Interview with drummer and vocalist Mike Browning
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: December 31, 2022
Tampa, Florida's Nocturnus AD is a band that Mike Browning (ex-Incubus, ex-Acheron, etc.) put together in 1999. They performed a few shows in 2013 under that name, but couldn't play on their home turf due to copyright issues. Since the formation of Nocturnus AD the lineup has gone through some changes, the latest consisting of Mike Browning on drums and vocals, Belial Koblak and Demian Heftel on guitars, Daniel Tucker on bass and Josh Holdren on keyboards. With this lineup, the band recorded their debut album, Paradox, which came out in 2019. It picks up the same storyline where one of Mike's previous bands, Nocturnus, left off after the highly successful album The Key, almost 30 years earlier.
COVID came in 2019 and ruined the touring plans of many bands when societies around the world restricted peoples' lives due to the pandemic. Silence descended in the Nocturnus AD camp, though they didn't give up their game. Nope, on the contrary, the guys in Nocturnus AD have been quietly working on their follow-up album.
The Metal Crypt wanted to break this bubble of mysterious silence and got Mike Browning to briefly talk about what they have been up to for the last couple of years.
So, Mike, good to talk to you. How's life in Florida these days after struggling with the coronavirus for the last 2-3 years and finding our way back to normal again?
Mike: Yes, it has been a while, but slowly things are getting back to normal, although Florida didn't have as many things close as did most of the country. We were pretty lucky.
You guys managed to play a show in Tampa, Florida, on April 30 this year. How was it to return to the stage over two years since you last played live?
Mike: It was great to play live again. We don't play that many live shows or tours and this show was basically a warm-up show for Maryland Death Fest which we played a few weeks later. Since we hadn't played live for a while, we didn't want our first show to be Maryland Death Fest in front of thousands of people.
Have you missed playing live? Has it been tough not having the chance to do gigs on a regular basis?
Mike: For me it wasn't a huge thing because although I do like playing live, it's not something that I feel I have to do a lot. I like making our live appearances more of a special thing because I never wanted to be one of those bands who you can see once or twice a year because they come through on tour so often.
You had Maryland Death Fest at the end of May this year, which had a killer lineup including Dismember, Deicide, Cavalera, Carcass and many other great acts...
Mike: Yes, there were some awesome bands that played MDF and I got to see several of them because we were there Saturday and played Sunday. It was the second time we played MDF and it's probably the top festival in the whole United States that has this kind of music.
Two years is a long time for any band to be inactive gigging-wise, but you told me that you have spent that time working on some new material since your well-received Paradox album came out in 2019. What can you tell us about this new material?
Mike: It definitely gave us the time to sit back and take our time writing this next album, so we were able to put a lot of thought into the writing process. We have actually already started recording the next album with Jarrett Pritchard who we did Paradox with, and it is coming out great so far!
You have said in the past that with the Paradox album you wanted to get as close to the same vibe and feeling as on Nocturnus' groundbreaking debut The Key. Would you still say that you are aiming in that direction with this new album, or would you rather say there's something familiar in these new songs but also some new things that you wanted to try out this time around that may surprise some of the listeners?
Mike: This new album is a culmination of everything and since we are recording with Jarrett engineering and producing and in the same studio, I think it will be more of a continuation of Paradox, but with some new and old surprises thrown in.
IN GROUP POWER WE TRUST
How much is each member of the band involved in the songwriting process this time around, or did you work the same way you did for the Paradox record?
Mike: This time musically there was more involvement from everyone for sure. There is not one song that was written by one person as far as the music itself, but again like on Paradox, I wrote all of the lyrics which are a continuation of Paradox and The Key for the most part, but there are some new lyrical ideas too on the album.
Even as the whole world is suffering from COVID and its many restrictions, would you say each of you in the band is motivated to work their asses off for the success of the band, even if it may never become a day job that puts bread and butter on the table?
Mike: We have never looked at the band as a job and most of us are very dedicated to the band and have never lied to ourselves thinking we would make a living from it. All of us have good career day jobs, so for us the band is something that we want to do and not something that we have to do, so we do it on our own terms.
Do you have most of the lyrics ready for this next release or are you still working on them?
Mike: As of right now, all the music and vocals have been recorded. Pretty much all that is left to record is stuff like the leads, backing vocals and some synth guitar parts and a few other small things, so we are close to the mixing and mastering stages.
THE KEY STORY CONTINUES...
How important is it for you to write lyrics that let fans know while they are reading them that they are clearly from Mike Browning's pencil?
Mike: I don't really look at my lyrics that way. Back in 1991 The Key had a loose story with the last four songs that I wanted to continue on the next album Thresholds, but unfortunately that didn't happen. The whole point of Nocturnus AD and Paradox was to continue The Key story with four more songs at the end of the album and continue lyrically a couple of other songs off of The Key as well. So, with the new album I did the same exact thing, which was to continue The Key story with the last four songs and continue some of the other songs lyrically as well. By just doing that people should be able to see the pattern in my lyrics.
