NOKTURNEL was a band that was quite active in the hey day of the early 90s death/thrash scene/underground movement. Quite a few of the bands from this era went on to great success and some have become big time bands in the metal realm. I met Tom Stevens online and became good friends with him. Being the crusty and jaded old fucks that we are, it was high time for a talk, since he has resurrected this deadly beast of a band. Read on and weep!
Interview By: Mike Abominator Photo By: Eloisa Stevens
1. Hails Tom, thanks for your time man. Preach it man! Why get Nokturnel going again after all these years?
TOM— Hails Mike! Well most people are aware I never intended to stop playing. All my headaches had to do with the search for a proper drummer. A few guys that had potential were so sucked into current trends they could not see the drums for Nokturnel would be as fast as they preferred to play. As a matter of fact they really couldn’t fucking play my songs anyway… then I found Chad Walls and he played drums on the single Demonic Supremacy and that reignited a spark that turned into an inferno for Nokturnel. When I finally met Duane Timlin I had found a guy who “got it”. I did not have to twist his arm. He was very into the whole thing so now I finally have the chance to get the band fully active since he also lives in TX. All the downtime between the release of Fury Unleashed and the single was unintentional. It took me forever because I’d rather never play live again than play with a lousy drummer. I have to add that a generation of metalheads or lack of them seemed apparent to me for a while there, but then when too many said metal is dead a new generation of young kids made it obvious they like older metal and went against trendy shit metal. I wanted to play my music because I love it, but I also wanted to influence younger generations to keep the heart of the music in tact. I want to see this new generation make bands that do not need to be in some fucking sub genre. I want to hear the influence of metals greatest years come out in modern music, that is what I attempt to do with Nokturnel.
2. What have you been up to the last few years while this beast of a band has been dormant?
TOM— One thing about myself I have to pat my own back over is the fact I never left the scene. I have been at countless shows partying with people and supporting the local scene eternally. I have seen a lot of people my age drift in and out of things… one year they’re metal, the next they’re not, then they come back as if they never left or worse reappear acting like they’re doing everyone some kind of fucking favor…. You know I do a lot of shit in my life outside of metal but the metal never leaves…it’s a huge part of my life whether I am playing or not. For the most part I spend time with my family and work from home. We travel a bit and I have my snake breeding operation and leather work too. My wife and I often go out of town for metal shows, get a hotel and make a weekend out of it. God knows I am usually drunk when we leave so I am not about to get on the highway. We watch a lot of movies, tons of horror, action and comedy. I actually do not play guitar much at home. I often go weeks without practicing, the metal is in me… when I summon it, it’s there and I let it rip. But I am a homebody, I like my house a lot and am content with everything in my life now… and have felt this way for many years.
3. Now that Nokturnel is back, tell me how this incarnation came about, with the new line up and the new songs. What old songs are you guys playing from the past in your current set?
TOM— Well we are at the very beginning of this, and so far we have only played most of the songs on Fury Unleashed and the single Demonic Supremacy. I have always been an explosive type person. I am not afraid to just put the guitar on and do what comes naturally and lucky for me Duane is the same way. I was looking for a guy with his experience, someone who knows about pressure, bullshit and professionalism. Example: great turnout, no monitors for the band and being unable to hear each other. A novice will shit themselves and basically suck. We just tend to shoot each other a look and mash through the mistake with no turning back, no stopping, and no apologies. Duane came through for me, it is as simple as that. We don’t talk in time signatures or get complicated. It’s like first off, bong hit… then.. OK move it move it! Let’s go. You ready!? After the chaos we pick it apart. I need a drummer like that, I have no patience….I am a tyrant haha! After giving Duane the CD we didn’t speak for about a month. I thought he wasn’t interested, but when we spoke for the first time he told me he could not stop listening to it. He did great at his audition and that was that. Zolrak is a local guy as well and he played our first two shows. It was not really up to par with the Duane and I but we were glad he was willing to try and he did make his place in Nokturnel’s history. So it was not perfect, big deal, the fact is without him we may not have done anything yet, so I am lucky to have a friend like him step up for me. He has his own band Nodens and also plays for Morbosidad. We feel we will eventually have to learn a song or two of the legendary Nothing But Hatred record and I intend to bust out one or two Savage Death songs too for the ancient die hards.I love the Nothing But Hatred material but recreating it with 2 people other than the ones who recorded it is nearly impossible.
4. There was an “out-coming” of sorts in Houston recently for Nokturnel. Tell me about this show and what was the reaction of those in attendance?
