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Being Bled White: A Conversation with Paul Kuhr Of NOVEMBERS DOOM

By Metal Mark Mihalo, Tulsa Contributor
Monday, July 14, 2014 @ 2:07 PM

"I think we approach every album in this band like itís our last because you never know when this comes to an end."

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NOVEMBERS DOOM have been around the metal scene since the late 1980ís with their unique style of dark foreboding, but melodic death/doom metal, and have steadily been gaining attention with every album they release. Now, with social media feeding the frenzy of metal worldwide, itís easy to see how this could have a dramatic impact on your fan base. And thus the rise of NOVEMBERS DOOM.

With the release of Aphotic in 2011, NOVEMBERS DOOM gained notoriety with what would be their best release to date. Trying to follow up your best work is hard to do for any band. However, with their ninth studio release, Paul Kuhr and company have shown that they not only can keep producing top notch albums, but can exceed the benchmark set by its predecessor with Bled White, which comes out on July 15th. Filled with more emotion than ever before, we find the latest chapter from the masters of dark metal to be nothing short of a masterpiece. Covering a range of topics from being drained of life by all that you have been through but finding the strength to carry on, to gathering up all that is bad or evil and wishing it would be gone from your life forever, to light ballad type songs of hope like ďJust BreatheĒ, there is something on this album for any metal fan to enjoy and find some type of relationship to.

During a recent phone interview with Paul, we had a chance to talk about his dramatic weight loss and the effects on his spinal stenosis, Graspop Metal Meeting 2014 and some of his feeling and thoughts in the writing of Bled White. We also touched on his book, The Wayfaring Chronicles, that detail to the reader the meaning behind the lyrics of each NOVEMBERS DOOM release. Lastly, we got to chat about his death metal side project, THESE ARE THEY, the double edged sword of social media, and the rumors about the possibility that he could be the new vocalist for the death metal band BLOODBATH.

KNAC.COM: Did you do anything special for the 4th of July this year?

KUHR: You know what? 4th of July was nice. It was a quiet day with family and friends, and just barbequing and enjoying company.

KNAC.COM: Yeah? Do you like to blow shit up or do you just like watching the fireworks?

KUHR: I like to watch other people blow shit up Ďcause I like my hands and I like my wallet. So you know, I donít have to spend money on Ďem but I still get to watch Ďem. Iím all about that.

KNAC.COM: I understand. So you've still got all your fingers, right?

KUHR: All ten. I still have Ďem all.

KNAC.COM: I guess the first thing Iíd like to talk about is your dramatic weight loss. I see pictures of you here and there, and the last time I saw pictures of you, you were quite large to say. So exactly how much weight have you lost and how did you do it?

KUHR: In ten months I lost 185 pounds. I did that strictly by diet. I removed all carbs and sugar from my diet and I decreased my calorie intake to about 600-700 a day and I ate nothing but vegetables, greens, chicken, fish just for my protein. Supplemented with daily vitamins for the other things that I needed and it was basically simply that. I have a spine disease so I couldnít do exercise like I needed to so it was all diet completely. No surgery, nothing like that. Just complete diet and will power.

KNAC.COM: Thatís amazing. Again you look great though.

KUHR: Thank you very much.

KNAC.COM: So what was the hardest thing you had to give up to lose all that weight?

KUHR: The hardest thing I had to give up? You know, the key is you donít give anything up. I think thatís the difference between a diet and a lifestyle change. When you look at it like, ďOh, I have to give that up foreverĒ, then youíre gonna fail. But you know, there were times throughout where if I wanted french fries, Iíd have a few french fries. I just didnít need a large fry with a large burger. Itís all about moderation. You can still have what you want; you just canít have it as often. You gotta look at it more like a treat from time to time.

KNAC.COM: True. We are the country of Ďsuper-sizeí everything.

KUHR: Absolutely. We overindulge in everything in this country and I did that for a long time in my life, and it was time I took control of that and took my life back. You know, I keep saying that you donít see many fat old people so you know, I gotta do something now.

KNAC.COM: I did read in another interview that your weight loss really didnít do anything for your spinal condition other than giving you a little more time on stage before you needed a break. Iím really surprised that losing that much weight didnít help take some strain off your back. So how do you deal with the spinal stenosis?

KUHR: I rest as much as I possibly can. I take painkillers when I need Ďem, and I just think over time you learn to deal with pain. Your body adapts and itís just become part of my daily life. Itís natural to me now. It was very difficult in the beginning. The first few years were horrible, but I think you adapt. You just become aware. You know what hurts worse: this position, that position...moving. You just kinda learn how your body starts to work and how you can adapt to that pain. Yeah, unfortunately the weight loss did nothing for the back pain itself, but what it did do was allow me, like I said, more time before my back starts to hurt as bad as it did. So yeah, the weight loss did take some of the strain off but as far as the intensity of the pain, when itís there itís there. It doesnít matter if I was 365 pounds or 180 pounds, the pain is the same. And thatís unfortunate. I was really expecting the pain to get better and it did not. But you know, it is what it is. Itís part of my life and it will always be a part of my life unless they come up with a cure.

