Posted by Nick Skog on Thursday, February 26, 2015 Under: Interviews
Norilsk interview with Crown of Viserys Webzine
February 20, 2015
I first began interviewing Nicolas Miquelon in 2014, shortly after his band Norilsk released their debut EP 'Jepetus'. Our interview, like several others I have done, took a while to complete as it was done question by question over Facebook, rather than all of the questions at once. Also, it has sat on my hard drive as a saved openoffice document because it was to be included in the first issue of Crown of Viserys Magazine, but that is being quite the effort to release. So, without further ado, my interview with Norilsk.
When was Norilsk founded?
I officially started writing music that would become Norilsk at the end of 2011 (first snow storm of November to be precise), revisiting ideas that had been sitting on my computer for awhile, and writing others in a similar musical direction. In the span of a few weeks of Winter 2011-2012, I ended up with enough material to make an album. That’s when I approached Nick Richer, my bandmate in Damnus, and asked him if he would be interested in playing drums on what could be a doom death side project. Being a fan of Candlemass, My Dying Bride and Pyogenesis, he accepted immediately. That’s when Norilsk was founded officially, I suppose, and we started planning the next steps.
Your first release is a three song EP, which is a teaser for a full-length album. How many songs do you have prepared for the full-length? What will it be titled?
Although I can’t reveal too many details about it yet, the full length album shall be 8 songs long, and might include a bonus track (depending on copyrights, as is always the case for cover songs). The album will feature both “Japetus” and a different version of “Potsdam Glo”, and present the variety of influences displayed on the EP. There will be incursion into funeral doom and black metal territories, but the whole thing will stay firmly in the death doom and sludge categories. Even the artwork will be a continuity of what has been displayed so far, with the contribution of a talented professional illustrator and visual artist. The idea with this album will be to give the full Norilsk experience, both on the thematic and musical levels.
Does Norilsk play live shows? Are you still only a duo live, or have you fleshed the band out with other live members?
When Norilsk started, we wanted to keep it a studio project exclusively. As we released the EP and received comments, we realized that we could easily add two members to the fold and perform live. Since I am first and foremost a bass player, it made more sense to keep the bass/vocals duty and ask two guitar players to come along. One of them is Mart Marion (Outrage AD, Maggie Astor Creed) who is also doing guest appearance on the album (spoiler alert!), and the other is Chris Humeniuk (from Fumigation). Nick Richer still plays drums and does backup vocals. It was important for us to find musicians who had experience, but who also knew about doom and would enjoy playing it.
How long have you been playing music, and in comparison, how long have you officially been in the music business?
I come from a very traditional French-Canadian background, and folk music has been an integral part of my childhood. For my grand parents and parents, it was important that kids learn how to tap, respond to songs, play the spoons or know the reels, but it was even more important that we (the kids) experience the music ‘collectively’ and understand its cultural value. Having said that, I never really was into nostalgic or folk revivalist music, even in metal, but I definitely dig the collective experience of playing music in general. I started playing in bands while I was a teenager, about the same time I started growing my hair. I even purchased my first bass guitar from my former hairdresser.
This happened a little over twenty years ago, and I still play metal and have long hair!
I got into the music business as a consequence of playing music. When you’re in a band, someone has to book venues, organize tours, deal with promoters and other bands, ask for album reviews and coordinate radio interviews, and make the band projects happen in the long run. I ended up being that guy, especially with Kintra, a Montreal band I played with from 2001 to 2013. I ended up having a lot of fun organizing festivals (with folks from other bands), managing contracts, and dealing with various media. I also was a freelance consultant in the culture field for a while (my expertise is actually in architectural history), and I was hired at one point to process various artists’ media kits, and to draft festival programs. I guess it was just a matter of opportunity and availability when, a few years ago, I started writing album reviews and contributing to various media. While it’s always an honor to help other bands out, I like to think that my bands also benefit from all these experiences.
What are the lyrics to the song “Japetus” about?
Japetus, or Iapetus, was the greek titan god of mortality, and representative of the west. His name was given to the ocean that came before our Atlantic Ocean, the latter being named after Iapetus’ son Atlas. The ocean floor of Iapetus can still be seen in Gros Morne, Newfoundland.
