Here is the second piece of my extended interview with Joseph Mlodik of Noctilucant. He discusses his most recent split, an upcoming—and successfully backed—comic book project, and his anticipated new record ‘Bleak and Drained of Colour’. We also receive sincere and genuine reflections on Joseph’s life and how his project has impacted him thus far.
How did your split with HollowHecatomb arise?
Jeremiah and I have known each other since late 2012. Back in those days he was playing drums with a black metal band named The Cold Beyond. I had interviewed TCB for my zine Lunar Hypnosis and afterwards we got to know each other pretty well and became friends. He had just started HollowHecatomb at that time too, and had released two really killer demos and eventually a fantastic full-length album in 2014.
I believe it was around this same time that I acquired my synthesizer and first began tinkering around with ideas. Anyway, when I first began making demos Jeremiah was the first person I shared them with since I knew he had a fondness for this sort of music. He displayed a great deal of interest and support from the very beginning and this eventually lead to our first collaborative song on ‘Back to the Mud,’ which was titled, ‘The Cusp of Catastrophe.’ He also helped with mastering the first album and giving me a bit of a better idea of how audio production worked.
I think shortly thereafter we talked about a split, but it just didn’t become a reality until earlier this year when it came up again. My intuition told me that Daniel from Grey Matter Productions might have an interest in our combined efforts so we considered the possibilities of a tape release. Fortunately once we had a few songs done he was totally on board for releasing it.
This is your first split with another artist save guest vocal work on your previous records. How has your process differed from working on your solo releases relative to collaborating with HollowHecatomb?
Actually my second split. The first one was in August of last year with a project from Spain known as, Breinskam, but this was just a short 21 minute EP/split, and my part of it was just an unreleased track and an alternative version of a song. So, it wasn’t a huge deal.
The process for the two collaborative songs started with me creating a vague outline of a song and we just built upon it, layer after layer after layer, until we were both satisfied. These two songs are notable, because they are quite different from anything I’ve released solo. You’ll find the usual droning dark ambiance we all know and love, but we also included a moment in the first piece, which reminds of classic krautrock bands, such as, Tangerine Dream, whereas the second song is a bit more abrasive with some harsher noise characteristics.
I’ve approached Jeremiah about doing a full on collaborative album or ongoing side-project, but since he’s got a bit going on with other bands it’s not likely to happen. Perhaps someday though.
Descension. How did this partnership come to fruition?
The writer, John Sims, came across my music on YouTube and reached out to me. After a brief chat on the phone with him he informed me of all the details for the project and I agreed to be a part of it right away.
Since I was a child it was a dream of mine to compose a soundtrack to a video game, and while Descension isn’t a video game it’s certainly pretty damn close, and if the project’s a success it may lead me down other interesting paths.
Has composing tracks for the comic book medium posed any unique challenges?
It’s going to be quite different. Basically the plan of attack is to finish a certain amount of pages/scenes and then have them forwarded to me to read/view and then compose music to them. Obviously I’ve never created music like this before, but I think it will be fun and challenging at the same time.
You noted earlier that many negative aspects in your life inspire your particular sound. Is the process you undertake to produce a composition (or album) cathartic?
I don’t think I’m trying to exercise any particular demons these days, but we all have negative circumstances that come and go throughout our lives. Speaking only for myself, I had a lot of issues with depression when I was in my late teens and up till my mid-20’s. I also had issues in those days with simply associating myself with negative people and allowing these subhumans to take advantage of and control me to an extent. Fortunately in the past decade things have gotten a lot better. I’ve mostly cured the depression issues through various hobbies, making better life choices and of course because I met my wonderful girlfriend. Also somewhere during that time frame I learned to stop taking people’s bullshit and gained the personal strength to tell them to fuck off if they needed to fuck off. There’s lots of other things, but you get it—I grew up a bit and started to take life a bit more serious, but not in some sort of lame mature way or whatever.
Those old feelings are with me still, buried, but they are certainly with me and sometimes reflecting on those days helps to compose music—as life continues good and bad comes our way. And of course sometimes, usually for reasons I don’t understand, the depression comes back and sometimes even hits hard and sticks with me for weeks on end. Fortunately there’s always ways through it and composing music or really creating anything for that matter is helpful.