TOM— Oh man, that was something. After the show many people in Houston looked forward too was halfway in the shitter we were asked to play. We learned that if none of the other bands had canceled we were still going to be asked to play since some spikey bloodsoaked guys from California I am friends with were on the bill, some drunken maniacs from Chicago too, and THAT would have been legendary. The whole “the show is on, the show is canceled, no it’s on” situation began and I put a lot of effort into making sure people knew we were playing no matter what. It literally came down to that,,,, I told the promoter if NO other bands play….WE will still play! There was a great line up that night and all the bands were great but man that is a small miracle in itself. Now people should understand that this particular club is extremely cool about people partying outside. It is not uncommon for people to walk in and out all night whether bands are playing or not. We had some people who drove considerable distances to see us and of course my wife was there and I would have played like a maniac even if it was just her standing there but it seemed to me that from the moment I opened my big mouth every single person on that property was inside watching us. I ain’t as young as I used to be but let me tell you, the whip lashing TRUE headbanging mayhem was brought to the stage and people were shocked. I mean jaws dropped and the ” holy fucking shit!” look on their faces. I have been talking shit for years about how I intended to deliver the rage of metal years long gone and we did. We fucking killed them! No one left, it seemed as if we had everyones attention and we went over extremely well. It was the same at the other show on July 4th. The best way I can describe the crowds reaction was total shock, and this is only the beginning! There will always be people who cannot make it out to a show, its a sad truth, but Nokturnel really felt the support that night and it was a great way to say we are back. We are going to destroy the Goregrowlers Ball which we headling on Nov 13th in San Antonio.
5. Let’s talk about the philosophy of the band. As well as your outlook on the state of metal and the state of the underground.
TOM— Well truthfully my philosophy has changed in some ways but stayed very true to myself in others. I began this band with the intent of making music that was original. I get very fucking irritated with discussing Black Metal with people because for me, I was part of the real scene in the 80s. I am a fan of many modern bands but don’t go quoting fucking Lords of Chaos nonsense to me, I don’t wanna hear it. As a matter of fact the real metal heads I have known all my life knew about all that shit as it was happening and plenty of shit people don’t talk about. We didn’t need a fucking book! I despise “instant Black Metal” weenies. Instead of just add water it’s just ad Lords of Chaos. AND WAY before all this shit, I wrote songs for the Satanists who loved metal in the mid 80s with Savage Death. When it became popular to be evil it got silly. It was like the older people were not talking about personal philosophy as we all knew how each other felt. This was one reason Nokturnel didn’t go that route. I got sick of bands with 4 members, one Satanist and 3 “other” types. Nokturnel would have been like that…. and we decided as a band to go for something different. Musically we went for the same approach. Fuck slow parts, fuck mosh parts, and we went against every trend. No or probably better said. “not much” religion, guttural vocals, no groove, hell we weren’t even that fucking cool looking either! We barely ever played the same riff twice in a song, and the guitar solos were out of style I still wrote them in every song. I remember people literally saying to us in between songs during shows…you guys need to slow down! Are you ever going to slow the fuck down? Shit like that from guys wanting to mosh or whatever,.,,, we were like NO, WE AIN’T! TOUGH FUCKING SHIT! We had a few “you ain’t death metal!” thrown at us from time to time and seriously….who the fuck did they think we wanted to play with? My vocals make people into commercial metal cringe! We were just way out in left field and though that is exactly what we shot for it worked against us. So…. When I was composing the riffs for Fury Unleashed I was recalling my time in Incantation. I was not in a band that tried so hard to be different, and I saw how much easier people got into it and decided it was time to let my influences come through in my music. I literally saw the fucking NEED to change the band because of the redundant garbage bands saturating the scene. Brutal Death? Generic Black Metal? OK I get it….you like one song you like em all but jesus fucking christ how did record labels pick and chose from them? It was like everything sounded so fucking similar and again guitar solos were still not “in” and blasting drums…..fucking A those god damned blasting drums! Every review I read carried on about how fast someone can blast or play double bass. BPMs dude! Beats Per Minute! WHO THE FUCK CARES!? Congrats to the fastest of the fast, I get it, it is an accomplishment and a talent, but my point is the guitars and vocalists became pawns and drummers were stars. I said to myself fuck this…not me, not in Nokturnel. So I began writing with influence from bands I worship. Possessed, VoiVod, Kreator, Sacrifice, Dark Angel etc and I decided to try and take it to the next level by playing guitars like the glory days of metal with some serious speed on the drums. I wanted to show influential young metal people there’s more to extreme metal than fucking BPMs, bullshit breakdowns and fucking contests in extremism. I don’t care who murdered who, who cuts themselves and drinks blood, or who make the toughest facial expressions while holding a mic. In closing let me ask your readers…. when the bands who have had record deals since the old days like Morbid Angel, Deicide, Obituary, Cannibal Corpse… when they’re all done, who is going to be looked at as the “leaders”. The majority of all new bands are not making the types of records that will stand the test of time. Fortunately I can be a cocky fuck and tell everyone my records and demos have caught the attention of the next generation twice over but that’s besides the point. On a grander scale of the bands on the covers of the paper mags we all read over the years…. who is going to replace them? I fucking shudder to think! So I can say I make the music I make now for us older guys who wanna hear some sick riffs and for the younger people who need the speed of modern metal but with the approach of a guitarist from metals greatest era…the late 80s and early 90s.
