They're back! Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the venues, Fields Of The Nephilim crawl out of their silos tossing flour and a new LP 'Elizium'. Mary Anne Hobbs dusts off her notebook for a chat with McCoy & Co.
Backstage at Bristol studio: Carl McCoy runs a sharp fingernail underneath the lip of a bag of bleached McDougals.
"When we played First Avenue, Prince's club in Minneapolis, they wouldn't allow us to use flour," says the singer. "So we kicked the wall in and crumbled up plasterboard instead."
In their six years together, Fields Of The Nephilim have been head-locked, jeered and pelted in the media stocks - commonly dubbed The Barron Knights Of Goth, they stand convicted of grand lacerny - moonlighting with the Sisters Of Mercy's act - dry ice, mourning-wear, the lot!
"We were still underground when the Sisters were happening," says guitarist Paul Wright. "Because we're the same age as them and perhaps of the same attitude, we were probably drawing on similar influences at the same time.
"I like the Sisters. I'm sure they'll do OK at Wembley next month. They had the last five years to put a set together!"
Fields Of The Nephilim's debut album, 'Dawnrazor', was released in May '87. 12 months later the band scorched the Top 30 with their 'Moonchild' 45. 'The Nephilim', released in September '88, made Number 14 in the album charts, chased in May '89 by a second Top 30 single, 'Psychonaut'.
Last week, the band's third album 'Elizium' (produced by themselves and Pink Floyd's engineer Andy Jackson, who has just testified in Nevada for Judas Priest as engineer of 'Stained Glass', said to contain subliminal messages which prompted the suicide of two American boys) materialised on Gallup rung number 22.
The Nephilim have a sizeable traveler following known collectively as the Psychovikings, and by 6pm their greasy noses are pressed hard against the Bristol venue's glass doors, like rabid bargain hunters poised to hurtle through Selfridges on the opening of their January sales. The Psychovikings are by no means exclusively gothic. Toy punks in tartan - GBH and Exploited fans - are commonplace. One 14-year old in a Suicidal Tendencies shirt - Wimpy, from Dursley - sings in a thrash outfit named Dog Shagger, and invites me to the band's first gig at his home town's Memorial Hall.
McCoy tells me that their fan club are ludicrously obsessive: "I've had people get in touch with our manager and tell him to ask me if I'll heal their children!"
Both genders dance like Siouxsie, and are mad keen on the erection of human towers, the most impressive of which is five bodies high. The audience do this because an aerial vantage point is the only place from which they can hope to catch a glimpse of The Neph, as unfeasible dry ice density at ground level renders viewing utterly impossible. This does have its advantages as far as McCoy is concerned. Last time Fields Of The Nephilim played Bristol Studio, the singer apparently mounted the boards with quite uncharacteristic vigour, tripped over a stray lead and flew head-long into their monitor man, over the lip of the stage.
"And the audience," he says, "missed it completely!"
'Elizium' (which makes up virtually the entire set) live is delivered with the same dynamic dimensions of a singular classical movement - a near perfect balance of the apocalyptic, the barren and the tranquil, bullet-holed by the occasional favourite pop oldie. I swear there are freak moments when I'm wholly enslaved, tranced-out in the Nephilim's deserts of sound (Wow! - Ed).
Back in the Bristol Hilton bar, bass player Tony Pettit and drummer Nod pops peanuts and Paracetamol, while guitarist Wright recalls the dawn of his career with Nephilim.
"At 17, I signed up as a junior bugle player with the Royal Marines down at Deal in Kent. But I got arrested just before I was due to go in. By the time my court case came up, I was too old to be a junior bugler. I ended up with the Navy, wandering round Plymouth in all the sailor gear.
"I hated the Navy. Got the f--- out, and ran into Tony. He goes, 'Do you want to join this band I'm in?' I said, 'Yeah man'. And he goes, 'All you've got to do is tell the singer you like the Velvet Underground and you're in!'"
At high noon the next day, Fields Of The Nephilim file onboard their VW minibus. Grubby and black leather-bound, the band look like an Encyclopedia Brittanica set.
