Nekrogoblikon – Goblins, Spiders, and Dragons, Oh My!Monday, 16th April 2018
A band name like Nekrogoblikon is going to get you thrust into a certain light. But they also wouldn’t have it any other way. Where metal bands often struggle with becoming too absurd, Nekrogoblikon can simply embrace who they are as writers and make the most of everything that they get. Where else would you get songs about wish-granting spiders, bears, and of course goblins? All done in a style that will give even some of the most stoic metal fans a big grin.
But part of that is due to the musicianship that’s grown and solidified with each release. The band’s latest release, Welcome to Bonkers, is just the right combination of focused songwriting with silly and entertaining lyrics and melodies. It’s catchy without going too far over the top, and strong enough to bring you in, even if the humor may not match your style. We had a brief chat with guitarist Alex Alereza about humor in metal, being looked at as a gimmick, and of course, plenty about the new album.
Dead Rhetoric: What initially drew the band to the goblin theme as the focal point?
Alex “Goldberg” Alereza: I joined the band after its inception…about a few months afterwards. The band started with two guys, one of which is our lead singer, who is our only official original member. The other was a guitarist who has since left the band. But it started as a funny idea. They thought it would be funny to make a full album about goblins. They thought it was ridiculous and they were really entertained by the idea of it. It first came about from this place of fun, rather than “Let’s start a band – what should it be about? Goblins.” It was more fun that drove it than a serious desire to be a real band.
Dead Rhetoric: What did new drummer Eric Brown bring to Nekrogoblikon?
Alereza: So much. He’s an incredible drummer, and he basically took our sound up a notch. He’s a very proficient death metal drummer, so he has chops beyond what we ever have used before. A song like “Skin Thief” for instance, we were able to do this blastbeat-heavy song which we have never done before, since we have a drummer who can do that now. He brought that to the table. In addition to that, we get a lot with him really well. We have been friends with him before he joined the band. It’s been a very good fit – touring with him has been super fun.
Dead Rhetoric: Speaking of touring, how did the Rings of Saturn tour go?
Alereza: Excellent. I would say it’s probably the best tour we have ever been on in many ways. All of the other bands seemed to have a great time. It seemed like it was a very positive experience for all the bands. We all brought our own thing to the table and it was really well enjoyed by everyone. It seemed like no one was there for ‘just one band.’ People seemed to enjoy the whole line-up, which is always cool to see. A lot of packed houses and sold out shows, can’t complain about that!
Dead Rhetoric: It’s nice to see that there’s more diversity. Like you said, everyone had their own thing. Tours like that seem to push things a bit further.
Alereza: Right. It doesn’t feel redundant. There’s a lot of shows where it’s like the same band four times in a row.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s your best description of Welcome to Bonkers, as your newest release?
Alereza: Overall, I’d say it’s bonkers. I’d say it’s our most focused album yet. We’ve had varying degrees of collaboration on previous records, but this is the first time that Nicky [Calonne], our singer, wrote basically the whole album. I would say like 98% of it was written by him. I wrote a few of the solos and little parts here and there, but it was mostly his vision through and through, so I think it’s really focused. It has a more defined character to it than any of our other albums. That being said, it’s still just as varied, if not more so, than our previous albums. I feel like its lot more catchy and engaging, and more anthemic too.
Dead Rhetoric: So what type of advances do you feel that the band has made with your sound over the years?
Alereza: I think every record has been different. But the goal for us is to have catchier and catchier albums as we go. I know we are a metal band but our fun with it is that it’s abrasive, disgusting metal that we find a way to make catchy with keyboards and dance rhythms, and things like that. That’s the fun of it, because you aren’t expecting it. I think that we keep going towards being more fun and catchy while still maintaining what this band has done.
Dead Rhetoric: Does it feel easier to push the elements that make you stand out, knowing that there are people who are interested in the band and are willing to take a risk with you?
Alereza: I think it’s always been really enjoyed – obviously there’s the live aspect and what we have going on shtick-wise. So I feel like overall, people like it, and whenever anyone discovers the band – if someone discovers the band within the next few months, their first experience will probably be the new material but it seems like people get into the new material, discover the old material and enjoy that just as much. Overall, if you like one of our records, you like the others as well. There are some people who like just one or the other, but in terms of what we are trying to do as musicians, we are just writing catchier material. And by we, I mean Nicky really. Now that he did this record, I personally felt it was so strong that I think that’s the way our records should be – with him at the creative helm.
Dead Rhetoric: Talk about the “Dressed as Goblins” video and working with Brendan Small.
