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Neverending White Lights
Canadian recording artist and producer Daniel Victor, formed Neverending White Lights, a unique one-man band that collaborates with various artists to create "diversity in the voice, but consistency in the song." Daniel Victor plays all musical instruments, while featuring guest singers on most of his songs. Neverending White Lights song, “The Grace”, featuring Dallas Green of City & Colour, was certified a Gold Digital Single in Canada, while “The Beautiful Letdown” featuring Switchfoot reached 3X Platinum in the US.
November 2011, brought the release of Neverending White Lights’ third studio album, Act III: Love Will Ruin, a very difficult album for Daniel to write, as he fought a hard battle with depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and anxiety disorder. On a waiting list to receive therapy, Daniel tells us:
“We forget how rare it is to be here, and that it won't last forever. Once we're gone, we're gone! So while we're awake, we need to take full advantage. That is the hope for me.”
In our exclusive interview, we talk with Daniel the person and Daniel the artist – one and the same! Find out how he deals with mental illness, what helps him, and how music and the Neverending White Lights fit into it all.
Neverending White Lights is really unique – Daniel Victor, you sing, perform all of the musical instruments and produce all of your own music and then you collaborate with a variety of lead vocalists from your favourite bands. Some of these include City & Colour, Our Lady Peace, and Bed of Stars. What made you choose this method rather than forming a band?
I wanted to create something unique when I approached NWL. My main goal was to start a conceptual project that utilized my strengths as a producer and writer, and implemented different vocalists to add depth and body to the music. I wanted to create something that would stand the test of time and be memorable. I've always loved how movie soundtracks give you the best of many different bands all contributing to the theme of one central story. Further, as a Hip-Hop fan I was always intrigued with the way those artists would feature different rappers on their songs. You could have one track that features a different rapper on every different verse. It just broke up the monotony of having one band/singer with one sound. To me, no one was really doing that in Alternative music, so I wanted to be the first. It's just more interesting and timeless.
You’ve already collaborated with so many great artists! If you could collaborate with anyone that you haven’t already worked with, dead or alive – who would be your ultimate dream to record with?
I keep a wish list with me at all times and I work really hard to connect with various artists that I think will suit my music. There are so many that I want to collaborate with, and that list grows longer every day. It would be a dream to work with Radiohead, my favourite band in the world. Also Rufus Wainwright, who has been a major influence on me, as well as Morrissey from The Smiths. As for those who are dead? Well, that's obvious - Freddie Mercury is number one, followed by Jeff Buckley, John Lennon, and Marvin Gaye. In reality, the list of singers I admire is endless. I'm not going to stop collaborating for a long time yet.
You recently collaborated on your first rap song! Your song / music video, “This Time”, with Canadian rapper JDiggz, reached the #1 video spot at Much Music and received an MMVA for Best Independent Video of the Year! (It really is such a good song!!). Do you think you will produce more music that includes rap or hip hop?
Yes! I loved working on a Hip-Hop track , it was really refreshing. I'm currently working with J Diggz in a band called We Are Not Heroes which is more in that genre that we created. Also, I'm collaborating with Juno-nominated rapper D-Sissive on a track and album very soon. Our first single will be released on his new mix tape this February. I'm also working on a new project that fuses really dark melancholic atmospheric instrumental music like NWL with Rap and R&B samples from major songs. It's been in the works for some time.
This past November 8th, 2011, you released your third album, Act III: Love Will Ruin (Part 1). Four years went into making this album. How did this album help you evolve musically and otherwise?
This was my most challenging album to make and ironically my most accessible one musically. It just happens to fall in a time in my life where the negative effects of the dying music industry was making everyone paranoid. All the people I worked on the business end were very concerned about record sales and having 'hits'. Not to mention, NWL was never conventional having different singers from other bands, so the question was often raised about whether to make it more about me or to keep going with the guests. It was a confusing four years. And I had a lot of trouble deciding which direction to go in. I basically let too many outside factors mess with my music, and it hurt me in the end. The album sounds somewhat confused and I know I would have done it much different if I had the chance. I would have just followed my heart. That's the only way to do anything! But I stand by it as a body of work, and as the next chapter. I'm hoping to release Part 2 this year and really focus on not letting any outside conflicts stop me from making the music that I naturally need to make. I learned so much making this album. Forcing creativity doesn't work, and it's best to stay true to your heart even if you risk starving. True artistic integrity will always pay off, one way or the other.
