(We present today Comrade Aleks‘ extensive interview with Tom Noir, founder of the U.S. gothic doom band October Noir.)
It’s a sort of tricky question, but there are always “new” bands which are inspired by “old” ones. For good or for bad you can’t escape this, it’s a natural order. Can you imagine 165,195 unique bands in Metal-Archives? It’s just impossible. So I’m ok when I hear a band imitating the sound of a band I like. And don’t forget that there are really individual bands that are nearly impossible to follow or imitate.
I was shocked when I heard October Noir for the first time, as their incredible resemblance to the almighty (but dead) Type 0 Negative is something beyond my comprehension. Yet the band’s founder Tom Noir was able to do that, and first of all it’s in his vocals, though I must admit that I appreciate October Noir not only for the familiar vibes of colossal doom-riffs and gothic atmosphere but also for a refreshing feeling which is difficult to describe.
The band’s third album Fate, Wine, & Wisteria was released in 2021 but a new one is on its way, and anyway I had questions I wanted to ask Tom.
Hi Tom! How are you? What’s new on October Noir’s side?
Doing particularly well these days. We are jumping back into the insanity after a small and much-needed hiatus. Finishing up the new album, shows and on the road, more photo and video shoots. We are definitely trying to desperately stay relevant, haha.
Tom, I see October Noir is your first band, so The Haunting and the Powerful (2017) is your debut in a wide sense as you recorded all the instruments yourself. How much time did it take back then? What was your biggest challenge?
I was actually in a band back in 2004 but it wasn’t anything credible to worth noting. I sang and played guitar for that one… doom splashed with more of ’80s hair metal in tone. Some of the material from those days was actually brought to the table for a few of the tracks featured on The Haunting and The Powerful.
The biggest challenge was acquiring all of the physical components to set up a studio space, followed by learning how the recording software worked and functioned. Looking back on it I found the entire soundscape to be terrible when contrasting to what we’re able to do now. This was a particular reason for remastering the first two albums.
I spent roughly 7 months writing and recording the debut. Half of the album was full of originals while the other half catered to nodding to Type O riffs or reminiscence in order to paint or “spell it out” for the listener on what the goal or realm desired was in my aim.
Quite honestly I expected to be shut down and shut out on the release, being ripped apart by the internet chair warriors. Fortunately, it turned out to be completely opposite. I was very shocked and surprised to see the fan base and positive feedback it was receiving. From there I needed more guys to assemble a band so we could take to the stage… I believe our first show was in September of 2018.
And how much time did it take to reproduce all the nuances of the Type O Negative sound? You picked up most of the key elements, like the guitars’ big and grim tone, the keyboards’ arrangements, and the vocals (something natural) very carefully.
For me I never looked at any of it as attempting to grasp the full Type O sound. A lot of channeling I did was a natural component from darker music. So for my vocals there was no escaping the deeper registers or even being compared to Peter Steele (it happened in the early days of 2004 with the first band).
The guitars were definitely influential from the big ’80s hair metal sound. High gain with chorus, squeals, feedback, and big tones from Def Leppard, Motley Crüe, Skid Row, and Slaughter, but with the down-tuned nonsense of bands from the nu metal era.
The keyboards were all a presence of anything goth… organs, choirs, harpsichords (Addams Family and The Munsters), to even more symphonic compositions. A lot of black metal (Cradle of Filth was a big one) played a heavy influence into keyboards.
Distorted bass was key… I remember attempting to run a lot of slide techniques trying to get this tonal sound of a laser on the highs but big punchy low end that would hold sustain and just growl like a beast on the lows. Pete’s tone was definitely instrumental as a starting ground. The overall aspect was trying to hit a heavy layer that could take a listener into their own mind and plant them in mental scenarios of whatever the song was conveying.
Type O Negative wasn’t only about gothic doom, as hardcore played a huge role in their early albums. Why did you skip this element working over October Noir’s image?
The hardcore scene was never a flavor of my tastes. I always preferred big ballads or just beautiful dark soundscapes that gripped the internal emotions of a human being. I suppose I was chasing the idea of “if a romance novel had a sound, what would it be?” I was definitely a nerd for more vampiric influences than anything. I just wanted what I could see in my own mental imaging to be projected in sound.
Doug Lane joined October Noir in 2019, and Tyler Fleming has been in the band since 2021. Did these lineup changes affect your creative pace? How much freedom do you give to other band members?
