Interview: Natur on cryptids, totems and debut album “Head of Death”

Partying, camping by the beach, hiking, fishing, smoking weed in graveyards, jamming King Diamond and Manilla Road: Natur had the sort of gnarly Rhode Island upbringing that all us city-bred shmucks can only envy. But it’s not only a healthy way to spend your adolescence, as Natur’s sticksman and designated spokesman, Tooth, can attest to, it’s kinda helpful when you’re writing jams too. Natur’s forthcoming debut Head of Death is a piece of Heavy Metal classicism, straight from the old-school’s play book. As Tooth testifies to, all this staring at the ocean, poking at washed-up eels and looking for the Yeti helps fertilise the imagination, and it gives Natur something to write about that isn’t cribbed wholesale from generations past. They’re kinda obsessed with the ocean, and count the goblin shark as a muse-in-chief. Here’s the story so far.

Where are you guys from?
I’m from a place called Portsmouth, Rhode Island. It’s on an island called Aquidneck Island, which has three towns. James is from an island, too, Jamestown, which is a small island with one town on it. Pretty much all that we do in the spring and summer is just hang out by the water, cruise the beach and look for washed up shit. I haven’t done a lot of fishing lately, ‘cos being in New York, I don’t make it home as much as I wish I could. Growing up, all I did was fish and hang out by the ocean every day.

The ocean is a good place to get your imagination going.
Big time. We spent a lot of time snorkeling, hiking to different spots and camping out at the beach, smoking weed and shit like that. The imagination definitely runs wild when you’re underwater and it’s murky, and an eel comes out and scares the shit out of you. That’s the coolest.

Going under the ocean is the closest we can get to going to outer space.
I think the ocean is scarier than outer space. We know less about the ocean than we do about space. We just read something today, I don’t know if you’ve heard about it this but they discovered two humungous glass pyramids in the Bermuda Triangle, with holes in the top that could make like a spiral, a suction in them. It’s like the lost city of Atlantis or something, it’s bizarre. They’re actually larger than the pyramids of Giza, it’s some of the creepiest shit. We read about it just before we got here, it’s still breaking news, maybe.

If you look at an oceanic squid washed up on a beach, it’s more alien than E.T. or the Xenomorph.
Totally. One summer, the beach that we go to had hundreds of conger eels, which are relatives of the Moray eel but like a northern cousin, all washed up on the beach. It was fucking bizarre. They were all four, five-feet long and looked like giant monsters.

They can survive out of water for ages, too.
Yeah, my Dad was on a fishing trip and they caught a conger eel. They left it on the deck to die and after a few hours, it was lying motionless for hours, one of the guys on the boat went and grabbed it and it bit him so bad he almost lost his finger… It came back to life; it was a serious monster. Eels are fast and they’re teeth are uncompromising.

They can be scarier than snakes.
They’re definitely scarier than snakes.

But the reason we’re talking sea life, sharks and eels and so on, is that “Goblin Shark” was one of the first songs you wrote, and the goblin shark is like a mascot for the band.

Yeah, it could be in a way. We haven’t used it so much but it is in the back of our minds to do something like that. “Goblin Shark” was probably the third song we wrote fully.

You’ve got the sound, and the identity that sits well with having a totemistic presence, a shark would be amazing. But, as I understand, you already have a totem: the Bat Staff.

Oh jeez, the Bat Staff! That’s an interesting story. On the way up to this giant party thing up in Maine, which is the premise for the song “Mutations in Maine”, which is the last song on the record, a friend of ours bought this staff at a country store and brought it up to the party. And it kinda switched hands and ended up with another friend, then there was a whole mission to get it back, it got stolen back, then we comprised another secret operation back in Brooklyn with the help of some other friends and it was full-on espionage. To this day, the Bat Staff is in an undisclosed, unknown location and we’ll probably never see it again. If anybody does catch a glimpse of it, the war is back on for sure. It was probably a four or five-foot-long wooden staff with a bat carved into the top of it, and I dunno, we had a lot of fun when we had it, we took a bunch of pictures with it hanging out at the house, drinking beers with it. It was just like a funny thing just to piss off the original owner of the staff, but he was so hell-bent on getting it back that he rented a car and drove from New York from Rhode Island in the middle of the night, when he knew that everybody would be at the show, and he had a girl kinda keep me occupied for a while so he was able to sneak into my house and steal the staff. Then they drove back to New York. I knew something was up, and when I went down I saw that the staff was missing and called everyone. I got the blame. I got my ass kicked because everyone thought I was in on it. It was a disaster… But then I stole it back, so I redeemed myself.

That’s pure demoncy, getting a girl to distract you.

Yeah, it was. It was a mental time. This was about three years ago now.

We could issue an appeal as to the whereabouts to the Bat Staff. The power of the music media should be able to get this back.

We have enough loyal fans out there who, should they see such a staff out there, would know who it really belongs to.

