What happens when you put a bunch of bloodthirsty, music-loving goblins together? You get a brand of crushing music otherwise now known as goblin metal. Enter Nekrogoblikon, featuring its goblin hype-man, John. So is this a parody? Nope. Is this a gimmick? Sure. Is this awesome? Yep.
Formed more than a decade ago and “practicing only every other leap year on a full moon,” Nekrogoblikon is about to unleash its goblin metal to the masses, first, with its new album, “Welcome to Bonkers” (read review), out April 13, and then as part of the final Warped Tour.
Influenced early on by Children of Bodom and 3 Inches of Blood, among others, things took off for the band when John came looking for work in 2012. Since then, through a series of entertaining videos, fans have followed the goblin in his every day life, and now we’ll get to see him live in the green flesh. Live Metal’s Jeff Maki recently chatted with vocalist Nicky Calonne about the origins of the band and the goblin, and the upcoming tour, and also puts the question to rest as to whether the goblin is real or not. Or does he?
LIVE METAL: How did Nekrogoblikon come to be? What I picture is that maybe you played a couple of gigs, but either it didn’t go all that well or you were bored. So then you’re sitting around the rehearsal room one day when someone says, “I got an idea.”
NICKY CALONNE: That’s not too far off. When I first started, it was just me and a buddy—who’s no longer in the band—at that time in 2006. My friend Tim (Lyakhovetskiy) was in some other band called Inquest, and he had all these leftover riffs. And he said, “I don’t know what to do with all of these. I think I want to make an album and just call it “Goblin Island.” He told me this as a joke, but I thought it was so funny—just the idea of an album called “Goblin Island.” We actually wrote the lyrics to the song and added some keyboards and stuff, and a couple of days later, that was it. We were like, “Fuck, are we really going to do a whole project of this?” So I put in on online, and people were digging it, so I said, “Alright, man. We’re gonna do goblin metal.” The goblin (didn’t come) until about 2012, so there was a long period of time where we were just a bunch of regular dudes singing about goblins before we even met the goblin. (laughs)
OK, so obviously you’re the vocalist, but just who is the goblin?
Actually, it’s a real goblin who’s just a friend of ours. He’s like a hype-man and dancer, you could say. He comes out and pumps everyone up and does some stuff, which is good because there’s not a lot of work out there for goblins. So we thought we were helping the cause overall.
Upon listening to your guys’ new album, “Welcome to Bonkers,” some immediate influences that come to mind for me are Children of Bodom and Cradle of Filth.
Definitely. Children of Bodom is right on. In the beginning, we were so obsessed with Bodom and the albums “Hatebreeder” and “Follow the Reaper.” That’s what we were listening to—In Flames and all the melodic death metal. And we were also jammin’ a lot of Finntroll at that time; they’re a Finnish band that’s all about trolls. So at first, we were kind of a mix of Bodom and Finntroll and 3 Inches of Blood, I would say.
You guys also have some pretty creative videos. After listening to “Welcome to Bonkers,” I went back and checked out some stuff. These videos look very well produced and maybe even expensive. With the whole goblin moniker, I guess image is an important aspect of the band, but in this day and age (it’s becoming a lost art). So how did you get started in making the videos?
Well, I guess it all started when a music video director came out to a show we played at a place called the Cobalt Café, this tiny little venue. So he came out to the show, and he really dug it, so he was like, “I really want to make a music video for you guys.” And at that time, we (weren’t sure), but then he sold us on it, and that ended up being the “No One Survives” video, our first video, (where the goblin) goes to work and all that. At first, when we put it out, it was cool because it was getting some views. But then someone posted it on Reddit and said, “This is the best music video of all time!” And after that, it blew up. It’s given us a lot of opportunities for touring, which we hadn’t had before.
So after releasing the one, we’ve already set the bar pretty high for ourselves. So anytime we make videos now, it kind of has to live up to it to some degree. (laughs) We really like that aspect of it and it’s fun, and if it’s within reach possibility-wise, we want to try and do it. Why not? I mean, this is a weird way to spend your life anyways, so we might as well put out some entertaining stuff.
So I wouldn’t call you guys a parody band necessarily. You obviously take the music seriously, or maybe kind of seriously. But you don’t see yourselves as a parody band, right?
Right. When we first started in the very beginning, there was a jokier element ,but we’ve always wanted to make cool music. And over the years, this has remained from that, which is admittedly confusing to people who are just finding out about the band. I really want to keep it lighthearted, fun and tongue-in-cheek. We don’t take ourselves too seriously, but we do take the music very seriously. We’re not trying to be the heaviest band or the fastest band or whatever—just catchy. We’re a little breath of something different for the more heavy inclined.
So what is the goblin’s name? And he comes on every tour with you?
His name is “John Goblikon.” Yeah, he comes out onstage and dances and hypes people up. Sometimes he’ll crowd surf. But he’s not in the band; he’s a totally different goblin.
Where did the goblin mask come from? Is that just something you guys found at Spirit of Halloween or something?
I’m not sure what you mean. But if it were a mask, it would have been created by a place called Monster Effects, which has worked on some Hollywood movies and stuff. But since it’s not a mask, we really don’t know.
OK, understood. So Nekrogoblikon is heading out as part of Warped Tour this summer, so how did that all come to be, and what are your expectations for the final Warped Tour?
We had always heard about Warped and Mayhem Fest, and it (was run) by the same people, so I think we talked with them five or six years ago. And there were some talks and some possibilities of trying to get us on (one of the tours), but then at the end of the day, I guess they thought, “These guys are weird” or whatever. But now that this is the final Warped, I think that one of the people who liked us with them had more of a say. I don’t know why really, but that’s my assumption.
But now we’re on it, and it should be really exciting. It’s definitely gonna be a grind and one of the longest tours we’ve done, but it should be really cool to play basically a festival every day. And I think that we’ll be exposed to so many people who had never had otherwise found out about us, so that’s a great opportunity.
Do you think that Nekrogoblikon will appeal to a wide variety of people? Will it appeal to fans of other genres on Warped?
I think it will because I think we have a really fun live show. So even if someone wasn’t necessarily into death metal per se, I think the visual component of it, along with the up-tempo-boozy fun, draws in people who might not have otherwise considered themselves metal fans. And definitely having a goblin— because if I’m walking through a festival and I see a goblin up there, I’m going to go check that out. So yeah, I think there’s a lot of hope there.
So after Warped, will you go out on a headlining tour or will you hook up with another band as support?
The thing is, is that we have a lot of fans that are like “super-fans.” So even if we’re not selling out huge rooms, we have a lot of really excited people that wanna buy merch and stuff like that. So it makes little headliners possible. We haven’t done one in a little while, but it might be time again.
Speaking of merch, I see all kinds of possibilities with that. Do you guys sell the goblin mask or anything?
We have goblin plush toys, which are awesome little stuffed goblins. We had them custom made in Japan or something, but they always sell like hotcakes because they’re cute.
Look out for those plush toys and catch John and Nekrogoblikon on this summer’s Warped Tour, crushing stages everywhere. See tour dates here.