In the throes of performance Fields Of The Nephilim vocalist Carl McCoy is an awesome specter amidst a stage of roaring music. Imposing and seemingly inaccessible his dark, thunderous voice booms from beyond the brink of non-existence over his audience like a fast-rolling fog bank of intrigue. Over the phone from Hertfordshire, England he was one of the friendliest and most articulate gentlemen I've ever had the pleasure of interviewing. This contrast at first was a bit unsettling.
Due to their rather mysterious nature, the Fields of the Nephilim have become something of an enigma to most of the music world. This mystique has been furthered by a general misconception of the band and it's music on the part of the journalists. "I think they see us in a photograph and they make up their minds from that, which is not good enough as far as I'm concerned. So, " Carl chuckles, "we do try and avoid most of the press."
Shirking the rock 'n' roll ladder that most bands take, the Nephs are intriguingly reclusive. Yet, the popularity of their music is undeniable. 1987's Dawnrazor (Beggars Banquet) was voted #1 album of the year by Melody Maker, and "Moonchild" the first single from their latest album, The Nephilim quickly reached the UK Top 30, with no airplay.
The bands hermit-like elusiveness draws an interesting parallel to their title. "No one really knows about the race of them," Carl explains. "Nephilim is actually a Hebrew word and there's no fixed explanation for it." Roughly translated, it means 'giants' or 'sons of God'. Supposedly these people existed on the earth before the flood, they were fallen angels cast out of the heavens and they bred with women on the earth and produced this race of people, these giant men, known as the Nephilim." Additionally Carl clarifies that by 'Fields' they don't mean 'green fields' but more in the sense of "'magnetic fields' the drawing towards the Nephilim."
The bait for this attraction is their music. Simultaneously soothing and unsoothing, dark and pondersome, the songs of the Nephs are eerie illustrations crafted through the more tremendous side of music. "I just think it's real," says Carl, defending his propensity for the numinous. "I get a lot of inspiration writing about the darker side of nature, it seems more powerful," he muses. "I like to try and find out what goes on in peoples minds. I like to try and find out what goes on in my mind, my inner psyche if you like. I'm more interested in that than the material world."
Though too enrapted in his own music to pay attention to the current pop/rock scene, Carl admits to having "listened to the obvious bands like Pink Floyd and the Doors, but generally I don't like rock music." He pauses for a moment and then adds. "Actually I quite like a lot of different types of classical music."
This was a confession I expected. The music of the Nephs conjures up intense imagery, the grandoise power that erupts is on par only with something as beautifully constructed as Mussorgsky's "Night On Bald Mountain".
"We kind of orchestrate it (the music) before we write it," explains Carl. "We write these huge pieces of music and then we start editing, try to squash it down into 4 minutes to make a song of it. One day I think we're going to do the real 'Nephilim' thing but I think film is really the only way for that side of it." And just what could be expected of a Nephilim film? "I think it would be quite suggestive," he offers. "We could really take it a lot further, show the reality of our music rather than the myths and fairytale."
Carl does confess, however, to having a fondness for the recondite, which no doubt adds to the confusion. "I think if I wanted everybody to know what was going on inside my head I would just write it down plainly. The people who do understand my music - and they do know, they write me and I think that's great - these are the people I'm trying to reach." He laughs, "the small number of people somewhere."