Friday, March 05, 2010

Interview with Daniel Victor from Neverending White Lights

A very important part of my writing creative process is finding the right mood music to go along with my book. One Canadian band, Neverending White Lights seems to magically appear on all my playlists--no matter what kind of story I'm writing. There is a universal quality to the music that seems to always fit.

I recently sat down with Daniel Victor, the man behind the music. And by sat down with, I mean, I'm assuming he was sitting down when he emailed me back the answers to my questions.

I was, of course, calm, cool, and collected as I always am when I interview rockstars.

Gwen: Your Wikipedia page, because you are cool enough to have one, states that you started your musical education very early in life and taught yourself many instruments by ear. Did you always know that you were going to pursue music as a career or was there an epiphany at some point that led you there?

Daniel: Yes, I knew since my furtherest memory back to childhood that I was going to pursue music as a career. My father played an integral role in exposing me to a lot of great music as a child, and I've always had a natural feeling that I would end up doing something music-related. I never doubted it or questioned it. I followed my heart and my vision the whole way, and it felt right to be where I was when I released my first album and began my career.

G: How do you feel about college/university? Did your experiences there shape your music even though you didn't study music?

I think every experience in life shapes you someway. We are the sum of all our experiences, one way or another. For me, University was a very fun time. It was actually more about the social aspect for me, and the experience of being somewhere new I'd never been in my life. It represented a coming of age, maturity, and independence. Gone were the days of old friends and the safe haven of high school, and in came new faces, a new type of educations system, and the next chapter of my life. Though I did well in my program, I knew I wasn't going to use much of the actual education I got in my musical career, instead it was more about the exercise of learning how to learn different, and tying in all the new experiences together. I made some great friends those years, and also spent a lot of time performing at the local pubs playing acoustic shows. Those times were some of the best I ever had.

Towards the later part of my University career, I focused my studies on world views/religions and spirituality, a series of topics I've always felt very compelled to learn more about. These subjects eventually opened my mind up to new concept about life and existence. I continued reading and studying further in the years after and much of what I learned inspired the lyrics to my first album, and set my mind in a more focused direction. Rather than writing albums of love and every day experiences, I was writing more about the bigger picture, more existential, about existence and spirits and death. I still read and study those concept today.

The first album by Neverending White Lights was quite an undertaking for a debut producer. That it was also your debut album as a writer--and the fact that you did all the mixing and played all the instruments on every track--seems like one of the following: a) you have no fear--at all. Of anything. Ever. b) you are a might bit of a control freak c) you just knew the project was magic d) you actually have a factory full of Oompa Loompas that you're not telling anyone about

The idea to take on so much on my own certainly speaks of my character. I am a bit of a control freak maybe when I feel the need to have to do things myself. I think initially, I wanted to prove to myself that I didn't need to rely on anyone to make my vision possible. I was under the impression that working with someone else on something that I had mapped out so specifically would actually counter-act the final product. We all have ways that we want to prove things to ourselves, and this was one of mine.

Was it worth all the stress? Yes and no. People probably don't care or realize that it was a one-man operation, or that when they listen to a song like "The Grace" there's no "band" working with a producer and mixing engineer, that it's just one dude with a singer. It would be nice to know that more people understood that. On my second album, I continued the process even more so, and by the third (current) album I'm still at it. But I've recently grown a bit burnt out by doing too much on my own, and I hope to work with a band, or at least a producer on the next album.

It just comes down to drive and motivation. You can build a house on your own, but it will take some time and a lot of planning. Is it better to get help? Probably. But, to each his own. That debut album had to be just right, and I wanted to make sure it had the influence of on man's brain only.

G: What was happening in your mind and soul when you decided that not only were you taking on this challenge, but that failure wasn't an option? Did people take you seriously right away?

D: Failure has never been an option for me. And I always envisioned great accomplishments, much like the ones I achieved. People did in fact take me seriously off the bat. I had contacted a lot of the singers and guests without having ever released a single piece of music, so no one knew who I was. The music and project had to speak for itself, and it spoke volumes to get these fantastic performers on board. It just got bigger from there.

G: I write paranormal fiction and your spiritually charged music taps something inside that helps me get to "that place" in my head. How do you get to "that place" in your head? Where does your inspiration come from?

D: I'm always in that place in my head. Sometimes I wish I could get out. It's the default position for me. I'm always inspired and always carrying ideas around. When I live my everyday life, I always feel detached from society and "inside my head". It makes me seem off or quiet to people at times, and means that a good solid drink will certainly help me to try to be more like those around me. I always felt like that, and my music and writing is the channel to get it out of my brain.

G: You've been pretty open on your own blog about the struggles of producing the third NWL album. What is different about Act III from the first two? Is the pressure you're feeling more internal or external? Do you feel that sharing the ups and downs through social media has enhanced a symbiotic relationship with your fans and is that a good thing for your music--do their reactions feed your creativity to or take away from it?

D: This record is different because of the point I'm at in my career. I've had success, but the music industry is changing and as an artist there's a lot of pressure to maintain a certain status. Of course that comes from external sources, but it's always very important for me to succeed out there in order to make a living. However, on the other side, I put pressure on myself to evolve musically, and to make something better than my last album.

