Interview with TG of Nihil Verum Nisi Mors (NVNM)
One of my favorite parts of the metal scene is how the passion of genuine diehards has led to various splintered microlabels across the world (according to the venerable metal-archives, there are tens of thousands of the things).
A lot of those labels put out a single release or two and crumple under the responsibility or financial commitment, but sometimes a collective survives to destroy the world under the weight of the riffs that they put out.
NVNM belongs to a special category of label which serves solely to exist as a way for co-founders and masterminds TG and Joe Aversario to unleash their morbid creations upon the world; they don’t take submissions (as I found out when I tried to get them to put out material from one of my bands some months ago), don’t search for new bands to release on the label, self-record their music, self-produce their music, and dub most of their releases themselves- essentially, NVNM is the pure, concentrated essence of DIY; given that prior to forming the collective TG and Joe played together in a deathgrind band, this is somewhat unsurprising.
Though it only sprang into existence at the beginning of 2016, NVNM has already released nine tapes, each one of an incredibly worthwhile descent into brutal audio carnage. Several of the tapes have already completely sold out despite the youth of the collective and the label’s general disinterest in promoting their own music, the strength of the songwriting on the releases allowing news to slowly spread via word of mouth.
While 2016 was the official start of the label, its journey, as far as I can tell, really began in 2014 with the birth of an incredibly foul black/death band called Massive Retaliation; TG and Joe self-released a short promotional run of a devastating demo the following year, and used the larger re-release as the first NVNM offering shortly after that. Since then, there have been nine hellish tapes split between twelve bands (a couple of which have up until now only been featured on four-way label sampler splits entitled “NEW JERSEY METAL ATTACK”), with every one more than worthy of a purchase and listen.
Though sources like the metal-archives and discogs reveal a lot about the history of the label and my own conversations with him have revealed more, I still have a lot of questions. To resolve them, I interviewed TG to get to the bottom of things.
How are you doing today, man?
Quite well! Thank you for asking. Currently gearing up for some major recording sessions–between all the bands I’m involved in we’ll have recorded 4 full-lengths by the end of the year. Having a monthly practice space has never been more useful.
Do you record everything yourself in a permanent lockout, then?
Correct. We have a monthly practice space in a warehouse, the Dungeon With No End (DWNE for short). This is a recent development, and fulfills a lifelong dream of mine to be able to play drums whenever the fuck I want without bothering anyone. More importantly, we can record whatever we want, whenever we want. It’s been instrumental in the development of the label and the many bands I’m involved in.
Do all of the related NVNM bands rehearse together at the warehouse?
More or less. SSK from Siege Column also has a practice space closer to where he lives, so rehearsals will happen there occasionally. The majority of the work, whether rehearsal or recording, tends to happen at DWNE.
So who exactly is the core of the NVNM?
There are three people at the core of NVNM: myself, Joe, and SSK. We all contribute in different ways. I handle all the production and run the mail order. Joe is in charge of all the written content and some aspects of the production. SSK is the minister of propaganda and outreach. Obviously, we all contribute musically as well.
When did the first plans for starting the NVNM start, and how, if at all, did that tie into the death of Dethroned Emperor and the birth of Massive Retaliation?
I have been interested in doing my own releases for a long time. I have always been a bit of a control freak, so the DIY approach has always been very appealing to me. The initial inspiration to start a label came from the guy who runs Speed Ritual Records in Mississippi [W.: That would be Jared Moran, our Mississippi bracket hear and all-round solid dude]. He has his own self-storage space full of gear where he records all kinds of crazy shit. I first saw this when I was in my early 20s, and was totally enamored by the idea of being able to do everything by myself.
At that point much of the groundwork was already laid–I’ve been into art and drawing since I was a toddler. I first picked up a bass when I was 13, then added guitar and drums a few years after that. I got into audio engineering when I started my first shitty band, inheriting a bunch of old gear from my dad. Around the same time I started fucking around with photoshop and general graphic design. The problem with being a jack-of-all-trades, though, is being master of none–I could do everything, but not particularly well. After spending over a decade practicing and amassing gear I’ve gotten a lot better.
Dethroned Emperor was the first serious band I really got to put all these skills to use for. I played drums, recorded all the music (with the exception of our lone full length), and did all the art/design. We transformed ourselves into Massive Retaliation right around the time I got my copy of the Hellhammer book Only Death is Real (a truly excellent read if you’re a fan of Hellhammer and Celtic Frost, which I obviously am), and was very much inspired by what they did with Prowling Death Records. Around the same time, Joe and Shawnslaught founded Siege Column and recorded their demo. It made perfect sense to start our own imprint to put them out–thus, NVNM was born.
