FROM "METALLURGY 2 - REASONS TO BE FEARFUL"
ISSUED BY METALLURGY MAGAZINE
INTERVIEWER: CATHI UNSWORTH
It's nice to know that, while he's been away, Carl McCoy has been thought of highly in the Satanic State of Denmark. "People have come up to me and seriously told me that my lyrics are responsible for people burning down churches there," smiles the dark lord, shying from the sun in the deepest recesses of London's dirty old Camden Town.
It's been five years since, dressed as the apocalyptic Man With No Name, Carl McCoy last rode Fields Of The Nephilim into town. In a storm cloud of flour, dry ice and battered leathers, his band ruled the kingdom of Goth in the late '80s, composing a Valkyrian soundtrack which ranged from the anthemic Duane Eddyisms of "Preacherman" to the epic splendour of "Psychonaut" to the brooding fade-out of Elizium, their last album in 1990. Internal conflicts split the band in 1991, with the remaining Fields forced to rename themselves Rubicon after Carl pulled the old Andrew Eldritch trick of snatching the name of his creation from beneath his underlings' feet and famously proclaiming, "I am the Nephilim!"
While trading on lost glories, the ignominious Rubicon ended up supporting prog rocker Fish. Carl, renaming his act Nefilim, plotted to take Goth into another dimension.
"For the first couple of years I was on my own really," he recalls. "I mean, we'd been playing non-stop before then, there'd always been something going on for about eight years before that, so I'd never had a break. Personally, it was the first time I'd been on my own, and I felt that I deserved it really. I obviously had a plan in my head about what I wanted to be hearing in music in the future, but going about that was a different thing. I had to experiment a lot and try things out, and it was nice to have that time to do that without any particular schedule to follow. If it didn't work, I could just chuck it away, cos I had a lot of material written in that time which was mainly for personal use to establish how I was gonna go about doing what I wanted to do."
The plan was in place, but realising it to his personal satisfaction was a process that filled the next half-decade with trials and tribulations for the perfectionist McCoy.
"I recruited some musicians, first of all just for recording purposes, and that was cool. We did a couple of gigs out in Germany, just to test it all out and see how it was gonna be in a live situation, and whether it was all possible, because at one point I thought it was maybe asking a little too much," he remembers. "Some of the stuff I'd written was pretty simple in my eyes but technically it was a little bit difficult to achieve. So I did the gigs, and when we came back we were supposed to be going in the studio to actually finish some recording and mix the stuff. And what I decided to do at that point was to collaborate with a producer, just to achieve a certain standard of recording, and spent months with this guy and it was just not working. I thought it was going pretty horribly wrong because what had happened was that obviously the live side of it was pretty simple, but all the technology and the scenes and the samples that I'd done didn't really merge. So what was happening was coming out unbalanced and it sounded like a bit of a thrash metal band. Which was not what I was trying to achieve."
Thrash metal or not, a harsher, more abrasive sound which relied heavily on Carl's mass of home-made samples was emerging, and, like bootleg dynamite, it needed to be handled with care.
"So I threw it away again," McCoy smiles, "and did the same thing with someone else. And it went the other way - it sounded totally synthetic. There was a lot of head-scratching going on at that point. It was getting up to about three-and-a-half, four years by then, but I was thinking, if I don't get it right now I'm going to be gutted, it's taken that long. So at the end of the day I had to devise a way of doing it, I took extra money out and I went into it on my own, shut everyone else out and finished it that way. Time just flew. So it was always moving on.
"So looking back, two years after the old band split, I could probably have released an album but I never got it to a finished state, I kept writing. So what people have got is not an album that bridges what I was doing then to what I'm doing now, they've got the jump."
The album, Zoon, is a markedly different beast from the one the original Fields straddled. It merges the muted colours and suspenseful menace of the film Seven to Al Jourgensen's jackhammer riffs, the intelligent sampling and abrasive instinct of the first Young Gods album, wrapped in the veil of mystique that McCoy conjures around his creations. It is a pretty extreme piece of work.
"Well, that's something I've always wanted to achieve," he states. "When we started out as Fields Of The Nephilim, that was a challenge in itself, cos we were pretty much going against the grain, and that was great. But by the time we got to Elizium - and don't get me wrong, I'm proud of what we did and I could never have done this without doing that - but it got to Elizium and I was looking to the next projects thinking we were never going to expand what we were doing. It was time to achieve some different feelings. Cos I spent ages just sort-of looking in, and just holding back with Elizium and it achieved the opposite effect in my head and I got really angry. I felt like exploding, because I was trying to control everything so much. Especially live, it was a testing album to play; you just couldn't get going, you couldn't get the adrenaline going, or get into the next gear."
Was he tired of the continuous tour treadmill, of providing what was expected with the same guitar-bass-drums format?
"I remember being tired and a bit fed up with it all, because we were touring for the sake of it at one point. Which is not why I got into the business. Yeah, we could have taken it on to where it should have gone, but I wasn't interested in that, because where it would have gone was not something I would have been proud of. It would have gone quite poppy, to be honest."
"I didn't just turn round to the band one day and say, that's it, I'm off. I actually sat down with them and asked them what they wanted out of it, where they wanted to go. And I told them my points, obviously, because I had strong ideas about what I wanted us to do, and they didn't know how to go about it. And I thought, if that's their attitude, I might as well try and make the break myself. It's not easy trying to not compromise. That's the lesson in this - it's very hard trying to do what you want to do."
Clearly, the anger and resentment built up in the last months of the Nephilim has come spilling out on Zoon.
"There's always been other sides of me that have never had an outlet," Carl considers. "I've spent years looking in with the lyrics and stuff like that, the whole feeling and that whole goth thing was so inward, something had to come out. I spent a lot of time looking back as well and I changed, I started looking forward, and I had to spew it all out. Zoon has got a lot of emotions and feelings in there. It suits me at this moment in time. It bridges more gaps, because that whole goth scene was pretty stagnant."
Does he think it will come as a shock to the old audience?
"Well, I really don't want to alienate the old audience. It won't please everyone, but I'm not here to do that. It'll sort the men out from the boys, won't it?"
However, McCoy is keen to stress that he is no way ashamed of the legacy the Nephilim left, nor of the G-word.
"A lot of people thought I was going to throw away my past but that's not true," he says.
But he's not living in the past, a place it's tempting to retreat to for safety.
"True, but who wants it safe? I don't. If it's safe, you're finished."
So how would he like Zoon to be viewed, both by the loyal fan and the Nefilim newcomer?
"It's a surprising album," he opines, and then further elaborates: "All the samples are original, I mean that stuff took me a long time to create. But the way I do music is from the visuals I see in my head, I don't often get inspired by other music, I get inspired by images and I interpret that through music.
"We spent about three days recording a load of flies," he says, no more obscurely than he should. "It took ages. They wouldn't make any noise, I mean I made this big contraption, a big steel case with a mic in it. So we got all these flies - fun that was - and put them all in this box, and they wouldn't mmake any noise. So we had to find a way of making them buzz. There's only little fractions of it on the album, but it took ages. Someone said, Oh, I've got a sample of a fly from a record library, but it was just typical, what you'd expect to come from a library. It's not as good as my flies, my flies had character.
"We had to put all these objects in there and tip them all over and then one afternoon they all went off into one. Ridiculous, I know, but I like it. It's all part of it."
The Devil rides out - again.