No it’s never hindered it. A lot of the writing springs from whatever I kind of ink out and we toss it into the big melting pot and shape it until it becomes something I’m happy with. The other guys have a lot of freedom to present ideas or riffs… things of that nature. But, whether it’s used or discarded is another question. A lot of things get tossed out, even ideas that come out of me, as well. I do believe our current lineup is cemented and remaining. (I hope!)
It’s obviously not the ’90s, but I wonder… didn’t you think whether you could repeat the success of Type O Negative with October Noir?
I honestly don’t believe we hold the flame that Type O Negative lit. I don’t think we would ever even get close to it. But, the goal isn’t in claiming what they gained or earned, nor is it to replace them in any fashion. I just want to swim in the same pool as they’re swimming in. To me they created a genre, and that genre died with that band… no one else has come close to it. So I’ll do it until I’m dead or someone does it better. We want to stand as our own entity above all else.
Did you ever get in touch with Type O Negative’s ex-members or did you get any feedback from their side?
No, I never bothered them at all. The thought of it would be rather awkward. I know they’re aware of us but I don’t think they care. I don’t blame them.
The musical culture spreads in waves – heavy metal in the ’70s, NWOBHM and glam in the ’80s, “the second” (first indeed) black metal wave in early ’90s and so on. I bet that October Noir could fit goth culture back then it was on top of its popularity. How do you see this segment now? And how intense is the feedback you get from fans?
I can agree with this. I think we do fit into that niche as we currently stand. We have plenty of Sisters of Mercy bands… plenty of Siouxsie and the Banshees bands.. plenty of London After Midnight bands… but zero Type O goth bands. This has helped and hindered all in the same token. Our fans are definitely hardcore and extreme. We receive so much love and feedback from them it’s mind-blowing sometimes. But that’s a mutual thing. We owe them all that we are.
With what kind of bands do you usually share the stage? And how often do you perform live?
We have a pretty wide variety of bands we’ve shared with… from black or death to more of your “core” bands all the way over to some tribute bands who follow Ozzy and Def Leppard. The most interesting one was probably the Nirvana tribute band. I thought we were about to be set on fire but the response was great.
At this point I’d probably accept sharing the stage with The Backstreet Boys just to see what kind of reactions the crowd would give. We usually try to run about 2 gigs a month. Mostly the weekends because I would rather sleep during the weekdays. We stayed rather busy and it seems to be only increasing these days so I can’t complain.
It’s said that the Fate, Wine, & Wisteria album consists of three “chapters” according the album’s title. How did you work over this concept? Did you search for a different sound or mood for these three “chapters”? Or is it about the songs’ lyrics?
So I wanted the album to feel like a book.. and with each chapter it just wrenches darker. The instrumentals served as the chapter changes. This wasn’t intentional for the start of the album… only the instrumentals were the suggestions. After the tracks were complete and all laid out it was easy to kind of put it together and the idea of the book chapters was born on the tail end of finishing it up.
I was happy with the concept and thought it had an appropriate fit and feel. The title of the album definitely reigned from lyrical content and life occurrences that were underway during the writing process. My writing is definitely personal to me in the lyrical span. The instruments then just serve to convey the emotions and feelings of words.
How do you think – do fans care about the lyrics you write? Some of your texts are really well-written, you use interesting metaphors and images, after all you care about rhyme too. It’s cool.
I think a lot of them do… while others don’t ever pay attention at all. Lyrics are very important to me as I grew up with bands and music. Nothing beat holding the actual booklet in your hand being able to read and study the words of the artist. And thanks for the compliment.
May you comment on the lyrics of “Serendipity”? Can’t solve this charade, just like with “fourteen yellow, six are blue”.
This particular song dealt with astrology and fate. Two oh twenty was the year 2020 and “equals 42”… 42 was the Douglas Adam’s calculation of the number to the universe. That followed up with the Ptolemaic Theory where it was said the planets and sun revolves around the earth. Into the second verse leads with 37 north of 122, which are coordinates to a destination where a moment in my life was spent with the femme of this song.
This track played into the words “language only seen in sine”… which was a direct prod at the listeners that translated to “you will only understand if you look at it from a specific angle”. I had a lot of fun ironing this one out and I’ve only known of one fan to realize that the song contained coordinates. I guess the cat is out of the bag now.
How difficult was it to meet the high level you set for yourself? Do you feel now that you did everything right with Fate, Wine, & Wisteria?
