Greetings Tom, thank you for agreeing to do this intie for Pest webzine. How are you lately?
Hails, I am doing great and always up for an interview.
I won't go through Nokturnel's history that much because the inties you gave until now are 100% relevant on that one and I wouldn't know what else to ask you, but still I'll try to come up with some questions to know more about you and the band. First off, on your Myspace you say that back in the days you were never interested in looking like everyone else, looking metal. How was your look back then and why choosing to be casual instead of metal, after all you were a metal band?
I have to tell you, the timing of this question is perfect due to the fact the book Glorious Times A Pictorial of the Death Metal Scene [1984-1991] just came out. What I meant by the "we didnt care about the look" statement was no matter how far you look back in the history of metal there were always bands that went for the costume image, or a look. I got so used to seeing metalheads of today in black jeans, boots and leather jackets and forgot how many people looked like Nokturnel used to look in the early 90s. The easiest way to say it is we were stuck in the 80s,,, and by that I mean blue jeans, sneakers and T Shirts. Many adapted to the more modern and serious look, I did not, I didn't care...until I was kind of forced into it when I joined Morpheus Descends and Incantation. Facing the facts I realized it would not be cool for me to be the frontman of these bands in thrasher mode... so I went with it, and it was not uncomfortable for me at all... it was a bit of a wake up call. However part of this "I dont care" attitude also came with the fact no one realized how trendy the scene was... and not only did many bands look the same, many sounded the same. So I felt that it was just one more way to make us different than the rest of the bands out there. There are barely any photos of us anywhere period... but it seemed most of of bands from the New Jersey scene were pertty regular looking guys. All that has changed, but to this day to me, Nokturnel is a thrash band....one of the heaviest and most brutal thrash bands on the planet. Now in 2010, I too am a black jeans, boots, leather jacket guy... I see no point in going retro... been there and done that haha!
Nokturnel always tried to discover new fields in technical (death) metal. Which were your first influences and why choosing the technical path instead of the brutal one?
People need to understand Nokturnel is not my first band. In my Savage Death days during the mid 80s I was already a really good guitar player and once I knew how to play lots of music I thought was great became boring to me. This is in the sense of actually playing the music. For example I always loved the first release from Sodom, I still do. But I never wanted to play music so basic and simple, even back then for me the more notes and technical music was the more it appealed to me. Some of the greatest records from Priest and Maiden were a lot of fun to play...killer solos and notey riffs, this taught me a lot about playing but Show No Mercy was what put the nail in the coffin. The speed and notey songs floored me. Then early German Thrash bands came along and I could not stand Priest and Maiden anymore... the slow drums drove me nuts. The first Savage Death demo had 3 songs written by the other members. 3 riff songs with a few chords.... my first two songs were a bit more notey and tech... and it seemed like we were REALLY tech back then...for about 10 minutes....as suddenly metal bands were taking guitars to new levels daily! Demo 2 came out which was much more technical... I believe it was 85? And I felt like I was on track. Savage Death disbanded and Nokturnel was formed. Same formula, we started off with a few songs that were really basic... but on that first demo we already were heading into the realms of very technical metal. By demo two we were looking at the scene worldwide and saw these bands popping up everywhere with the same guitar sounds, same look, same fast slow mosh patterns.... and though we LOVED so many of these bands we thought it was ridiculous to become one. When Fury Unleashed came out many started saying I went Black Metal... pointing out the vocals. I have news for them... I have been singing the same since 1989. I follow NO trends... Brutal? Jesus fucking christ....dont even get me going. I saw Suffocations first show, I remember the impact they made shortly after, they're still definitive for brutal death and again I like some of that music. But to see a concert, with 6 bands in a night, and knowing if I wasnt looking at the stage I'd have no clue who was playing because they all sound exactly the same! Fuck that! Nokturnel fans know I like to shred... I like guitar solos...and for many years this also was considered a weak point. Cant have solos in brutal music... yeah whatever... again I don't care what everyone else is doing...I do what I want and its worked out pretty well for me. To chose the technical path was the only path for me. I had been involved in the first wave of Satanic Black Metal with Savage Death and wanted to create a band that made you feel hatred, but lyrically was just not typical. Nothing But Hatred was my masterpiece of insanity. I wrote that music and today I can barely play it! The speed is nuts, the time changes and drumming is so out of control it barely holds together... the vocals were old school when guys began growling and the solos were bursts of speed that came and went before anyone had a chance ot bitch about them... For me...muting some chords and encouraging people to mosh while we played some generic shit was never an option. I am trying to leave me mark as something at least a little different than most of the bands from my era, or eras...since I strarted so long ago and the scene has changed so many times. I still play technical metal but it is held together by more solid drum patterns. The majority of my songs that came after Nothing But Hatred are like this, but the songs I am working on now...they're going to have some really sick guitars,,,,I can not wait to unleash them
Your debut album was out on JL Records. Please tell us a bit about this label and how come you signed with them and not with a more well known label? Death Metal was at its peak years in '92-'93, I guess you had a lot of offers. Am I right?
