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For The Love Of Power Metal!: An Exclusive Interview With NORMAN SKINNER III Of NIVIANE

By Jason 'JRock' Houston, Contributor
Thursday, February 3, 2022 @ 11:20 AM

"SKID ROW - Slave To The Grind was an early release that I would sing along to and used to set vocal goals for myself. It definitely helped shape my early vocal sound."

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NIVIANE is a Power Metal that has been on the rise for the last few years and they just keep getting better and better with each, and every, single new release! Not only are they a band on the rise but they are a band that gets better and better with each, new release! I was surprised to learn in this exclusive KNAC.COM interview that the Lead Singer Norman Skinner III was not a founding member of the band, but rather than he was the very last one to join.

Norman Skinner III in the next few years will be a name that is mentioned next to legendary metal singers such as Ronnie James Dio, Rob Halford, and Bruce Dickinson. I also found it very interesting to learn that while Norman admits to being a huge fan of Power Metal, NIVIANE is actually the first Power Metal band he's been in! So I hope you enjoy learning more about Norman Skinner III and the powerhouse band NIVIANE!

KNAC.COM: Hello Norman and thanks for taking the time out of your very busy schedule to do this interview for KNAC.COM. I know that your band NIVIANE was formed in 2014 but that you did not join the band until 2015. With that being said, I was curious being that you were the last person to join the band. At that point did you feel like the odd man out in the band at that time or no?

SKINNER: Actually no, for me it was more the anticipation of starting a brand new project. Till this point I had never been part of a Power Metal band and that is personally my favorite genre of Metal to sing and listen to. Plus, I had already released 12 albums over my career and was somewhat established at the point so I came in extremely confident.

KNAC.COM: In regards to your joining the band, could you share with us the story of how you got the gig? Do you know if other singers were being considered? Did you have to audition for the band and if so what do you remember most from your audition?

SKINNER: The line-up I had for my solo band SKINNER had just disbanded and I now had free time to pursue other opportunities. As mentioned, I always wanted to front a heavy Power Metal band. I put a post up on social media and was contacted by my friend Brian O'Connor, formerly of VICIOUS RUMORS. He informed me that our friend Scoob (Claudeous Creamer) just formed a new power metal project and that I would be perfect for it. I hit up Claudeous (POSSESSED, DRAGONLORD) and told him I was interested in hearing what he had going on. He said he'd love to work with me as we both had mutual respect for each other's talents and had performed live together in our other bands many times. Claudeous sent me 3 tracks on a Sunday I believe. The music was exactly what I was hoping it would be. I dove in right away and had written lyrics and melodies and demoed my tracks to deliver back to them to review 3 days later. So, not really an audition in the classic sense but they did have to hear me 1st as the rest of the guys were unfamiliar with me. Little did I know they DID have another singer at that time. I guess it really wasn't working out and was a complete disaster but they were really trying with him. Then I showed up and the rest is history.

KNAC.COM: Talk a little bit about the point when you knew you had landed the gig with NIVIANE?

SKINNER: Claudeous told me I believe the very next day that he played the demos for the rest of the group and they unanimously said "he's in!" The entire process of me hearing about the new project to landing the lead vocalist position was literally 4-5 days.

KNAC.COM: I know the band was already formed when you joined but could you share with us the story behind the band's name?

SKINNER: As you would assume the band was named prior to my joining. Claudeous formerly had a band called SERPENT & SERAPH which he released a single called "Tears of Niviane". From what I am told, he brought up the name NIVIANE and the guys in the band thought it was different and cool. That's pretty much it. I can tell you Niviane was a woman of Arthurian legend who seduced Merlin the Magician into sharing his sorcery secrets and then used that magic to betray and murder him. I eventually wrote a song based off that concept for our latest release. The song is simply called "Niviane".

KNAC.COM: When you joined the band was most of the material for the band's debut album already written or did you get to take part in any of the songwriting for the band's debut album?

SKINNER: Musically, when I joined the songs "Into Twilight", "Gladiator", "March of The Jotunn" and "War of Immortals" were already set. I assisted in the structure for the remaining songs. I of course wrote all the lyrics and vocal melodies for all songs NICIANE has ever released. Their former singer when I joined had only completed 1 song in 4 months which I only heard his version maybe 6 months later. Ultimately, I have been here from the beginning in terms of vocals that the fans hear.

KNAC.COM: In regards to recording the band's debut album, what do you remember most about the recording of that album?

SKINNER: It was a long process. The band was still trying to figure out our sound in terms of identity. The songs on the album were brought in by Rick Stallkamp and Mark Miner and consisted mainly of past songs they had been messing with prior to forming the band. We had just parted ways with Claudeous and original drummer Mark Sprague and recruited Gary Tarplee on guitar and I brought in my SKINNER drummer Noe Luna. Gary wrote 1 song on the debut which was "Arise Samurai" and other than that I believe only "The Berserker" and "The Druid King" were technically new tracks. So, the debut was an album of strangers bringing in their ideas and putting them together to see what our sound should ultimately be. For a debut it's very strong in my opinion.

KNAC.COM: In regards to when you first joined the band in 2015, what would you say you brought to the band?

SKINNER: I came in and immediately took the leadership role, had our logo redone, began booking shows, setting up a writing/recording schedule, set up our social media and started marketing etc. etc. Outside of just writing and singing I handle a majority of the business as well and keep our group moving forward. The guys love it as they can concentrate on the music.

KNAC.COM: Who were some of the singers that really had a major influence on you when you were growing up?

SKINNER: There are so many over the years and I am still finding new ones. Some of my earliest influences would be Robert Plant and Sebastian Bach. As my music journey progressed you could add vocalists like Ray Alder, James Labrie, Chuck Billy, and Rob Halford. As I began to hone my diverse vocal sound I gravitated toward vocalists like Russell Allen, Matt Barlow, Howard Jones... so many more but those for sure are strong influences.

