Full Metal Maniacs Interview is here.


Why not?
Jun 21, 2003
This is for anyone who is a fan of Novembers Doom, and never got the chance to read the Metal Maniacs interview. You really should read this!

Novembers Doom
For Every Tear That Falls
by AnneMarie Bowman

The gift of life, treasure it for it is pure. Music is such a special gift in life, created by artists and given to strangers for no other reason but their joy. Music means a lot of different things to different individuals. Music can be a lifeline for some, something to turn to when the perils and pain of life have overwhelmed. Music can convey all kinds of emotion. Have you ever noticed that sometimes really sorrowful music can make you happy? Why is that? Maybe because the sorrow you feel is lifted up and taken away on the wings of the sorrow you hear, and you realize that things really aren’t that bad, that somewhere in the world, things are a lot worse and you find the strength to go on one more day. Take the genre of heavy music typically known as doom metal. The whole point the creators of this type of music try to convey is misery, despair and sorrow. A feeling of doom, hence the tag this form of music generated. What possibly could be inside these tortured individuals that can make them put words and music to their feelings? Is there really that much misery in their lives? The frightening realization is that with Novembers Doom, the answer to that is yes.
Take Novembers Doom, an American band playing a type of music dominated by My Dying Bride, always overshadowed by the European bands, and worse yet, accused of being second rate copies. From the Chicago area, Novembers Doom [Paul Kuhr, vocals, Larry Roberts and Eric Burnley, guitars and Joe Nunez, drums] have been around for 10 years and have four albums under their belt, the newest release out now on Dark Symphonies. Titled To Welcome The Fade, musically it is a huge step forward for Novembers Doom to finally have respect and recognition as their own entity. But at what cost? Produced by Neil Kernon (Queensrÿche, Yes, Kansas, Nevermore), Neil helped ND find a huge sound that will automatically set them apart with one listen. But it isn’t only the stellar production that will propel them, but the very real pain and misery in the words and music. As painful as it is to bring you this story, there is hope that through others sorrow joy can be found. To Welcome The Fade was created by artists with a sheer love of the music, and even though it was inspired by sorrow, it is also meant to be gift of joy for all those who love and appreciate good music.

MM: How did you meet Neil Kernon and how did you decide you wanted to work with him?

Paul Kuhr: We met Neil through Macabre. Several years had passed by and Neil contacted us and told us that he’d like to work with us. We didn’t think it would be possible, we didn’t think we would be able to work with somebody of that caliber, we didn’t think we could afford him really. He ended up being extremely flexible and we worked it out. I was familiar with his work with Nevermore. He’s a high profile producer and with the way funding goes in the underground metal scene, I really thought he was beyond our reach. When all this came together and it panned out we were pretty amazed.

MM: The production is brilliant. For this genre of music, I think this is the best production I have ever heard. You will probably see your peers and contemporaries knocking on his door asking for his hand in their productions.

PK: It’s already started, some friends of ours in bands have asked for his number. He’s an amazing person and he was so easy to work with. You forget who he is and who he’s worked with. There were a few times in the recording process where I had to take a step back I was so overwhelmed. I thought I was going to get in front of the microphone and growl like an idiot when this guy has worked with some of the best vocalists in the industry. He never looked at you differently than everybody else. He’s very down to earth. He makes you comfortable. Through this whole process he has become a friend and I am really happy to have met him.

MM: Do you think he has brought out the best in you?

PK: Absolutely brought out the best in me. And I think he has done it for the rest of the band as well. Because he requires that. If he does not feel you have given it your best, you will do it over and over and over until he feels you have captured the emotion needed for the part. In some aspects we didn’t really work with a real producer before so we didn’t know what to expect as far as letting somebody come in and say, “OK, this is what I think you should do.” Of course we had our own ideas. I think the biggest challenge with working with him was taking a backseat and just letting him do his job. We had recorded three albums on our own. We knew what we could do. But it was time to let somebody else take control.

MM: And you didn’t have reservations about that?

