No Assembly Required is back with their 7th album, ‘narmusic vol.1: Mirrors & Smoke’. I caught up with guitarist Mike Payne to learn more about the band and what’s to come in 2014.
Give me some back story on NAR. How did you guys form?
NAR formed in 1999 when Luca and myself met online. He posted an ad looking for other band members. It started with just the two of us, and three months later in October of 1999 at the Big Bop in Toronto, we were playing our first show as a full band.
After 14 years are you still all original members?
The only two original members are Luca and myself. But we’ve all been a band for a long time now.
The Big Bop was such an iconic venue . A lot of amazing metal and punk bands played there. You guys have played a lot of shows: what’s your favourite venue to play in (or have played in)? What’s the most memorable show you’ve played?
The Big Bop was for sure one of them. We’ve played the Kathedral and Reverb countless times. I always really liked the Opera House too. Its not so much about the venues as it is the good times we’ve had at those shows. We’ve played shows that I can’t even remember the name of the place we played at, but I remember the show, the crowd and how it all sounded. As far as memorable, I’ll never forget the time we played with Damageplan and got to meet Dimebag.
The music industry has definitely changed a lot since NAR started in ’99. Do you think its better or worse now?
It’s evolved, but I think it needs to. Getting your music out to people was a lot different back in 1999. If your band wasn’t on Mp3.com, no one paid attention to you. Then eventually that site went down, and more people became aware of online stuff, then Myspace came along, and so on. But right when we started out I remember countless conversations with people trying to explain to them what an Mp3 was. It is a lot easier to get yourself out there these days.
I am finding that the Canadian music industry had become very pop and country based. Do you find it hard to be a metal based band in Canada?
I find it’s hard to get accepted unless you brand yourself a metal, or a punk or whatever band. People call us a metal band, but some people say we’re not metal. We’ve always written all kinds of different types of songs. We just like to be musical, we’re song writers, and if it’s heavy and loud, and it’s metal to you, cool. But when we break out an acoustic and everyone asks if we’ve changed our sound… our sound has always been all over the place, our fans accept that without having to label it.
Okay, so lets talk about the new album.
You released “The Gold” as the first video and single. I watched. I listened. I expected loud and heavy and it wasn’t. Like you said, people are going to think you changed your sound. Why this track? Is this what’s to be expected of the album, or will it be (as you said) varied?
When we first started working on this album we had twenty songs. About a week later, we were up to thirty. We stopped, took some time, and tried to think what we wanted to do. All the songs sounded different. We weren’t trying to write a NAR album, or any theme, we just wanted to write what we liked and what sounded best to us.
The Gold is the first single, and I’d say that is probably the closest people will get to hearing what they think is old NAR on this album. It’s short, catchy, loud guitars. It is actually the shortest song on the album. We did debate about making the first single off the album one track off the new album that is over 14min long.
Long tracks are rare these days. Everything has to be radio friendly. How important is it to be radio friendly?
Depends who you ask. You ask most bands, and they would say yes. We don’t care. Its pretty unlikely we’ll get major radio play, so why try to make radio songs? If I don’t like the song, I don’t write it. It won’t see the light of day. But this is our music and our art, and to have to make it 3 minutes and 30 seconds just so it can be good enough for radio and TV isn’t worth it. That 14 minute song we have is 14 minutes ’cause after working on it for years, that is how I hear it, and it is how it came to be. Could I chop it into a 3 minute song? Maybe, but like a painting that is chopped in half, you don’t get to see the full picture that way.
We are nearing the end of 2013 with the release of your new album “Mirrors and Smoke”. What can we expect from NAR in the new year?
More music, more videos, more shows, more of my beard at various different lengths, depending on the time of year. We have plans for all those thirty-plus songs we’ve been writing – that is for sure.