July 26, 2011

Artist to Artist: Inkubus Sukkubus

As mentioned before, I've wanted to do something different with the blog. I decided after my previous post that sitting down and chatting it up with artists, musicians, photographers, and other interesting artsy types I know was something I wanted to do. I have the pleasure of being in touch with some very talented folk; folks with talents and opinions that are worth mentioning.

Over the course of the next few blog posts -- that's what you can expect. Hopefully, you'll enjoy learning about these fabulous people, their talents and creations, and hearing about their stories and experiences as much as I do.

I should note: I have decided to title this section to set it apart from my other blog posts. I've taken my wife's advice and gone with, "Artist to Artist." (Apparently, "Brains Worth Picking," really wasn't as cool as I thought it was).

With that said, I'll get on topic...

I first heard Inkubus Sukkubus about ten years ago. Of course, for this article, I started thinking about how I heard of them. I'm a bit foggy on that one...but I do believe I literally stumbled across the lyrics for their song, 'Heart of Lilith.' Once I read the lyrics, I had to hear their music. I was not disappointed. In fact, it's pretty safe to say I was instantly hooked. Candia has a marvelous voice and Tony's a wonderful guitarist (as well as a very talented artist). They make a great team and create music that's thought-provoking, intelligent, enchanting, seductive, spiritual, passionate, daring, and well...I'll let you decide the rest. *Grin.*

If you'd like to take a listen to their music (which I highly recommend), you can do so here: Inkubus Sukkubus - Listen and don't forget to check out the band's official Facebook page! Many thanks to Candia for taking the time to do this and for bravely subjecting herself to my (sometimes completely random) line of questioning. (But that's the spice o' life, isn't it?)

Though, perhaps I should start working on a disclaimer: No artists were harmed in the making of this interview...

Anyhow, onto the interview! Enjoy!

Before the birth of Inkubus Sukkubus in 1989, did you know that being the lead singer in a Pagan Rock band was something you wanted to do? Was it something you'd always aspired to or more a pleasant result of the connections you formed with your husband, Tony McKormack (guitarist) and Adam Henderson (bassist) while in college?

You can never quite plan how these things are going to turn out, can you? I was already a practising witch when I met Tony and was already singing, but it was only when I met Tony at college that everything ‘clicked’ - musically, spiritually and ‘other’ wise…

When Inkubus Sukkubus formed, Tony had previous experience in an alternate band. Did you have any previous musical experience? How did everything pull together?

I had previously been taking classical singing lessons (I had delusions of being a mezzo-soprano punk blues singer!) and had tried to get a band off the ground but failed miserably. When I met Tony he was thinking about starting a new band and someone mentioned to him that I sang, so he invited me back to his flat after college one day and I sang for him. We also got talking about our shared interest in witchcraft, magick and paganism, and the spark between us was palpable.

We’ve been married now for 21 years – with the inevitable rough patches, naturally, but that’s a fair old stretch and, as Tony says, you don’t get that for murder, do you?

The band’s title was at first Incubus Succubus, correct? When did you (and when I say you, I mean you, Tony, etc), decide to shake things up and change it to Inkubus Sukkubus?

Ah, now that was fairly early on in the band’s existence… well, I think it was around ’95/’96 actually. It may sound flaky (heaven forbid!) but it was to do with numerology. Tony’s a great believer in numerology and actually changed his middle name and spelling of his surname (from McCormack to McKormack) to achieve a more favourable and smoother path in life. I was pretty open-minded about it, so I thought, “Well, we’ve nothing to lose, so let’s give it a go.”

How did you reach the decision of Inkubus Sukkubus for the band's title? There's a certain duality to it, in the sense of male and female, God and Goddess, yin and yang -- was that symbolism intended when the name was chosen?

Yes, I think it’s fair to say that was part of the intention when we chose the name. We also wanted a name that was a little ‘dark’ and, at the same time, playful. Choosing names of so-called ‘demons’ invented by the Church to explain away their indiscretions in the bedroom expressed our interest in medieval folklore while having a pop at the sometimes ridiculous nature of organised religion. We had originally called ourselves ‘Belas Knapp’ after a Gloucestershire long barrow, but quickly dropped that when we realised it rhymed with ‘crap.’

When were you first drawn to paganism and what drew you to it?

You know what? I can’t actually remember when I was first drawn to paganism. I honestly think it’s always been there… and probably for several lives before too. My father used to hate to hear people crying in our house, so he found out the best way to stop me crying immediately when I was a toddler was to tell me that witches never cry. Oh, the lies parents tell their children!

Paganism is a very broad term and not all Pagans consider themselves Witches. To you, what does it mean to be a Witch? In our modern society, do you feel it's important to reclaim the word?

