Gods" came out in '99, and now your new album "The Sacred Medicines" is coming out, is it completed?
Yes, everything is done, we finished about a month ago, and now we're just working on a few label things, mostly paperwork. It may take a little bit of time, it's not always easy dealing with labels. We need to clear a few things with our label Unique Leader I can't say too much about it right now, but one thing I can say is that people are going to be very surprised. We put three songs on a few CDs, and sent them to a few people and the reaction was something. The people were very very impressed by the new material. It's the perfect continuation to "Pharaoh Of Gods", but even better. We're going far, further than we've ever been in the past.
Do you feel that it's a departure from "Pharaoh Of Gods"?
So it's really just a straight continuation?
Well, it depends. Some people are going to say that it's very different, but, for example, we put "The Silver Key" on the "Pharaoh Of Gods" CD, not to be arrogant, but because it's a classic. Everyone knows that song, it's our hit. While I was writing that song, I was thinking about writing "The Silver Key Part II" and on the new album you'll find a similar line to "The Silver Key" with the clean vocals, so the people are going to be able to hear "The Silver Key Part II". The structure of the song is very different, but the bridge is very similar. It's the continuation as "Pharaoh Of Gods", but it's not as Egyptian. NECRONOMICON doesn't have a fixation with Egypt. Actually, on "Pharaoh Of Gods" there were only three songs that dealt with Egypt lyrically; "Pharaoh Of God", "The Daring Ones", and "Egypt", and it's kind of the same way with this one. It talks about my origins, and the way I was raised with the Amerindians, and the rest deals with the flow of life, spirituality, and the wisdom of the past. Everything that can be applied today.
You mentioned that you were going to get a full time female singer because there are so many parts involving female vocals. Are there any other new elements like that that you think are new for this album?
It's not very easy to explain that. When I was recording "Pharaoh Of God"…
At this point, a stupid Punk kid decides to throw an open milk shake in our direction, with most of it falling on us. We stop the interview for a while to get cleaned up and continue at a different location.
So the point I was explaining before that shit happened (laughs) on the "Pharaoh Of Gods" I just let myself go with the flow, but this time I was going to do everything I wanted to do. So this time I don't always use the same voice. I've got a talking voice, a clear voice, my old vocal style and I've got a more distorted vocal style. The female vocals are also a lot more complex, they're more a part of the song rather than just a few notes here and there with the band doing the main riff. It's very ambient, it's more the way it should be, I think. There are some people who were complaining about the spoken parts between songs, and some people thought it was cool. We don't care about that though, we're NECRONOMICON and this is our stuff. I've made it a little less of that, but they're longer, with atmosphere and drums etc… We've got another song with lots of atmosphere. There's a clear evolution, you can see it.
Since you've been in the scene for 15 years, you've had a chance to watch it grow, watch it struggle. What do you think of the scene right now?
I've been here for 15 years, and of course the first years were very unstable, and well, crappy. We were drinking beer while practicing, not the kind of stuff we do now because we're more professional. But now I can say that the scene now is very good. There was a hole, a bug hole from around '95 to '97 it was really hard. Much harder than it is now. In '94 you could feel that it was about to happen, but since 98 99, I found things kept going up, and now things are great. Black Metal is big, Death Metal is big, even Brutal Death Metal is getting bigger all the time, which is surprising I think. I think the scene is very cool right now, and really think now is our time. Some people ask me "Do you think you've missed your chance?" No, because when I look at the past, problems with labels, problems with musicians. Our last drummer was the kind of guy who didn't like to tour. It was really hard, and we were always arguing, and it was very tiring. We were on the road for a month before Christmas, and the new guys were really into it, they're into the band 100%. So I think the real time for NECRONOMICON is now. We're not too big, not too small, to get our album on the market and make an impression.
What do you think makes the scene so strong?
I think it's people. People who work very hard, like Stephane Mellul from BCI, people who put in so much effort during that hard period in the 90's who were building the scene, because Montreal was practically dead. You would go into a show whoever the band was and there were barely 100 people there. Now you go to a show and there's 2000, and it's cool, but we worked hard for it. But it's people like that, people like Stephane Mellul, and other people who don't come to mind right now. One thing that isn't helping the scene is people who don't take the scene seriously enough. Bands who play for just a few hundred dollar, who have no aspirations, I've got nothing against that, but it's not the way to do business. When you're in business you have to have fun, for sure, but you have to think of the future. You can't do things you're going to regret later. Take Chuck (Schuldiner) from DEATH who says that he regrets his first two albums because they were so negative, and he couldn't change that.
I'll leave you the chance to say whatever you want at the end of the interview.
Thanks to you first, I really appreciate the interview. You're the first person to interview me since the end of the tour, and the first for the new album, so I'm really happy that you're a guy from here, it's very cool. The only thing I can say is for those who know NECRONOMICON, watch out for the new album it's going to kick ass, and for the others, you're going to discover a band who's goy a lot of guts. Fans of Death and Black Metal are going to be very satisfied. Thank you.
1996: The Silver Key (MCD, B.C. Productions)
1999/2002: Pharaoh Of Gods (CD, Hypnotic/Unique Leader)
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