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Started playing heavy death/doom as one of the great death/doom bands from the Peaceville label in the early 90s. They were often mentioned alongside Paradis...
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With the new EP 'Bastard Of Prometheus' marking a return to solo work and a shift towards Funeral Doom, it seemed like the ideal time to catch up with Nevertanezra and find out what they've been up to...

Interview with Nevertanezra.
"Nearly fifteen years after the band's first incarnation, Nevertanezra's third release, the 'Bastard Of Prometheus' EP, surfaced in January. A full-on solo instrumental venture into more Funeral territories, it marked quite a change of direction from earlier Death/Doom works. What began as an exchange of PMs about getting hold of a CD copy for review eventually turned into this much longer e-mail conversation all about the band. My thanks go to Michael Ventura, the force behind NTNR, for all of the in-depth information, and for making it a highly enjoyable interview to conduct."

Nevertanezra founder Michael Ventura, in the hot seat today.

Hello Michael, and thanks for talking to us. Could we start with just a brief formal introduction to our readers: who are you and where are you from?

Thank you for the interview! My name is Michael Ventura and I hail from Utah in America.

So you founded Nevertanezra back in 1999, at least as far as internet histories are concerned. Is that the correct date, and what motivated you to start the project?

There have been a few discussions between myself and a few others over the last few years as to when NTNR officially began. 1999 was my original inspiration to form a band. That’s when I started taking the guitar a lot more seriously than I had been a year or two prior. The first incarnation of the band really happened in 2004. Back then The End Records was still in UT and still a metal label. I had a high school friend who worked there and he introduced me to the bands first drummer, Raja Marcelo, who also happened to work at The End. He and I spent a few months jamming in a local practice space on the songs that made the EP, plus the skeleton of what ultimately became the second track on NTNR ‘In the Face of Despair’.

The motivation for the band was simple. I just wanted to make heavy metal for a living. Or at the very least make some albums and play live. The first idea of the band was to release a power metal album, then death, then grind, etc… I wanted every album to be different. However as time wore on I got bored to tears with double bass and hyper fast tempos. One day I discovered ‘Icon’ by Paradise Lost and I knew what I wanted my music to sound like.

Nevertanezra - 'Seduction Suicide':

I didn’t know The End had spent time in Salt Lake City..and if I had to name bands from Utah, I’d be hard-pushed to come up with more than The Osmonds and SubRosa! So what’s the music scene been like there over the years? Was there any support or desire for Death/Doom when you decided that was your direction?

Yes. They were located in downtown Salt Lake City UT for a few years. Right next to hobo central. They would let people come down, browse their wares, and buy. Some local black metal guys caused a problem (big surprise) and the public was banned from coming in for a while but they slowly allowed some people to return. Ultimately the owner moved to NY for personal reasons.

Yes, the Osmond's were a thing...I guess, lol. SubRosa is from here as is Eagle Twin. They're the only bands I can think of that have made it from UT.

As far as a local scene, there really isn't, or at least wasn't, when we were gigging. There was a general metal/rock scene but there wasn't a doom scene. As far as I know we were the only doom/death metal band. As far as support goes, local bands don't get much support here. Most people prefer to go see cover bands than actual up and coming bands.

Where did the band name and the ‘NTNR’ abbreviation originate? Do they have any significance or meaning?

I started using it one day instead of writing out Nevertanezra. It just saves time. lol. There's no significance to it other than it being an abbreviation.

So what does the full band name signify? Does it have a particular meaning, either to you personally, or as something extracted from a less-travelled language?

The name just sounded cool. I don't recall its conception but I came up with it in high school. Though for a time I had considered Icon of Hate. A guy I jammed with a couple of times wanted to use it and at the time there wasn't a band with that moniker. There really isn't a mysterious meaning or anything esoteric in regards to Nevertanezra. Or is there?

The 'NTNR' line-up, sans vocalist Rick McCoy: Kyle Smith (bass), Michael Ventura (guitars), Jayke Smith (guitars).

Timeline-wise, it sounds like you had something like a full band around 2004, but the first EP release, ‘Nevertanezra’, came out in 2010. What were you up to in the intervening six years? Looking at my copy of the CD, I sense quite a lot of both frustration and gratitude in the credits: is that an accurate observation of how things actually panned out getting it into production?