No, the industry has always for the most part shut me out. I am anti trend.... they want trendy. Some known people from very established labels have acknowledged me as a talent and I appreciate that but every label on earth seems to want me to be a little different than I intend to be. I have a few stories about coming close to doing this and that, but what does it matter if it didnt happen.... Before we signed with J.L. America the majority of US bands that had the current death metal sound were already signed ot lables like Nuclear Blast and Road Runner. Tampa style Death was in and Nokturnel was at the opposite end of the spectrum. One thing I never understood is why so many people turned thier backs on thrash when Death Metal arrived. Guys who loved bands like Kreator were suddenly calling them weak...and busting out all the newer records and changing the metal image of themselves... and again, I love death metal but thought turning Nokturnel into that kind of band was a retarded idea, and wanted to keep the integrity of the band. JL America popped up in a signing band type of frenzy [which doomed them] and they not only liked the music, they wanted the demos as is for the first release. We wanted to re-record all the material. We were looking at a label with a killer distribution deal so we took thier offer and Nothing But Hatred was released. There was very little interest from other labels.... the Nokturnel curse, was being ahead of our time.
What were labels asking you so big that made you work on your own at the end?
I honestly thought I had something going with Incantation and that I would be a permanent member. When all that went to shit changes came in my life and I got married and moved and financially I was in no position to beging dumping money into any band. I was running a distro and competing with many other people and basically struggling. There came a point where I got fed up and had a freakout and began writing a record of vengeance! Backstabbed, kicked to the curb and a stranger in a strange land [as I knew no one at all where I moved to in Texas] I found a session drummer and we put together the music for Fury. I intended to grow our metal business with that release in hopes of doing more and signing other bands... but the industry changed so much with downloads and all this shit... many labels and other distros took copies. Sadly the record was appreciated, but all I ever got was really lame licensing offers and no one seemed willing to let me take it too the next level with a followup record. It's a good thing I did do everything myself or all I'd have to look back on was the first record and Anti Grunge 7 inch... If no one is willing to help... well sometimes you just need to get off your ass and do it yourself
How did you managed with shows and promotion without the help of a strong label?
Shows were weak, and we had no help from the label. They fell apart soon after the release. It was good friends from geat bands like Ripping Corpse, Human Remains, and Deceased that helped with shows. Promo never seemed to work haha! These days myspace and facebook are the best things to work promotions. Keep in mind I come from the days when we put fliers around towns...hand drawn and Xerox copied, and we handed them out at other shows, it was much more personal and the scene was so much smaller. Now bands have people who are willing to do promo because it is easy for them and its thier way of showing support... its a great thing and I wish we had this shit back in the day!
I know during that time you've started your own distro. What made you start it and how? It was the usual trading of Nokturnel's releases for other?
It started with a small contribution of money towards a friends Distro. He was not active in the scene at all and I took merch to shows to set up tables. I have always known tons of people and many would buy metal from me. When I loved to Florida for a while I had intended to continue on my own and that's what I did. I began wholesale accounts with big labels and began stocking metal when it was hard to come by. European friends of mine would laugh....as to them seeing thier CDs in stores was no big deal. US band seemed ready to have a party over this as it was a big big deal. So here in the States many of us were ordering imports from overseas and when those bands caught on, especially Osmose labels band.... there was a huge demand and I got in on that. I was a dick about trading.... I shot down most bands and labels. I didnt want a catalog full of shit... I chose bands I thought were good and that were gonna sell. Not whatever was the most obscure or whatever.... The majority of my CDs were sold for cash...
What's the story of the "Anti Grunge" EP?
Oh man that's a scary story. You know Grunge even affected what I thought to be some real metalheads. I had my white trasher years... and lived in the Northern US where half the year is cool as far as tempratures and to my horror my nasty flannel shirt became a fucking fashion statment for the current trend. People that liked metal were acknowledging how great this fucking shit music was...and bought into the trend. Culture is one thing... I know not everyone looks at people in the US like they should all be like us... but all of a sudden people became modern hippies.... hairy armpit bitches.... dreadlocks... and generally dirty looking assholes. Then this spreads to a worldwide mania? People bought into the "you aren't cool if you aint down with Nirvana" bullshit.... fuck all of them granola eating assholes. The metal scene got smallers and we lost some good men haha... I was disgusted and we thought it would be cool to show are hatred and we created the concept of Nuke Seattle. The music was actually from a SOD wannabe song we wrote for Savage Death with some grinding drums... but it was well recieved as middle finger in the face of the trendy.
