Novembers Doom have been celebrating their thirtieth anniversary with the release of their new album, Nephilim Grove, which was released on November 1st via Prophecy Productions (order here). For those who haven’t listened to this album yet, you should as it could be one of the strongest records of 2019. With that being said, we caught up with vocalist Paul Kuhr on the depressing new offering, the beginning of Novembers Doom, and more.
Can you talk about the writing process for Nephilim Grove?
Pretty much any Novembers Doom record, when we decide, it’s time, and need to start creating, Larry [Roberts] and Vito [Marchese], the two guitar players, it all kind of falls on them. They’re the guys who bring in the foundation of the music and write the riffs. We’ll have discussions among the band on the direction we want to go, or sometimes they’re just feeling something, and they bring it in. It starts with that. Then when they bring in material, they’ll bounce ideas off each other, or come in with something complete and then they’ll work with Garry [Naples], and he’s the drummer, and start working with him and conveying the feeling they want for that part. Then Garry starts to write his drum parts. We have a solid foundation set. That’s usually when Mike [Feldman], the bass player, he’ll start thinking about what he wants to do. Mike is the last piece of the puzzle. Mike usually waits until the drums are recorded in the studio for the album and then he’s got a couple of weeks, he goes home. He really locks in the bass to the recorded drums because like anything, you change what you might do up into the moment, and he wants to really lock in with the drums. Vocals, I will either write to that foundation with drums or to guitar scratch tracks from a clip the guys sent. That happened on quite a few songs for this record, and I think it made for a very unique and interesting way because some of the drum parts if I would’ve heard what Garry was going to do on the drums, I would’ve probably changed what I did vocally. I’m glad I didn’t because now there’s this contrast that works really, really well. That’s the process. It’s never like everybody in the room, at the same time throwing out ideas. That’ll happen once or twice through the process. For the most part, we all work on what we need to work on individually.
How long did it take to create the album?
We’re usually good from start to finish. We can do an album from the concept to finish recording in about a year. We’ll put six to eight months into the actual writing process, and then we’ll take a month or two to start setting up the recording time. In the studio itself, we move very quickly. We are not a band that goes in and writes in the studio. We are well prepared when we walk in the door. We walk in, and in 10 days, we have the entire album recorded. Then we send those files off to Dan Swano in Europe, and he starts the mixing process, and that usually takes another couple of weeks. We can get an album recorded, mixed, and mastered in about a month.
Are there any particular themes on this album that you’re willing to share?
Every time I sit down, I theme a record. The Novella Reservoir, I sat down, and that was all about water, the Pale Haunt Departure, and escape. Aphotic was all about darkness and the absence of light. Nephilim Grove, to me, is all about mistakes and taking the wrong path. I think in today’s world we live in; there’s a lot of different paths people walk, and not all of them in everybody’s eyes are the right path. I think a lot of people just become followers. I’m not talking about politics, and I’m not talking about religion. I’m just talking about the way human nature has gone, where everybody has to pick a side no matter what it is. I don’t even think people are passionate about what they’re fighting for. They’re just in it for the fight. It’s a sad time, and I don’t know if I’m just opening my eyes more as I get older, but I’m becoming more aware, or I pay more attention to things. It’s a sad world. It calls for some sad music, I guess.
One of the songs that sparked my attention was “What We Become.” Can you talk more about that song?
Absolutely. Now, usually, when I’ll sit down, and write a song, it comes from a personal place, and I’ll tell a personal story, and then I try to make it for that. This is one of those examples for me where I did not sit down and write “What We Become” from personal experience. I wanted to write a song for everybody. I wanted to touch a topic that I felt everybody in their life, at some point or another, is going to go through. You are so in love with someone or something, and they don’t reciprocate, and you want that so desperately, and you’re willing to wait for it because you feel that it’s meant to be and it’s right. I don’t mean in like an awful, horrible stalker way. I mean this in the sweetest, most loving way possible. We’ve all been there. It’s just about being lonely, and you’re alone because you love so much, and you’re not getting it in return.
That is actually very depressing.
It is. Actually, I can tell you right now, we’re working on the video for that song, and it’s very hard to come up with the concept and the shots we want to do because it has to portray that loneliness. It’s difficult.
You guys have experienced quite a few challenges over the years, including lineup changes, what has kept you to keep going and not give up?
It’s a couple of things. One thing is Novembers Doom has never been my career. It’s never been something that I’ve done for a living, that I have to rely and count on to feed my family. Novembers Doom from day one started in my parent’s basement. This is always a glorified hobby. It’s something that I’ve loved, and I love the music we create. I love the creating and the recording process. I love getting on stage in front of actual fans. Over the years, yeah, we’ve had massive challenges, and lineup changes because it was always a hobby. It was very easy for a band member to take the next step in their life, and they were moving away, or their job got more demanding. We’d never really kicked anybody out of the band for any other reason than it was them. Their lives had changed. They were taking a new step, and then we had to fill that space.
I’ve been lucky enough where we found musicians for that, and finally, we have a solid lineup for the last three albums in a row. The only records in our career that have the same lineup, and we’ve done it now three times in a row because I think the five, six of us, including Ben Johnson. We’re at that point in our lives where we trust each other, and we don’t have to babysit new blood in the band, and you don’t have to rein people in and say, no, you’re not on the same page as us. That’s not what we want. It’s got to be like this. Everybody knows their place in this band, and everybody knows what’s expected to bring in. The writing process and creation, I’m not going to say it’s become easier, but it’s become more comfortable within the band because there’s a lot of trust and we gel together so well. You couple that with the fact that we do have a fan base and it’s growing, and it’s around the entire world, and we’re so lucky, and I’m so humbled to be able to go to other countries and never realize the fan base that we have.
