2 November 2023
Electronic sound explorers VIOLET NOX – Dez DeCarlo (synth, effect pedals,
vocal samples), Andrew Abrahamson (synthesis, samples and clocked machines)
and new singer Noell Dorsey – from Boston have their new, 6th album, titled
VORTEX AND VOICES out.
An intriguing and fascinating work where ambient, electronic, atmospheric
and dream pop symphonies merge and create a wondrous world where
surreality and reality fuse and impact your subconsciousness.
Dez, Andrew and Noell will tell us more about the new opus, their Arrow of Time
universe, self-transformation, and the enrichment of their sound with their new
vocalist, but also about musical geniuses such as John Coltrane and Prince.
But first, as usual with Turn Up The Volume interviews, we start with
a slice of music. Enjoy one of the standout pieces, named ‘Seznor‘.
Hello Dez, Andrew and Joell,
Thank you for taking time
for this Q & A,
When and how was VIOLET NOX conceived?
DEZ: “Violet Nox was originally formed from many nights of intense listening
to avante-jazz and in particular John Coltrane. One night while blasting Coltrane
I got a complete download and felt his music very deeply.
I understood the insanity of his screaming notes talking to me.
At that moment I knew I wanted to start an improvisational music project
combining electronic elements. I didn’t know how I was going to get there.
Then Violet Nox was born, with early members Karen Zanes on guitar, myself
Dez DeCarlo-guitar and Eric Jackson on electronic drums. In the beginning, we
were very experimental, noisy, ambient and drone.”
What’s the story behind the band’s name?
DEZ: “The name Violet Nox comes from the color Violet
representing creativity, the future, dreams, healing
Nox came from the word “Equinox” representing change,
transformation, Roman goddess of the night, new beginnings.”
What or who is it that attracts you so much to electronic music?
ANDREW: “I think ‘electronic music’ frequently implies sequenced music. I prefer to think in terms of music that is produced using electronic instrumentation. The borders are much fuzzier with that definition and, to me, more interesting. Sun Ra played a synthesizer.
But he wouldn’t be called an electronic musician even without other musicians playing acoustics because nothing is sequenced. Prince sequenced many of the drum patterns
on Purple Rain.
He could easily have played those parts himself but he didn’t. I think he wanted
the electronic drum sound but also the stiffness of the sequencing. I am drawn to
the broad possibilities of electronic sounds but it is the interplay between played
and sequenced music that I find most rewarding.”
You just added album #6 to your résumé. What does that mean for you?
Do you look back at what you’ve already achieved or is it about the present
and the future?
DEZ: “I personally try very hard to never look back. I’m a very present and fast forward moving person. I think each album represents a reflection of moments in time, our feelings, thoughts passing through us, sounds entering then leaving.”
My sonic perception of VIOLET NOX is one of wandering through space, but more in the direction of the moon than the sun, more exploring darkness than brightness. Even more so on the new LP. What do you think of that perception?
ANDREW: “That fits. What we see as the moon is the reflected light of the sun.
Look at the sun for a while and you’ll go blind. Look toward the moon for as long
as you feel the desire. It’s the same light.
The moon is a good choice if you want to take your time wandering among reflections.
But for me it’s not capital S space – extraterrestrial space. It’s the analogs of physical space that the mind constructs in the perception of sound. I want to be able to close my eyes and walk through the music. And I want room in there to move and explore.
That’s minimalism to me. Space to think, to breathe and to be.”
Are all songs connected in some way or do they all stand on their own?
DEZ: “Most of the songs from the album were written for a dance visual sold out performance “Arrow of Time” that we co-produced at the Museum of Science in Boston, March 23rd, 2023. We wrote all the music for our choreographer friend Callie Chapman. Many of the songs had a particular theme to them for the show and were very long.
Later we ended up recording the songs again and shortening them for the record.
A new version of the song “Senzor is on the “Vortex & Voices” album. The original
tune was from a German compilation we were included on in 2022 “Empire of the
Four Moons, on Gruselthon Records.”
