Noctorum: Dare Mason (left), Marty Willson-Piper (right).
Noctorum: Dare Mason (left), Marty Willson-Piper (right).

Noctorum, a duo comprised of guitarist/singer-songwriter Marty Willson-Piper (The Church, All About Eve, The Saints, Anekdoten) and producer Dare Mason, has announced ‘The Afterdeath’ EP, which is being released in the wake of PledgeMusic’s collapse. The platform was allegedly supporting the release of Noctorum’s fourth album ‘The Afterlife‘.

Both releases have been made possible by Schoolkids Records, who, together with Mason and Willson-Piper, have had to shoulder most of the costs of the album’s recording, production, mixing, mastering, artwork, manufacturing and mailing to every single person who had ordered ‘The Afterlife’ album via PledgeMusic in order to honour supporters’ pledges, despite the fact that such monies were never received by the artist. Considering that this artist charted simultaneously in several Billboard charts for sales during its first week should give you an indication of just how many orders needed to be fulfilled.

A GoFundMe campaign has now been set up to attempt to recover the funds lost. But nobody is asking for a handout. In exchange for their support, Noctorum and Schoolkids Records are offering pledgers ‘The Afterdeath’ EP, a digital four-track release that includes two unreleased tracks from ‘The Afterlife’ album sessions and two cover versions – one originally recorded by The Sound and the other by Buffalo Springfield. In addition to receiving these tracks, pledgers can make their own CD by downloading credits and lyrics in a booklet, along with the cover art – the fossil of a mermaid (created by Olivia Willson-Piper and Andy Jossi), which is also available as a poster.

'The Afterdeath' EP cover.
‘The Afterdeath’ EP cover.

Marty Willson-Piper has been writing and performing for over 35 years. Best known as a member of The Church (from its inception through to 2013), he also was a member of All About Eve and The Saints and has co-written music with Grace Slick, Aimee Mann, Jules Shear, Susannah Hoffs, and Linda Perry, among others. Today he is also lead singer and lyricist with Swedish band MOAT and a member of Swedish Prog legends Anekdoten since 2015. Since the mid-1980s, Willson-Piper has also maintained a steady solo output, with nine releases to date.

Dare Mason was a house engineer at London’s Townhouse Studios, working with Prince, Paul McCartney, Boy George, Tina Turner, Ravi Shankar, and Soul II Soul, among others. Since becoming a freelance producer/engineer in 1991, he produced albums for The Grid, The Church, Placebo and AC Acoustics, and has mixed Brix Smith (ex-The Fall), Cinerama and Tommy Tokyo via his VIP Lounge studio.

Go to Noctorum’s GoFundMe page to view a fact-filled video and text or HERE for a more philosophical viewpoint on Noctorum’s own website. Also, find ‘The Afterlife’ in all formats via Schoolkids Records or streaming via Spotify.

Read the artist’s and label’s joint statement:

It seemed like such a great idea and for a while it was, but at some point, the pigs started walking on their hind legs.

Using Animal Farm as a metaphor for the collapse of PledgeMusic might not be a perfect way to explain what happened for countless reasons, notwithstanding the perfect allegory that the book already is, but there are parallels – that is, if you unfussily consider the farm to be the big bad music biz and the musicians to be the exploited animals. And as many execs might have been musicians before, I naively thought that we were all in this together and that Pledge and the artists were from the same stock and we were going to take over the farm and run it in a way that encouraged the arts for the arts’ own sake. Ok, so the connection is precarious on lots of levels, sorry, and of course not everyone is exploited (although some have been called animals) and not all mistreat their wards but in the case of this one organization with its vision of the future, the expectation, then the disappointment of PledgeMusic’s collapse, is crushing. It certainly revitalized the idea that we are not in control. Finally, we had a system that worked for musicians and fans until the system failed seemingly to greed (back to square one). The disillusionment and failure of this revolution were disconcerting.

Such disappointments have become known as ‘first world problems’ but still, this collapse is hard to take. It may, in fact, have been almost impossible to destroy something so perfect, but give humans power, give them money and watch them destroy themselves and everything around them, somehow forgetting the actual people that put them in their position and in this case they didn’t have to do much, just supplying the platform then sitting back and watching the money roll in. How could you complicate such a simple idea? You were a trust, a philanthropic society, a bridge between lovers of music, a connection between the creators and the appreciators. There are of course other platforms that seem to work and we need to trust them for next time, otherwise, the bad guys have won.

In the world of Noctorum, a labour of love that places me and my oldest friend in a studio for months, exploring the puzzle of songs, just the idea that out there someone that I’ve never met would be prepared to not only support and invest in our musical project but in the event of it all falling apart, would contribute again to its recovery, is both heartening and unexpected.

The actual story of what happened with video and text can be found at the link above which leads to a GoFundMe campaign that attempts to get us back on track financially without compromising our music but also by delivering something worthy of donation. Namely a digital EP consisting of a download of two unreleased tracks from The Afterlife album sessions and two cover versions, one from cult innovators The Sound and the other from the beginnings of future major musical heroes in an early disguise as Buffalo Springfield. Add to this a conceptual drawing of a mermaid’s skeleton, photoshopped into an imagined fossil as cover art, a booklet with lyrics and credits and the possibility to download the cover as a poster, then you have – The Afterdeath EP.

Making music without costs is almost impossible but with good people sacrificing their time and resources, generosity and effort and with the emergence of the internet we can do it. This, of course, means we cannot, in this case, hold the physical in our hands despite our desire to do so. The idea of the tactile might be a thing of the past for some but we are not marrying holograms yet. The Afterlife was released on vinyl and CD, there were illustrated handwritten lyrics from songs past (not quite on parchment, written with a quill). There were internet concerts and live appearances at the end of people’s beds if they wished although they mainly occurred in the living room. There were magnets and autographs, older records resurrected and signed and all this to finance what would be Noctorum’s fourth album.

Not receiving all the money donated due to PledgeMusic’s demise led to us making a big decision – cancel the project in full swing or see it through? We decided the latter, finishing the album, mastering it and with our dedicated label’s support manufacturing it and posting it out to all the pledgers, honoring the support and good faith whilst putting ourselves into debt. One might take this moment to say that at least we had the opportunity to do this to ourselves. A lot of artists couldn’t even finish their project and certainly couldn’t afford to mail out the result because the money simply wasn’t there to do so. So we consider ourselves lucky.

We are well into our GoFundMe campaign and we have raised a portion of the money we lost. In return, we offer more of our music, more of our ideas as we gratefully continue the uncertain arc of creative pursuit as we resist George Orwell’s dystopian future of doom.

Thank you!

Marty, Dare, Olivia, and Stephen