Inkubus Sukkubus are one of the most prolific bands in the goth scene, they’ve been going for 27 years now. They’re also regularly described as the world’s premiere pagan band, so it comes as no surprise that Tony and Candia McKormack, the married couple and driving force behind the band, were first united by their mutual love of paganism, witchcraft and vampirism.
Talking about the length of time they’ve been going, “it really does not seem as if it is that long,” says Tony. Like any band, things have not always gone smoothly for them. “There have been lots of great things that have happened for us, but also a great many unfortunate things as well,” he says. They’ve survived a lot longer than many bands on the goth circuit, but is there a secret to it? “We feel that the real secret to longevity is simply not stopping,” he says, adding: “if something bad happens, you just keep going, you don’t think you are cursed or damned, you just realise bad things happen, and it is part of life. You have to try and remain grateful and optimistic, even when it is almost impossible to do so.”
The music of Inkubus Sukkubus has always revolved around pagan and spiritual themes. “That was what we decided the band was going to be about”, says Tony. “That is the sort of people we were, and the sort of people we still are.” Since the band started, they haven’t really changed as people at all, and fortunately so in their opinon. “We are still into all the same things, we wear the same type of clothes, like the same type of films and so on.” Many critics have said that staying the same is a failing of theirs, and I myself have acknowledged that you always know what you’re going to get from them, although as a strength as their output is always consistently good. If there is a secret to their how long they’ve survived, Tony feels that it must be that. “We are pleased that we have stayed as we are and feel that it is part of the secret of our longevity.”
Inkubus Sukkubus are cited by many sources as the world’s premiere pagan band. No others have been as prolific or successful as they have. That is partly to do with the fact that they are a Pagan band before anything else, and were a Pagan band before anyone else. Talking about their status, “I think some of it has to do with the fact that we were one of the first openly pagan bands, and the fact we are pagan before anything else,” says Tony. They’re not subtle about it: “Our description is always Pagan.” Musically they’re diverse, and their sound incorporates influences from genres as diverse as gothic rock, spook folk, dance, disco, motown, pop, latin, flamenco, classical and the list goes on. But it is the paganism that ties it all together and gives them their identity, according to them, “essentially we are always known as a pagan band.”
As well as having touches of all of the above influences here and there, they have also gone outside of their comfort zone and pushed the boundaries to try things that are completely outside of the box. “We did the Mexican album ‘Viva la Muerte’, which was quite a change.” In addition to this, they have experimented with different scales such as Middle Eastern and Spanish. They also occasionally do acoustic sets in addition to their standard electric ones.
Unlike most of their past work, the band’s latest album ‘Mother Moon’ didn’t really have an overall theme. “We took the title from one of the the tracks,” says Tony, “and the overall feel is half acoustic, half up tempo.” There are several varying themes that run through it, but as anyone that knows the band would expect, “most of them are what could be considered essentially Pagan or Witchy.”
At first glance, given the bands imagery and obvious pagan themes, to many they may seem like they’re merely a fantasy themed act, but in fact they’re actually one of the most political bands in the goth circuit today. However, it is not something they think about putting into their music consciously. “We never really think that much about being political these days, but I think you’re right, we are,” says Tony. “The politics just seem to seep in there,” he adds, explaining that it’s inevetable. “We suppose it can’t really be helped if you write lyrics straight from the heart, as we do. You just tend to get angry about certain things and it somehow comes out in your lyrics, the same goes for things that make you feel good.”
Recently I was listening to the song ‘Burning Times’ by the band, and it struck me as very relevant at the time. Even more so at the time of writing this, given further terrorist attacks taking place in Belgium on the same day. The song tells the story of persecution in the name of religon, of burnings at the stake and of how its lies are used for political power and control. Because of recent events and the way they have been portrayed by the media, the current situation is one of the West versus Islam, or Christianity versus Islam. However, the band sees them as essentially the same thing. “Islam of the type practiced by the Islamic State seems to be pretty much the same thing as the Christian Church of the late Middle Ages. Islam and Christianity seem to view each other as being diametrically opposed to each other, and yet from a historical and outside perspective they are virtually identical.”
