By Jay Nada
Peace Through Decay’s debut album “Grey Skies Loom” is like a punch in the gut, a stirring and intense piece of auditory propaganda. It has notes of post punk and industrial alongside folk elements and musically could be described as martial industrial and dark apocalyptic folk. With themes of both nihilistic pessimism and hope, PTD stands firm that we won’t “experience peace until the descent into decay, both in physical death and socially and politically, a descent into anarchy…. the overthrowing of tyrants…” namely by taking a stand against fascism. This is militant folk at its most confrontational. Naturally, we wanted to talk to Adam Norvell about PTD, the state of politics, and the possibilities of apocalypse…
Jay Nada: First, can we get a little background on your band? Is this a solo endeavor or do you have collaborators? When did this band begin, and what drove you towards making music?
Adam Norvell: Peace Through Decay came into proper existence this year, although, it technically has been around since 2014 under a different name. I say “proper existence” because its previous incarnation was me experimenting and still learning (and it’s all quite unlistenable!). Names are important to me and I had to pick something that truly resonated with me. I chose Peace Through Decay because I spent a large part of this last year (When I was living back home in Illinois) traveling the countryside in search of abandoned houses and properties and photographing them. Being inside these places conjures so much emotion in me and its peaceful in its absence but can sometimes be terrifying and cruel, but altogether beautiful. My name for this project reflects that, becoming one with nature. Even if twisted and bent out of shape, it’s inevitable and moving.
This is a solo endeavor at the moment but I’m always open to collaborations and adding members if I met people who were interested in joining me. As for what drove me towards making music, in general, I’ve always been artistically inclined and have been drawing since a very young age so the next step for me was music and I started with learning to play the bass when I was fourteen. Then I moved to acoustic guitar and so on until now where I can play most instruments that require plucking, strumming or hitting. I moved towards making neofolk because it has been one of my favorite genres since I was 16 and when I hear something I love, I always want to try creating something in a similar vein but under my lens. I started with making deathrock (and still do make it), but I quickly found I needed to start different projects under different names because trying to fit all the musical ideas and sounds I had under one name just seemed like an awful choice to me and as such, eventually made Feline Decay which turned into Peace Through Decay. I wanted to make this project sound clearly like neofolk but also bring in influences of post-punk, deathrock, goth and anarcho-punk while having a more raw sound with a clear message.
JN: The lyrics evoke a sense of hopelessness and impending collapse of society… can you elaborate on this theme and how does it play into your message?
AN: The lyrics definitely are meant to invoke that, that impending sense of apocalypse, apocalyptic folk as it were. I think thematically it is a mirror of my mind viewing the world as I am witnessing it and my thoughts that correspond with it. There’s many emotions I feel because at one moment I long for this collapse as a catharsis for our dying planet, something we’ve tried to mold and break to our fitting that is going to come back and bury us but I also hope (naively so, perhaps) that we will actually have a mind of realization as people and come together to throw off our chains put on us by capitalism and the affluent rulers who are driving us further and further apart from each other, from our happiness and also nature. I tend to switch back and forth between hope and despair and it depends on the day, really. Nihilism plays a big influence on my music although rather than it stating “nothing matters, so do what you wish” I like the idea of “nothing matters so create more good”. I also want to be clear and say I do not mourn the collapse like other bands in the scene do because I think the whole concept of “the West” is ignorant and it is built on the back of imperialism and privilege. How can the fall of something that divides us be bad?
JN: Your current release is a cacophony of folk, martial and experimental sound. You use a variety of textures and layers. Do you plan (hypothetically of course, in a fantasy world where Covid-19 is no longer a factor) to bring your music to a live setting? If so, how do you hope to do this, and what would be your ideal concert?
AN: I would love to play live one day and have given this a bit of thought but am unsure of how I would proceed since I’ve always focused more on the recording and production aspect of music since I first started writing. Ideally, I’d like at least one other person with me on stage but the dilemma is finding someone who is interested in the genre and would want to join me on stage. I’ve often thought of just using noisescapes and samples while I batter the Tom and yell at people, but I’ve not committed to that idea just yet! We will see, but one day, I’d very much like to. I will add that in lieu of live performances, I am very active in writing and have started recording this first album and also have a split with Autumn Brigade in the works as well.
JN: What is your creative process? Does the music come first, or the lyrics?
AN: My creative process is not something that is concrete but it is different for each of my projects. With Oeace Through Decay I have years of lyrics written down and more still come, but I typically write the music seperate and eventually find what works together the best. There are exceptions to this however as I wrote “Fall Down”, “Bitter Sunlight” and “Arrow In Heart” on the spot with both lyrics and guitar. I find the songs that write themselves to be my favorite because they feel so natural, though, it is a rare occasion that I find that happens.
JN: Do you have any particular influences, or even recommendations, to paint a broader picture of your music? If you were to recommend a piece of art or literature for your listeners to get a better grasp of your music, what would that be?
