Thanks a lot for your time! For everyone who might not be familiar, who are you and what do you do?
Well hey thar! My name is Jak Noble, I’m a waster from Bristol, England. I’m a bedroom solo musician, primarily a guitarist (original, I know ;D). I’ve been writing music for about 7 years now. I think my music is best described as Ambient Metal.
I’m sure you’ve explained this somewhere else, but it totally skipped my mind so I’m going to ask; Where does the name Returning We Hear The Larks come from, and most importantly, why no comma?
WELL I’ve had various names for my projects over the years. I began simply as Jak Noble, then I was MurderOnTheDancefloor, then Sins of the Watchmen. With each name the music was quite different, so I consider each to be a different project rather than simply a name-change.
In early 2008, I visited Belgium and the Somme and the war graves and battlefields of the First World War. It was, without a doubt, the most moving and life-changing experience of my life. It was totally crazy, seeing graves of 13/14 year-old soldiers and huge graveyards of unknown soldiers, headstones simply reading ‘A Soldier of the Great War. Known Unto God’. I really feel as if it opened my eyes to the world. I scrapped my project of the time Sins of the Watchmen that week and decided that it was time for something far more meaningful. Something of an attempt to recreate how I felt witness those graveyards.
I was big into war poetry at the time. ‘Returning, We Hear the Larks’ is a poem by a soldier named Isaac Rosenberg. I loved the poem and the title, and was originally going to name a song after it, but then chose to name the entire project in its honour. One thing that actually saddens me a little bit is that these days, when you google RWHTL, most of the results are about me. The last thing I want is to bury that beautiful poem under my Google results, it deserves to be read by everyone.
Returning, We Hear The Larks by Isaac Rosenberg
Sombre the night is.
And though we have our lives, we know
What sinister threat lies there.
Dragging these anguished limbs, we only know
This poison-blasted track opens on our camp –
On a little safe sleep.
But hark! joy – joy – strange joy.
Lo! heights of night ringing with unseen larks.
Music showering our upturned list’ning faces.
Death could drop from the dark
As easily as song –
But song only dropped,
Like a blind man’s dreams on the sand
By dangerous tides,
Like a girl’s dark hair for she dreams no ruin lies there,
Or her kisses where a serpent hides.
Ohhh and the comma was a very tough decision for me. I’m a big grammar person. I want to disembowel people that I see using incorrect “your’s” and “there’s” on Facebook. I decided to go against the comma however, simply because I thought it would be less of a mess. Commas in band names just look kind of odd. Maybe that’s just me. I have since discovered that there is indeed a Last.fm page for ‘Returning, We Hear the Larks’. I tip my hat to those people. They are better than I.
There seems to be an overarching theme to your new Proud England EP. What’s the concept and what inspired you?
Ah yes, the theme for Proud England has nothing to do with the First World War. I wrote both the Langemark E.P. and my full-length Ypres around it, but have chosen to branch out to other concepts and theories on my other releases. Proud England is based loosely on the Wars of the Roses, the last English civil war of 1455–1485. I quite like the story behind this one. I was arriving home from work one day quite few months back, with the determination to create some new material but absolutely no inspiration or ideas whatsoever, when I came across the word ‘vendetta’ in a newspaper headline. The entire E.P. took shape around that word. I recall running up to my room with the introduction riff to the song “Vendetta” in my head, telling my brother on the way that this was the riff that was going to begin the creation of my next release. I am very interested in English history anyway, and when I began researching historic feuds to fit with this song, the Wars of the Roses simply seemed to fit beautifully.
How does the cover art tie into this concept?
Ohhh the cover art is a little bit of a long shot in terms of how it links in. The girl on the cover is my beautiful girlfriend Ori. I wanted her to be on the cover in some form, but I didn’t really have much of a concept at the time so I took hundreds of pictures with the hope of coming up with some awesome concept later on.
The rose on her chest is very important, I feel like perhaps I should have emphasised it more. It’s a modified version of the rose of the House of Lancaster. Because honour and pride were so important in the time of this war, I chose to remove her mouth. She doesn’t need to speak for herself, she doesn’t have individual opinions. She speaks through the honour of her family, the House of Lancaster. I originally had the rose sewn to her mouth, with a lot of blood and stuff, but it was far less elegant. I like this one.
