Interview conducted November 21 2015
Interview published November 29 2015
"It was just a different
ball game when you have a team of people working to push you."
The American alternative rockers
Nøthing Møre are currently out on a 2 week trek across Europe
and Metal Covenant had a few words with lead singer Jonny Hawkins
before the band's show in Stockholm, Sweden. When Nøthing Møre's
last, and self titled, album came out I wasn't exactly overexcited or
deeply impressed by the result as it was a little bit uneven quality-wise,
but after having seen this record being played in a live environment,
I believe that these guys actually have a chance to eventually get something
"We have these burnmarks
and that was a pact we made with each other."
Tobbe: You started your first headlining
tour yesterday in Copenhagen, so what do you expect to come out of this
Jonny: We've only done Europe twice, but the
last tour was really our first extensive European tour. We had to play
with Halestorm and open for them and we got, you know, kind of a foundation
as far as people and a fanbase. So this time, we probably could have
gone with another band again because we're still so fresh out here,
but we wanted to do one tour on this record, before we start working
on the next one, over here and start building our own thing. So we're
gonna get to do a longer set, whereas if we'd play with another band
we'd have to do another 30 minute kind of 'Wam-bam, thank you, Ma'am!"-kind
of a set. So this time we get to play all the songs on the record, before
we put it to bed.
Actually you're not so fresh, because you have made a couple of albums,
or a lot of albums before [4 to be exact.], but people here in Europe
kind of like think that this is your first album.
Jonny: Yeah. It's like it's our first album and
not our first album, you know. It's both, in a way.
Tobbe: Well, it's a new start and the album's
self titled, so I guess some people think it's your first one. As you're
starting to build some momentum now, here in Europe too, hopefully, I
guess you have some long-term plans as well, for future activities?
Jonny: Yeah. Really we're trying to build Europe
up to be somewhere that we go to once or twice a year and in order to
do that we gotta, you know, start building sooner than later and that's
part of the reason we're doing this headlining tour. But we're gonna
be finished with touring on this record right after this one, so this
is the final tour on the record. We're gonna go home for Christmas and
then in January we start working on the next record. It should take
us about 6 months to a year.
Tobbe: Like we've said; you're very much
at the doorstep of building a career and this is a quite tricky question,
but how far do you think that you will go eventually?
Jonny: Honestly, I've always been taught, as
a kid, to never speak highly of yourself. You know, because I don't
like people who do that, so I don't want this to come across in that
way, but our ambitions are very, very big. We have our eyes set on the
world, in the sense of; we wanna be the biggest band in the world, of
our generation. So that's literally what we want, and that's what we
see. We wanna be the Queen, the Led Zeppelin, the Pink Floyd, you know.
That's where we have our eyes set.
Tobbe: Well, I think it's better to have
a high goal and maybe not reach all the way, than not having any goal
at all. Since you're kind of fresh in Europe, how would you personally
describe your type of music to people who haven't listened to it yet?
Jonny: Um, it's very hard for me to describe
it, 'cause I feel like I'm too close to it, so it's hard for me to be
objective. As far as genre, it's progressive, alternative rock, with
a hint of metal. We call it diet metal. [Laughs] And I think, beyond
just the sound of it and what I feel is more important, is what it feels
like. It's very emotion driven, it's life experience driven, you know.
I think there's a lot of different genres of
music, that I personally and the band listen to, but the artist that
we pick out in each genre, the common thread, is that it feels genuine,
real, passionate and they're saying something, and that's what we aspire
to be within our genre.
Tobbe: In the end, to whom does your music
address to? Like radio listeners, or
Jonny: This record is much more accessible to
radio, so it works at radio and it's been working so far back in the
States. But I've found that a lot of people, who get very attached to
our music, are people who are attached to the meaning, more than just
the genre or the sound. You know, the bands you typically tour with
are bands that sound similar to you, but the people that end up liking
our music are a lot of times people who listen to a variety of things.
may not like rock bands that much and they say that, you know, we're
the only band, that sounds like this, that they like, and that's a huge
compliment. But really, I think it comes down to the lyrics, and the
meaning, and the emotions.
Tobbe: So this is something you guys have
that other bands don't?
Jonny: Um, I think it is a differentiating factor.
You know, there's a lot of bands that sound a certain way and every
once in a while, there are bands who come out and sound radically different.
I think Rage Against The Machine was an example. When they came out,
there wasn't really anything quite like them, and there's been other
bands like that as well.
Nirvana, I think changed the way people listen
to music. I think, like us, like we're not so much a distinct new sound,
as much as we're a hodgepodge of a variety of influences, and to me
it's more about the meaning and the feeling.
Tobbe: When you wrote the music for your
last record, your self titled one, what were you looking for? Were you
looking for, you know, hooks, melodies, or kind of a little bit of everything?
Jonny: You know, I read a quote the other day
that said "Success is just pouring your heart into every inch of
whatever you do." and I think that with this record, the whole
process was falling in love with every little thing along the way, you
know. And when you look at a record and you talk to songwriters, or
artists, or producers, you're gonna get a lot of opinions about, you
know, "It all comes down to the melodies, the most important thing."
or "The lyrics are really important.". You know, they try
to bring it down to this one thing that's more important than the rest,
and I've heard that a lot.
