Summon: How did the band get started?
Aaron: Around 2005, I was playing in a band called Angelrust and doing some musical reinforcements for the band Harvist. I can’t really call Nechochwen a band though, and ‘project’ sounds like a hobby or something. The first album, Algonkian Mythos, started as a small group of pieces that didn’t sound like anything else I’d done before. I had bought a handmade guitar that year that is still my favorite, hopefully a lifelong companion. I was a little lost in some ways but found much comfort in listening to Nick Drake, the first Iron and Wine album, Ian Melrose, Leo Kottke, and the like. Good, stripped down acoustic guitar music without a lot of other stuff. And being a local history nut, I wondered why none of the bands, metal or not, were keeping this history alive. It seemed that the only music I could find that was based on Appalachian history/lore etc., was the true mountain music, the fiddle tunes and songs frailed on a banjo. Of course this music is based on the European immigrants in the mountains of their new home. I was more interested in learning about my American Indian ancestry and tribal history in the Ohio Valley. I got to work organizing themes about battles, massacres, Native historical figures, and various pieces of Woodland Indian lore and history. I paired them with acoustic pieces that I thought had an appropriate vibe, and signed with Dark Horizon Records for the debut.
Summon: What kind of music do you play?
Aaron: I’m not really sure, I think that’s up to the listener. I still use a lot of acoustic guitar and classical guitar but the feel of the music is a lot darker than the majority of solo finger style and classical genres. Some of the newer songs have a lot of black and doom metal elements. I’m exploring traditional Woodland Indian vocal and flute music these days.
Summon: How has the band response been?
Aaron: It’s been generally very good. I thought at first it might be hard music to follow, since a lot of styles are blended and the themes are obscure and very localized, but that hasn’t been the reaction from most critics and fans. Some have told me that they feel taken to another time and place when they listen to this music; a very high compliment indeed.
Summon: Where did the band name come from?
Aaron: Nechochwen was a name given to me when I was 14 or 15. It is a Lenape word that basically means ‘he walks alone’. I’m of mixed Lenape (Delaware) and Shawnee ancestry on my Mother’s side. At first I was writing and performing these songs by myself, so the name seemed appropriate for this music as well.
Summon: Introduce the band members
Aaron: There are two members, myself on guitars, some percussion, vocals, and Native American flute. Pohonasin is the other member. He provides drums, bass, and vocal reinforcement. He is also an extraordinary producer and audio wizard; he produces all my music. I throw out ideas and he makes them sound good! I will credit us both with creating soundscapes for atmosphere.
Summon: Who writes the music? Lyrics?
Aaron: I’ve been writing both all along, except for lyrics that come from another source.
Summon: And where do the lyric ideas come from?
Aaron: Some lyrics are borrowed from historical sources or poems/orations from various tribes. Most lyrics are just my take on a particular place or event or even just thanksgivings for what we have. So far all but one song has been an original. ‘Pilawah’ from Algonkian Mythos was a Shawnee turkey/bird song from long ago that I found in a historical reprint. Not really your typical cover song I guess!
Summon: How many albums/Cd’s have you released?
Aaron: Algonkian Mythos was released through Dark Horizon Records and Azimuths To The Otherworld was released on Bindrune Recordings. There was also a comp track, ‘Winter Strife’, on the compilation Der Wanderer uber dem Nebelmeer, released on Midnight Records/Pest Productions.
Summon: Tell me about some the songs on the latest CD?
Aaron: Some highlights of Azimuths To The Otherworld include ‘Red Ocher’, a song about the ritualistically used red paint for burial adornment and other matters of passage. It’s mystical and serene and then suddenly hits you in the face with heaviness and chanting in Shawnee. ‘Four Effigies’ is a mini-saga based on four items/symbols of this life and crossing into the next world: turtle, statue of a man, mushroom wand effigy, and the weeping eye. They cross several genres but somehow blend together. ‘At Night May I Roam’ is a somewhat heavy acoustic song based on a Lakota poem. ‘Charnel House’ is kind of psychedelic with strummed guitars in the style of Pete Townsend. It is an elegy for the cremation structures used by mound building people.
Summon: Do you have any side projects?
