Nuked Metal, September 2005
20 Questions with Nox Arcana by Kevin Brady
1. Why did you decide to play music and what was the deciding factor for you to pursue it as a career?
Joseph: Actually. I’m mainly an artist by profession, but at this point in my career I’ve also been successful in various other creative fields such as music and writing. I was in several rock bands after high school, and nothing compared to the feeling of playing original songs for a live audience, but I gave it up to pursue my art career. Now, many years later, I have the opportunity to create a different kind of music and I’m loving it.
2. Did you ever think that your dream of being a pro musician would become a reality?
Joseph: We all have our dreams, and I am a firm believer that we each have the power within ourselves to make them come true. I created my own business based on my artwork and throughout the years it has expanded into the arenas of music and literature. I think if you want something bad enough, and you work at it hard enough, you can make any dream a reality.
3. Which instruments do you play? Which are your favorites and which is your least?
William: Joseph and I both play the piano, and I also play the guitar, mandolin and violin. We are also well-versed in midi and sampler technology. Piano is my favorite instrument to play, whereas the violin is much more of a challenge.
4. Which do you prefer to do the most: Arranging and recording or playing live?
Joseph: We don’t play out live as Nox Arcana, but we have written and recorded 84 tracks in the past two years, so we would definitely have to say that we prefer arranging and recording. We both love to write and compose music and bring our dark artistic visions to life. It’s very important for us to create music that will convey our concept, be it a cursed Victorian mansion. an ancient Egyptian temple, the haunted ruins of a gothic cathedral, or Dracula’s castle.
5. What inspires your music and your lyrics?
William: Much of our music has been inspired by Joseph’s artwork. We have many of his paintings displayed on the walls in the studio and his artbook and magazines are always within reach as we are writing. With some of the albums we have drawn inspiration from other literary sources as well. For the Necronomicon album we were constantly referencing H.P. Lovecraft’s original works, and as we were working on the Transylvania album, Bram Stoker’s Dracula was a great source of inspiration.
Joseph: I love digging deep into the shadows of my own imagination. We are currently working on our fifth CD, Carnival of Lost Souls, and we are creating an entirely original storyline for our audience. The main theme will deal with the creepy attractions of an old-time carnival that harbors living nightmares and sinister secrets.
6. Who would you say are your biggest influences?
William: My main influences are from soundtrack composers Hans Zimmer, Wojciech Kilar, and Jerry Goldsmith. For our recent release Winter’s Knight we were also influenced by the music of artists like Blackmore’s Night, Lorena McKennit and Enya.
Joseph: My biggest influence actually comes from fantasy artist Frank Frazetta. He’s the main reason I decided to spread my artistic wings. As far as Nox Arcana is concerned, my musical influences are John Carpenter and Danny Elfman.
7.How much input do you have on the music, lyrics, or melody with Nox Arcana?
Joseph: I write all the lyrics and a good deal of the music. William and I collaborate on the melodies and then we hammer out the composition and choice of instruments together. It really is a great working environment with lots of creative ideas flying around. Once we are done with the music, I work with graphic designer Christine Filipak to create captivating packaging for the disc. So far, we have included a multi-page booklet, filled with artwork and a sinister storyline to accompany each of our releases.
8. What are the most important parts to you when you write a song?
William: When we write a song, we believe the most important part of the song is the melody. A lot of modern music seems to lack a catchy melody, something that once you’ve heard it you can’t get it out of your head. Most soundtrack music doesn’t convey a strong sense of melody either. It’s mainly background music.
9. What equipment do you use when you are recording?
William: Between Joseph and I, we handle all aspects of recording, mixing, and production, so our studio is custom designed around our style of music. The backbone of our studio is our Macintosh computer with Digital Performer and Peak for mastering. We use a Yamaha mixing board and Samson studio monitors. Samson microphones are also used to capture the vocal and live instrumental tracks.
10. What are some of the various bands you have been a part of and which instruments did you play?
Joseph: Nox Arcana is William’s first band. We actually began working together when he was sixteen years old. I’ve been in several other bands throughout the years. I was the lead singer in the heavy metal bands Fallen Angel and Virgin Steel. My friend Jim Hamar used to be the lead guitarist in Virgin Steel before he became the singer for the band Breaker. He’s got a fantastic voice.
In 1998, I began working with a local musician named Ed Douglas to turn Midnight Syndicate into a gothic band. Ed had released one prior CD, but it contained a mish-mosh of styles, including rap, easy-listening and country. My goal was to create a gothic identity for the band and to direct all the music to fit the theme of a haunted castle. I wrote several creepy verses and recited them as intros to some of the songs. In addition to being the producer and financer of the project. I also created all the album artwork, and along with Christine Filipak, we created the entire promotional campaign to launch the new "gothic" version of the band.
11. How did you become involved with Midnight Syndicate then Nox Arcana?
Joseph: I met Ed Douglas when he came to a gallery showing of my paintings in October of 1997. He approached me because he liked the music I had compiled for the gallery, which was geared towards creating a moody, gothic atmosphere for the gallery’s castle-like setting. He gave me a copy of his first self-titled Midnight Syndicate CD, and although most of it wasn’t to my liking, I thought that two or three of the tracks showed some promise. I invited him to my Halloween party and he became an acquaintance of mine.
A few months later we spoke about the possibility of working on a project together. At the time, I had established a large audience in the gothic realm. I was selling a product line of my gothic artwork which included a series of posters, t-shirts and calendars called Born of the Night. These items sold really well through the national chain of Hot Topic stores. I came up with the idea of doing a Halloween music CD based on the Born of the Night product line that would sound like a soundtrack to a gothic horror movie. Ed put together a rough demo tape and some of the tracks sounded pretty good. I decided to fund and direct the project. Ed knew a guy named Gavin who was also a musician and Ed wanted to work with him as well because he had a recording studio set up in a spare room of his parent’s house. Gavin’s first few demos didn’t exactly fit in with my concept, but I kept cracking the whip and eventually he wrote a few songs we were able to use.
