Interview with Nick Forkel from Alaska’s Turbid North (@turbidnorth)
DIY or die! That seems to be as accurate a statement about Alaskan metal band Turbid North as one could muster. By booking all of your own tours and recording sessions, you have the most latitude in getting your fans a sincere product… One that hasn’t been trifled with by greedy executives looking to get an additional Mercedes for their garage. It’s a tough market, but in the end, you own the rights and roll your own dice.
Formed in 2007, the band is still relatively young, but when you’re hungry and ambitious, people will take notice. Their latest release for Iron Clad Recordings, Orogeny, “features several chilling stories of human survival in the harsh, arctic land, set to inspired death metal music,” as per their bio. That sounds like something I want to check out, and couldn’t refuse a chance to interview the group about where they’re from and what they’re all about.
I got a chance to speak with guitarist/vocalist Nick Forkel via email to get an idea of where their sound is coming from, their inspiration for the music and lyrics on the record, and what the Alaskan metal scene is like.
G- Hi there and thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five! Introduce the members in the group… Who is everyone, what do they play, and since you guys have members from all over, where does everyone come from?
N- Brian McCoy (Lead Vocals) and Jono Garrett (Drums) are both from Texas. Nick Forkel (Guitar/Vocals) and Alex Rydlinski (Guitar) are from Alaska, and last but not least, Chris O’Toole (Bass) is from England.
G- Right on. That’s quite a geographic mix you’ve got going on right there! How long has Turbid North been around and when did you first get started? Do you remember the moment that you really felt the group “click?”
N- The band formed back in our high school days up in Alaska, so it’s been around 10 years now. Alex and his brother, Adam Rydlinski, started the band around that time. I think we really started to click though when we made the move to Texas and got Chris and Brian in the band. That’s when things became more serious for us.
G- Where did the name come from, or what’s in the name?
N- It was actually thought up by Alex. My interpretation is it kinda describes where we came from, and the sort of environment we grew up in.
G- Right on, and would you mind telling us a bit about Alaska, besides from being cold and home to Sarah Palin? How is the scene and how are the responses at your shows?
N- Alaska is an amazing place, and the scenery is beautiful. It’s one of the few places that isn’t over-populated… Just miles and miles of endless nature. I’m very happy to have grown up there, but for a metal band, it’s probably the last place you wanna be.
Not to say there isn’t a great music scene there, it’s just harder for bands to try and make it into a career. While we still lived there, we made the best of it. The winter lasts 9 months, and there isn’t much to do during that time, so we would put huge shows together with totally different bands, some metal, some punk/hardcore. Tons of people would show up because there wasn’t anything else going on. There is always a music scene going on up there, and although there aren’t too many venues, there are still a lot of great bands. The metal community is huge in Alaska.
G- Yea I never considered Alaska an epicenter for metal, but it’s great that you guys have been forging a path there… I’d love to check it out one day! If you could, tell us a bit about your tunes and what inspired/s you to write your new material?
N- They’re a culmination of everything we like about music. We try to make them take you on a journey. When we started writing Orogeny, we had just got Brian in the band and we wanted to do something different with our sound. We had already written a few things when I read one of those “Alaskan Survival Tales” books, and a short story about this hunter jumped out at me. I thought it’d be really cool to basically write a soundtrack to it… Let the lyrics tell the story, and our music be the soundtrack. We wanted each riff to create an image for the listener, to add to what the lyrics are talking about. We ended up doing this for the rest of the songs.
G- That’s wild! I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone doing it like that before… Nice! So, are you guys a party band, or generally pretty mellow? What kind of beers and booze do you want people bringing up to you onstage this time around?
N- I’d say we’re somewhere in between. We definitely enjoy our drink and ragers, but we’re not trying to top Motley Crue road stories or anything. A shot of Whiskey or Jager goes extremely well on stage with us.
G- Ok, that we can do, and is it even possible to top Motley Crue in terms of partying? Kind of sounds like a death sentence to me J.
So what should your fans, both old and new, expect of the performances when you guys hit the road? I’m not trying to spoil any surprises, but what should some of the first time listeners expect to see when you take the stage?
N- We’ll definitely be trying out some new material when we hit the road. We’ll have some surprises for sure, possibly break out some Keytars. We usually open with the heavier, more aggressive songs to get the crowd moving, so expect to see a brutal onslaught of morbid mayhem ensue.
G- Haha right on \m/!!! Tell us about what is your writing process like, and who in the band typically comes up new music? Do you have a primary songwriter, or do you write music more organically through jamming during rehearsals?
N- Alex and I write the majority of the riffs. We’ll both spend hours compiling riffs and song ideas at home, and once we think we have something, we’ll bring it to the dinner table and jam it out. When the basic structure is laid down, then the organic stuff starts to happen, ideas start flowing.
G- And can you give us a few examples of any bands or artists in particular that influence your style? Who do you typically like to listen to, and are there any acts you think we should know about?
N- We’re influenced by so many bands in all forms of music. If I had to list a few bands I’d say anywhere from Deicide to Pink Floyd. I’ve been on a Torche trip recently, so check them out if you haven’t already.
G- Yea Torche is great! I could see that being a good lineup for you guys to be on. And while we’re at it, are there any bands or artists that you hope to share a bill with in the future?
N- Besides the obvious Metallica answer, I’d say Cannibal Corpse would be pretty awesome. Even if its a 30 band bill with them headlining and us opening, we’re big fans.
G- Right on… I saw them for the first time just a month ago, and they were brilliant… One of the craziest shows I’ve seen. And how about you guys? Can you tell us about what the craziest or most memorable show that you have played was like and where it took place?
N- The best show we’ve played on tour was a place called The Crooked I in Erie, Pennsylvania. We played on a Monday night, showed up for sound check and blew up the PA on the first note! Luckily, they had a back up PA by show time and the place was packed… They went absolutely nuts. We were treated extremely well in Erie.
G- Shit I wish I knew… I’m only a few hours away from Erie. Good town for tunes! And to finish up today, as a band that is currently in the building phase yourselves, what advice can you give some of the young, up and coming bands everywhere who want to make it in music, on the road, and as a professional musician
N- Touring and being in a band is so much fun, and I wouldn’t do it any other way, BUT be prepared to make sacrifices. Girlfriends and jobs will be the big ones. I think a big secret to successful bands is finding the right group of guys. If you’re unsure about your bass player or drummer, you’re digging a hole from the get-go. Make sure everyone is in it for the same ultimate goal and will do whatever it takes to get there.