Interview with novAct (March 13th, 2005)

Interview by MAGE

First of all, congratulations on the release of your debut album "Tales from the Soul (to Those Who Understand)". It's definitely one of the best debut albums (if not the best) I've ever heard.

Eddy: Well, what can we say? That's definitely good to hear. It's also kinda hard for us to estimate the perceived quality of the album. Just after we finished (start 2004) the recordings, mixing and mastering we were all really very very enthusiastic but still we didn't really know what to expect from the outside world. First reactions (DPRP, Headache and of course RockReviews) though are enormously positive and of course we're very happy about it.

Originally you were called Morgana-X, but in 2004 you decided to change your name to novAct. What's the story behind this name change? Personally, I consider novAct better; it's aphoristic and unforgettable. It gives the impression of new act, like it's a fresh start for you guys.

Eddy: That's exactly what it was supposed to achieve! The name change was more or less required by our label (Sensory Records). Even though we were free to keep the name we were strongly encouraged to change it since at least in the States a lot of people wouldn't take a new prog band with a name ending with an 'X' seriously. Of course you know the reason why. So after a lot of internal head butting, nose punching and my-name-is-better-than-your-ing we came up with NovAct which indeed means: New Act.

Martijn: It is indeed a fresh start. In the 'Morgana-X' period we had some member changes, combining that with the fact that there were already way too many bands with an 'X' already it was now or never.

Did your promo recording (Morgana-X: Misunderstood) gain immediately response from the labels or did you have to search for an appropriate label for a long time?

Eddy: Well, this is a rather utopian tale. It actually almost went like a teenage rock band dream story. We got out the promo; within a week we sent copies to a lot of magazines, labels and festivals. In the same week we got an invitation for HeadWay 2003 via Dennis Leeflang (who did an awful lot of other great things for us!) and just after finishing our gig at Headway I was approached by Claus Jensen (indeed from Intromental) who told me that Sensory knew of the promo and was interested. I think he had to repeat that about three times before I believed what I was hearing. And to make a long story short: from there onwards we got signed by Sensory.

Already from the beginning of the album, it comes apparent that Eddy Borremans has rather original delivery. His voice is very distinctive, atypical even, and it's one of the main characteristics of your music. In my view, Eddy's vocals bring a nice sense of atmosphere to your music. When and where did you (Wouter Wamelink) discover him?

Wouter: When the band was only just founded and several musicians had done audition, I really had trouble to find a fit singer. I had a clean crisp voiced singer in mind and one that could really sing. Most candidates weren't quite able to sing and only screamed some notes that made my hackles rise. One day I spoke to Ivor the other guitar player (back then there were two guitar players in the band) and told him I couldn't live with current singer anymore. 'Wait the minute' said Ivor, and he opened an email with 'Eddies voice in an mp3' in it. I was immediately sold and couldn't believe he even lived in the same city as the rest of the band.

Actually it would be nice, if you could share the whole story behind novAct/Morgana-X. How did you guys meet and decide upon artistic views?

Eddy: WHOAH, that would be a long story indeed. Let's see if we can keep it an acceptable length. Let's start with the way that are compositions are created. For starters there is the great composing talent of Wouter. He really is the founding father of the band. He writes the music from a pure musical point of view. Pure in a sense that he focuses fully on the emotional atmosphere of the music rather than explicitly relating to any real life political or whatever topic (or at least he doesn't tell us ;-) and no lyrics or vocal melody. Even if he has some ideas about what should be chorus and what should be verse, this is never fixed beforehand. Then I listen to the concept of the song several times (somewhere between 5 and 30 times). I try to determine the emotional feeling that I get when listening to the song and then I try to relate it to some of my real life experience (or sometimes a story that I read). In the mean time the rest of the band start rehearsing the song instrumentally and once they are able to play the song I join them improvising. I sing along inventing English sounding words and I record what we play on minidisk. Most of the time this way the melody of the chorus is created. Then at home I listen again to the improvisations and start writing the lyrics based on the aforementioned emotions that I had. After this all that is left is polishing both musically and vocally. This is roughly the process that most of the songwriting follows. For the second album this might be slightly different since both me and Michiel (keyboards) have already composed music for two new songs. But in these two cases also the music was created before the vocals. With this most of our artistic view has been said. Wouter has the most influence in the composition but the entire band is responsible for the arrangement. All the instruments roughly invent their own interpretation of their part. Chorus basics from Wouter are of course maintained but the actual implementation is done by the guys themselves. For instance: for drums Wouter programs a very simple base line in the concept but Martijn creates all the really magic drum stuff. Same with the bass and the keyboard. Hope this answers the question and otherwise feel free to rephrase.

