Interview with Northmaan
Interview by Graham Hilling
Perhaps we could start with maybe a brief introduction to Northmaan? There isn’t much information out on the web (which is unusual!) and there’s definitely a sense of mystery here. Where do you come from? What is your background? Influences etc…
Hello and thank you for talking with me. I am Northmaan from Scotland. I have lived with metal music pretty much my whole life. From early Maiden to the latest releases from the likes of Gojira and Behemoth. Like many, my influences come from Maiden, Bathory, Celtic Frost, Death, Morbid Angel, Slayer etc etc. I had a keen interest in the Norwegian Black Metal scene in the early 90’s with the likes of Emperor, Mayhem, Burzum, Enslaved and so on, which still inspire me to this day. It is not all Satan and sandals however as I like a lot of stuff from the States, Pantera being ‘up there’ for me. I like to write with a groove and I think those guys have a lot to do with that.
The debut album came out about a year ago now, what plans do you have for new recorded material?
How time flies! A year already! I am currently busy writing as we speak. I have a lot of new stuff recorded in ‘demo form’. Once I am happy with the material I will then be studio-bound again.
Much of the material on the first album leans towards frustration with a lot of stuff, religion, politics etc, I presume any new stuff will be moving in the same direction? Covid has probably made for additional inspiration I would imagine.
Yeah, there are no shortages of topics to write about these days! I was actually gonna start writing about the hills being alive with the sound of music but the state of the world as it stands is a melting pot of shit! So we go back to a pandemic killing millions and to idiots talking about war type stuff. Nothing much has changed, even though a massive lesson should have been learned….sigh!
I read that the album was put out as an alternative to the “commercial embarrassment” that the industry has become. Do you think anything has changed?
I think metal bands have upped their game again. Back to the way it should be, by means of a ‘spoiled for choice’ situation. There is a lot of amazing stuff coming through which is very encouraging. The last Slipknot album with another on the way, Gojira, Bleed from Within, Rammstein, Ihshan, Jinjer to name but a few.
Do you have a favourite track from the album?
Yes, Self Destruct.
Has covid had an impact on the industry as you see it?
Absolutely. Not being able to play shows has crippled music. Getting out and interacting with the crowd is what drives the scene, so without it there is a massive void. This has affected so many people in so many ways and like many people, I live for music. Hopefully there is now an end in sight!
Are there any touring plans once things settle down?
That is the plan. It is weird having an album out for almost a year and not having performed it to a single person. I hope never to experience this again. I love playing live. It is one of the main reasons for doing this.
The videos thus far have high production values, they’re very well shot and executed. Where do the ideas for them come from?
It was between myself and David from Burnout Media, who shot both Torture First and Persevere. David has a keen eye, which is a must for working with me. Even in very difficult -14°C conditions he had the drive to keep shooting. I wanted both videos to have an interconnecting feel, hence the same people acting out the roles. Although both songs have very different topics, the story behind them visually should be interpreted by the audience.
I know you’re inspired by a lot of the black metal bands, although your material, while dark, seems more accessible in my opinion. Is new material likely to be moving in the blacker direction?
I’m glad you feel this way. As I have mentioned earlier my influences are wide. I think that has a lot to do with my material. The likes of Type O Negative, Paradise Lost, Amorphis inspire melodies where as the aggression comes from Black Metal along with Slayer, Slipknot, Fear Factory, Early Sepultura. It is gonna be much of the same. Maybe a little more aggressive, just to get the juices flowing and get rid of that pandemic frustration!
The album has a fantastic sound, really nicely produced, this was recorded at Northstone Studios, how much influence on the final result do you think the guys at Northstone had? Did they help with arrangements etc?
Yes indeed. The album was recorded at Northstone studios in South Wales. I worked along side Jayce Lewis who produced and engineered it. Working with Jayce was easy for me as we have many of the same influences and he has an unbelievable attention to detail. The studio itself has top end equipment which you can hear when listening to any music that Northstone produces. Jayce is an accomplished multi-instrument talent. The input and enthusiasm he gave me was invaluable.
There is also an element of Fear Factory coming through in the album, was this intentional?
Burton C Bell to this day is still one of my favourite vocalists from ‘back in the day’. He inspired so many bands with the heavy style but holding on to the bellowing melodies. Back then not many bands were doing this. Look at the scene now however, many many bands have adopted this style which is no bad thing in my opinion.
The unplugged version of Persevere is quite a departure from the original recording, where did the idea for this come from?
It was by mistake if truth be told. I was messing about in the studio and the little chorus melody came to me. I thought it could work so decided to have a go at the whole ‘unplugged’ thing. It is a lot different for me and I was a little apprehensive about releasing it. There was good feedback from it though. Maybe it is good for sending people to sleep!!
Here is the video for the unplugged version of Persevere:
Are there any plans to give some of the other songs the same treatment?
Maybe further down the line. Just now I am busy writing the heavier material again. Who knows, if something pops in to my head it may be a possibility.
What genres of music do you like to listen to personally? Do these tastes bleed into your musical direction?
I go through many moods and tastes. It all depends where my head is at. Metal obviously is first and foremost but I do enjoy the likes of Wardruna and Myrkur for the Norse folk vibe. I have been listening to some dark country too of late.
So you’re playing guitar for Ascension of the Watchers on the re-scheduled tour later in 2022, how did that come about?
The first time I was at Northstone Burton was over visiting Jayce. Nothing like walking in to a room and finding one of your idols sitting there! It wakes you up pretty quickly. We have met a few times and spoken on the phone about the Watchers since then. I like the music especially now with Jayce involved as they both work very well together. Apocrypha was recorded and produced at Northstone also, with an amazing outcome.
Are you likely to become a permanent recording member of Ascension of the Watchers? If so, I hope you’d be able to keep the Northmaan focus too!
We can only watch this space. Playing guitar with the Watchers is a massive privilage for me. If it happens it happens, and, of course I will give it some serious thought…………….. 😉
Morthmaan will always be there and within me. That flame will never fade!
Do you have any plans to work with other artists? Are there any other artists you would really like to collaborate with?
We all have lists don’t we? Wishful thinking is hoping for the likes of Corey Taylor, Adam Darski, Jaz Coleman. At this stage I will keep dreaming, ha! It is not all about the stature to me but more the musical and personal relationship. I hate egos and will not get involved with stuff like that. Life is hard enough.
I have approached a good friend and fellow musician about a collab. We will have to wait and see.
Thank you for your time, is there anything you’d like to add for our readers?
You are very welcome and again thank you for talking with me, it means a lot. I would like to thank everyone for their support over the last year. You guys are the driving force that keeps me going. Stay safe, stay strong and never give in!
Check out the video for the first single “Torture First” HERE:
And the video for the original version of “Persevere” HERE: