Nathanael Larochette is well known as the guitarist of Canadian bands Musk Ox and The Night Watch. He has also performed on albums by Woods of Ypres and Agalloch. Last month, he released his second solo release, Earth and Sky, a double album. The albums have a distinct sound, Earth consists of solo classical guitar tracks whereas Sky is a single 40 minute ambient track. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to both albums and sent a few questions to Nathanael to find out more about the albums, the writing process and more.
Your debut solo release is a double album called “Earth and Sky”. What is the album about?
The album is about many things. Although it is calm on the surface the album represents a time of struggle for me. Many people assume that peaceful music comes from a peaceful place but I don’t believe that is always the case. Many of the songs were written during a time of personal turmoil so in a way they represent me trying to find way out this challenging space. The album is also a reflection on my time growing up in Nova Scotia which is on the East Coast of Canada. “Earth” was actually recorded in my childhood cottage out there. I left Nova Scotia over a decade ago when I decided to take music more seriously and the longer I’ve been away the more I’ve missed this part of Canada. I didn’t realize how beautiful this place really was until I was away for many years and had the kind of perspective which comes from growing older.
How did you manage writing and recording your solo album as well as the The Night Watch album?
The music for “Earth and Sky” was written before “Boundaries” and the recording sessions didn’t really conflict so it wasn’t really a problem. Handling all the manufacturing details for both albums was a headache at times but it worked out in the end. Next time I will try to pace myself better so I don’t end up with twice the work load once the albums are written and recorded. I’m very happy that I was able to release two albums in one month but I think I will separate the releases more next time around.
What do you prefer, writing alone or as a band? Why?
When writing on your own it’s nice to have total freedom but when working with others you get feedback and ideas that you never would have come up with. It can be difficult managing all the different opinions when working in a band context but this challenges you to compromise as well as stand up and push for the ideas you really believe in. I love the intimate nature of working on solo guitar music but I also love being in front of a crowd blasting away with a full band. They each have their benefits and their challenges which is why I love both methods of creating.
What do you see as some of the great things happening in metal and what are some of the worst things happening inside the scene right now?
Metal is such a rich genre full of creative and incredible music that I will always follow it to see what’s next. I think the best thing happening in metal is the way bands keep pushing the genre to new and exciting places while the worst thing would be closed minded attitudes that prevent the genre from expanding beyond a narrow set of rules and conventions. I’ve been a metalhead for a while so I don’t want to hear the same thing over and over again. Metal has been around for a long time and its established styles are so clearly definited that it can be difficult to find new ways to move the sound forward. I believe that is the exciting challenge for us as musicians.
How did you first get into playing music and have you achieved the level of success that you always hoped to achieve?
I played violin for a long time when I was young but I ended up quitting and eventually picking up the guitar. It wasn’t until a few years after I picked up the guitar that I decided to take music more seriously. I am definitely proud of everything I’ve accomplished musically but the funny thing about success is that when you are driven to achieve something there are always new goals and ways to be challenged. I never really had a set idea of success, I just wanted to make music that would hopefully inspire others just as the music that I love inspires me. You’re always going to be one step ahead and one step behind someone else so the real challenge is to focus on what your goals are and enjoy the process of reaching them.
What, or who, got you into metal and how old were you? How did your family take the news?
I think the first metal song that really had an impact on me was “Hallowed Be Thy Name” by Iron Maiden when I was a 11 or 12. It was used in a skateboard video called “Welcome to Hell” and the way the music fit with the skateboarding left a deep impression on me. It was so epic and melodic that I knew I needed to hear more. I eventually got Iron Maiden’s “Best of the Beast” which was the first metal album I purchased. When I was in high school the local campus radio station had a bunch of metal radio shows which introduced me to so much amazing metal that I never knew existed. From then on I was obsessed. Me and my little brother eventually had our own metal radio show for a few years but my mom didn’t mind at all because she could just turn on the radio to check in on us haha.
What’s your goal? Are you thinking world domination? Maybe saving a continent? Maybe invading one? Any interest in starting a cult? Do you guys have day jobs or hobbies you want to share? Whatever it is, please let us know.
When I started making music I just wanted to make albums that I would want to listen to. Eventually I realized other people wanted to listen to them as well so that pushed me to keep making better albums. If I can keep making music, play shows, reach listener and improve as a musician then I’ll be happy. I definitely want to travel and tour more, but less as an invader and more as an ambassador. I want to bring gifts rather than take what isn’t mine. Also, I think I’m too self conscious to be a cult leader. I doubt myself too much to convince masses of people that I have all the answers haha. As for day jobs, I’ve been involved in the Canadian spoken word poetry community for many years and work a lot in schools facilitating creative writing and performance workshops for students. Other than that it’s pretty much all music, but when I’m not doing music I’m probably watching skateboard videos online.
When you’re not listening to, writing or playing metal, what are some of your favorite albums to listen to currently?
One of my favorite musicians of all time is a Swedish guitar player by the name of Roine Stolt who is most well know for his work with the progressive rock group The Flower Kings as well as Transatlantic among others. He recently released an album with Jon Anderson from Yes called “Invention of Knowledge” and I’ve been listening to that a lot. He also has a solo guitar album from the nineties called “Hydrophonia” which is one of my all time favorites. His playing and compositions are incredible. There is a famous Canadian classical guitarist named Liona Boyd who I’ve been enjoying lately. She is most well known for her virtuosity and classical guitar albums but she released a more ambient, new age record back in 2009 called “Seven Journeys” which I just recently discovered and have been listening to a lot. There is also an amazing Irish group called The Gloaming who just released a new album this year which I highly recommend.
What are your plans to promote the album? Do you have any more shows/tours planned for the rest of the year?
I did a short solo tour on the East Coast of the United States back in June with Aerial Ruin and a short tour with The Night Watch in July but other than a few upcoming shows there are no immediate touring plans. The next step for me will be to start recording the new album from The Night Watch as well as finish writing and eventually record the new Musk Ox.
– Peter ‘Trendcrusher‘ K.