Hi Nicolas, how are you? Right now is a good time to introduce Norilsk to our readers since you recently released your debut ‘The Idea Of North’. Personally I was already impressed by your demo ‘Japetus’ and we personally met at the Malta Doom Metal festival last year. First things first though. Could you tell us how Norilsk was formed?
Hi Pim, I’m well, thanks. Norilsk was created as a studio project in the Winter of 2012 by Nick Richer (drums) and myself. Back then, after playing for years with a variety of bands, all of our “main bands” happened to be on hold, which I think led both of us to re-think what we wanted to do, music-wise. On my end, I felt an urge to dig deep inside of me and revisit some of the doom-death influences of the 1990’s. Since Nick and I were playing together in a side project called Damnus, and since I knew he also liked this genre, I showed him a couple songs I had written, and we agreed to make Norilsk a studio project. It’s only after we released the EP in 2014 that we started considering making it a full fledged band, with more band members and playing live.
Can you tell why you chose Norilsk as the band name?
The band name was chosen as I was writing the lyrics of the album. The lyrics are in French, but we didn’t want to have a French nor an English name; as they relate to the northern geography and the grim reality of it, a city’s name seemed to be most appropriate. After looking at places in Canada and in the Arctic circle, Norilsk became an obvious choice, as it’s probably one of the most iconic cities of the North with its extreme location and its mining complex.
’The Idea Of North’ to me comes across as a stand-out album, basically because you cannot ‘tag it properly’. There’s doom/death, there’s sludge, there’s post-metal. Could you try and describe what Norilsk stands for musically and what other bands inspire you?
Nick and I have both been playing many genres over the years, from death and thrash metal to grunge, nu-metal, rock and blues, and we listen to a great amount of contemporary music. Even when we try to go a certain way, I think we unconsciously deviate from the canons established by any genre. With Norilsk, the idea was to go as deep and slow as doom-death, and add the dirt and patterns of sludge to it. Here in Canada, our scene grew with crossover influences and unorthodox bands such as Voivod, and I always felt a certain freedom to mix genres. Similarly, I feel ‘The Idea of North’ is more of an hybrid than a pure style. In terms of musical approach, I think this is something in the air, take for example the latest Horrendous, Black Anvil, and Mourning Mist that blend remarkably well components of different genres. As for Norilsk’s stylistic influences, it ranges from the simplistic vastness of Thergothon and Shadow of the Torturer to the sublime arrangements of Morgion and Asunder, the hypnotic riffs of Morne and Raventale, and the whole spirit of the mid-1990’s melodic doom-death (you know who they are!).
You included both ‘Japetus’ and ‘Potsdam Glo’ from the demo on the full-length. Are these the same versions or did you re-record them?
Both were recorded in the same session as the album. ‘Japetus’ is exactly the same, as we wanted it to be some sort of preview of the album. As for ‘Potsdam Glo’, it’s the same recording, but a different mix. We were originally supposed to mix the whole album at En-Phase Studio, in Montreal, where we had recorded bass, drums and vocals; but for different reasons we had it mixed by Mike Bond in Ottawa. As Nick and I were deciding which tracks would end up on the EP and which one would go on the album, we decided to ask the Montreal studio to do a different mix of ‘Potsdam Glo’ and add it to the EP. For us, it gives a different lecture of the song as the Montreal studio has a metal approach to music (with deep low frequencies), while the Ottawa studio has a hardcore background (this is why the album ended up with a lot of texture).
You also added a cover version as a kind of bonus track, can you tell a bit more about that too?
‘Coeur de Loup’ is a bonus track to the digipack CD. It was originally released by Belgian pop artist Philippe Lafontaine, and it was a hit in Quebec (French Canada) in the 1990’s. With this tongue-in-cheek cover, we display the basic ingredients of our music, and the grim treatment our doom machine can do to any happy pop song; especially since the lyrics (‘Coeur de Loup’ means Wolf Heart) offer a different reading once clothed in a blackened doom veil.
