It's hard to ignore a band personally handpicked by the illustrious Johnny Z, discoverer of Metallica and fonder of Megaforce Records. The man has thrown his weight behind Nim Vind, an upstart Canadian songwriting group that consciously defies genre categorization and seeks to find some solace in the joy of music. With his new album "Saturday Night Seance Songs" recently released to the world, we sat down with frontman Chris to talk about his band, how it came to be, Paul Shaffer and a few other things. Read on.
D.M: “Saturday Night Séance Songs,” what does it mean to you?
CHRIS of NIM VIND: Our view in Nim Vind is that songs are a power for a moment. You pick this song when you want this charge, we refer to it like an audio spellbook, maybe an audio medical book. If you need to feel a certain way, you can charge yourself up with it at any given moment. “Saturday Night Séance Songs” is the idea of conjuring up twelve different spirits. Twelve audio spirits. “Where I’m From” maybe conjuring up a dead Bruce Springsteen. “That Girl,” you’re conjuring up an undead Beach Boys. It goes on kind of like that. Long dead pirate songs put to guitar, the whole album goes on like that. Ten or twelve completely different songs and completely different styles all happen under one spellbook roof. I wanted it to sound big, so if you’re at a zombie walk or a football game, you can crank up “Master Spider” and it sounds like an airplane landing.
D.M: Is that what you want fans to take away, a variable experience that can cater to all of their moods?
CNV: Yeah, definitely. When I first started, people said I was horrorpunk, I had to figure out what that was. I have no idea what that means. I love the Misfits, but I never knew the Misfits were horror punk. I’m from Vancouver, someone has to tell you about stuff like that, otherwise your choices were Pearl Jam and more Pearl Jam. Pearl Jam or Pearl Jam acoustic or Pearl Jam live with five hundred albums of live music [laughs]. I don’t want to put them down, but there’s a lot of Pearl Jam to choose from. I wanted something different. The cool thing about not growing up in LA where all these cool shows are happening is that you don’t get influenced by too many things, I got to define my own style.
D.M: To that end, I think people can look at this record and see the Pacific Northwest a little bit. There’s some Sleater-Kinney in there to go with some punk, some rock, grunge of course, Misfits, Danzig, all those things. What else is in there? Where did you pick up your crooning style?
CNV: I don’t know. My father is second trumpet player in the Vancouver symphony orchestra, so I grew up around the really morose sound. My brothers and I grew up around really morose, Gregorian chant style symphony music. It has an effect, I could go see that orchestra quite often for nothing which is something I did not take advantage of. That was like ‘well, that’s my dad’s music, I want to play stuff that’s loud and obnoxious and makes him mad.’ You don’t realize that even if you don’t play that music, you really are [impacted.] Our stuff is very melodic and sweeping and that’s what those pieces are. I went to see ‘Mahler 3’ and after I thought that if there was a beat to a few of those parts, it would be the best goth song. My uncles were all in punk bands in New York City, my uncle used to jam with Dee Dee Ramone. Nobody believes me when I say this, but they did the first version of ‘Poison Heart.’ The first version is really weird, sounds like they’re both on acid, which they both might have been. I think that’s what you’re hearing in my music is all those influences.
D.M: You’ve managed to write songs that are spooky and macabre in a sense, and so often we see bands that write those things just fall off the cliff into violence. You didn’t do that, so how do you write those songs without talking about entrails and heads coming off?
