When I thought about the concept of Flyctory.com, I wanted to bring people together. I wanted to teach travelers about floorball, country music fans about cool places I visited – or also of other music genres. This might be a longer and more demanding way, but also a concept which makes me feel comfortable. In that regard, I am always super-happy when I have the opportunity to introduce you to artists who do music which is not that frequently reflected on the website. The US band X: THC combines elements of post-punk, synth-pop and New Wave sounds. I had the opportunity to chat with one member of the duo, Michael Nova.
Flyctory.com meets Michael Nova of X: THC
FLYC: Hi Michael, thanks for joining me for an interview. Can you introduce us a bit to your music project X: THC? What is the idea behind it?
Michael: X: THC is an acronym for X: The Human Condition. X stands for the unknown, and we came up with this name in order to create music that explores the human condition. Since our first release in 2010, that’s what we’ve been doing.
Initially, we created a music and film multimedia project as X: The Human Condition which focused on helping people who felt alone, alienated or “different” to realize that they are not alone. This was to be sent out like a message in a bottle to all those people who felt alone, and we really wanted to make a difference by doing that.
Unfortunately, everyone we went to in the music industry said it would be impossible to achieve so I ended up funding the project myself. From there, it’s quite an amazing story about how we were able to create and released the project while facing enormous obstacles. I personally overcame serious illness and near bankruptcy, but through it all, we learned life lessons that we now share with the world to inspire them to overcome challenges in life. We created the worldwide community website, RiseUpEight.org where we share our story, and other people from all over the world share their stories of overcoming adversity to inspire others to never give up.
We created a short documentary film, Never Give UP: The Miracle Of X: THC, that chronicled the entire story, and it is available for viewing at YouTube. It really is an inspiring story, and I hope everyone gets a chance to watch it so that they will become inspired in their own lives.
FLYC: You are working as a duo. Who is having which kind of tasks in the band?
Michael: Chris Ninjaboy Liang is my other half, and I could not have done this without him. He creates the music, and I create the melodies and lyrics. Initially, I brought my own musical ideas to him and he revamped them for our first release in 2010. Since then, he has created the music and brought it to me so that I can add the melodies and lyrics. Together, we produce the albums as co-producers.
FLYC: The THC stands for The Human Condition – and this has also been the title of your debut album. The release date has been in 2010. How does X: THC in 2023 differ from the music thirteen years ago?
Michael: I think we’ve evolved in our exploration of the human condition. When we started off, we had no idea of the adversity that we would face in putting the project together. It took 12 years to get it off the ground, with the help of hundreds of people who volunteered for the project, and as I previously mentioned, the initial message of “you are not alone” was literally manifested more recently when we created the website RiseUpEight.org which turned into a worldwide community. This actually proves that you are not alone! This is amazing to me how this came about in the strangest, most unpredictable way. what I learned from this is that no matter what obstacles you may face, there is no such thing as “impossible”. We were told the project was impossible, I was told that my recovery was impossible, and we proved the experts wrong at every turn.
But I digress! Our music now encompasses everything that we have learned throughout the years, and we take those life lessons and put them into our music now so that the initial message of “you are not alone” is now expanded to “not only are you not alone, but anything is possible, so never give up!”
So you can see that our message really has expanded and our understanding of the human condition is deeper than it was initially. Our new music reflects this understanding.
FLYC: The most successful track on that album was (regarding Spotify) Mr. Happy. What is the song about? How did you develop the idea to a complete song?
Michael: Well Mr. Happy was about the search for happiness. Throughout most of my young life, I was searching for happiness, but eventually I realized that the answer is that it is just a simple choice. We choose our reality at every waking moment. What we focus on becomes our reality. If we focus on what is problematic in our lives, then our lives become heavy, dark, miserable and problematic. If we focus on what we are grateful for in life, then our lives become lighter and easier. So we can choose to be happy or sad, or angry. It is within our minds that we make this choice. It is within our control. And while we cannot control what happens to us, we can control how we react to what happens to us. This is so important to understand.
I knew this when I wrote the song. But I did not know that I would need the message of it to hit home personally shortly thereafter.
When I became seriously ill and almost lost my vision permanently, I “saw” what could not be seen. I began to appreciate the world around me, and the fact that I had limited vision rather than no vision at all. I became enormously grateful for that, for being able to feel the sunshine, being able to hear the birds sing, and grateful for life itself. While I was miserable about my physical condition, I realized that the only way I would get better is to keep working and keep moving forward. I did not know this when I first wrote the song, but as I’ve mentioned before, exploring the human condition takes time and experience. I thought I knew the human condition, but I have no clue. I’m still learning, and it is a lifelong process. We just want to share what we’ve learned with the world.
FLYC: You have just been releasing a new album in September 2022, Say a Prayer. Could Mr. Happy also be a song on that release or does it feel “outdated” to you today?
Michael: Musically, I think we’ve progressed, but message wise, it fits into our current music. I think many of the songs on our initial album still fit today, although the focus has changed from the original message, and has expanded to a larger, deeper focus.
