Interview with Nechochwen

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Nechochwen

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Interview with Aaron Carey
(composer, lyricist, guitarist, vocalist)

Interview by Kira Levine

Hi and thanks for your time. How did Nechochwen begin?

Hi, thanks for your questions!

I was known as Nechochwen in the first band I played in, Dethroned. Later, I was playing guitar in and writing songs for an extreme metal band called Angelrust from 2003 to 2008. In 2005, I started writing acoustic and classical guitar pieces as an homage to American Indian culture in Appalachia. My goal was to compile these pieces into an album based on traditions, leaders, battles, and other events in the late 18th Century in the Ohio Valley. The obvious name for this project was Nechochwen; essentially it was my solo output. The Indiana-based black metal label Dark Horizon Records was quite receptive to the idea and put out the debut, Algonkian Mythos, in 2008. Nechochwen was originally intended to be only an acoustic project that brings Native historic themes to life through music.

What does the band name mean and why was it chosen?

Nechochwen means “walks alone” in the Lenape language. A friend gave me this name when I was 14 because I was always doing my own thing, not what other people were into, like writing death metal guitar riffs in the early 1990’s and reading about obscure native history, genealogy, traditions, etc. This was not typical stuff for a West Virginia kid back then.

Nechochwen formed in 2005. Were you making music prior to this?

Very much so. I played guitar in a death/black metal band called Dethroned from 1992-1994 and then went off to college from 1996-2001. I studied classical guitar there and played in a chamber ensemble and some metal bands. Later, I played in the metal band Angelrust, the folk/classical/progressive group Forest of the Soul, and many side-projects including Infirmary and Unwilling Flesh. Most of this music can be found at nechochwen.bandcamp.com.

What is the best piece of advice you received when you started out as a musician?

The best advice was to develop a good sense of timing/good rhythm. No matter how good your soloing/shredding/whatever guitar skills are, no one wants to be in a band with someone who doesn’t have a good grasp of rhythm. Nowadays I suppose computers can quantize or fix this in a recording, but to me there’s no way to progress as a musician if you haven’t mastered this skill. Also, be humble with what you do, don’t be arrogant or irritating to work with on a gig or an album. As one person put it when I started playing, “create, don’t compete”.

Describe Nechochwen’s sound in three words.

Morose, diverse, earthy.

‘Kanawha Black’, the band’s fourth full-length, is due out in May through Bindrune Recordings. Nechochwen have released music with a few different labels and also independently in the past. How would you compare both methods of distributing your releases?

Working with Dark Horizon Records was cool but I don’t think it was the best home for us. Soon after our debut, I met the owner of Bindrune Recordings at a gig and we’ve been great friends ever since. Working with the label feels like an extended family. Nordvis Produktion was also a positive experience for us. The only Nechochwen release that was independent was a digital version of a live acoustic show that we released to raise money for the Migizi education center for American Indians in Minnesota. I can’t really compare our experience with independently releasing our music because it was just an impromptu and time-sensitive fundraiser.

 


Kanawha Black
track-listing:

1. Kanawha Black
2. The Murky Deep
3. I Can Die But Once
4. A Cure for the Winter Plagues
5. Visions, Dreams, and Signs
6. Generations of War
7. Across the Divide

 

 

What would you say sets your forthcoming release apart from Nechochwen’s back catalogue?

I don’t think it’s entirely separate from the other releases. We have developed ways of doing things a little differently for each album. For example, on Azimuths to the Otherworld, we were trying to figure out how to properly balance the heavy material and the acoustic pieces. This led to us making the Oto record as one side acoustic and the other side heavier material. For Heart of Akamon, we took a somewhat similar approach to making a film, where we would work on scattered parts of the album that may not make sense until the parts were put together later. It worked for that album and this approach was somewhat applied for our split LP with Panopticon. For Kanawha Black, our approach was to try something different, even a very slight detail, that we had never tried before for each song. We worked on each song individually until completion rather than taking a scattered approach and I think it has perhaps the best flow of all of our albums. It also has a higher sound quality due to studio upgrades and the internal microphones I had installed in the acoustic and classical guitars.

Did you write or record the upcoming album during any periods of lockdown? If so, how did this affect your usual way of working?

