Jacksonville may not be known for its metal scene, but those who are into it are really into it. The last black metal show I attended had a small turnout, but they were hardcore all the way, with merch tables, tattoos of their favorite bands, and enough piss and vinegar to fuel an ultra-violent pit.
The Noctambulant is one of those bands, a black metal quartet whose music harks back to the earlier days of the genre. It’s heavy and fast, yes, but it’s more firmly rooted in the melodic origins than in the progressive, super-fast nature of some of today’s bands. (The Noctambulant actually sprung out of a psychobilly band as a for-fun side project, until the promoters of the local Zombie Walk asked them to perform. They’ve been a band ever since.)
The Noctambulant is preparing to leave – in a pretty nifty custom-painted tour bus – on a month-long tour that takes them from Colorado through Texas, across the Southeast, up the East Coast and over to Michigan.
They perform in Jacksonville at Burro Bar on Monday, June 15. I recently spoke to guitarist Phillip Newton about the state of metal, corpse paint and, of course, Satan.
Folio Weekly: What kind of metal do you consider The Noctambulant?
Phillip Newton: If I had to be picky, I’d call it Melodic American Black Metal. Though usually when promoting the band, we drop the “Melodic American” moniker.
What is your approach to writing?
[Drummer] Darin Fitzpatrick and I do the majority of the songwriting, and it’s a fairly collaborative process. While we have both written full songs for the band, what I find most successful is when we can build a song off each other’s ideas. Incorporating his punk/thrash roots and my classical and more traditional metal roots.
Give me your assessment of the Jacksonville metal scene.
You can look at it almost like there are two. You have the “metal” scene that goes to the big festival shows, says they listen to metal and quote some deathcore band as the most “brootal” thing ever. That is not who we play for.
The real Jacksonville metal scene is the guys like Kevin Jackson and Metal Steve. They are part of a small but dedicated group that will go to a metal show for the actual show. They want to meet the players, hear what’s going on, what’s new, where people are going. They’ll stay for the last band because they appreciate the time, dedication and art that go into making music.
You’re also in a Germanesque polka band. What the hell is up with that?
Yes, the One Step Ahead of the Law Brass Band. The band started as a pick-up gig with my dad, who plays trumpet, an accordion player, tuba player and myself. It turned into us being the only full-time Oktoberfest Oompah band in the city, with a steady gig at the German Schnitzel Haus on Atlantic, and Oompah-ing our weasley black guts out during the months of September and October.
You’ve been known to wear an inverted crucifix. It’s in your logo as well. Why?
Because like the lyrics I write, I do not agree with organized religion. I feel that people should think for themselves, look inward for their own answers, and be held accountable for their fuck-ups. To quote Richard Dawkins, “Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.”
You don’t need religion to be a good person. You don’t need religion to tell you how to act. You need to know what’s right from wrong and be a human enough to make your own decisions.
Is Satan a fan of your band?
If he were more than a mythic construct of an outdated religion, hell, yes, he would be.
I mean to say ... “THE DARK LORD LOVES THE NOCTAMBULANT AND WILL SACRIFICE ALL OF YOUR CHILDREN FOR HIS GLORY.”
But no. He isn’t.
In your opinion, what was the very first metal band? Sabbath? Zeppelin? Or someone else?
You can argue with your family and lose friends over this question. Sabbath, Zeppelin and Deep Purple are always the ones that come to mind. Personally, I was introduced to Zep before the other two, so in my opinion, I’d say Zeppelin.
How important is image to your music and metal in general? The makeup, the studs and spiked wristbands, etc.
To our music, I’d say not that important. There is a fine line between putting on a show, and actually drinking your own Kool-Aid. When we do the corpse paint, spikes, leather, it’s all in giving the audience more of a show, because that’s what they’re paying to see. When we play one of the Black Metal festivals in Miami, where it’s wall-to-wall packed with metalheads, we give ’em what they want: corpse paint, blood, fog, doom and Satan. That’s what they paid for.
Where can people listen to/purchase your music?
We’re on iTunes and Spotify. The upcoming album will be available through a wide variety of online locations. Follow up with our social media outlets for updates.