KNAC.COM: Do you know exactly how fast itís progressing?

KUHR: No. Itís hard to tell. Itís one of those things that I am mobile and walking and fine today, and I could be in a wheelchair as soon as tomorrow, or I can be in a wheelchair in 10 years, or it may never happen. Itís just one of those things where they canít determine you know, for sure. What they can determine is that it will continue to degenerate. There is no cure. It canít be reversed. There are some surgeries to alleviate things but Iíve opted out of all surgeries thus far. Iím afraid to have a surgery done and then five years later they come up with something that wouldíve been better that I can no longer have because I had a prior surgery. So I am just waiting until surgery becomes an emergency where I absolutely have to have it before I actually go and do something that invasive.

KNAC.COM: Right. So live every day as if the next you might be in a wheelchair then.

KUHR: Itís pain management. Thatís what my day consists of.

KNAC.COM: Well Iím sorry you have to go through that, brother.

KUHR: I appreciate it. It is just the cards I was dealt, and you get used to it I guess.

KNAC.COM: So youíre just getting home from Graspop over in Belgium this year. How was it playing with such an army of metal gods like OPETH and SLAYER and BLACK SABBATH?

KUHR: It was great. This was our second time playing Graspop. It is like a highlight of this band's career. The European festivals are truly spectacular in every way. From the crowds, to the way that they take care of the bands, the promoters, the backstage area, the mingling with artistsÖitís just an experience of like a rock and roll fantasy camp. ĎCause Iím still a fan as much as I am a musician. We get out there, we perform, but then we get back to like an artist lounge backstage where no fans are. I see Tom Warrior from CELTIC FROST/TRIPTYKON and Iím geekiní out cause I get my picture taken with Tom Warrior. You know Iím still a fan of these people. So it is truly a spectacular experience.

KNAC.COM: Looks like it. So who was your favorite act of the whole festival?

KUHR: My favorite act of the whole fest? Thatís a good question. It had to be ALICE IN CHAINS. ALICE IN CHAINS or SLAYER. One or the other. Yeah I think ALICE IN CHAINS or SLAYER had to be my favorites.

KNAC.COM: Thatís such a drastic difference in musical styles.

KUHR: But listen to any NOVEMBERS DOOM album. Listen to the drastic difference between song to song to song. You know we have our death/black metal songs and then we have like on the new album, ďClearĒ and ďJust BreatheĒ. ďThe Memory RoomĒ is very ALICE IN CHAINS influenced. Yeah, I saw all kinds of bands like TIAMAT, ANTHRAX and BLACK LABEL SOCIETY and caught some of SUICIDE SILENCE. You know, I was all over the board. I tried to catch as many acts as I possibly could just for the experience of it all. But yeah, ALICE IN CHAINS and SLAYER. Two of my all-time favorite bands ever. So it was quite a highlight for me.

KNAC.COM: Thatís great. It always feels good to get home though, right?

KUHR: Oh, of course. Well you know, this is one of the first trips that I went on in Europe where I was able to bring Nikki with me. Sheís my girlfriend, and it was the first time I wasnít really missing home too much so I had a great time out there.

KNAC.COM: So, jumping into the new album Bled White coming out next week. Are you guys excited, and how the fans will accept it?

KUHR: Absolutely. Weíre always nervous about it. Every time a new album comes out we always question constantly, ďOh God. I donít knowĒ. Weíre in the studio and weíre listening to roughs towards the end of the recording going, ďI donít know if our fans are gonna like thisĒ. We always doubt it and we doubt ourselves and we are our own worst critic. Weíre very hard on ourselves about a lot of things, and the response so far has been overwhelmingly great. I definitely think that we have given our all into this record, so if people donít like what we did, thatís gonna be a tough one to come back from. So weíre pretty proud of this one, and hopefully the people will like it as much as we have enjoyed creating it.

KNAC.COM: Well I know I certainly enjoyed reviewing it for KNAC.COM. It was definitely an honor to do so. It was in my CD player for probably a month solid.

KUHR: Thatís great to hear. Iím glad you like it that much.

KNAC.COM: I love it, and musically speaking I think itís your best music to date. How do you keep pushing the envelope of creativity and style like that?