You’ve told me that Joe does a killer Scott Carlson impression, and you’ve shared a killer punk demo that you put out under the name “Killing Technology”; now that Dethroned Emperor is dead, do you guys plan on starting another punk or grind project?
Possibly. I do have a noise/grind project in the works right now, but that isn’t a NVNM endeavor. Killing Technology was all me- in fact, it was the first demo that I did everything for myself. It was never released officially. It will be resurrected if I am ever possessed by d-beat again, but who knows…
All that being said, punk really isn’t my thing at the end of the day. I enjoy a select few punk bands (YDI, DRI, Siege, Discharge, and SOB come to mind), but in all I am dedicated to EVIL METAL.
Do you guys collectively make much non-metal? This is the first I’m hearing about noise/grind, but you’ve been joking about starting a dungeon synth project, there’s the hopefully-eventually-resurrected Killing Technology project, etc, but I don’t know anything about what Joe keeps up to outside of metal, or any other projects you guys might have going on.
Not as much, no. I recently got into working with synthesizers, hence me talking about doing some kind of dungeon synth. I’ve only recently gotten into more electronic stuff, like power electronics/death industrial/noise/ambient, etc, so that’s a whole new thing for me. None of that falls under the “evil metal” category, however, so any new projects along those lines will not be NVNM ventures.
Aside from that, SSK is more heavily involved in the punk scene and plays in a bunch of bands in that vein. Joe and I mostly stick to metal.
Had you dubbed many tapes before starting the collective, either for your own bands or just to duplicate music?
Not as a service or anything, no. I dubbed the Dethroned Emperor demo on an old all-in-one stereo system way back when. I have been recording stuff on tape for ages, though. I got my first cassette recorder at a rummage sale when I was in high school, and have been hooked on the format ever since. Every Dethroned Emperor release (save for the original pressing of the album on CD) was done on cassette, some pro, some not.
How exactly do you go about the tape duplication? Do you do it all on one deck, two decks, seven decks? Print your own j-cards, or go to Staples? Always been curious as to what goes into it, and have a deck capable of it, but always been too lazy to figure it out!
It depends. I have the capability to go about it a few different ways as each project demands. We have access to a high speed duplicator which has certain sonic requirements to sound good, but is very easy and convenient to use. Most of our releases have utilized it. I also have a nicer deck to do normal speed duplication one at a time, which sounds really good, but takes fucking forever. The Malefaction demo was done that way, as was the Perdizione/Nihtglom split. We also can obviously go for pro duplication, which sounds the best and allows for imprinting on the shell, but that is the most expensive. Both DSS tapes and the Dethroned Emperor repress were done this way.
I always do the jcards and inserts by myself. I get them printed and cut, score, and fold them all by hand. This used to be very time consuming, but after 10+ releases and finding the proper tools I can do it very quickly. I don’t mind doing repetitive tasks like these…I just put a record on in the background and have at it.
Have you ever considered expanding the scope of the NVNM and releasing music from personal friends or bands you admire, or will it forever remain a tight-knit group for yourself and for Joe?
It’s not really a priority for me. NVNM is less of a formal label and more of an outlet for our creative endeavors than anything else. I’m not interested in seeking out new talent or releasing the next big thing or anything like that. The only broader goal beyond being an outlet was to make the operation self-sustaining, which it basically is at this point. That being said, I am also interested in promoting New Jersey evil metal born of the same possession that we are under–if a new band local to us exemplified that spirit, then maybe we could talk…
On most of the NVNM tapes I own, you’re credited as T. Warrior. When did you first discover Celtic Frost, and how can you live with yourself for hoarding every copy of Morbid Tales that you’ve ever run into, thus keeping them from other Celtic Frost fans?
I first discovered Celtic Frost at the tender age of 14. I had just moved to New Jersey and had no friends for my first summer here. This was right around the same time I discovered Metal Archives and Soulseek, so I spent those months discovering and downloading new music. Black metal was the first extreme music I really got into, and kept seeing Celtic Frost pop up as an influence. The first time I pressed play on Morbid Tales, my life was never the same. They have remained my all-time favorite band since then. One of the first covers I ever recorded was of “Into the Crypts of Rays” when I was like 15.
I feel no guilt hoarding copies of Morbid Tales (or any of the other Celtic Frost records I own). People spend asinine amounts of money getting every single pressing and every color variant of every weird new record that comes out…me collecting different versions of stuff from the 80’s isn’t as die hard as that. Granted, I do work in a record store, so I have an unfair advantage over other collectors in coming across them.
