Hello Tim! For the third time you left us in awe with a grandiose new album! So that means that it is about time for our third chat about the ongoing uprising of the band. How are you doing?
Fantastic! We are thrilled with the response to the album so far and excited to get back on the road and perform these songs that we are so passionate about all over the world.
When we talked the previous time – on behalf of the release of ‘Citadel’ – you expected that 2015 would offer you experiences that would even surpass the former praise. Did everything come up to your expectations?
In many ways I think that our expectations were surpassed. With each album you hope to build on what you achieve on the last, but the big difference with ‘Citadel’ was the opportunity to finally launch ourselves as an international artist and get the opportunity to travel all over the world and share our music with more people than ever before. We had definitely hoped things would go well, but the vast number of opportunities that came our way across the world was something we truly relished.
You did a smart crowd-funding campaign to collect funds for worldwide touring. And that was a huge success! So please tell us about all your tours following on the ‘Citadel’ album and the special places you visited on this globe… Any special happenings that struck you during these trips?
Yes we were granted many wonderful opportunities to tour all around the world, and this was only made possible due to the incredible support of our fans who contributed in such large numbers to our World Tour Crowdfunding Campaign. The first place outside of Australia that we were able to visit was India in January 2015. On this tour, we headlined a festival in Guwahati to over 12,000 people. The security barriers were all made of bamboo, and instead of security guards there were police officers with machine guns. During the support band’s set, all of a sudden we heard loud cracks of what we thought was gunfire, and everyone started ducking for cover backstage in the dressing room. The band on stage, Tinyfingers from Israel, rushed off stage mid song, only for everyone to realize moments after that actually it was just fireworks going off! Unfortunately, the organizer of the festival forgot to tell the bands! From there, the show went on with great success, though it was definitely a unique way to begin our Citadel World Tour.
From there, we performed at Soundwave Festival in Australia in February 2015, and then had the pleasure of spending our first European Summer playing many of the world’s biggest rock and metal festivals. And I tell you what – looking out on stage at Graspop with thousands of people roaring back at us definitely helped us realize how far we had come. We then were granted the opportunity to play over 65 shows across Europe and North America with Cradle of Filth, which saw us tour to many places we had never been before. Things were going so well we were then able to do a headline tour through North America in July 2016 before heading back to Europe for a tour with Enslaved, as well as a headline tour of the UK and a handful of other places. Mix in an Australian tour here or there, and we were finally done, fairly tired, and ready to work on a new record.
That crowd-funding is actually a kind of becoming a ‘Patreon’ and still going on. Can you explain it again to our readers, so they might join you?
Late in 2015 I realized that within a few months all the crowdfunding money for the world tour would be gone, and we would have to cease touring. The reality for a band like us was that we had been stuck in a middle ground that saw us being granted numerous touring opportunities across the world without being paid very well to take them up. This resulted in losses of more than $20,000 AUD per tour. It didn’t seem right that a band like ours that had tens of thousands of fans across the world had no money. To me, this spoke to the system we worked within the music industry, being broken. The more we spoke with other bands, the more we realized that it wasn’t just us, as a matter of fact – if you weren’t one of the big headliners, then likely you were either losing money, or simply breaking even. Rather than accept our fate, we embarked on a new venture emboldened by the firm belief that if we gave our fans an opportunity to support us in a direct and ongoing way, financially, that they would do so.
This idea came to fruition via the platform “Patreon” and a monthly membership initiative that we called “The Ne Obluminati”. This gave our fans a way to cut out the middlemen and have a direct and real impact on our career, giving us a way to more efficiently work with and monetize the people that supported our music. In return, as well as being able to continue touring extensively, we also try to create an interactive fan experience unlike any other.
Members of ‘The Ne Obluminati’ get access to all sorts of things month to month depending on their membership level. A few such things are: Free tickets to shows, access to Live Q&A’s with the band, Tutorials, Interviews where they get to ask all the questions, dinner with the band when in your town, VIP access to shows & soundcheck & much more. They also get a personalized connection with us that surpasses what is achievable via social media simply because we are dealing with 1100 members and not 85,000 such as on Facebook.
I read that you are coming at the point of making the jump to do Ne Obliviscaris full time. Can you go deeper into this current considerations and the reasons for taking this leap? The pros and cons you face…
The aspiration to go full time with Ne Obliviscaris is something that has always been there in the background, but has only now, with the advent of The Ne Obluminati, been something that we’ve been able to look at seriously. Our hectic touring schedule resulted in all of us getting fired from our old day jobs, and so we really had no choice. We had to find a way to make this band work full time, or scale back our touring commitments significantly. We have set a target of $15,000 USD per month, which we felt was the minimum required to achieve our goal of doing NeO full time. Currently, our Patreon is over $12,000 USD, and has been rising significantly over the past couple of months, and we are very optimistic about what lies ahead.
When did you start writing new material for ‘Urn’ and what can you tell about that process this time?
