• Emil

A Conversation with NECROPANTHER



You heard the album (if you didn't - must correct immediately), you read the reviews, including the one, here on DENIM & LEATHER. Now is the time to learn more about this great band. My friend and metal brother, "the curator" JayKeeley engaged NECROPANTHER into a "live" Twitter conversation yesterday, January 4th 2020. The complete transcript of their conversation is published below. Many thanks to the band and to JayKeeley for allowing Denim & Leather to became a small part to this event.

JayKeeley:

Alright, it’s show time.

We are live on the Twitter airwaves with Necropanther.

5...4...3...

Let’s do this.

Would you like to introduce yourselves by name & role in the band.


Haakon Sjogren: Drums

Paul Anop: Guitar and Vocals

Joe Johnson: Guitar

Marcus Corich: Bass


Haakon:

I’m from Norway. I’ve played drums since I was tiny. My role in Necropanther is to play drums, write music.

Paul:

I play guitar and do the vocals - I'm from Wichita, KS. I moved here to start this band. In my spare time, I'm an excellent SCUBA diver and instructor.

Joe:

I play guitar, largely lead guitar. Paul is correct - he taught me to dive also.

Marcus:

I play bass, make beer and eat all leftovers.


JayKeeley:

Yaaas! Question (number)1 -

You’re from Denver, CO. The creativity in that metal scene hasn’t gone unnoticed. Seems that bands are embracing the full spectrum of influences, old and new. Tell us how your scene inspires you, and who else among the local bands are you into these days?


Paul:

We've played every scene in Denver, from hardcore to metal on the outskirts. Overall, everyone is supportive because there are lots of places to play. As far as local bands, Glacial Tomb, Muscle Beach, Draghoria.

Joe:

I think the vibrancy of the city has brought the group of bands together, so we see each other and play in passing. There may be bands that rehearse together and things like that. We're a little more of in contact with everyone, but separate.


JayKeeley:

That’s awesome. One day I hope to visit Denver. Added bonus: see you guys play.

How do you feel about being compared to other bands, or if your listeners find similarities in your music?

For what it’s worth, I’ve had a couple of bands feel mortified when I called out comparisons to other artists, but sorry, nobody is 100% original anymore. Comparisons are surely inevitable, no?


Joe:

We have some obvious influences and some not-so-obvious ones. We don't shy away from the fact that we're part of a tradition of metal, and we try to exhibit that, inhabit it, and maybe get away from a subculture concept of metal to more of a cohesive one.

Paul:

I would be surprised if you could count all of the influences and comparisons on the new record in particular. It ranges a lot, and despite the great coverage, I haven't seen many people even scratch the surface of what's there.

Marcus:

I’m cool with the comparisons. it’s always interesting to find out what other people hear.

Ultimately we play what we want to.

Haakon:

We’ve been compared to Skeletonwitch a bunch. It’s cool to be compared to such a famous band, but I personally rarely listen to them. The way NP works is that everyone contributes to everything - if that final product has a similar sound to someone else, so be it.


JayKeeley:

Great. To Marcus’ point, “ultimately we play what we want to.”...

Putting your art ‘out there’ probably means needing a thick skin? But when it’s constructive, can criticism (good / bad) be a part of your songwriting development? Or do you insulate yourselves from that?


Joe:

Avoiding direct influence from contemporaries and critics is essential. We keep things really positive within our group, and we all have strong voices and a clear vision of what we want to accomplish, so we really steer the boat where we want to go.

Paul:

For me, no - my art is my art, and I put it out there. If people don't like it, that's their loss. I'm waiting for the scathing review on this album. I would be interested to see what someone says negative about it. Still waiting.

Haakon:

Constructive criticism is good, but when it comes to music art, it’s all up to personal opinion. It’s awesome if people like the art we make. If people have something negative to say, I couldn’t imagine it making the band better or us changing much of who we are. Every opinion is always welcome though. Different strokes for different folks.

JayKeeley:

Yep, makes sense!

Ok let’s get into your music - but real quick: you obviously have this science fiction / concept album thing going on, starting with your debut. It’s a Terminator theme - but then you stuck a big cat on the cover and called yourselves Necropanther. Explain!






Paul:

Back in Wichita, we used to jam Pantera songs and called it "Panther Practice." When we came out here and turned that into a death metal band, we added the "Necro." There you have it!

Joe:

Paul wrote the lyrics for the first record, so the Terminator theme was something fun that we could all agree with and was a little off the beaten path in terms of typical death metal lyrics, and some other ideas to explore.

Marcus:

Paul came up with the name, it’s kind of become a love it or hate it aspect of the band - I fuckin’ love the name.

Haakon:

Some of the best press we've gotten was Decibel naming us number 1 for "band names so bad they're good," so we must be doing something right.


JayKeeley:

Haha! Actually, I had no clue about the lineage back to Wichita. So that’s you guys and Manilla Road both.

Staying with the debut for a second.

Your musical blueprint was introduced in an instant. Track 1 on the debut, “Death Eyes”, is a speed / melodic death metal affair, sweet guitar harmonies & a big riff & tempo change halfway in. To me that feels like a quintessential Necropanther song. Is that fair?


Paul:

One of my buddies that I used to play with played bass in Manila Road and ran the print shop that did our first shirts. Ha. Yes, Death Eyes was a song that worked up together and thought was indicative. We put it first to be that statement, and it was our show opener for a good while also.

Haakon:

Since it was the first song on our first album, I also wanted to introduce 16th note blast beats. We’re thrash and death, but if I can help it, we’re also a little bit black. Death Eyes was the perfect song for me to express this point of view for the band.

Joe:

There were some other songs on that record that we came in with and melded together. Death Eyes was also indicative of certain ways of writing harmonies for the two guitars that we've used as a consistent approach. Lots of things coming together on that one.


JayKeeley:

There’s for sure a whole bunch going on. I mean, I’m hearing as much 80s traditional as I am 90s Swedish, etc. And yes, definitely a nod to some black metal. But hold that thought. “Lightning Boltz Emanate”; the main intro is this spectacular Maiden-esque gallop, straight into “Automotive Destruction”, a 1:45m blitzkrieg of Slayer riffed thrash with a mid tempo “breakdown”. In short, are you finding a fairly broad range of fans beginning to tune in?


Marcus:

I’m not sure there is such a thing as a quintessential Necropanther song. Our objectives include collaborative creation, musical growth and not limiting ourselves, we encompass a lot of diversity.

Paul:

That's a song that I did on my original demos that I brought from Wichita. Automotive Destruction was one that we worked up together. We set objectives to write thrash or death or black metal, and that's something that we'll continue to do.

Joe:

We have a good group of committed fans. My favorite thing is when we expose someone new to metal and they like it for the first time. That's when I feel like we're maybe contributing more than just our own personal goals.

Haakon:

One of my first thoughts for NP was that in embracing so many styles, it may be difficult for “death metal fans” to find our thrashier song satisfactory. The last three records have proven that once we all come together to create the “Necropanther sound,” the outcome, regardless of style, seems to hit home.

JayKeeley:

OK, that’s a good segue because I do want to talk about Eyes of Blue Light for a moment.

It feels to me like there was a growth in confidence in Eyes of Blue Light. You allowed yourselves to expand the variations, melodies and harmonies.

I mean, “Imperium Overture” and “Good as Dead” illustrate that immediately. Just fantastic. How much of that was the band simply growing as a collective, now that you were on album #2?


Joe:

Yes, that's the first one that we wrote entirely as a group. We made a conscious decision to expand the sound of the band, continue to refine the production process, and the addition of more of Haakon's writing in particular gives that song its melodic signature.

Paul:

We definitely tried to take a couple of risks on that album in terms of songwriting, but the risks turned out to be some of the best parts in the end.

Joe:

Marcus is too fine a person to say this about himself, but he learned the entire Eyes of Blue Light record in 2 weeks and tracked his parts in 3 days. He does a thing we call "Marcus Practice," where he practices every song in our repertoire in one sitting. Simply an incredible player.

Marcus:

Gosh.

Haakon:

Eyes of Blue Light introduced creative input from the entire band. That was my first album where I had a significant creative input. Joe resurfaced Strange Gods which was a piece written a decade earlier. I think that’s a pretty big risk, but it turned out well.

Joe:

Yes, I was really happy we were able to deliver that song on Haakon's behalf.


JayKeeley:

I do want to talk about Strange Gods!! But real quick ...

What’s notable to me on Eyes of Blue Light is the slightly richer sound. Perhaps more layered? It’s particularly evident on Hunter Seeker and Shai-Hulud, which by the way is some 1-2 knockout punch.

I do see that, while you guys produce your own records, you got Erik Rutan to mix the debut, and landed Fredrik Nordström to mix Eyes of Blue Light!?! That’s nothing to sneeze at, these are big names. How did you make those connections?


Joe:

We improved our production approach by recording DI in advance. On the first record, I had 4 hrs. to do all the leads. We knew that wouldn't work for Eyes of Blue Light. By recording DI at home and reamping later, we were able to get those layers of different melodies and harmony parts. That's become a key of our approach ever since.

Paul:

A long term goal for this band is to get good albums that sound different. We don't necessarily want to make a record with the same sound over and over.

Joe:

Top flight producers want to work with organized bands putting out quality work, so you need to show that to them. Timing is a big deal. Sometimes it boils down to who's available when our record is going to be ready. We like to work fast, so the schedule dictates a lot.

Marcus:

If you contact these people on their websites and show you're organized and for real, they'll work with you. It's old-school project management: time, scope, budget.


JayKeeley:

That’s amazing. You clearly know the business end of this as well.

I do want to get to The Doomed City album, but can we pick up on Strange Gods for a second?

There are several moments of brilliant musicianship where you just let that section play out — across many songs.

So what are your thoughts on fully expansive instrumentals? You’ve treated us to Strange Gods but I mean, seriously, you guys have the chops to make an “Orion pt.2” and it wouldn’t feel out of place on a Necropanther album either!


Paul:

Master of Puppets is one of my first albums that I listened to a lot, and Orion is my favorite track on that album.

Joe:

Thank you for the compliment, Jay. That's big-time. We may do another instrumental in the future, but we're only going to do it where we have something clear to say.

Marcus:

I don't know what you're talking about. Challenge accepted. Don't threaten me with good time!

Haakon:

That’s a big undertaking! If the music comes to us, I’m sure we’ll work on writing it. Holding it to the standard of “Orion pt 2” is not going to be a classification I’d ever give one of our own songs. If other people make that comparison, I won’t complain though.

JayKeeley:

Fair, but you get my drift. Clearly you know when to let the music do all the talking.


The Doomed City!!


It’s only been a month since release but it quickly received a warm reception, just in time for year end lists. What kind of response have you been seeing in general?



Joe:

One of the things that's interesting is that it appeals to a different set of fans. We didn't want to make Eyes of Blue Light pt. 2, and that challenges the expectations of the fans we gained on the last record. We want to make original music and grow as a band.

Paul:

Everything that we've seen has been positive. A little bit surprising what people have named as their favorite songs. Even bigger risks in the title track, and listeners match up the song groupings in ways we didn't fully expect.

Haakon:

The response has been great. It’s good to know that other people enjoy our hobby. The top goal of Necropanther is to have fun. If we can share that fun with others, the band is a success. The Doomed City let us know that we’re doing something right, and that we should continue what we’re doing.

Marcus:

Making this record was great - I'm having an awesome time making music with these guys.

Joe:

Having Marcus's voice as a major writer changed our sound again. Similar to Eyes of Blue Light, we decided to expand the sound and take bigger risks. I'm proud of how much we've developed as a performing unit in the last five years. Songs from the first record that were sort of challenging are no big deal, and we used that to carry off more complex arrangements that were really just an idea when we started.


JayKeeley:

I mean, it shows. And there are times when you can feel the band just having a good time jamming away.

I’m gonna tee up some select songs from the new album for you to discuss, but I can’t ignore the Logan’s Run setting.

One of my favorite lyrics is on Death at Hand:

“Possessing lethal power,

We specialize in wet-work.

We have the means to kill them all.”

Oh, to be a Sandman!

Lyrically, are the songs following the sequence of the Logan’s Run story? ...

To me it feels like the Logan’s Run story provides a theme more so than a concept retelling, and quite a thought provoking subject in 2020 it must be said.


Paul:

You nailed it, dude.

Marcus:

Like with Dune, there's a book and a movie.

Paul:

I wanted the song order to be finished before we wrote the lyrics, so that the lyrics completed the story without bouncing around. That was something we did a little differently from the last record and focused on building a journey in the music while writing.

Joe:

We tried to pick a theme that was relevant and had a lot of ideas to explore. "High concept and low brow" is how I usually encapsulate it. As Haakon said, the purpose is to have fun. We're serious about what we do, and so what's fun to us is kind of cheesy, kind of difficult, kind of technical. We're adults. We didn't set out to be an overtly political band, but of course we want to say something of substance.