PK: I can’t speak for the rest of the band because I know others had issues with it but for me personally I was ready to say, “Let’s see what you can do.” I was really anxious to hear the final product. We had a lot of say, don’t get me wrong. He was easy to collaborate back and forth on ideas. He made some arrangement suggestions; things were very easy and very smooth. I was excited to hear the final product because I was curious to hear what somebody of his character could make us sound like.

MM: When Novembers Doom got together, what was the vision for the band and the music?

PK: We just wanted to be one of the slowest, heaviest bands we could possibly be. Back when we started, the mentality was it was going to be like listening to Grave but on a slower speed. Extremely slow and heavy. Eventually the band’s goals shifted and some didn’t want to move ahead. We kind of got old after the first album. We had a second album written that really wasn’t an improvement over the first one. We decided to not do anything with it so we kind of deformed the band. I reassembled it and I wanted to add melody and atmosphere. It wasn’t just a fun high school thing anymore. I wanted to take it to a new level.

MM: Do you feel any pressure when you get compared to My Dying Bride and Opeth?

PK: I don’t feel pressure. I guess I am comfortable with those comparisons because we are friends with those bands. It does get very frustrating though. We draw the obvious comparisons constantly. My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost and Anathema. And if you take those three bands, well they don’t sound anything like each other! And yet we get lumped in with them. I certainly look at it as an honor; I mean these are some of the bands that are the best in the business.

MM: Well there have been quite a few bands that have tried this type of dark, heavy, doomy, progressive death metal or whatever the hell tag us journalists are giving it this week, and have failed miserably. Probably because of the comparisons. “Oh, they’re a second rate MDB.” How hard is it to hold your own within this genre?

PK: Being from America is extremely difficult. Your general metal public in America doesn’t really appreciate this kind of slower music. Only a small portion of the death metal crowd appreciates what we do. So we already have one strike against us with our own fans in America. The other problem is that because we are from America, I don’t think the European fan base gives us the same chance as the European bands. And it’s difficult when you are overshadowed by fantastic bands like Opeth. There are a lot of hurdles to overcome when you are an American band playing this type of music.

MM: Do you think the average metal fan can tell when someone isn’t being sincere with their music?

PK: Good question. I don’t want to say the average metal fan, but the true metal fan who lives and breathes metal and absolutely loves it, those are the people who can tell. They can tell if people are doing it because they truly love it compared to people who do it just to say, “Hey, I’m in band.” I think there are a great number of metal fans who love it enough and know exactly where you are coming from. Average metal fans, like the ones who listen to nu-metal, they don’t fully appreciate sincerity I think.

MM: I personally feel that the best music comes from deep within, and comes from a place of experience. I have asked this before so I will throw it by you. Do you have to be in love to write a love song?

PK: No, I don’t think so. No matter what people say, no matter how they think, everybody wants love. Everybody wants to find the person to be in love with. So it’s very easy to write about something you yearn for. I think once you actually achieve what you are looking for it might become more difficult to write about.

MM: Do you have to be full of misery and despair to write a truly sorrowful song?

PK: And truly mean it?

MM: Yes. Like what do you think is the difference between truly meaning it and not meaning it, and this kind of goes back to my question of sincerity in music. About somebody being able to tell who is sincere and who isn’t.

PK: That’s a very good question. And I am going to sound very hypocritical saying that I could write a love song without being in love, but I think it is harder to write a miserable song without having something to base it on. I think that everyone yearns for love, but not everybody wants to be miserable. Not everyone wants to be filled with pain. That is something everyone doesn’t want. So I think you need something to drive you on the misery side. On the love side I think it is easy to be driven just by the want.

MM: Well, I think then this is a good segue into discussing what I know has driven you when you sat down to write this album. What is driving you on this album? What has been the misery?

