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Metal/Prog Metal Interviews

November's Doom

Interviewed by Mike Korn
Interview with Paul Kuhr of Novembers Doom From 2005 
This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 4 at

You've just released your latest album "The Pale Haunt Departure" and the obvious question would be, how satisfied are you with how it turned out?
I think out of everything we've ever done, this is the one album where we've been the most satisfied with the outcome.
MSJ: You assembled quite an all-star team to help out with the CD. Dan Swano, James Murphy, Chris did they all come to be involved with this release?
We used Chris several times before. We used him to record our CD "The Knowing", we've used him for several demos and we've always been the most comfortable recording with Chris. I think he's one of the best engineers around who really makes us comfortable and brings the best out of us. Working with him this time around was a no-brainer. We had talked about the possibilities of who we wanted to mix the album. As comfortable as we are working with Chris, I think a new set of ears to listen to what you've done can make all the difference in the world. You can get a fresh idea and an outside opinion to help things sound that much better. We were throwing around different ideas for who we wanted to work with and one of the names that came up was Dan's. The entire band has been such a fan of his for so long, we decided to take a shot at it and sent him an email asking if he would be interested in doing this. It just so happened that the timing was right. He was looking for some mixing jobs himself, he was a fan of the band and it worked out perfectly.
MSJ: I can hear echoes of the gloomier moments of Edge of Sanity in November's Doom...
Absolutely, there's no denying that. It's kind of a breath of fresh air to hear you say that, because Edge of Sanity is an influence of ours and nobody has ever picked up on that before. Dan himself caught it right away when he started listening to us. We have a song called "Dark World Burden" that Dan contributes a solo to and when he heard that song, he went "wow, this has really got the Edge of Sanity feel to it".
MSJ: How did James get involved?
James was actually one of the few people we talked to initially about mixing the album. We didn't want to have just one choice in case Dan said no.. When I was talking to James, he mentioned that he also does mastering. When we decided to use Dan to mix the album, we turned to James for mastering.. He wanted us to keep him in mind, we listened to some of his mastering and we thought it was great.
MSJ: When you say this is the most satisfying November's Doom record, is it merely in terms of the sound or is it more the concept behind the record or is the whole package?
It's easily the whole package, from conception to completion. It's something that very early on, we sat down as a band and discussed the page we wanted to be on with the music, what our goals were, adding more aggression into the sound. One of the problems we felt we had over the last several albums was the fluidity and continuity between songs that tended to be a little rough. When you listen to an album like "To Welcome the Fade" and there are moments that sound like they don't belong on that CD. It was a problem we've always had and I think it comes down to having so many influences and so many people involved in the writing process. There were a lot of different elements coming from different directions. This time around , before we even began writing, we all put our heads together and got on the same page. Everyone worked for the same goal and the same direction this time. It paid off. Even when we took chances or stepped out of the box a little, it still sounds like November's Doom on that album, from beginning to end.
MSJ: The cover art and interior images on this CD are just absolutely beautiful...
I agree with you completely.
MSJ: Can you tell us a little about the images? Maybe the symbolism of the scarecrows on the cover?
It's not a concept album but it does have a theme. When it came down to the art, we had used Travis Smith for the last couple of albums and I was going to use Travis again when, by chance, I came across this guy named Attila from Budapest, Hungary. The only thing he's done to this point has been novel and book covers. He's been trying to get into the CD market. We told him that we were talking about doing a DVD and we really liked some of the stuff you did. Send us an image. He sent me something I really liked. When it came time to do the album, I got back to him and said, this is what we are thinking. I want to illustrate every song and I have this kind of concept. He just started sending images that completely blew me away. He's amazing, he's absolutely amazing, and I think he's gonna get a lot of work from this.
MSJ: Was he a fan of the band?
No, I found him on a graphic forum on the Internet. It was totally by chance.
MSJ: I've always thought LP art was superior to CD art, but I could make an exception for this.
(laughter) He's a fan now! He did a great job!
MSJ: What do the scarecrows in the art stand for?