AN: A great majority of my influence comes from bands like Cult of Youth, Lakes, Rome, Et Nihil/Luftwaffe, Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio and early Death In June. I’m a fan of the sound of toms so martial drumming really hits that spot with me as does deathrock and post-punk and learning more and more about production. I have a great appreciation for good sounding production, especially big sounds like on Flowers From Exile, but also love raw and lofi sounding stuff and sampling. So basically I’m trying to mold all of that together in my own head and on the first release, I kept it simple I think and stayed more in line with the neofolk/martial sound, with acoustic guitars and noise escapes with distorted backgrounds and martial drumming, and I’ll probably keep that for the first album, but I’d like to eventually expand my sound and bring more elements in if I can. Some more not so obvious influences on my work in this project are No Sir I Won’t and Seeming, two projects I admire for their music and their lyrical content and themes. I’m a bit of a music nerd. I must also add the huge influence people close to me have had on me, while not on the sound itself but the making of it, those being my love and fiancè who supports every creative endeavor I seek to complete, my best friend Chase Brockunier who makes his own music here, my sweet artist and dear friend Karl McKnaught who makes very stylized and wonderful art on his Instagram here and lastly my very good and dear friend Matthew Randall who runs Juice Of Mango records and makes great Noise in Crustgirls. They all are the reason I’ve been making so much art and music lately, so I had to include them.
If i were to recommend art or literature to help convey my sound, I’d recommend reading the poetry of Oliver Sheppard as it’s very apocalyptic and downright gothic and both books of his prose are excellent, though I think one is out of print now. If I were to recommend art, I’d recommend any pictures of burning police buildings and looking at physical guillotines (I could recommend a lot of art but I don’t think anything matches my music more than those mentioned).
JN: Can you elaborate on reconciling having projects like Death In June as an influence while not supporting their work or message?
AN: Having started out enjoying their music and then having that realization that they aren’t doing this just as shock tactics, I wanted to be clear in what sort of vein of influence has worked it’s way into my sound. Not outright copying but I wanted to offer something similar to their sound without the guilt of supporting fascism like I eventually felt. I don’t listen to DIJ anymore but I wanted to be honest and show that it’s okay to have started there and realized what you were supporting so that other people might not feel that guilt. I also think it would be great if Douglas or someone saw like “Oh I influenced… wait a minute… antifascists?!”
JN: So, on that notion… A vast majority of the music in this genre purports an apolitical and counter-ideological stance, what do you think of this and why do you think this is? Do you have any particular political tendency, and if so, how does it play a role in your work?
AN: I think it’s honestly ignorant, this whole “apolitical” excuse bands put out as an excuse to make their musics message interesting. It’s no secret that there are fascist leanings in the scene, whether the bands want to admit it or not. I believe in “say what you mean and mean what you say”. I understand keeping a mystery to art, I studied it, but I believe in that with visual art. With music you are communicating something, yes visually, but verbally and musically as well. If you’re going to be provocative, then you must be forward about it, like Throbbing Gristle was. They complain about concerts getting shut down but skirt the issue in their explanations. Just be forward. I don’t know, it’s gotten on my nerves. In the beginning, I had no idea of any connotations because I had dial-up (I lived and grew up in the sticks) and would buy CDs based on little bits I’d hear of it online.
As time went on, I dismissed it because “Well, I’m not fascist and doesn’t make me want to be, so it doesn’t matter” and now I’ve realized that kind of imagery makes an impression on the wrong people, whether it means to or not, so any excuse that doesn’t dismiss it is problematic, especially in these times. One need only to look at the comment sections of their music videos to see the kind of people it attracts. I wanted to be clear from the get go: I’m anti-fascist, anti-racist and anarchist. On my best days, I lean towards socialist ideals like most people my age do but unlike them I don’t think the system is fixable so I lean more towards Collective Anarchism. People cannot be trusted when they are put above you and insanity is repeating the same thing expecting a different outcome. It’s like we forget why we revolt. Basically, I just want people to take care of each other because we have the means to, but it won’t happen, not yet anyway. I’ve always felt I was an outsider and I knew by bringing this message to neofolk, I would be one even more so, but I must say that I was ecstatic to learn about a growing scene with anti-fascist views and messages.
JN: Are you familiar with other openly left wing/antifascist neofolk artists, and if so, do you have any recommendations or favorites?
AN: I am familiar with a few of them and have recently been enjoying Autumn Brigade, Anxiety Of Abraham, Woundresser, April Of Her Prime, Lust Syndicate and DEAES the most, though I still know there are others I have yet to hear and enjoy. I will add that Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio would be a great choice as well, being that Tomas has openly stated they are against racism and fascism, which is always nice to see. I know there are other bigger bands I’m forgetting but that’s what came to my mind immediately.
JN: We are almost at the end of our interview. So, in the spirit of speaking of the end… What is your vision of the future? Not only for this incarnation of the neofolk scene, but the general state of affairs, and do you think music like this has a stake in the culture of tomorrow?
AN: That’s a tough one. I think no matter what, we all have a dark road ahead for the future and that eventually, there will be a light and we will either find that in our destruction and death, or together as people. I guess no matter which way you look at it, we will pass and so will our time and civilization. I take a sort of comfort in accepting that. Take every opportunity to live in the current moment, especially if it’s a happy one. As for this neofolk scene, it’s probably too early to say, but it seems to be growing and I hope it continues on this trajectory. I’d love to see festivals and more collaborations in this scene and it will wax and wane, but I think it’s made it’s place and will always be here now. I definitely believe this music has a stake in the culture of tomorrow and I think that’s been made clear by people who decided to take the step to create music that is antifascist and this style. It’s there for people to take part in both now and for the coming future and this spirit is something that I don’t think will go away.
JN: Thank you for your honest and thoughtful answers. Any last words you want to say to whoever is reading this right this second?
AN: “The future will be borderless, and red and queer and bold, for I was born to make my kind extinct” – S. Alexander Reed
You can check out Peace Through Decay’s album “Grey Skies Loom” below from Bandcamp. They are not on Spotify yet, but still remember to subscribe to the Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify for other great projects.Grey Skies Loom by Peace Through Decay