Interview with Christopher Morris (Vocals/bass)
Interview conducted by Sargon the Terrible
Date online: March 27, 2003
Appearing out of nowhere on Dark Symphonies, Nicodemus have produced an excellent album of dark, atmospheric, gothic metal with "The Supernatural Omnibus". Mixing heavy guitars, symphonic keyboards and an atmosphere of darkness and gloom, Nicodemus emerge as a force to be reckoned with in the gothic metal field. I was lucky enough to get a few words from mainman Christopher Morris via e-mail about the origins and direction of Nicodemus
Nicodemus are mysterious, can you tell us some about the history of the band?
Sometime in the waning months of 1998 I realized that I was sick and tired of unprofessional go-nowhere projects. I left it all behind and decided that my success should not be dependant on the attitudes or efforts of others. I rediscovered my love of metal, shook hands with my own ego, shed the dead weight of those around me, and put a plan into motion. Rather than worrying about a band or any of the normal crap, I thought it would be more beneficial to worry about the business side of things. Before I even wrote one song I came up with a name, an image, and a step by step plan for releasing a CD on my own label and getting the "band" signed for the eventual 2nd album. Once my idea took shape, I'd then hand pick musicians that I felt were good enough and professional enough to help make my vision grow. I told a drummer from a previous project, Andrew Greene, what I was doing and asked him to be a part of it once I got it off the ground. He ended up doing the website and graphic design for the 1st CD. He's now the drummer, as well as graphic designer and webmaster, and has become a partner in the group's business dealings. We are still in the process of auditioning musicians and rounding out what we think is the perfect line up.
Is there a story behind the name 'Nicodemus'?
Some people think it has some kind of religious or even mythological (same thing really) meaning. Sorry to disappoint those folks out there that like a good story behind everything, but the truth is that I named the band after the leader of the rats in the animated film "The Secret of Nhim". Nothing symbolic, just a cool name from a cool movie. It could have been worse! I might have named the band Auntie Shrew if not for my insistence to keep my sense of humor in check.
Nicodemus have a complex sound. What bands or musicians have influenced you?
Queensryche, Kiss, Rush, King Diamond, Duran Duran, Winger, Iron Maiden, Dimmu Borgir, Nightwish, HIM, Dream Theatre, Prince, Queen, ABBA, Theatre of Tragedy, Def Leppard, Danny Elfman. Quite a diverse list. All of this as well as those I haven't the time to mention, give me quite a variety. Complex is certainly the right word though. It has multiple layers and aspects of so many types of metal, and even non metal. The best way I have found to describe the Nicodemus sound is like a fight scene with Dimmu Borgir versus Duran Duran in a Tim Burton film. But all of those bands I mentioned above are present in some way, shape, or form.
You are obviously the prime mover in the band, tell us more about your musical background.
I began appreciating music at a really early age.I couldn't explain it at the time, but I knew that I understood music on some level. I could dissect parts and understand how they related to each other. I got hooked on MTV when it was brand new and eventually became a full fledged pop junkie. I decided to be a rock star for a living after seeing Prince in Purple Rain and falling in love with the soundtrack. When I was 12 I discovered metal and that's when I new where my life was going. I started playing bass around that time and started taking it seriously two years later with private lessons. I learned every Kiss, Rush, and Iron Maiden track that I could and bounced around from one garage band to another learning quickly that other people really suck. After high school I went to college and studied jazz, theory, composition, piano, voice, music business, audio engineering, blah blah blah. I have two degrees, one in music business and one in audio engineering. I wanted a bass performance degree too but I was really burned out and decided that I needed to just move on. After a while all of that crap wears you down and you go a bit mad.
Nicodemus obviously have a very dark, gothic look. Do you draw inspiration from literature or films?
I've always appreciated the gothic look and feel in all forms of entertainment. It's flexible, fun, sexy, and to me has always been the most pleasing aesthetic. It also seems to be the only creative avenue that opens up all of the adjectives I just mentioned. But to be specific, I do draw a certain amount of inspiration from film makers like Tim Burton, the Wachowski Bros., the Hughs Bros. The better film makers really know how to set a mood. Moods are always more effective than action when it comes to entertainment.
How did "The Supernatural Omnibus" come to be on Dark Symphonies?
Our manager, Jeff Keller, put Dark Symphonies at the top of our list of contenders. There were a few labels interested, and offers were put on the table, but we felt that as a stepping stone label, DS had everything we needed. They had a good reputation for taking chances with different music, produced a consistently high quality product, and had a good chance of getting decent distro. They liked the debut CD, "Tales of the Lovelorn & Necromantic..." but thought it was too black metal. We knew the new material was superior and heading in a direction they could support. They heard the demos and loved it and we hammered out a deal a few months later.
Does your Dark Throne label still exist? What do you have planned for the future?