It all extends from the title track, "The Pale Haunt Departure". It's basically a struggle between faith and hope. It symbolizes the end of your days and it is loosely based also on Christianity. The scarecrow and the crucifixion are similar. To me, the song is basically saying if there is a possibility that there is nowhere to go when you die, you are pretty much stranded and left behind. You've had faith your entire life and it's been for nothing. The scarecrow is pretty much left to live out his fate as a shell, an empty being.
MSJ: I thought the title track almost sounded like the regrets of somebody who recently died.
Absolutely! There is a lot of regret in that song, you hit the nail right on the head.
MSJ: You mentioned faith and hope in the lyrics. Is there room for hope in the music of November's Doom, because it sounds pretty bleak on the surface?
I have more hope than I have faith. It's more of a personal belief. I have a lot of hope that there will be something better and that all of this is for a reason, that it's not for nothing. But I don't have faith that it is.
MSJ: Are most of the lyrics autobiographical then?
Honestly, yeah, it's very autobiographical and it's very personal and it has been for the last couple of albums I've done. This is just a continuation of my day to day struggles. A lot has happened to me in the last couple of years which has made me rethink things and put things in perspective.
MSJ: A brush with mortality...
I was diagnosed with a spinal disease which is slowly crippling me. So that gives me a lot to think about and it puts me in constant physical pain every day. It's just something I'm living with and it is something that I deal with every day of my life.
MSJ: I feel a connection to you then. My Dad had a condition that left him unable to walk and care for himself.
It certainly breaks you down. It shows you things very differently. You really start to question a lot of things.
MSJ: Is it cathartic to write these songs? Is it a big help for you to write these songs and get your pain out in that way?
Absolutely. It's completely my therapy. I use the music, I use the lyrics to release everything I keep bottled up.
MSJ: Have any fans come up to you and say "Hey, November's Doom has given me a new perspective and really helped me"?
Many, many times, personally and through email, people have come up to me and to me, that's the greatest reward of all of this. When people come to me and a stupid lyric or something I enjoy doing makes a difference to somebody, it's absolutely amazing to me and it's something I never expected.. I remember when I first announced I had this was in an interview a few years ago in Metal Maniacs magazine...and I remember getting emails from doctors who were actually metalheads who gave me advice and asked me to call them. You know, for as crappy as this world is, there's a lot of good people out there!
MSJ: There were many passages on "Pale Haunt Departure" that I could relate to. It makes you think and there's not a lot of music that makes you think these days.
That's a great compliment to me, thank you very much!
MSJ: November's Doom is considered a doom metal band but I noticed on the new album that the pace was actually quick on a few tracks, with double bass drumming. Do you find the really slow, funeral dirge paced doom to be monotonous, is that why you break it up with these aggressive parts?
I was into that kind of doom back in 92. To me, it's so long gone in our arsenal...we don't even want to be considered a doom band anymore. We've tried to shed that tag for the last couple of albums and it's difficult to do no matter how quick or fast we play things. People will say "they're doom metal but they play it fast"!(laughter)
MSJ: I think I'm guilty of that misconception myself.
Sure, I understand that completely! We put ourselves in that position because of the way we started out. I hope people will give this more of a chance. The doom metal scene is such a finicky bunch of people, such a small, isolated scene. When you think of doom, you automatically think of the slow, funeral dirge stuff. With that tag on us, I'm afraid there might be people who won't give us a chance because they think we're that way. And we're not. I think we have a lot to offer anybody who likes aggressive metal. We've got slower stuff, faster stuff, heavy stuff, mellow stuff...something for everybody. People just need to give it a chance.
MSJ: To me, doom is not necessarily the speed of the music, but a kind of depressing, melancholy aura. There's a Chicago band called The Chasm who plays stuff that is fast and aggressive death metal but it always seems to be so sad. It has a sad feeling to it.
I agree with you on that completely. Whenever anybody asks me what I think "heavy" is, I tell them "heavy" is not a distorted guitar riff and growling vocals. To me, the last Anathema CD is heavy, heavy music. By heavy, I mean the emotion and the feeling of the music.
MSJ: I've often heard Pink Floyd described that way.
I can see Pink Floyd's stuff the same way. It's very thick and rich in emotion.