PK: Before I get into this, I just want to say that on every album before this one I have put personal elements into every song. But I had never sat down and truly written something entirely for myself. This was the first time where I sat down and said I was going to try to go beyond the stereotypes. It was the first time I was going to step outside the obvious poetry of the lyrics and write something personal that I needed to write. I definitely think that if people don’t understand, and people don’t know exactly why I wrote the album the way I did, they are going to find it coming off as whiney or from somebody who is looking for pity. That is absolutely not the case. I am not looking for sympathy or pity from anyone, not at all. But here goes. Two years go as we started to write this album, I started suffering from terrible pain in my back. I thought it was a herniated disk or something. My legs would go numb and stuff like that. As time went on and it wasn’t improving, I started to go see doctors. I had all kinds of tests, and I had an MRI. I was diagnosed with a disease called Spinal Stenosis. Which is not uncommon, but it is degenerative. My spine is degenerating. It’s breaking down and closing in on the spinal cord itself. It’s starting in the lower area which is why I have the leg numbness. Eventually it will cause paralysis. The thing that makes this unique is that most people do not get this until they are 60 or 70 years old. I was diagnosed at 28. In the past year I have gone to another specialist. We did more tests and we found out I have a second disease called Spondylitis, which is a fusing of bone. So not only is the Stenosis breaking down my spine, but the Spondylitis is fusing the bones starting in my hips and working its way up. If anybody has ever had a herniated disk…well from my neck to my lower back my disks have degenerated. My lower five or six vertebrate in my back are almost crumbled. I have been living in constant, continuous pain for the last two years. I take six Vicadin at a time just to try to stay comfortable. It cannot be stopped and there is no cure, at least not yet. So far I am told that I have the back of 70-year-old man and should prepare for the worst. When we started to write the album I had a lot of emotion from this, from being a young man and not really knowing how much longer I will lead a normal life. I know there are people in this world who are a lot worse off than me. I needed to do these lyrics for my own therapy. Up to this point, it took me a year to even tell my band. It was a long process. I cannot stand more than five minutes without having to sit down. When I play I kneel down at the drums to try to bring strength back to my back. I have a long road ahead of me.

MM: What kind of doctor’s care or therapy are you doing now? What can they do to help you?

PK: Right now, because there is not a cure, the main thing is trying to stay as comfortable as I can with pain medication. I started steroid/cortisone injections into my spine. They’re trying to dissolve some of the inflammation and relieve the pressure. I tried physical therapy and it didn’t work very well. Because it is degenerative, if they were to perform any kind of surgery within five years time I would need it again and there is no guarantees with surgery. There are so many bad places in my back that one surgery will not do any good. So that is the inspiration for the entire album, as well as the artwork.

MM: What gives you strength to make it through the day?

PK: My wife and my unborn baby. They are the two things that drive me every day. I want to run with my kid. I don’t want to play with her from a chair.

MM: When are you having your baby?

PK: November. Very fitting huh?

MM: The music of Novembers Doom has always been full of sorrow, even before your illness. It seems now that it comes more from a place of misery, and now, after this disclosure, that’s understandable.

PK: It’s more personal. I know what I was talking about before. I now have my own personal touch on it, whereas before it was just a love for the style. I wasn’t always a miserable person. None of us in the band are, even though we played the most miserable music, we are still a bunch of goofballs. We joke around and have fun. I didn’t grow up in poverty or on the streets. I have nothing to complain about as far as growing up. I guess the driving force inside knows you could be better than you are. Some people call it whining. I guess it is. Before it was a love for the style and an outlet for depression. The band has always been my outlet, any anger, depression, misery, I put it into the words and got behind the microphone and belted it out and I felt great. It was good therapy.

MM: Has creating music been therapeutic for you?

PK: Yes. To actually get personal feeling down on paper where I wasn’t hiding my words behind a veiled story. I made this album very obvious. I tried not to hide behind anything and put everything into words at the moment I felt it and wrote the song. Each song has a specific thought. The thing is, people wouldn’t understand unless they knew my situation. After talking it over with the band and my family, I thought that people would appreciate it more if they actually knew what it is about. People who know me have a hard time with this album. My wife has a terrible time listening to this album because she has lived through this with me. I needed to do this for me. I don’t want people who know me to have a hard time with it. It represents the last two years of my life. I listen to it and it actually makes me feel good. I think of the outcome of this album, and I think we put together a pretty damn good album. I think of my career in this band and I think it is some of the best stuff I have ever done.

MM: You said you didn’t tell your fellow band members right away. Why is that?

