Friday 10 November 2023

An Interview With New Zealand Doom/Sludge/Stoner Metal Wrecking Crew - DEMONS OF NOON

New Zealand Doom/Sludge Metallers Demons Of Noon are releasing their debut album Death Machine on December 1st 2023 and it's a masterclass of modern day Doom/Sludge Metal with flashes of Psychedelic Stoner Metal and Cosmic based vibes.

Following a similar path to fellow KIWI metallers BEASTWARS but with a more gloomy OCCULT attitude, Demons Of Noon are going to make huge waves within the Doom/Sludge Metal scene when their debut album is released.

The band have just released their epic new song Crushing Sun from Death Machine which you can watch below.

I caught up with the Jonathan Burgess (Bass/Vocals) from the band to discuss their formation and the making of the new album which you can read below.

Hi there. Thanks for doing the interview. How are things with you all today?

Thanks for having us! Today is an exciting day — we’re releasing our next single ‘Crushing Sun’. I also just picked up tickets for Queens of the Stone Age and Mogwai, who are both making the long trip down to Aotearoa New Zealand next year.

For people not in the know, can you give a brief history of how the band came together and where it is today.

We’ve been making music together for a long time in many different guises. I work a lot as a sideman, and a few years ago the calls started drying up. Instead of letting that get me down, I took it as an opportunity. Playing heavy music is my favourite thing to do, and because I had been working on everyone else’s stuff, it was the thing I had been doing the least. Our drummer Joseph McElhinney had been over in London for a few years and was planning to return home. I called him from a tour van speeding through the Karangahake Gorge at sunrise, and Demons of Noon was born. We brought in guitarists Abraham Kunin and Scott Satterley and spent many glorious Sunday afternoons playing loud and slow in Whammy!, our local underground dive bar and spiritual home. After recording and releasing our debut EP The Summoning, vocalists Sophie Jackson and Aria Jones joined the band and took the sound to a new level. Sophie has since moved on to other things, and we’re now lucky to have Tamsyn Matchett in the band.

How would you describe your overall sound? As you combine complex melodies with ferocious heavy Doom/Sludge based sounds.

After watching one of our shows, Rene Black from Ambient Light described us as “absolutely crushing occult doom”, and she nailed it. Demons of Noon is like a big, warm ear massage. Monkish chants and ethereal harmonies float over punishing riffs. Since the early days, we’ve wanted to be ludicrously heavy, but also welcoming. I speak to a lot of people who are turned off metal by the aggressive vocal style. They’re missing out, quite frankly, so we draw in people who never knew they needed doom in their lives through a non-confrontational vocal style

We’re here to talk about your new album Death Machine. What can people expect from the album?

Death Machiie is a journey. From the quietly ominous opening strains of Echolalia to the twisted dark vocal interplay on Torched and Burned that ends the album, you’ll want to set aside some time to enjoy the trip in its entirety. Seared guitars anchor the six-part vocals with low and slow riffage, while spectral textures appear along the way, alongside nods to the influence of music that we love from the beauty of Mazzy Star to the caustic assault of black metal.

The album impressed the hell out of me with its unique style of Occult based themes and outlandish Sludge/Doom grooves and eerie Psychedelic textures. Demons Of Noon are very hard to pigeon hole and this album is a testament to that. Was that your original intention for this album to sound vastly different for your debut release.

Firstly, thanks for your kind words! They are much appreciated, and it sounds like you get what we’re going for. Like many debut releases, The Summoning EP was the sound of a band figuring out what it is, and we’ve come a long way since then — which is reflected in Death Machine. Our intention for this album was simple: make an album that we would want to listen to. At every point in the creative process, we’ve basically said “would I like to hear that?” If the answer was “yes”, then that’s what we did. We all push each other creatively, and that has expanded our art and opened broader possibilities for the music that we make.

Photo by Harry Skelton

Where did the name Death Machine for the album come from? Was it inspired by the classic 1994 movie of the same name? And why did you call the album that?

The name Death Machine is drawn from the lyrics of Sphere of Peace, a tale of a drunken military unit smashing through a jungle, hunting disfigured freaks. The death machine in this song is a big, abominable killing juggernaut. We haven’t seen that movie, but it looks great — thanks for the recommendation. There’s a few Brad Dourif fans in the band, so I’m surprised that we haven’t seen it yet. A lot of what is going on in this band is a reaction to modernity and following the advice of Max Cavalera in Soulfly to go back to the primitive — choosing Death Machine as a title reflects this.

Was this an easy or hard album to record for? Did your daily struggles, challenges and uplifting moments in life shape up the creative outline for the album?

This album took a long time to make. We’re all at a point in our lives where we have a lot of responsibilities — we have serious jobs, long-term relationships, and children. But we’ve all accepted the slow pace and getting together to work on music is a valuable release from the pressures and struggles of our lives. We’ve all been through personal challenges — alongside a global pandemic and cost-of-living crisis — and this is all reflected in the music. One of the things that I love the most about doom is that it’s a communal genre. Some of the most uplifting moments in my life are when we get to perform live and share that communion with the people in the crowd.

What is the creative process or setup within the band? Do you write the music together or do certain people within the band do that?