In the end I do think creating Noctilucant was a wise choice, because it’s filled me with a sense of ultimate accomplishment and a need to continue onwards. I’ve never experienced that with any of my other creative projects over the years (writing, photography, painting, digital art, general art stuff, etc), but it’s surely different with music. Also the amount of positive feedback I’ve received has been overwhelming and in some cases fans have told me that they’ve used my music to sleep, meditate, relax, write, draw, paint, etc., which is exactly what I’ve always done with other musicians’ music.
So, yes, I do think it’s been a cathartic process at times, and surely a gateway to better things to come.
For your upcoming release ‘Bleak and Drained of Colour’, how did you locate Matthew Donnachie and form your partnership with him?
Matthew reached out to me a little over a year ago after coming across my music on YouTube. He’s involved in a live stage/play known as ‘The Jacobite Officer,’ which is some sort of Scottish historic society of sorts that I believe was driven underground by the English years and years ago (I should probably research this further!!). Anyway, Matthew is an extremely talented actor which I feel eternally grateful to have worked with him on this project. You can learn a bit more about The Jacobite Officer at their website.
‘Back to the Mud’ provided a vague overview of what happened in your post-apocalyptic world; ‘Oblivion to You All’ shed some grim light on the sparse population of remaining humans. ‘Bleak’ sounds more personal than these former two records. It also sounds like it will be far away from your home in Milwaukee. Is there some notion to humanize your universe by taking listeners to various countries using voice actors of different backgrounds?
I hadn’t really considered that, but it makes for an interesting idea. I would definitely be delighted to have all different sorts of folks contribute their unique voices to this project as the future unfolds. The Noctilucant universe isn’t a real universe and I’ll probably aim to keep it that way, although being the Silent Hill fanatic I am, it would be interesting to base a future album around an imaginary town. I also recently played a game titled, ‘Alan Wake,’ which I thought was really great and it gave me some ideas for future work (yeah I’m slow to checking out games these days…). There’s a game called, ‘The Last of Us,’ which I’ve been told to play as well.
As for Matthew and his Scottish origins; I had no special intention to base this story in or around Scotland, but since that’s Matthew’s accent listeners will likely get that impression. However that works out just fine and dandy for me since I’ve had a fondness for the British Isles for many years.
I visited England back in 2010, and although it rained damn near the entire time I was there I was really charmed by the land and the immense amount of history surrounding me. I’d really like to visit Ireland and Scotland someday too, especially since a friend of mine has visited both and has said nothing but absolutely positive things about both.
Where did the idea for ‘Bleaks’s story come from? Does it echo a personal tale?
Five or six years ago I began writing a post-apocalyptic/zombie short story after being inspired by a book I had purchased named, ‘Extreme Zombies.’ Like many of my previous attempts at writing a book… I never finished. As Noctilucant came to life, I considered finishing the story, creating a soundtrack for it, and then offering both as a digital download via Bandcamp. This never happened either. So, when Matthew reached out to me it felt right at that point to revisit the story once again. Originally I planned to have Matthew voice act the story verbatim to what I had wrote, but he ended up touching up the wording a bit—certainly for the better too!
Are there plans to continue constructing your world with more intricate and emotional stories?
Absolutely. I feel like the first time I really touched upon this was within the ‘Oblivion to You All’ album with songs like, ‘Where Snow Remains and Life Fades’ & ‘Back Into the Hole Where I was Born’—well, I suppose in ‘The Deep Dead Hour’ and ‘The End (it’s near, part II),’ from the ‘Back to the Mud’ album. Both of these songs had one-off characters who unfortunately bit the dust, but it was a fun, challenging and rewarding experience. ‘Bleak’ definitely takes things a step further. The dialogue isn’t overbearing, because after all this is music were dealing with here, and I view the dialogue just as a vague assistant to the overall story I’m trying to tell in this one. Things are a bit elusive either way and I’m sure each listener will come up with their own ideas/story as to what is ultimately going on in ‘Bleak’… If they are completely confused and are just scratching their heads at the end that works too.
You helmed Lunar Hypnosis—your music blog—for thirteen years. With this wealth of writing experience behind you plus the dialogue you pen for your records, do you write short stories (or something comparable) based in the post-apocalyptic world you have created?
I haven’t wrote an overall story for the Noctilucant universe just yet, but I probably should start penning more ideas. Each album has in a way wrote itself and it just evolved as I completed songs. I knew that ‘Back to the Mud’ was going to be an overview of, “The shit hitting the fan,” as they say, but ‘Oblivion’ was different and overtime it just became this album that took place a few months into the apocalypse.
