Noctorum recently announced the impending release of their fourth album ‘The Afterlife’ – the duo’s first long-play in seven years, which will be released exclusively on CD and gatefold vinyl to PledgeMusic contributors in November 2018. The general release of this album will happen in February 2019 via Schoolkids Records.
Tomatrax caught up with the duo to discuss their latest work!
How did Noctorum form?
DARE MASON: I had produced many solo albums for Marty. These were collaborative affairs insomuch as I would often make suggestions about the structure of the songs, the instrumentation, the mood we were going for and so on. However, bar a couple of occasions, I was not involved in the writing process. So for a while, we had agreed that we would like to do an album where we wrote the songs together. In 2002, Marty was on tour with All About Eve and they happened to be playing a couple of shows in Penzance [Cornwall, UK], my home town. Marty had five days off after the shows so we decided to spend those days in the VIP Lounge, my studio. We each picked up a guitar, Marty on 12 string and me on his seventies Strat and we started to jam. That’s how “Hey There” was born. Normally I pick a drum loop or I program some drums and we just start jamming over the top. We both play a variety of instruments, so sometimes I’ll play keys or bass, sometimes Marty will play bass or acoustic guitar as well as electric guitar. Anyway, after five days of working 15 hours a day, we had a collection of 10 songs – the music and the lyrics. I think this is when it hit us that we needed to create a vehicle for our music. We were a band! I can’t remember who suggested “Noctorum”, but we both immediately liked the sound of it, the connection to the night and the Latin derivation. It’s actually the name of a village on The Wirral where we grew up. We wanted to honour our roots, I guess, the place where we got into listening to music and playing together.
You’re about to put out the group’s fourth album, how does it feel to have it ready to go?
DM: I’m excited that it is coming out as a very attractive package and people are going to hear what we have been up to. Also, there are a lot of bands and artists who never get to release four albums. It seems like a serious body of work.
Where did the title The Afterlife come from?
MARTY WILLSON-PIPER: The title came from one of the songs on the album. I may have to explain this over and over again as people listen to and read the words because it deals with a suicide bomber’s justification for his actions. And obviously it is topical in today’s tense political climate. As Ian McNabb from Liverpool’s Icicle Works said in the title of one of their albums “If You Want To Defeat Your Enemy, Sing His Song”. Like an actor in some of these songs I’ve tried to go into character and in this song as well as in A Girl With No Love I have taken on a role and tried to see it through another’s eyes, however fucked up the justifications might be. A Girl With No Love might be construed as sad, innocent, depressing or a bit of fun for the character, although the concept of sexbots has raised concern about the treatment of ‘real’ women. Other tracks on the album are personal, others observational and others purely fictional. Despite the connection to The Afterlife on the album, the title worked for me in relation to the cover art, it added a sense of mystery to the image as if some kind of connection with man’s fate lay behind the visor, drifting out into space and experiencing the answers to humanity’s lot.
You put the album up on PledgeMusic – what inspired you to take this approach?
MWP: Just to try it out really as we head into a different era of how music as an art form is supported.
Do you think avenues such as PledgeMusic and other crowdfunding initiatives are the future for funding music?
MWP: I think there has always been this dilemma for record labels as to how to make a talented artist into a commercial enterprise. Of course some acts are simply commercial, others obscure and difficult but how do you make David Sylvian a success or Captain Beefheart? This no longer matters, you are as successful as the fans that support you and although the old school way still works for some, the internet and free music has left a lot of talented people behind. Even groups that do well live can’t sell records like they used to and the public seems to have difficulty in purchasing a $10 CD but not an $8 beer. Beer isn’t free and doesn’t take up space, except perhaps in your stomach. Record labels can’t get behind a band that doesn’t make a decent profit against time and outlay and with the collapse of print media even promo is difficult. Social media seems to be everything and without an internet profile it seems that there is no other way to expose your music other than gigs – and touring is expensive. So, PledgeMusic is part of the internet generation’s way to support music and the older generation can also understand the concept, consequently we promote ourselves whilst getting support for our art. It’s a no brainer.
The top “reward” is a Private 2 Hour House Concert, what can the recipient(s) expect from this show?
MWP: We did a PledgeMusic house concert in Frederick, Maryland, in October as part of the campaign. We arrived at 4:30PM with an acoustic guitar and a violin – myself, Olivia and Hannah our bass player without a bass as it was acoustic with no PA or any kind of amplification. We sang and played and left at 1:00AM. It was playing, doing requests, talking about music, eating, listening to the new album, answering questions. Great fun – there are no rules.