Aaron: Only a few are active. Forest of the Soul just released Restless In Flight. This is our third release and first for Bindrune Recordings. We make acoustic music that is a blend of folk, rock, new age, and classical. Yeah, I know, that sounds weird, but we enjoy the challenge and we like a lot of styles of music. The other recent release was called Unholy Conception: Infirmary vs. The Reprisal. This was a self-released split Cd. Infirmary is my brainchild, blackened death metal in the vein of Morbid Angel, Necrophagist, or Immolation. The Reprisal is death/thrash similar in approach to Dismember or The Crown. All three projects feature the same lineup as Nechochwen!
Summon: Who are some of your musical influences?
Aaron: That’s a long list. Bach, Michael Hedges, Dissection, Black Sabbath, Steve Morse, R. Carlos Nakai, Christopher Parkening, Ulver, Iron Maiden, Satyricon, Arcturus, Anathema, Morbid Angel, Abigor, and Edge of Sanity are some of my favorites.
Summon: Which current bands?
Aaron: I’ve been listening to Jose Gonzalez a lot the past couple years. Great songs, lyrics, and guitar playing. Enslaved continue to captivate and Urgehal continue to annihilate. I like Taake and Mournful Congregation too. What I’ve heard of the new Obsequiae and Falls of Rauros sounds great. A friend of mine has a band called Ptahil that is really strong stuff. But more than anything I’ve been listening to my Maiden, Sabbath, and Metallica LP’s. Not very current though.
Summon: What is the band like when you play live?
Aaron: I’ve only done two Nechochwen live gigs, it’s just me by myself playing guitar with a looper through a PA. I’ve thrown in other material, little snippets of stuff that I’ve wrote for Angelrust, Harvist, or Forest of the Soul on these gigs. I may do this again in the future, I’m not sure.
Summon: What was the best band you played with?
Aaron: I’m not sure if you mean bands I’ve played in or bands who have been on the same bill. The best performing band I’ve been in was Angelrust. My favorite bands that have played at the same gig were Metsatoll, Inquisition, and Moonsorrow.
Summon: Have you guys ever played in another country?
Aaron: No, that would be incredible! Hook me up with a plane ticket.
Summon: How big of crowd shows up at shows usually?
Aaron: Heathen Crusade III had a few hundred people. I played a show in Texas with Forest of the Soul that was a similar size. That’s about the biggest audience I’ve had, but I don’t play out a lot.
Summon: How is the crowd response when you play?
Aaron: It’s been positive, even with some sound problems. It was strange to be playing at Heathen Crusade, playing acoustic guitar at a metal fest and the crowd sits down on the floor to watch you play. Very unique experience, and a very intelligent, supportive audience.
Summon: What is the scene like over in your country?
Aaron: I can’t really say; I just know there isn’t a huge scene in West Virginia or the Ohio Valley in general. Lots of death metal bands and cover bands it seems. I don’t get out much anymore, I’m at home with my family most of the time, but there is a really creative bunch of people around me when I make my weekly visit to the recording studio. They always have something musical happening in metal, rock, stoner, etc. styles. Elsewhere, I like what the other Bindrune bands are doing for the US metal/musical art scene. A trend I’ve noticed is a lot of REALLY old bands are playing around here, like The Guess Who (though they’re Canadian), Blue Oyster Cult, and tons of hair bands. I guess the US is feeling nostalgic, the reunion scene seems to be the biggest of all.
Summon: What made you want to be in this band? And if you weren’t in this band what would you being doing now?
Aaron: This music more or less found me, I think. It’s like when you have a song stuck in your head and can’t get rid of it, only the song has yet to be written. You end up blocking everyone out around you until the song gets written. A nagging urge that’s enjoyable, like solving a puzzle. This Nechochwen music is of tremendous importance to me. If it wasn’t this, the music would surface as something else I’m sure! I’m a guitar teacher/lecturer by trade so giving up music would be tough financially and emotionally, but if I chose another field it would probably be writing about American history and nature.
Summon: What does the future hold for the band??
Aaron: The next album will be a vinyl only release through Bindrune. I have about 4 minutes of music left to record for a playing time of just over a half hour. Each album focuses on a different era of Native history. The debut focused on the late eighteenth century, Azimuths dealt with the Moundbuilders nearly 2000 to 800 years ago, and the new one will be about tradition in present times. This is a special release, a different format for Nechochwen and a chance for us to again experiment with new textures and expand on some atmospheres we like best. Then I’ll begin writing for a full-length album for next year! Thank you for giving me a forum to talk about Nechochwen, all the best to you!
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