The first line up didn't happen until 2011. In 2004 it was just the drummer and myself. I'd spoken to a then coworker about joining as a keyboardist but that thankfully didn't happen. The drummer had to leave the band for various obligations. After lots of looking I found another drummer. He was really good but into non-doom metal. He ultimately dropped out after about a month of practicing and I was again listless.

Around 2005 I quit playing guitar all together. I didn't pick it up again until 2006 or so. My then girlfriend now wife convienced me to pick it back up again. Which I did, reluctantly at first. I also rejoined Malignant Inception, a local death metal band I'd been with for a while in 2002 or 2003, as their new bassist. Originally I'd replaced Mike Kimpball who went on to join Dying Fetus. My first foray with the MI guys wasn't good. I was the second guitarist and while I liked the guys we just didn't mesh. Then the drummer quit. After a month of doing nothing we found another drummer who hadn't played in over 10 years. I quit a couple of weeks later. That was in '03 I believe.

Fastforward a few years and I rejoined as a way to hopfully get some stage experience and to help build up my chops. I was also working a full time job, a part time job and going to college. I was super busy. I managed to get a few jam sessions of my own in with the founder/guitarist and the drummer. We practiced 3-4 times and recorded a really fast version of 'Bleak' with guitar, drums and vocals that's floating around somewhere. I ended the relationship with the band not long afterwards as both parties weren't happy with the lack of progress being made.

During all this I'd made several guitar only demos and had sent them to a handful of prospective drummers who all turned it down for various reasons. There are no drummers here. It's rather frustrating. I continued to toil until 2008. That's when Ed Price (founder/guitarist of MI) got me in touch with the engineer who recorded their second album, Bruce Kirby. He got me in touch with a drummer, Joel Stevenette. My friend Denson Angulo, a prominant jazz bassist, owed me a favor so I asked him to play on the EP and have his wife sing.

The EP was finally recorded between 08-09 but it wasn't properly released until 2010 for various reasons. Around that time I became good friend with Jayke Smith. He worked at a mutual friends CD shop. He'd been learning how to play guitar and bugging me about starting a band. I finally caved on the condition that he find a drummer. He and I and eventually his brother, Kyle, began working on songs I'd written years before. We fleshed out what became 'NTNR'. We again had to use a session drummer who disappeared after we recorded the album.

The CD was recorded from 10-11 and released in 2011. Not long after that Jayke managed to find a drummer. Rick McCoy, from Avernus, and I had become friends via myspace and I'd managed to talk him into singing on the EP and then the album. He ultimately joined the band. He was living in Colorado at the time working on his degree. Sadly he never jammed or gigged with us, but we found a decent replacement in Edgar Harwood. He did 5 gigs with us in 2011 and then Jayke took the reins.

We played as a foursome until we let Kyle go 2012. 2012 also saw the birth of my daughter. I took a month or so off. I brought in Mitch Moody, a guy I'd met years back when jamming to play bass. We played many more gigs around the Salt Lake City with our biggest being at the second Denver Doom Fest in 2012. That show was awful. Not because of the venue or the other bands, but because our drummer sucked. He was let go after that gig.

2013 we were a three piece again. Jayke also had a baby girl. We took time off. Mitch more or less disappeared and Jayke and I wrote the next album 'Non-Entity'. We both loved it. We jammed off and on from 2013 to 2017. We took time off when my son was born in 2014 and the following year when his second daughter was born. We auditioned a couple of drummers in between but never found anyone. I wanted to just use a drum machine or laptop with the drums programmed like Godflesh or Rigor Sardonicous. Jayke was always opposed to those ideas.

In 2015, I believe, Edgar returned as a drummer. He'd been playing for less than a year and was incredible. He's a grind/death guy and he honestly played better than anyone we'd jammed with prior. We were working on recording a demo with two new songs and a rerecorded version of 'Bleak' when Mitch showed up and quit. He's since relocated to North Carolina. I have no idea what happened to the song we recorded that day either. It was a bit of a fiasco.

Edgar started not showing up. Apparently he ran for city council. Without getting into all of the gory details I made the call in 2017 to become a studio only solo act. There was no fighting or drama that caused this to happen. Jayke and I still communicate. It sucks that it happened but it was necessary. Thankfully he and some new guys are carrying on. I'm not allowed to say their Lovecraft inspired name, but their album should be essentially 'Non-Entity'.

