When I was 15 or so, I happened upon a CD by an artist called Xasthur. It was a self-titled EP with three songs. As a young teenager, I was enamored with black metal, smoking cigarettes and spewing venom to anyone who would listen, I was that guy. So when I saw this CD, whose cover artwork featured a stalactite riddled grotto mounted by an indecipherable white logo, I simply had to have it. But when I fed it to my CD player, the music coming out sounded nothing like the black metal I knew. I had to re-learn how to listen to this music.
Xasthur's corpse stopped twitching a long time ago, but the mastermind behind the music, Scott Conner, is very much alive. Reinvention sounds far easier than it actually is. To discontinue something you've been doing for years and to do so without any noticeable signs of withdrawal isn't an easy task, but that's just what Conner has done.
Nocturnal Poisoning is acoustic music. Everyone knows what acoustic music sounds like, they've drank at college parties, sat at the bar at open-mic nights and seen their friends' Youtube tutorials. If you aren't familiar with the language of an acoustic guitar, then you're either deaf or may as well be. We've all got that sound in our heads when we imagine the acoustic guitar, it's familiar, we know all about it. When I first heard Nocturnal Poisoning, I felt that confusion once again, it didn't sound familiar at all. This wasn't the acoustic music I knew. I had to re-learn how to listen to this music.
S- I'm not too sure when breakfast is, I usually eat it at 5 am and call it dinner, no joke.
Nocturnal Poisoning has been years in the making I believe. Can you remember when and why you decided to just go for it?
S- Well, it was something new to me, with more possibilities, it seemed like any or many musics all rolled into one could be played, instead of just trying to do 'one kind of music only'. The music of Nocturnal Poisoning comes naturally to me, it worked out so well and it was a sound I was searching for, it really was like 'fuck it, I'm just gonna go for it'.
I think we've been seeing a massive decline in the guitar player, there are plenty of guitarists (in bands), but very few stand-alone players with their own distinct character. It seems like the four chord frat boy or the guitar neck masturbation styles are most dominant. Am I wrong in saying this? What do you think?
S- I don't think you're wrong at all. When it comes to acoustic guitar playing, I think people have a very simplified idea of how it's supposed to be or simplified way of hearing it. I think it's an interesting challenge to make guitar based songs where the playing and the riffs in themselves are the foundation, where the foundation can make a song stand on its own.
The reason I asked the above question is because when I first heard Nocturnal Poisoning, I was reminded of guitar players with real character. Blind Willie Johnson, Dylan Carlson, Buzz Osbourne's current acoustic stuff, those players that have distinct guitar accents. Is Nocturnal Poisoning's voice something you had to build from the ground up, or are there certain ghosts still haunting your fingers?
S- Well, in the beginning of this, I didn't have a whole lot of die-hard 'influences', I just started out learning or trying to learn a lot of old acoustic songs, you name the genre, and I picked it up pretty quick, then it was like I wanted to take everything I was learning and do it wrong or better yet, do it my kind of way or change some of what I used to do, combining it with something else new and old. That's quite a compliment, thanks, those are fine guitar players, I really like the nasty twang Dylan's got.
Your music is very busy. There's always something going on, at least always has been from what I've heard. Was there any initial trouble in keeping Nocturnal Poisoning as busy a music as it is, or was that even the intention? Does technicality even come into mind when you write or play?
S- Yeah, that's really the idea. I do try to keep it busy, with both hands or at least with one. I want to make music I would want to hear, I also wouldn't be too happy if I bought an album from a guy who used to do black metal just to find out he was doing less as his big 'change'. I also think being expected to do something less or casual made me want to do more! Yes, technicality is in mind a lot of times, sometimes more technical than other times.
I've had this little warped acoustic in my bedroom for the past ten years, it's become an ornament at this point, but I still play my electric, mainly because I shit myself over the idea of learning chords and finger picking techniques. The videos you post to Youtube are great because they give the listener an idea of what you're playing and how you're playing it, like a tutorial, or exposing the bones of a song. Are these videos for fun, practice, promotion, or all the boxes ticked?
S- That's really the idea, it's a way of explaining what I'm trying to do but without spelling it out step by step either, at the same time, I see it as a way to clear up any misconceptions of what's being played. It is for enjoyment and it's also a challenge. I get a sense of completion when I film the songs, I also don't have to worry so much about trying to remember them once they're filmed, because... well... there they are.
With your third record, Doomgrass, is coming out this Summer, how would you compare it to your two previous records? Are you still trying to establish a sound with the record or will it be something of an experiment?
S- It's experimenting with more tunings and coming up with more chords. Some of it's darker this time, moody, that's where the doom comes in and it's all based around country, bluegrass, or 'folk' type of picking that I keep rolling with and expanding upon. Don't totally let the doom part throw you off because it's moving, kind of faster, but mellow all at the same time.
You smashed a laptop today with a fucking morning star. How good did that feel?
S- Well, pretty good. I think the laptop has really killed something called musicianship, it's caused a lot of laziness and its helped to overcrowd and devalue music. A lot of people want to play on their laptops instead of getting together and playing for real. I'm not one of those people who makes music on their lunch break with a free app or a laptop. Music isn't supposed to be something easy and I see the laptop as a cheating shortcut. If people wanna copy what I do, they should just start by smashing their laptop or by not relying on it.
Thank you again for the interview and thank you for providing the soundtrack to my formative years, and now my drunken adulthood. Looking forward to the new record and wish you the best of luck with the next one. On that final note, is there anything you'd like to communicate to the readers?
S- Well, thanks a lot, the questions were great. There's a lot of good old music out there, and it's not always linked to subgenres of metal.
Refund on Paradise