You’re an up and coming artist in this DIY metal scene, which has a staple of bedroom production. What does your recording setup look like and what gear do you use?
My set-up is shamefully basic. I will admit now that I know little about guitars, and I would say that I have an fairly advanced knowledge of recording music and utilising a digital audio workstation to the best of its ability, but I am in no way an expert. I primarily record with my trusty Ibanez RG7321, but a lot is also done with an old Strat that was given to me by a late friend (and the greatest guitarist I’ve ever known), Ade Porwal.
Like many artists in the ‘djent’ scene, I am a huge Line 6 Pod fan. I run all of my guitar tracks through my wonderful Pod UX2, and create all of my tones in Pod Farm, Line 6’s tone software. I program my drums in Toontrack’s Superior Drummer combined with various elements of their other kits (Drumkit from Hell snares ftw!) In terms of my DAW (digital audio workstation), I am a little different. While most PC enthusiasts like myself record in Cubase, Audacity or Reason, I use Samplitude. I’ve used a lot of DAWs in past projects and Samplitude isn’t really anything different, I just know it very well and does everything I ask of it. I will never understand the appeal of Cubase. I find it slow, buggy and wayy too colourful. Cubase is the sticky, fat child of DAWs.
There’s a pic on your Facebook page with you holding a sitar. Is that what I’m hearing as a part of the ambiance in the opening track, “Uprising”?
Yeah dude, I bought myself a sitar about a year ago with the idea of adding an extra element to my music. It’s a hell of a sexy instrument, but I’m really not that good on it. I tend to use it mostly for ambient stuff, such as the intro to “Uprising”, rather than as a lead instrument. I’d love to be able to do more with it. I think I need to lock myself in my room for a month with nothing but my sitar and a box of Pot Noodles.
You performed every single note on the album, right? Did you also handle mixing and mastering?
Oh yes. I am one for doing everything myself. I know that there are people who could probably give me a better finished result on my songs in terms of mixing, but I genuinely enjoy staying up until 5am slumped in my cosy chair, playing with every note and cymbal in a song. There’s nothing quite like it :)
How do you go about writing your music?
I have an awful way of writing. It’s almost entirely spontaneous. I usually come up with some kind of riff, record it, think of something else, record that. I do 90% of my songs this way. I think Ypres was completely spontaneously recorded. I used to write all my songs in Guitar Pro before recording them. This allowed me a lot more time to work on the structure and flow. I think this worked better for my earlier stuff, but I quite like my music to have a slightly wild, manic edge to it these days. I get that from writing it how I do now.
Proud England almost plays as a single song straight through. Were they written as one piece or did you work them together after the fact?
I’ve always loved music that segues well. There is nothing in this world quite like a smooth transition from the intro of an album to the explosive second track. I’ve played around with creating continuous music in various ways before. I’ve chaptered a few of my releases (The Hidden World: I was divided into three chapters, Ypres was 5), and I’ve always played around with creating effective musical segues. In fact, the transition between RWHTL parts one and two on Ypres was something I’d wanted to do and had note-for-note in my head for at least a year before I even started recording the album.
I wrote “Vendetta” first on PE, intending it to be the first track, and wanted it to flow nicely into the next song. I then wrote an entire song for what is now the interlude track “Unrest”, before scrapping most of it. When the rest of the E.P. was recorded, my brother suggested that I go back to the old “Unrest” track and use it simply as a transition between tracks 2 and 4. This worked pretty sexily, and so I chose to keep it. My brother, doesn’t really have any interest in RWHTL, is ultimately to thank for Proud England‘s smooth playthrough.
If I’m not mistaken, this is the first time you’ve included your vocals in your music. What made you want to step away from strictly instrumental work?
