It was all mapped out; a career encompassing ‘best of’ album release supported by a host of live shows. It’s what bands do, writes Sammy Jones.
But when Northampton’s post-punk leader and Venus Fly Trap founder Alex Novak launched Mercurial 1978-2018 in the spring of this year, normality had been wiped out by an infectious disease that changed the world.
As every band knows, timing is everything, and the pandemic played havoc for vocalist Alex and his partner in sounds, guitarist and programmer Andy Denton.
“We debated whether to push the date back, but I decided that even if we did that there was no guarantee that things would change, so we went ahead regardless,” recalled Alex.
Mercurial is a jigsaw of parts from a career four decades long shoehorned into just 20 tracks. Other Novak bands and projects aired on the disc, which clocks in at around 80 minutes, include Religious Overdose, Tempest, Attrition and Spore.
Not the easiest of things to assemble…
“I guess when you have done a lot of releases, it’s time to take stock and present it as a single body of work, like a retrospective exhibition so that you can see the different transitions from one phase to another,” he realises, “It’s about trying to make sense of where you have been before you head off to start working on more releases.
“I had to represent each project, some have had more releases than others, and so feature more heavily on the CD, but I went for the singles or main tracks in order to give people a real flavour.
“My hope is that people are aware of my projects outside of Venus Fly Trap and reassess them with a fresh view. It has been interesting taking in the reactions.”
Undeniably a disc for those with a penchant for the alternative, Alex says Venus Fly Trap has been described as ‘Blade Runner rock ‘n’ roll with dark acidic shades,’ which is a nice little sound bite for the sounds.
Mercurial 1978-2018 gives the listener a smattering of everything. For new ears, it’s an introduction to a pot of musical plenty, while for longtime fans it’s an easy slice of some of the ‘best bits’ ripe for the stereo.
And there is more, he promises fans: “I’ve just re-issued Achilles Heel as a download single which is available now, and I am planning a CD release collecting tracks from the albums Totem, Pandoras Box and Luna Tide. The album will be called Time Lapse 1989-1994.”
But while Alex has one eye on the past and that back catalogue, the other is very firmly planted in the future and new material is currently being worked on.
Alex might not be able to hit the road with his passion just now, but he is back at work in his ‘other’ job – selling the musicality of others in his celebrated independent record store, Spiral Archive.
It’s a small blessing for the man who dedicates his all to music and has seen so much of it snatched away over the past few months; when not making it, or selling it, Alex was founding playing the tracks of others in his other role – putting on gig nights and Djing at various spots in the local area.
“I don’t see that returning any time soon…” he says.
For the moment, Northampton is clinging on; but the town isn’t without casualties including celebrated ‘rock pub’ the King Billy which shut up shop in November.
But while there mightn’t be much live music activity just now, there is still a scene full of passionate players – hop online and get investigating.
“It has been a lot harder for every musician,”Alex says, “But there has been quite a few releases worth checking out; from Rolling Thunder, Baby Lung, Broadway Twisters, Jonny Redwing and Big Dirty, and some cool stuff coming out on Corby’s Private Scandal label. We just need those gigs to get everything going again.”