What made you pick ‘Piccadilly Circus In The Rain’ as the latest single?
MWP: Picking a single is difficult and the album in its eclecticism has some catchy tunes on it, especially High Tide/Low Tide and Show, which Dare sings on, but we felt like we should first release a real up-tempo powerful song with A Girl With No Love and then something that captured both a Pop sensibility with moody overtones, reflecting the album as well as we could in two songs. Piccadilly Circus In The Rain achieved this and with a poignant lyric came across as thoughtful, observational as well as musically accessible.
The song deals with the struggles for people with artistic tendencies in large cities such as London, how have you managed these struggles over your musical career?
DM: I can totally relate to the lyrics of “Piccadilly Circus In The Rain”. I was there with Marty as we were struggling to write songs, rehearse them and then search for gigs while holding down a day job. We had a four piece band in London called The True Hundreds. I think we played four gigs and then the bass player developed a heroin habit and it split up. Both of us became a bit disillusioned with the grind of living in London. I think that was when we were finally persuaded that we should move to Australia. After living there for five years I returned to London to take up a position as an assistant engineer at the Townhouse Studios. After the sun, the affluence, the hedonism, the healthy outdoor life of Sydney, it was frankly depressing to be back in “The Smoke”. I stuck it out for 16 years till I finally escaped and moved down to beautiful Cornwall in the South West of England.
The music has been described as “has to be imagined to exist“, is it hard to turn the ideas you imagine into a reality?
DM: Well, that question presumes that we have ‘ideas that we imagine’. We are not the sort of band who sit down before we record and discuss what sort of an album we are going to produce. We have no idea what’s going to emerge. We leave it totally up to what comes out of us as we jam. So there is a randomness, a spontaneity in our writing. I guess that’s why it’s so eclectic – we both like such a diverse range of musical genres that all those influences come out, whether consciously or subliminally, when we create. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll decide to do an acoustic album, or a pop album, but I don’t think so, because we would both find it too limiting.
Marty, you’ve been putting out music for over 35 years and are still putting out albums, what’s the secret to your musical longevity?
MWP: Love, commitment, dedication and to some extent habit. It’s what I do. I did try to get away from it for a couple of years by taking a job in a record store and as a mad collector that was an interesting distraction but whilst doing that I found myself meeting other musicians and that led me to joining Anekdoten and leaving the normal world again. This in turn got me started back on solo shows with Olivia. The MOAT project also materialized as I was in Stockholm and my partner in that project Niko Röhlcke lives there. I was also asked to play bass with my French singer/songwriter friend Arno in his band. So despite trying to escape how I’d spent the last three and half decades I was unable to.
Recently I have been in Texas and Nashville, producing an album for a Texan singer/songwriter called Salim Nourallah and as well as the Noctorum release we are halfway through a new MOAT record AND we begin work on a new Anekdoten album in November – and there’s Atlantium, an instrumental project with friends that live in Scotland! Olivia and I also hope to make a record together in the next year or so.
You’ve also co-written music with many artists over this time, is it hard to keep coming up with new material?
MWP: Hm, well it seems that songs are always there. These days it’s always time that is restrictive, dedicating hours a day can be tricky, life gets in the way, but ultimately it’s about priorities. I’ve never really struggled with the initial creative process. The hard work comes after the ideas.
Do you ever listen to your own music?
DM: Yes. I have the Noctorum stuff on my iPod which I usually have on random. It’s good to hear how it stands up in comparison to other music. I have a substantial collection of music I have produced or written or played on. So occasionally I’ll pull out an album I haven’t heard for ages. Often my reaction is – “how did we DO that?”
What other music do you listen to?
DM: I am not an avid music listener compared to Marty (who is!). I still look out for music by new artists or people I am unfamiliar with. I have just discovered Melodie Gardot who I love. I still keep going back to Joni Mitchell, The Smiths and Steely Dan. My favourite new band is Lemon Twigs.
MWP: I have 50,000 records in my In Deep Music Archive, this is something we need to discuss in a month long retreat in a forest with only records and the occasional break for food and water.
Dare, what do you have planned once this album is out?
DM: I plan to sit back while it sells millions! No seriously, Marty will be back in the UK in March and we’ll resume work on the MOAT album that we’re halfway through.
Check out Noctorum’s webpage to find out more!