Inkubus Sukkubus were formed in 1989 by Tony McKormack and Candia Ridley (now McKormack) whilst both were studying graphic design in Gloucester.
Tony and Candia shared a love of paganism, witchcraft and vampirism so their music was always going to be an expression of this… and oh boy is it ever!
They have released no less than sixteen studio albums, three compilation albums and three singles as well as appearing on the soundtrack for the movie ‘The Vampires of Bloody Island’, a British horror comedy directed by Allin Kempthorne and starring his wife Pamela Kempthorne (of Harry Potter and Shaun of the Dead fame). Tony also wrote the title track “Place of the Dead”, a tune from his solo project “Vampire Division” which made number one in the Goth soundclick charts.
Between albums, Inkubus Sukkubus (which I won’t be abbreviating to I.S.!) have toured the world, both as headline acts and alongside Marilyn Manson, The Damned, Zodiac Mindwarp, Wayne Hussey, All about Eve, and Nosferatu to name but a few and have played on Channel 4’s the Big Breakfast and The Girlie Show as well enjoying airplay on the BBC.
In 2003, they were the ‘Most Downloaded Band’ on MP3.com with over 1.5million hits and in 2015 they release their seventeenth studio album “Mother Moon”.
So I covered my body with garlic, armed myself with crucifixes and holy water (San Pelegrino) and sat down to await the arrival of Candia and Tony to talk about the ‘Soundtrack of their lives’.
Suddenly the room, along with me, shuddered as the sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair and the whole moon turned blood red.
First comes Tony, all in black with hints of Robert Smith, Lux Interior, Lord Byron and the prince of darkness himself…luckily he is charming and softly spoken and I immediately feel at ease in his company (which is possibly how he lures his victims so it may be that I’m simply under his spell).
Next, from the storm-blown open window, Candia enters. She is six-foot something and the glint of mischief in her eyes is complimented by the small, perfectly placed jewels she has either put there, or is weeping. I’m pretty sure her image adorns the walls of many of her fans bedrooms, especially as ‘The Succubus’ , a painting by renowned artist Larry Elmore which Candia modeled for (Google it…go on Google it!)
So, somewhere between awe and abject fear, I asked them about the songs that made them who they are;
BM What was the first record you ever bought?
CMcK: The first record I was given was Gary Glitter’s ‘Remember Me This Way’ LP which a friend brought along to my eighth or ninth birthday party… I felt very grown up having my own vinyl, and I did have a bit of a thing for Gary at that time. I think I probably still have the Gary Glitter annual from the same period; incredibly well-thumbed. The first record I actually bought, though, was a clear vinyl single from my brother: ‘The Sound of the Suburbs’ by The Members. I remember when he bought it I lusted after it terribly… I would surreptitiously sneak it out of its card cover when he wasn’t around – it had an old-fashioned TV surround for the cover with a cut-out that you could see right through the vinyl to a scene of cars and aeroplane. It was a lovely product to handle, and sounded rather fine, too, so I made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. 30p, I think it was.
TMcK: My first record was ‘This town ain’t big enough for the both of us’ by Sparks. I bought it because I liked the repeating riff on the keyboards.
BM What was the track that influenced you to start making music?
CMcK: Probably the ‘Jungle Book’ soundtrack. The whole family used to enjoy listening to it when I was little, and I learnt to play ‘Trust in Me’ on my dad’s tenor recorder. I then made up a couple of awful songs on the recorder, with lyrics about the British weather or something similarly trite, which I rediscovered in my early twenties. Post Mowgli and Baloo the Bear, in my teens and beyond, I listened to a lot of Billie Holiday, Eartha Kitt and other singers from the 30s/40s/50s, and was really inspired by them. I drew and painted almost constantly in those days and would put on a lot of my mum’s old vinyl while scribbling away and squawking. Jazz standards, Bizet, and my first forays into Punk rock and Kate Bush when I was around 11, created a pretty weird, eclectic mix.
TMcK: It was Beethovens 9th Symphony, I can remember thinking how fantastic it would be to be in some way responsible for creating music like this, I obviously had no idea how to go about it..
BM What was the first record you ever covered?
CMcK: Ah, I believe that was ‘Rain’ by the Cult if my memory serves me well. We used to practice as a four-piece at Northlands Community Centre on Pittville Circus, Cheltenham, in the late eighties/early nineties, and thoroughly enjoyed blasting this one out.
TMcK This would have been ‘Orgasm Addict’ by the Buzzcocks. I bought my first instrument at 16, a copy of a Gibson SG bass; the day I bought it I spent the entire first night of ownership attempting to play along to the track.
BM What’s the song you’d most like to cover but can’t…or won’t
CMcK: Tony and I have discussed covering ‘Friggin’ in the Riggin’ a few times over the years as we both love the track, but not sure whether it’s a song too far for Inkie fans. Perhaps we should put a poll up on Facebook to find out if it’s a goer…
TMcK Yeah, we have actually got all of the backing music and guitars recorded; we just need to put the vocals on… we have had it ready for 10 years.
BM What’s your Saturday night tune?
CMcK: ‘She Said’ by the Cramps does it for me every time. There are a couple of live versions that are particularly good, and Lux Interior playfully whips the crowd into a frenzy before hollering the immortal “Wooh-eeh-ah-ah!” Bloody marvellous.
TMcK ‘Ride of the Valkerie’.
BM And your Sunday morning tune?
CMcK: Probably the ‘Desert Island Discs’ theme tune. I’m a fragile creature in the mornings, so something gentle works for me up until noonish. Yep, I know it’s terribly un-rock ‘n’ roll, but it’s a Radio 4 institution and makes me feel all’s right with the world when I hear it.
TMcK More Wagner: ‘Forest Murmurs’.
BM The Track most likely to get you up onto the dancefloor
CMcK: ‘Love Removal Machine’ by the Cult always did it for me in the early nineties; it has that longish, infectiously brilliant intro that allows the perfect time for walking to the dancefloor before the Goff ‘fart-wafting’ begins. When Tone and I were stepping out in my early twenties, we’d frequent the Night Owl club in Cheltenham, and it wasn’t a proper night out if this song hadn’t been played and we hadn’t joined the other none-more-black clan on the posey walk down to the dancefloor.
TMcK Possibly ‘Temple of Love’ by The Sisters of Mercy, although I’m not really a dancer.
BM A possible Karaoke tune?
CMcK: I’ve never done Karaoke… ever. It scares the beejesus out of me. A ‘friend’ once put my name down for ‘I Will Survive’ by Gloria Gaynor at a local Karaoke night. I had absolutely no idea until my name was called out, and I just sat pouting like a petulant teenager, shaking my head and refusing to get up.
TMcK No I have never done Karaoke, and I can’t sing very well at all .
BM What’s the track that we’d be surprised to hear you like?
CMcK: I doubt if many people would think that I rather enjoy ‘Talking in Your Sleep’ by Crystal Gayle… but I do. What a voice! (and most Country music has a deliciously Gothic sentiment running through it… which is always nice).
TMcK Baccara – ‘Sorry I’m a Lady’… I have no Idea why.
BM Your favourite track made by a friend?
CMcK: Our bass player, Disco Dave, has a side project he’s currently working on called Tunguska, and his ‘Bastards of the Universe’ is a thing of beauty.
TMcK ‘Blood Kiss’ by Dave and Su from Bristol-based Cauda Pavonis
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BM And the band you feel should have been/should be bigger?
CMcK: Cowboy Junkies are an excellent band, with a brilliant vocalist, excellent musicians, and some fantastically catchy songs. They’ve certainly found success, with music used in movies such as ‘Natural Born Killers’, but I was always surprised they weren’t bigger.