Can you give us any song titles or even a working title for this next album?
Mike: I am keeping the album title under wraps, but some of the song titles are "The Ascension Throne of Osiris," "Mesolithic," "Organism 46B," "Mission Malkuth," "Yesod Dark Side of the Moon."
Which studio have you used to record this follow-up to Paradox?
Mike: We are using the same studio; New Constellation in Orlando and we are using Jarret Pritchard again to engineer and produce the album because he did a fantastic job on Paradox.
With the Paradox record, you guys set the bar pretty darn high for yourselves as far as the quality of your songs is concerned. Considering this fact, how easy was it for you guys to start working on this new material, keeping in mind that it should at least be on the same level with the songs on Paradox, quality-wise?
Mike: Well, the good thing is that we had no deadline to record the next album and because of COVID we had a couple of years to work on these new songs, so we were able to take our time writing the new stuff. I think the new stuff will be a really good follow-up to Paradox.
CATCHINESS OVER TECHNICALITY
The songs of Nocturnus AD usually contain tricky and technical parts. Do you find it important to challenge yourself and the band with every song that you release?
Mike: I think the most important thing is to make songs sound like songs and not a bunch of technical riffs thrown together. A lot of the riffs that Demian and Belial write sound easier than they really are, so they stick in your brain, but they aren't as easy to play as they sound.
Have any ex-Nocturnus members commented on the Paradox album, like Louis Panzer or Mike Davis? Are you curious to know what they think of Paradox?
Mike: I haven't really seen or talked to any of those guys in at least 10 years. I couldn't care less what any of them think.
I remember when the vinyl version of Paradox was released, in six different colors each limited to 100 copies, it sold out almost immediately through the pre-orders. Do you know if Profound Lore has any plans to re-press the vinyl version, maybe with new color versions? Fans who to sell their copies are asking big bucks for these original versions, especially for the color versions...
Mike: As far as Paradox, I don't think there will be any more re-pressings because it takes a long time to get vinyl pressed these days and the company that Profound Lore uses for vinyl only allows them so many pressings per year, so they have to plan everything well in advance. There will be vinyl for the new album for sure.
By the way, do you still have a deal with Profound Lore Records, or are you in search of a new record label?
Mike: We are still signed to Profound Lore. They have been a really great company to work with and very trustworthy, too, which is hard to find in a record label!
What are some of your short- and long-term plans with Nocturnus AD? What keeps you motivated to keep making music?
Mike: After what happened with COVID, I just tend to take things day by day now and try not to plan things out too far in advance. But to finish this chapter of The Key story I will need at least one more album to get to a certain point in the storyline where something different could happen. I would at least like to get to do one more album after this one, but like a comic book The Key story can just keep evolving.
OLD DAYS WON'T COME BACK
The metal scene is constantly changing and evolving, and we have actually come a long way since the days when you were a part of Morbid Angel, Incubus, or Acheron. Do you miss those past times at all and how do you see the current state of the metal scene today?
Mike: Everything back then was just different in a good way. When you are young, everything seems to be fun and easy to do, but the older you get the more complicated life becomes and other things take precedence. There is no doubt the whole world has changed, and people are offended by just about anything these days and peoples' lives can be ruined overnight just by saying something other people don't like. I wish it was like it used to be, but that will never happen again and all I can say is that I am glad that I got to grow up when I did and got to experience the things that I did.
Are there some newer metal bands that you like?
Mike: Honestly there are not a lot, but I do like Blood Incantation and bands that are similar to them, but really I still find myself going back to the old stuff like Slayer, Mercyful Fate and Celtic Frost.
DIGITAL OR PHYSICAL?
Do you still prefer digesting your music on physical releases like cassettes, CDs, and vinyl vs. digitally released stuff? As someone once wisely said, "only a physical copy is REAL...!!!", or at least something along those lines... ;o)
Mike: Mostly what I listen to is CDs, like in my car. I still have a turntable too, but I don't use it as much as I used to, even though sound-wise I think vinyl sounds the best.
I think that was all I had, Mike, so thanks a lot for this nice and cool conversation with you, and let's hope the world will be ready for Nocturnus AD's follow-up album when the time is right to unleash that beast. OK, wishing you a relaxing Sunday and keep it heavy and metal!
Mike: And as always, thanks Luxi for the great interview! Our new album will be out sometime in 2023, although we don't have an exact release date yet.
And thanks to everyone out there who has supported the things I have done for over 30 years now!!! You all rule!!!!
|Other information about Nocturnus AD on this site|
|Interview with drummer and vocalist Mike Browning on December 7, 2013 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)|
|Interview with vocalist and drummer Mike Browning on February 7, 2015 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)|
|Interview with drummer and vocalist Mike Browning on August 21, 2016 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)|
|Interview with drummer and vocalist Mike Browning on June 16, 2019 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)|
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