No need for rephrasing, since you provided us with quite a thorough answer. Next we'll move on to lyrical side of the album. Eddy Borremans is responsible for all the lyrics on the album. Would you (Eddy) like to reveal some of the lyrical concepts behind the songs? In my view, the album is well-written with wide variety of lyrical concepts ranging from the thoughts about today's society on "Sharply Condemned" to emotionally touching "Eternal Life".

Eddy: Ok, here's a couple of things that brought me to the way I write lyrics today. First of all, I find it very hard to 'invent' lyrics out of the blue. What I mean is that I think it's really hard to invent fiction: a made up story that hasn't happened. So very early after becoming a singer I decided to write about things that I have experienced in some way and I found that a lot easier. Secondly I feel a bit guilty about criticizing half the world. Actually I think it's really easy for a band to have a political opinion about all the mischief in the world. I mean, we're western guys that have the luck they do the nicest thing in the world just like that: making music and at the same time yelling that Bush is bad, religion sucks and people shouldn't kill each other. Everybody in the first world can do that. So often in my songs you see that after criticizing the world I start criticizing myself. That's what happens in sharply condemned: in the first place it's about the Dutch government condemning the next Israeli attack on Palestinians and then everybody goes on with their lives. But secondly it's about me only singing about it and then going on with my life and that condemns me. As you can imagine this story continues... This duality can be found in more songs if you look hard... 'Eternal Life' is much different. I have been a great fan of Jeff Buckley and like many I think the musical world had to say goodbye to him much too early. This song is about just that. Eternal Life is also the name of one of Jeff's songs on the Grace album and I chose that title in the hope that I may play a small part in letting his music live on eternally. Furthermore on the surface 'The Rider' is about a trip that I made on a motorcycle through the United States which was a very special experience to me. But it's also about my idea that most things in life are about working to get somewhere, and really enjoy getting there much more than actually reaching it: 'the road's my home'. Path of Daggers is slightly off topic compared to the rest of the songs. I like to read fantasy novels and 'A Path of Daggers' is one of the books from the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. Most of the lyrics of the other songs are born from my attempts to understand all kinds of different people (explicitly including myself) and their motivation for doing all kinds of (bad) things in this world.

To go back to the duality in some of the songs, it's actually present also in 'Hope and Fear', 'So Help Me God (Nothing but the Truth)' and 'Bad Religion'. Basically that's why I find your lyrics so well-written (there's depth to them).

Since the music of novAct is rather influence-rich, I'd like to hear how you would describe it to someone who hasn't heard any of your songs.

Eddy: Phew, another hard question. Lately we have called it a couple of times: 'Progressive Heavy Rock'. Sometimes We seem to divert from metal to rock, but it's still way too heavy to be called Rock (and that's how we like to keep it). What does it sound like? From our real influence point of view: Mix Dream Theater with Pain of Salvation with Nevermore with Muse with Living Colour.

Martijn: Fresh and catchy prog rock with a very distinctive male vocalist.

There's definitely a small amount of DT, PoS and Nevermore in your music, but I'd say you have "your own thing" going on as well. Anyway, the verse on 'The Rider' ("pushes me") reminds me quite a bit of Threshold, which leads me to question: What bands do you listen to? What influences does each member of the band bring into view?