ANDREW: To build on what Dez said, five of the seven songs grew up together as part
of the writing for Arrow of Time. Each was part of the thematic arc from calm into chaos, manifestation, reflection and ascent. Two of the tracks take their names from these stages.
It was a broad metaphor of transformation of the self, of ideas and of the world.
Callie had also worked in the idea of these transformations as alchemy – that what
is left after the transformation is more than just a reconfiguration of the original
It’s something entirely new. I think Noell picked up on some of these and
then expanded on and refined them as we reworked the long form music
for an album format.”
It’s the first time that vocals are so prominent and so upfront. To my ears
it’s a great enrichment for the VN sound. What made you decide to make this turn?
DEZ: I heard Noell sing a few years ago at
a venue and knew at that moment I wanted to collaborate with her!
In the beginning of the pandemic we wrote a song called “Selene” guitar
drone, haunting organ and electronic drums all recorded remotely.
We sent it to Noell to add vocals. When we got the track back it was so good!
We knew then it was very magical and we continued to record together on
the next 3 albums.”
Who writes the lyrics? And is there any direct tie to the music itself?
NOELL: I wrote the lyrics inspired by the Museum of Science’s “Arrow of Time”
multimedia project we collaborated on. I improvised the vocals, and the lyrics
came about very organically. It was a mix of stream-of-consciousness word
patchwork and focused poetry.
“Loki” just wrote itself. It felt very seamless and straightforward how all the music came together. “Chaos” was more improvisational and started with extended vocal technique, but words started to slip in, and then, there they were!
The main lyrical content is about breaking through. I use a lot of ocean imagery, especially in ‘Ascent‘. The ocean is peaceful and chaotic, a rich ecosystem that’s life-sustaining but can also be dangerous. I’m moved by the complexity and duality of multiple things being true simultaneously. It is hard to grasp at first, but it is an inherent part of us. We can be both scared and excited, in love but hesitant, angry and relieved, etc,
All of us are transient beings. We will all experience so much uncertainty in life that we must move through these moments gracefully. Despite our short time here, we somehow bring so much fear to our lives that we can sometimes become paralyzed. This is because our “story” has been set for us in so many ways through society’s ideals, traditions, patriarchy, and religion.
I finally see that despite whatever story we carry,
we must set it aside to embark on a new path.”
What did you want to express with the album’s artwork?
“Our collab mate Alexis Desjardins, who now lives in Switzerland designed
the artwork for the cover. “It was one of many spontaneous designs I created
and selected because it worked best with the typography.”
Is the album’s title ‘VORTEX and VOICES’ related to the music?
ANDREW: ‘Vortex and Voices’ was a communal, spontaneous
poetry that struck us all as capturing the music we were making.
NOELL: “We were doing an improvisation and it was very connected. When we were finished one of us mentioned that it felt we had gone through a vortex because we
were so blissed out.
It was like we had partaken in a sound bath. Not sure how the ‘voices’ ended up with it but one of us said ‘Vortex and Voices’ and Dez said, ‘That’s the name for the album! So it stuck”.
ANDREW: “I think the voices were there all along…we just happened to be hearing them.”
Are new visuals created to go along with
the new music for live shows?
DEZ: “We have visuals at just about all our shows. Luckily we have
a very cool friend group of artists that we collaborate with on visuals,
videos and design work.”
What’s the ultimate ambition of VN
DEZ: “We are writing for album 7 now so definitely we will release another record. We are also working on a couple new videos for “Chaos” and “Loki.”. We probably will do a remix in the next few months too. We hope to continue to explore and experiment with our music and tour in 2024.”
ANDREW: “Change has been the constant with Violet Nox. From my perspective the ‘ultimate ambition’ is simply an ongoing ambition. That is, to hold a clear vision of where change is headed, to have a sense of how and when to steer, and to have a loose enough intent to listen to it when it is speaking.”
Thank you Dez, Andrew and Noell for this interview.
May the road rise with Violet Nox.