Over the years of doing Lunar Hypnosis (2001 to 2008 and then 2010 to 2014) I attempted a few stories along the way. I mentioned one of them above already, but around 2008 I began writing a fantasy tale inspired by the writings of Joseph Abercrombie, Terry Goodkind and Patrick Rothfuss. I wrote about 8 chapters and honestly had a pretty solid story going, but then I realized it had too many clichés of the genre (stupid fucking dragons and such) so I ended up putting it on hold for a year or so. I eventually came back to it and rewrote most of it and was immensely proud of it, but then, I think, a woman or something distracted me, broke my heart and ultimately I never got back to it. I still have it all saved and want to return to it someday, but I’m so busy with other hobbies these days that I’m not sure if it’s ever going to happen.
Anyway, perhaps down the road I will write a short story based around a specific event I’ve created a song about. I think doing one centered around ‘The Deep Dead Hour’ would be a lot of fun!
You remarked that you have social anxiety issues. Are your songs—and the larger Noctilucant project—a means to communicate your feelings to the world outside your flesh?
Entirely possible. I think we all have a dark side, which we keep hidden, and perhaps some of the words and moods within Noctilucant are a reflection of (at least) part of my innerself. I don’t think there’s any specific message I’m trying to communicate, especially since I’m just trying to tell a make believe story.
Social anxiety completely sucks though. It’s like being excited for something, but then being scared/nervous of doing it since other humans are involved. I’ve found that alcohol often becomes a vital component in these situations since it takes the edge off, especially if I’m by myself. Throughout my entire life I’ve had issues with this and eventually by the time I moved out of my parents’ house I realized that I was taking little pleasure with being around others and that I generally prefer being alone. Of course, there’s exceptions since I live with a woman that I love and I have a few friends that I totally get on great with, but being the loud mouth “cool guy” that people gravitate towards or meeting new people is rarely high on my to do list.
Nevertheless, I strive for self-improvement, and I’m often tossed into situations where I have to be social and I suppose the more I’m around certain individuals the more comfortable I become.
I’d gather stating all of this probably makes me look like one miserable bastard, but that’s not really the case since I’m generally pretty content with life at the moment, and I’ve often considered the fact that things could be a billions times worse.
What other inklings can you tell us about Noctilucant’s universe?
Inklings, eh? First and foremost it wasn’t zombies that brought about the apocalypse, but something, “else.” Also Donald Trump, Russia nor North Korea brought about this ruin, but maybe in reality they will?
How has Noctilucant morphed since its inception? What paths have you traveled that you did not anticipate when you first set out on your journey?
Initially from the get go I planned for Noctilucant to be a post-apocalyptic themed dark ambient project, which although influenced by tons of past dark ambient albums, it was really Simon Heath’s Sabled Sun project that ultimately convinced me that it was my time and place to take a shot at creating this sort of dark ambient music. However, some of my early compositions were quite different and those can be heard on the ‘Dead Meat’ compilation. There were also several others that I either ended up using small parts of in other songs or just plain deleted at a certain point of dissatisfaction. Anyone that’s been following me for a while also knows that I diverged a bit with the ‘Buried Alive in Mud,’ ‘Neath the Cerulean Abyss’ and ‘There’s Blood on Our Hands’ singles, but that was sort of the point with those long singles, anyway.
A strange path and place I find myself in today and now is that people actually care about this project; they enjoy it, they share it with their friends, they anticipate new releases, I have regulars that buy every release, etc., etc.—and the amount of positive and encouraging comments has been overwhelming and has kept me motivated and thrilled that this project is still going.
Now that I’m making my first foray into soundtrack work with Descension I’m absolutely stoked, but at the same time nervous and more than likely going to be absurdly over judgmental of my own work, haha. This is however, the path I want to take, this is something I wanted to do when I was just a youngster and now that it’s finally happening my feelings are a bit indescribable.
What has your project taught you about life?
Never give up and keep going despite the odds that might be against you, especially in this modern music world where albums have about a month of relevancy before disappearing into the bottomless black sea of oblivion. Keeping Noctilucant going has also shown me a great deal of techniques for promoting my other creative projects, which I hope will only gain in momentum and develop a following over time. That about wraps everything up. This is Noctilucant, your personal gloom monger and therapist for life signing off!
Thank you for reading the second piece of this extended interview. And thank you so much, Joseph, for all the time you spent putting these insights together. You can like/follow the Noctilucant Facebook page for updates on Joseph’s upcoming release ‘Bleak and Drained of Colour’.