I recently had the opportunity to chat with Rob "The Witch," the lead vocalist / guitarist from NecronomicoN, one of Montreal's premiere occult metal bands. Though the band has been going strong since the late 80s, they only have a handful of releases, including 4 full-length albums, one EP, and one demo available. Interested readers should definitely check out the brand new video for "Rise of the Elder Ones" from the latest album on Youtube. The band is also going to release some new tour dates in the coming weeks so keep an eye out for that.
Rob and I talked for well over two hours. It was a fun and engaging discussion, always interesting and never boring. I never intended to record the whole thing, but I did set aside some time for some specific questions about the band, its music and lyrics, and the connections between metal and H. P. Lovecraft. We also talked a little about the most recent tour. I modified the language a little here and there, trimming or expanding things only for purposes of clarity. I hope Rob won't mind these small changes. All mistakes and errors of interpretation are mine.
Keep an eye out for NecronomicoN. New to Season of Mist, they are stronger than ever and show no signs of slowing down. Fans of Nile, Behemoth, and Morbid Angel should definitely check these guys out.
SoT: My impression of your music is that it has a spiritual dimension to it, one that encourages people to discover hidden sources of strength. What would you say about that? What are some of the sources of inspiration you draw on?
Rob: Pretty much all of our albums have a different concept, but they are all related to the same general idea—the cycle of life and death; birth and rebirth; reincarnation. That's pretty much the main overall theme behind everything we do. Things involving where we come from, how human beings are part of the entire universe, the way everything is interrelated. We are all one in all—that kind of stuff. I could elaborate more, but when you read lyrics—as with Pharaoh of Gods—there's thinking about consciousness, about being part of something that's existed already, flashbacks to other things, what you've been learning in past lives, learning how to be a better human being, to be more in harmony with the entire cosmos.
If you take the lyrics to Pharaoh of Gods, for example, the lyrics are pretty occult. If you read them, they perfectly describe these things. But if you apply these things to yourself, you might have a really weird surprise! It's practically a ritual, something that helps explain things. It's like a technique, a movement that's mostly used in yoga, a greeting to the sun. It's like the way the greeting to the sun brings the energy to yourself and to the day, to learn how to become one with the energy of the sun. With The Silver Key, we dealt with the in between, the vortex that propels you. When you die you are projected onto the astral level and become conscious as to what you've been and prepare yourself for the cycle to begin again. The Sacred Medicines also brings similar things back to our attention. My step-father is a shaman. He finished raising me, so my values are different from those of other people, I think. I don't have the typical Christian or Catholic values. I believe in other things; I've also seen a lot of stuff. I had to develop The Sacred Medicines to speak of all that. You call to the sun, the moon, the earth, and what we call the animal people. They share their power with you so you can accomplish what you need to accomplish. Pharaoh of Gods also deals with the same kinds of things, things like the reconnection to nature.
With The Return of the Witch, especially in the title track, I dealt with the way people have been brought to judgment, like in medieval times, for example, for trying to connect with other, non-traditional things. People have tried to learn how to become one with all. That kind of energy or desire is always going to survive. To develop that energy is very important. The Return of the Witch is not about me, by the way; the nickname "The Witch" was given to me by the fans in the 1990s. The Return of the Witch album is about the return of the energy and how to learn about being sensitive to things on the outside, outside of material forms and the material world. How to assimilate all this and to be sensitive to it. I call it the power of the witch because it is a taboo. It is related to the feminine power. In native traditions, when women were on their cycle, they were believed to be sensitive to particular kinds of forces, were able to channel certain kinds of powers connected to the great mystery. Similar things can be awakened in a man, too. We are talking about energy, electricity. To create something, you need the positive and the negative, the feminine and the masculine. The unity of both creates electricity or power. The Return of the Witch was the awakening, the start of the gestation of the feminine power, a way to help it arise—and that connects us up to the Rise of the Elder Ones.
SoT: Let's talk about Lovecraft for a few minutes. You guys are obviously connected to his work through the name NecronomicoN. You got lucky because you were able to get that name so early on!