Talking about Maine, and the vibe of the album Head of Death; it kind of calls to mind Stephen King novels. Is that sort of thing an influence on you, the whole Maine/Stephen King horror thing?
Well I’ve been going to Maine my whole life, just for fishing expeditions, freshwater fishing, and it’s a nice place to go camping and stuff, so I’ve always got Pet Sematary in my mind when I am in Maine. In fact, everything about Pet Sematary reminds me of “Mutations in Maine”, and the area that we go up to, for that party. Definitely, Stephen King’s perception to Maine is kinda relative to ours. It’s up in the Great White North, and it’s like as far north as you can be without being in Canada, and it’s kinda like an untamed vibe up there. And weird shit happens: one time we were up there (I’ll send you a photo of this when I get a chance), and friends of ours were driving, and so some folks pulled over. There was a carcass on the road, and they had hit a dog, or what they thought was a dog, and it turned out to be not just a dog but a hybrid between some sort of wolf and some wild dog. It had bright blue eyes and a huge snout. It was giant. It was a monster, and nobody knows what the Hell this thing was. They did a little piece on it in the newspaper. That was only a mile from where we were camping out, so…
Natur – Vermin Rift by Decibel Magazine

These sort of locations, where there is miles and miles of wilderness right next to places where people live, you can have domestic animals fraternising with wildlife and who knows what they get up to? … Weird mutations, crossbreeds, etc. Do you believe in cryptids?
Definitely. I definitely do. I was watching a documentary yesterday about the Zone of Silence in Mexico, La Zona del Silencio, and they were saying that the radiatiactivity there is from another world; it has nothing to do with nuclear weapons, nothing man-made, and the creatures that live in the Zone of Silence are completely bizarre; they have no place on Earth! They are demons from beyond! So, definitely, I think there are a lot of species out there that we overlook that are definitely not of this world.

Do you think then that the Rt. Honorable Glen Benton definitely saw the Florida skunk-ape?

I remember hearing about that but I don’t think I delved too much into that. It sounded like, well, I know the South has a tradition of creatures, like that giant pig that stood over ten-feet tall, and all these mutated crocodiles, so I wouldn’t doubt it. We’ve had enough time on the planet here; there’s stuff that we discover everyday that we haven’t seen before so I am sure that there’s the possibility that the skunk-ape is a legitimite creature.

Yeah, all the toxic waste, radiation would help evolution/mutation along if it wasn’t already on its way.

Yeah, the wolves of Chernobyl!

This is something you could get into, though, shoot some documentary footagE in the boondocks and do a music video: it’d totally fit your aesthetic.

This was something that we were into. When I was growing up I was always into hiking into the hills to find wildlife. Living in Brooklyn, New York, it’s not so easy to find the inspiration for this sort of shit. When we go home, that’s what we talk about doing, going out into the wild and going back to what we did when we were growing up.

How much of the album did you write when you were back home and how much was done when you were in New York?
Well, actually, the whole album was written in New York. We’ve definitely taken our ideas from home, and from abroad and brought it back but everything we’ve ever done has been worked out here. When we are at home we are doing things that we can’t do in New York; we are going out to the beach, or we’re hiking, going out with our friends, camping. It’s not easy to just go… It’s easy to come up with material there but to actually lay it down, I dunno…

How much re-working did you do to the songs that you already had written?
Everything was recorded on the basis that everything was recorded in seven days. Everything was written out and demoed out. When we got to the studio we did a few touch-ups for a few parts, just to fit better together. But, overall, when we said that we needed to record on this date, we needed two more songs. I had a couple of ideas for songs, so I just put them together in the months before we got in there. When we got in there, that was all that we had that we recorded.

Did you have a producer?
No. We did it all ourselves with the help of the engineer. He was basically producing the album along with us, Mike Mobius.

How did you make it sound so retro?

We definitely tried to use as many old techniques as we could. We recorded it all to tape. There was a lot of stuff that we had to go back and do; there were problems with the guitars from the beginnings, on the first recordings that we did there. Guitar intonations were all screwed up so we had to go in and record a few things digitally. We just wanted to do it in the same sense as we did the first seven-inches, and the demo, just lo-fi, no frills, just us.

That’s the beauty of underground metal; your demo sound is the sound that you’re looking for as a finished product.
We just wanted to take what we did on the demo and take it up a bit.

Where did you shoot the cover? It’s amazing.
The cover was shot by a Scottish friend of ours in Rhode Island, a few months before we slated the album. He’s a very cool photographer; he’s got a unique style. Me and Ryan have known him forever, we grew up with him, and we had this set of photos from the graveyard that was pretty close to where we lived. We used to hang out there, in the graveyard. We used to hang about in that graveyard at night and scare the shit out of each other. When we saw the photo that he took of it; it summed it up. You would see things in that graveyard. It’s one of the oldest graveyards around. There are graves dating back to the 1600s. It’s an old town, one of the oldest towns in America.

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**Head of Death is out through Earache 4 June 2012, in UK/Europe, and shortly afterwards in the States**
**Pic credit: Matt McGinley**