"OUT OF THE SHADOWS"
BY STUART MOSES
NFD (literally "Noise For Destruction") are quite possibly goth's first supergroup and feature some well-known faces from the scene. Meltdown's Stuart Moses catches up with the band to discuss how they cope with the expectations their collective pasts have on their current incarnation.
It has been a frustrating time for fans of Fields Of The Nephilim since the band split in 1991. Leaving aside the now-disowned 2002 release "Fallen," which featured demos included without singer Carl McCoy's blessing, there have been a number of spin-off bands featuring various members of the original line-up. Some have been more successful than others, but more often than not following such bands has led to disappointment rather than joy. So is any group working in the shadow of the Nephilim ultimately doomed to failure? Not if Peter "Bob" White, Simon Rippin, and Tony Pettitt -- collectively NFD -- have any say in the matter.
All three members have quite a history in the goth scene. Tony Pettitt, bassist, was a founder member of Fields of the Nephilim. Simon Rippin, drummer, was a member of a later version of the same band called The Nefilim and also performed live alongside Tony with Fields of the Nephilim. Bob White meanwhile had been playing together with Simon in London-based band Sensorium. So with all this in the past I wondered if they felt the weight of history on their shoulders?
"I don't feel we do. It's been about 12 years since Fields of the Nephilim put out their last proper album," says Bob. "NFD is something new as far as we are concerned."
Tony says: "Every album has its own pressures." He adds: "This one is no exception. It's our debut and people will judge it against previous work but it's an exciting prospect because we are all 100 percent into what we are doing."
Even if NFD truly believe that they are creating something that has never been seen before, they still have a debt to pay to the past. I wondered if they worried about being caught between the devil and the deep blue sea - for Fields of the Nephilim fans, the band won't sound enough like their musical ancestors, while for those that were never fans perhaps the sound will be too familiar?
"I don't think that's a problem at all," says Bob. The people that like it do, and the people that don't, don't. We are not trying to please anyone but ourselves."
Ah, that old musician's cliche a band makes music for themselves and "if anyone else likes it that's a bonus." But of course, NFD are right to please themselves. Jungle Records obviously has faith in them too.
"They don't normally work with more than one or two bands at a time," says Bob. "The last two being Fields Of The Nephilim and Sterling Roswell (ex-Spacemen 3)."
Jungle have also agreed to foot the bill for a posh residential studio for NFD to record their debut album.
"The album is being recorded at Foel Studios in Wales," explains Bob. "We have spent three weeks in there in total, recording and mixing. It is a pretty desolate location with no distractions, which is a good thing."
It certainly sounds idyllic. Set in the rolling hills about 15 miles from the border town of Welshpool, the studio is situated on the side of a secluded valley and comprises the studio itself and two cottages.
"We have been able to focus 100 percent on the job at hand. We are a band that likes to party hard but when it comes to recording and rehearsing we put all our energy into getting the job done."
Though the band are working on their as-yet-untitled debut album there have already been a couple of limited edition promos in circulation and a notable compilation appearance on Trinity Vol. 1.
NFD's "Break The Silence" EP was released last September and featured the title track, "No Love Lost," and "Unleashed." Much was made at the time of the five-minute guitar solo on the song "Break The Silence," but it's "Awaken" - previously only available on the B-side of the 12" -- that is actually being re-recorded for the album.
"That version we released was in fact the second version we have done. Awaken is quite an epic track and we felt that it still hadn't reached its full potential."
Let's hope the beauty of the Welsh countryside can help the band achieve the epic scope the song deserves. The album as a whole will be a development of the sound on the EP and Bob promises:
"There will be some new sonic elements appearing that were not represented on the EP. More extremes of the NFD sound are revealed. The tracks range from full-on numbers to drifting soundscapes."
At the moment it's "Blackened" which is the song that Bob has the strongest feelings for.
"It's one of the newest tracks and I only completed the lyrics while we were actually recording it. It represents closely how I feel about certain things in my life at the moment."
Bob handles the bulk of song-writing chores, getting the initial idea down in a matter of three or four hours.
"I start with the drums and bass and then add guitars and keyboards on top," he explains. "The vocals are nearly always put on last. I never sit down and write them. They just come out as I sing along to the track."
Once this is done he plays it to the band and sees what reaction there is. "Simon's first reaction is normally 'What's this shit!' The next day I'll play him the same song and he will say 'What's this? Have I heard it before? It's great!'" smiles Bob. "Tony and Simon then sort out the bass and drums and we continue refining it from there. Break The Silence was the first track Tony and I had a chance to work together on from the start. This will be happening more in the future."