KUHR: I think we approach every album in this band like itís our last because you never know when this comes to an end. If people donít like what you do, that could be it. You know. No oneís gonna wanna buy your material or give you money to record anymore, so we always approach each album as, ďOk. If this was our last album we ever do, we've got to write our bestĒ, and we push ourselves. We always from day one, never wanted to put the same album out twice. We wanted them different from every album, so our entire catalog has something different for the listener. There are certain roots and elements that remain the same; thereís always that dark, doomy, emotional side, but we try to incorporate new things into every single album and we just push ourselves to be better in different ways and itís just being the perfectionists that we are. We want to be better. We push to be better. Even if itís in our own minds. Even if other people donít agree, we will still try for that. We will still try to make a better album. Whether we succeed or we fail, the attempt is there every single time.

KNAC.COM: So what song means the most to you on this latest release, and what are your feelings behind it?

KUHR: Itís difficult. Itís like I know itís a clichť thing to say, but picking one song as a favorite is like you know, picking your favorite kid. Itís really hard to do because they all have a different meaning for us in some way. Especially for me writing the lyrics. Basically, so much of my personal life goes into my lyrics every time we write an album. This album is the last year and a half of my life, and everything that I have gone through. The changes I have made in my life, and personal relationships, to my physical health, to just changing my mindset, and everything is so personal. But if I had to pick, the most personal songs on the record for me would be ďJust BreatheĒ and ďClearĒ.

KNAC.COM: Two good songs on the album. Love them both.

KUHR: ďBled WhiteĒ would be another one thatís the same way. ďBled WhiteĒ, it kinda sums up the whole album. But I would say those three are the most personal to me.

KNAC.COM: I saw you had some conflict on what was going to be the opening track on the disc, and quite honestly I am glad that you picked ďBled WhiteĒ. What a powerful beginning to an album.

KUHR: Originally for the longest time, the last song on the album ďThe Silent DarkĒ, opening with that intro was going to be the opener for the album. See thatís the thing towards the end, once we have everything recorded, and we have roughs from the studio as its being mixed, thatís when Larry (the guitarist) and I generally sit down. He and I will sit down and weíre old school guys. Weíre in our 40ís. We come from the early days of SLAYER and METALLICA, and we always looked at METALLICA records as the blueprint. They did it right. They knew how to format a record from beginning to end. Side A, side B, you knew how to start the second side of the record with a powerful song. You had to end the album with your epic song. By track three or four, you had to have your more ballady kind of songs. We followed that pattern all along because they knew how to create flow for a record, and thatís always so important to us. We want beginning to end, when the listener listens, that record to have that flow and to tell a complete story from beginning to end. That to us is just as important as the artwork. The whole package has to tell a story.

KNAC.COM: It does create a unique experience for the listener. I can say that much. So the song ďHeartfeltĒ seems to hold a lot of anger or hate toward something or someone. Can you elaborate on what the song is about?

KUHR: ďHeartfeltĒ is about a lot of different things. Itís not about one specific person or moment. It came from moments in my life. It came from stories from someone elseís life. It came from emotional things all put into a fictional person. It was a lot of different things summed up into one specific person. About wanting that element of your life to be gone. Whether or not the listener will hear it as a person. Whether or not they will hear it as a time in your life. As an emotion. As anything like that. Itís just about wanting it dead. Wanting it gone. Wanting it away as far as possible and being happy that itís gone.

KNAC.COM: Thank you for clarifying that. I had a feeling it had something to do with that, and I just wanted it in your words. So just kinda getting away from the album for a just a second; Given the rise of social media in the last ten years like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, itís had to have had a huge impact on your fan base. Has it?

KUHR: You know, thatís the double edged sword. I loathe social media. I hate it. I hate Facebook. I hate MySpace. But at the same time, itís been a beneficial tool for promoting the band. For meeting people. For staying in contact. Itís just a double edged sword. I donít like the drama that comes with it. But to be able to stay in touch with fans is absolutely fantastic. I utilized that for years. Weíve always been a very easily accessible band. If anyone wants to get ahold of any band member, weíre not hiding from anybody. Weíre there. Itís easy to get in contact with us. Send a friend request, say hello, weíll talk to you. You do occasionally get the people that take advantage of that, or because you said a couple words to them, they think youíre best friends now. And they take things too far. You take the good with the bad.

KNAC.COM: So given your recent fantastic weight loss, and all the photos Iíve seen of you lately, you look extremely happy.

KUHR: I am extremely happy.

KNAC.COM: How do you find the switch to turn happy Paul off and sing such dark and gloomy lyrics while youíre in concert?

KUHR: You know, I guess when I walk out on stage, those couple moments before, when the introís being played, I do kind of get into character now which I didnít need to do before. Before, I was that miserable prick that Iím not anymore. Iíve made big changes in my life. I met a great girl who makes me happy, and itís just changed my life. It really has. Iím in a much better place than I have been in the last 20 years. And yeah, if Iím smiling in all the photos, thatís why. Iím definitely a happier person than I have been in a very long time and I just feel better overall for it.

