The Gauntlet: So, how has the day been for you so far?
Larry Roberts: It's been ok, you know. You see what it's like outside, so... (Snow and sleet)
The Gauntlet: Oh, certainly. It's really a good day for a Novembers Doom interview, I think.
Larry Roberts: (chuckles) Yeah and this in March.
Gauntlet: Well, to begin, might as well start chronologically: how did you come into the band, and what were you doing before?
Larry: Well, actually, I've known the guys in the band well, Paul, mainly I've known Paul for years now. Back in '92, '93, in the first few years of Novembers Doom, I was playing in a band called Dead Serenade, which was based out of Northwest Indiana, but it was doing a really similar kind of thing the doom/death and we were really the only two bands in the area that were doing that. So, we always knew each other and were friends, but for whatever reason we never thought to jam together or anything. We always had other things going on.
Around '98, they were just finishing up the second album, 'Of Sculptured Ivy', and they guy the had filling in for guitar wasn't really working out. And I guess Paul remembered me and said, I wonder what Larry's been up to lately=. So they got in touch with me, sent me a rough copy of the material, I went to practice with them, got everything pretty much on my first try, so Paul just said �This is the guy�. So, that was pretty much it. I really hadn�t done anything on the scale of Novembers Doom prior to this other than just your average local kind of thing, demo recordings and stuff, so it was a bit of a leap, but I�m glad I did it.
Gauntlet: After reading your site�s FAQ�s, I won�t ask about the origin of the name (a perennial question they get that we�d gone over earlier), but I am curious�do you still think that it applies as much to the music you guys play now as it did in those days past?
Larry: I think so. I didn�t join the band until around the year 2000, so I wasn�t around when they actually came up with the name. But I know from talking to Paul even back then that the goal was not to make this band just synonymous with �Doom Metal�, you know what I mean? It was Novembers Doom; it was just supposed to put forth this kind of mood and dark feeling. I think that if you listen to the new album, while it may not be as slow, it�s still really dark, it�s still got that negative feeling, really wintry, and�
Larry: Yeah, �melancholy��thank you, that�s the word I was looking for�melancholy kind of feel to it, and I think people get way too caught up in that fact. We�d have questions on forums, people in interviews and everything, saying, �Well, how can you call yourself Novembers Doom if you�re not playing doom metal?� Well, Napalm Death is barely a death metal band, Christian Death don�t play death metal. We kind of got stuck with this �doom metal� tag because we did use to be a lot slower and have this dirge to the tempo and everything. But yeah, I think a name�s just name.
Gauntlet: When I first heard the new song I was surprised. I said, �Wow is this really even Novembers Doom?� But you�re right, it really does maintain that atmosphere that you�re trying to maintain. Did you consciously decide on this album that you wanted to take a more aggressive angle, or did that just naturally occur?
Larry: A little bit of both, I guess. It was probably a more conscious decision before the last album, �The Pale Haunt Departure�, that we wanted to get away from what we felt ourselves as kind of a rut, with the writing or anything. �To Welcome the Fade�, �The Knowing�, and �Of Sculptured Ivy�� all had a very similar feel to them. It was cool for the time, but it was only representing one style of our influences and who we are. Paul and I, we love Doom, we love Gothic, ethereal kinds of music, but we really also were very heavily influenced by Grave and Entombed, Dismember and Death, and all that kind of stuff, and we just weren�t touching on it enough. When we got Vito in the band in 2003, he was a younger guy and had, I guess, more piss and vinegar in him�
Larry: So he was more anxious to do more aggressive kinds of stuff, so that kind of kickstarted us to where we are. We said, �Let�s try to do more with other influences, instead of just keeping it so funereal all the time,� you know? So, it was more of a conscious decision before �Pale Haunt�� and then I think with this album, when we started to write, we wrote a lot of material really covering a broad spectrum: there were ballads, there were slow songs, fast songs. And we didn�t sit there and consciously say, �Ok, we�re only interested in the fast stuff,� we just kind of said, �Well, let�s see what fits.� And we kept working on the material and working on it, and gradually before we knew it, we looked at the body of songs we had and the stuff that is really sticking with us, that we�re really enjoying, and that seems to be coming together the best are the really aggressive, up-tempo songs. So we said, �Well, let�s run with it. Why not.�
Gauntlet: Was any of it trying to stick it those forum kids a little bit�?
Gauntlet: --To dissociate yourself from the Daylight Dies, Insomnium, and all those guys you get compared to?