During the creation of this album you experienced a difficult depression. What was that like for you? And what helped / helps you through it?
In 2010 I was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety disorder, and depression. There were a couple nervous breakdowns during the creation of this album as well, which were a combination of things, mostly personal conflicts building up over time. I did my best to focus on the positive side of things, but I was surrounded with nothing but negative people in nearly every corner of my life. The only way to free myself was to cut myself off from them as best I could. If not physically, mentally. Just to check out on them because they were holding me down, not intentionally, but they were. I sought medical treatment for my symptoms which had gotten out of control, but I refused to take medication for fear of numbing my mind out of its creativity, and not being able to write music properly. I've been on a waiting list for therapy for months now, so we'll see how that goes when the time arrives. For now, I've fought it all myself on a day to day basis. Sometimes it gets really bad and I get really sick. Other times I feel alright and like I can conquer anything. I always believed in mind over matter, so I'm trying really hard to defeat my demons by finding my own inner strength. But it's very difficult and it almost stopped me from continuing to make music. At times, I do feel like giving up. But I fight it.
“Love is suicide and I’m falling apart...” These are lyrics from the song, “Falling Apart”, off of your new album. What do these lyrics mean to you and what inspired the writing of this song?
This song is about the holes in our lives, the way we're all falling apart as humans. Every one of us has internal struggles and problems that make us crumble from time to time, no one is safe. We cover it up pretty good with work, school, friends, family, hobbies, television, internet, music, etc. But in reality, when you strip all the glitter away, were losing. And yes, love is suicide. Giving your heart away to someone is the hardest thing to do, it's like tightrope walking without a net. That's the central theme to this album, tragic love, loss, and longing.
What was your favourite song to produce off of your latest album, Act III: Love Will Ruin (Part 1), and why?
I can honestly say this album was not fun for me in anyway, and I really took no enjoyment from making it. Sad to say, but true. By the end of this project, I had been through so much conflict that I just couldn't wait to be rid of the record and move on to a new place and mentality. So I guess the question is, which song was the least worst experience producing. And the answer would be the electro-influenced track "The Game Needed Me." It's an obvious different departure for NWL as it's a little more industrial and electronic. It was inspired by a Hip-Hop piece I wrote for a movie a friend of mine directed. I loved the beat, so I decided to write some words and melodies to it, and I was really happy with the outcome. It reminded me of Sade in a way.
You are a great and talented musician – what does music mean to you? What would your life be like without music?
Thank you. Music is everything to me. It's the single most important thing in my life. I define my entire existence through it. In fact, I even organize my music collection according to month; meaning every album/song that I absorb myself in for that month or season's time gets connected to that month and I will only listen to it at that time of year, therefore creating a database of memories stored deep within my brain that can be called upon at any time. By only choosing certain times to listen to certain music, it really helps heighten the sensation of everything I was doing at that time in my life. For example, I can literally go back to a specific moment, say early March 1994, by listening to a track from R.E.M's Automatic For The People album. Multiply that by thousands of songs, and it gets really interesting. I can take trips anytime I like. I couldn't imagine my life without music, I'm not sure how I would satisfy that urge to constantly hear something new and fall in love with the way a song makes you feel. I'm not sure what my purpose would be without it.
While your music includes dark themes, with songs like “Black is the Colour of My True Love's Heart” and“Bleeds to an End”, from previous albums, Neverending White Lights is also about light and love and hope! What gives you hope during dark times?
I certainly like to explore both sides of life - the light and the dark. Hope is a major theme in my music because it offsets the bleakness. It's a balance. In dark times I find hope in the gift of life itself. The concept that we're here on earth for this short time and we don't know what’s going to happen at any moment day to day. I get this sense that with the earth existing for 4.5 billion years, and us having the random odds of being born human, to a tiny little fraction of time in the middle of an infinite space, we have so little opportunity and time to explore. What's a 75 year life span in the bigger picture of time? Not even a fraction of a speck of a hair. It's 1/1,000,000th of a grain of sand on a beach. When I think of these things, it gives me hope to want to accomplish as much as possible! To live life to its fullest and to not get bogged down in the mundane daily stresses that people let into their lives. We forget how rare it is to be here, and that it won't last forever. Once we're gone, we're gone! So while we're awake, we need to take full advantage. That is the hope for me.
Do you have any words that you live by?
It's better to regret something you did, than something you didn't do.