X: THC recently came onto my radar, and I have been counting down the days to when I will see them live at Monkeytown (Brooklyn) – nine days: Wednesday, 25 November. Incredible music, incredible multimedia concept, but just as incredible is the depth of the band’s conviction and character. Michael Nova (vocalist) and I have had an open dialogue, and I have been touched by his story, the band’s history, and the sincere, introspective view of the world and human nature. It was only natural that I would reach out for an interview, and I would like to thank Nova for taking the time out of a busy schedule to answer 5.
1. Who are your musical and non-musical influences?
Joseph (John) Merrick, Edward Scissorhands, Jack Skellington, Grimm Brothers Fairy Tales, Antoine St. Exupery, Anne Rice, European Folklore, Tim Burton, Rod Serling, Jean Cocteau, Gullermo Del Toro, Terry Gilliam, Darren Aronofsky, and Michel Gondry.
Musically, The Cure, Depeche Mode, Radiohead, Jeff Buckley, Joy Division, Massive Attack, Goldfrapp, Zero 7, Air, Portishead, Coldplay, ABC, Spandau Ballet, Pink Floyd, and Stevie Wonder
2. How did the band come up with the idea of having a multimedia experience for their live shows?
Having had feelings of never fitting in and always feeling like an outsider, even amongst those closest to me, I began to realize that everyone feels this way to a degree.
I felt that this was a story that needed to be told. Someone needed to speak for those that would not be spoken for. For those that hide their feelings in empty smiles, and secret disillusionment.
I understood, and wanted to do one good thing in my life...one thing that would make a difference to someone...
But music was not enough. I realized that without visuals, it would be incomplete.
You had to hear it and see it to feel it. It had to be multi-sensory...
I spent 11 years putting together “X: The Human Condition” as a testament to what the human mind can accomplish, or how it can hold us back...
I didn't want to hold back anything.
3. During production, you (Michael Nova) lost and recovered your sight. How did this experience become a catalyst for the inspiration of what the band does?
I was told by the "experts" that “X: The Human Condition” was impossible to create without a massive budget. I learned why shortly thereafter. It was a massive undertaking...one that took me to the brink of suicide.
When I lost my vision, I never considered that my normal vision could fail me.
My health was always fine, I rarely got sick, and never wore glasses...but now, I tried to make sense of what was happening to me...to understand why everything in the world seemed to stand in the way of completing this project.
In the end, everything that I experienced; the alienation, the disconnection, the feeling that I was alone in the world, the stress, and the fight against multiple diseases... all the challenges faced in completing “X: The Human Condition,” were all there for a reason... to inspire...to make a difference to someone...to realize that you are not alone in the world.
Unexpectedly, the process of “X: The Human Condition” in itself has become inspiring, and whether it achieves commercial success or not, that was never the goal.
The goal was to create one good thing.
One thing that would make a difference to someone...
4. Music and cinema are typically considered two different realms. Other than flashy soundtracks, the two rarely meet in any serious way in pop culture. In the case of X: THC, how interrelated is the film, "X: The Human Condition," to the album?
The visuals tell part of the story, the lyrics tell another part, so they are completely inter-related, but if you were to look deeper, you might find something more...
5. You have quoted Charles Dubois, "The most important thing is this: To be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become." In terms of your artistry, how is this quote significant?
I think that as long as we think in terms of a definition of who we are, we're trapped. We're trapped because we're defining ourselves by a label, self-imposed or imposed by others.
Labels limit us to what we know, what we've already experienced, and that by definition, holds us back.
We all fall into ways of being that don't serve us... habits of comfort... for me that was being alone. Giving up that comfort is very frightening because it's what we know. The alternative is the unknown, and that frightens us. But for us to truly live, we need to have the courage to transform the part of us that holds us back into something that propels us forward.
My favorite quote comes from Teddy Roosevelt, called "The man in the arena"...
It is not the critic who counts;
not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles,
or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena,
whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;
who strives valiantly;
who errs, who comes short again and again,
because there is no effort without error and shortcoming;
but who does actually strive to do the deeds;
who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions;
who spends himself in a worthy cause;
who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement,
and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly,
so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
Keep up with X: THC at their homepage and MySpace.
If you are in the NYC / Brooklyn area, support the band and head to Monkeytown (58 North 3rd Street, Williamsburg) and experience them live. Admissions is $5, and there is a $10 minimum – click for reservations.
Also, do not forget to head to the band’s website – the Goodies section – and purchase the album (review). A portion of the proceeds will go to support the Jed Foundation (Half of Us) and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.