After we successfully marketed the Born of the Night CD through Monolith Graphics and Hot Topic. I worked with them once more on their third CD, Realm of Shadows. Once again, I came up with the storyline, liner notes and song titles and wrote and recited a creepy narration for the intro. In the following year, they began pulling some crap that didn’t sit well with me, and eventually it got so bad that I decided not to work with them again. They started saying that I had nothing to do with the production of their albums. even though I’m credited as the producer. I got so fed up with reading their lies in interviews that I decided to start my own musical project. This was the birth of Nox Arcana.
I’ve known William for several years and I discussed the possibility of working together with him. He was very enthusiastic about the project and within a few weeks, we were in the studio working on the initial tracks for Darklore Manor.
12. Have you recorded anything with either of them lately? If so, what?
Joseph: I will never work with Midnight Syndicate again. Besides, my work with Nox Arcana goes far above and beyond my work with those posers.
William: We are constantly in the studio working. We just finished the Transylvania album, due for release by Halloween. In the meantime, we have already begun working on our next album, Carnival of Lost Souls.
13. Who are some of the current musicians you like? If you could jam with them, would you?
Joseph: We actually did collaborate with some great singers on Winter’s Knight, including vocalist Michelle Belanger from the goth-rock band Urn, Jeff Endemann, singer and guitarist of the progressive metal band Seven, and gothic poet Eric Gustafson. Besides these artists, I have always been a huge AC/DC fan. I don’t know if our music would fit with their style, but I’d love to jam with them.
14. If one day, Yngwie Malmsteen, James Byrd, or Vangelis asked you to play on some of their songs, would you consider it?
Joseph: Sure. I love Yngwie’s music and I think it would be cool to come up with some powerful, sinister-sounding orchestrations to compliment his blistering riffs. We’d love to collaborate with lots of other artists from different musical realms.
15. Which band was your most favored to play in and which one was the least?
Joseph: Aside from Nox Arcana, I would have to say that Virgin Steel was my favorite previous band. We had a great time playing together and just hanging out, and the music was high-energy, head-banging metal. Conversely, the Midnight Syndicate experience was definitely the worst. After I had done so much work to change their image, direct the music, invent the concepts, and pay for the CDs, those two greedy ingrates tried to rip me off with regards to my fair share of the profits and the BMI royalties for the songs I wrote and contributed to. They actually began giving interviews where they said that they always intended to make gothic music. Of course, all anyone has to do is listen to their first CD to see that they didn’t have a clue about gothic music until I came along and opened that door for them. Later, they started taking credit for my contributions. Now they don’t completely deny my involvement with the band, they just try to radically rewrite history.
16. Have you listened to Dee Snider's Van Helsing's Curse: Occulus Infernum? If so then how would you compare it to anything you guys have done?
Joseph: I really like a lot of Dee Snyder's work. I used to listen to Twisted Sister, and I thought that the first half of his movie Strangeland was really creepy. Van Helsing's Curse has some great music on it. It sounds like Trans Siberian Orchestra put out a heavy metal album of Halloween hits. However, VHC used a rock band as well as a full choir, and orchestra to achieve their sound, whereas with Nox Arcana, virtually everything is produced by just two people, William and myself. We also write all our own material, unlike VHC, which covered older, pre-existing songs.
17. How do you feel when you hear the musicians of today attempting to replicate the sounds and time signatures that you have done?
Joseph: Well, you must be referring to my former band, Midnight Syndicate. When I was working with them as creative director. I came up with all the ideas and original gothic concepts and storylines for their albums. Once I left the band, they were at a loss for any creative, original ideas. They attempted to keep their horror fan base happy with a couple of weak offerings, then they abandoned their gothic fans for over two years by doing a light-hearted fantasy album. A few months after I announced that my new band, Nox Arcana, was going to return to creating new music along the lines of what I had done with MS, they sent out a press release that announced that they were going to return to that style of music.
After we released Darklore Manor, a haunting soundtrack set in a cursed Victorian mansion with a sinister history, MS announced that their next album would be based on the same theme. A few months later, while we were working on our next CD, Necronomicon, a dark symphony based on H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos, MS changed their press release to say that their new haunted Victorian mansion CD was also going to include elements of the Cthulhu mythos. Since then we’ve released the gothic holiday CD, Winter’s Knight, and our newest album, Transylvania, so I wouldn’t be surprised if MS announces that their next CD will be a gothic Christmas CD set in Transylvania (or a Carnival CD, like we just announced). Besides MS. I think there are several other bands, such as The Vision Bleak and Van Helsing’s Curse that do similar "haunted" themes and do them well, making it all their own.
18. Are you married? And if so, what does your spouse feel about your chosen career as a musician with all the long hours spent recording?
Joseph: Neither of us are married, so we’ve been able to spend some long hours in the studio. We usually invest between 30 to 60 hours a week in the studio, for months at a time. when we are recording and mixing an album.
19. Do you have any touring plans for Nox Arcana? If so, then where and when?
Joseph: We do have some ideas for a stage show, but they’re pretty elaborate and involve actors, movable sets, film, props and costuming. In the meantime, we’re pretty busy just making new albums. We are planning to make a video or two for Carnival of Lost Souls. Besides that, I’m always painting and creating new artwork.
20. If there was something you could go back in time and change, what would it be and why?
Joseph: I would definitely not have invested my ideas, art, time and money into launching Midnight Syndicate. Other than that. I have no regrets concerning my music or art.