Your CD 'Tales From The Soul' has been out for quite a while now. How are the reactions and results in terms of fans, press and sales?
We get a lot of feedback from e-zines and progsites and stuff but it's still kind of hard to judge the response, because we really don't know the status of those media. But still we' re really glad with the reactions so far. As a coincidence we counted all online reviews a couple of days ago and over about 65 reviews we score 80 out of hundred on average. We haven't compared it to any other band but still have the feeling that it quite a good score. Sales figures so far are not known to us. We should get our first results in October. Still we try to estimate a bit via the sales ratings that can be found on the American and European Amazon sites. But actually it tells us not very much so we have to be patient till we get the real stuff from the label.
And are you yourselves still happy with the album, or are there things you would have like to see different now?
Yes, very happy. Because of the positive reviews but also because we still love to listen it after eighteen months. There are of course all kinds of things that we could have done differently but we don't feel sorry for anything. We really are very happy with the result.
How long did it take you to write and record 'Tales From The Soul'? Could you tell us all about this process?
I think the average debut in most cases is quite different from everything that follows because you can choose from everything you have done. Because it's a debut you probably choose the best you can give and that may have been created in five or more years. For your second album you probably won't have that time and I can image it needs even more effort to surpass the result. In our case, we made a selection of the best material we got so far. This material was created from 2001 to 2003.
About our way of composing: For starters there is the great composing talent of Wouter. He really is the founding father of the band. He writes the music from a pure musical point of view. Pure in a sense that he focuses fully on the emotional atmosphere of the music rather than explicitly relating to any real life political or whatever topic (or at least he doesn't tell us ;-) and no lyrics or vocal melody. Even if he has some ideas about what should be chorus and what should be verse, this is never fixed beforehand. Then I (Eddy) listen to the concept of the song several times (somewhere between five and 30 times). I try to determine the emotional feeling that I get when listening to the song and then I try to relate it to some of my real life experience (or sometimes a story that I read). In the mean time the rest of the band start rehearsing the song instrumentally and once they are able to play the song I join them improvising. I sing along inventing English sounding words and I record what we play on minidisk. Most of the time this way the melody of the chorus is created. Then at home I listen again to the improvisations and start writing the lyrics based on the aforementioned emotions that I had. After this all that is left is polishing both musically and vocally. This is roughly the process that most of the songwriting follows. For the seconds album this might be slightly different since both me and Michiel (keyboards) have already composed music for two new songs. But in these two cases also the music was created before the vocals. With this most of our artistic view has been said. Wouter has the most influence in the composition but the entire band is responsible for the arrangement. All the instruments roughly invent their own interpretation of their part. Chorus basics from Wouter are of course maintained but the actual implementation is done by the guys themselves. For instance: for drums Wouter programs a very simple base line in the concept but Martijn creates all the really magic drum stuff. Same with the bass and the keyboard.
Before the album was put out the band changed names, and went from the moniker Morgana-X to NovAct. What was the reason for you guys to do so?
The name change was more or less required by our label (Sensory Records). Even though we were free to keep the name we were strongly encouraged to change it since at least in the States a lot of people wouldn't take a new prog band with a name ending with an 'X' seriously. I figure the reason is obvious.
You play live a lot. Is there a big difference between NovAct on stage and NovAct on CD?
Hmmm, there are some very specific differences. The most prominent is that live we only have one singer. So we cannot mimic the multi-vocals of the CD. We are working on that by the way but today that is still the case. Moreover we are more raw and energetic than the CD conveys. The life show is really all about energy and power while in our CD we really have room for the subtle emotions that come with such a crisp production.
The band has a record deal with the label Sensory. How does a Dutch band end up with a label from America?
That's quite an uncanny story by itself. It actually almost went like a teenage rock band dream story. We got out the promo (misunderstood 2003); within a week we sent copies to a lot of magazines, labels and festivals. With the same week we got an invitation for HeadWay 2003 via Dennis Leeflang (who did an awful lot of other great things for us!) and just after finishing our gig at Headway I was approached by Claus Jensen (Intromental) who told me that Sensory knew of the promo and was interested. I think he had to repeat that about three times before I believed what I was hearing. And to make a long story short: from there onwards we got signed by Sensory.
Technical metal is still pretty much popular with a lot of metal fans. How do you see your chances when it comes to an international break-through?
We're still not sure if our music is considered technical metal. As far as virtuosity is concerned, we are not compared with bands like Sun Caged and Dream Theater. We really like to focus on the song rather than the musical 'marksmanship'. And we hope to reach a larger audience with that. Still I think that because prog metal is such a tight niche, you get much sooner known internationally than in other genres but then again, mostly only to real prog fans. It's really hard to estimate our chances. But having signed with an American label should do something. At least the do some international promotion. We wait patiently…
Why do you think that there are not so many bands in The Netherlands who play the same kind of music as you do? And to elaborate on that: which challenges does a Dutch prog band has to overcome?
Hmm, of course Holland is quite small. But besides that I simply think that the average young musicians is not exposed enough to prog metal. I think that compared to other styles it might also appeal much less to younger people. Maybe another reason is because it's a bit harder to master real prog and probably takes much more practice to reach a level at which you can play a decent piece of prog. And maybe the most important of all: the average audience is not waiting for prog (rather for U2 and Marco Borsato which is perfectly fine by me hehehe).
Any short term plans? And what about long term ambitions?
Well, the short term plans are touring with After Forever, which will happen coming September. After that we hope to release a second CD, and meanwhile we'll try our best to play live as much as possible and create a solid fanbase.