MSJ: With a lot of bands in the doom genre, it's suddenly become hip to have songs that are 15 or 20 minute epics. On "Pale Haunt Departure", the songs are fairly long by pop music standards but they are actually quite compact. I don't think there's anything that goes over 7 and a half minutes. Was that by design or just the way things turned out?
It was more of a natural progression. If we are writing a song and we feel that song needs to be lengthened, we'll do it. If we think it's too long and needs to be shortened, we do that as well. That happened with some of the songs on this album. Even up to the point of mixing and mastering, we wondered if we should cut off the tale end of a particular song. It's all about feeling. You just know when you listen to a song and write it what feels good and what doesn't. We're never concerned about the length. If we write a two minute song we're happy with, it's two minutes.
MSJ: Is that the same method you use to decide what kind of vocal to use with a song? You have a range that goes from deep growls to melodic clean singing. Is the decision something you debate about or does it come to you in an instant?
It comes to me in an instant. I never really have to think too much about what vocal I'm going to use. I have more trouble working out the actual melody than thinking about whether to use clean or growling vocals. I work on that all the way up to the minute the song is recorded. When I get into the studio and work with Chris Djurcic, he brings the best out of me. Of all the people I've worked with, he brings the absolute best out of me. I don't ever want to do vocals again on an album without him. (laughter) He really worked with me this time. It was important that I got my performance correct. It wasn't so much the quality of the voice.
MSJ: You're one of the few vocalists who has a bone-chilling growl but yet you can still understand the words. It's not just "urrgh-raar-urrgh".
That was a conscious effort from day one. When I started this and I was into the death metal style of vocals, it always did bother me that there were bands where you couldn't understand a word they were saying. That bothered me, because I feel I have something to say through the lyrics. It made no sense if people couldn't understand. So from the very beginning, I was very careful and worked hard to be as pronounced as possible so everything was as clear as it is.
MSJ: Are you involved in any musical projects outside of November's Doom?
Most recently, I did a project called Subterranean Masquerade. I do some growling like on November's Doom but I do a lot of clean singing as well. It's quite different from November's Doom so it's not like you're gonna hear the same band. It's very, very different from what I've done, which is the appeal of me doing it.
MSJ: How would you describe their music?
(laughter) I can't describe their music! It's the biggest melting pot of genres I've ever heard. It goes from blues to 70's progressive rock to death metal to almost lounge singing. It's so bizarre and there's so many twists and elements to's pretty unique.
MSJ: It takes a lot of talent to do something like that and not have it sound like a mess.
I had very little to do with anything on that album other than showing up and singing on the album the way Tomar Pink wanted me to sing. He's the brain behind that whole project. I didn't write any of the lyrics. I just flew out to Utah and did exactly what he wanted me to do. I take no credit for that album whatsoever.
MSJ: How do you see November's Doom evolving?
I think we really tested the waters on this CD to see what we can get away with as a band as far as the heaviness and the cleaner, mellower songs. Now that we've seen what we can do and we know what direction really works for us now, I think the new material and the next CD will be an extension of what you're hearing now, only more refined.
MSJ: Are there any touring plans for November's Doom?
We would love to tour. We want to tour and support the album, but of course with my condition, everything is extremely limited. It's not going to be possible to go out for a month at a time.
MSJ: But maybe a few selective shows?
Absolutely. We're playing South by Southwest in a few weeks, we'll try to do a week or two in America to support the album. We've just confirmed that in October we're playing Progpower in the Netherlands in Europe.
MSJ: What was the last CD you picked up for your own interest?
I'm a big Coldplay fan. I pick up anything that band puts out. I think they're one of the best new bands of the 2000's, they're phenomenal.
MSJ: What was the last show you saw just for your own interest?
Auf Der Maur, Monstermagnet, and HIM, at the Riv in Chicago.
MSJ: Is there any particular Spinal Tap moment you'd like to share with the fans?
(chuckles) November's Doom...I think we follow that movie like a roadmap. It's gone from disastrous gigs to showing up to places on tour where the venue didn't even know we were supposed to be there. We've had our moments, that's for sure. I can't think of anything specific off the top of my head, but that movie makes me laugh because it is pretty true to the struggling band.
MSJ: For some folks, it's too close to the truth, they can't even laugh at it!
Oh, you have to laugh at yourself!
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