Eddy: We've been compared with a lot of bands that I never even heard of (at least not at the time of first comparing). Mind you, I didn't have a recent metal background other than 70-80 stuff (Van Halen, Jimi Hendrix, Vai & Satriani). To be honest, I wouldn't be able to recognize one single Threshold song and I have a feeling I should really be ashamed for that (it's on my wish list though). On the other hand, this way I at least can still be honest about that we do not try to imitate a band or a style. And maybe that's part of the reason people find us sounding original. From a vocal point of view I am much more influenced by Buckley, Muse, Zappa, U2 than metal bands. But the last two years I also listen a lot to Devin Townsend, Nevermore, Evergrey, Rammstein, Sevendust, POD, and I think at least unconsciously that influences me also.

Martijn: Anything between Sting and Pain of Salvation. I started out in a death metal band, played reggae and pop music. Need I say more?!

Well that's definitely an interesting combination of genres. How musically educated are the members of novAct? Are any of you self-taught?

Wouter: SELF TAUGHT with some assistance of a guitar teacher of the local music school through the years.

Jeroen: SELF TAUGHT

Martijn: Martijn's drum teacher is Jusso Whistler.

Michiel: Has played in several top 40 bands and enjoyed a couple of piano/keyboard lessons.

Eddy: I have been singing in a pop choir for two years and had some useful tips of the conductor; otherwise I'm fully self taught. I do play guitar though and I'm currently following guitar lessons which helps me greatly in my composing skills (both vocally and instrumentally).

Can you tell us a little bit more of the composing methods of novAct? How do the songs take form?

Wouter: First I make a composition on my computer. It comprises guitars, basic keyboards and drums. Everybody takes this home and starts playing to it. During the band rehearsal we'll work on the song until it's finished. Because we're not only serious about the music but also about ourselves, we're almost always able to produce a well balanced result with a helluva (sub/pre)chorus.

I heard that you're already working on your second album, could you divulge some details about it? How is it coming along?

Eddy: About 4 to 5 songs finished now. It may sound different because we have some additional composers. It's still and again hard to predict what the difference is. We're already looking forward to record and play the songs. We are very confident they are a new step for NovAct while maintaining the typical NovAct sound. I think that since we are a relatively new band there's so much room for improvements on all areas that we can come up with something that will keep people interested in our music (he said hopefully ;-). So, no writers block here!

Wouter: GOOD, GOOD, GOOD and hopefully even better!

Sounds promising, but let's get back to your debut release. How extensive touring will support the release of this album? What are your views on playing live?

Eddy: From September we will be support act of After Forever, we hope that will give our album an enormous boost. We haven't planned any dedicated NovAct tour yet because it's too early for that. I think next year will be a time to make a more explicit statement about the way that NovAct should present itself to the larger community. In general we love to play live and we know that we should play a lot in order to get ourselves known to the people.

I noticed that your website is designed by Martijn Peters, the drummer of novAct. Exactly how involved are you with your website?

Eddy: 100%, this is mainly Martijn's thing. He is more or less the artist and webmaster of the band. He also did the artwork of the promo and the design of "Tales From The Soul".

Well thanks for your time and all the wholehearted answers. In the end this interview seems to become a bit lengthy, but that's nothing to worry about. In case there's something you want to add, feel free to do so.

Eddy: We think this is a very nice interview. Indeed quite lengthy; as you might expect this early in the existence of the band there is still this urge to say something to the larger public. I think that explains the length.

The discussion continued for awhile and ended in thanking each other and wishing luck.

Michiel Reessink (Keyboards)
Martijn
Peters (Drums)
Eddy Borremans (Vocals)
Jeroen
van Maanen (Bass)
Wouter Wamelink: (Guitar)

Here's the review of novAct's "Tales from the Soul"

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