CNV: There’s so many bands that do that great. I could name off ten bands, I won’t, but you can get that from so many places and get it well. Put on Samhain or the Misfits, more contemporary guys like Doyle’s solo stuff. I want to be me. From the day I was born I’ve struggled with mental health issues. I think music kind of writes my brain. A lot of stuff I need to get out of there and get some perspective on it. Asking ‘why do I have this feeling all the time?’ Maybe I’ll figure it out if I make a song that really feels like that. Where I’m from, I grew up in a town right on the ferry terminal, seems like it’s always night there, even though there is day, doesn’t seem like it lasts long. It’s always pitch black, dark and foggy, they even filmed ‘The X-Files’ there. They said when they came to film it that you don’t need any kind of set, the spookiness is just there. Just get the actors there and the lights there and the show is made by the town. So for the songs, I was trying to get some perspective on how much I hated that place and how much it colored my viewpoint of the world. So that’s what the song is, fighting through the fog to get past all these people that are messing with me, all these angry hockey fans of five million dollars each. It was a rich town, we were the non-rich family from a rich town that deserves to be in a horror movie where they’re eating people secretly. That’s where I’m from. It happens on every song, ‘ESP’ is about mental telepathy, but also my experiences with that kind of feeling of constant déjà vu and struggling with reality and non-reality. I just think those things are exciting, I’d rather sing about that or someone’s deformed limbic system than a zombie apocalypse. There’s already so many guys doing a great job with zombie apocalypse songs, I’d rather be the guy doing bizarre mental illness songs. At the same time though, it sounds like something the Beach Boys might sing.
D.M: So the writing process for you and the reason that style appeals to you is because there’s almost a cathartic sense to it?
CNV: Yeah, yeah. Also, I want it to be fun. Everywhere I go now, rock and roll shows are almost kind of boring, you know? Nothing different happens, everybody expects you to go ‘how you doing, guys? It’s great to be here, I love you all, this would never happen without you,’ every band does that. I go up on stage and try to wake them up a bit, like listen motherfuckers, I know you’re goth and punk and horrorpunk and all that, but ‘fun’ is the first three letters in ‘funeral.’ Let’s get the fucking lead out [laughs]. So yeah, it’s cathartic, but it’s also fun, I’m creating my own good time out of stuff that sucks for me. That is the crux of Nim Vind right there. I never thought someone would come along and give me a paid record deal or do anything for me. That’s what’s going to be great about this, is playing shows on foreign soil, some big fucking festival in Europe. You think to yourself that this all started as a fun project to not go insane and just to do what you’re born to do, which is play an instrument. To get on that stage is like winning some kind of war, nobody selected me to be here, I had to crawl through a damaged mind. There’s something of that in every show.
D.M: Speaking of label deals, what does it mean to you to have someone whose name carries the weight of Johnny Z essentially start up his own subsidiary for you?
CNV: Let me tell you about that. When I was in The Vincent Black Shadow, which was my band before and during – well, I guess they and Nim Vind ran in parallel lines for a while – I was waiting for Vincent Black Shadow to take. I waited a year and one show happened, literally they got signed and did nothing. The whole thing switched over from one record label into this Bodog [Records] thing, a huge amount of money got injected into it, and off we went. I started Nim Vind at the same time, got a record deal, started to going to Europe, it was a way better, more exciting audience than I thought. But my momentum kept getting stopped because I had to keep going back to do so much for the other band, which was helping me discover the music industry and what it really was. I didn’t meet a lot of people I particularly jived with, but one person I did right off the bat was Johnny Z and his management team. It wasn’t like someone went up to him and said ‘hey, can you do Chris a favor?’ They were having this battle of the bands competition and accepting submissions. I don’t know how Johnny felt about a lot of them, but they were looking for something with a different sound. Somebody started playing my ‘Fashion of Fear’ record and thought it was a submission. I was sitting in the room in awe of the guy, living at his house at the time. He’s got a ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ room, he’s got a ‘101 Dalmatians’ room, he’s got a giant toy store with more Spider-Man stuff than you shake a stick at. Me, I’m just the guy in Nim Vind and I walk into the room and they had my record on and he didn’t know it was my record. He’s like ‘finally, here’s a great band for the battle of the bands,’ going on about it, and I didn’t say anything. I wanted to hear what he had to say about it, it was a legitimate showcase where if he had known it was me he might have been nice and said yes, but the fact that he was just judging it in maybe a bad mood and it had to win him over and it did and I got to see it, it was a trip, man. Everyone turned and said ‘no, this is Chris’ band, this is not a submission.’ From then on we’ve been friends and I’ve been showing him stuff, and when I showed him ‘Saturday Night Séance Songs,’ he said ‘this is great, let’s get back out there, because I know are gonna be against the wall convincing industry people to work on it.’ It was awesome. Already, I feel better now than I think I ever have about music. I’ve been working with him for three months and we’ve done as much as I had in four years. We’ve got all these great guys on it. We’ve got Todd Rundgren on it, he’s a fucking legend. I’ve met a lot of cool people in the music business and a lot of full-of-shit people in the music business, and Johnny’s the real deal. He started Megaforce records to launch Metallica, and that’s what we’re doing with Nim Vind and House of Vind [Records].
