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SOUNDS JULY 2, 1988
FLOUR POWER

Just who are these weird flour fetishists and what's a "nephilim" anyway? Roy Wilkinson unearths the facts behind Fields of The Nephilim's mystique.

When you play with flour, sooner or later you're gonna get stoneground. Certainly the Nottingham police were well aware of Fields Of The Nephilim's bizarre Homepride habit and of the high their followers were getting from self-raising cut with baking soda.

When the flour-crazed rockers burst into town, the cops were ready to put them through the mill.

Tony, the band's straight talkin' bass man remembers the day his luck ran out and the lawmen pounced.

"They burst into the room, card in face. We've found ten grammes of a white powder. I said, Off, it's flour, we pat it on our clothes. I mean look at me, it's all over my T-shirt. The copper goes, Yeah, yeah, we've heard all this before."

Quick to spot a sloppy snorter, plod herded the Neph boys down the nick.

Peter, guitar and no-frills conversation mode: "So we was all walked together. By the time we did our statements, all the Old Bill was wearin' Nephilim badges."

Wild west fetishist of the first order, the rootin', tootin', Fieldies must have relished being handcuffed in manly bondage, just like real outlaws. No doubt they were already planning their jailbreak - waiting for a roadie to bung them the requisite dynamite so they could blast themselves free and ride into the sunset, all in good time for the soundcheck.

Things weren't looking good for a release, that's for sure.

Peter: "They actually did a drugs fields test on the flour and it gave a positive result. Then they burst into our tour van and found three unopened bags of flour. They did a test on that and it came up positive aswell. They thought we was this incredibly rich band with six pounds of coke."

Paul, guitar and peculiar hair afterthought: "But in the end we did make it to the soundcheck for the next gig. All the time I was worrying that we wasn't going to make it."

Tony incisively sums the whole thing up. "It was a strange day," he says.

Strange indeed that the Nephilim, a band whose appeal centres on mystery, whose lyrics plunge into the weird and the unfathomable, should litter their conversation with phrases as prosaic as, "It was a strange day." These likeable, verbally-humdrum trio (vocalist Carl and drummer Nod are absent) clock up a fair number of similarly rank Greavsieisms: it's a funny old game, this band business ain't it?

It seems that the Nephilim are very much a dual identity band. Onstage they're strong silent types. Clad in dust-covered garb, with only Carl's creaking coffin lid of a voice finding employment as he foghorns away with his spooky, arcane lyrical imagery. An Eldritchian quantity of dry-ice masks their every move.

After a hard days jam, these three look a long way from the Nephs we know and love. Tony and Peter, more Next than Neph, sport neat leather jackets and denims. Only Paul, a man whose London drawl and furtively-grinning features give him the air of a well-intentioned Dickensian villain, comes anywhere near the Nephilim onstage dress code.

Is this schizophrenia or simply costume-donning escapism?

Peter: "We definitely feel very different onstage".

Tony: "When you go onstage, you do change. These days we get a really good sound onstage, and we feel so bloody confident as well that we probably come across as almost arrogant. It's a bit of escapism if you like."

Peter: "It's like Charlie Watts said - the Stones was like 20 years of hanging around and five years playing. All that stuff that you can do can actually be hard work, but the actual hour or so that you're onstage is like a transformation which makes it all worthwhile.

"It's a total escape - not many people get the chance to experience what we've done so far."

The man has a point. It must be an interesting experience playing in front of the Neph's apeshit-bonkers, fearsomely devout audience full of ham dramatists.

And of course, the Neph crowd is among the most loyal known to rock science, ranging from the hardcore who follow the band's interstate gigging activity, to the casual Nephilite, to one particular 43-year-old female follower with a penchant for aboriginal make-up.

Peter: "She sent us a postcard from Mount Sinai. She makes almost like chemical formulae to explain what we're singing about and playing."

Paul: "She's so deep in interpreting our songs - six or seven sides of A4 about what it means and about every band members contribution to it."