There were about two months where basically no one hung out or went around people outside of the immediate family in early 2020. I hiked a lot by myself and developed some ideas for the new record that eventually became Generations of War and Across the Divide. That was a time when I reconnected with nature. Usually, Nechochwen conducts business in Pohonasin’s recording studio one night per week but during that lockdown time we didn’t meet at all. I think the whole experience of uncertainty and anxiety around the world and in our own respective careers contributed to the darker, more somber feel of Kanawha Black.

Which Nechochwen song is your favourite and why?

Currently, it’s Across the Divide from the new album because I was the most satisfied with my vocals that I have ever been and the song has a message that inspires me and keeps me in check. I think it has elements of every era of our music. Skyhook, Kišelamakong, and Red Ocher are also favorites because I believe that their vibes/atmospheres are unique and powerful.

Who designed the album cover for ‘Kanawha Black’?

The cover was designed by Pohonasin. We were initially going to use the image of a mural on a floodwall in West Virginia as the cover, but decided to use this cover instead. It has seven arrowheads, one for each song on the record, and references to the constellations of the sky, a connection between ancient and modern man.

There’s an unmistakable classical music influence throughout ‘Kanawha Black’. Do you have any favourite composers from that genre?

My undergraduate education/training was in classical guitar and classical music history/theory/counterpoint. The most fascinating music I learned about there was early/medieval music and I still really enjoy listening to it. This also got me researching traditional American Indian music through the university’s Native American Studies program. My favorite composers are J.S. Bach, D. Scarlatti, Fernando Sor, Isaac Albeniz, Enrique Granados, Dionisio Aguado, Heitor Villa-Lobos, John Dowland, Guillaume Dufay, and Silvius Leopold Weiss.

Are you currently a member of any other bands? If so, what have they been up to recently?

While I have contributed some music to albums by End, Noltem, Obsequiae, and other projects over the past few years, I am not regularly involved in any other music projects. In addition to Nechochwen, Pohonasin is active with his own band Ironflame as well as Brimstone Coven and Icarus Witch.

How would you describe West Virginia’s metal scene in recent years? Is there anything about it you would change, or that you miss from the past? Are there any bands from WV you admire and would like to mention?

I have very little interaction with other bands in the area because I work a lot and my gigs are solo acoustic performances at small venues or private events. There was a killer band from the southern part of the state called Torrid Husk a while back and I don’t know if they are still active. Byzantine are probably the best-known band to come from this state and they have made consistently high-quality music for a long time. The only band from West Virginia that I still occasionally get to see live is Brimstone Coven. There aren’t many venues here in this rural area and most local bands are from Ohio and Pennsylvania because this area of West Virginia is only about 10 miles wide and sandwiched in between other states. The bands I used to see in the 90’s and 00’s have disbanded and our local metal venues have closed – I believe the closest place to see bands is usually Pittsburgh. Usually if I see a local metal show, it is organized by Nechochwen’s own Pohonasin. There aren’t nearly as many bands in this area as when I was younger but the ones that we have are of high quality.

Is there any one country in the world you would especially like to visit on tour?

I would like to visit Peru, Australia, and the UK! That’s three countries, but we don’t really tour so it depends on which of those countries has a venue that would invite us to play.

Can you name some of your favourite records of all time?

Anathema – Serenades
Celestial Season – Solar Lovers
Ulver – Nattens Madrigal
My Dying Bride – Turn Loose the Swans
Amorphis – The Karelian Isthmus
Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here
Death – Human
Tiamat – Wildhoney
Iron Maiden – Piece of Mind
Satyricon – Nemesis Divina
Metallica – …And Justice for All
Repulsion – Horrified
Slayer – Seasons in the Abyss
Morbid Angel – Blessed are the Sick
Black Sabbath – Sabotage
Mercyful Fate – Don’t Break the Oath
Bolt Thrower – …For Victory
Guthrie Govan – Erotic Cakes
Opeth – My Arms, Your Hearse

What are your interests outside of music?

Hiking, local Native history, camping, artifacts, art education, travel.

Is there anything else in store for Nechochwen after ‘Kanawha Black’ comes out?

We are playing an acoustic set at Fire in the Mountains fest in Wyoming, July 2022. The mighty Enslaved is headlining. We will keep writing more songs and hopefully it won’t be seven more years before we have another album!

Thank you! Would you like to share anything else with the readers of Metal-Rules?

Thank you for checking out our music. We hope you will connect with what we do. And thank you, Metal-Rules, for the opportunity to talk about Nechochwen. Cheers!