JayKeeley:

OK, on the home stretch now guys, hang in there. This is awesome.

There are a few tracks from The Doomed City I want to call attention to. No questions per se - I’ll set them up, you knock ‘em down.

Feel free to comment on the story behind the songs.

Standby.

Renew + Death at Hand + Arcade.

It’s a great trifecta of an opening. To me there’s an In Flames vibe going on. In short, it feels like you wanted to make a real statement of intent with this 1-2-3 barrage intro.


Joe:

Yes, the first 4 songs, the music is written by one of each of us, so we wanted to make sure each of us got a statement in the opening of the record. There's also a sense of melodicism to connect it to Eyes of Blue Light before we make some of the bigger departures.

Paul:

I feel like those songs are prototypical NP songs. We wanted listeners to recognize that we're still rocking, give people a good punch in the face and catch their attention with some fast songs at the beginning of the record.

Haakon:

While they work great together as an opener, their lyrical themes also contributed to the order. The music felt like a certain part of the Logan’s Run story. I would consider the order of those songs to be very natural.

Joe:

Arcade is the first Marcus song on a Necropanther record, after his Oppression EP last year. It's a great song that's destined to become a live staple.

Marcus:

I'm just happy to be in there somewhere.


JayKeeley:

I’m glad you mentioned the EP because I frickin’ love “The Fugitive”, especially that bass melody outro.

OK - The Cathedral.

There’s a clear pivot here. It’s played at that “headbanging groove” tempo and at the same time it’s pretty technical. Feels a little Megadeth‘ish.


Joe:

That's some music that Haakon helped me to work up a few years back, and we worked it up as an Necropanther song here. The descending riff is a little bit in the tradition of Symphony or (Pantera’s) 5 Minutes Alone, and I definitely admire Megadeth's clarity and excellence in their riffs. The progressive part is mostly in 4/4, and then in jamming it out with Haakon, we added those tags at the end, which alternate between 5/4 and 7/4, so it's very progressive and off-kilter. To round out the song, I didn't feel like we would do the audience any favors by playing that way for a solid 3 minutes, so I wrote the most caveman riff I could. As compared to Eyes of Blue Light, there are much more dense harmonies on The Doomed City, and that's true in Cathedral, the main riff has two guitars harmonizing power chords in what amounts to full 7th chords. Having it on two different guitars provides a little more clarity. That's an approach we've done in limited ways on other songs, but I wanted something front and center highlighting it. Something else that's interesting about this record is that we wrote in different members' styles. The caveman riff is really a Marcus style thing, so this song is me writing in his style. There are probably a few other examples of that on the record. The middle section also turned into a great chance for Haakon to deliver something of a drum clinic, which he's always very imaginative and melodic with, so the guitar player writes a song with a drum solo instead of a guitar solo.


JayKeeley:

Yeah, your guitar harmonies are essential, especially since you’re more reliant on building “hooks” into those melodies.

The Doomed City. Slower, stomping, heavy - with a song title like that, I suppose it was always destined to be a big number — as interpreted by Necropanther.


Paul:

I originally developed that for a different project and presented it to the band. The guys dug the song and the few parts that we had, and we decided to make it a Necropanther song. We thought it would be a challenge, something different, consistent with the bigger risks. We wanted it to be the heaviest thing on the album, possibly the heaviest thing we've done, driving and heavy.

Joe:

The song is comparatively simple in its parts and structure. That allowed us to focus on the groove and atmosphere, which is a different challenge compared to the uptempo numbers that we're more known for.

Marcus:

The simplicity of the riffs give the bass to explore more space and craft the harmony from the bottom. It's also a good example of the bass connecting with the drums while the guitars do their own thing.

Haakon:

The heavy drums on the song are sort of inspired by Dimmu Borgir, and I'm happy with how they fit the song.

Joe:

This song is a good example of a skill that Haakon has built up in the last few years, playing both the hat and the ride in a beat at the same time, so that's what you're hearing in the beat that's a flurry of cymbal hits.


JayKeeley:

Another good segue because the drumming on these 2 tracks:

The Thinker + Parricide-Genocide

For me, the drumming gives them their character. Thinker was meant for driving to, on an autobahn, and Parricide has a strong Slaughter of the Soul vibe to it.