So yes, it was profoundly frustrating. Lots of writing happened between then and now but not a lot of recording. I didn't have the tools then to do what I can do now. I am grateful however that the entity is still a vessle for my music.

2012 line-up: Mitch Moody (bass), Michael Ventura, David Dyer (drums), Jayke Smith.

Damn, that’s almost a dead ringer for Spinal Tap, as far as the difficulty of getting a permanent band member on the drumstool goes. I’m guessing it’s nothing like as humorous when you have to deal with that in real life, rather than viewing it as a played-for-laughs musical spoof? Relying on a drum machine, or at best a session drummer, is something of a Doom ‘solo project’ cliché – but how much does it actually limit the horizons of what you want to achieve, and how much of a downer is it knowing you’re going to have to compromise on one of the most basic inputs to any band? It’s certainly something reviewers tend to pick up on as a criticism, but I’m really wondering how it feels from the other end of the telescope, when that’s pretty much the only option available?

We made a few passing jokes about it but it was more frustrating than anything else. The dynamic of a band is something I was without for most of my musical career Has it hindered my writing? No. It forces me to be more creative and work harder and I'm alright with that. My horizons are limitless. Considering I'm going in a more funeral direction on future releases the lack of a drummer isn't a problem.

That’s very cool. And, despite all the obstacles, you put the ’Nevertanezra’ EP out in 2010, essentially as a solo release with additional session musicians. How did that feel, to finally have your own release in your hands? And how difficult was the independent release process for you?

It was rather surreal and it felt pretty good. I learned a lot from the whole experience and it was generally a positive thing. The most difficult part has always been sales.

That was pretty swiftly followed up, certainly in Doom terms, by the ’ NTNR’ full-length, which, I guess is the only real ‘full-band’ release with a fully credited line-up. How different was the process of recording that, compared to ‘Nevertanezra’? Do you feel you really relinquished or gained anything by working in that particular format?

Most of the material was already written when we began jamming. 'The Fading' was a collaborative effort and it's probably my favorite song from the album.I welcomed the input. I don't recall there ever being any massive arguments about how something should sound. We disagreed of course, but we always seemed to work things out amicably. There was some great chemistry there.

That format is a double edged blade though. If everyone's on the same page the process goes quickly. If not then you languish. This is what lead me to leave MI the first time. I quit because I had zero input. I had riffs and songs I wanted to use but the band said they didn't fit their style. The one riff I contributed was altered so much you'd never know it came from me. That wasn't the case when I'd rejoined. They'd changed how they worked because too many other musicians had quit for that very reason. I was determined not to be like that, and with very little exception I think I succeeded.

Nevertanezra - 'Bleak' (Live in Denver 2012):

So what would you consider the main differences between the releases, from your point of view? What would you point to as the biggest improvements or developments?

The biggest differences between releases would be song writing. The EP had more conventional song writings where as the album and new EP don't follow said conventions of verse, chorus, verse, etc... How things have improved? My chops have increased significantly as well as my skills as a song writer. In regards to developments I'd have to say I've learned a LOT about recording and how to create and manipulate the artwork used.

When did you first start thinking about making ‘Bastard Of Prometheus’? How much of a fully-formed idea was it, and did you always intend to do everything yourself?

The riffs came to me while I was at work back in 2012. I was jamming with a friend on our lunch hour and the riffs just fell into place. I originally wrote and recorded a demo with the intention to show it to the rest of the band, but never got around too it because I didn't think they'd want to play it as it was written. It's also a very personal song born out of unfathomable frustration and misery. So I tucked it away all the while riffing on it just about everyday. I'd recorded all the instruments for the demo. I figured that if I ever properly recorded it I'd do the same thing.

Ultimately I did, and it turned out much better than I'd planned on It's really the first time I had an idea of a whole song from beginning to end. Usually I just jam on riffs until something sticks. With this song everything came together almost effortlessly. Had it not sounded the way it does I probably wouldn't have released it at all.

Does the fact you never approached the band with it mean that you saw it from the beginning as some significant change in direction? And as it came together, what do you consider to be drawing on continuous evolution from your previous works, and what are new and divergent elements?

I didn't approach the guys because I didn't think they'd want to play it as I had written it. They would've put their riffs into it and while I'm sure it would've sounded awesome it wouldn't have been what it is.