Larry: You know, I don�t mind being compared to Daylight Dies, they�re a good band. You know, the only thing I get bent about is that people who criticize and sit there, who haven�t done their homework and don�t realize that we�ve been around just as long if not longer, and that we�re not trying to jump on the bandwagon or anything. We share things in common with them, but we also share things in common with a lot of other bands, and nobody every brings those those up. It drives me nuts. Can�t people here these other influences we have? Ok, fine, you think Paul sounds like Nick Holmes from Paradise Lost, that�s fine. But we�re also really influenced by Pink Floyd and The Doors. To me, I think it�s blatant. You know, I�ll hear it; he�ll come up with something and I�ll say, �That sounds so Doors-y�. I know right away. And then, inevitably, you get people going, �Oh, they�re copying My Dying Bride.� Well, you know, go back another twenty years, man.
Gauntlet: (Laughs) Yeah.
Larry: Then you�ll figure out who we�re getting it from. But no, I don�t think we really were going, �Yeah, let�s stick it to people� when we wrote this album; it really just came out naturally. Surprisingly so. Because, you know, if you had asked us when we were first writing this album whether we knew how it would turn out, we wouldn�t have. It just kind of came out that way, the way it did. And if the forum kids don�t like it, well, then they don�t like it, you know?
Gauntlet: I was surprised, too, reading your biography, to find that you initially got together back in �89, which was much further back than I had initially thought. I think people just too quickly towards, �Well, when did they release their first album?� Anything before that is immaterial, to them, when it should really all be considered.
Larry: Even more than that, man. We�ve got people who look at it instead as when they first became aware of us. Because, I mean, our first album was released in �95, and we get accused of copying or following other bands who were putting out albums after that (laughs). You know what I mean? So I don�t believe people even look that far back. Frustrating sometimes, but what can you do?
Gauntlet: Well, on a slightly more upbeat note: you touched somewhat on the writing process of the album, so how was it overall?
Larry: You know, it�s like it is every time. Some ways it felt like it was maybe a little harder, though, because we�re really critical of ourselves, we�re really tough on ourselves. For as much as people want to criticize us and say, �Well, they�re copying this or they should do more of that�, believe me, we are so much more critical of ourselves than anybody could ever be (laughs). We really, really do dissect what we�re doing and take everything into consideration. At the same time, the first song on the album, it was funny how it just kind of came out of us in, like, the first take and then it was done. You know what I mean? It was hard on one hand, because there are certain parts of the album that we had to work really hard on and that we were really critical of, but then there was other stuff like, say, �Rain�. The song �Rain� came together just like that. First or second time we played through it as a band we were like, �Wow�that�s a song.� And you know, it�s like that every time. You�ve got to get over the hump of being really critical, and once you do that and the songs start coming together from there, it just flows.
Gauntlet: Mm-hmm. As far as the songwriting of it goes�your credits usually just list �Novembers Doom.� Is that because it�s a group process?
Larry: Yeah� Back when we were doing �The Knowing� and �To Welcome the Fade� our old guitar player Eric was very much of the mind that it should be individual writing credits, which I was okay with, except that, inevitably, what started happening was that it just got too difficult to keep track of. Say I write a song, bring it in, and then Vito or somebody comes up with one little idea, then, technically, don�t they get a writing credit? You know? It just got so technical, trying to figure it out. Who really was �the creator�? Do you just give it to the person who came up with the bulk of it, or, do the other guys? Technically, Joe writes his own beats, his own fills�is that considered writing?
So, we just decided at the end, �Let�s just credit everybody,� because, you know, it is a group effort, there are little things that happen. Even if I write something that is 99% mine, there�s still going to be that 1% that someone else threw in there, and that 1% can make all the difference, so we just keep it general. On this new album, I tended to have the bulk of the writing and arranging, but Vito did have considerable input, Joe, too. Paul writes all his own lyrics, vocal melodies and stuff. You know, it really is a group effort and we just keep in that way, in general, so that there�re no clashing egos later on (laughs).
Gauntlet: Sure, yeah. Can take the pressure off the creative process. And it seems unusual for a band that has such personal lyrics themes to take such a group approach. With bands like Death, for example, pretty much everything is Chuck and the rest of the band is just periphery. But it doesn�t seem that way with you.
