Paul Kuhr - Voice For The Betrayed
By Jason Wick
When talking about talented death metal vocalist it’s hard not to mention Paul Kuhr’s deep, articulated growls. The Novembers Doom front man has been one of the pioneers in bridging the gap between fearsome bellows and emotive lyrics. With his (arguably) heaviest material in These Are They’s concept release upon us, and Novembers Doom material in our future I decided to contact the man behind this foreboding voice and shed some light on his world.
Hello Paul! I’d like to start this off by thanking you for your time, which one would imagine you’re quite short of as today (September 14th, 2010) we see the release of Disposing of Betrayers from your project These Are They and from my understanding you’re in the midst of working on new Novembers Doom material.
Hello, and thanks for getting in touch! Yes, it is a very busy time. As you said, THESE ARE THEY released "Disposing of Betrayers" today, and we're talking to many people, and using online resources like Twitter and Facebook to help spread the word, and let people know it's now available. As far as Novembers Doom, you are correct as well. We are working on material for the next CD!
Pertaining to Disposing of Betrayers, how do you feel about how this album came out? Concept wise this is a very ambitious release, how do you think the metal fan base will receive it?
Whenever a band puts out a new CD, they always say the same thing about it. "This is the best thing we've done" or "It's our strongest release yet" to hype the CD, if they believe what they are saying or not. I've been in bands and in the music scene releasing CD's for over 20 years now, and I can say with sincerity and honesty, "Disposing of Betrayers" is one of the very best things I've been a part of. It's easily in my top 3. It came out better than any of us expected, and we topped our debut release in every way; the writing, production, musicianship, and the concept. I know we took a chance on the choice of topic, but we wanted to do something unique, and different for a death metal band, and not only do I feel we achieved that, but it worked, and worked well.
Organized crime in Chicago has quite the extensive documented history, and likely an even more expansive undocumented history. Were the members of These Are They well versed in such before this release? Did you guys break out the history books in order to apply the most accurate polish to these themes?
Growing up in Chicago, it's all around us here. You know the places and the people who are connected in one way or another, and you know to be careful in certain situations. Steve and I wrote all the lyrics, and we knew the history already on what we wanted to write each song about, but we did research for specific details. It's a very touchy subject to write about, and since much of this still goes on today, we had to tread that ground carefully. We didn't mention names, or try to preach one side or the other. We took existing news stories, and wrote re-imagined lyrics around fact, keeping it respectful. The intention was to highlight something we found fascinating about our home, adding some local pride to it. No other city is quite as rich in organized crime.
These Are They holds noticeable differences from your most established act Novembers Doom. How did the project come about? Do you view it as a method to explore a variety of musical avenues?
After about 15 years, Novembers Doom co-founder Steve Nicholson and myself met up once again, had a few drinks, and Steve mentioned wanted to create music again. A few drinks later, we decided to get some friends together, and give it a shot. Things got serious fast, and we ran with it. In a short amount of time, less than two years, we formed, have released an EP, and 2 full lengths. With THESE ARE THEY, I view it as a different outlet than Novembers Doom. In ND, things are more personal, and emotive. In TAT, it's just fun, without expectations or limitations. Its foundation is basic, old school death metal created in the same style as when death metal was great, but adding our twist to it, and using modern production. You get a CRUSHING polished sound, that just hammers you in the chest from the get go.
Speaking of Novembers Doom, how is the upcoming release coming? Last I heard you were working on laying down lyrics for it. Are there any specific themes we should expect to hear?
The music is 100% complete, and we enter the studio at the end of October to record. I am still refining lyrics, and working on phrasing and melodies for the clean vocals. I still have a song or 2 to complete lyrically, but most of it is done. There is no actual theme this time. I wanted to link it all together like the last several CD's, but this time, I just started to write, and each song seems to be standing on its own quite well. I can't really give away too much information or titles of anything just yet. Things will change up until the last minute I'm sure, so for now, I can just say the ND fans won't be disappointed.
Novembers Doom is a project that has evolved, and thoroughly matured since its inception, looking back at all the years since you guys started creating music, what has been your personal motivation to keep things going, and what is it that has encouraged you to embrace change (most notably in the lyrical department)?
My motivation is simple. Novembers Doom defines who I am. Without it, I'd be lost. It's my emotional and creative outlet. Around "To Welcome the Fade" I decided to write from a very personal place, and I used this as therapy. It's helped me deal with a lot of personal issues over the years, and I think opening up to the fans in that way has helped to build a personal connection with people. We all go through moments of trouble and pain in life. We can ALL relate to that, and this is a way I can reach out to people and let them know they're not alone. I get mail all the time from people, saying they feel as if a specific song was written for them, and it's like a chapter from their life. Couple that with the amazing feeling I get on stage, when you look out to hundreds, and sometimes thousands of fans, and seeing them sing along to every word of every song… There's no better feeling then fans that are so into the show, they lose themselves with you. It's amazing.
You have written some of the most blatant, personally revealing lyrics on an emotional level the heavy music scene has seen. This demands a lot of respect given the lack of such in the world of metal. Is it ever difficult to sing such personal songs live?
There are a few songs in the ND catalog that we don't play live for that very reason. Some of them would just be much to difficult for me to do. I have regretted writing some songs I have in the past, but looking back, it was a moment in time I needed to say it. Now, some songs I refuse to do, not just because of how personal it is to me, but how personal it is to the other people involved in my life who don't need to be reminded of some of the lowest moments of my life.
It's a hard decision to approach certain topics, and even harder to perform them in front of people the song effects most. A good example, we played a private acoustic show recently for about 40 people. My mother was in attendance, and we performed "The Fifth Day of March" which is about my Father who passed on that day. That was extremely difficult to do.
Many people will tell you not to take a journalists opinion personally. It's difficult not to, when you put 2 years on thought, work, writing, creation, sweat, long hours away from family… All for the sake of recording a CD for people to enjoy. Then, you get to sit back and read a review with lazy comparisons to other bands, when it's clear the "journalist" took an hour out of his life to criticize something I put years into, just because he's too lazy to do his homework on the band.
Over the years, we've always seemed to be in the shadow of a lot of bands, due to geographical location, so you always get lumped into the "clone" category. Sorry to say, after 21 years of doing this band in one form or another, we've been around longer than most of the bands we're accused of sounding like, when our only fault is that we didn't get the recognition early on like other bands. But you know what… We don't care about any of that anymore. We try to look forward, worry about ourselves, and our music, to always try to outdo ourselves, and make a better CD then the previous, and hope we continue to grow our fan base like we've been doing over the past few years. We're not going anywhere anytime soon, and the lazy haters will always be there, but so will the journalists who are respected, and you can tell a well written review from a piece of shit instantly these days. As long as we're happy and our fans want more, we'll give them more.
Well Paul, it was nice talking to you, I would like to close this with what we can expect to see in the future of Paul Kuhr. What is over the foreseeable horizon?
The new Novembers Doom is on it's way. You should see that in early 2011. I'm sure we'll start on new These Are They material soon as well, so we'll record in 2011 as well. Of course, there's something else… Right now, I can't tell what, but you'll know soon. Also, expect to see Novembers Doom touring some to support the new CD when it's released, and These Are They will certainly be playing a few times as well!
THESE ARE THEY
Official The End Records Website
Nice, they're from my hometown Chicago! Have seen them a few times over the years. They put on a pretty killer show.
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