As I’ve said before, until about a year and change ago I wasn’t into the whole death/doom metal thing, but since then I have lapped up music from many bands in these genres like a heavy metal kitten at a saucer of Devil’s Milk. So when the opportunity came in early fall to sit down with NOVEMBERS DOOM singer/songwriter/founding member Paul Kuhr I jumped at the chance. We touched on latest album Bled White, how new drummer Garry Naples is doing, comic books, and more. Take a look:
Amps: Tell me a little about what went into the writing and recording of Bled White.
Paul: It’s a three-year process. Usually we’ll push an album out in two. The reason it took a little longer is we were working in our new drummer Garry Naples. The process is the guitarists they come in with riff ideas and we start to arrange. This album was a little different. We wanted to incorporate new inspirations so a lot of thought, and maybe some over-thought went into the music! We wrote, then threw it away and re-wrote, and it was definitely a process of elimination kind of thing trying to find the material that we were most comfortable with and that we felt was the best we could do.
Amps: I really enjoyed your clean vocals on this album, particularly on “The Silent Dark”.
Paul: Thank you very much! Vocally it was something where from the beginning Larry (Roberts, guitar) and I sat down and he said, “What I’d really like to do this album is instead of focusing a lot on the hook let’s try to make the vocal melodies kind of the hook of the song. And have the guitars a little bit more loose and open.” So we sat down and made the hook of the song vocally. A little bit more work went into the cleans this time than they have in the past.
Amps: Also on “Heartfelt” I could see shades of AMON AMARTH and SKELETONWITCH combined with THE SISTERS OF MERCY, three bands I absolutely love!
Paul: Very nice! Yeah “Heartfelt” was interesting in that it was supposed to have a guest vocal on it from a singer/songwriter named Greg Laswell. He and I started talking because I’m a fan of his work and he’s a fan of metal and what we did is he sent me some mP3’s and during the choruses and the real high vocal stuff on there, he originally wrote it. And unfortunately we couldn’t get him into the studio in time for the final product so I had to go in and redo all that he sent me. It surprised me what I could actually pull off vocally (laughs) and it’s opened up my highs for the future that I never would have realized if not for his input.
Paul: I always find with new blood that it does tend to light a fire under the rest of us because they have an energy that maybe the rest of us were lacking a little bit. You bring somebody new in and everyone’s a little more fired up. So yeah, Garry definitely brought some new components and he knew coming in that he was replacing Sasha (Horn, FORBIDDEN) so he really had some big shoes to fill, and he stepped up and filled them perfectly. Some of the best compliments he’s received on this album were that people were listening to it and not even knowing it wasn’t Sasha. So he has really stepped up and taken control of that drummer’s position and he does it with master techniques.
Amps: You’ve been The Man in this band for a while now…
Paul: (Playfully interrupting) know what? I am THE MAN, period. And you can quote me!
Amps: I will, dammit (Both of us laugh)! What have you learned over the course of your tenure in the music business?
Paul: Oh, I’ve learned an awful lot. I learned that the music business is a horrible business to be in. I’ve learned that I love what I do and the music that I do but I HATE the business. And it can suck the love out of what you and that is the unfortunate demon in the industry. If you want to succeed and you want to go further you may have to do some things you’re not comfortable doing. It can ruin what you love fast. And when you realize that no matter how hard you work or how hard you try within your limitations that this will never be more than a glorified hobby. It takes a special love for what you’re doing to be able to have the longevity we’ve had. And to be able to continue putting in your own personal time and money and everything else that goes along with it, it is a labor of love. You really do have to love this. I am so very thankful that we have enough fans that enjoy what we do that allows me to continue doing what I love to do. I may not live off of this, but I get to do a lot of things that a lot of other people in bands don’t get to. I’ve played Graspop Metal Meeting in Belgium twice, I’ve played festivals all over Europe and I’m so grateful that we have a fan base that allows me to do that.
Amps: What’s it like when you go and play Graspop and there’s a sea of faces looking back at you?
Paul: You know, it can be humbling and overwhelming. But it is also very comfortable and very at home. It’s where we shine. We love that atmosphere. I don’t get nervous when I walk out onstage, I haven’t since 1989. You get over those nerves early on and then you get yourself in the zone, and you walk out on that stage and you know that your job is to entertain and get these people worked up, even if not for us then for the next band. Every band on a bill has a job to do. We’ve never been egotistical enough to sit back and think we deserve that sort of thing or it just comes to us. You have to earn the respect of everybody in that crowd and that’s what we try to do every time we play. So the bigger the audience the harder we’re gonna work. We love being put in that position.
Amps: Are you still doing graphic design work?
Paul: Oh yeah. Not as much as I used to do, but I do a lot of freelance design. It’s fun for me.
Amps: Away from the band what do you like to do?
Paul: I’m a family guy. I have my daughter and I spend a lot of time with family and my girlfriend. I’m a nerd, I love comic books and superheroes, collecting old toys. I’m a tech nerd, too. I repair and resell Apple stuff. I do a lot of stuff on the side.
Amps: Do you have a favorite track on the record?
Paul: It’s such a cliché answer but when you put that much work into every one of those songs they all have some kind of special meaning to you. The ones I enjoy listening to are, “Just Breathe”, “Heartfelt” and “Clear” right now. I’m really proud of all of these songs. “Just Breathe’ is really fun to do live. I really enjoy singing that one.
Amps: What’s going to happen as far as a tour?
Paul: You know, it’s really difficult with our lives. We all have jobs and families. We’re not young anymore so it’s really difficult for us to get away from everything and try to tour. At our age we are very selective on when and where we play. We just have to have a situation that works financially for everybody because we can’t afford to just break even. We can’t go away for 30 days, but if we’re able to do say, four or five shows over a long weekend we could do that. A full-on tour just isn’t possible right now.
Amps: How is life for Paul Kuhr right now?
Paul: It feels great, I got no complaints. I went through a rough couple of years, but I’m in a very happy place right now and I’m loving life.
Amps: What do you want to say to all the fans of not just NOVEMBERS DOOM fans old and new?
Paul: I thank you very much for supporting us because without you guys we wouldn’t be able to do this, and we love doing this. I know we can’t make everybody happy all the time. All I can promise you is that we will continue to do the best that we can do to make the best music we can and hopefully you’ll continue to enjoy that.
In addition to the greatness that IS NOVEMBERS DOOM, Paul has also just released album number three, At the Feast of Seven Funerals, with his other band THESE ARE THEY, which is outstanding. So you’ve got not one, but TWO releases from Paul Kuhr and Co.’s for your listening pleasure this year. Treat yourself to both. After all, it’s the holiday season!