Tony: "She sees more in us than I do sometimes. I can't get on her wavelength at all. Carl can, he's the one she talks to, whereas I don't understand what she's saying."

Intriguing stuff, but does the Fields' art really warrant such earnest examination?

Certainly Neph words make little literal sense, spinning signifiers of spookiness over an effect-laden rock pulse.

Carl's the words man, a self-confessed well spooky geezer, who's into reincarnation, the occult and other weirdness. It's Carl who sports the crazy, coloured contact lenses and seemingly Carl who's the driving force behind the band's sartorial excess.

Carl, it seems, is a bit of an enigma.

Paul: "There's this great mystique thing about Carl, but really it's just his character, just his personal opinion about... things. He doesn't wanna spill his beans all over the show."

Tony: "He's quite into certain... things, that he doesn't want to talk about. He's quite interested in the occult, but he doesn't want to talk about it, because it looks so heavy metal."

Alongside Carl's insights into the 'otherside', the band maintain a filmic perspective, a side not without its supernatural content. Take, for instance, the series of mad coincidences pivoting on that most august of nouns, mission.

Once upon a time, before the Morricone-soundtrack-inspired Fields Of The Nephilim existed, various Nephs laboured in a band called The Mission. The first unearthly coincidence came years later when Wayne Hussey and company also opted for that very same name.

Of course, in view of the Sisters comparisons that dog the Nephs, some strange force must surely have guided ex-Sisters Hussey and Adams when they chose their current band's name.

The second coincidence came later with a film called, strangely enough, The Mission. The soundtrack for the film was composed by none other than Ennio Morricone - the strange circle of events was now completely inexplicable by any scientific means.

As Tony said: "That was quite a coincidence that."

It was Morricone who nourished the band's interest in all things wild and western, a fascination for wide-open spaces made explicit with a quote printed on the sleeve of their 'Power' single.

"Why would any man willingly live in a city, with its infernal stinks and noises, he would never know... when he could go west... and be his own Lord and King. And when the hour came he would be content to let the wolves strip his bones clean and leave them on this great map of the magnificent."

The quote is by an anonymous "Mountain Man," but surely it hints at the Nephs' lust for the wilderness.

Peter: "We're not really into fast, modern life. We all quite enjoy it in the countryside and we always record somewhere pretty rural."

Tony: "Carl would go and live in America. I'd live in Devon or Cornwall. Just getting around this country is great. It's a wonderful place."

Paul adds, "I love wildlife programmes."

It was Paul who, with an eye to life on the ocean waves, once joined the Navy.

"Yeah, I'd like to live on a boat one day. When I was in the Navy we did get to travel abroad, but there was too many ties. You had to go abroad in all these stupid uniforms (an often-forgotten feature of the Armed Services). When I left the Navy, I just went abroad for two years and travelled around by meself with a rucksack.

"That's when I learnt to play the guitar, I suppose, round campfires, buskin an' all.

"I joined the Navy to learn to sail and to travel. I ended up not enjoying either with them, so I left and learnt to sail by myself."

The question remains, puzzling rock persons everywhere, what exactly is a Nephilim? The best my dictionary could offer was nephalism, which is teetotalism, surely a concept that could have no connection with this bourbon-suppin', booze-mad crew.

Paul: "Couldn't be us, no way, we like a pint or two. I'm a rock 'n' roller me, an' I like a few beers. That's for certain."

What about a nephalometer then, an instrument used to measure cloudiness. Perhaps it could double up as a dry-ice gauge.

Tony: "Ho, ho, you're pulling our legs. I think Nephilim was originally a Hebrew word meaning giant.

Peter: "We just chose it cos we liked the story it was in and it's quite mysterious. It Doesn't give too much away.

"We've been called everything in the music papers though; Fields Of The Maplin, Fields Of The Nestlings, Friends Of The Nephilim. Everybody used to get it wrong."

It's a strange business, this rock'n'roll.