There’s never been a shortage of colorful personalities and kooky characters in hard rock and heavy metal. David Bowie was Ziggy Stardust, and Vincent Furnier transformed into Alice Cooper. The guys in KISS donned kabuki makeup to become the Spaceman, Starchild, Demon and Cat Man. Today, bands like GWAR, Slipknot and Lordi wear creepy masks and elaborate monster costumes and alien outfits as part of their slammin’, shock-tastic theatrical shows.
But there’s never been a band whose aesthetic is all goblin, all the time.
Nekrogoblikon started as a joke project, a parody/satire proposition whose shout-scream verses lambasted societal evils and offered scathing commentary on mankind’s many misdeeds—as channeled through goblin lore. But now its members are committed to the cause, and all the tumultuous, speed-tripping tracks on albums and EPs like 2011’s Stench, 2013’s Power, and 2015’s Heavy Meta remain unapologetically goblin-centric.
The group’s five virtuosic musicians don’t need to sport any silly attire when performing. That’s because they’ve got their own live mascot-jester in John Goblikon, a mild-mannered, green-skinned, pointy-eared eccentric who joins the band on concert stages and acts as ambassador/spokes-creature in Nekrogoblikon videos like “No One Survives.”
AXS: Welcome to Bonkers is set for release next Friday, April 13. Was that a planned thing, or just serendipitous timing?
NICKY: Well, we looked at our options and saw Friday the 13th and thought, “All right, that’ll work!”
AXS: Does the title refer to an actual place—a la Yonkers, New York—or is it more about a state of mind?
NICKY: Yes, it’s kind of a pun. It’s sort of about a state-of-mind in terms of going crazy. We thought of like a crazy diner or something. That’s what you see on the cover.
AXS: Can you talk a little about the band for newcomers, how you got started?
NICKY: Basically. It’s just five of us at the core. Guitar, bass, vocals, keys, and drums. I don’t really play the keys anymore myself. On the recordings, I do a little bit, but not live. We’ve been doing this for eleven years. I went to school for recording, and I also took a little theory. But the rest just comes from playing metal and wanting to be extreme. We were young! When we first started the band, it was just a little project between me and the guitarist. He had some leftover riffs from another band he was with. He was just joking around and said, “Let’s use these riffs to make something. We’ll call it Goblin Island!” We cracked up so much over it that we decided we just had to make it happen, so that became the first album.
AXS: Now, of course, you have an actual goblin in the group. Where did John come from?
NICKY: Originally, he came from space! But we met him when we shot a video in 2012 for “No One Survives.” After that we thought, “He’s a goblin, and we’re a band about goblins, so we should tour together!”
AXS: Does having a goblin in the band cause problems in the studio or on the road? Is it like having an unruly child at home? Is he ornery, or more amicable?
NICKY: Mainly he just writes guitar solos, but we keep him locked up when we’re on the road so things don’t get too out of hand [laughs]! It’s not too bad. We have a special little cage, and we keep a sheet over it to keep him pacified! Goblins enjoy baby teeth. It’s one of their staple foods, the lost baby teeth of humans. Our goblin is a friendlier, average goblin. He’s green and he’s small.
AXS: The new album kicks off with a breakneck ode to “Mold.” Are you guys also into spores and fungus, like Ghostbusters, or was the inspiration purely mold?
NICKY: Well, a huge growth of mold manifested in our guitarist’s apartment. Apart from that, we keep our tour bus very moldy, and we leave a certain amount mold in our dressing rooms to get in a good frame of mind for shows. And we drink tea made from mold.
AXS: A disgusting mold can become a fine cheese after a while.
NICKY: That’s true! If you get it while it’s young, it’s good!
AXS: Who is the doctor in “The Many Faces of Dr. Hubert Malbec?” Is he an actual licensed, practicing physician?
NICKY: He goes by “Doctor,” but I wouldn’t say he’s licensed per se. He’s a reclusive character who lives out on an island by himself. Every time he has to leave the island, he takes his rowboat to shore. He calls himself a doctor but never knows who he really is.
AXS: How about “The Skin Thief?” Who—or what—is that?
NICKY: He’s a recurring character in goblin folklore. From the beginning he’s always had a tendency to steal the skin of others, so we decided it was time to tell his story a little bit more.
AXS: You mentioned rowboats a moment ago. The song “Row” kind of plays like an indictment of mob mentality, which is very topical today.
NICKY: Yeah. That’s a big part of what inspired that one, I saw the parallels between cell phones and Facebooks with French galley slaves. Back then they used to take prisoners and keep them below deck. “Oh, this guy’s a Protestant! We’ll make him row for the rest of his life to make an example of him!” I found a parallel between that and modern society where everyone has to live in these little boxes, with cell phones contributing to this grand—but false—reality.
NICKY: We’d always wanted to work with him. The guy we did the first video with, he brought us the idea to work with Brendon Small. For one reason or another, it just didn’t happen, and we kind of fell off his radar. But this time he decided to do it with us. So we got it together and wrote the script and heard this idea he had for the concept.
AXS: How does the songwriting process in Nekrogoblikon work? Do you get ideas from jamming, or do certain people contribute the key parts?
NICKY: We’ve had a different approach to all the albums. The old guitarist wrote a lot of songs, and I wrote a fair amount. For Power and Heavy Meta it was more of a democratic process. Democracy can be so messy!
AXS: We’re looking forward to seeing you on the Van’s Warped tour this summer. Do you guys have any preference, as far as playing outdoor festival shows and indoor clubs?
NICKY: We just finished a run of touring with Rings of Saturn. Then yeah, it’s the final Warped Tour. So that’ll be cool. We do like the big festivals and large stages because of the theatrical element. Plus there’s the fancy catering, and you get treated so nicely! But hey—the more, the merrier!