Velvit Welcomes Age Decay
Chris Nicholls of solo group Age Decay talks night terrors, existential dread, and the color black
Velvit met with Chris Nicholls, who's EP Pavor Nocturnus recently dropped under his new musical project Age Decay. Chris enlightened us about his inspirations for the EP, which came from a mix of his fascination with black holes, a few of his favorite artists, and the independent artist community that has connected designers and musicians alike.
Velvit: When did you start experimenting with your current project Age Decay? Are you still, or were you involved in any other musical endeavors?
Age Decay: Age Decay started after the end of my previous band - "An Axe" - at the start of 2014. As I was without a band for the first time in while I thought I’d see if I could write and record something completely by myself. I wanted it to be personal, but not in a singer-songwriter way and Pavor Nocturnus is the result. I’ve put together a full band for gigs and such, but that’s still at an embryonic stage.
I also sing and play guitar in a post-punk three-piece called "Oh, The Guilt" (facebook.com/OhTheGuiltMusic) we had our first show in February and it’s been really cool to get back on stage and play very, very loudly again!
V: You just released Pavor Nocturnus, this past year. Can you tell us a little about the process of song writing and and developing the EP as a solo musician?
AD: When the idea of the Age Decay project came to me, I had read that Nick Cave treated his songwriting like a day job. He wakes early, goes into his office, and writes until the early evening. Every day. I decided to see what would happen if I applied that method to my own work. Of course I have a day job in addition to being a musician, so I've had to work around that.
Using that method to create Pavor Nocturnus, I started with a blank slate - no songs written in advance - woke at 6am every day, went into my make-shift studio I created from the spare room in my house, and wrote until I had to leave for work. When I returned home in the evening I went straight back to the studio and spent another few hours there. I worked in this way until the EP felt finished. Previously, I only had worked in a full band setting - writing and practicing at weekly rehearsals, or at band-mates’ houses, so it was an interesting experiment. The days when I struggled to come up with any usable content were pretty frustrating, and on the days the ideas came easily, it was hard to have to stop abruptly and go to my day job.
V: How did you land on entitling the EP, Pavor Nocturnuss?
AD: Pavor Nocturnus is another term for a Night Terror, which is a sleep disorder I’ve had since I was a child. Since the themes of the EP can be distilled into “stuff that keeps you awake at night”, it was appropriate title! The EP was also inspired in part by metal, and since the music doesn’t necessarily reflect it explicitly, a metal-sounding title seemed like a good way to reference it.
V: What happens during a night terror?
AD: A night terror happens when you wake suddenly, but not completely, from deep, non-dream sleep. For me they can take many forms - anything from thinking that there’s someone standing and watching me while I sleep, to there being thousands of spiders descending from the ceiling on to me. While it’s happening it’s very, very real, though probably more frightening for anyone witnessing it, as I’ll appear wide awake, but will be screaming at something that isn’t there. It doesn’t usually progress into adulthood, but I’m just one of the lucky ones! So, whenever I go to sleep at night, it’s with the knowledge that it could happen.
V: How have you specifically channeled these night terrors into music?
AD: I’ve tried to create a kind of nocturnal feeling throughout the EP to reflect it - a sense of something creeping inevitably closer in the darkness.
V: Besides the night terrors, how else were you influenced in writing the tracks in Pavor Nocturnus?
AD: The music is influenced by so many other things as well - art, photography, books, nature, DIY, and photocopy culture, existential dread in the face of black holes… In terms of music for Age Decay's sound, I looked to black metal, dark folk, blackened punk, doom.
V: Regarding “existential dread in the face of black holes”, what is the fascination or apprehension you have when you let yourself get lost in the idea or thought of black holes?
AD: The fact that there are such immense, unfathomable, uncontrollable forces out there is a constant source of fascination and inspiration for me. I think it’s really healthy to consider such things every now and then - it’s a way for me to get outside myself and look at life in a different way when the day to day annoyances start to build up. Thinking about the vastness of space, the things it contains, and our place in it all scares the hell out of me, but in a good and productive way... as long as I don’t stop to think about it for TOO long! Turning the feeling I get when thinking about things like black holes into music helps me to process it all, and also means I’m not just writing another love song!
V: When creating your music based on this idea of purposeless existence, is there any resolution or answers you feel you get from the process in dealing with this subject?
AD: I often think that there’s no point to us being here, but that just allows me to create my own meaning. If there’s no meaning, then I want to create my own. Creating things and putting something into the world that wasn’t there before I conceptualized it and made it is very rewarding. It’s even better if someone else can enjoy it and it makes their life brighter for a while. I do this not just through music, but art and spending time with friends and family. I don’t find any answers, or resolution, but the things I create are a product of considering it all.
V: Can you enlighten us about the cassette/photocopy culture in the UK?
AD: To be honest, I don’t know a lot about it as I’m just learning myself. I’ve discovered a lot about cassette culture and that scene through working with "Breathe Plastic" - the Netherlands based label that’s putting out the cassette of Pavor Nocturnus. It seemed like the right format for the sound and aesthetic of the EP. It’s the first release I’ve had in this way, and I’m very excited about it.
I’m also very inspired by the "Posh Isolation" label. They put out many styles of music, but they have a really great unified aesthetic. All of their covers are very DIY oriented, using collage, photocopy and found elements to great effect.
V: Who are some influences that you're artistically inspired by?
AD: Rowland S Howard, Francis Bacon, Sartre, Chelsea Wolfe, Mark Rothko, Emma Ruth Rundle, Nirvana, Nick Cave, Marissa Nadler, Earth, Stephen O’Malley, Joy Division, The Cure...there’s a huge list!
V: From your huge list, do you have a favorite?
AD: I think my favourite artist will always be Francis Bacon. I just love how visceral his works are. He also used and built on happy accidents, letting the last brushstroke dictate where the painting was going - a method I try to apply to music. Thinking of a favourite musician is harder. Nirvana is the band that made me decide to play music, so they’ll always have a special place in my heart. Rowland S Howard showed me that the guitar could be more than just power chords, but that didn’t mean it had to be shredded either, so he’s high up the list. The power and raw beauty of Nick Cave’s lyrics are a constant inspiration...
...I don’t think I can settle on just one!
V: Personally, how do you think fashion and art influence music and vice versa?
AD: I’ve noticed a really strong bond recently between fashion and music, through Instagram of all places. I often see people like Chelsea Wolfe and Emma Ruth Rundle promote, support, and collaborate with independent clothing and jewellery designers. It seems like a really healthy cross-pollination and smaller designers and fashion houses are coming up with some really great pieces inspired by musicians and their work. Again, I’m only just starting to enter that world, but I find it very inspiring. I follow people like Ovate, Hunter Gatherer, and Noctex intently. The fashion world produces great works of art.
V: What comes to mind when you think of black?
AD: Black is a blank canvas and an endless possibility.
For more information on Chris Nicholls and Age Decay, visit our Artist profiles, and listen to Age Decay's EP Pavor Nocturnus with the Part II launch of COVET.
photo credits, Rebecca Cleal