KNAC.COM: How would you describe the overall sound of NIVIANE? To my ears I would say Power Metal?

SKINNER: I would agree. We self-identify as Heavy American Power Metal. Not many US bands have the sound we do. It's usually found in European Power Metal such as PRIMAL FEAR, BRAINSTORM or MYSTIC PROPHECY.

KNAC.COM: As I've mentioned a few times during the interview you first joined the band in 2015 but since then two of the founding members of the band have left. What would you say has been the biggest change in the band?

SKINNER: Claudeous was the 1st to depart. Within the 1st year he decided he wanted to do something different. We all parted on good terms and are still close friends. In fact, he and I have a song on my upcoming ELEMANTIS album called "A Madman's Utopia". Funny enough, when he decided to leave the group he informed everyone but me. Maybe he felt bad since he was the one that recruited me. Not sure. I just know he felt it wasn't the right musical path for him. THAT was the biggest change as Gary joined the group and he and Mark are peas in a pod. They work together extremely well and Gary also wrote about 75% of our last album. Original drummer Mark Sprague unfortunatly had personal issues he was dealing with that effected both his attitude and playing. I made the decision to let him go and bring in Noe. The rest of the band were hesitant at first but saw it was most definitely the right choice. Noe Luna had to step down during the Covid pandemic as he was unable to keep up with the band costs and schedule we had. He is still very close with all of us and still plays for my solo band SKINNER. We welcomed new drummer Isaiah AR in 2020.

KNAC.COM: Talk about the two new members of the band and how you found them?

SKINNER: We have never officially had to hold any auditions. As fate would have it Gary was taking guitar lessons from Mark and had performed with another band as an opener for NIVIANE. He was very familiar with us and Mark could tell they would work very well together, which they do. Noe was even easier as he was already my drummer in my solo band. I asked if he was interested and he said hell yes!

KNAC.COM: I was reading that NIVIANE played its very first show on May 15th, 2015 at The Knitting Factory in Reno, Nevada. What do you remember most from that show?

SKINNER: It was an interesting situation. We were billed as the headliner right out of the gate. Sort of a local supergroup of talent. We hadn't released ANY material so no one knew what we sounded like. The place was very large and packed. We made our 1st batch of die-hard fans that night and haven't slowed down.

KNAC.COM: I understand that NIVIANE worked w XYZ/KING KOBRA Guitarist J.K. Northrupp as a Producer in the past. How did the band hook up with him and what was he like to work with?

SKINNER: I believe Mark brought him up as an option and I was already familiar with him as well as he had recorded the 3 DIRE PERIL EPs I was on. He was very fun and laid back which I enjoyed. We were able to have fun and get things done. We truly were just figuring everything out as we went at that point.

KNAC.COM: The band's latest album is The Ruthless Divine which was released in 2020. How does the album compare to previous releases?

SKINNER: The new album The Ruthless Divine is definitely more cohesive and sounds like a solid album as all songs were written as a band who now had an identity to our sound. As I mentioned, the previous album was comprised of different singular member ideas. The Druid King is a much more polished sounding album as The Ruthless Divine is much heavier but still has plenty of melody and dynamics. We incorporated more technicality in our songwriting, A lot more dual harmony leads etc. KNAC.COM: What can fans expect from NIVIANE in the year 2022 and beyond?

SKINNER: We are currently in the pre-shoot stages for a new music video. It's our last promotion for our current album before we are back in the studio in late February to record our as-of-yet-untitled 3rd album. We hope to release 2 singles and then the album before the end of the year plus a few music videos topped off by a Summer/Fall tour.

KNAC.COM: Has COVID-19 and all the lockdowns had a major effect on the band?

SKINNER: The major effect was losing Noe Luna on drums. We were however super excited to quickly get Isaiah AR behind the kit to continue our writing for this new album and to join us for our latest US tour with SOULFLY. When we were unable to perform we concentrated on the writing.

KNAC.COM: Where can fans find you and NIVIANE online?

SKINNER: This band is everywhere. Pretty much every social media and streaming platform. Of course we also have our official website: www.niviane.com

KNAC.COM: In addition to NIVIANE are you currently involved with any other bands/projects that you'd like to let your fans know about?

SKINNER: Yes, I have my own solo band called SKINNER. I just released a single last month titled "Seven Angels" and will be releasing my 2nd full-length album titled The Dark Design later this year. I'm currently in the studio tracking my vocals for this album now. Additionally, I have a new recording project called ELEMANTIS. The debut album titled Call of The Kindred is a concept album consisting of 22 tracks from various musicians and singers I am working with. I have 3 tracks to complete the writing for before tracking is scheduled. Fans can learn more about my other projects via my website here: www.normanskinner.net

KNAC.COM: When you're not busy writing/recording/performing with NIVIANE, what are some other hobbies/interest you take part in to keep yourself busy?

SKINNER: Music definitely monopolizes a majority of my time. I am however an avid Masters of The Universe collector. I also am a full-time husband & father.

KNAC.COM: I always love to ask musicians I speak with if there's an album in their collection that they can point to and say it was that band, that album that had a major influence on them and played a major role in what you are doing today?

SKINNER: SKID ROW - Slave To The Grind was an early release that I would sing along to and used to set vocal goals for myself. It definitely helped shape my early vocal sound.

KNAC.COM: Thanks again Norman and is there anything else you'd like to say to all your fans out there?

SKINNER: Just a heartfelt thank you to all those that have joined me on this musical journey and to any readers that will take time to check out my music. You never know... you may just love it. Only one way to find out.

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