ELEGY, NOVEMBER 2005
Interview by Yannick Blay
Transcribed and translated by R. Navarro
It exists! An actual new album by Fields of the Nephilim is expected for mid-November! It will have been necessary to wait three years since Fallen - the pseudo-work released ten years after Elizium that is made up of demos and out-takes from various sessions - to be able to have a listen to a truly new Nephilim work. This is to say that this album, Mourning Sun, penned by the shadowy Carl McCoy has been long awaited by the fans. Elegy was chomping at the bit to give you the first interview with the loneliest cowboy of the goths about his new work, carrying again the stamp of the fine album Elizium...
Will you tell us about the line-up responsible for the new album Mourning Sun? It seems that it's totally unpublished...
Carl McCoy: Yes. In the few albums made in the course of my long career (laughs), there were some line-up changes. And this is a good thing, really. There are less restrictions. When you work with the same people for too long a time, it limits the quality of the production and creation. It's like in the movies. You don't want to see a director use the same actors all the time, isn't that right? I've played with a lot of different people and I will have no hesitation to change the line-up when I might want to do so.
Mourning Sun was entirely written by you?
And do you also play all the instruments that are heard on the album?
No. There were other people involved, for the bass and the drums, notably. But I do play some things on the album. This is a project that was very interesting to put together with fewer people in it.
But who are they?
Their names are not important.
This will be the same on tour?
Perhaps. But in any case I won't be addressing it before the first of next year. I prefer to prepare quietly for it.
Mourning Sun shows a Fields of the Nephilim as always, haunted and dense, but it seems a little too much like Elizium, no?
You don't like it?
Yes, but I'm a little disappointed. I expected something a bit more like Zoon, without a doubt...
All the albums that I've done are different from one another. And it is evident that it is that way on it's own. I wasn't particularly happy with Elizium when it came out. For me it seemed incomplete, not all finished. It lacked light and shadow, I think. When you must play these very long, slow songs on tour, it's a lot of work. I think that Zoon was written in reaction to that, and I even had it in me before Elizium. Then when I wrote Zoon, I had too many ideas for a single album. This is the reason it's so excessive. As for Mourning Sun, it is the fruit of a certain maturation, of my roots: it is what it is, in fact. It perfectly represents me, in any case.
The songs - as always - are long. In spite of that, does it have a single?
In fact, the songs aren't as long as they were to begin with (laughs). "Straight to the Light" for example, started out at fourteen minutes! But I shortened it a little. There are also some good songs that didn't make it to the album. I will release them next year, I think.
On a maxi or on a new album?
Again, I have no idea of the format. In the beginning, Mourning Sun was going to be a double album. But I thought that would be too much information in one blow for people. I have therefore withdrawn from that idea. We'll see next year if we'll do the rest. The priority remains the album. Anything else that has nothing to do with the release of the album is not decided for the moment. I will discuss the things to come with my label if it happens that the other songs are recorded.
But there will be a bonus track on the album that we didn't get to hear...
Yes, indeed. The news travels quickly (laughs)... It is a remake of an old song, "In the Year 2525". We did a very interesting version of it. It was a hit in the sixties.
Who wrote this track, again?
Zager & Evans, I believe. Strange guys that never did anything else, it seems to me.
Wasn't it Laibach who also did a remake of this song? On NATO, I believe...
I don't know, but I had heard remakes of this song before.
There is also a preview of a bonus video clip on the album...
Yes. We're working on it this moment in London. Again, I don't know exactly what it will be, but I'll find out (laughs).
But which track will it be?
The song for which was foreseen for the video-clip changed. Indeed, we were going to do a video-clip for a single that would have gone out before the album. But I changed my mind. The song that had to appear in single isn't even on the album. This one is more coherent that way, I think. And I like the idea of a single going out well after the album, so much as Mourning Sun deserves really to be listened to first.
Your lyrics seem always to reflect the same obsessions, no?
Yes. I didn't really change. The words reflect who I am. It is just the development of what I was before. This an angle or an updated version of me, I think. But the words are nothing without the music, this is everything.
Do the lyrics come after the music?
There is no strict format. Sometimes the words come first, and other times it's the opposite. All of it comes in a spontaneous fashion: I don't take a lot of time on the singing or on the rest, to be honest.
Your voice seems clearer, less subjected to the effects and to the echoes...
Indeed. It depends on context of the album. For this one, I had nothing to hide. Most of the voices were done in one take. It is true that there are some years, where we added a lot of effects to the voices at the time of the mix that were very good. But this isn't a very modern manner to obtain a sound...
The albums of the Fields of the Nephilim could be considered like rock operas, no?
(Laughs) Yes, if you want. My albums are very visual. And I do not write a song but an album, this is how to explain it. It is a theatrical and dramatic approach and I like that. I don't have the wish to change it.
Do you have a general vision of what you want to do before you write an album?