Rob: There is a band that got it before us by a few years. But I didn't know about them until about ten years after I started. I remember one day hearing that there was a German band with the same name that released one album and were never heard from again. I saw the album once in a guy's record collection. He told me the band didn't exist anymore so I didn't worry about it. Some things did happen later, but anyway.
SoT: Why do you think Lovecraft is so metal these days? He shows up everywhere.
Rob: It's hard to say. It's really hard to say. When you look at the guy and how he lived, there's something gothic there. He didn't deal with typical vampire and werewolf and Frankenstein stuff. I think his work is gothic, but it's also just Lovecraft. It's really beyond everything. In the way he brought it, it was different. It's really hard to say. He's pretty unique. It's funny, because these last fifteen or twenty years, it seems like he's becoming more popular. Back when I was younger, people were not talking very much about him. Well, maybe the geeks were talking about him a little. When I was a kid, I had these books and started to read them. I thought—"that's creepy!" It wasn't right too much in your face like Stephen King, giving you so much detail about this and that. Sometimes he spends too much time talking about turning the doorknob that you forget what's on the other side!
I think, seriously, HPL is the first guy who really brought the fact that there's something bigger, that there's always a bigger fish. To a certain level, it's bigger than everything, it's always extradimensional horror. Sometimes these monsters are not really monsters. If you fuck with them, they fuck with you. Otherwise, they don't always care about you. Are they really evil? It's always in between.
SoT: They are indifferent sometimes.
Rob: They're from another world, another religion, another race. Sometimes there are ghouls, but even so, it's really ambiguous. That's why I like it. The name of the band came from all that of course. Our other band name wasn't dark enough. I didn't want to go into the cliché areas, the satanic stuff. I'm not into that stuff. Of course, the first songs I wrote had some of that. You have to do that in metal a little. That's maybe one song, two songs maximum. I went after that into the spiritual stuff. We needed a darker name though. I was walking to practice and was thinking that I needed a dark name. There was a big storm coming and it popped in my head: NecronomicoN. Just like that. There was thunder. I got goose bumps and knew that was the name of the band.
What's the meaning? Book of the dead. But that's really ambiguous. What is a book of the dead? Demons? No. Remember what's written. It's a book that the knowledge is so powerful you can go insane. They talk about resurrection, reincarnation, paths to other dimensions, stuff that regular people can't handle. In the 1920s and 1930s, people weren't going for that stuff. Nowadays, things are different. Paganism is recognized as a religion now—for what, two years now?
My mom's a yoga master and had a copy of the Tibetan book of the dead. My biological father was a sculptor and was into crystals. He was also reading about Egyptians and their book of the dead. I thought that things could be interpreted in different ways. What is the real meaning of the Necronomicon? Things related to death practices, customs and laws. Now we're talking. Read my lyrics and apply the sentences and you'll find the connection. That's why we're called Necronomicon.
SoT: Let's talk about the new album and the tour a little.
Rob: The new album has been out six months. It's passed pretty fast. We had four major tour projects planned. One's been cancelled. One headliner cancelled. We went on a tour with Deicide for 26 dates. It's done.
SoT: How did I miss that? Did you play in Utah?
Rob: No. We had a breakdown and couldn't make the Colorado show. Lost two dates, Spokane and Denver. Besides that, we had all the other shows. We started in Atlanta, GA and went all the way up to Montreal, to Toronto, down to Columbus OH, across the US to Seattle, down to Phoenix, Dallas, and finished in Austin.
Rise of the Elder Ones has been hitting hard in the US. It's the first time we've hit harder in the US than in Europe. I am surprised. I wasn't expecting that. The critics liked it. In Europe, they thought it was ok. From my experience, we always met amazing people. People say we are easy to deal with. We're just regular Canadians—we like beer. The drummer likes hockey. I'm more of a geek.
I can't tell you more details now, but we're going back out on tour in May and June. I feel sad because I want to talk about it, but we're pretty excited about it. The demand in the US is there and we're happy to go there.
Photos courtesy of - from the top , 1 Char Tupper , 2 Marc Bizouard , 3 Alain Labonté