Your lyrics are in French but you also provide them in English in the booklet. So it seems they are rather important. Can you tell a bit more on the decision to sing in French and the topics you sing about?
French is our mother tongue: on the one hand it allows us to write better lyrics, but on the other hand it also gives a deeper and more personal character to our texts. Since the 1980’s, French has been an identity factor for some Quebec metal bands (for example, the metal noir scene), but it was a very natural process in our case. Our lyrics speak about death and extinction, solitude, the land, history and a certain form of identity, but we try to stay away from any form of patriotism. While our French lyrics are an important character-defining element for Norilsk, we wanted it to add to the musical experience rather than limiting it. This is why we added English translations in the CD booklet.
You record as a duo but I understood you have some session members for live shows? Have you done any shows yet? So, can you tell a bit more about the session members and any plans of playing live in the future?
As mentioned earlier, the band started as a studio project and we only recently decided to play live. We added two guitar players to the fold: Martin Marion, who did the guitar solo on ‘Planète Heurt’ on the album (and whom Nick and I play with in Outrage AD); and Chris Humeniuk, leader of a local death metal band called Fumigation. With Martin currently living in the United States, touring makes just as much sense as playing local shows. At the present time, we are looking forward to play a few select gigs this year to test our live set, in Canada and/or US, and then do one or two small tours wherever we can. Ideally, we’d like to set foot in Europe next Winter or Spring 2016, depending on the help we could get with booking.
How did you actually get the deal with Hypnotic Dirge records? When we spoke last year you didn’t have a label yet I think?
I literally wrote HDR and gave them nine reasons why they should sign us! They were my first choice for this album, as they have released more than a few black, doom, and eclectic gems. They also were a good fit for us as we live in the same country and it simplifies everything from manufacturing, shipping, copyrights, and other legal issues, and it helps solidifying each other’s fan bases and networks. If I remember correctly, I received HDR’s confirmation as I was on my way to Malta, late October 2014. Back then, we were the first Canadian release announced by HDR in a long time, but since then they also released a doom metal compilation with many Canadian bands on it, and they recently announced the release of the Altars of Grief/Nachtterror split album, which I’m looking forward to. My hope is to see HDR continue on this path and become one of the most important motherships for Canadian doom-death in the years to come.
I also understood ‘the Idea Of North’ is or will be issued in other formats besides CD and digital as well. Can you tell a bit more about that too?
Dwyer Records is a small DIY label run by the guys from Alaskan. Because we live in the same city, go to similar shows and venues, and because Norilsk has this sludge/post metal edge, I think it made perfect sense for them to release the tape version of ‘The Idea of North’. Through Dwyer, we were approached by Alerta Antifascista Records, from Germany. They offered to co-release the vinyl and we found another label to co-release it with them (whose name is undisclosed at the present time) later this year. I think you already know that we are album collectors, and having the chance to have our own record in different formats allows us to add bonus tracks and different artworks, which is a treat both for the fans and for ourselves.
You recently released a video for the song ‘Japetus’. What can you tell about that one?
It all came together thanks to Nick Richer’s artistic network, as he is playing a character in a movie from Ottawa film producer Petr Maur. After Nick offered our music for the movie’s soundtrack, he and Petr also decided to cut the movie into a music video. In other words, it ended up being the product of Petr’s dark and twisted imagination, with Norilsk’s music and drummer as the main character. Petr’s movie Horsehead is scheduled to be released later this year, and hopefully there will be some Norilsk music excerpts in it. The night before the music video was premiered online, we also had the pleasure to do a private screening in a local movie theatre, here in Ottawa.
I think I have touched all important subjects. Anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you Pim and Lords Of Metal for this interview, and for your interest in our cold Canadian brand of metal. I’m looking forward to see Officium Triste live again in the future, and either visit the legendary Baroeg and/or attend Dutch Doom Days.
If any promoter is interested into booking Norilsk, they can get in touch with us via our Facebook page.