Evolution's a tricky word. I don't think this was a logical or natural evolution in anyway. Granted I did want to do more funeral doom based metal, but this is such a drastic departure from what's come before I hesitate to call it "evolution". It's indicative of where I want the sound to go. Though the new stuff I'm working on is much heavier and more riff based.

I spent quite a lot of time mulling over ’Bastard...’, and, of course, its predecessors for comparison, before reviewing it. I always like to invite comment on what we publish, whether good or bad, so is there anything you’d like to address ‘on the record’ as to how well – or badly – that got to grips with the EP?

I was blown away by the review. The comparison to Tangerine Dream was interesting as I really haven't heard much of their work outside of the US release of Ridley Scott's film 'Legend'. The few people who heard it prior to its release said it was vaguly akin to Worship or Mistress of the Dead, which in hindsight are fair comparisons. I wasn't actively trying to sound like anyone. Then again I had a former coworker compare the first EP to Queensryche which was pretty funny for obvious reasons. What it boils down to is honesty. As long as the reviewer gives their honest opinion, be it good, bad or Barbra Streisand, I'm cool with whatever's written.

I can sort of see the Worship/MotD comparison (not so much the Queensryche, to be fair!), but I’d consider those to be far more focused around the vocal element being crucial to the composition, whereas 'Bastard' is much more a minimalist instrumentation set and a bit outside genre standards as a result. So although Tangerine Dream is worlds apart in actual sound, I see the mid-'70s way they continually unfolded and developed a theme to an album-length journey as a better parallel. Sticking purely in-genre, I’d probably have said closer to early Monolithe, maybe Until Death Overtakes Me, and perhaps Profetus or Skepticism?

HA, ya the Queensryche comparison was pretty amusing. I didn't think vocals were strictly necessary. I usually don't think about lyrics until the song is complete, with a couple of exceptions throughout the years.

I don't hear much Monolithe, Skepticism or Profetus in the song. Namely because they use keyboards and I can't stand them. That's something that will never be featured in NTNR. Unless I covered Type O Negative. Until Death Overtakes Me is certainly an influence. I've been a fan of Stijn's work for years.

How steep was the learning curve, as far as putting the whole project together yourself was concerned? Which areas did you have to learn, or improve on, to actually get it finished to your satisfaction?

I took little steps to achieve my goal. I'm far from a professional engineer but I think my work is competent. I still have a lot to learn about digital art. That was probably the costliest part of the whole endeavor.

Artwork in progress...

About the artwork – for the earlier releases, that was created by My Dying Bride’s Aaron Stainthorpe. How tight a requirement did you give him, and how much was his own interpretation? What was different about doing it yourself this time, and what were the main difficulties and costs involved?

I didn't have any requirements for him. I viewed his site, told him which piece I wanted to use, paid him, sent him the logo and title and he did the rest. He sent several variations of the picture each time. The second time Jayke and I both looked and found what we felt fit the music. Aaron sent it to us and we loved it.

I wanted to use Aaron again because I like his work. I didn't use him this time because I didn't have the funds for it.

The artwork was the biggest adventure this time around because I'd never done it. I knew what I wanted however. All the artwork is from local places. It took some work to find what I was going for, but ultimately I think I nailed it. Formatting it to the manufacturers specs was the hardest part.

I might use Aaron again in the future. He's easy to work with if a bit hard to get a hold of. But in saying that I've also got a lot of new pics that I want to use for future projects.

Presuming you’re not done yet, do you see that as the most likely model for NTNR, moving forward? Or would you want to try and put together another full band – even if not right now, at least at some point in the future?

I'm going to keep moving forward as a solo act. I plan to continue writing and recording music. I don't know how much I'll be releasing in the future, but I am working on the next album right now. As far as a band goes, I honestly don't know. I really like performing live. I come from a family of entertainers so it's literally in my blood to perform. However circumstances of late have prevented me from doing that.

Discography: 'Nevertanezra' (EP, 2010), 'NTNR' (2011), 'Bastard Of Prometheus' (EP, 2018).

And do you have anything in mind at the moment for a next outing, or is it a bit too early to be asking that? Would you rather sit back and see what happens with ‘Bastard Of Prometheus’, and all the complications of releasing it yourself, before committing to any concrete future plans?