This is the first time I’ve done it for an official release, apart from the one line at the end of “Returning We Hear The Larks: Part One” on Ypres. I used to do vocals in my old projects (in fact, I was once in a band in which I was the frontman). I did release a compilation of re-recorded old songs re-recorded, entitled Scattered Fragments of a Past Forgotten, in which I performed vocals on every track, to keep the songs true to the originals. But yeah, it’s really the first time I’ve done it since I’ve been RWHTL. I’ve always struggled with vocals in metal. 90% of the time, you cannot understand a word that a screaming vocalist is saying. I find this quite pointless. Sure, screaming can add a new layer of rhythm to the song, but in cases where you have to look up the lyrics to even attempt to grasp what the song is about, I just find it pointless.
It was for this reason (coupled with the fact that I’m not really a good vocalist) that I chose to make RWHTL instrumental. In the early days of the project, I used samples of speeches and such to convey meaning, but then copyright issues came into play and I decided that it would be easier to scrap those too. It was only after spending a long time immersed in the music of ‘djent’ and the thousands of bedroom guitarists writing instrumental metal that there are out there, that I realised that Ypres really didn’t achieve much, and that without vocals and lyrics, the story that the music is trying to tell is somewhat lost.
I must say though, that writing lyrics is HARD! I’m not really happy with the lyrics for Proud England, and recording the vocals was definitely the longest and hardest part of the recording process. It’s a lot of work, I’m hoping it pays off!
Could you see yourself forming a band around RWHTL and performing live or do you only see this as a record-only project?
I love the idea of one day bringing RWHTL into the live scene. I’ve been in a few live bands in the past and there’s nothing quite like it. I miss it a lot. There are a few issues with it, though. Firstly, I’m an asshole with my music. If I write a song, I must have entire creative control over it. For that reason, I struggle slightly in a band environment xD Also, I tend to record my songs in parts, so I have no idea whether I could play them through smoothly, and I don’t write them down anywhere, so I’d have to re-learn them all… It would be great though, maybe one day!
Since you’re an independent artist who, up until now anyway, has released his music for free; so obviously, you’re not making killer bank off of your music. How are you Returning We Pay The Bills?
Good lord, I’m sorry for the terrible pun and I hope this doesn’t effect our relationship.
It’s fine, I still love you.
I am a big believer in free music, I always have been. I think it brings the artists and the fans a lot closer, and it helps to no end with promotion for the band if they’re happy for their music to be spammed on every hosting site and blog out there. For this reason, I will always have everything that I have recorded up until now available for free on my Bandcamp. I want people to know that I’m simply humbled that they are listening to and enjoying my music, and that if they want it for free, they can have it. At least, most of it. This is where Proud England comes in.
I love giving away my music to people who want it, but it does cost me quite a bit. Bandcamp, which I use as my primary site for hosting my music these days, gives you 200 free downloads a month. If you exceed these, you can purchase more. There prices are good, but I tend to have been 500 and 700 downloads a month, and so I’m frequently shelling out for more free downloads. For this reason, I’m charging a little bit for Proud England. Just to keep the free stuff available, if you get me. It’s going to be a good deal, though. I’m planning to release an instrumental version of the EP as well as the regular one, and also a deluxe package (for a little more money) featuring both the regular and the instrumental versions, as well as a bonus album of b-sides and demos, and a link to secret re-recording of The Hidden World: I E.P. Not so secret now. Ah, well.
Oh and in terms of paying bills, I have a job and I still live with my parents, so there’s not too much to worry about there yet xD
Where do you see RWHTL going from here? Have any big plans that you care to talk about?
I honestly didn’t think any further than this! I’ll begin work on a second full-length some time soon. I had plans to take this E.P. in a more Tech Death direction, but that didn’t happen, so perhaps next time. It seems as though people are responding positively to the addition of vocals, at least on “Uprising”, the track that I’ve released from Proud England, so I guess there will be more vocals from me in the future. I do love the idea of getting into the live scene, so I’ll either be joining a band or making an effort to get RWHTL live some time soon.
Oh and fans of mine, feel free to add me on Facebook and give me some love! I love talking to you guys and in the words of Chimp Spanner, “it makes me look WELL popular.”
Returning We Hear The Larks’ amazing new EP Proud England will be available March 10th. You can keep up with RWHTL on Facebook and download all previous releases on bandcamp for free!