The production processes were extremely exhausting trying to get everything to settle in, flow, and prosper. I believe we worked this album all the way to the last day before it absolutely had to be in the publisher’s hands. And even at that moment there was probably more shit I would’ve continued to shape and sculpt… but often times you can spend too much time on trying to perfect something before you’re consumed and never happy with it. So those are the moments you have to say fuck it and let it ride.
Looking back on that album now, I can honestly say I am perfectly happy with its outcome. I wouldn’t change anything. It was also very dear to me because that was the moment I decided I wanted all of it to stem naturally from my core in its compositions. I didn’t want to look at any Type O songs for influence or “nod” moments like the first two albums had conjured. This was the one where I wanted to stand on our own two feet. So a lot of my past influences were arousing inside of the songs… Def Leppard, The Cure, Danzig, Led Zeppelin… and we had some fun with it in other stanzas.
If you ask me, I believe that it’s ok to follow Type O Negative’s path that close — it’s something that no one did before you and probably October Noir can fill a part of the void after Type O Negative’s end. But don’t you feel yourself a “hostage of your own image”?
Not so much a hostage. But I see some really wild comparisons being made about me. I think it’s human nature to associate new things with something excitable from one’s past. So being in that shroud it’s inescapably inevitable. I’ve seen and heard some really stupid shit out of people, too. But either way… come out or don’t… listen or don’t… we will do what we do. But, my question to them would be, “what are you offering in your life?”
Is it important for you to create something individual? Don’t you fear to fall in the experiments just for the sake to experiments?
In many ways I feel we have. But I believe the overall tonality tends to have us in the Peter Steele shadow. I don’t think I fear any of it, per se. But, I do say that many should take their worship goggles off and really pay attention to the bigger picture.
I read that you didn’t like the idea of collaborating with labels – if you want to do something properly then do it yourself. And I believe that keeping October Noir as an independent band isn’t about money. So the labels grant bands wider promotion and distribution, gigs too probably… So didn’t you feel you need some help from aside yourself?
I believe that to be true in some instances. The bottom line is everyone has to make money… the problem I see is with the contracts. The industry will word things into grey areas to absolutely fuck you down the George Washington drain (money). Today’s access also sets up circumstances where anyone can start a “label”. And they offer you a deal wrapped with a nice pretty bow before you open the jackass in the box and find yourself skinned alive by the teeth of sharks.
We definitely aren’t opposed to finally signing with a label… but we all have bills to pay and I won’t have my power shut off because a scumbag manager didn’t want to pay my light bill. If the deal is right we are fully open to signing for it. Especially if both sides can be happy.
Your fourth album Letters to Elizabeth was scheduled for September 2023. Does everything go according to your plan? How much of the album is complete?
Yes.. all is according to plan. And we recently changed the name to Letters to Existence. This late in the age of it I believe it made more sense due to the content that’s being written. It didn’t sit well with me to retain that previous name. At any rate, we’re finishing up the final two songs before we start combining everything incessantly and polishing, adding, or subtracting. We are definitely right on pace to have this release on schedule with some time to spare.. probably the first time for us haha.
What can we expect from the new material?
The new material is definitely ushering in more of a mainstream feel and accessibility. It has a lot of heavy influence on ’80s guitar work, big booms, a lot of changes and transitions… very diverse tracks, ethereal and goth ambience, and my stupid ass grabbing my balls and squealing into a microphone.
We will also be dropping a new single in March called Forever Haunt. It’s a duet song that Nadia Kodes (Russia) jumped in and helped co-write. Music video to follow with that, as well. So fingers crossed that it’s accepted well.
By the way, yes, it’s great that you keep on providing videos, a vital element for fans who can’t see the band in action. I’d like to ask you about “The Wicked Game” clip – was it a tribute to Chris Isaak or was it a nod to HIM indeed?
This was a cover I didn’t want to touch at all. It’s been done and redone time and time again. I really loved HIM‘s version of it. Doug was very adamant about making this one happen… so when I caved to his demand I said, “Fine. But it has to be almost unrecognizable”. The video just played upon a woman being the devil haha. There was never any intent to nod or pay tribute to anything Chris or Vallo had accomplished.
Thanks for such an in-depth interview Tom, that’s much appreciated. Well, here’s the last question for today: what are your ambitions regarding October Noir’s future?
Hopefully death. I could use the sleep.