I’m always expecting the worst and I think that’s the negative side of this band. We always go, we’re going to go there, and no one’s going to show up. Then there are hundreds of kids, and we’re like, oh my God, we’re not that band that has an inflated ego. We always think of the opposite. Who’s going to come to see this shit? Then we’re always surprised. We are so thankful and so humbled, and by every fan that supports us, that’s what allows us to keep moving forward. Without support and fans, we couldn’t do this. No label would give us money, and we would have to stop. That’s what it is. I have a great group of guys that we can create with, and we have some great loyal fans that allow us to keep doing it. As long as we can, we will.
This year also marks your 30th anniversary and as you said, it started out as a hobby. When you first started, did you expect that it would last for 30 years and still going strong?
No, no, no, no. Never. I would’ve never thought I’d still be a band this long. Over the years, if you knew that conversation on how many times we’ve had the discussions of quitting, I mean we did quit once after the very first album, Amid Its Hallowed Mirth, came out. We wrote an entire second record that was never released that sounded just like the first record. We have a whole album of material that no one has ever heard. We wrote this record and said, “What’s the point of putting on another record that sounds just like the first one?” We kind of parted ways for about six months. We reformed with a new goal and a new idea for the future. But I mean, we’ve run into so many problems throughout the years. Of course, we’ve had the discussions. Maybe this should be it. Maybe we should just walk away from this. I’m glad we didn’t because, especially when we hit around The Pale Haunt Departure, a lot of doors started to open for us. We started getting invited to play festivals in Europe, and our popularity began to grow. Man, I think about all the things I would have missed, and I wouldn’t have been able to see the world that I’ve been able to travel thanks to this music and the fans that enjoy it. No, I would have never expected it, but I’m so glad that it did.
How do you balance Novembers Doom to your daily life?
Daylife is always first. I have a family. That always comes first, and I think that’s pretty much with the rest of the band. There are those moments where we know, okay, November’s Doom has this coming up, and we need to prepare for this. We’re going into the studio and then the family. We have time to prepare for it because we’re not a band that’s going out on the road for nine months out of the year. We can easily structure things in advance where family and jobs and everything knows, okay, this is what we need to do, this is the block of time we need off. I’m going to be pretty much not reachable during this time. As long as you have open communication with your family and you have open communication with everybody else in the band. You can usually make everything work because it’s not so demanding because it’s not a band that we’re needing to prepare for because we’re going on a six-month tour or anything like that.
We’ve established what we can do and when we can do it, and we’ve pretty much held to that. We can’t accept tours that we don’t feel is worth the sacrifice we’re going to have to do. You get five guys with families. We can’t go out for $500 a day. That’s not going to happen. We’ll lose our houses, and our bills won’t get paid, you know. There are just certain things that have to be in place, and unfortunately, we have to be selective about what we do, but that’s the choice we made when we decided this was a hobby and not a career.
Are there any touring plans you guys have for this year or next?
Unfortunately, we just had to turn down a tour in the United States. We just couldn’t come to terms to make that happen. We like playing the one-offs, the festivals. When we used our time to play like 70,000 Tons of Metal or Maryland Death Fest in America, we can get in front of the most eyes and ears in one shot, and that’s important to us. When we go to Europe, we will try to sandwich a week between some festivals. We’ll play Graspop or Hellfest and then we’ll try to play something else the following weekend and then we’ll try to fill in a couple of other countries, some shows along the way. If things like that can happen, we may get worthwhile, and that’s worth the sacrifice that we’re going to have lose not working and stuff like that because we’re going to get in front of more eyes and ears in one week than we would in a six-month tour in smaller countries. We have to be selective about what we do.
Are there any albums that you would like to revisit for a possible remaster?
Yeah, unfortunately, To Welcome the Fade is one of those records that I would love to be able to remix, but I don’t believe the masters exist anymore. I don’t think we’d be able actually to go in and remix and remaster that record. It’s not that I don’t like the production on it. I think it could stand to be a bit heavier of a record. We may have made some wrong choices in how it was mixed, but that was our fault. Other than that, we did that with The Knowing that we remixed that album years ago, and I think the new of that is a better mix. But no, you know what, I would be more interested in going and rerecording an entire album with our current lineup because I think the lineup is so much better. I think some of our earlier albums would stand for that kind of studio work. We don’t really look back. We look forward. I don’t know if anyone would be interested in doing something like that, but you never know, we might.
Is there anything else that you wanted to say or add about the album?
Yeah, I mean, it’s cliche to say, every band says this when they’re promoting a new album, we as Novembers Doom, we try to raise the bar for ourselves personally every time we put out a new record. We don’t want to rehash the same thing. We want to make something better and better and better every time. We don’t rest on our laurels. We don’t play it safe. We take chances. I think we’ve done that with Nephilim Grove, in my opinion, it is some of the best things we’ve ever done. It’s some of the best soloing that Larry’s ever done on the guitar, in my opinion. It’s some of the best vocals I’ve ever done with layers and harmonies. We put a lot of work into this record, and we’re very proud of this, and I want everybody to hear it any way you can. Check it out if you like it, support the band, buy the record. Buy a t-shirt if we come to your town, whatever you got to do, but we can’t continue if we don’t have support. You’re there for us, and we’re there for you, and hopefully, we can do this for a while longer.