Interview with Necronautical
Interview by Jarod Lawley
Macabre sea farers Necronautical are one of the most interesting and musically solid bands to have come out of the recently revived British black metal scene. We spoke to frontman Naut about the concept behind the band and where they are sailing towards in the future.
Thanks for you time Naut! In your own words, could you explain the formation of Necronautical and where the band stands today with this new album?
You’re welcome, it’s always a pleasure for me to do an interview for you guys. The formation of Necronautical was almost unconscious, we never even really ‘decided’ to form a band. Myself, Anchorite and Carcarrion are all very old friends, going back to pre-teen years in the case of the former, who I have been in different bands with constantly since the age of 13, we used to live together as students and now I currently live with Carcarrion, who I also have been great friends with for a really long time. Music has always been the foundation for our friendship, we have always been creating and recording music. In fact this year marks the ten year anniversary of my first foray into black/death metal world, an old EP myself and Anchorite did with our 2nd band band called Viperous, in which I was the drummer, thinking about it, this EP also features a recording of what would be my first ever scream vocal… I digress!
Necronautical began because I knew Anchorite and Carcarrion were working on some music together and had invited me to with them and be their drummer, which we did, they had some cool songs written, namely “Unholy Waters” and “Slaying the Leviathan”. By this point in my life though I had immersed myself in songwriting and music production, and my passion for drumming had somewhat depleted, so as we were jamming we decided we’d record a few demos, if anything just for my own recording experience and practice, it was something I was teaching myself so I wanted to record the songs just to get to grips with how to record music.
Through doing this I basically ended up becoming very involved with the songwriting, and adding a LOT of black metal style to the music, which at first was more kind of pagan or viking sounding… basically I kind of unwittingly made myself the rhythm guitar player. Vocal duties were originally shared equally between the three of us, but as we recorded more my vocal capabilities started to emerge, and so we decided I would handle vocals and guitar and we would search for a drummer. Sadly our search for a capable drummer would be a hindrance that would plague us until this year!
It was during these early days of hanging out drinking and writing music that we divised our concept as well, we have a shared love of the fantasy genre, survival stories and heroism and stuff like that from history. Our strange direction and theme I think is a consequence of shared interest and longstanding friendship, we never argue over our music or direction, we are on a great wavelength with each other and each have a total understanding of what makes something “Necronautical”- even if that something can be a little hard for us to define to others.
Where the band stands today is in its most exciting position to date. In the five years we’ve been together we have put so much into this band, right now it feels like it’s really flourishing into it’s full potential at long last. Now we have Slugh (or Rob from Foetal Juice) on board with us behind the kit, we can finally play our music live in the way it was supposed to be heard. For all the time we have spent away from the live circuit, we have been able to focus all of our energy on creating something that we believe is quite unique, something that celebrates the music we love but has an identity all of its own. It seems bizarre and somewhat unbelievable to us that we have found ourselves with a great label behind us and great opportunities ahead of us, it says to me that all we have put into this is going over the right way and that people are connecting with it and enjoying it as much as we do. It is indeed an exciting time for Necronautical.
‘The Endurance at Night’ is your second album; what makes this one different from your debut in 2014?
All the songs! (laughs) This album feels like a natural progression from “Black Sea Misanthropy ” in some ways- once again we chose to focus on seven longer songs and maintained some of the fundamentals we established with that album, but in truth I simply think “The Endurance…” is a much broader album. Due to life circumstances, the way this album was written was very different to the first. With our first record everything was meticulously planned down to the last note before we recorded anything, this was fine of course but because of this I found the recording process quite draining- the creative side was already finished and so the time it took to record it became something of a chore to me.
The first track we recorded is the album’s final song, entitled ‘Theia’. I initially wrote and recorded that basically as a form of personal catharsis, I was having a hard time in my life and I needed to record to keep my mind occupied. I stuck the track onto YouTube as a solo thing but from there I just got the bug. Carcarrion and I started jamming again and decided to do another Necronautical album, but this time we just dove straight into recording, the game-plan was that we would just see where the song took us, not to second guess anything and just go with it. Taking this approach we were surprised by how quickly the album came together, it was a very creative time.