The band would be nothing without all of us, and making our music is a communal effort. Scott and I bring in the riff and structure ideas and write the lyrics, and we all put them together into songs. Joe is a monster on the drums, Abe is a unique guitarist, and there’s no way any of the rest of us could sing like Tam and Aria. A big challenge in writing vocals to this music is that it it’s just so fucking loud. To get around this issue, we were inspired by the process the Beastie Boys used to create ‘Sabotage’. That song was recorded as an instrumental, and then Ad-Rock snuck into the studio one night and yelled his famous fictitious rant about how their producer was trying to sabotage them. A lot of the songs on this album were created this way. We spent a few days in the studio recording all the instruments live as a band, and then worked away to write and record vocals over them.

The vocals on the new album are bloody spectacular and I loved the different styles that each member brings to the table. As they can be quite ethereal and quiet one moment which then changes to a heavier vocal style. Was that a challenge for the band when recording the album to make sure that the right vocal arrangements were used for a specific song.

Thanks for your kind words again! We put a lot of time into the vocal arrangements, and we’re lucky to have a few members who are good at harmonies. The process of writing each song was very organic, and the right vocal arrangements naturally grew from our time together in the studio. The bigger challenge is performing all these vocal arrangements live!

You’re from Auckland, New Zealand. What is the local live scene there? Do you have a live scene to perform gigs on a regular basis or do you have to travel further afield?

Venues like Wine Cellar and Whammy! are almost single-handedly holding up the live scene in Auckland, and we’re deeply grateful for what they do. Leaning on a PA speaker and watching Conan at Whammy! changed my life. There are some great bands around the country, and there are a lot of places that we want to get to. You can check out the Weedian compilation ‘Trip to New Zealand’ to enjoy some of the bands drawing inspiration from our landscapes, isolation, and social issues to make heavy music. There’s a limit to what you can do in this genre here though, and we do want to head further afield and tour through Europe and America. Some of our local heroes and inspirations like Earth Tongue and Ulcerate are smashing it in those countries.

I noticed that Nathan Hickey from the mighty BEASTWARS is a huge admirer of your band and that’s perhaps the reason I checked the band out in the first place, and I agreed with his statement of being my favourite new heavy band from New Zealand. How well do you know BEASTWARS as they are perhaps the definitive Doom/Sludge/Stoner Metal band from New Zealand? And have you performed on the same gigs and bills before.

Beastwars are legends, and we owe them a lot. After we released The Summoning EP, Nathan called us up and invited us to play our first gig at a sold-out Beastwars show in Wellington. He took a bit of a risk on this, and there’s some great photos floating around from that night where he is beaming ear to ear while watching our set — probably out of relief that we didn’t suck. Beastwars are an exceptional band, and Matt Hyde’s voice sounds like diesel and fire. They recently released another number one album in Aotearoa New Zealand, and I think they know how lucky they are to have reached that level of success in this country playing the style of music that they do. Because of this, Nathan constantly uses their platform to support up-and-coming bands like us, and we love him for it.

What future gigs have you coming up and will you be promoting the album more next year?

We’ve got a couple of gigs to celebrate the album release in Aotearoa New Zealand in December, and next year we want to go hard and build on the album release by playing a lot.

The artwork for the new album is sublime. Who designed the artwork and how much involvement did you have with the final design?

All our artwork is designed by Scott. He’s an incredibly talented visual artist and has a very clear vision for the visual aesthetic of the band. Scott is producing some very intricate artwork and that cover took him a long time. We’ve been working hard to design all the visual content for this release, so thanks, Scott! Because all the artwork originates from within the band, we have complete involvement in all the designs.

Your new album is being released by Evil Feast Records. How did you hook up with that label and what formats is the album being released upon?

Evil Feast Records is the label that we founded to release this album. We do everything ourselves. The album is being released on digital and a strictly limited run of vinyl, available from Bandcamp and select retailers.

What bands or artists influenced you to pick up an instrument and to become a musician? Do you have any side projects that folks can check out?

At high school, one of my teachers slipped me a copy of Blues for the Red Sun by Kyuss. I owe her a lot for this formative moment. We were all teenagers in the early 2000s and were heavily influenced by some of the heavy bands like the Deftones that were transcending genres at that time, alongside metal stalwarts like Pantera. We also draw a lot of inspiration from iconollastic heavy bands like Melvins, Bongripper and Boris. Some good side projects to check out are the ‘Old World’ album by Fortress Europe that I played on, the ‘Inner World’ album that Abraham made with the Dalai Lama, and the Hole-inspired band that Tamsyn leads: The Sour.

Before you go, do you have any words of wisdom for your fans currently out there.

In our next single Bad Men, the words of Stoic philosopher Seneca surface in the coda — after two thousand years — to remind us that “We are bad men living among bad men, and only one thing can calm us — we must agree to go easy on one another.”

Words by Steve Howe and Jonathan Burgess

Thanks to Richard at Sheltered Life PR for arranging the interview and thanks to Jonathan for doing this interview.

Death Machine is released 1st December 2023 on Evil Feast Records. Pre-order Digital | Vinyl