1. Can you give us an update on what is going on with the musical project these days?
Melancholic Waters Ablaze With the Fires of Loss, the first full-length from Nodus Tollens, came out on July 7, so that’s where most of my focus has been. Since I finished mixing the album, I’ve only done one thing musically with Nodus - I contributed a pair of AFI covers to a digital compilation called Enough. that Trepanation Recordings released on Juneteenth. They’ve pledged to donate 100% of sales to Black Lives Matter, so I definitely wanted to be involved. My friend Val, who used to be the vocalist for Ævangelist, contributed lead vocals for one of the covers.
Honestly, it’s been strange and more than a little uncomfortable trying to promote an album when there are significantly more important things happening here in the US. I’d much rather use whatever platform I have via Nodus to show support for Black Lives Matter or urge people to take COVID-19 seriously than spam followers with music. Melancholic Waters will still be there when the pandemic subsides, and when the officers who murdered Breonna Taylor have finally been arrested, and this country starts to take serious steps to address systemic racism.
2. So far this year you have released both a split and full length, musically how do they differ from each other?
I think the split is a bit more aggressive than Melancholic Waters in the sense that there are no acoustic passages in either song. Aside from that, I think there are more similarities than differences between the two, at least stylistically – long songs with non-traditional structures, musical elements that aren’t the norm for a depressive black metal album, and a lot of emotion.
The songs on the split were actually written about a year apart. I started working on “Vulpes Pilum Mutat” near the end of 2018, with Marisa Kaye Janke (es-Isenordal) and her viola in mind from the very start. “Morir de Fam” was written in December of 2019, shortly after I’d finished recording Melancholic Waters. So the split has both the oldest and most recent Nodus songs on it.
3. What are some of the lyrical topics and subjects you have explored on both of the releases?
My lyrics tend to be very personal. The songs on Melancholic Waters mostly deal with fractured or failed relationships. Each song – or pair of songs, in the case of the “Ursa” tracks – deals with a specific relationship. I’ve mentioned this elsewhere, but I had originally thought of Melancholic Waters as a sort of emotional exorcism – a way of working through and then ridding myself of a lot of the emotional baggage from these relationships. However, the album ended up being more hopeful than I’d anticipated, so I’m not sure I really think of it as an exorcism anymore.
That said, there are a few broad themes in the lyrics. “Hexenwald || Wölfinninwald” has an anti-fascist element to it. The “Ursa” songs deal with suicide. Both “Ad Meliora” and “Morir de Fam” are about the sort of unhealthy attachments that can form between depressed or damaged people. “Vulpes Pilum Mutat” addresses predatory male behavior.
4.The project started in 2018 but you waited until 2020 to release some music, can you tell us a little bit more about the earlier days?
Truthfully, I was drinking heavily during my first attempt at Nodus, so the earlier days are a bit of a haze. I started working on an album in like late September or early October of 2018, and by Christmas I’d finished recording the instrumental tracks for four full songs and about half of “Vulpes.” One night I was working on the mix, it wasn’t going well because I wasn’t even remotely sober, and I got frustrated and deleted everything. I quit drinking a couple of days later, and then set about rerecording everything.
Most of those songs ended up being repurposed for an album with another project that was supposed to be released last August. That didn’t happen, and I ended up having a falling out with the vocalist. At that point Espi Kvlt from Seas of Winter/Apricitas stepped in to handle vocals and we rechristened the project Exsanguinated Shade. The album is finished and we’re currently looking for a label. One of the songs from it, “A Body Built By the Earth,” appears on the Hope in the Face of Fear compilation from Hope vs. Hate Records.
5. Can you tell us a little bit more about the artwork that is presented on the new album cover?
All the artwork for Melancholic Waters is by Jeri Mize, who also did the art for the split. She’s a dear friend, and I have so much trust in her instincts as an artist that we didn’t really discuss any sort of concept ahead of time. I sent her the in-progress mixes for the album, and a few days later she sent me a Dropbox folder with like 100 images. We talked about them for a bit, and later that day she sent me 60-70 more. There were so many incredible images between the two sets that there was no way I could choose just one, which is why each version of the album has a different layout.
6. With the exception of a couple of guest musicians you recorded everything by yourself. Are you open to working with other musicians or do you prefer to work solo?
I actually never anticipated doing a solo project, mostly because I didn’t want to have to learn to do harsh vocals. When I started working on Nodus back 2018, I was intending to ask different friends to fill in on vocals for a song or two – I even had a few lined up. when I started working on what became Melancholic Waters, I was frustrated and decided to just do it all myself – though as you mention, I did end up asking a couple of friends to do guest spots.
I have several other bands, but Nodus is the only one I do solo. I already mentioned Exsanguinated Shade – Espi and I do a Buddhist-themed ritual ambient project called Guan Yin as well. I also do vocals for Chernozem, a blackened eco-noise duo with the dude behind The Guelph Basin, Andromache, and Fjældmark. There are a couple of additional ones, but they’re still works in progress.
7. You also had a couple of guests on the new album. Can you tell us who they were and also their contributions to the recording?
Crown of Asteria’s Meghan Wood did the guitar solo on the intro to “Hexenwald || Wölfinninwald.” Meghan is one of my favorite musicians, and I value her not just as a collaborator, but also as a friend. As soon as I wrote that intro riff, I knew that she’d be the perfect person to lay a solo over it.