PK: Nobody wants to admit weakness. I needed to cope and deal with it before I could open up about it. I’m like that. I keep things inside. I went through a lot a pain even before I mentioned it to my wife. I used to keep everything bottled up and I guess this time I had to come to grips with my future and be ok with it first. When something is new to you, you’re hearing all this stuff from doctors and dealing with all this shit, I mean 30 years old and going to be in a wheelchair, all this stuff has a reality coming down on you all at once. The last thing I wanted was pity. I needed to accept it first. It was a personal choice. I needed to get myself to that level first.

MM: How do you cope with the prospect of someday not being able to stand and play, to go on the road?

PK: I have a hard time living a normal life. I have a hard time getting out of bed, going to the car, sitting at my desk. Things that people take for granted, that I once took for granted, have become difficult for me, have become a chore. This band has never really toured. Given the opportunity, I would love to do it. I want to try. To live that experience, that is what I do this for. First and foremost I have done this band because I loved it. I have loved every minute of it. It’s what has kept me going as long as we have. Four albums out and we’re not exactly a high profile band who has toured. I have loved it enough to keep doing it. One of my goals is to go on tour. I can’t be in any more pain in a van or on stage than I am at home in my chair. The pain is going to be there no matter where I am at so I want to make the best of it while I can.

MM: If there was anything in your life that you could change or do over again, what would it be?

PK: I wrote a song on The Knowing similar to that. I want to live my life once more, to be able to start over. Knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t make the same mistakes. I would change things in every aspect on my life. I would take chances. At the present moment, if there was one thing I could change, I would like a pain-free day. I would like a normal day without pain.

MM: You are the lyricist and vocalist. How did the songwriters of Novembers Doom come up with the perfect music to tell your personal story? The music is so fitting, so sad. Taking away the lyrics, the music conveys such a sense of misery and pain itself, and I was wondering how they were able to write the soundtrack for your sorrow.

PK: I think it’s just a matter of everyone working well together. We are all on the same page. We all know exactly what we want and where we are heading. When it came time to start this album I told them fairly early on what I would be writing about. We actually have a quite a bit of material that didn’t make it onto the album that we felt didn’t quite fit with everything else. I think that I might have helped inspired the mood, not necessarily the riffs, but Larry was sitting at home thinking how dark the subject matter was and it influenced him to write some darker and heavier riffs. I think we all help each other in that aspect. I think that is what makes the music writers in this band click. They work well together. I don’t think I can do this very good [by myself] because I didn’t write the riffs or the music. I do know it came together very quickly and easily though. The majority of the album didn’t come together until about three months before we went into the studio. They presented it to me and I listened to it and in my mind it was perfect for what I needed for the words. It’s hard to explain. All I can say is that everyone is so in tune with each other and we fit like a glove, and we just know what each other is looking for. I am surrounded by great musicians. Everyone in the band is so talented. I am very lucky to be able to surround myself with great people.

MM: Is it any solace to you that your pain makes others feel joy?

PK: That is the greatest thing I get out of this music. When people contact me and say, “You know what, the words and music of this song have changed my life. I was so depressed and this song lifted me.” You could look at it in one of two ways, you can listen to it and think well, my life doesn’t look so bad anymore, or it’s just that you like this type of music and it makes you feel good. To me it is a thrill to listen to somebody who has put that much emotion and that much effort into a song. I have never been a fan of happy music. I love the moody stuff. I appreciate that and it brings a smile to my face to know that that person put everything they had into creating it.

NOVEMBERS DOOM Select Discography
Amid Its Hallowed Mirth – 1995, Avantgarde Records
Of Sculptured Ivy And Stone Flowers – 1999, Martyr Music
The Knowing – 2000, Dark Symphonies
To Welcome The Fade – 2002, Dark Symphonies
stamate_filip said:
ok... i read this interview and i must say that i had no ideea about Paul's back problem.
well, I have to congratulate you, Paul, for managing to go on even in this situation!
all the best!

Thanks. It's all about family. I've got a wife and a daughter that give me as much strength as I need. I have no choice but to go on. Even in a band/music standpoint, it gives me great pleasure to write/record/perform music, and this band has given me a lot in life, so i'm greatful, and not ready to lay down and quit by any means. Shit, someday you may see me perform from a chair, and if that's the case, so be it!