6. What are your memories of the demo days with “You Don’t Have a Chance” and “Welcome to New Jersey”. Lets’ talk about the “old school” scene of tape trading, written letters and fanzines that we were both involved in. The New York/New Jersey area had quite an explosion of bands back then!
TOM— Those were good times. After several massive joints Martin and I came up with the brilliant plan he should quit his job so we could party more and work on the band in general… but that was around the time we were playing a lot of shows after the W.T.N.J. demo. Initially we went into the studio to record the first demo which was done live… no over dubs with the exception of the vocals. People thought the songs were pretty good but were impressed with the fact we busted it out in a few hours and that is was so angry and harsh. People who loved gutteral death metal were not impressed with the first demo but we refused to go that route so we made the material on the second demo much more inventive and we were faster by then. We sucked at the trading thing… we just depended too much on other people to do it for us because I recall the early 90s as the ” I have a zine, I created it 6 minutes ago, now I want all your material for free so I can do you the favor and review it for you!” era… haha! I was like you have got to be kidding? The costs would add up and half the time you’d never see a review ever anyway. We just tried to play with all the killer NJ locals. Revenant, Ripping Corpse, Human Remains, Damonacy, Ritual Torment, Torture Crypt. All the guys in those bands were cool people and though many of the turnouts were weak we made the most of it and still had killer times. Nokturnel was more likely to expect nothing but a stage to play on and we would pay out of our own pockets for the comforts of a hotel and good food. We played the music and we partied. The scene was small but we did play a lot and bigger shows that only had one or two of the locals were a lot of fun to be at. I lived right outside of Manhattan so I saw tons of New York shows as well as the shows in NJ. The 90s were raging, but before we had the internet we were all at a crawl as opposed to how fast word gets around about bands and their music now. There was a lot of half assing going on but we had to make the best of it. With zines…occasionally we’d get lucky and be in something many people would probably end up seeing and the review would suck in the sense that I could tell they didn’t even listen to it. One standout was Nothing But Hatred….nothing new here. Are you out of your fucking mind?!?!?! Jesus slag it if you want but to make a comment like that shows they never listened to the record and actually paid attention to it. The early days were great but it seemed like people wanted us to be more like everyone else and we were not into that. We were undeniably killer live. Whether people liked us or not they could not say much about the talent. In my opinion we were so much harsher than most “heavy” bands. Imagine this… before anyone knew anything about the lyrics people assumed the band was evil. It was a major compliment to me to be told over and over how much seething hatred came out of my music. Yet some of the lyrics were even humorous…sick and whatever but it was so untypical. Some people chose to back away from us when they learned about the lyrics, but what’s done is done and I just chose to go a different route in later years which absolutely has helped the bad appeal to more people. The early days were killer, but when we played for people who had never heard of us before often they looked more confused than anything. At the end they’d be like WOW, that was sick! But they’d go off 10 times harder for a band easier to keep up with.
7. Then you guys put out “Nothing But Hatred” on JL America. How did signing with that label come about? How was it being on the label and what was the reaction at the time of the album? My opinion is that “Nothing But Hatred” was WAAAAY ahead of it’s time, yet also came out too late in a sense(if that makes any sense, haha.)