The word ‘witch’ is a very potent one. And, yes, you’re right: many, many Pagans don’t consider themselves to be witches but follow some other form of spirituality. There are very many paths that are considered Pagan, but as such generally share a spirituality that connects them to Nature and reverence for the powers of the Earth and her natural cycles. There’s immense power in a name, and I feel proud to call myself a witch.

Have you had to deal with any negative backlash/setbacks for being such an outspoken group? Has there, at any point, been any difficulty in booking gigs because of the Paganism?

Once or twice there have been ‘moments,’ but I’m a huge sucker for camaraderie and, at times of adversity, that’s when it’s at its strongest in the band and other areas of life. We’d be daft to be the kind of band we are and not expect a few ‘knockers.’

What was your first time on stage like?

Terrifying! It was at a small club in our home town of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, and I can remember walking through the crowd (friends and family kindly turned out in force to support us) as though in a dream. It wasn’t too long though before I thought, “This is where I really want to be.”

Do you have any (crazy) memorable experiences when performing a live show?

Oh, blimey, there are so many… Like the time when Tony’s Marshall amplifier caught fire and provided some neat pyrotechnics; another time when a couple right at the front of the stage got caught up in the ‘moment’ and had proper, full-on, no-holds-barred sex in front of us and the rest of the audience; playing at a small club in New Orleans with a very low ceiling and watching a huge cockroach crawling above me throughout the whole set, just waiting for it to fall in my hair; playing the last-ever gig at a venue in Finland and being allowed to smash up the stage with an axe at the end of the set; slipping on a puddle of beer on stage in Australia and breaking my coccyx… But, you know, the show must always go on!

Does it feel different now, taking the stage?

I still get nervous, but I enjoy the nerves and use them to channel energy into the performance…and hopefully pull it off. I do think nerves are important as it shows how much you care about the audience and how aware you are of what can go wrong! Complacency is one of the biggest sins, I reckon.

Mythology's often a theme you tackle and incorporate into your music. What's your personal favorite mythological figure or story?

I’m not sure I have a favourite myth – well, not one I can think of now, anyway – but I’m rather fond of some of the earthier mythology concerning Bacchus and Dionysus!

And because I'm oddly fascinated with asking people what they would be if they could willingly choose to be any preternatural/supernatural/mythological being…

What would you go with? What about Tony?

I would be a shape-shifter, with the ability to shift into all sorts of creatures – from a cat, to a bird, to a hare. I’d get up to all sorts of mischief. Tony has just said that he’d like to be some kind of dark fey creature…probably woodland-dwelling.

Some of your songs get a bit heavy when it comes to subject matter, such as 'The Rape of Maude Bowen' ...which is actually based on real events that occurred during medieval times, if I'm not mistaken?

Are songs like 'Catherine' 'Lily Bolane' and, 'Messalina' also based off of medieval lore or certain figures? What drew you to highlighting these characters?

Yes, ‘Maude Bowen’ is based on real events. Tony wrote the lyrics to the song, and based it on a local legend from medieval times, which has a pretty grisly story line involving incest, rape and murder. Well, you did ask!

When I wrote ‘Catherine’ I was inspired by the story of a real young woman who lived a few hundred years ago in a small village in France. She wasn’t a witch, but she was disliked by the village women… mainly because she was attractive and possibly flirted more than she should have. She was consequently declared a witch and condemned to death. It was fairly typical of those times of fear of the unknown, and of those who took advantage of the Church’s repulsive laws and used them to their own ends.

Lily Bolane wasn’t a real person but was a character I invented who would represent the thousands of women who were persecuted during the witch hysteria. I just liked the sound of the name, and went with it!

With the album ‘Vampyre Erotica,’ what inspired you to focus more on vampires and to further incorporate them into your music? (And actually, when I think about it, vampires are speckled throughout your music in general -- which goes perfectly with the band's title and is certainly not a complaint!).

Vampires have always featured in our music (and have always featured in both mine and Tony’s lives; we’ve both had a fascination with vampire lore since being small children). We do like to explore the many aspects of vampirism… from the sense of psychic or energy vampires to the full-on, deliciously erotic idea of the vampire embraced by Gothic writers, such as yourself, Winter!

What do you think of the modern "Vampire Boom," (for lack of a better term) when it comes to television and literature? I remember the days when an interest in vampires was something that warranted strange looks and quiet murmurs in school halls. Now, it's become fairly much the norm. Do you think this acceptance and interest in vampires has brought more people to your music?

Possibly… but I have to say I’m really not so sure. Vampires aren’t as much fun as they used to be (is it just me, or has Hollywood made them just a teeny bit dull?) and I long for the terror, blood, sex and mess of old-school blood-suckers. Hey ho.

