Embrace the Knowing
CoC interviews Paul Kuhr of Novembers Doom
by: Pedro Azevedo
There are bands that just seem destined to strive for success against all odds, overcome adversity and, in the case of Novembers Doom, reach out of a market impregnated with pretty much anything -but- doom metal and make themselves noticed. _The Knowing_ [CoC #51] is the band's third full-length record, and its quality, together with the fact that it's being distributed by Dark Symphonies in America and Pavement in Europe, should guarantee at least some of the success they thoroughly deserve for their talent and perseverance. Vocalist Paul Kuhr tells us about the latest developments concerning Novembers Doom.

CoC: A lot seems to have happened with Novembers Doom since our last interview [back when _For Every Leaf That Falls_ was released; see CoC #31], including label and line-up changes and the release of two full-length albums. Would you like to tell us more about this sequence of events?

Paul Kuhr: Sure. It's a long story, but I'll pick it up from where we left off, a couple years back. From the mini-CD, Maria Abril came to us and said she was starting a label, and wanted to sign us to it. We did get other offers, some of which I regret not signing to, and waited it out to sign to Maria's new label. We then signed with her new label, Martyr Music, and at the time we felt it was the smartest thing we could have done. We were good friends with Brian Griffin, and he was signing Broken Hope and his side project Em Sinfonia to them, so we figured, with a band like Broken Hope signing to them, and just coming off of a Metal Blade contract, it could mean good things for the label. The thought was Broken Hope's name would raise all eyebrows to the fledgling label, and the recognition would be there. Martyr started placing ads in the magazines, and started to work the press. They got the buzz going about the label, and it was exactly what we thought would happen. We knew going into a new label, that they didn't have the distribution yet, and there was almost none when _Of Sculptured Ivy and Stone Flowers_ was released [CoC #42]. By the time the distro was in place, the CD was seven months old, and the advertising had already taken a back seat to the Broken Hope release. We have always felt that a band has the job of writing and recording a CD that is to the best of their ability. We did that job, and handed in a great disc. The label's job is to then work the advertisements, press and promos for the CD in order to sell as many copies as possible. To this day, I get e-mails from people telling me they can't find the disc. So, none of us wanted the next CD to come out on Martyr, with the possibility of the same thing happening. We worked hard for years in this band, and no way did we want nothing to come of it. We all felt we deserved to be treated better than the red-headed stepchild, so we asked for our release, which was turned down. We wanted off Martyr. It was no secret. We felt it was best for the band and the label for us to part ways. We were not getting a clean break from Martyr, and we were under contract for two more CDs. I spoke with Dark Symphonies, who wanted us on his label, and explained our contract situation. He immediately went to bat for us, contacted Martyr, and purchased the remainder of our contract from Martyr Music. _The Knowing_ was then released on Dark Symphonies. Ted and DS is the very best that could have happened to this band in a long time, and we're now at home where we belong. He's already done so much for us, and I can't begin to tell how nice it is to be on the top of someone's priority list. The CD is in its third pressing, and it will be released in Europe through Pavement Music.

CoC: Exactly how has your signing with Dark Symphonies helped you, what have they done to improve your situation?

PK: Dark Symphonies is amazing. The promotion has been amazing, and they work so hard for their bands. Everyone is treated equally, no matter how much you sell. They like to create an all-around impressive package, and it's all helped the movement of the CD greatly. We're being pushed in the right areas, to the right people, and we don't get pushed to the bottom of the totem pole. It's all about the love of the music, and not about being rich. Like I said, we're at home with DS.

CoC: I heard your bassist Mary Bielich had left the band, but then I recently read in your website she might be staying after all. What can you tell us about this situation?

PK: Mary moved to Pittsburgh, PA (about five hours from Chicago) and as a band we all decided to give it a try, and remain a band, hooking up to rehearse a few times a month. It's been difficult, but Mary has come though for us with shows and such. I guess you could say she's filling in for us until we find a solid replacement (which won't be easy).

CoC: You have several doomy labelmates now on Dark Symphonies, but you're actually the only doom/death band on the label... any particular favourites of yours among those bands?

PK: I'm a fan of Rain Fell Within [CoC #46]. I think the band is amazing. DS made a perfect choice when they signed RFW. Autumn Tears [CoC #45 and #48] is another killer group on the label. Their songs really touch emotion. Dark Symphonies is very smart in who they sign. No two bands sound alike.

CoC: How do you think doom metal has generally evolved in the US since we last spoke?