DTM still exists since I haven't sold the rights to the first CD. The only way to get the debut is through one of the distro deals I inked through DTM, or through the Nicodemus website. Also, even if I decided at some point to licence that CD out to another label, I like the idea of having DTM around as a music production company. It will also continue to serve as the business through which we make and sell Nicodemus merchandise and will probably continue as our publishing company.
Tell us about the songwriting process, how do you write the music? And the lyrics?
This kind of goes back to the film question. I think of music in terms of film soundtracks and their role in a movie. The most important thing is setting a mood so that a listener ( or a viewer in a film instance) can get the point without overdoing the lyrical content. I'll start with a thematic idea, maybe a string orchestration or piano piece, and then extrapolate using the rest of the instruments. In a way, I almost produce the songs first, then fill in the rest. That's not to say that I dislike guitar driven tracks or guitar centric songwriting because I most certainly do. It's just that I prefer to work the other way around. Future Nicodemus songs will have some stronger guitar based tracks since I am gladly working with the two guitarists in the group (Matthew McGee and new addition Dave Peters) on new material. That will be just another extension and another territory for Nicodemus. As far as the lyrics go, I usually just come up with a phrase or two and then let the music dictate the melody. Once I feel I have a good start I'll flesh them out. I pay close attention to detail with lyrics because I feel it is an often overlooked aspect of metal songwriting. So many writers either pen lyrics that are a) too obvious and leave little room to read between the lines or allow the music to say what's left, or b) oversimple with a limited vocabulary that don't say enough or fail to illustrate the point. This of course all depends on the intended result. Poison's "Look What the Cat Dragged In" is just as valid as Dream Theatre's "Caught in A Web" because both have achieved the intended lyrical purpose. Neither lyric really sucks, they just have different reasons of being and are well penned for those reasons. For Nicodemus, I like to tell a cool story, lace it with memorable lines or phrases, give it a real literary flow, and allow the music to fill the gaps. Giving it multiple layers with meaning is also fun. It keeps listeners going back to it. The way that the music is arranged does the same thing. The whole package is designed to keep listeners coming back and hearing new things or capturing new meanings. CDs that stand up to multiple listens are usually the better remembered efforts.
Have you done any touring, or do you plan to do any?
We should be touring up and down the west coast and maybe up into Canada later this year. The live line up is still in flux. Though it's about to solidify.
Any band is a lot of work, but Nicodemus sounds like it has been a longtime project for you. How do you stay inspired?
It's easy to stay inspired when you haven't achieved your goals. Until we're bathing in vats of crisp new hundred dollar bills and making music that I believe reaches a creative apex for this band, there's still a lot of work to do.
What do you see for Nicodemus' sound in the future, any plans for the next album yet?
No plans for the next album yet. Ideas are being casually explored but right now we're just acclimating new guys into the group. Brainwashing takes time you know.
Some might compare Nicodemus to other 'gothic' bands like After Forever or Tristiana, what do you think of comparisons? Or do you not see Nicodemus as being part of a genre?
I don't buy into the usual garbage about "not being categorized". Categorization is not just convenient but it's absolutely vital. Music needs to be labeled into reasonable genres in order to adequately promote it as well as find an appropriate audience. The only way to really describe the sound of a band and get a point across to sell it to a prospective fan or possible consumer base is to lay out comparisons. If someone wants to compare aspects of our music to other bands, it's perfectly fine with me. It's expected and welcomed...just as long as we're not compared to bands that I think suck ass. Our progressive approach to gothic metal offers the opportunity to really cross boundaries as well. Someone that likes Dimmu Borgir will find just as many likable elements as the fan of Dream Theatre, or maybe traditional metal. Dropping names gives diverse music like ours an anchor and an incentive for a broad and equally diverse target audience.
The album design is beautiful, how did you get the cover photo? Were you a fan of David Penprase before this, or was it just good luck?
I saw a washed out version of that image on the cover of an erotic novel back in 1996. I was immediately struck by how mind numbingly gorgeous I thought the model was, and the whole image, even with the washed out effects, came across as being really moody and quite eerily sexy. I wanted to use it for the first CD cover, but I found the work of John Santerineross on-line and decided to go with it instead. But the other image stayed in mind and was always a front runner when thinking of the look of the new album. It didn't take long before I made up my mind and was adamant about using it. I found the photographer on-line at www.davidpenprase.co.uk, shot him an e-mail and he opened up negotiations with our manager. Andrew toyed with scans of the original black and white print and began to add color. The end result is fantastic. Andrew managed to create all of that just out of the black and white original.
And finally, is there anything I have not asked about that you would like to say?
Visit Nicodemus on the web at www.nicodemus.us and be sure to buy two or three of everything!! We have aging parents that need care. They dribble something fierce and only find solace in Ann Murray records. Please help us.
|Other information about Nicodemus on this site|
|Review: The Supernatural Omnibus|
|Review: Vanity is a Virtue|
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