Andrea Morgan of Exulansis played violin on “Ursa Minora.” If you’ve not heard Sequestered Sympathy, the most recent Exluansis record, I highly recommend checking it out – it is beautiful and devastating and so fucking good. She was also in Megaton Leviathan for a few years and was a huge reason why their last album Mage was my favorite record of 2018. I felt like “Ursa Minora” was missing something, so I sent it to her – I think her violin is a major reason why it’s most people’s favorite song on Melancholic Waters. Andrea is also one of the kindest, most genuine people I’ve encountered in all of metal, so I was really happy to be able to work with her on a song.
I’ve always been a big fan of strings – those early My Dying Bride records with Martin Powell on violin are some of my favorite music ever. I feel really fortunate to have had Marisa and Andrea, two of my absolute favorite bow-slingers, appear on Nodus songs. I’d love to work with Jessica from Daxma at some point - she’s another absolutely brilliant violinist.
8. So far you have worked with Realm and Ritual, Trepanation Recordings, and Pacific Threnodies on the physical copies, do you feel these labels have been very helpful when it comes to getting your music out there heard?
Very much so. All three labels have been incredibly supportive and fantastic to work with. Since Nodus is an intensely personal project, I’m very protective of it. Perhaps overly so – I had a certain vision for Melancholic Waters, and the only person I solicited input from was Jeri because I wanted to make sure she approved of how I was using her images. It was more or less the same with the split, though I also took Meghan’s input into consideration. Anyway…all three labels believed enough in the music I make as Nodus that they had no problem with leaving me to my own devices with pretty much every aspect of each release. That level of trust between a label and an artist, especially one without any kind of proven track record, is pretty uncommon and I definitely don’t take it for granted.
As far as helping my music get heard, I think Realm and Ritual and Pacific Threnodies both have well-deserved reputations for working with outstanding bands, and I was a fan and frequent customer of both before joining their rosters. Being on Pacific Threnodies with At Dusk kind of blows my mind, because I am a huge fan of pretty much anything Korihor does. Trepanation is a newer label, but they’re releasing some incredible music – Catafalque is the shit, and Agvirre is well worth checking out as well.
9. On a worldwide level how has the reaction been to your music by fans of atmospheric and depressive black metal?
I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how overwhelmingly positive the reactions have been thus far. I call Nodus Tollens depressive black metal, but I don’t know if that’s truly accurate. On more than one occasion, I’ve half-jokingly described Melancholic Waters a blackened Smashing Pumpkins album – I was expecting anyone who went into the album expecting something like Make a Change… Kill Yourself to be disappointed. They’re certainly an influence - along with bands like Violet Cold, Falls of Rauros, and Woods of Desolation – but I think my love of early 90s alt-rock bands like the Pumpkins, Superchunk, Archers of Loaf, and Dinosaur Jr. are more apparent in my sound than my black metal influences. I definitely don’t follow the standard DSBM template, and I’m thankful that fans of the genre have been open-minded enough to be able to appreciate Nodus on its own terms instead of dismissing it as ‘not DSBM.’
10. Where do you see yourself heading as a musician during the future?
That’s a difficult question to answer. Believe it or not, I started Nodus with the intention of doing something along the lines of the Portuguese Aldebaran Circle bands. Obviously, that’s not how it came out.
I used to teach a lot of poetry writing classes, and I would tell my students to remember that the poem is always smarter than the poet. In other words, the poem knows where it needs to go - the more the poet tries to force it in a certain direction, the more the poem will refuse to cooperate. The best thing the poet can do is get out of the way. I’m finding that for me, the same thing seems to be true with music. So when the time comes to work on the next Nodus release, I’m probably just going to pick up my guitar and see what comes out.
11. What are some of the bands or musical styles that have had an influence on your music and also what are you listening to nowadays?
Right now, my favorite black metal albums of 2020 are Feminazgûl’s No Dawn for Men and Violet Cold’s Noir Kid. I’ve been listening to a lot of ritual and dark ambient lately as well. Noctivagant Collective and Black Mara have both been releasing some killer albums this year – I’d recommend Tertium Organum’s Icarus, Umbrarum Tenebrae’s Rights of Darkness and Dismal Visions, and the Emme Ya/Undirheimar split The Path of the Shaman.
I think I already touched on a lot of my influences – the only one I think I haven’t mentioned is Neil Young & Crazy Horse, which I think can be heard on the outro section of “Willowing.”
Truthfully, I could probably spend hours trying to answer this and still only scratch the surface. I won’t subject any of us to that, though. Instead, here’s a list of five albums that I think most directly influenced Melancholic Waters. In no particular order:
* Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dream
* Woe – Withdrawal
* Woods of Desolation – As the Stars
* Dinosaur Jr. – Bug
* Superchunk – Here’s Where the Strings Come In
12. What are some of your non-musical interests?
Between my career and my musical endeavors, I don’t have a ton of time for outside interests. I do quite a bit of work with the tarot, and I generally unwind by watching anime.
13. Before we wrap up this interview, do you have any final words or thoughts?
Black Lives Matter || Defund the Police || Abolish ICE || Punch Nazis || Deplatform TERFS