I think because we did things in this way, ‘The Endurance…’ has a lot more sincere emotional content in the music, as well as a lot of stuff that would surprise and not typically be at home on a black metal record. We used keyboards and orchestration a lot more on this album as well, I think it’s more dynamic and atmospheric than ‘Black Sea…’, which had more of a death metal edge. “The Endurance…” was truly a labour of love, created only for the joy of creating something without limitations. I am curious to see how people will respond to it. There’s a lot for the purists to hate, and I like that.
You’ve so far released a video for the new track, ‘Nihilartikel’, which includes everything from corpse-paint and candles to a man-bun and an apparent argument over maps- what was the overall theme you set out to convey with the clip?
Thank you for making reference to my man-bun… suffice to say it was the lesser of two evils during this awkward phase in hair growth. Besides… fuck hair! (laughs)
The video for “Nihilartikel” was something we put together in a very short amount of time and with absolutely zero budget. Fortunately Carcarrion is working in the film industry and so he jumped at the chance to direct the video, alongside a talented friend of his named James Johnson from the industry who was glad to involve himself as director of photography. Again it was a real DIY project and great fun to create something between ourselves. We wanted to continue with the themes used in our photographs, which were inspired by old images implying military conspiracy, so with the video we wanted to bring that feeling to life and also tie in with the concept of the song.
Nihilartikel was originally entitled “The Cartographer” and was one of Anchorites more obscure lyrical ideas. The lyrics are based how maps are created and the imperialist romanticisation of the power of land itself. So the video in essence depicts our necronautic conspiracy to depart our failing world and immerse ourselves in the infinite glory of the omniverse. Planning such a thing is no small task and so of course arguments ensue. Part of the Necronautical concept, and something I allude to in a lot of my own lyrics, is the idea of true peace and liberation in death- and so the bloody scenes are symbolic of crossing the borders between life and death. The video is another device we have used to try and visualise the feeling and atmosphere in the music. The editing and post production was taken care of by Chris Casket of Casket Industries, or Destroyer from Eastern Front, who did a great job and really understood what we were going for. We’re proud of the video and grateful to the talented people who helped us to create it in such a short period. We enjoyed the process so much that now we intend to create another, perhaps something more ambitious… we will see!
Necronautical always make an effort in promo pictures and carry a strong theme and an image. Do you think this important for all bands?
Not at all. It’s equally important that some bands make no such efforts. It depends what you are trying to achieve.
It is however, extremely important to us that everything we do, be it the image, photographs, clothing or props are relevant to the content of the songs and the feeling of the music. We are aiming to create a kind of escapism through our music, something that is all encompassing for us and hopefully our audience, but at the same time something that has its own sense of fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously. We’re big thinkers and we’re often divising new dimensions for Necronautical to work within, and different ways to express what we want to express. Some bands are very much in the other school of thought, a kind of no corpse-paint, no banners and no bullshit approach, and I totally understand and admire that. I think we just enjoy being over the top in all that we do. I enjoy doing things this way and I really don’t give a fuck if people don’t like it.
I must say I really admire your effort and especially the nautical themed uniforms that the band members wear. How do you go about sourcing the materials for these things, and how much of a DIY ethic is involved?
My father is a sailor and qualified navigator so I happen to have a lot of this kind of stuff to hand anyway. A lot of our music and content is based on stuff from history, times when life was harder and much survival less likely, and so for the items we used in the video, we were able to use a lot of genuine article kind of Victorian stuff and nauticalia, old maps and things like this. We found objects mostly passed down through our families. Usually we have a really vivid idea of what we want to do in these kinds of pursuits so it’s just a case of finding the right item for the job, and this world is literally full of crap from the past, so you never have to look far.
As well as it’s more esoteric connotations, “Necronaut” in its linguistic origins translates as “Dead Sailor”, so the image was always obvious to us. Anchorite had this genuine German WWII greatcoat that he picked up from the metal market when we were at Wacken ’06- He had waited ten years to have a reason to wear it, it was destiny. It’s all about the DIY ethic for us, we enjoy doing these kinds of projects, having other people take care of the work for us would completely rob this of its fun I think.