D.M: How much did you have to bang on his door to get some music through to Todd Rundgren?
CNV: Well, I was on the same management roster. It’s an interesting story. Todd’s god, right, his whole career is about breaking rules, a lot of people in the business worship the ground he walks on. He’s in Ringo Starr’s band, for fuck’s sake. I can’t think of a bigger side job band than that. ‘Oh yeah, on the side I play in the Beatles guy’s band.’ [laughs] Everybody on that roster is massively famous except for me. They would give me hilarious jobs like go drop off Paul Shaffer’s Grammy tickets. Last year, Paul Shaffer has me walk into this amazing hotel, Clyde Davis was having a party, everyone’s in suits and ties, there’s amazing models everywhere, and there’s a death rocker from Canada walking through the lobby. I get about one step, two steps, someone grabs me going ‘where’s your credentials? Are you supposed to be here?’ I’m like ‘hey, I’ve got Paul Shaffer’s Grammy tickets.’ He came down, he kinda turned three different colors when he looked at me, like who the fuck are you? Are you a drug dealer I owe money to? Six foot three, look like Ichabod Crane’s lost brother, any minute could be hit by a flaming pumpkin. Every time [Todd] gets a record deal, he licenses his record, he can pick and choose what he does. And anytime he produces a record, they get it sight unseen. They played me his ‘State’ record, he’s a seventies era rocker and now he’s made an EDM record! He’s fucking sixty or something! Most guys wouldn’t do that, but he re-invents himself at retirement age. I turned it on, it was awesome! It was dubstep and stuff, but all done from a real guy playing it. A modern record with seventies sound. That record is way out there, Todd’s a smart motherfucker. Anyway, I heard that, I was like ‘this sounds like ‘Astronomicon,’ or how it should sound. I had a tracking of it, I had done different things to it, I was trying to figure out what to do with it. When I heard Todd’s record, [I knew] that was what had to happen to it. So I just kept asking over and over again, every time they called me I asked if they’d seen Todd. [laughs] That went on for three months. One day I received a forward that just said ‘I’m ready now, send the track.’ I sent it to whoever had sent me the forward, and I never got a response, they never confirmed they received it. About three hours later I got the track back, I didn’t believe it, I thought it was a joke. He took it, never asked me a word about it, mixed it, gave it back, mastered it, done. I was playing it for friends and the response was great, so we decided to go with it. That was Johnny again saying ‘you’ve got to put this on the record, right in the middle,’ and when Johnny Z tells you to do something, guy’s sold thirty-seven million records and discovered Metallica, you don’t say no, you do it. [laughs]
D.M: Not that long ago I was talking to Dave Wyndorf from Monster Magnet, and we talked about how he wasn’t always comfortable with the way his band was marketed, that some people called him metal and some rock and some stoner, and it unnecessarily fractured his audience. Nim Vind is also between a lot of common genre tropes, is that something you worry about, that you’ll have difficulty marketing to the audience you want?