KNAC.COM: So you have a CD release show coming up on August 9th at Reggieís in Chicago where youíre gonna be playing the entire Bled White CD. Should be a phenomenal show and Iím even thinking about making the drive up from Tulsa, Oklahoma myself to see it.

KUHR: Wow. Thatís fantastic. I hope you do.

KNAC.COM: Iíd love to. What else can we expect for tour dates coming up for NOVEMBERS DOOM?

KUHR: The Chicago show is the only thing we have booked at the moment. Unfortunately with our lives, weíre older, we have families, full time jobs, things like that and it makes it extremely difficult to go out on the road and do a proper tour. So we are just more selective these days. When we play. Where we play. The shows need to make sense. They need to be financially doable. We need the most bang for our buck when we go out and play now, I mean long tours are completely out of the question. I canít do that with my spine disease either. Health issues are a factor in all of this, so we do what we can when we can, and we just try to make sure we make the best decisions for the band as we can.

KNAC.COM: Well if I canít make it to your CD release show, I hoped that youíd be coming towards the Oklahoma or Texas area.

KUHR: We would love to, but if you can make the drive, I would definitely do that if you like the new album, because we usually only do theseÖ We did Aphotic like this in Chicago where we played the whole album in its entirety, and this will be another one of those where weíll probably only do it the one time.

KNAC.COM: So any ideas on who youíll be touring with?

KUHR: No, not at all. Weíre just looking into some possible things, but I have nothing I can even remotely discuss yet.

KNAC.COM: I picked up your book The Wayfaring Chronicles not too long ago, and that is some insightful reading. Sometimes people want to know the meaning behind the lyrics they hear, and this book is definitely a fine display of that.

KUHR: Thatís what I wanted to do because I get that question a lot in interviews and things like that. Whatís this song? Whatís that song? So I did Wayfaring Chronicles for that very reason. To give a lyrical explanation of everything weíve done. I get asked if weíre going to do another chapter or reprint the book, and itís just too expensive to do that, so I have turned that into an iPhone app and an Android app so you can get it with the updated albums that go on beyond that book through the apps. I have not unfortunately, written the update yet, but there will definitely be one coming for Bled White. There will be an update for both Android and iPhone. Itíll be a few months, but itíll be there.

KNAC.COM: Also reading Wayfaring Chronicles we discover a lot of your lyrics, if not most of them, are either about events in your life, religion or feelings during the writing phase. A lot of bands tend to write about politics, Satan or just the world being all fucked up. I like that youíve kept things on a more personal level all these years. But are you ever tempted to branch out and write about other categories?

KUHR: I have other projects that I have that for. THESE ARE THEY, my death metal band, itís all stories. I write about different things. Iíve been working with Dan SwanŲ and I wrote the lyrics for the last WITHERSCAPE album, and Iím continuing work with him on new things. So I have other outlets to write. NOVEMBERS DOOM has just always been my personal therapy. Iíve used it in that way for that very reason. So no, as long as Iím writing for NOVEMBERS DOOM it will always be just personal feelings. Personal things from my life.

KNAC.COM: Well Iíll have to check your other band, THESE ARE THEY then.

KUHR: Yeah, thatís just strictly death metal records. Each album is themed. The first album is about the supernatural and ghosts and a lot of Chicago based things. The second album is called Disposing Of Betrayers and itís about the Chicago mafia; the Capone days and things like that. And then we have a new album that should be coming out towards the end of the year called The Feast Of Seven Funerals, and that is a western based story.

KNAC.COM: Thatís kick ass that you maintain those side projects like that.

KUHR: Theyíre not very time consuming. Itís just getting together with buddies and having a good time. And then we go and we record and we get a great album out of it.

KNAC.COM: Iíve seen all the rumors floating around the internet, but I havenít seen anything in a while about you being the new BLOODBATH singer. Any comment on that or has that already been laid to rest?

KUHR: I cannot confirm nor deny that I am the new vocalist for BLOODBATH.

KNAC.COM: I understand. I think youíd be a great fit though.

KUHR: I think Iíd be a good fit too. Weíll see if they feel that way.

KNAC.COM: Well Paul, thatís about all I have for you today. But man, if you are ever in the Tulsa area I would love to buy you a beer sometime.

KUHR: I would love to have that beer with you sir.

KNAC.COM: On behalf of KNAC.COM and especially myself, I want to thank you for your time this afternoon.

KUHR: Thank you very much.

Pick up a copy of Bled White in the KNAC.COM More Store right HERE.

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