Your lyrical themes are also unique- where do you source inspiration and ideas from?
A wide range of sources really, as I mentioned earlier its all born from our common interests. Epic films I think are a strong shared inspirational source, certainly mythology, ancient cultures- a lot of influence from fantasy and sci-fi genres. Very specifically, the song “Beyond the North Waves” from Immortal is a very important influence to us, we used to cover it in our older band Viperous that I mentioned earlier- I think the vibe and the lyrics of that song are nostalgic to us, it reminds me of the joy I found in my discovery of this kind of music, so that song in particular is of great importance to us. I’m no gamer by any means but Carcarrion and Anchorite are into it, I think they enjoy the collective and immersive nature of playing games and appreciate games in and of themselves as a highly developed art form. These could be an RPG style, board games and stuff like that, Dungeons and Dragons- I’m sure this has been massively influential on our lyrical themes.
It’s important to mention though that we are not writing about these kinds of things, they are more of a linguistic device. We are expressing very human emotions through what we are doing, however we are using all this fantastical influence to try and create a world around that emotion. Anchorite is the primary lyrical brainchild, though I have to ensure everything is going to work for me as the vocalist, and in some instances I find I need to write the lyrics for certain songs myself, and in other instances the lyrical process is totally collaborative.
I think Anchorite has an excellent approach to lyrics, a poetic and unique way with words, and I think his work on this side of things has added a lot to the nature of Necronautical. Also he writes in a way that often contradicts my initial ideas for a tracks vocals, so often the lyrics can alter the structures of the songs themselves, or radically change the musical idea from its origins, so it’s always cool to see what comes out from the process.
Your known best in the UK for being the front man of Ethereal, who have recently released an album with Candlelight Records and toured Europe with Marduk an Belphegor- how have you found the balance between two on going musical projects?
It’s something I’m used to, I’ve been an active member of at least two bands at a time for over twelve years, sometimes three. I’m a very passionate musician, I was determined and passionate long before I was any good at it.
I’ve always enjoyed experiencing playing in different bands of different genres and on different instruments- it’s been a great way for me to develop, and I’ve not had a music “lesson” since I (regrettably) quit the piano at age 10-instead I’ve learned everything by being surrounded by a lot of creative and talented people, watching how they played and taking a little knowledge from all of them. So multiple bands has always been something I’ve done.
I’m quite a restless person and something of a workaholic- anybody close to me would tell you that I never take a day off. The more the grind of work and life tire me the more determined I become with my music, I feel immersed in it, for me doing the creative work for both the bands is my way of relaxing. I don’t know if it’s necessarily healthy but I can’t imagine slowing down, of course sometimes necessity forces you to. I find particularly with Necronautical and Ethereal, each project requires a different part of myself to engage with it, so if we’re talking creativity I find it’s often down to my mood whether I will chose to do writing for either band. Being so active can take its toll at times but I’ve always had this approach in my life, so I feel used to it.
In this band you are not only vocalist but also guitarist- how does this effect your input to the band and also any live performances which are yet to come?
I’m not a particularly gifted guitarist- in fact I’m technically very shit! But at the same time it’s my primary tool for songwriting, even if I’m writing for other instruments. I never took lessons so I have had to unlearn several horrible habits I’ve picked up through being self taught and then watching others and realising I’m doing it wrong.
When I was recording ‘The Endurance…’ I realised the way I held my pick was (whilst effective for tremolo) incorrect and limiting, so as I retaught myself I went through an awkward period where I couldn’t play the instrument at all! On the plus side though, I do think I am able to express myself through the compositions as a whole, I have never learned anybody else’s songs. I started learning guitar again in my mid twenties, and I only did because I wanted to write. Because of this whilst I am far from good at the instrument I am pretty much only good at writing Necronautical stuff, I’ve only ever jammed with Carcarrion who has great technical ability but zero songwriting knowledge-so between ourselves we make up for each other’s in-capabilities. And again this is something that is necessary to the way we’re working.