But when we're making a record, like putting
the strings on the guitar, changing the drumhead, or picking out the
right microphone, or playing around with a new program that was gonna
influence some of the electronic ideas, like every little thing, it's
just like falling in love with it and being as excited about that thing
as I was about singing the parts, or playing the drums, or recording
Mark [Vollelunga] playing his guitar things.
That to me was the key and that's why it came
out in a way that we're very, very happy with, because it was all the
little details. Because the records that I like, years down the road,
when you look back, and the ones that last, are the ones that you can
hear things on that you didn't hear 10 years before. You know, that
were nestled in there. And that's kind of what this one was for us.
Tobbe: How much have your new label, Eleven
Seven Music, supported you, so you could start this thing up for real?
Jonny: They've helped a lot. Let me just start
with that. They have helped a lot, but they came in after we did this
record. We got passed on by pretty much every label. I don't know if
Eleven Seven knew who we were at the time. They weren't one of them.
But a lot of the major rock labels in the States watched us in New York,
in L.A. and passed. So the label came in after we did this record on
our own, because we just had to do it on our own, and we did a kickstarter
at the time. But when they came onboard, within that year, I mean, we
could all feel it.
It was just a different ball game when you have
a team of people working to push you. Really, that's why we're over
in Europe; when we were negotiating between labels, we were asking a
very pointed question, like "Will you support us in going to Europe?
You know, on your dime, so we can expand globally? And Japan, and Australia?".
And a lot of the labels were very timid about that, but they were like
"Yup. We're going international.". Like "We already have
bands over there, and we're building.". And we were like "All
right. We're going with Eleven Seven.".
Tobbe: So what's with the Ø's in
the band name? What do they stand for?
Jonny: It's funny, because over here it's a character
in you all's alphabet, right?
Yeah, in Norwegian and in Danish, for example.
Jonny: Oh, so not in Swedish. We did it because;
if you look at our record, you see all the symbols. This was kind of
a theme that pervaded many of the concepts, whether it's lyrically,
musically or visually. We took things that were different and almost
opposites and tried to cross them over. All those symbols are math symbols,
and we made words with them. For example, one of them, like the upside-down
A is a math symbol that means 'for all'.
There is one like the backwards E that means
'there exists'. And they use these in equations to refer to concepts,
you know. So we made like a coded message with them, so the O's with
the cross through is not the alphabet or the letter; it's the 'null
set', the mathematical system, so it's kind of a crossover.
Tobbe: Let's talk about your coming record
for a while. I reckon you have lots of material for it already, and is
there something you will do differently with this album in comparison
to your last one?
Jonny: Every record's been different, like completely
different, leading up to this last one. I was doing a lot of learning
over the 2 years that we were working on it, because I wasn't a professional
engineer or a mixing person at the time. So I had a lot to learn very
quickly, and so now, coming back around, there's a lot of things that
I look at and go "Okay. I would do that differently." or "We
could do this more efficiently.". But I think the most notable
thing that we learned from this record, that we wanna continue doing,
is that we opened ourselves up to collaborations much more.
We got together with a songwriter friend of ours,
who was in a band that we used to tour with, but his band ended up breaking
up, but we felt like "Man. This guy is such a great artist.".
And he's a great friend of ours. He's almost like an invisible member
of the band, because he's that close. Like "Let's do some writing
together." after, as a band, we had written some stuff. "Let's
get together with him and see what he adds to it.". And we did
that with him, a guy named Paco Estrada, and if you look on the record
you'll see a guy named Scott Stevens as well. So we're gonna do a little
more like that. We just played with Breaking Benjamin the other day
and the singer, Ben [Burnley], said he wanted to experiment with us
on some song ideas. So it'd be cool to bring in new people and maybe
some different singers from other bands, to have cameos, you know. So
that's gonna be different.
Other than that, I think, we're gonna push the
boundaries more vocally. I wanna get even more raw emotion coming through
the speakers, and experiment. Much like Maynard [James Keenan] from
Tool. He's a big influence of mine, in regards to; like when you listen
to his side project stuff with A Perfect Circle and Puscifer and then
you listen to Tool, he's one of the most experimental vocalists and
you can see that he tries new things and pushes himself, and I think
a lot of vocalists, most vocalists, they find what works and then they
just stick with it and keep putting out records with that sound. And
that's okay, but I like people like Maynard who keep challenging themselves
and reinventing, you know, what it is.
So what release date are we looking at?
Jonny: Let's see. I think we're gonna be probably
finishing up the record in August of 2016, 'cause we take a little bit
longer than most band would for the records. I mean, we might even be
pushing into the winter-time. So that means the record will be coming
out probably early 2017, which I know is kind of disappointing. I hate
that it's that far off, but I'd rather set the expectations longer and
then come out sooner. Hopefully we won't be like Tool, where it's like
10 years and then our record comes out.
Tobbe: Has music always been a big part
of your life?