PK: I'm not really sure that it has. The popularity may have grown in the style, but without the support of the American scene, it will never be as accepted as in Europe. The States love their grinding death metal, so doom is hard to move. It's gotten better with the popularity of "stoner rock", and it's a nice link to our style, but American doom bands still struggle to keep moving forward. This style of music is not as accepted in the States like it is in Europe, but we do get a positive reaction when we play. There is a good amount of fans who enjoy this style, and enough bands these days to have a few great shows. Of course, a show like Milwaukee MetalFest is the best for it, because you can play for people who you would never have the chance to, and it's a show like that where you can "turn" people on to a style, or to your band. Will we ever be a "big" band in this style? Most likely no, but we love what we're doing, and as long as there are people around the world who will buy and appreciate our music, we're happy.

CoC: _The Knowing_ has been out for a few months now; retrospectively, how satisfied are you with this latest record of yours?

PK: I think anytime you complete an album, you listen back and always hear things you would like to change. It goes for the whole band. The CD is great for all of us, and the overall mood and vision is right on the money, but if we could change a few things to the overall sound, we would. Just things we will make sure we fix on the next recording. It was very long, and at times very frustrating. It took us about a year to complete the writing for the CD, and in that time we struggled with writing within a concept. Different moments of the CD needed different sounding songs, so we weren't as free to create. We had guidelines to follow, which made it a bit difficult. The final product made it all worth it, though. Much more thought went into this CD, and we took time to work on little things like background sounds, or something to enhance a moment, which we didn't do in the past. I feel this is a perfect release to follow _Of Sculptured Ivy and Stone Flowers_, and all the reviews we've seen so far are calling this our best work to date, and I have to agree. The next goal is to make a better CD than this one, so we're back to the drawing board.

CoC: You seem to have strived to increase variety and perhaps also the atmosphere itself in your music with _The Knowing_. You used some female vocals before, but this time you have also utilized some more piano, acoustic guitars and more clean male vocals as well, whilst keeping the basis of your traditional style intact (your death vocals and Eric Burnley's guitar style being the most recognisable elements). Do you agree with this analysis? What do you feel led to these options?

PK: I would agree with you 100%. It took us a bit over a year to write _The Knowing_. We are all perfectionists, and wanted everything to be exactly as it was envisioned when writing. One of the goals we set for ourselves was to make sure no two songs on the CD sounded exactly alike, but maintain the sound that is our own. It's not an easy task, but we worked hard towards our goal, and I believe we reached it.

CoC: I understand you are already writing new material, and judging by the direction on _The Knowing_, I'm tempted to ask you whether the music is becoming yet more atmospheric than before... I can imagine contrast increasing even more in your music because of that -- or will you reduce the heavier parts a bit more in the future to keep that contrast more under control?

PK: I don't think we'll ever get too far from what you would expect from a Novembers Doom CD. I can tell you, the new material is much like _The Knowing_, only at times heavier, and catchier. It's still way too early to tell, but we're all very happy with the new material so far. It's coming out faster and better than we all expected, and we're looking for a November 2001 release.

CoC: Lyrically, the "I want to live my life once more" part in the chorus of "Silent Tomorrow" seems to be quite important in _The Knowing_. Do you agree? Would you like to tell us more about that?

PK: It's a bold statement. If you could go back, and re-live your life, fixing the mistakes, and doing things differently the second time around, would you? I would. There are many things I would change in my life. Many mistakes that I would avoid. It's a thought that takes its own life in the story.

CoC: What meaning do you find in _The Knowing_'s somewhat unusual cover art? How much of a connection do you feel it has to your lyrics?

PK: The booklet cover is a shadow of a person, reaching for a key. The key is knowledge, supreme knowledge. It will open "The Knowing". The best way to understand is to sit down and listen to the CD from front to back, and read along with the lyrics. It will all make sense then. After you read the concept, the artwork all ties in with the story. Travis [Smith] did an amazing job for us, and caught the essence of the story with his artwork.

CoC: What are your plans and hopes for the future? Touring? Releasing a new album in the near future?

PK: We would love to hit the road for a tour, and it may happen as soon as 2001. 2001 will also bring the re-release of our first CD, _Amid It's Hallowed Mirth_, with a bonus CD of live songs, cover songs, and some rare music not many have heard. Also look to November for a new CD from us. We're staying busy this year!

CoC: Please conclude this interview in any way you'd like...

PK: Pedro, as always, thank you for your time, and for this interview. It's great to see CoC is still alive and kicking after all these years. It's one of the more respected online zines in the scene today, and I'm glad to be part of it! Thanks again! For updates check out www.novembersdoom.com. To hear music, www.mp3.com/novembersdoom. And to buy merchandise, www.darksymphonies.com.

(article submitted 13/3/2001)

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