Larry: No, I mean, everybody has influence. We let Paul really run with his ideas and get personal, or as personal as he wants to be. He told us that, oh, when did it start, I guess it started around the fourth album�and he told us when we were in the writing stage for that, he told us how he was going to approach it, he wasn�t going to write little poems and stories anymore. It was going to be something more personal. And we knew right off the bat it was going to cause some controversy with people, because this is Metal, and a lot of people can�t handle�feelings (laughs). Real emotional feelings. Everything, or at lot of it, is just posturing.
Gauntlet: Or at least, vague aggression.
Larry: Yeah, exactly. And we let him run with it, that�s his territory. But, if there�s anything that we don�t like, that doesn�t work, we can talk about it with him. If something isn�t flowing right, we tell him. It�s a group effort, but nobody�s personalities are being repressed here. Everybody�s got room in this band to show who they are. Especially Paul�it�s pretty much his band. I think it works out pretty well.
Gauntlet: And then when you get new members, which seems to be fairly often, how do you integrate them into that songwriting dynamic and personal approach? Do they just have to warm up to it?
Larry: Yeah, I mean, the only serious line-up changes we�ve had, at least recently, have always involved the bassist. And the bass player has never really had a strong presence in this band from day one in terms of songwriting. I mean, we�ve had great bass players, from Mary to Mike to Brian. All those guys were talented, but none of them were really the kind of people that were coming to the group with song ideas. Mike did have some, but still it was kind of limited. So, really, it�s never interfered. Musically, it�s always revolved around the guitars.
The biggest change obviously was when Eric left in 2002 and we got Vito. But like I said, I think that worked out to our advantage, because Paul and I were kind of ready for a change at that point. And we needed that kick in the ass from somebody younger and a little more aggressive and hungry. So, we�ve been lucky, I guess, the way it works out that everybody we�ve gotten into the band has either has not been looking to step on anybody�s toes in terms of shoving their ideas into the fold that wouldn�t fit, or, they�ve been people that�ve come in that have surprisingly fit right in. You know, Vito fell right in because he was young, and I was able to sort of�mold and shape him a little bit as a player to sort of fit what we were doing, as well as him adding his own touch. So, we�ve just been really lucky with the line-up replacements.
Gauntlet: Chicago is a pretty big city, so, when necessary�
Larry: Yeah, but it�s a lot harder to find a serious one. I know a lot of really good musicians but I don�t know a lot of professional musicians. You know what I mean?
Gauntlet: Yeah, who are willing to commit.
Larry: Yeah, that�s the problem we�ve had with bass players. Finding someone who can come in and play the songs with us is one thing, but finding someone who will put their girlfriend and their job behind them and go on tour for two weeks in Europe, or take that extra time after work to sit down and practice or work on a song with us is tough. You think in Chicago it�d be easier, but it�s not.
Gauntlet: That brings up two other questions I had. How do you see Chicago as a hub for your band and as a metal scene in general?
Larry: I love Chicago. There�re a lot of really great bands that have come out of Chicago, although a lot of them never made it as far as they should have. But we�ve never really felt all that connected with the Chicago scene. We were never one of those bands that fit in with a lot of the others or always played shows together or going on tour together. Our shows in Chicago are more the exception than the rule. And you know, we kinda like it that way. We do better abroad. But you know, I do love this city, I�m not ashamed to say we�re from Chicago, we�re proud to be from Chicago. But as far as being an integral part of the Chicago metal scene�I don�t know, I guess that�s for someone else to decide.
For us, we�ve always just been sort of the loner in the corner, so to speak. Because, there�s never been a strong doom/death, whatever you want to call it, tradition in Chicago�there are some bands popping up lately�but, everyone was always doing the Pantera kinda route or the grindcore route, so we just never really fit in. But I think the Chicago metal scene is really healthy right now from what I can tell.
Gauntlet: Yeah, and that sort of dark/death/doom style that you guys are around seems to be enjoying something of a revival the past few years, with bands like Solitude Aeturnus, Saint Vitus, Celtic Frost, Candlemass, whatever, getting all this newfound recognition.
Larry: Yeah, and you know, those bands, the ones you just mentioned, are really at the heart of our influences. I can�t even tell you�nothing against bands like My Dying Bride, they�re great, we�re friends with them�but I can�t tell you the last time I sat down and listened to that kind of stuff. If I listen to doom I listen to Solitude Aeturnus, I listen to Candlemass�Trouble. And then I listen to stuff that I wouldn�t really say is doom but that is a big influence for us, things like Celtic Frost. So, yeah, it�s great to see those bands coming back around younger, you know, like 16 or 18 year old kids nowadays wearing Celtic Frost shirts and actually knowing about them and not just wearing it because it was at Hot Topic or something. But actually knowing about it. You know, I meet these people online on Myspace or on forums, and it�s really great, really encouraging. It�s a large part of what�s keeping us going, you know? Just knowing that there�re new, younger fans out there discovering this stuff and maybe they�ll give us a chance, too.
