BY SAMMY TUBER
(Well, I've stuck to the promise that I made in Issue 1, that I'd have a bang-up-to-date interview with The Nephilim and you can't get much more up-to-date than this. I only did it three days ago 17/4/88. I met up with Tony (bass) and Paul (guitar) in the pub before they were off to see The Church. So very rapidly out came the old tape recorder and I fired away my never-ending list of questions.)
H/S: it is about a year and a half since we last spoke. How different is life now compared to then?
T: It's a lot busier.
P: Yes, it's definitely a lot busier, there used to be gaps between the tours but now we're practising in the gaps. There is no free time at the moment.
H/S: In 1987 you must have been the busiest band around. Over eighty gigs, two chart-topping singles and a highly successful debut LP, Dawnrazor. Did you make a conscious decision to go out and get known?
P: We didn't really know that it was happening.
T: It's really sort of crept up on us. You know, one minute you're doing a support with Zodiac (Mindwarp) and then in the space of a couple of months you're doing the same gigs yourself. Pulling the same amount of people but on your own merit.
P: It's great.
T: I think we've gone about things the right way though.
P: It was a conscious thing though, we just thought that we had got to get as much done as we possibly could.
T: There was a point last year up to where everything was going slow and steady, then there was a sudden jump. I don't know but I suppose it was the album.
H/S: You've always said that you want things to happen nice and slowly, but now that the great ball of success has begun to roll are you finding it difficult to control its speed?
T: No, not yet.
P: No, because we are up to what we're doing at the moment. If we were doing what we're doing now a couple of years ago it would have been too soon. It was a good idea to spread things out a bit towards the beginning, so now that we're a bit more ready we can take on what we've got. So no, it's not out of control yet.
T: Yeah, you're right though. When you get a bit more known things do start happening a lot quicker. Also, we can now plan the next nine or so months in advance, whereas we could never do that before.
H/S: How did it feel to break Europe? Was it successful and will you return?
T: I think Germany was the most successful just by the sheer amount of people, so yes we're definitely returning.
P: Yes, everything was so smooth and organised. Germany was the business.
T: Touring around is one of the best things I've done, really, and it's the best way to see a country.
P: The crowds were pretty much like here so you felt at home straightaway.
H/S What was the best aspect of '87, as a band?
P: Personally I enjoyed Reading so much. I really thought Reading was great fun.
T: Yeah, Reading was good, but also the success of Dawnrazor for a band that hasn't had any sort of hype as yet. And we don't really want any.
H/S: What plans for the rest of '88? Another busy year or are you going to take it easy?
T: A busy year.
H/S: Any record releases planned?
T: Yeah, we've got a single out called Moonchild, out towards the end of the May tour. After the tour we've got two days off and then we go straight into the studio to record the album.
H/S: Can you tell me about Moonchild?
P: I don't think at the moment that we have brought out anything like it. The 12" has got a lot more things happening than any of the other stuff but the lyrics are out on their own again, you know, so you need your own interpretation of what they are.
T: Well, I think that the actual song and the sound of it is quite a basic sound, sort of how it would be played live rather than tightening it up. Although on the album we are going to try a lot of experimental stuff.
H/S: People say nowadays singles sell on the strength of their videos. You've proved this wrong but don't you find it frustrating that your excellent video work only gets shown once when it could have helped just that little bit more?
P: They can't get much higher than Number One though!
T: Yes, well, it's not the acceptable sort o video thing really, is it? Most videos these days are performance videos with everyone looking really nice, smiling and having a good time, cars and women, et cetera. If you do something a little bit different no one wants to know. It seems to be the primary objective at the moment to make videos that...you don't have to think about the music, like Stock, Aitken and Waterman and all that old bollocks. You know what I mean, just a beat with lots of people running around smiling. Yes I did think some of these people such as Channel Four did have a bit more brains to try something different.
H/S: You say you'd like to try out being a soundtrack band. What would be your ideal film theme to work with?
T: For me it would have to be one of these films like The Keep, Bladerunner even, or Brazil, those sort of epic-type films.
P: I saw this program on TV the other night, no talking, just clips of different film speeded up, but the music they used hurt in the end, a shame really. I'd like to have a go at something like that.
H/S: Since the use of Power in the Italian film Demons 2, have you been offered any more work in this area?
P: People have suggested it in places like America because of the Ennio Morricone touch on the last album, but nothing has actually happened yet.
T: When we were in the States especially, because that's where the whole film industry is based, we let it be known that that was what we really wanted to do.
H/S: Your music has taken quite a change in direction over the last six months, the songs seem to have gone a lot subtler.
T: yes, I think we've sort-of gone in a full circle. When we first started up a lot of our music was quite subtle but we realised that to be a live band you can't just play loads of subtle music. We were always in to playing some rockin' stuff as well and that's what people picked up on at first, the Preacher Man, Power sort of stuff. So we've always had it in us to do the more subtle songs but we've got more of an opportunity to do that now. We've tried to balance the set out now, fast and slower.
P: also, now that we can afford better studios and equipment we can experiment more with different sounds.