Before Ethereal I had never been a standalone vocalist, nor had I wanted to, though once I experienced it, I realised that being the vocalist is definitely the best! (laughs)… all the wasted years shifting carloads of drums and guitars and it turned out I’m the microphone man! It can be tricky to play and sing this stuff at the same time, but I’ve been doing it for some years now and I think it’s important to put yourself outside of your comfort zone in order to progress. There will be some live performances from Necronautical this year, though they are still to be announced. We will be on stage in a short matter of months but I cannot say more than that just yet.
We are confirmed to perform at Eradication Fest in Cardiff in 2017 and there is more to announce for Necronautical in 2016.
With regards to Ethereal you have talked about having an ‘alter-ego’ that comes to life on stage, but do you have a similar kind of character when it comes to Necronautical?
I used to look at it as an alter ego, but now I accept “Naut” in all his incarnations as an amplified version of myself, or as an outer representation of the inner self that human beings don’t show because they are too busy representing what it is to be a respectable human being.
Before I started with Ethereal I had no interest in using corpse paint, an alias or anything like that- In fact I laughed at these bands. It was only once I began to do it that I was surprised to find it enhanced the live experience for me. I am quite shy in my nature, so that process of preparation for myself has kind of become a big part of being able to front Ethereal. There is no plan or idea behind the “persona” on stage. I do whatever I feel, sometimes it goes great and sometimes it’s awkward as fuck- so it’s hard to gauge whether Naut in Necronautical is going to be anything like the Naut you know in Ethereal.
I’m the same guy but I’m using both projects to express very different parts of myself, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the performance shows a different, perhaps more eccentric side to me with Necronautical. Every show is a unique experience and so I’m different each time.
With an insightful documentary released last year and just an overall resurgence in black metal in England recently, do you feel like signing to Cacophonous is in a way harking back to the mid-early 90s era? If so, is this something you feel proud of?
I’m aware Cacophonous is strongly associated with that kind of era of black metal. I am a child of the late eighties so of course Cradle of Filth was my introduction to this kind of thing, though I have to say that wasn’t what made me fall in love with the style, that was thanks to seeing Dissection and Emperor years later. Knowing the music we’re writing however, I can see how we would fall most obviously under the same banner as those kinds of bands.
We are of course extremely proud and honoured to be signed with Cacophonous, it is something we did not anticipate and a partnership that is working great for us. We couldn’t be happier with our label and the work they are doing not only for us but for British black metal today as it did back then.
Are there any bands in the UK that you feel a particular kinship with?
I’m a big fan of a lot of the stuff from the UK, certainly not all of it, but I appreciate many of the great, passionate people in this scene whether or not I am a fan of their music. As far as musical kinship with other bands, not especially- maybe we exhibit some shades of Hecate Enthroned in Necronautical but that’s not intentional. Bands that I feel personal kinship with and share friendships with throughout the UK are numerous. So from the top of my head, my utmost support and heartfelt respect to my friends in Sidious, The Infernal Sea, Winterfylleth, Eastern Front, Hecate Enthroned, Primitive Graven Image, Heathen Deity, Burial, Verdelet, Vehement, Scutum Crux and the countless others I have bonded with during my short time among this great network of individuals and artists. It is a pleasure for me to count myself as a part of the UK scene and I look forward to meeting new friends along the way as I continue with my work. Apologies to any friends that I forgot about.
Do you have any ambitions or goals for Necronautical as a live band over the next couple of years?
I’m really hoping I don’t drop my plectrum. Beyond that I’d really like for us to play on a boat, Antartica and eventually on the moon itself. Anywhere treacherous and inaccessible.
And finally, where should we go to stay updated with the band, and of course secure ourselves a copy of the new album?
and the album is available to order from:
Thanks very much for your time Naut.
A pleasure like always. Many thanks to yourself and Jo (Blackened) for supporting my music from the very beginning. Until the next time!
‘The Endurance at Night’ is available on Cacophonous Records on 15th July.