Norman Skinner of Niviane Talks Songwriting And The Metal Scene Now And The Early Days

Sacramento, California power metallers Niviane have targeted Fall 2017 for the release of their debut album “The Druid King” through an as yet unnamed label. We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Niviane frontman and founder Norman Skinner.

How did you first get into music? Who turned you onto metal?

I think I was maybe 6-7 years old when I first started really listening to music. I can’t recall who I got the albums from but believe they were friends of my mom. I had a few vinyl albums and 8-Track tapes (Yes, 8-Track tapes). I remember Black Sabbath – We Sold Our Souls For Rock n Roll, Kiss –Alive II, & Kiss – Love Gun. Those albums were the beginning of my love of metal. Throughout the early to mid 80’s it was whatever was on MTV at the time as I had no older siblings or friends that listened to the same music. It wasn’t until middle school when I met other kids that were into Metal and my musical world really began to expand.

 

How did you become a singer and are you proficient in any other instruments?

I actually became a singer by complete accident. I think I was a Junior in High School 16 or 17 years old at the time. Some of my close friends were jamming together not as a band but just to play in the School’s talent show. They were going to play the 2 most popular songs at the time. Metallica – Enter Sandman & Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit. I was the extra guy just hanging out as my best friend at the time was playing guitar. About 2 weeks before the show I received a phone call from the other guitarist in the group asking me if I would sing at the show as the original vocalist bailed on them for some unknown reason. Now mind you they must’ve been pretty desperate because they had never heard me sing anything before and well… I wasn’t any good. I have never been one to shy away from an adventure or challenge so I agreed and learned both songs. We played the show and were disqualified due to crowd pitting on and off stage and stage diving. HA HA!! I loved it and began to try out for bands and take vocal lessons. I only recently started teaching myself guitar but wouldn’t say I am proficient at all yet. For now I will stick to singing.

 

What was the local scene like in the beginning, was there a particular band you aspired to be like, favorite local bands back then, favorite local bands now?

 

The local scene back then to me was a very exciting and scary world to me. I was a young naïve kid who knew nothing about how shows were booked, what other local bands existed, where bands would play, etc. I just jumped in feet first and embraced it. I was lucky enough to audition and ultimately join a local band called Tramontane who already had a couple demo’s under their belts and a lot of show experience. They really helped to begin to teach me about how things worked. I remember the bands I was really into watching when I started out were Forbidden, Vio-Lence, Warfare DC, The Organization, Fifty Lashes, Machine Head, Treachery and many more. Now older and wiser the local music scenes no longer hold that same magic for me. I am not sure if it’s is a caliber of overall band talent these days or just understanding how everything works. Most of the bands I used to watch in awe are either long defunct or they have attained a higher level of success so the up close club show intimacy is missing. Some of my favorite local bands to see live now would include Graveshadow, Hysteria, Potential Threat, Angerhead, My Victim, and many more…

Pros and cons of social media, you tube and are you overwhelmed by the constant need to update them all?

 

Social media at least in my opinion is a great tool for any band if utilized correctly. It allows self-promotion and marketing to a worldwide audience. Back in the day you would need to hire a promotions company or do mass mailings and cross your fingers for airplay somewhere or any media print. If a band is proficient enough nowadays they can utilize multiple sites and services and really maximize their amount of exposure. It can however as you touched on in your question be extremely overwhelming trying to stay up to date on the various sites. I highly recommend any band partner with a social media expert or online promotions company if they have the funds to handle their promotion. This way they can concentrate on the music. The downside to social media and online promotion are great bands have always been a needle in a haystack. Unfortunately that haystack just grew about a million times larger. The world really could use less bands and more fans but everyone wants to be a rockstar and I can’t fault them for that. So many lackluster and mediocre bands with some online skills can really make themselves look and sound better than they are. The true test is to look for a fan shot live video and that will usually say it all.

 

What happened with Dead Inside Records?

 

Ah yes… Dead Inside Records. When I was shopping the Skinner –Sleepwalkers album I sent out an EPK to about 80 labels. I couldn’t get many bites and the handful I did basically wanted to own every aspect of me. I decided I would self-release the album properly and thus formed Dead Inside Records. I had a staff of about 20+ at our peak and we were up to 8-9 good artists by the second year. Things were working out very well and we even put on a the successful festival “Outrage”. A combination of things began to happen. 1. I began noticing the label was making money on the 2 of the 3 bands I was in Skinner &Hellscream. All other artists we were losing money on each month. 2. My business partner got a large promotion with LinkedIn and became more and more detached from the label. 3. The third and final issue is I had new albums to work on and tours to plan which meant I needed to step away from the label for a bit to concentrate on my own music. I asked my executive team of 3 if any of them would step up and take the reins for a while. Unfortunately not one of them felt comfortable enough to do so. I then made the decision to concentrate fully on my own musical career. We shipped any unsold items to the bands, paid them the final monies due and closed the doors. I ultimately had to choose between running what could have grown into a successful label or my own musical career. I am glad I made the decision I did.

 

You recently hooked up with Distilled Entertainment, what are your expectations with them going forward?

 

Yes, this is a very new partnership. Our expectations are low and that is in no way a reflection on Distilled Entertainment as I have heard great things about them. I have just been around and done this for a long time. I’ve been on many record labels, ran my own, & have had management before. I expect the worst and hope for the best. So far all dealings have been very positive and we are hopeful for a long and fruitful partnership. We are hoping that Distilled Entertainment will assist us with our marketing and promotions, Tour opportunities especially the festival circuit which we are very interested in breaking into, as well as some licensing and endorsement opportunities.

 

Favorite songs on the new album and why?

 

I love all the songs as I believe this album truly has no filler songs. Some favorites include The Berserker, Watch The Banners Fall, Into Twilight, & Arise Samurai. The Berserker is just a balls out Metal song. I really get to deliver a lot of different vocals and I love the attack of the song. Watch The Banners Fall has my favorite lyrics on the album. A very cool story and the song has a lot of cool dynamics musically. Into Twilight is just Epic sounding and very catchy. Arise Samurai has a lot of melodies happening but is heavy at the same time.

 

Are their bonus tracks recorded for the Japanese market?

 

We actually have not recorded any bonus tracks but have about 9 tracks ready to go at any time.

 

How does the  songwriting and recording process with Niviane differ from your experience with Imagika?

 

It’s not all that dissimilar but at the same time is night and day. In Imagika Steven Rice wrote everything in regards to the music. He would bring the songs to the table and I would then work on the vocal melodies and song structure. There was always a decent amount of push back when it came to the song structures and we would ultimately meet somewhere in the middle. In the end however he would have the final say on the finished product. In Niviane we have 3 separate songwriters: Mark Miner, Gary Tarplee, & Rick Stallkamp. All 3 bring ideas to me and they sort of fall into a pool for me to work on. I believe I have roughly 9 ideas that I am working with. When we are ready to dive into a new track I will suggest which ones I am feeling good about and usually the band is in full agreement. That’s when the entire group takes my initial structure changes and we work out all the kinks and add the spice. Everyone has a say and the song is only complete when everyone is happy. Luckily we all seem to be on the same page.

 

Are there any political or social issues hidden in the songs from your soon to released debut album?

 

No, Niviane is not a political band in any way. I save those lyrics for Hellscream. Lyrically Niviane is more fantasy or historical based with some human emotion thrown in for good measure. I really don’t see that changing moving forward.

For fans of Niviane or anyone interested in knowing more about them please visit their website at www.niviane.com Norman also has his own website with music, videos and information on all his other projects at www.normanskinner.net

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