Matt Hensh caught up with Tim Charles (violin, clean vocals) from Ne Obliviscaris to discuss their latest album, Portal of I, their recent touring and plans for the future.
Matt Hensch of Thrashpit.com: First off, thanks for taking time out of your schedule to speak with me. Ne Obliviscaris just concluded a short tour of Australia. How did that go overall?
Tim Charles (violin, clean vocals): It was fantastic. It was actually our first headlining tour of Australia and all of the crowds were bigger than expected which is always a huge plus. For us, playing live is the reward. We loved creating 'Portal Of I' in the studio, but performing these songs and sharing in the songs energy with a packed crowd of people live is truly something special that we cherish.
Thrashpit.com: That's awesome. Of course, all these shows were in support of your first full-length album, Portal of I. The reviews and opinions pretty much everywhere have been universally excellent. Considering the time and effort it took to make the release come to life, you guys must be feeling damn good about its reception.
Charles: Yeah, it's been incredible! I have been working at getting somewhere with this band for close to 9 years now, and to finally have something released that we're proud of and to have it received so positively is absolutely amazing.
Thrashpit.com: What creative forces helped inspire something so vivid and colorful like Portal of I? It feels like it's very introspective and deep, much more than the usual album.
Charles: I think what makes Ne Obliviscaris what it is, is just the combination of 6 unique musicians, and an attitude when songwriting that anything goes. We are all quite different musicians but share enough common ground to make this band work, and when composing we throw a lot of ideas around, jam a lot of things out, improvise a lot, and generally are happy to explore just about any idea regardless of style or genre provided we think it is potentially great music A lot of bands get stuck having to play certain styles of riffs, or vocals or drums or whatever for much of their career and are afraid to change too much for fear they will lose their fanbase. I guess with us, we more took the approach of trying to break down all those conventional barriers and just stay as open minded as possible. It's that approach that has resulted in our sound.
As for specific creative influences.... I think every member would answer this differently; however, for me artists like Sigur Ros, Emperor, Opeth, Dream Theater, Karnivool, Explosions In The Sky, ISIS, Devin Townsend, Meshuggah, Arvo Part, Bach, John Coltrane, Jean Luc Ponty....all have influenced in some way the musician and composer I am today.
Thrashpit.com: The role you play is obviously the clean vocalist and violinist for Ne Obliviscaris, which are pivotal to the band's sound. What inspired Ne Obliviscaris to incorporate the violin as much as a guitar or other instruments usually dominating a musical landscape?
Charles: Well, when I first joined the band it was simply as a violinist, and the way I played was more in a classical style. I would search for sections that could use some extra melody and add some violin there much in a similar fashion to bands like Tristania, Sins of Thy Beloved etc. However, the longer I was a part of Ne Obliviscaris the more I attempted to work out new ways to make the violin work in this extreme metal context. You rarely hear violinists in metal that play in a "metal" style, it's normally either a folk or classical style and so in time I would try to copy what was happening in the lead guitars, the style of arpeggios and fast solos, the squeals and shrieks and see if I could find my own style of playing, and the violin parts on 'Portal Of I' are the result of all that practice and experimentation.
In the end there was never any real discussion of how much violin there should or shouldn't be in any of the songs. Most of the time I've been left to come up with my own parts wherever I feel they fit, and if I come up with something that everyone likes, we use it.
Thrashpit.com: That is very cool, the violin is definitely a trademark of the album that surprised a lot of people.
Charles: Yeah, it's been fantastic to find so many people resonate with it as it really is quite rare to be so prominent in a heavy metal band. For me, the violin is a very flexible instrument that you can use to play almost any style, that may not be how the instrument is traditionally thought of, but that is definitely how I approach the instrument and my playing for sure.
Thrashpit.com: Now that Portal of I has made its impact, do you think Ne Obliviscaris will take its live show to international shores in the coming year or so?
Charles: Absolutely. At present we have our record label CODE666 working hard to spread the word about Ne Obliviscaris far and wide across the world and basically we're just waiting for word to spread enough so that some international touring would be viable. I'd say that most likely we'd be looking at 2013, and we'd definitely love to make it to both North America and Europe so hopefully enough people buy our album to make this possible!
Thrashpit.com: Awesome, we'll definitely keep an eye on for announcements. I'd also like ask you the pros and cons of the internet. One of the hot-button issues of today is the internet's role in the music industry via file sharing and illegal downloading. However, The Aurora Veil demo released in 2007 really spiked interest in Ne Obliviscaris throughout various metal forums and websites because of the internet's ability to transfer information. Could this be, as a business owner operating in music affairs, one of the upsides to file sharing and downloading from both a business and a personal standpoint, potentially?
Charles: I think that the internet and file sharing in general is a bit of a double-edged sword. Ne Obliviscaris is a perfect example of a band that nobody would have known existed outside of Australia until our album was released a few weeks ago if it weren't for the internet. A lot of people were discovering us via Myspace around the time of 'The Aurora Veil' and because it was a demo we actively encouraged people to download it for free, just asking that if they really liked it to see if they could spare the money to buy a t-shirt sometime instead. So in that regard the hype that existed before 'Portal Of I' was largely possible due to the internet and file sharing in general.
In the end, I feel that file sharing is something that makes it easier for word to spread about a band like us who has only just released our debut album. People can read an interview, review or hear a song online and then decide to download it for free easily and at no financial risk. In the end this process will end up netting us more fans than if every person had to buy a physical copy. The downside to all of this, is that it makes it harder for bands to make any money out of the band and there is less revenue coming through. Of course, increased downloads can lead to some extra merch sales and crowd attendances, but regardless there is still a big financial loss there. My prediction is that in the future there will be a lot more bands that manage to achieve some level of success in the industry, but a lot less bands that manage to make a living off it, which is a shame as there is only so long people can dedicate their entire lives to something they are essentially doing for free and purely for love.
Thrashpit.com: Last question, what does the future hold for Ne Obliviscaris? Any plans for writing a new album, or are you guys just enjoying the moment?
Charles: We have a little bit of time now before our next tour and so already we have a lot of song ideas flying back and forth for album #2. It has been a long time since we've been able to all sit down and write music together and so there is a huge amount of material in waiting so I expect this next one to come about a lot quicker than 'Portal Of I'. So right now for us we'll be just spending lots of time writing, rehearsing to perfect our live show and doing everything we can to promote 'Portal Of I' far and wide by chatting with lovely people such as yourself! Very excited about what the future holds for Ne Obliviscaris without a doubt.
Thrashpit.com: That's awesome Tim. We've been enjoying Portal of I and we're all excited to see what the future holds. Thanks for talking to me today Tim!
Charles: Thank you for taking the time to help spread the word about our music. It is greatly appreciated.
Thrashpit.com: No problem man, enjoy your day.
Charles: Same to you!