H/S: Your music is yours, you decide how it's played and in which direction it leads. The main aspect of making music is to please yourself. If people like it then fair enough, buy it, but don't you think it's wrong how the music press can slag off nationally something that's your personal achievement? When they have no idea behind the song or the set?
T: That's like, the critics prerogative. I don't mind it.
P: When it boils down to it, it's only their opinion. Any decent slagging you can agree with but we haven't finished evolving yet, so we aren't really bothered by the odd slagging.
T: It is a bit of a wind-up really - it does piss you off even if you say it doesn't! Every review you read seems to be a slagging so I don't know what they want.
H/S: do you think it's funny how they (Melody Maker) are now even prepared to fly someone out to Spain to interview you?
T: Yes, I saw it as one up to us really. They did it purely on the strength of how well we did in the Readers' Poll. I don't think they could understand how we did so well with hardly any press coverage.
H/S: Which do you consider more important, live shows or record releases?
T: They're both as important as each other, in their own merit. I really enjoy playing live but I also like to get stuck down at the studio. I remember getting my copy of Burning The Fields and having it in my hands and thinking it was the best thing I had ever done; then on the other hand that Astoria gig also felt like the best thing I had ever done.
P: You've got to treat them as totally different skills.
H/S: Do you see some of the reason for your success as your being one of the only new bands to keep trying out new things and keeping out of a rut?
P: Yes, a lot of bands seem to be overnight bands now; they all seem to fade away quite quickly.
T: As the music has progressed we've picked up more fans, so yes, you do need to try out new things.
P: We need to do new things for ourselves as well, to keep it fresh.
T: I would hate to be in a band where it was hard to progress. That was why a lot of the old punk bands got in a rut. Although they were excellent when they started out, they just never progressed, or if they did it was an obvious commercial sort of progression. I don't think there are many bands who do carry on progressing - a lot of the bands I like I only like the first couple of albums and then they go shit. I would really like us to be a band that progresses and gets better as we go on.
H/S: How does it feel to walk out on stage in front of hundreds of people?
T: When you first walk out at places like Reading or the Astoria it can be quite daunting, but as soon as you start to play it's OK.
P: Walking onstage at Reading and seeing all those people, it was one of the best things I've ever seen.
T: I was really pleased with the total response we got at reading, especially considering the sound we had was total crap.
H/S: What are your favourite aspects of the new-found success?
P: It's nice to know that people are starting to pick up on what we do and that the work we do isn't in vain. There were a lot of people who said that we wouldn't get anywhere because they read a bad review, so it's nice to have proved them wrong. It's nice that people have come to our gigs and made up their own minds.
H/S: Back to the music, the songs seem almost like short stories. Stories with a twist to them that most people fail to pick up. Is this a planned thing?
T: I think that's more Carl's department, talking of what the lyrics are about. That's the sort of stuff I like anyhow. Nothing sort of cut-and-dried, you know, "I went out and won my baby in a big fast car." Like the Cult's new lyrics, I think they're shit. I like stuff that could mean a number of different things, even some of David Bowie's older lyrics are excellent.
H/S: Where do you see everything leading?
T: It's hard to say really. You can't say how far you could go as a band. It could get really big, whereas we could stay at a sort of cult underground size and then break out. But we all know that we're going to be in it for a long time.
H/S: Is there anything special that you would like to achieve?
T: Well, it's sort-of changes. Each time you achieve one of your last aims then you start to try for another one. Basically, to keep growing as a band and for things to keep going.
H/S: You've just returned from your first tour of the States, how did that go?
T: It was good, a sort of introductory tour. No big advertising or hype, which was pretty good because RCA, who we're with over there, could have gone well overboard. They could've tried to really push us down people's throats and we're not that sort of a band. It was just a tour to test the water and see how we would go down over there. The reaction was good and we should be returning at the end of the year to do a tour the next step up.
H/S: If you ever got onto Top Of The Pops would you go live?
T: I'd like to, yeah.
P: Yeah, well it depends on what sort of song it was. If it was a song with loads of production on it and it wasn't the sort of thing you could pull off live then that would be a different matter, but we're not writing anything like that yet anyway.
T: We would like to do it live, yes but a lot of the sound quality on the telly is shit.
H/S: As the singles go, do you see Preacher Man as a starting point, because aren't the later singles and videos supposed to lead on from it?
T: Well, yeah, Preacher Man and Blue Water really go together but the next we do is going to be a bit more surreal. It's going to have similarities but it won't lead on as much as the last two. We're going to have similarities but different, not so sort-of Hammer Horror, something a bit more subtle.
H/S: Why call the tour The Mark of the Watchman?
T: Well, since we wrote the song Watchman we've noticed a definite change in our music. The Watchman was like a start of a new era for us, just as Dawnrazor was the last.
P: It's not that Watchman will be the main track on the new album, but it seems that since we wrote it our direction has changed.
T: Plus, it's a bit of a good name, like. (laugh)
H/S: So, what's next?
T: After the tour, the album.
P: After the album, Europe.
T: After Europe, America and after that the World.
H/S: After that, Christmas.
T: Yeah, after America, Christmas...
This article reproduced with generous permission from Elizium for the Sleepless Souls.