We started writing material early in 2016, however, most of the music on ‘Urn’ was written from October onwards that year. The process varied from song to song. Much of ‘Eyrie’, for example, was written quite collaboratively between Matt and I during a day off in Dublin, Ireland, in October last year. In contrast, ‘Intra Venus’ was written primarily by Benji and only completed ten days before we started recording the album. One of the great strengths of this new album was the wide contribution of so many members to the songwriting process. We are definitely a band that achieves more when we all work together.
Ne Obliviscaris has a signature sound and that should be known by now, but what are the new musical developments within the band or things you worked on when making ‘Urn’ to even improve your art?
On every album we always try to push the boundaries of what we do. However, we never try to overthink things, or deliberately change anything specific. Some of the things on ‘Urn’ that are different are the more extensive use of string sections, as well as what I feel was a more varied approach to my clean vocals. We also brought in Mark Lewis to produce the clean vocals and mix and master the album. We absolutely loved working with him and feel that he was finally able to make the band sound like we had always imagined in our minds.
Bassist Brendan Brown recently left the band. What was the reason for that?
As much as the music we create together is important, it’s even more important that we respect each other as people and in the end there were certain things that Brendan had done in his personal life that we simply couldn’t stand by. It is never a pleasant thing to part ways with a longstanding member of the band, but it was definitely the right thing for us to do.
At the moment it seems that there is no permanent replacement. So please tell us how you solve this problem at the moment and what are the prospects to recruit someone in near future?
We were privileged to work with the wonderful Robin Zielhorst (Onegodless/ex-Cynic) on ‘URN’ and felt he did a fantastic job creating parts that worked with our vision for these songs and the album overall. At the time when we asked Robin to play on the record we knew he was not available to join, but felt it better to focus on finding the right person for the album and not rushing the permanent replacement. We had since held extensive auditions with many bassist’s from across the globe and selected Martino Garattoni from Italy to join us on tour moving forward.
Can you tell something about the other guests on the album?
We had the pleasure of inviting 20+ members of ‘The Ne Obluminati’ down to the recording studio to do the group vocals on ‘LIBERA PT. 1’. They did a fantastic job and we’re thrilled with the result. It definitely felt like a special thing to be able to include our fans in the recording of the album in that way as well. In addition to that we had my friend Tim Hennessy play cello on several tracks and the string sections were created by blending a trio of violinists that consisted of myself and two other wonderful professional violinists in my family; my sister Emma Charles and my fiancé Natalija May.
Amazing that you made a single (and video clip) for ‘Intra Venus’, a song of 7’28’’! What was the reaction of the label hehe?
I actually had a funny conversation with our label head whilst in The Netherlands last year. They talked about how it was important to have a video for this next album, and I expressed that it was difficult to do video’s when most of your songs are 10min+…to which he responded, “Tim, it’s called writing a single”. And I just laughed made clear that we had no idea how to do that…haha But when we did end up with a song that was *only* seven minutes long, we felt that was the perfect excuse to finally get a video happening for a NeO track!
And please tell us something about the making of the video clip for that song…
The video was filmed and directed by Adrian Goleby, who himself plays guitar in a great Australian band CALIGULA’S HORSE and had artistic direction from Xen. The two of them basically worked together to create the end result and I couldn’t be happier with how it came out.
I see that you have released two EP’s in 2015, but only limited to 300 copies and it was a self-release. What was the reason for that? Aren’t you afraid that people miss these songs now in their NeO collection?
The two EP’s in question were released as part of our 2014 crowd funding campaign as part of the enticement to get people involved in that campaign was that they were going to be exclusive. We did make them available for free download via our Patreon earlier in 2017 but won’t be printing them on CD again in the future. These were collections of some of the very first songs we wrote between 2003-2005 and if I’m being honest, I think the songs we are writing these days are much better anyway haha.
Can you tell a bit more about the song ‘Eyrie’. What is it about and how did you – as example – composed this one?
‘Eyrie’ is in some ways almost a love song, but as with all the other songs on this album touches on the concept of death. Xen likes being a bit abstract with his lyrics so I’ll leave it at that for now. As I mentioned above, this song was written in large part during a day off in Dublin last October with Matt & I hanging out in our hotel room for the day. From there once we had the guitars mostly in place. I then spent several months trying to work out the perfect combination of clean vocals, violins & string sections whilst working collaboratively with Xen and Robin (bass) to make sure everything was exactly the way it needed to be. It was interesting that the basis of this song came about by far the quickest, as this was then actually the last song to be completed, with the finishing touches only being finished in the studio. It’s a song that I felt stood apart from everything else we have done so far in style, but one I hoped our fans would appreciate. Thankfully, the response to this song has been exceptional which has been very exciting. It’s always a great thing to explore new musical frontiers and have that be well received.
I guess you will start touring again for ‘Urn’ soon. What are the plans for the near future – on touring as well as on other things you might like to achieve?
This week we leave for the USA for our big ‘URN’ album launch tour there before heading to Australia & New Zealand in February and then onwards to Europe very soon after we hope! The plan is definitely to tour as far and wide as we possibly can.
If there is anything you like to add, please feel free to do so…
Just a huge thank you to all our fans across the world. We are so grateful for everyone’s support and hope you enjoy listening to ‘URN’ as much as we enjoyed creating it.