Blazing saddles up the M5 towards Manchester, the Stooges distort at critical volume through the buses' wholly inadequate stereo system, as Wright recalls Nephilim encounters with inter-continental custom officials.
"Never had a rubber glove up the anus," he says. "But I have been strip searched - coming back from the Bonn festival in Germany, on the French border last year - they get you jumping up and down with your cheeks apart, so if there's anything lodged up your jacksie it'll fall out. Horrible innit? What a f-ing job."
Woe betide any sneering customs official that ever employs their finger inside a Neph bottom.
"Have you heard about the Nephilim curse?" asks Nod.
"Roy Orbison went on Night Network and slagged one of our videos. A week later he was dead."
The Manchester Ritz's resident band are Vic Lazell And The Professionals.
"Vic's a right arsehole," says a portly security employee. "And I'll tell you summat else. I hope this Field Of The Nephilim mob aren't nothin' like The Soup Dragons. They played here last week. F-ing shite, they was."
After the gig, the security man concedes that he quite enjoyed the Nephilim, but is always acutely disappointed by bands that fail to equal the crucial decibel count of WASP.
There's no rave at the Hacienda to follow ("Don't wanna hang around baggy retards", snorts Tony). The Nephilim do admit once playing there, however, "well ahead of our time," some four years ago. Instead we retire to Parkers Hotel, which is something like the 061 equivalent of London's Columbia. The hours grow small as McCoy sips tea and talks of death - his premier source of motivation.
"The album title 'Elizium' is a Greek word meaning a resting place for the soul after life, an eternal paradise. As a whole piece the record explores the journey of the soul beyond mortality," he explains. "Death as the ultimate leisure activity. The end as the beginning. There is nothing else to live for, after all."
Do you fantasize about the perfect way to snuff it?
"I've always had this thing about drowning," he muses. "I'm sure I've drowned before, in a previous life. I have flashbacks. Dreams and things. I'm always very wary of so-called coincidence. I think a lot of people who are interested in the occult subjects will read into anything. But there's a sensation you get with flashes of experiences you've had in another lifetime, that is quite real, and re-occurring."
McCoy, (although he refuses to discuss ritual occult practices) is said to flirt with Shamanism, as does director Richard Stanley, in whose high profile sci-fi feature film Hardware, McCoy makes his acting debut.
"I play a nomad that slips in and out of time, wandering the wastes - a bringer of doom, a little like a cartoon of myself."
Do you find any morsel of joy in mortality? Ever get a good belly laugh out of a Bernard Manning gag?
"No," says the singer. "I like my humour black."
The bar boy saunters over, he looks like he could be any one of The Farm: "You a band, are yer? Where yer from, London? Played the Marquee have yer? I was down London to see Erasure, I know thee queer like, but I think thee dead good, them an' Deacon Blue?" he grins.
"How come you've not made it into the hit parade then?"
"We have," says Tony. "We had a single called 'Moonchild' that got to Number 28 a couple of years ago. We've been in the Bahamas ever since blowing the cash!"
"Summat for nowt, if y'ask me," grunts a sweaty night porter loafing near by.
"Well I hope y'make it to Number One, I honestly do," says the Farmboy. "Just think, I might be talking to the next Bon Jovi!"
"Thank God!" says McCoy.
Fields Of The Nephilim are not gunning for status in he big rock arena.
Gothic peer pressure pitches the Neph midway between The Mission and Christian Death. The band have, however, proven far braver than any of their contemporaries with 'Elizium' abandoning the pop crutch that is employed so frequently to lever goth music into the Top 40, and plumping for a radically experimental, atmospheric exploration.
Fields Of the Nephilim openly admit indulging ridiculous levels of live vaudeville, yet find as much farce in their props as lazy critics do wry disdain. Their audience say they find both thrills and solace in the free-based escapism the band pedal live - and there is simply no way you'll persuade a Nephilim fan that all the heroes have just left for The Gulf.