Perhaps, according to the band, the problem has a lot more to do with human nature than religion. Although, it is too arguable that religion itself is part of human nature. It is human nature to survive. It is the instict of any living thing to survive, and often the survival of the fittest means the survival of the darkest traits. “We are descended from the people who subjugated, cheated, robbed, murdered, and raped the ones who never got to pass on their genes,” says Tony. “All of those dark traits are carried, no matter how well hidden, in our DNA,” he explains. He actually has a very good point, and a very worrying one that paints a rather bleak picture of the future of humanity. “Maybe in the future when faced with an apocalypse of some kind, and a much more hostile environment, similar to the ones our ancestors faced, we, as a species may need those dark traits to survive.”
Going back to the current global situation and the war on terror, something that often strikes many as hypocritical, especially Pagans, is the proclamation that Britain is a Christian country without acknowledging the crusades and violence it took to convert our islands, or the fact that we are a secular and multicultural society. “Britain is not really a Christian country anymore, it is a secular country,” says Tony.. “Islam, as a global phenomenon, is demonstratively repsonsible in some cases for actions that result in considerable suffering. However, these acts are the same acts that Christianity, as a global phenomenon, is historically responsible for, and in many cases not that historical either.” Both Christianity and Islam are Abrahamic religions, and share the same roots. They both have the same problems, and one is not the cure for the other. “Christianity is not the antidote for Islam; it is another symptom of the same disease.”
Is religion on its way out, or is it something that will be with us forever? At a basic level people are herd-like, Christianity does call its followers a flock after all. The band sees this as some kind of survival need, and think that it’s “possibly connected with fleeing from dangers.” Religion does not only exist because of our basic animalistic insticts, it is a combination of this and our advanced way of thinking. “On a higher cerebral level, there is a universal need to find something that transcends the prosaic and to find a sense of purpose and protection, against an occasionally hostile world.” Although these traits may have served us well as a species long ago, “they are also the twin geneses of organised state sanctioned religion, including Atheism and Communism. So it is almost certain that there will always be religion.
Even before talking to the band, it is clear from their lyrics that they are strongly opposed to organised religion. This raises the question as to whether they truly believe in anything spiritual, or if their interest in Paganism is purely reactionary. The case is the former. “No, we do believe in spiritual things, we believe in the power of Witchcraft and Divination,” Tony confirms, adding: “We believe that the concept of the pagan Triple Goddess and the lustful horned God are representational of real forces that exist in all of the universe.” Most aspects of various types of paganism do revolve around the worship of representations of natural forces. It makes a lot more sense than totally blind faith. “We believe that all living things have a consciousness, and that there are spirit creatures all around us.” Gothic comes from an acknowledgement that things are not just black and white, things are not just light or dark and it may be the fact that the band believes something similar is why they fit into that category so well. “We also accept that where there is light there is also darkness, that we can never be truly and completely good and perfect, because nature is not completely good and perfect.”
Many people, without thinking, accept religions like Christianity as fact, yet at the same they dismiss things like Paganism as some kind of lunatic fairy-tale magic. In Tony’s view, “Most people feel that way because they have had it drilled into them, and they don’t question what they’ve been taught, as stated above most people have an in built herd mentality, not may people question the status quo, and those who do can often find life made difficult for them.”
As aforementioned, most forms of Paganism are rooted in the orders of nature and the universe, so it comes as no surprise that the band’s beliefs are a lot more compatible with science than those of Christianity. “As most pagans tend to embrace science as part of the natural world, paganism in its modern version stands up much better to the big questions than Christianity does. For example: Question ‘If there is a God of Love, why does he allow children to be murdered?’ – Christian answer – ‘God has an infinite wisdom, of which humanity in unable to understand’ – pagan answer – ‘Nature is cruel as well as kind, all people have dark traits in their personality and some have more darkness in them than light.’ Both answers are not very pleasant, and neither is the question, but the pagan one is an actual answer and not just a fob off.” If you put it like that, I think it’s safe to say that Paganism is a lot more grounded than religions like Christianity, and it’s understandable why they have so much disdain for the latter.
Will Inkubus Sukkubus be spending the rest of the foreseeable future thinking deeply and philosophically about human nature and darkness and light, or do they have any other plans coming up? “We are currently recording another album, Inkubus Sukkubus album number 20. In the summer we are starting to go out playing live again, and are hoping to be playing some of the tracks from the Mother Moon album.” And, to finish they’d like to say: “Thank you to everyone who has supported us over the years, you are the reason we keep going.”