Athan Maroulis is a man of many talents, inviting ReGen into his latest musical endeavor, NOIR, and the act’s latest EP, The Burning Bridge.
An InterView with Athan Maroulis of NOIR
By Brian McLelland (BMcLelland)
Fahrenheit 451, Vampire Rodents, Tubalcain, The Blue Dahlia, Black Tape for a Blue Girl, Spahn Ranch, and now NOIR; Athan Maroulis has been busy. While Maroulis’ name might not seem familiar, rest assured that his voice and his music have likely been heard at least once. In addition to his work doing vocals that are smooth and striking enough to transcend into any genre, Maroulis has done quite a bit of producing. Over the past 25 years, it took concerted effort to purchase a record from Cleopatra Records or Metropolis Records that didn’t include Maroulis’ touch in some way, whether that was producer credit, remix work, liner notes, art direction, or composition. Now, after three years, Maroulis graces us with his voice again as NOIR’s new EP, The Burning Bridge, storms dancefloors and electronic devices alike. Joining Maroulis on this sonic journey is Erik Gustafson (16volt, Adoration Destroyed); the pair wrote the EP’s title track in tribute to the late David Bowie. Given the prolific nature of Maroulis’ discography and credits thus far, no one can guess what he’ll unleash on the world next… but maybe, he’ll let ReGen Magazine know.
So, what’s different about The Burning Bridge versus other NOIR work you’ve done? Were any new/experimental techniques used?
What made you pick these tracks to cover?
Maroulis: Originally, I was toying around with the idea of doing an entire album of covers. I once read that Bryan Ferry from Roxy Music would record interpretive cover material in order to break extended periods of writer’s block. Subsequently, I followed the same path, thinking it could free me up to write some originals and it indirectly worked. Duran Duran’s ‘The Chauffeur’ was something I had worked on in another side project but never came to fruition until I presented it to Erik to work on. ‘Same Old Madness’ came about because I wrote the liner notes on a MINISTRY box set of their WaxTrax! material. There, I discovered that the original song had never been released, which I thought would make for a great cover with an ironic twist. The original programming was done by Steve Christie of Deadliner and later completed by Erik. Just as I finished up this pair of covers, I injured my spine, so I had to shelve NOIR and the concept album idea while I recovered. Shortly after, a demo of the song ‘The Burning Bridge’ was being kicked back and forth between Erik and myself. Ultimately, NOIR needed to release something, it had been a bit too long between releases. So The Burning Bridge EP was assembled with the late addition of a live Roxy Music song ‘In Every Dream Home a Heartache,’ recorded on radio station WFMU.
This EP seems to have slightly darker tones than previous NOIR; what caused this shift? Is there anything in particular that helped influence the sound of this EP?
You’ve worked with a wide array of artists in various projects, with all of the reunions happening over the past year (RevCo, Cubanate, etc). Have you considered any reunions with your previous groups or is NOIR your main focus for the foreseeable future?
Maroulis: An old tired saying comes to mind, ‘never say never.’ That is, unless you don’t mind being a hypocrite… actually, our world is full of people that don’t seem to mind. I have been a part of innumerable bands and or projects over the years, so many I often have to stretch to recall them all. Either way, we have never fully closed the door on Spahn Ranch and we are regularly asked to perform at festivals. As much as all the former members get along well, we all live in different parts of the country and a reunion would prove challenging. I do perform a few Spahn Ranch songs live with NOIR just for fun. Oddly enough, this Fall marks the 30th Anniversary of my first release with my first true band Fahrenheit 451 and it will be re-released by Cleopatra in a special digital only edition. So as much as none of these are actual reunions, they are definitely recognitions of the past and I am okay with that for now.
Is this EP a sign of things to come for a full-length album?
Are there plans for a tour?
Maroulis: NOIR has been doing little runs to Pittsburgh, DC, Boston, and such. Touring is a possibility, but doubtful. I did so much touring in the past and while it was a necessary part of the equation and I enjoyed it, I must say there was always a personal cost and my private life always took a beating. I’d like to get to Europe with NOIR. These days, I have a simpler life and a tour offer would have to be nearly perfect to interest me. Again, never say never.
The cover tracks feel so strong and natural, are there other songs you’d like to cover in the future?
Maroulis: I must confess I do have a few ideas up my sleeve. I said this before but I love the fact that covers are so out of vogue these days. Ironically, the first 50 years of the music industry, cover material or interpretations made up about 90% of all recorded music and continued well into the ’60s. Either way, I’m sure to knock out a few more in the not too distant future.
Just to iterate on some things you said here, what about the current climate of the music industry bothers you? I can appreciate that many genres feel very stale, but what are your gripes?
Do you truly believe people care less about lyrics than ever? As someone who pays attention to lyrics and always has, I hope this isn’t the case since that’s half the experience, but what leads you to this conclusion?
Do you think that being able to collaborate on music via e-mail is a good thing? Has it helped you?
Maroulis: I also have a love/hate relationship with technology, but I must say if I wasn’t able to write and collaborate via email, I probably wouldn’t be doing this InterView with you because I wouldn’t be making music. Although there’s a price and a larger picture, we as a people are losing touch with the world, becoming introverted, lazy, trapped in our own interests as we impulsively stare into the screen of the device. One step forward and a huge step backward.
Photography by Saadia Tiare – courtesy of NOIR