Interview with Naut & Anchorite
Interview by Demitri Levantis
Photos by Jo Blackened – Altercarnated Photography
The Manchester black metal group, Necronautical arrived in London tonight on tour with Wolvencrown. We caught up with the guys at The Black Heart, Camden to find out how the band are getting back into playing live shows and releasing new music.
Hey, thanks for your time today, how does it feel being back on the road after the Covid lockdowns?
Naut: It’s great as we missed it, it was crazy and feels good to be back. We were a pretty active band playing a lot of shows and if there was an upside to the lockdown we focussed on new records and writing new material. Yes, we missed being on stage but things lined up fairly well. We got the album out and by then shows became permissible again but what we did notice with travel restrictions was it gave better staging for smaller UK bands such as ourselves so we did the big bloodstock show and attendance was good. And despite the whole situation sucked it was pretty good for the band being as optimistic as I can. Made you appreciate what you have.
Speaking of Bloodstock, how did it feel playing it after a pandemic, have you played it before?
Naut: I have in a different band. Once you were through the arbitrary things like checking you had a test, once you got inside it felt like a relief.
Playing different cities on a national tour, does it feel there are differences in the ways crowds behave across the country?
Naut: Sure, it’s hard to put your finger on it, we played loads of shows around the UK. Upswings and negatives come with every place, and I think the more we tour the more we get to know people around the country so don’t really have a favourite place to play anymore. We’re quite good as a band at reading the room. Some people are more serious than others, some shows can be more drunken and moshpit-y than others but we love it all. Always a different vibe to every place.
What’s it been like touring with Wolvencrown, have you toured with them before and what makes them a good accomplice?
Naut: We’ve played lots of shows with them and are friends of ours, we love their music. It’s good to have guys you get along with coming along with you, ones you can work with easily, they’re great guys. It’s been a pleasure so far.
Are you going to be joined on stage tonight by vocalist Vickie Harley whom you’ve collaborated with?
Anchorite: No she’s preparing an actual opera production at the moment so had to bow out of several shows but hopefully have her back for bigger things in the future. She won’t be at every show but the bigger staging we’ll have her there.
Naut: That whole situation came out accidentally as our guitarist had broken his collarbone at so we had her on backing vocals as a six-piece, so it was an interesting development. Now we have her as an honorary member or optional extra who we can have along to adopt to the big stages for more operatic stuff.
How would you say the band has changed over the course of its career?
Anchorite: I think you could see the biggest changes thematically – becoming less cliché and going more for more dark themes but not necessarily the same or tongue-in-cheek satanic stuff like other bands.
Naut: We love extreme metal but always wanted to put our own personalities into it and think we have learnt to execute that better. I think we’ve got better at putting individualism into it. Don’t get me wrong, we love the genre but we never wanted to be a run-of-the-mill black metal band. And in these latter years we’ve branched out more thematically and it’s worked for us in our heart of hearts.
Where exactly does the name Necronautical come from and does it have anything to do with nautical themes? Speaking as someone with a big interest in nautical history, is it to do with the sea?
Naut: That’s where it began originally but also it came about as a sort of joke, almost.
Anchorite: All the original riffs were in 6/8 that had a sea vibe and all the earliest lyrics had puns relating to the sea like “leviathan” etc. After we put out the first EP people liked it and we decided to take it more seriously, we liked the name and decided to become a serious black/death metal band. It’s also to do with the Greek language and the exploration of things like death as you have with astronaut or psychonaut etc.
Naut: So it really means to explore death. We originally laughed all the nautical jokes/references off but then said to people “Actually it means this…” and it’s something we have to deal with and I really do hate how people think of us as this “black metal Alestorm” thing…
Anchorite: Yeah, we get called pirates a lot, haha!
Naut: And yeah, I fucking hate pirate metal, really hate that stuff which is a frustration but like I say, I feel we’ve got better as an individual band and we’ve matured doing what we want. I do have an interest in nautical history but as we took ourselves more seriously, we moved onto other things. As Anchorite said earlier we had no aspiration of moving on with what we had in the first EP, if nobody had signed us we wouldn’t be here as we didn’t try to get a record deal, so it’s quite a cool thing to say we got pulled up by others who said we should take it further and we tried to take it further but we’re not a pirate band as some people assume, haha.