I think I became too obsessed with trying to outdo myself that most of the music actually ended up collapsing on itself. Sharing the ups and downs with my fans is a part of therapy for me. The way I see it it, is that it feels good to share these moments in time with people who want to know. As a fan of music and bands myself, I love learning about the process of my favourite groups, it makes those albums mean so much more. I want to allow people who love my music to have the same opportunity. There reactions usually keep me going. Knowing that people still care about me when I've been out of the spotlight for awhile and struggling gives me hope.

G: Do you prefer live performing or recording--or do you get different things from both?

D: I prefer being in a recording studio and watching creations come to life. It's very rewarding, and if you don't get too stressed out about it, it's a lot of fun. When a song turns into this amazing piece of art from such a small beginning because I took all the right little steps along the way, it's like completing a puzzle. It just feels good to look at it. But I love performing live because of the energy I get to share with my audience. It's fun to perform songs live and deliver them in new places to new people. The experience of travelling is fun too, and I've had some great times across this country. I'm not big on having to sing song that other vocalists have become known for, since I'm not a singer. I'm a producer. That is the one thing that bothers me. But otherwise, it's great to make an album and then try to bring it to life in front of an audience.

G: One of my characters rocks the Victorian/Goth clothes you favor in your videos and shows. Why do you think the aesthetics of that era call to you? And do you like the Steampunk movement?

I've always liked fashion and the idea of presenting yourself well. I believe that what you wear dictates your behaviour. Put someone in a baggy jogging suit and they're attitude shifts one way. Put them in a tuxedo and they'd probably stand a bit straighter. For me, I wanted to find something that would work well with my music and give me and my live band something different than the usual rock groups. I've always loved Victorian fashion, and movies set in 18th and 19th century times. I always romanticized about how wonderful it was that people dressed up everyday all the time, not just on a special occasion. I think people were just more dignified then. My music has obvious classical influences, and also theatrical influences. It's not cheap and disposable, but classic and timeless. Victorian/Goth is a great vehicle to carry the musical aesthetics into fashion for me. It's a modern twist on a something that has charm.

I love the Steampunk movement and would love to fill my closet with many of those designs. It's difficult to find new pieces around here that suit me, so I mostly stick to the same type of uniform/outfit when I perform live and do photo shoots. I love black and white. White shirts with scarves, a vest, and black pants. Any variation on this works for me. But I delve into straight Goth sometimes in my collection, and straight vintage also. But Steampunk seems very intriguing. It reminds me of the Tim Burton type themes that I give some of my visuals.

What does Daniel Victor read?

D: I read mostly non-fiction. I have a large collection of books that are about spirituality, many are skeptics-type books debunking notions of organized religions in truth-seeking/scientific background. I love being well-informed on these subjects. So many people don't bother to question those institutions, but it's rewarding. When I'm not reading about religions topics, the only fiction author I need to always have around me is H.P Lovecraft. His stories I've read over and over, and I have pretty much all his works. He has a very descriptive style of building a story up from the tinniest detail through pages and pages of anticipation only to nail the reader with one line or sentence at the end that leaves you feeling uncomfortable. It's great.

G: I hear a lot of Canadian music because I live near the border between our countries. Are you planning on reaching out to more US listeners and going mainstream, or do you feel like too much popularity dilutes your craft? Is a deal with a major label even something you want? I imagine it would be hard to keep as much control as you have now, but on the flip side that might be better for your health.

D: I want to get out to as many listeners all around the world as I can, especially the US and UK. NWL started out fairly mainstream, so I don't really have to "go more mainstream" per se. I could do that if I decided to make music that was more pop oriented, or more commercial, but for now it's a balance between very rich and diverse albums with a song or two that crosses into the charts. I'm fine with that, but I think it's getting near time to try to push NWL further into the light, instead of back into the dark. And with the industry falling apart, there's really no such thing as selling out anymore. I want to find a way to bring my music to a more popular level without compromising too much of my sound.

G: If you could go back in time and talk to Teenage Dan, what advice would you give him?

D: Well, since I don't believe in regrets, I wouldn't try to change anything. And I've always kept a pretty open mind and clear head about things so my philosophies now aren't really much different than they used to be. But I would probably tell myself to generally not take anything too seriously. I've learned that more in the past few years, I've mellowed out considerably. I've tried to lose the stress. The only thing that gets to me is my craft, my music, the process, it's impossible for me not to get caught up in it. But, I used to worry all the time about everything. Now I've just learned it's not worth it.

G: Thanks again for doing this. I'd say "you rock" but that would be horribly, horribly cliche. So, instead, I'll just say I think you're a swell guy.

D: Thanks Gwen, my pleasure!

You can find out more about Daniel Victor and Neverending White Light at his website, MySpace, and Twitter.


  1. Amanda Brice2:03 AM

    Great interview! Daniel, thanks for coming to visit. Gwen, awesome questions....I vote you official interviewer from now on. LOL

  2. GREAT interview!!! This was awesome. But I'm disappointed Gwen didn't ask for prom pics. LOLOL

    Thank you soooo much for visiting our blog, Dan! I'm going to check out your music--I can't wait!

  3. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. K... the music is great and thanks for this discovery.

    But can I be a dork now and say I think Daniel is smokin hawt and I really want to use him as the visual for a new paranormal hero?


  5. Great interview! I just got Act II from itunes and I'm loving it so far --perfect mood music! Thanks for turning me onto some new tunes (and it doesn't hurt that he's easy to look at either). ;)

  6. I've listened to NWL for a while now, but I had never really looked into the band (or the one-man band, as it is) and discovered just how unique it was. Daniel is beyond talented and this interview is very illuminating. Thank your for sharing!