'Science and Nature,' has become one of my favorite albums. It's both playful and serious, and you do a great job of scaring me just a little with the song, 'Sanctuary.' What is 'Nightwing' a reference to? And songs like, 'Catholic Taste' and, 'Aryan Adrian' (one of my favorite tracks), are they about people you personally knew or more a specific type of person?

Woah! So many questions in one... ‘Sanctuary’ is about the ‘wicked’ teenage mothers who were forced to live and work in Catholic laundries in Ireland, persecuted mercilessly by the nuns living there; ‘Nightwing’ is an erotic song of vampire lust; ‘Catholic Taste’ is about people who never really stick their necks out and commit to one thing and, erm, ‘Aryan Adrian’ is about someone I know. I’m saying no more, except that he’s not called Adrian.

Tony did the artwork on the album 'Beast With Two Backs,' and some of his artwork's featured on other album sleeves, but you too have designed some of the covers...so you both have experience with graphic design?

We met while studying graphic design, but I leave most of the artwork to Tony now as I’m far too rusty – and I adore his artwork!

Speaking of the 'Beast With Two Backs,'...what's the story behind the fabulous song, 'Hedonistic Gene?'

It’s about my love for earthly pleasures that I seem to have inherited from my dad. Unfortunately, however, he took it to a whole new level and, though he was a clever, gifted man who had a strong thirst for knowledge, he stupidly destroyed himself, dying far too young. I plan to hang around for a while longer though!

On your most recent album, 'The Dark Goddess,' the last track ‘Karnayna’ is actually a reference to The Horned God, Cernunnos, isn't it?

Yes, it is. ‘Karnayna’ is believed to be a corruption (possibly by Alex Sanders) of the name ‘Cernunnos.’ I personally prefer the name Cernunnos and have favoured that over Karnayna in ritual… but Karnayna works better as an anthemic chorus!

I don't have any of the albums currently in front of me, but if I remember correctly you've also played some instruments in several of the songs. Which instruments do you play and what's your favorite?

I’ve added some additional instruments to our recordings, such as dulcimer and tin whistle, but it’s best kept away from a live audience. Nuff said.

What’s your writing process like? Do you both write the lyrics?

We do both write lyrics. Sometimes Tony and I work songs out together, but more often than not we work on our own elements independently of each other. That works out quite well childcare-wise too… it’s not always easy being a parent in the world of rock’n’roll.

When you’re literally working with your partner, how do you balance work and play? Or do the two go hand-in-hand?

The two most definitely go hand-in-hand. We live and breathe our music, though now, of course, we have the McKormacks Junior (Leon, 14, and Carmen, 6) to add to the equation. So, naturally, a lot of our attention goes on them and their interests now, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. We’re completely besotted with them.

What do Leon and Carmen think about the music? The song ‘Witch Queen’ is about Carmen, is it not?

Surprisingly (we’re still waiting for Leon to rebel) they both seem to really enjoy the music. ‘Bright Star’ was written about Leon when he was still a baby/young toddler and, yes, ‘Witch Queen’ is about Carmen. You hear many people referring to young children as being ‘old souls’ and I certainly felt this way about Carmen. She has a wisdom way beyond her years and a spiritual presence that inspired me to write the song. We’re incredibly close.

Do you feel that becoming a mother changed you spiritually?

I know it sounds cliché, but nothing prepared me for how motherhood would make me feel. When Leon was born (it was 7:30 in the evening), I spent the whole night just gazing at him; I wouldn’t sleep as I didn’t want to miss a moment of seeing his first hours of life. Now, as any new mother would tell you, that’s a pretty stupid thing to do as you need every moment of sleep you can grab, but his beauty completely and utterly overwhelmed me. I do feel I've changed spiritually, physically and emotionally (I'm a wreck watching sad films these days!).

Who are some of the people that have inspired you, musically, creatively, etc?

In no particular order: Billie Holiday, Frida Kahlo, Johnny Rotten, Doreen Valiente, Ian Astbury, Sir Francis Dashwood, Lux Interior, Dion Fortune, Robert Plant, Buffy Sainte Marie, Johnny Depp, Johnny Depp, and Johnny Depp.

What’s the recording process like?

It’s usually a pretty enjoyable process. We record at home now, so it’s a nice luxury to be able to roll out of bed, make a pot of tea and start recording in our jim-jams.

When you’re not working -- what do you do to relax? What’s your ideal ‘get away from it all,’ evening involve?

Usually snuggling up on the sofa with Tony, a bottle of wine or cider, and a bloody good horror movie. Can’t beat it.

What's next for Inkubus Sukkubus?

We’re working on some new recordings at the moment. It’s great fun to try out new stuff and see where it takes us…


  1. Really nice interview. Both questions and answers were great.

  2. Great post. I was checking constantly this blog and I am impressed! Thank you and best of luck.replica Patek Philippe Calatrava

  3. I really like there music, their songs remind me of the song "the howling" by within temptation.