I do have a new album in the works. Possibly a double disc with how long the songs are turning out. I'm in the demoing phase right now with three songs written and a fourth on the way. I'd started working on the new songs before I'd started recording 'Bastard'. This new material bridges the gap between 'NTNR' and 'Bastard'.

The only complication with releasing anything is funding. That's one reason 'Bastard' took so long to come out. I kicked around the idea of crowd funding but the band isn't big enough. I might do it for the next release however. I'd love to use a proper studio to record it. Regardless of what happens I won't start a crowd funding operation unless I'm 100% ready to go with all music, artwork, etc... are ready.

I also have a couple of singers lined up to work with as well. I'm debating on the idea of using female vocals too but in a more instrumental way than actually singing lyrics. Lots of things are up in the air at the moment and they're all good.

You mentioned a severe dislike of keyboards, and an indifference to vocals – what do you think captures the true essence of Doom, instrument-wise? Is it just about the riff and the guitar sound? And do you have any favourite kit that really exemplifies or personifies that particular definition?

I've never been a fan of piano/keyboards. They're pop music staples. Doom, and metal in general, is guitar oriented music. That isn't to say no one should use keyboards in their sound but I never will. Unless your Type O Negative or Deep Purple there's no reason to use said instrument. In saying that, I love a great many bands who use keys.

To me, doom is exemplified by all that is slow and heavy. However its achieved, that's our common goal as musicians. That's as close to a definition as I can get.

I do enjoy a good vocalist but I can't sing the way I want. My vocals are closer to Warrel Dane and Messiah Marcolin. If I could growl like Nick Holmes (Shades of God era) or Rick McCoy I probably wouldn't leave the house. lol.

How serious are you about the possibilities of crowdfunding? As a fairly regular supporter of such ventures, I do actually like it as a means of showing that bit of extra support for bands, and it’s often done with a kind of reciprocal friendliness – getting a credit on the album thanks, or offering some kinds of package deals, that kind of thing. It seems like one of the really mutually beneficial uses of the global reach of the internet. By “100% ready”, presumably you’d mean having completed full demo versions of the tracks, and then look for funds to do the proper recording and release?

Very serious if it looks plausible. I've got several things in mind if I go that route. And yes I wouldn't broach the subject unless all the music had been fleshed out, the singer(s) were lined up, the extras (i.e. shirts, patches, etc...) were ready to order. I'm not going to pull a Worship.

If the EP does well enough then I will probably have a crowd funding operation before the years out.

Nevertanezra - 'To Suffocate':

So where do you stand on the electronic vs. physical debate? I’m still very old-school on that, and would far prefer a ‘real’ copy of any album in my hands, under any circumstances – but what are the pros and cons for that from the perspective of being an artist putting out releases?

I'm very anti-downloading, streaming, etc... I'm very old school as well. I love CD's. Progress died when ipods and cell phones became our new gods. We went from LP's to tapes to CD's, there should've been another innovation after that, like how Blu-ray improved DVD's. Will there be some new innovation? I doubt it. The casual fan killed music. Instead of moving forward with technology all we've managed to do is encourage theft.

Are there any pros to digital? The only pro I can think of is sampling something before you buy it. 90% of what I own I purchased without ever hearing it beforehand. There have only been a few instances where it turned out bad. I think that's half the fun of music however. Going into a record shop and spending hours hunting for new treasures. It's a depressing thought to think there's a generation out there who has never experienced that.

From an artists perspective it's really the death knell for a once viable career option. I don't know any underground artists who've thrived from it. I don't see anyone coming out ahead in the future either.

After nearly 20 years in the business, what’s the single biggest lesson you’ve learned along the way?

Don't play music. :)

And do you have any regrets about the way things have worked out? Is there anything you would have done differently, in hindsight?

Regrets? Yes and no. Are there things I'd have changed? Certainly, but the biggest changes are things beyond my control. Such as people no longer buying music.

I think that covers all my questions for now, thanks again for your time and participation. If there's anything you'd like to add, please feel free to have the last word...

I'm eternally grateful for this interview. To all those who still believe in music, don't stop supporting your favorite bands. Liking someone on facebook is nice but buying their CD's, tapes, shirts, etc... means a lot more. Most bands earn 1/4 of a penny per download from big downloading sites. Think about that the next time you claim to support music yet only listen to it via an ipod or cellphone.


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Interviewed on 2018-04-24 by Mike Liassides.
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