"Fury Unleashed", your second and latest full-length was released on Nokturnel Eclipse Records. Was it a natural development of your distro to form your own label?
Like I mentioned earlier. It was a logical choice as I had a name for myself, an established band, and contacts with many other labels and distros. I figured I'd get an offer after I released my own record but I did it to avoid wasting any more time waiting for someone to back me.
You were investing a lot of efforts and money in Nokturnel. Where were your money coming from?
I sell heroine and pimp whores.
No really... the original lineup all worked and contributed money... and for Fury I needed a loan which worked out well as all money invested was made back. Now I run a few businesses from home but things are veyr different when you become a parent... I have more bills and responsibilities than ever before. 2010 is here and I will record some mroe songs and I have the Diabolist Services kult backing me on this.
What happened since 2001 with the band? I know you have some new tracks recorded, please tell us a bit about them.
Unfortunately I had some failures as far as things just not working out after the release. When I had the session guys on Fury ready to play live, offers I tried to capitalize on went into the toilet. I can not find a suitable drummer for shows... I am always talking with people 1000 fucking miles from here since I am surrounded by wannaa be black metal and brutal death metal people. No offense to them but I dont want them in my band anymore than they want to play for me. So the few efforts I made to play shows after Fury just didnt work out. I gave up for the time being and focused on a new song. Nokturnel is a quality over quamtity band. I see no point in constantly releasing music. I am self financed and have a very busy life outside the realms of metal. Believe it or not some people still thought Fury was still too technical... and I thought to myself I am going oldschool. One incredible song with hooks like Hellraisers demons and only a few riffs with some maniac vocals and ballictic guitar solos. Drummer Chad Walls was recommended to me and though we have never met in person, we worked together on the song Demonic Supremacy and he really came through for me. That song is on myspace now and will come out through Diabolist Services in 2010. I just got a new guitar and Chad and I will be sending files back n forth soon to begin work on the next 2 songs. The newer stuff is going to be guitar mania at its sickest!
Are you planning a come-back with the band? Will it be a one-man-project or a real, full line-up band?
I intend to keep Nokturnel the way things are now with me composing everything, playing all instruments except the drums, writing all lyrics and doing vocals. I will play live as immediately as I find a drummer. I have no time to teach people songs I can record myself.
You have also Spiked Leather, your own business. How is it going?
I have been making Spiked Leather since 1999. My armor is killer and I enjoy the work, We are expanding and carrying lots of leather clothing, mostly for women, which I do not make... but the business Nokturnel Eclipse is something I intend to keep going for eternity. We have a myspace page at www.myspace.com/spikedleatherand much more online at SinfulNightwear.com. Metal LADIES need to check that out!
Tell us how's a normal day for Tom Stevens.
Sometimes I shower... I try and get up before noon. Hot pockets for breakfast with a Schlitz or Yoo Hoo....
Nah I am just fucking around haha!
My daughter is 7 and I get up at 6:45 during the week. After I drop her off at school I fuck around online and look at my orders for Spiked Leather... then get to work in the snake rooms..I always have several hundred snakes as i am a breeder for the pet trade. I do not practice guitar often... I am lucky that I just don't need to as much as many of my friends seem too. I pay attention to the news... watch a lot of movies, and read a bit. I have just got my foot in the door with Fangoria magazine/web site as a contributing writer so I hope that works out. My wife and I are happy and we are together almost all the time and yes...she IS metal.
Are you still in touch with the metal underground? Any upcoming bands you've listened lately?
Of course. I have been since metal was created...
I like about 129873893 bands... this is hard to pick just a few. I'd look up Blasphemous Creation, Atrocious Abnormality, HOD, Tyrannizer Order, Dead Mountain, and Dim Mak to name a few
How will you spend the upcoming Holidays? What's your biggest wish for 2010?
I took so long to do this interview the Holidays are passed! haha! I always spend the holidays with my family...when you have a kid its all about them and this is fine with us... Xmas is cool but religeon has nothing to do with it. I got hammered drunk on New Years and even tried to play the guitar a bit haha! Didnt work out too well but my 2010 wishes are for the worldwide economy to recover, my friends and family to be healthy and onto better things and to get Nokturnel signed and back on stage.
Thanks a lot for your time, Tom, the final words are yours.
Any which way I will have some new songs for 2010. Please ad me on myspace and Facebook-Tom Stevens [Nokturnel Tom] and check out all my web sites
SinfulNightwear.com TomsSnakes.com www.myspace.com/nokturnelband, www.myspace.com/spikedleather, www.myspace.com/sinfulnightwear
Thank you for the interview and thanks to everyone who has supported me in any way shape or form over the years. From Savage Death fans, and those who supported me in Morpheus Descends and especially Incantation. I enjoy hearing from everyone thanks to myspace and Facebook so please write me.
Thanks! Tom Stevens
Interviewed by Adrian