FLYC: After the debut, it took you some eleven years to release the next album, Fall Down Seven Times, Rise Up Eight. What as happened in between?
Michael: This is the story of how I became ill, how I overcame that illness, how I overcame near bankruptcy, and how we, as musicians came back from all of that. It is in the previously mentioned documentary that we go over everything that happened. Those 11 years were a learning and growing experience that we needed to go through in order to get to the next level. I always think about life as a video game. You need to go through the first level to get to the next level, and then there are more levels ahead. You need to overcome fights with “bosses” in your life in order to get to the next level, but then you realize that the mountain you just conquered is nothing compared to the next mountain you must conquer. And this is life.
After the recovery, we began writing new music as we were creating the worldwide community of Rise Up Eight. We decided that the album would be called Fall Down Seven Times, Rise Up Eight to promote the website. I should also mention the meaning behind that title. It is from an old proverb, “fall down seven times stand up eight”, but I changed it because I did not think that standing up was quite enough. Instead of standing up when we fall down, we must rise above standing up to meet the challenges that are ahead in our lives.
FLYC: If you compare the 2021 release with your debut: in which way has X:THC improved the most in the meantime? Is there anything particular where you feel you improved a lot?
Michael: I think in terms of knowledge about life, we’ve come a long way. Similarly, musically I think we’ve grown. Our sound and our beliefs have matured to the point that now we are sending out a message to the world that is applicable to every single human being and their own lives. We are focused on overcoming challenges in life, and that is what life is all about. Because with each challenge that you can overcome, you become stronger. I always say “Don’t look at adversity as the enemy, look at it as your ally”. This is because it strengthens you to become the person that you are meant to be.
FLYC: When you look back to Say a Prayer, are you happy with the way the album performed? How do you guys measure “performance” and “success”?
Michael: For us, it is about the people that we reach with our music and the difference that we make to them. Getting emails and messages from people that hear our music and hearing them say that we are making a difference in the world is the only success that we are after, and luckily, we are achieving that. This is why we make music. To make a difference in the lives of others, to make their lives a bit easier in whatever way we can. So, it all boils down to the message we are sending out, and we are doing everything we can to do so, between the music and our worldwide community website. Success is not about making money and achieving fame. It’s about the people that we can touch with our work, and making a difference in the world.
FLYC: What is your favorite song on Say a Prayer – and why?
Michael: Picking one song is like picking from your children as they say. Very difficult to choose between them. Some of the songs were actually written years ago and we never released them, so we wanted to share them with our audience because we love those songs. Songs like Independence Day, again, say a prayer, la mer and invincible are all lovely songs. We were just waiting for the right time to release them. As usual, each song explores the human condition in a different way, whether it be political, personal, or environmental issues that we face today, I think we cover a lot of ground with this album. I’m not sure I can pick just one is my favorite. For me, they all have different flavors that are mixed into one bowl of soup that would be incomplete without any of them!
FLYC: How would you describe an X: THC show when you guys are on stage?
Michael: Initially, when we released our first album, X: The Human Condition, we performed with our film projected behind the band, so was a true multimedia experience. Unfortunately, it was not easy to find venues that could accommodate the multimedia aspects, so that became a challenge, however we were able to make it work by choosing to perform at alternative spaces such as theaters, art spaces and galleries. Nightclubs were not really the right vibe for what we were putting out anyway. For people to really get the experience, they had to be focused on the experience, and not the liquor, nor the chatter of trying to meet the hot person next to them, LOL.
We were dressed all in white, so that we could be seen and distinguished from the film that was being projected behind us, so it was really integrated visually.
Now when we perform, it is without the multimedia aspect. It is purely the musical performance that we focus on.
FLYC: Is there any song you don’t like to play live – just because you feel the message is old or it is too tricky to play?
Michael: Well the performances that we created for our first album required a click track for us to play to, so that we can stay in time with the film. In one way, that was great because it really focused us on staying in the moment and keeping in time, but on the other hand, it was rather restricting where there was no deviation from what we could do, timing wise. Being able to perform without that restriction is more freeing and more enjoyable in some ways. While we could certainly go back to performing with the click track, the freedom of not having it is a bit more fun now. But none of the songs on the initial album has a message that we no longer believe in. Message wise, they still work!
FLYC: Looking forward to 2023: What are your plans for this year? Will there be new music or it is rather about presenting what you got. Any shows planned for this year?
Michael: Well we have just released our third album and are currently promoting it. We are focusing on that right now, and while there are no shows currently planned, that could change quickly. We will certainly keep you informed, and if you would like to join our community, please sign up at our website and get access to free tracks (link see below).
FLYC: Last but not least: what is your dream with the project? Is there anything in particular who would like to achieve?
Michael: What we want to achieve with this project is just to reach more people with our message of overcoming adversity. In this year of 2023, we are still facing challenges in our lives, and the last few years have been filled with enormous adversity that we needed to overcome. We hope to inspire more people in the years ahead, but even if it’s inspiring to the people have that have already heard it, it is still worth doing. Making a difference in one person’s life is worth doing. Whatever we can do to make a difference in people’s lives… they are the reason for why we do this.
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