Alereza: We wanted to bring back John Goblikon, the main character of the “No One Survives” video where there was this beaten-down and sad fish out of water character. Something with a dramatic edge to it but still silly and absurd. But we kind of wanted to branch out and see who would be interested in doing it. When I think metal and comedy, the first name that comes to my mind is Brendan Small. Obviously we are all huge Metalocalpyse fans. It was a huge shout in the dark to reach out to him, but he was really interested. He loved the original video and he loved the character. He came up with the entire story and had a clear vision of what he wanted from it. It’s his baby. I’m really stoked on how it turned out. It really holds up to the original video.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you feel with doing a video like that, there’s more of a tendency to bring in more people that may not hear the band otherwise, like with a lyric video or something?
Alereza: Definitely – even from the get-go, being a band about goblins…people go, “What’s that?” So there has always been an aspect that outside the band there has been a theme. We’ve been a band for 11 years now. We started this as a theme that we never even brought about live. It slowly just became this character of John Goblikon and the stories about him. So the theme developed in parallel to our music, but people experience it as one thing. None of the songs on the record are really about John Goblikon or goblins, other than the last track. They are just metal songs now, about other things…like any topic that Nicky comes up with. But people experience it in the world of the goblins because it’s been our original theme. Now the emphasis is that the goblin is a filter for telling stories, or for singing songs. Everyone’s a goblin in some sense.
Dead Rhetoric: It’s good that as you’ve progressed you have been able to grow to the point where not everything has to be all about goblins and you can expand things out to stay fresh.
Alereza: Yeah, it would be boring to do that. The first two records are just goblins killing humans, goblin wars, and stuff like that. I think we are out of things to say about goblins [laughs].
Dead Rhetoric: What do you feel having John on stage with you adds to the live dynamic?
Alereza: I think it makes it really fun. It’s one thing if we were all dressed as goblins and has this more Finntroll vibe or Ghost – something like that where we are trying to get you lost in this world of goblins. It’s more silly, but on purpose. The rest of us are just dudes on stage, but there’s this goblin that’s just there. It just likes the music, but he’s not doing anything except hyping the crowd. It’s like, if we are going to have a gimmick, I want it to be blatant and kind of very obvious – we aren’t trying to hide it. This is a blatant gimmick, and that’s okay. We are just doing it for fun, we aren’t trying to take ourselves too seriously with the theme. It’s like, “Look, there’s a goblin on stage, and he’s just dancing and chugging beers, or whatever he happens to be doing that day.”
Dead Rhetoric: Do you feel that the band gets lumped into the gimmick category because of the content and John Goblikon?
Alereza: Definitely, and just having a theme band in general – your band is about goblins, you are already in that gimmick category. The gimmick has evolved over time, going from songs about goblins to songs not necessarily about goblins, but there’s a goblin on stage…that’s the evolution of it. That’s the core of having fun. It’s a reminder to not take it too seriously, even though we take it seriously when we are working on it. Like I mentioned, the band was conceived from fun. It was never trying to be anything serious. If we tried to make this really serious and fit the metal mold, the upside would be less typecasting, but the goal has always been to have a fun show. I think people have a lot of fun listening to the music. People find seriousness in the music when it’s there, and they can enjoy that as well, but the overall theme of the band is silliness, which is fun.
Dead Rhetoric: This is the most obvious question at this point, but what’s the role of humor in the band?
Alereza: Humor is like a topic still. The music isn’t written in the way of, “Oh, what’s going to sound funny?” We’re not a joke or parody band. The music is written as if it was a serious band – still quirky like a Mr. Bungle meets metal kind of thing, but the humorous aspects sprinkled in on top. It’s the final sheen on everything. It appears in the lyrics and some of the imagery, as well as how we present ourselves as a band. It always just felt genuine to who we are as a band. If we lost that, it would just suck.
Dead Rhetoric: I think you have a good balance. Sometimes it’s hard to just that balance. Clearly, you are writing seriously and you aren’t just making something silly and off the wall. But the fun side is there as well. I think there’s a lot of bands that struggle with reaching that point.
Alereza: I feel like we don’t try too hard in either direction. We are trying to write serious compositions, but we aren’t trying too hard to be pretentious about them in any way, or deviate from any catchiness. Then we will add humor to that, but we aren’t trying to make the humor so overt that it covers the musicianship. I think when people hear about us on the outside, they hear about what we are and think one or the other – these guys are serious about goblins and that’s their thing, or that they are a complete joke band and they don’t give a fuck. It’s really this completely down the middle thing. There’s aspects we take seriously and aspects we don’t take seriously at all. I think that’s what makes it work.
Dead Rhetoric: Is there an inherent silliness in metal that people tend to take too seriously?
Alereza: I think all metal is completely silly [laughs] and I love it. I love metal, but yeah, the concept of it is pretty absurd. Growling in general. We found a way to make these weird fucking noises and people take it really seriously. And it’s awesome. I take it really seriously too, but yeah, it’s all pretty absurd. Our band just tries to be as self-aware at every moment.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s next for Nekrogoblikon?
Alereza: We are on Warped Tour this summer. We are Monster stage. It should be fun, that’s a whole new audience for us to play in front of.