Gauntlet: Mm-hmm. So, have you guys seen any impact from that revival?
Larry: Yeah, you mean for us? Yeah, I think so. Again, when I go online and am getting mail or friends requests from, you know, 15 year old girls or something�
Larry: --who�ve taken a picture of themselves with a �To Welcome the Fade� T-shirt on talking about how we�re they�re favorite band�I don�t think that would have happened five years ago. It didn�t happen five years ago, I know. And I think a lot of that kind of thing has to do with other, different stuff. They�ll talk about how they started getting turned on to our stuff because they started listening to Lamb of God and so on and so forth, and then the dug a little deeper and then they start to find out about Carcass and Death and My Dying Bride and so on, and then they come around to us and that�s great. I think right now it�s pretty good, the way things are looking.
Gauntlet: Yeah. And, speaking of some of those bands�looks like you�re going to be playing the Chicago Powerfest this year, is that right?
Gauntlet: Along with Solitude Aeturnus, they�re playing that too, aren�t they?
Larry: Yeah, yeah, they�re on there.
Gauntlet: So, is this the first time that you will have played with them?
Larry: Hmm� trying to think (laughs). Yeah, I don�t think we�ve ever played on a bill with them, unless we�ve shared another festival type thing with 100 other bands. So, yeah, I think this is the first time we�ll have played on the same bill. And that�s pretty cool, cause I remember listening to them for the first time, and then over the years through the nineties, they were a big influence. So that�s going to be pretty cool, it�s something we�re excited about. And our tourmates Saturnus are coming over, going to be playing in the States for the first time and they�ll be on the bill with us. And Thurisaz, which is like death/doomy kinda black metal hybrid band from Belgium that we toured with over there as well� it�s going to be a great bill, I�m really looking forward to it.
Gauntlet: How was that tour? Was that the first time you�d finally gotten to go over there, or�?
Larry: It was a great tour. And it was the first time, yeah. Played in a lot of great cities, great shows that we were headlining, especially with great bands like Agalloch and Saturnus playing before us. We were like, �Oh, man�is everbody going to leave?�
Larry: You know, is everybody going to leave after Agalloch�s done? �Cause those are really powerful bands with really strong followings. And, no, I�m happy to say, that aside from maybe a few people here or there, everybody stuck around and we had a great response. Belgium was amazing. We played two gigs in Belgium and the crowd there were just amazing, enthusiastic. I don�t want to, you know, rag on the United States, but it was a different kind of crowd reaction, it was people who were really into it. They weren�t afraid to headbang and yell and chant and sing along with the words. We did shows in places like Munich where we had people showing up with banners (laughs)
Larry: Yeah! And things like that. And we�re just kind of sitting there going, �Wow�this is�different.� But enjoyable. So it went really well. The tour promoter, Carl, works for a company called LSP, he�s the one that made this happen, and it was just amazing how he went the extra mile. He promoted the hell out of it, and it showed, because the turnouts were great. I mean, it did vary; we were playing in a lot of secondary-type markets, so we didn�t get to play in Amsterdam, we played in Helmond, the Netherlands, and so on and so forth. So, obviously, if we were playing in some of the bigger cities it would have been better, but when we did play some big cities, like Berlin and Prague, it was amazing. We had hundreds of kids turn up, and it was great.
Gauntlet: Good, glad to hear it. Well, I know you�ve got to get going, but I have one, final, most important question. I�ve been mulling this one over ever since I first saw pictures of you guys, so here goes. Do you know of any other metal band that collectively have longer hair that you guys?
Larry: (Laughs) You know, I don�t know. I don�t really pay that much attention, man.
Larry: You know, my girlfriend probably pays more attention to those things than I do. I don�t know, Paul and I, we�re just kind of naturally long-haired guys, if that makes any sense.
Larry: We�re the kind of guys that, even if we start going bald, we�re still going to have, you know, long, grey pony-tails. It�s just a reflection of our personalities. But I mean, our bassist, Chris, has short hair, Nunez has short hair, now. So, I�m sure there are bands out there that have much more hair.
Gauntlet: Alright. (laughs) Well, thanks a lot for your time, it was good to get to talk to you again.