THE LEGEND OF THE LOST
From cowpokes to horror heroes, Fields Of The Nephilim's Carl takes a back seat while the Nephs measure their popularity. Story by Lysette Cohen
Something is stirring out on the dusty plains. This time last year, Fields Of The Nephilim were being heralded, by some, as saviours of the lost and wandering young souls, grappling for a music to delve into and live out intently. For many, however, they were dodgy goth cowboys, an easy target for ridicule from the cynical music press who couldn't quite understand what was happening. Now the Nephs and their strong barrage of fans are laughing on the other sides of their faces, for things have certainly changed. From pokes of amusement to cover of those same magazines, from indie success to major chart status. Moonchild zoomed straight into the top 40, due purely to the loyalty of their ever-growing number of fans and without one iota of help from the ever-on-the-beat Radio One.
I met up with the boys: Carl McCoy - vocals, Tony Pettit - bass, Peter Yates - guitar, Paul Wright - guitar, and Nod Wright - drums, just as they were about to set off on their latest tour, under the banner Precious To The Lost, reckoning they must be feeling pretty proud of themselves.
"It doesn't really surprise me about the music press," says Tony, "cos as soon as they hear a band doing well they want to get them on their cover so that they can sell copies. It's also better that people come to us rather than us having to go to them, which is what has happened."
How about the single shooting straight into the top forty? That must have been a bit of a surprise. Paul: "The first week it went in at 36 which was really pleasing, but when it went up the second week that was a real shock!"
Tony: "We knew the strength of Dawnrazor that it would probably fly in, but we thought it would just fly out again." Would you have gone on Top Of The Pops if you'd been asked?
Carl: "We talked about it at the time and they got in touch..."
Nod: "But unfortunately we were doing the album which was an excuse not to push ourselves to go on there."
"I think we would have done it though," ponders Carl. "We're not afraid of it - it wouldn't have done us any harm."
Other people might have thought it would.
"Probably. I don't think we'd have tried very hard, I mean, you can't get off on miming..." The Nephilim's success has been strengthened by the strength and frequency of their live shows. Gigs have become events and crowd reaction has turned to worship. Live it's dramatic. Soundtrack intros, bellows of dry ice, which leads to grinding songs turning the gesticulating audience into a frenzy. So what's the secret, how does the band attract such a following?
Carl: "We're the best at what we do and people realise that."
Tony: "A few years ago there were a few bands with large followings, like The Cult, Sisters etc. but a lot of those bands really messed up and people's options got smaller. We're a good alternative to staying at home! We're an alternative to staying and watching the telly."
Do you think the audience takes you too seriously?
Tony: "No, it really takes people out of themselves when they come to see us, but I can never see past the first four rows and they're full of the party animals. Maybe further back they're taking it seriously. If you were in your late teens would you be going to see Fields Of The Nephilim?
Carl: "I think that I would."
Would you be at the front or the back?
"Down the front".
The next chapter in the Nephs' progress is the just released second album The Nephilim. Side one is more or less a continuation of Dawnrazor while side two is more powerful and striking with the epic Last Exit For The Lost which lasts a wonderful ten minutes and the absurdly desolate Celebration. There are different styles on show, more of a tour de force after Dawnrazor's best of their first three years collection. Is there any track that sums up the group best?
Tony: "If any, probably Last Exit."
Nod: "In the ten minutes of that song it goes to so many extremes, through so many moods. That sums up the band I think."
Dawnrazor was very much like a Western, the tracks linked by cowboy-generic noises, very much influenced by the spaghetti westerns that they wee into at the time. The Nephilim seems to be heading more towards horror, appropriately for this Halloween season. The tracks are linked with monks singing, chanting and the occasional collection of eerie sounds. Did the album come about through a different diet of films?
Tony: "Not really, we just wanted to give the album an overall theme."
As for horror films, Paul can't watch horror films on his own, he even thinks Bros videos are frightening, but Nod claims to like having the life scared out of him. Peter's not sure about guts for guts sake, Tony thinks they're a 'laugh', and I think Karl is a sexier version of Eddie Kruger. The general consensus reveals that thrillers are preferred, best of the latest being Angel Heart and Name Of The Rose.
So what's the scariest thing in the world?
"Real life situations that we're not in control of." That's unanimous. The Nephilim's music has always had that image of schlock horror about it, pulled from nightmares rather than dreams.
Paul: "We don't do it deliberately, though I can see your point. Probably some of our music could be put to horror films."
Tony: "When I think of horror and music, I think of a band like Alien Sex Fiend."
Have you had any ghostly experiences?
Paul: "I don't think any of us believe in hosts, but everyone in the band enjoys a good nightmare. Do you ever have music playing in your dreams?"
I don't think so.
Tony: "I smelt something in my dream the other night."
So what about scary experiences?
Paul: "I was on the roof of a hotel and I climbed along a small ledge and suddenly I came to my senses. I was ten floors up and the window I was heading for had been nailed shut. So I had to crawl back along the ledge."
Tony : "Which was about six inches wide and he had his Cuban heels on which were probably wider than the ledge."
Peter: "He was outside banging on the skylight, pissed out of his face, shouting 'let me in!' "
Paul: "That was pretty scary drink."
Just like a Nephilim gig really. Down at the front it's a scary beer-sodden but uplifting experience.