CNV: Yeah, it’s probably the biggest problem Nim Vind’s ever had. It’s kept Nim Vind from real, tangible success I think. I knew that was what I was going to be working against. It’s funny you mentioned Monster Magnet, because Johnny and I were just talking about a tour, maybe with them. Everyone keeps saying the words ‘Monster Magnet’ to me. Generally, In my world, and I don’t think my world is the same as regular people, if that happens I feel like at some point I will meet this Monster Magnet guy [laughs]. But he’s right – what really hurts me is that someone puts on a festival, which would be great for me, and they say they’re not a horrorpunk band would work for them. Listen to my album, I didn’t call them horrorpunk, I think a lot of other people did, I don’t think horrorpunk is even a sound identity, either. It sort of has one. The sad thing is putting everything in all these categories, is that if you’re not trying to just one thing, it really limits you. The world is a hybrid world now, I listen to Stitches all the time because I think he’s hilarious, there’s as much punk in Stitches as there is in a lot of these punk records lately. This guy doesn’t care what anyone thinks, he’s gonna sing stuff that’s offensive on purpose, which to me is kind of what punk represented. When I used to try to get signed on all these different labels, they would say ‘we like what you’re doing, but it doesn’t fit the roster.’ What the fuck does that mean? That means you think I have a great band that people will like, but you don’t want to put it out for fear that it doesn’t sound like the bands you already have that you’re saying you’re not selling that well? Well, it sounds like you should go my way! [laughs] They’ve got five things going great, so they need another five things just like it to saturate their own market? I don’t get it. The whole history of our species is going forward and trying new things, that’s how I approach it. But that’s the biggest problem with today’s times, everything is some sort of security risk and all these companies are saying farmers can’t re-seed their crops, they have to use ours with the suicide gene. No rebirth, no planting of any seeds. It’s the same with music, you’re rock, you’re punk, you’re metal, you’re going to stick with this sound and sell in this medium or you’re evil and need to be burned from existence and doing everything wrong. But no! People want what Dave Wyndorf is doing, he’s doing what I believe in. You’re not worried about the endgame of the record, you’re putting it out and stepping back. I’ll write forty songs and then pick ten that I think will turn people’s crank or represent my best songwriting, that’s the expression of how I want the record to turn out. It’s boring to jam it into small things. That’s the shitty side. But the upside is, he owns his sound, I own my sound. When you make it, it’s yours. I’m not a one-trick pony, that’s boring. I do everything my way because if you succeed it’s yours. These managers who want you to do one thing aren’t in it for the right reasons and they’re on the way out. They were in it for fast money. The industry is going to go back to artists doing what they want and the records everyone is going to get will be way better. If they can’t figure out what category to put my album in, that’s not my concern. That’s great actually, they’ll have to make a category for me.
D.M: With Halloween just around the corner and you having seemingly produced an album specifically for it, what’s on your horror movie playlist?
CNV: That’s a tough one these days. I really love Halloween, it’s my favorite. I love horror because there can be so many different levels of it. You can make a great horror movie with next to nothing. It’s the only movie genre that does the same thing I’m doing, it can be a million different avenues and be watched by a horror audience. You can do it with a shoestring budget. That’s exciting to me, the opposite of what the blockbuster companies are doing. They keep it simple. I tend to start with all my old favorites, like all the zombie movies. I love the character movies the best, like the Dracula movies and the Wolfman movies, the old Ed Wood movies are great. I love the spirit of trying to create something different. I have to be honest, straight-up slasher movies are boring to me, I can read that in the paper and it’s real. I look for stuff that’s a bit weird and daring to be different. I like mental illness movies, even stuff that might not be considered horror can be creepy to me. What’s that movie where the guy thinks a storm is coming and he builds a shelter and there is a storm coming, but it might be all in his mind? [Editor’s note: closest guess is “Take Shelter” which is actually a pretty decent movie.] I’m terrible with names, even with my own songs. People will ask me about a song, and I’ll say ‘which one is that?’ Go put my album on and play it so I know which one you mean. [laughs]