A lot of Norilsk‘s lyrics speak about identity and the land, and are illustrated through different iconographies. In this song, the music is evocative of deep and devastating waves rolling over primeval lands. The lyrics of Japetus depict a deluge and the omen of death it represents, in a time before our time. Coincidentally, Japetus being the first song on the EP, it was our way to introduce Canadian doom-death to many people–like a tsunami.
Why did you chose the “newer” spelling of Japetus rather than the “classical” spelling, Iapetus?
This is purely because it is less popular with a J, and because of the French spelling “Japet”.
What is it about “Negatron” by Voivod that you chose to cover it?
As you know, Voivod are one of the pillars of metal in the country, especially in Québec, and for this sole reason (plus the fact that we really like them!) it made a lot of sense for us to pay them homage. If we were to cover Voivod, however, we thought it would be more meaningful to cover a song that fit the doom-death aesthetic, rather than venturing into thrash or progressive. “Negatron” is the title track of one of their most obscure albums, from the so-called “death metal” period (although not exactly death metal), but it is easily recognizable because it’s bass-driven and has very negative lyrics. While we know it may not be among the classic Voivod songs, it nonetheless is one that we like — plus, according to Michel “Away” Langevin, we may be one of maybe two bands only who covered them in their 30+ years career.
“Potsdam Glo” is a hell of a song, and I’m wondering what that song’s lyrics are about as well. Do they, like “Japetus”, talk about the land, or do they take a different approach?
The lyrics to “Potsdam Glo” are symbolic and a little abstract. Like Japetus, it is about the land, but it comes from a different perspective. Potsdam is one of the main bed rock formations under the St. Lawrence river area, and I wanted to make a parallel with the “rock” music culture in this area I come from. The title Potsdam Glo(w) could be understood as “the matte reflection of an opaque stone” (or something like that), and this is the kind of idea I was playing with: Quebec’s music scene and the fact that it is either seen as imposing or hermetical, depending where you stand.
For those familiar with the EP version, what is different about the “Potsdam Glo” on the full length?
This song appeared on the EP we released last year, but we called it an alternate version because of the way it is handled on each of these two releases. The album version was mixed and mastered by Mike Bond, who also recorded the drums and mixed all of The Idea of North; while the EP version of “Potsdam Glo” was mixed and mastered by Jean-Philippe Latour, who recorded the bass, guitars and vocals for the album. Each guy has a different view on production, Mike having more of a hardcore/sludge touch, and Jean-Philippe taking a more traditional metal approach when it comes to mixing an album. I believe you can hear the differences in the textures of each mix, especially the guitars and bass, but also in the chorus and the low end frequencies. It also made sense to us to have an edited intro to “Potsdam Glo” on the EP because it was 3-song long, and keeping the repetitive, hypnotic full length for the album.
Most of the lyrics on The Idea of North are in French, with the lyrics in both French and English in the booklet. I can understand why there would be French lyrics, by why did you choose to include the English translations?
The bilingual lyrics in the booklet were not a requirement from Hypnotic Dirge Records, but rather something we suggested them in order to give the fans a general idea of what we’re saying in our mother tongue. HDR is a label whose target audience is spread across the globe, and we are thankful to get the fan’s, the label’s and the media’s support for an album which lyrics are mostly in French. In other words, this is our way of saying “thank you for purchasing this album”.
Is the album indeed eight songs long as planned originally, and is there a cover song on it?
There are eight original songs on the album, which we thought was perfect given their length and the dynamic between them. From a technical point of view, we also took into consideration the recommended time per vinyl side for audio quality. Having said that, we recorded two extra cover songs during our studio session, with the intention to use them on an EP or a split, etc. The first one, a Voivod cover, was added to the EP last year, while the second, a tongue-in-cheek rendering of a pop song from Philippe Lafontaine, was added to the CD version of The Idea of North as a bonus track. One thing about the latter: we chose “Coeur de loup” because the text becomes very dark and twisted when taken out of its context and wrapped into a doom-death shroud. At the end, it says “C’est joli quand c’est laid” (“It’s nice when it’s ugly”), which captures accurately the spirit of our music.
In : Interviews
Tags: "norilsk" "death-doom metal" "the idea of north" "japetus" "sludge doom" "canadian doom metal" "gatineau quebec" "my dying bride" "morne" "morgion"