Jonny: Definitely since I was 7 years old. My
dad played music. You know, and Saturday mornings, I remember, was always
like a day when we'd clean the house and go to the park or do things
like that, and my dad, during the day, would always play music really
loud in the living room. And he finally took me to a rock show, and
I was 7 years old, and I remember getting chills and the feeling I still
get as an adult. But as a kid you're very unguarded and you can't control
the amount of feeling that's coming in.
You know, like when I watched a scary movie as
a kid, it was so scary, but now as an adult it's like "I can't
believe that was scary. It's so ridiculous.". But on the flipside
it's that same principle that I couldn't control how amazing it was.
As I got older I went through a lot of different phases. I wanted to
be an athlete, or I wanted to be a scientist, or this or that, but the
one thing that stuck through all these different phases was music. I
always had it and it was always a thing that overpowered the rest of
the things in my life. So yeah, it's always been there.
Tobbe: You're still fairly young, but I
guess you have already realized how hard it is to break through the barriers
and make this for a living?
Jonny: Yes. I'm learning every day. We came
to a place about, you know, when we got signed. Getting signed by no
means is a get home free card, you know. It is not any kind of guarantee.
But it was something that turned, right around that time period. It's
still difficult, but we're not in fear, or worry like we were at one
time going "Is this gonna work? Can we make it work?". You
know, those questions are not there anymore.
It's more like "How can we make it work
better? How can we make this easier, or more efficient, or play more
shows without running ourselves into the ground?". So it's those
kind of questions now, which is a really great thing, because as a musician,
it's a very insecure life, 'cause you don't know. There's no promise
if it's gonna work out.
Tobbe: How much have you to fall back on,
if things don't work out the way, I suppose, you're hoping for?
Jonny: Well, I don't have anything, me personally,
and I know the guys as well. Let's say something horrible happened and
we couldn't do music anymore, for whatever reason. Before that time
period I was talking about, where we got signed, we had to figure out
ways to make money to pay the bills. So we're no strangers to doing
odd jobs and making things work, but we don't really have any one thing
that we would fall back on.
But we do have good family, and friends, and
support system in place. One of the big things that we set out on when
we started touring, one of the big, I guess, like philosophical or belief
systems, that we all subscribed to, was the idea that a fallback plan
is a good idea for many pads in life, but when it comes to some of the
things in life, like trying to make it in music, if you know that that's
what you need to do, in order to be a happy person, or a fulfilled person,
then having a fallback plan, and investing energy and time in that,
will actually be the soft spot in the floor, that when the pressure's
on you'll fall through.
we've seen it with so many bands, that could have made it, but they
got to this point that every band gets to, where pressures increase,
from the label, from life back home, with relationships, with money,
with health and, you know, all those things bleed into each other and
somebody in the band, who had invested in a backup plan, ends up jumping
ship, and then that starts this whole shaky process that 'then another
guy leaves' and then it just crumbles.
So we solved that, first hand, and we're all
like "None of us are doing a backup plan. We're all investing a
110 percent.". So we've held each other accountable to that. That's
actually why we have these scars on our arm. We have these burnmarks
and that was a pact we made with each other.
Tobbe: Like Mötley Crüe, with
tattoos and stuff.
Jonny: Yeah. That was our version. It was just
Tobbe: You guys are pretty much of a generation
where downloading has always been around and physical record sales are
still decreasing, so what is your opinion on illegal downloading, Spotify,
and, whatever's out there?
Jonny: As a consumer myself, I love Spotify.
I find so many bands through it and streaming music, like the whole
model, the subscription base thing, that Spotify has, I think is the
future, but as an artist, I think what they pay artists is horrible.
It's awful. I think that something needs to change, like laws need to
change to adjust to the new way. But I think that is the future. I think
it's inevitable. But it's cool, at the same time, vinyls are coming
back. Not full stream. Not everybody's buying vinyls, but there's a
group of people, myself included, that are collecting them again, you
know. So that's kind of cool.
Tobbe: What is your band's strongest, or
Jonny: Basically I'll answer this question by
telling you how we started out. We were playing bars where people were
not there to see the music, so we were just an afterthought. In an environment
like that, where people are drinking and if anything, you're more of
an annoyance, unless you're playing cover songs, which we vowed to not
do. We were like "We're not gonna turn into the band that just
plays cover songs.", because you get caught in this money trap,
where you make more money doing that and then you never get out and
start writing your own originals.
So we played originals and nobody cared, so we
were like "How do we keep writing originals and working on our
music, but still make people care about us when they don't know it?".
And so we started creating these show ideas, which you'll see in our
live show. We do a bass solo, that's on this big metal stand that swings
around, and then we have these big drum sectionals that are like Taiko
Japanese style drumming mixed with metal based rhythms.
And those kind of things drew people in, even
when they didn't knew our music, and bridged that gap where they might
come up and buy a CD, and then when they came back the next time, they
did know our music and we didn't have to play cover songs, you know.
So I think that limitation at the time was, much like the song Here's
To The Heartache, looking in hindsight. We hated that we had to play
those venues, but we're thankful now. That created many of the things
we do now, that people like.