Chicago veterans Novembers Doom recently released their latest album Hamartia. Frontman Paul Kuhr fills us in on the record, the guest appearance from My Dying Bride’s Andrew Craighan, tour plans, the Cubs and other topics.
Chad Bowar: Ten albums in, what’s the biggest challenge from a songwriting perspective?
Paul Kuhr: It certainly gets more and more difficult as the years go on to stay true to that the band is, and to stay fresh sounding. You can only dip into the same well so many times before it runs dry, and you need to find a new place to draw inspiration from. Even though it is more difficult, we all draw from so many different sources, someone always has a fresh take on an idea. It’s all about working well together, and trusting each other, they we know what is best for the band’s overall sound.
What impact did having the same lineup for two albums in a row have on Hamartia?
We’ve managed to find five people who are finally on the same page, and with the common understanding of what needs to be done. Everyone knows exactly what will enhance a song, without over stepping, or over playing to shine. No one in the band wants to stand out on the recordings, we all want things to work in harmony to create good songs, and good music. Working with the same lineup the second time in a row, it’s allowed more comfort and allowed us to focus on ourselves than on a new member, trying to keep them within the boundaries needed. It’s a very enjoyable place to be.
Your sound seems more diverse with each album. Is that a conscious decision, or just how the songs turn out?
All along, we’ve added new influences into our music with each new album. Many bands do a drastic music direction change from one album to the next, and they alienate their fans, and we never wanted to do that, so we try new things, gradually, so any changes are easier to accept with this sort of progression. No two albums of our sound exactly the same, and yet they all sound like Novembers Doom. So, I would say, it’s absolutely a conscious decision to spread out and take more chances with each release.
What led to Andrew Craighan’s guest appearance?
Andy has been a friend of mine for many, many years. I traded demos with him with My Dying Bride and Novembers Doom were both starting out. We stay in contact all the time, and when the opportunity came up, I proposed the guest spot, and wouldn’t allow him to say “no.” It was great, it worked out perfectly.
How was it working with your daughter on the album?
It’s been a long time coming. I’ve watched her grow into her own musician over the years. Her talent is amazing, and she has great pitch. I told her from the start, she can’t be on the album just because she’s my daughter. It had to fit and make the song better. She was only going to be on the song “Miasma” and after we worked out her part, I had her replace my harmonies on “Zephyr” and “Ever After”, and it worked out so well. It really was a good fit, and provides a new color. It was perfect.
What inspired the album title?
My personal life is always what inspires the titles and the lyric content. This album is about relationships. The Greek word “Hamartia” means a tragic flaw in one’s character that could lead to their demise. Relationships are like a plague, and they affect us all in life. The tragic flaw is our ability to love. The plague doctor image shows no matter how much you attempt to protect yourself from this plague, your heart is always exposed, and it’s showing you our flaw. There’s no avoiding a broken heart.
Hamartia seems to be getting good initial response. How much attention do you pay to reviews?
Of course we read reviews, and when we’re happy when people enjoy what we’re doing, the negative reviews are usually so filled with nonsense, it becomes clear who actually listened to the album, and who did not. I don’t even mind negative reviews if the point at well written and makes sense, but we’ve actually read a review for Hamartia that compared it to nu-metal. I just don’t get it sometimes. But, the response has been overwhelmingly fantastic, I’d say the best reviewed album yet, so we’re thrilled.
Do you plan on doing more touring in support of this album than the last one?
We always plan on it, but real life gets in the way. We don’t earn a living from the band, so it’s not a priority and a lot of stars and planets need to line up in order to make that happen. We’re limited to very short runs, so we try to play as many festivals as possible to get in front of the most people we can, all at once. It makes more sense for us to take four days and play in front of 15,000 people at a Euro fest than 30 days on the road for fewer people. With that said, we are planning a couple things this year to promote Hamartia!
What’s Novembers Doom’s level of awareness/popularity in Europe and elsewhere compared to North America?
We are definitely more in demand in Europe then in the USA. I mean, don’t get me wrong, we have a lot of fans here, but the USA is huge, and touring to reach everyone is quite the undertaking. I wish I was 20 years younger and we had the ability to tour the world to get to everyone. So, USA, Europe, South America, we’ll go to wherever the fans are, and it makes sense for us financially to be able to go!
What’s the status of the next These Are They album?
We are actually writing a new album as we speak. Some lineup changes, but the music is the same. It’s in the works, but I have no estimation on when. Once we’re happy with the material, we’ll start recording. Hopefully in the near future.
Are you a Cubs fan? What was the impact of their win on the city of Chicago?
Born and raised Cubs fan! It was a dream come true for Chicago Cubs fans, and to see someone like my mother in tears, who waited her entire life for that moment, it was incredible. It’s the ultimate underdog story. It’s a great thing for the city of Chicago, and gives hope to other underdogs! I’m hoping Cleveland gets their day soon, because that World Series was amazing!
Seen any good movies or DVDs lately?
Logan was fantastic. I’m a huge comic nerd, so what an amazing time to be alive. All I know is, when Spider-Man Homecoming comes out, you will need to find me in the theater for a few days. (laughs)
What’s currently in your heavy musical rotation?
Without Waves – Lunar, Junius, and Ajattara are being played in heavy rotation. 2017, what a great year for metal!
Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
Thanks for the interview, and to those who have purchased Hamartia, thank you, you helped us reach the Billboard Sales charts in the USA once again! If you haven’t, check it out online, and if you like what you hear, please support us by picking up a legal copy in any format you can.
(interview published May 8, 2017)