TMcK The Crack from Cheltenham should have been a bigger band.
BM Is there a set of lyrics that really inspire you?
CMcK: ‘Strange Fruit’ by Billie Holiday is shockingly eloquent. Having read her biography in my teens, I was stunned by the prejudice against blacks at the time she was touring with her band in America. She saw some horrific things, such as the lynchings captured in the song. Although not written by her (it was actually written by a Jewish communist called Abel Meeropol), Billie’s version is the one that captures the horror and disgust most profoundly.
TMcK Evanesence – ‘Bring Me to Life’. I was quite surprised how good I thought this track and lyrics were, and also the fact that I found them so inspiring when I was in my early 40s.
BM What is your guilty pleasure (Sonically!)
CMcK: I have many… but I have no shame. Right now I think I’ll plump for ‘Raspberry Beret’ by Prince; it’s a great toon for dancing round the kitchen to while you’re waiting for the microwave to ping.
TMcK NTrance – ‘Only Love can Set You Free’. Absolutely brilliant song that works in many different genres.
BM And the greatest track ever made?
CMcK: ‘Gimme Shelter’ by the Rolling Stones has got to be one of the greatest songs ever… from the lone guitar opening and ghostly ‘oohing’ vocals, to the heartfelt screaming of ‘Rape, murder, it’s just a shot away’ by Merry Clayton, it’s simply brilliant. It has an apocalyptic feel to it (written around the time of the Vietnam War) and is a powerful, well-constructed song, brilliantly delivered.
TMcK I would like to think that the greatest track ever made is yet to made. I would like to think that it is still in the ether, or it was written decades ago and is, as yet, unknown except to a handful of people who have hidden it away lest its brilliance destroy us all.
BM What will you have played at your funeral?
CMcK: I’ve thought about this – as you’d expect from a dyed-in-the-wool Goth – and I reckon it would be fun to record a version of our melancholic ‘She is Gone’ track, which then unexpectedly segues into something ridiculously daft and upbeat… perhaps our version of ‘Friggin’ in the Riggin’. Yep, that’s it!
TMcK: ‘Götterdämmerung’. bit narcissistic, but I’ll be dead, so it won’t matter.
BM With regard to the band, is there a favourite tour bus track?
CMcK: We usually have our good friend and tour manager Jack Pyromancer drive us to gigs in the Inkiebus and he has incredibly eclectic tastes. There’s everything from Nightwish to Alestorm… but one of my favourites which pops up fairly regularly on his playlist is ‘Diamonds are Forever’ by the girl from Tiger Bay, Shirley Bassey.
TMcK By favorite in the van is ‘I use my Powers for Evil’ by Lesbian Bed Death.
BM From your own back catalogue, which song are you most proud of/means the most to you? Why?
CMcK: ‘Wytches’ is one of our oldest and most requested songs. Tony and I wrote it during the very early days of the band and, out of the hundreds of gigs we’ve played, I could probably count on one hand the number of times we haven’t included it in the set. It’s a song that defines us as a band, I think, and I’ll never get sick of playing it, whether it’s the full-on rock version, or the stripped-back acoustic one. When I hear the audience joining in the goddess chant at the end, I never fail to get goose pimples… Isis, Astarte, Diana, Hecate, Demeter, Kali, Inanna.
TMcK ‘Heart of Lilith’, because it means so much to so many other people.
Inkubus Sukkubus have been described as one of the most enduringly popular underground Goth bands in the UK and possibly the world. Not only do Tony and Candia write all the music and lyrics, but Tony also creates stunning visual images as a backdrop for their live shows as well as their videos. These images do not pull any punches…none at all and neither does the music from this incredibly talented couple.
Only once was there a lull in the conversation when, on staring deep into Tony’s eyes, I fell into a deep and dreamless sleep for a while. Finally I awoke feeling both elated and empty…but neither of them seemed to mind.