Well, speaking as someone who is planning an “oceanic” themed black metal band I can tell you you’re nothing like Alestorm or anything.
Naut: Yeah, it’s interesting as there are people who want to write about “black metal buccaneering” constantly haha!
Yeah, and when I tell people about the idea they say, “Oh, like Necronatical?” And I say, no Necronautical didn’t have nautical themes, I recommend a band like Vrani Volosa, haha!
Anchorite: Well, you have our official blessing to say we are an influence, haha!
(We all laugh)
So what made the last album “Slain in the Spirit” different to the others?
Naut: Just like the last ones we liked to bounce material we’ve done before off each other and started from the foundations up and see what works. Overall, we analysed it as being a kind of atmospheric, emotional and quite a moody album.
Anchorite: Very bleak, haha.
Naut: I think we were a bit depressed. I think we all felt we could write songs that could be a bit harder, heavier and more straight ahead. We started writing songs that were a little more anthemic and with the pandemic happening we couldn’t see each other so that enabled us to knuckle down on keyboards, guitars and the backing track, etc.
Were you writing new material during covid and any new songs going to be showcased tonight?
Naut: Yes we wrote a few new things but no, not tonight. We just put out a new album so need to do that, but we always have ideas rolling around for a while so we don’t like to premier things. Music may come and be written and performed one day but lyrics can come another, we theme the album around lyrical work and we don’t normally write lyrics till we know what the song is.
Anchorite: Like, there are times when you write a particular riff along with a certain vocal line to see how it syncs.
Do you all contribute together to the writing?
Naut: Yes, everyone occupies their time in the band their own way, like I write most riffs but James throws in a lot of riffs, our best ones come from him but my role is assembling the songs from the components, all the symphonic and orchestration. But I don’t like telling others what they don’t want to play, we let everyone do what they like and add their own flavour to it, there’s no “dictator” here, y’know? Anchorite is an excellent lyricist…
Anchorite: Thanks, haha.
Naut: Yeah, and if you work on a song for a while everyone gets to know it, you lay a foundation and then work to it which is why we take so long over things. If you sit on a song and work on it something new comes up, even Chris Fielding, our producer works on the song to get to know it. I know if we start writing now, we normally take a while to get something together so we always write new stuff. I see this as a collaboration and we’re always learning to integrate new things as we were forced to use technology to exchange ideas so whenever someone has a new riff they just video it and send it over, the pandemic helped in that way.
Are you guys involved in any other projects we might not be aware of?
Naut: I’m in Winterfylleth now, Rob was in Foetal Juice and always has been, and that’s really about it.
Are you guys listening to any bands at the moment whom you’d recommend to people?
Naut: I spend most of my time listening to classic rock like Van Halen.
Naut: I couldn’t reel off any black metal bands that could be seen as “new” for people as well as major influences as most people could see that anyways. I never seek out new stuff because it’s new, like I’ve been listening to a band called Cold recently; Norwegian; who aren’t new – very Darkthrone style.
Who is your favourite band of all time?
Naut: Never really quantified it, but the stuff you listen to as a teenager you’re most passionate about, like as a teenager I was into big thrashy bands like Pantera, Slayer, Metallica they got me into the genre. You feel a big connection to them but I’m never like “Metallica is my favourite band.”
(We all laugh)
Naut: But every time I listen to “Master of Puppets” it takes me right back. We’re all rock fans first so I spent most of my teen years listening to Van Halen and Guns N Roses which I think is true, who starts with Dissection?
Yeah, I was into punk before metal, haha!
Naut: Yeah, and as much as I love metal my heart is for rock n roll. In the black metal world, it’s Emperor and we were very happy to get into the genre through them around 2005. We were in a black metal band at the time when there was no black metal scene in our area and that’s where it began.
(Another band begins soundcheck with music echoing through the walls making us all raise our voices)
So what advice would you give to fans wanting to start their own band?
Naut: Just do what the fuck you want to do, there’s music being made for everyone in this age so don’t worry about getting popular. Don’t get concerned with making money or being popular because if you’re not sincere and not doing what you want, you’ll never get anywhere.
Thanks so much for joining us and looking forward to the show tonight. Best of luck.
Both: Thank you!