Paul:

I wrote Parricide, trying to be a more simple Necropanther song, similar to the first record, which is definitely driving, headbanging, thrashy.

Haakon:

The Thinker was my failed attempt to write a song that sounds like Death.

Paul:

I wanted to capture a sense of dying, slaughter, desperation that illustrates the young rising up and killing the older generations.

Marcus:

There's a great tradition of bands trying to sound like other bands, and they end up sounding like themselves. The Thinker is a great song, buddy. I dig it.

Joe:

These are good examples of songs that were largely brought in by one guy each. I think that our consistent instrumentation is a key to what can make these very different compositions sound consistent.


JayKeeley:

Agreed. Ok last couple, guys then we’ll bring this interview HOME!

Sanctuary.

Fans of tremolo picking look this way. This definitely feels like an homage to 90s black metal. All I can ask here is, were you guys listening to a lot of Black Metal at the time of writing this?


Haakon:

When I heard the riffs for this song, all I could think of was black metal drums. I didn't want to hold back on the amount of 16th note blast beats. I wasn't necessarily listening to Black Metal at the time, but the writing inspired me to give the drums that aggressive treatment.

Paul:

I listen to black metal all the time, and it's definitely an influence on my style of songwriting.

Joe:

When we started the demos for the record, we piled everyone's ideas together. Paul and I had some riffs that were similar, and we decided to pile them together to make one song. Marcus and I took up the task of assembling the arrangement, and the riffs were in complementary keys, so we decided to build it out in classical sonata-allegro form.

Marcus:

There's a broad set of modulations that Joe plays over in the guitar solo, and when the B theme returns, it's in the home key, matching the other riff for the first time. We also have some traditional cadences in there to give the sense of closure.


JayKeeley:

Haha! Nice. Speaking of closure...

Argos.

The outro song. In fact, I’ve noticed that pattern on all your releases, the last song is always a big sounding number.

No instrumental this time around to see the album out, but it’s an elaborate affair nonetheless.

There’s just a lot going on, and that 5-4-3-2-1 lyrical countdown with long fade out at the end feels like the right way to close this chapter.


Haakon:

Yes, in the book of Logan’s Run, the chapter numbers are a countdown, and the theme of the song is escape in a rocket, so we're playing off that.

Joe:

This is another tune where we combined ideas of mine and Paul's, so that's the source of the diversity in the sounds. We like to end with a fade out, and I agree that the long instrumental sections are consistent with what we've done on the other records.

Paul:

I feel like the flow of an album is important, so the last song should be the climax of the story you're trying to tell. It should be the biggest, broadest song of the album. I also like to end an album with a part that leaves people wanting more.

Joe:

I'm happy with the guitar solo in particular. It mixes the harmony sound that we've built in the past with some technical/abstract shred and a traditional American popular music approach. I'm glad that my band mates would support that type of statement.


JayKeeley:

Great stuff.

Well, that brings us to a close.

Let’s take a second to appreciate what we did here: we ran a live stream interview on social media, already transcribed and on Twitter forever (..)

My hope is that this may inspire folks to listen to your music, or listen again with some of this background info - like in the days of VH1 Behind the Classics.

Thank you for your time. Will let you sign off - any last thoughts? And any plans for 2020?


Marcus:

First, of all - thank you for inviting us to do this. This was a blast. In the last year, we hustled to put together this record. We're not planning to do the same thing in 2020.

Haakon:

We are working on some EP-type releases, however. I'm writing a song with lyrics in my native language of Norwegian, so be on the alert for that sometime in 2020.

Paul:

Thanks for having us, Jay. Hopefully we can do it again in the future sometime, after our next three records?

Joe:

We're going to focus on the EPs and also playing out of town a bit more in 2020. Not a lot of firm engagements now, but we want to get out and show what we can do live for some of the people who have learned about us in the last couple of years. Thanks again - this was a blast. Thank you for listening to our music and taking an interest in what we do. We're going to maintain our standards and do our best to deliver interesting music for everyone to enjoy.


JayKeeley:

Thank you, Necropanther!


Connect with NECROPANTHER:

Twitter

Facebook

Band's Bandcamp page


Connect with JayKeeley on Twitter


© 2020 JayKeeley, © 2020 Denim & Leather by permission


#Necropanther #interview #new

0 comments

Recent Posts

See All