Usually, yes. I know at least what I want to say, what I want to get from it and how it must sound. But an album is also like a puzzle: you go with it, then you review to a certain point to advance anew in your composition. So until the album is finished, nothing is finished. My songs are only the pieces of this puzzle. Every piece indicates to me the mark to follow for the next one. The music is like the view: you take a certain way and up to a given moment you can't go back - you must go ahead while using what you've already accomplished.
Your lyrics - are they fed by the things that you read?
No. It's like that, in any case for this album. All the early albums were vaguely inspired by books but at least since Elizium, I let the words come out in a more instinctive manner.
"New Gold Dawn" - does this refer to Aleister Crowley?
No, not really. In the end, there is effectively a reference to Aleister Crowley. But the big thing with this song has nothing to do with him in the final meaning of it. It isn't the whole central theme of this song.
Are you sometimes surprised by your own words when you return to them later, after the recording?
Yes. Sometimes, I have the impression that this is distant from me. You're not necessarily conscious of what you write when you do it. And when you think to yourself about it from a new angle, you can in fact to be surprised, sometimes. But I like it very much, this is interesting. I tell myself that I have 'someone' who lives beside me (laugh).
Everything was composed in your studio, called the Ice Cage?
Yes. It's a rather large mobile studio - a refuge of sorts for me. I called the studio the Ice Cage in reference to certain lyrics in the song "Xiberia".
When you say mobile, you mean to say that you can record wherever - it doesn't matter?
Yes. Notably, I recorded some pieces in the arctic, voice and sound effects for the new album. Particularly in Norway. This is also the reason that I called my equipment The Ice Cage.
The visuals of your album also make reference to this coldness...
Did the arctic cold have any influence on your composition?
No. The place didn't have any influence on my composition. Or very little. My music comes especially from a physical effort.
Then why to go so far in the cold?
To escape the summer (laughs)! I hate the heat.
But doesn't a title like "Xiberia (Seasons in the Ice Cage)" precisely evoke the cold of the Great North...
Yes. "Xiberia" contains many sounds recorded in Arctic, as well as a number of pieces of songs. The finished recordings from there were scattered throughout the body of the album. What wasn't recorded there were the guitar parts, the bass and drums. Those were done later in another studio than my "ice cage." Zoon was recorded a bit on the same principle.
And "Requiem XIII-33 (Le Veilleur Silencieux)"? Why the title in French? What does it reference?
For personal reasons, I thought that this title corresponded perfectly to that which the song speaks about.
"Le veilleur" would be translated in English as "The Watchman", a term that is dear to you and is again the title of one of your old songs...
Indeed! But this title ties together especially with the idea that came at the end of the composition of the album. That corresponds to that which seems to want to unveil Mourning Sun... "Requiem XIII-33 (The Silent Watcher)" is a title that I've had in my head for a long time, well since I'm not French (laughs). Words that are not in your mother tongue seem to appear like that, sometimes...
Do you feel sometimes that you are like a silent watcher?
Heh... I think that that has more to do with the entity that is part of all this than I do. The watcher is just as well in me as outside of me, with me and against me, if you see what I'm trying to say...
In a way, you want to say that the silent watcher would be more the Nephilim than Carl McCoy?
It's almost that, yes. It is something that has always been with me. Every day and every task that I accomplish is in itself a discovery. The Nephilim allows me to express my absolute truth about what I see and feel. Therefore, in that way it's part of me. But how can that truly be explained?
Certainly not by me (laughs)! It's been twenty-two years now that Fields of the Nephilim has existed. In what do you put the most trust, when it comes to your work?
I don't know. This will always be the latest work, I think. Therefore, I will say "Mourning Sun". Anyway, it seems that there are more people that are interested in us today than in the eighties.
When you go out on tour again, will you be playing the old songs from your earlier albums?
Yes! We'll play the old songs and some bits from Zoon like all the times before where we played. But we will concentrate all the same on the new album as first priority.
Are you still in contact with Tony Pettit, Peter Yates and the Wright brothers?
No, I haven't seen the Wrights or Peter Yates for thirteen or fourteen years. And Tony Pettit - it's been three years that I haven't crossed paths with him.
What do you think about Rubicon and Last Rites, the new groups of your old mates?
I don't listen to the music, especially when I'm working on a new project. Therefore, I have no idea of what they're doing. I know they all have a group, but I haven't listened.
You never buy discs (cds)?
No (laughs). The only music that I listen to is what is played in the different places where I go. But music is always a part of my life.
If you want to listen to some music, you compose it yourself...
You could say it's something like that (laughs)! In general, that is true enough.
Finishing up here, what is the film that has had the most influence on your life?
Heh... To all evidence, it's "Once Upon a Time in the West". I haven't watched it for a long time, but it's a classic. Among other films I prefer is "Blood Simple" by the Coen brothers. My taste in films is very eclectic. There are plenty of others, but they don't come to mind at the moment.
Do you think you might get back into acting one day? (Carl McCoy appeared in "Hardware" a film made in 1990, directed by Richard Stanley. Lemmy from Motorhead and Iggy Pop also appear in the film.)
I've had several offers to do it these last two years. But I wanted to concentrate on my music. But later on, why not?