To begin RM's look at four names that should make a mark in 1988, Lisa Tilston dusts off her spurs and talks to the Fields Of The Nephilim. After a couple of years building up a growing and enthusiastic live following, could this be the year they put Stevenage on the map and in the charts?

1987 was a good year for dusting off your old cowboy hat; a good year for Europe to discover flour power; and a very good year indeed for Fields Of The Nephilim.

Plenty of people were taken by surprise by the power and breadth of vision of their debut album 'Dawnrazor'. The rest of us simply looked smug and whispered 'I told you so'. Seven months since its release, 'Dawnrazor' hasn't been out of the independent top 20 and its grisly charm has helped spread Nephilim Fever throughout the worlds.

Large expanses of Europe have already been contaminated, and the rest will soon be put under siege.

Add to this the recent appearance of their paint-blistering single 'Blue Water', in the national charts, the sporadic revivals of their earlier classy releases, and a string of sell-out gigs in this country, and it's clear that the Nephilim are intending to leave their floury footprints on the carpet of success.

The Fields Of The Nephilim are still the most infuriating, uncompromising, thoughtful, argumentative, down-to-earth, head-in-the-clouds, provoking and profoundly loveable bunch of wind-up merchants ever to grace the pool tables of North London with their dusty presence. Having been reduced to helpless laughter on more than one occasion by their barrage of warped humour and weird logic, it's strange that some sections of the music press insist on portraying them as grim-faced purveyors of gloom with a cowboy complex.

"We're not amateur, we're not political and we don't write anthems, so obviously they hate us," says guitarist Paul. "They can't work us out. Carl's lyrics are his own, he doesn't have to share his opinions with anyone else."

"One woman interviewed us had nothing to ask, she just wasn't interested. Well, it was mutual," adds fellow-guitarist Peter, hobbling around looking brave after a painful knee operation. It's this no-nonsense attitude that has earned the Nephilim a reputation for stand-offishness in some quarters - but certainly not with their fans. They're adored with a religious fervour that few can match.

The question of press popularity has already become irrelevant as the band consistently play to packed venues throughout the last year. Once described as the biggest cult band in the country, anyone who was in the vicinity of London's Astoria on the night of their recent triumphant end-of-tour gig can be in no doubt of the strength of their pulling power. House records were broken. The tickets sold out minutes after the doors opened as the faithful descended upon London in their droves.

"We could sense the atmosphere as soon as we went out there," says bassist Tony. "There was a brilliant kind of hush over the crowd. It was a brilliant feeling, like we'd taken people out of themselves and they were all united."

This kind of fan worship can be disconcerting for a band who started out playing to hardcore punks and skinheads. "We never got any trouble," says Carl. "We used to play at them until they couldn't handle it! Now our audience looks really young to us, but we'd never put them down when they ask for autographs or whatever, because we can remember what it's like to be in their position. I can't stand them having a better time than us though!"

Some of the adulation may be due to Carl's sinister good looks and dishevelled charm, but while it's never yet hurt a band to have a sexy singer, the majority of fans are drawn by the sheer force and exhilarating adrenalin rush of the music alone.

"Some of them haven't missed a single gig," says Tony. "They've even been to more than us, because when we've had to cancel dates they've turned up."

There's little chance of such devotion going to their heads, but they are finding it more and more difficult to lead normal lives outside the band.

"We're so used to each others' company that when we mix with people who don't understand what we're doing we tend to close up," says Carl.

"My mum asked me to peel the potatoes the other day and I went mad!" says drummer Nod guiltily.

Time is their real adversary at the moment as they're booked up for months in advance to tour and record the new album. Maybe one day they'll stop for long enough to make that film they dream of. Whether it will be called 'Lust In The Dust II' or 'Once Upon A Time In West Stevenage' I don't know , but judging by their previous excursions into video-tape it will be worth the wait. Images like Carl's 'tasteful' hanging scene in 'Blue Water' (which was cut for television) are difficult to forget. The thought of these tousled cowboys cavorting across the nation's screens is irresistible.

There, I've said it to their faces. Cowboys. I'm not expecting that slip of the tongue to go down too well, as the band are not usually too patient with people who mention it to them. Happily, it seems that nothing can drain the reservoirs of good humour today.

"We don't see ourselves as a bunch of cowboys. Sorry lads, couldn't resist that one!" says Tony with a laddish grin.

"When we started out we were really scruffy, and we just poured flour over ourselves to add to it," continues Carl. "We've always loved chucking flour about in the dressing room. We started doing it to wind up the headlining band as much as anything. They're all ready to go on and you brush past them, covered in flour. No, if it was only flour we'd look like Homepride men, but it's general grime... Fuller's earth, sand, mud ... You could build a bridge out of us!"

Obviously when the money starts pouring in, it's not going to be spent on clothes. Apart from financing their expensive flour habit, they'd like a helicopter (to get Peter about) and the usual boys' toys. Says Carl "I'd like to have a really tasty motor, completely battered up, so everyone would think 'what a jerk, look what he's done to that car!'"

So, the Nephilim's predictions for 1988? Nod's mum will stop asking him to peel the potatoes, Paul will buy some new trousers and Tony will fix the head gasket on his car. Pete will throw out his crutches and start walking again. Somewhere along the line they might even find time to make a shit-hot new album and take the world by the throat.

"1987's been a real good piss-taking year for us. 1988's gonna be even better," promises Carl.

This is one New Year's Resolution I can't wait to see carried through.