How the hell do you find the time to write so much excellent music? I struggle with two bands!
My biggest advantages there are that I have always approached music from a songwriting perspective. and that I have always recorded things myself. For the longest time I wasn’t good enough at drums to play the way I wanted, so I grew accustomed to demo-ing shit out with a drum machine. It’s much easier to come up with and archive your music when you can commit it to tape or to the computer easily. More importantly, though, is that I love this shit and am always thinking of new ideas for bands or songs.
Out of the many bands that have released material on the label, which ones do you personally write for or play in? When the hell are we getting more Jaws of Hades?
I am involved in almost all of the bands on the roster in one way or another. Malefaction and Altar of Gore are the bands I am the primary songwriter for. I play drums in Massive Retaliation, Jaws of Hades, and Damnation Lust. I am the live drummer in Siege Column and DSS. I will probably go mad one day trying to keep it all straight in my head.
If everything goes according to plan, the Jaws of Hades demo will be one of four new releases we do early next year. Included in that will hopefully be the Altar of Gore demo, the second Damnation Lust demo, and the demo from an as-of-yet-unleashed project called Burial Stone. That being said, sometimes we have to move shit around based on what’s going on and what we can pull together. Time will tell…any updates will be available in the usual places.
Your facebook page is full of Bathory and Sarcófago links, and the most recent NVNM demo is as blatantly anti-poser of a release as I’ve ever heard. When did you realize that you want to wage a personal war against hi-fi music, and how long did it take you in between taking up an instrument and starting that crusade?
It is a more a question of what is appropriate for a given project. To me, it is extremely important that the production fit the vibe and intent of the music. I tend to think of bands conceptually (hence why I have so many of them), and part of the concept is how the production should be. Malefaction, for example, was written with that rawness in mind because of the bands that influenced it. To me, it wouldn’t sound right any other way. The upcoming Massive Retaliation album, on the other hand, will be more “mid-fi” than that because I think it calls for something somewhat more refined, both stylistically and because it’s a full-length.
All that being said, things I record will always sound more on the lo-fi side of the spectrum because I have neither fancy gear nor the willingness to procure it. I like to make do with what I have.
I dig that. Somewhat raw is how all extreme metal should be, in my opinion. Since you’re finally gearing up to record some albums, do you plan on releasing those on the label as well, or looking outside to get more expensive formats (such as vinyl) made?
At the end of the day, my biggest concern is making music that I like and am satisfied by on a personal level. The Massive Retaliation and Siege Column albums will see releases by NVNM…the other two I mentioned before are for other labels, and will be announced on the proper channels in due time.
If a bigger label wants to be involved in doing more expensive projects, we would certainly be interested. It would have to be a label that “gets it,” though. The whole reason I wanted to start an endeavor like this is because I’m a control freak. If I’m going to relinquish control it’d have to be with the right entity.
Where does the name of the label come from?
NVNM stands for Nihil Verum Nisi Mors, a phrase I’m sure many people are probably familiar with. Yet another thing I have borrowed from Tom G. Warrior (out of the utmost reverence, of course). Roughly translated from Latin, it means “Only Death is Real.” I chose it not only as an extension of my fanatical worship of Hellhammer and Celtic Frost, but because that phrase resonates with me in terms of my personal philosophy and outlook.
I got into the label with Massive Retaliation and Siege Column, as did several of my friends; unfortunately, the earliest releases from both bands are long since sold out, to the dismay of later fans. Is there any chance of a reissue of either band’s early material?
It’s possible, I suppose. We have mused about reissuing the Siege Column demo and first EP as one tape, but there are no firm plans to do so at the moment. Personally, I feel that the Massive Retaliation demo is an inferior version of what we are now. The songs came about in a totally different way, and we hadn’t really firmed up the concept. In all honesty I am not too concerned with pleasing people with NVNM, but we may consider doing it one day…
What’s your personal favorite project that you’ve released through the NVNM?
That’s impossible for me to say. I love everything we’ve put out for different reasons. To me, being able to operate the way we do is my favorite part of it overall. I am beyond pleased that maniacs across the world are into what we’re doing and willing to support it, especially given how saturated things are with the internet. It still boggles my fucking mind that people in Europe and Asia are willing to pay the obscene shipping rates that USPS charges to buy our tapes. I will always salute the true die hards and support those who are possessed by evil fucking metal.
Fuck yeah, man. Evil fucking metal forever.
Follow the NVNM collective on Facebook, buy their tapes (while they last!) on their online webstore, and listen to some of their music on bandcamp. Evil fucking metal full support, forever. Remember: only death is real.
Images courtesy of the NVNM.