TOM— JL was snatching up bands left n right and Rob from Morpheus Descends suggested us to them. It happened in what seemed like minutes. There was not much to negotiate over. They wanted some material we already recorded for a full length and we agreed. Literally all bands I knew on the label hated it, but not us. We were treated fairly and in the end I cannot imagine how many copies of Nothing But Hatred are out there. I received mail from all over the world from people claiming to own it. That is what all bands want, their music heard so or us the label was fine. They caved in so soon after our record came out that we were very discouraged but the record is legendary so fuck it all, I appreciate everything they did for Nokturnel. I have to say Mike, Your opinion RULES! You nailed it. Being ahead of your time is great and sucks ass at the same time. People were so baffled by Nokturnel, but musicians were intrigued. We had a lot of respect from other bands and were made to feel welcome in the scene by many but they all knew we’d have a hard time gettin signed. We just did not have the hooks, the types of songs that people find really memorable. We were more like a fucking beating of confusion. Being smashed by and endless assault of riffs with no slow parts… The great bands of Sweden were setting a new standard in the early 90s, so was Morbid Angel and others but we fought the urge to be like them and did our own thing. Later on really technical metal was more commonplace and then a lot of younger people discovered the band and to them it was not so confusing. I am extremely proud of the fact that my music has stood the test of time where it matters… in the underground. That’s all I ever really gave a fuck about.
8. What tours were you guys offered at that point?
TOM— ZERO, never even came close. Without a proper label giving some sort of support we thought it’d be impossible to “get on” any tour. It is much easier to accomplish a tour these days… lots of independent bands taking it upon themselves and fairly organized tours are common. Everyone and their mothers tour now, it was not like that back then…
9. Now you also had a stint in Incantation. Tell me a little about how that came about.
TOM— Before that happened I was in Morpheus Descends..and after that fell apart Rob Yench and I had not been in touch and out of the blue he called me while I was living in Florida with Phil Fasciana. Incantation was on tour and he said “they” needed to speak with me about something. Initially I was asked to come on tour for 8 weeks, but to help sell merch for most of the time and only fill in for Daniel Corchado who wanted to prepare for his performance at MMF with The Chasm. Keep in mind the tour was with Morbid Angel. Well it is all a blur…. I cannot recall the timing… but Mcntee and Corchado were hating each other and finally Daniel said he was not coming back after he left the tour as planned.. and I went on to do another tour or two and some other shows… it was a hectic time in my life and I was just going with the flow. I actually had no intention of leaving but John and I also ended up arguing constantly and I was fired. I did meet a lot of cool people during those days and made a lot of new Nokturnel fans while I was at it. Once in a while people will write and tell me they saw me with Incantation and that they really liked it and whatnot… I have to admit I do like to hear that… I LOVE pure death metal, and it was great to perform songs from one of my favorite bands but I wish I had reformed Nokturnel a lot earlier too…
10. Nokturnel has been a band that has avoided trends, hence the 1994 “Anti Grunge” EP, hahaha. But then it took a few years for the next album “Fury Unleashed” to come out in 2001. Why was there such a big gap in between album releases?
TOM— Mostly due to the fact I could not find a drummer. Most drummers then, and now, all want to be the same
guy. A monotonous pile of nothing and though I am absolutely a speed freak I am trying to make metal that has a lot to offer and sometimes my riffs fuck with peoples heads. They hear it is something complex and do not realize the speeds, or the metal stamina that is required to play my music. I see many drummers who do one or two beats really well, and after that its nothing to flip out over. Many of those types would boast they could handle it, and constantly tell me they’d submit a recording of them playing ANY of my songs and most would write back saying they couldn’t manage and the others would simply never answer my emails again. The wait was unintentional. Although I did get married shortly after my Incantation days I had not changed as far as my need for metal to be a huge part of my life. But having moved to Texas and not really knowing anyone was also slowing me down. When I had the opportunity to borrow the drummer from Fog to record Fury Unleashed I jumped at it,,,,and he was in Indiana halfway across the country. You have to do what you have to do
11. Now in big news, Nokturnel is playing the Maryland Death Fest! Congrats on that Tom! Tell me how this came about.
TOM— I would have to guess it was a matter of timing and understanding. I had been trying way late in the game for Nokturnel to play in 2010 and kept in contact with them. I had sent them some Fury Unleashed CDs and told them a bit about the history of the band and the inevitable comeback. I’d like to think they felt we’d be a good independent band to have on the bill. Nokturnel is absolutely not the type of band you can count on seeing live anywhere. This is a very big deal and I am telling ALL Nokturnel fans worldwide to consider coming to see us at this event. I have my feelers out and I am looking for opportunities to play worldwide but honestly timing is everything. Look at what just went through and what is coming up before December in the US and it is hard to imagine yet another tour. Metalheads arent made of money… so as it stands we are headlining the local fest, The Goregrowlers Ball in November and doing Maryland Deathfest 2011. I consider it a real honor to be part of MDF. I attended in 2009 and 2010 and cannot say enough about how great of a time we have. I usually spend 5 nights in town… and let it rip! EVERYONE come on down for MDF 2011! Exhumed! Aura Noir! Impaled Nazarene Gravehill, Cianide and so much more,,, man I am fucking freaking! Regardless of how long we get to play I intend to leave my mark. We are going to make one hell of a ripping set list and just go mental.