Many goth bands use drum machines, so I was interested to find out Simon's opinion on them.
"There is nothing wrong with drum machines. They are a very useful tool for writing and getting ideas together, however, I find them very boring and uninspiring in a live context." He concedes that many bands use them out of necessity rather than choice. "A lot of bands use a drum machine because they can't find a good enough drummer or can't be bothered with the hassle of carting the gear around and having use to studios instead of bedrooms for rehearsals. We do embrace technology and use loops and drum samples but as an extra where needed and not as the mainstay. NFD songs generally start off with the programmed drums that Bob has put in while writing the songs and then we sit down and develop the original ideas from there on the live kit. What we end up with is a hybrid version."
You can't interview Tony Pettitt without asking about his relationship with Fields Of The Nephilim singer Carl McCoy. It seems as if he was the last member of the Nephilim to part ways with the singer, recording with him until as late as 2002.
"It was a really difficult time between us because what started out as a project where we had the same goals, ended up with a lot of frustration on my part," he says. "Due to a lot of problems -- too numerous to mention -- we lost the momentum of what was a very promising album. We didn't have a big falling out, we just drifted apart. And I think getting involved with NFD put the final nail in the coffin for him and for me." Tony is unsure what Carl is up to at the moment and is unable to cast any light on the new music he promises on his website. He does however offer the following crumbs of comfort: "We did work on some unreleased material together, so maybe something will surface at some point." But just as our hopes gather, they are soon dispelled: "I very much doubt that we will work together again, though." Perhaps we should learn to be grateful for what we have and not mourn what is lost. Tony certainly seems to be enjoying the challenges offered by his new band. "In a lot of ways playing in NFD feels right for my style of bass playing. So on one level it feels kind of similar to Fields Of The Nephilim but on another level it's a much easier way of working with just two people instead of four. Obviously it's different because of the personalities involved...." He's unable to identify which song on the new album is most important to him. "They are all important to me, sounds a bit of a cop-out but it's the way it is!"
But will NFD succeed where other Nephilim spin-offs such as Last Rites, Saints Of Eden, and Rubicon failed? "People make music for lots of different reasons -- not just commercial ones -- and as Last Rites and Saints Of Eden are still going concerns I don't perceive them as failures. Rubicon was maybe a commercial failure but at the time we believed it what we were doing. The NFD material just feels right and it's definitely one of the best projects I've been involved with."
Tony isn't the only ex-member of Fields of the Nephilim that's enjoying his time with NFD. Peter Yates, guitarist, has also joined the band on a strictly occasional basis. He picks up the story: "Tony played me some tracks and said there could be room for some slide guitar on it. It liked the songs and it was a good opportunity to play on some new music." I wonder whether he was tempted to join the band on a full-time basis, to which he replies enigmatically: "Watch out for some guest appearances!" Like Tony he is confident of NFD's chances at success: "NFD draws lots of influences from many places and it rocks, man! A lot of music is about being in the right place at the right time. I think this is the right time."
Peter isn't the only guitarist that augments the trio live: Chris Milden and Stephen Carey are there on a permanent basis to give Bob more freedom on stage.
Bob explains: "The only full-time members are myself, Simon, and Tony. Chris has become more involved in the band recently. He has tracked some of the rhythm guitars on the album."
Stephen is also another well-known name on the goth scene, having been a founding member of now sadly defunct This Burning Effigy: "He has his own projects he works on the rest of the time," says Bob. "Adoration is his gigging band at the moment. I think they will be releasing their debut material this year. Stephen also has a monster goth project in production that features tracks he has written himself with guest vocals from many figureheads of the goth scene past and present." Bob is referring to The Eden House, a collaboration with artists such as All About Eve's Julianne Regan, Faith and the Muse's Monica Richards, and New Model Army's Dave Blomberg, to name but a few. The album's release, later this year, has the potential to be a real mark-it-on-the-calendar event.
With the NFD album out around May/June time it seems that fans of dark, brooding gothic rock have plenty to look forward to. We can afford to be patient a little longer.
"We have had several false starts," says Bob. "It's taken time to find the right people to work with that understand the band and what we want to achieve. NFD as a band are not prepared to sacrifice the music to fit in with anybody else's agenda."
It's this spirit of not compromising which characterized Fields of the Nephilim in their glory days. It'll stand NFD in good stead and will no doubt allow them to take the best elements of their past and build something that will set the course for goth in the 21st century.