12. Now that the line up is solid, and the shows have started, what are the plans for an album release? Any talks with labels?
TOM— I dont know how to say it any plainer than for a band that has so much attention, and I can even say respect from the underground, and also from many long established bands… all I can do is wonder why labels seem to over look us. I am speaking about the larger labels with distribution. Nokturnel does have a label. Diabolist Servcies will release one split 7 inch titled The Ultimate Legacy of Hate which will have the single Demonic Supremacy as well as a track from Tyrannizer Order and another 7 inch with 2 tracks by Nokturnel will follow. I am happy to have something to offer the die hards and collectors. Especially from a label that has its roots firmly implanted in the underground. I do want to record a full length though and to do it properly will require a good chunk of change so we are keeping our options open, Nokturnel is really ME. I write everything…front the band, kept it alive all these years. I am that guy…. dare I say the Mcntee hahahahahaaaaaaaaaaa! There is no Nokturnel without me. All members past and present matter, but I am the band. Duane Timlin and I REALLY want to continue working together and get this band playing and recording on a very regular basis. Duane is the drummer I need, and he brings Nokturnel to a new level. We hope things fall into place because we are ready to tour and record RIGHT FUCKING NOW!
13. I know that it’s hard to think about shit like this, but I must be a pain in the ass now! Name the top 10 bands that have influenced Nokturnel’s ripping and relentless death/thrash sound? –
TOM— Actually since I am from the 80s it is not that hard. Influential for my guitar
playing, or to be metal is one thing… and long and complicated… but the bands that made me want to make Nokturnel were Kreator, Destruction, Sodom, Slayer, Venom, Dark Angel, Possessed, Sacrifice, Exodus and Napalm Death… I had heard of Napalm so much earlier than most of my friends and when I heard those drums I imagined that chaos with riffing more like all the other bands I mentioned before hand. I loved, actually worshiped Mercyful Fate and Celtic Frost too but they’re music did nothing as far as influence.
14. Now is the time to plug your business that you do with your wife Eloisa, Nokturnel Eclipse. Tell me about it as well as the snakes too!
TOM— I started the biz as Nokturnel Eclipse Distro and it was typical of the early 90s era. We mostly sold CDs and Shirts, a few DVDs. Then things changed a lot and CD prices crashed so we started with the Spiked Leather. We stopped selling CDs alltogether with the exception of my own music. Now most people refer to us as Nokturnel Eclipse Spiked Leather. I have been making Gauntlets and Boot/Leg covers for over a decade and this is a serious business. Eloisa has been working with me for 2 years now and we take advantage of the fact we work at home and make our own hours. We work 7 days a week but we also do what we want when we want. She started making Leather Masks including The Goat and has been extremely busy with that and we also sell all kinds of adult stuff too. We have SinfulNightwear.com which features everything we sell and then we have an Etsy store which only allows us to sell our hand made products, mainly Spiked Leather and Leather Masks,,,
I have kept reptiles all my life. Many called me Snake way back when but I despised the name due to VoiVod worship… but anyway during my downtime with Nokturnel I began breeding snakes and after a few years I had made a name for myself in that industry even though I am relatively small. I have produced under 200 babies during each of the past 2 seasons since the economy was shot but I can have up to 500 snakes here at once. It is a lot of work, but it is awesome and I do very well with that. I call that biz Snakes By Nokturnel Tom and many regular non metal people call me Nokturnel Tom. Many know I am some metalhead with a crazy band but that’s just how I do things… I have Nokturnel, Nokturnel Eclipse, and Snakes By Nokturnel Tom. TomsSnakes.com You see my fucking Facebook haha! I am always fucking busy but we reward ourselves with roadtrips and it all works for us.
15. OK man, hails for your time with this! Glad that you brought this beast back to life and I look forward to seeing you slay live, as well as sharing the stage with Noktunel soon! Any last words?
TOM— Always enjoy talking my head off. I appreciate the opportunity to raise the horns for the new generation of metalheads, the young kids wearing Sodom and Hellhammer patches that laugh at bullshit Mallcore. This new generation is extremely important to the future of metal. Nokturnel is for old fucking maniacs who whine about how things used to be and for the new people to understand that they can take influence from the greatest records ever made and create music of their own that still flies the flag of hate. I hope a lot of people support us and help us get noticed by a good label so I can record another full length record and really put together some ferocious guitar driven metal. Encourage everyone to visit us on Myspace, ReverbNation, and Facebook. Thanks bro!