Q. What will be your epitaph? Vlad - He may not have got ir right, but at least he tried.
- Vlad Janicek, interviewed in John Tucker & Phoenix Hitch's Lowlife: The Journal of Light & Dark # 4. Halloween, 1993.
The Grimoire #4 -9 (Harrow, Middx)
Nosferatu with friend, the creepy car, circa 1992
Unusually and commendably for a band newsletter, Vlad Janicek and Sapphire Aurora's The Grimoire (13 issues from 1989 - 1995), attempted something more substantial than the usual page upon page of band interviews, tour dates and t-shirt & tape flogging.
Issues #4 through to #7 (1991-1992) devoted only three of their twelve pages to band news and merchandise, the bulk given over to concise articles on (among other subjects), Angela de la Barthe & The Witch Heresy, The Haunting Of Gloomy Mansion (a.K.a. Oakley Court, Windsor), Evil & The Lure Of Satanism, Donatien De Sade: A Spanking Good Tale Of Excess, Sex & SorceryThe Cursed Castle (old Vault favourite 'The Monster Of Glamis'), and a two-part personal take on The Gothic Experience. Most of the written material and artwork appears to be Sapphire's, bassist Vlad chipping in with the occasional gripe versus the music press and "insignificant" rival bands sneering that Nosferatu were too Goth, too over the top. I've mislaid #8 - you can't know how much anguish that causes me - but by #9 Sapphires taken over the editorship, Vlad's looking after the design, they've doubled the page count and added book reviews (Byron Priess's The Ultimate Dracula, Peter Haining's Vampire and Brian Stableford's epic novel, The Empire Of Fear. Nosferatu are already onto their fourth lead vocalist, Louis Del Rey, but with a settled line-up, dedicated fan base, headlining tour and debut album, Rise (May 1993), meeting with an enthusiastic reception from the fanzines, things are looking up for the lugubrious ones. What could possibly go right?
Not all of the coverage was favourable. Mick Mercer took a swipe at the first incarnation of the band in his indispensable Gothic Rock (peace between the two parties eventually broke out in the least likely publication) and rival bands were quick to mock Nosferau their vampire-heavy imagery and perceived humourless disposition. The Bats & Red Velvet (Newcastle-On-Tyne), "Gothic information service", began life as The House Of Dracula circa 1990, an article-heavy affair under the editorship of the relatively outspoken Jeff Hemlock who happened to be a fan of the group. Hemlock used his irregular Reflections on the '90's Goth scene column (launched in #4, 1991) to rail against the apathy of fans, Mick Mercer, male Goth's who'd stopped bothering with make up and traded their crushed velvet loon pants for biker jackets, Mick Mercer's Gothic Rock, Rosetta Stone (the then likely heirs to the Sisters Of Mercy and Fields Of The Nephilim) and their creative lazyitis, "crap" second-wave Goth bands and Mick Mercer. Narked at their consistently negative coverage in the 'zine, and doubtless rocked by the recent departure of guitarist Porl Young, Rosetta Stone responded with a bitch-fest of their own.
Blackmail (Liverpool, 1993)
"We await the backlash." In the deliberately provocative third issue of Rosetta's glossy A4 newsletter, Porl King and Karl North set to mocking vampire fans and rubbish goth-zines, rounding off with a 'Demolition' of several bands who'd sent them tapes. Deserving targets perhaps, but King's hysterical overreaction to a lone fan who'd written in that plenty of Goths enjoyed the "face-painting, vampire-worshipping, candle-burning" aspect so why alienate them, confirmed that we were not dealing with genius material. Nevertheless, it annoyed the Bats and drew a "kiss my arse" from Sapphire so i suppose you have to say job done.
Continued reflections on the 90's Goth scene in Bats & Red Velvet #6 (July 1993) proved Hemlock's swan-song. When their original driving-force walked out, his 'secretary' Jo took over the reigns on # 7. In the following issue (1994), the erstwhile editor comes in for such a pasting from former colleagues and victims that it qualifies as something of a 'Hemlock is a bastard' special. Not that Porl King escaped lightly for the gobby and hardly disinterested attack on fanzine culture in the aforementioned Blackmail. Along with the usual band interviews and album/ gig/ demo reviews, there's an extract from Jackie Askew's self-published novel, Sundown .... Sunrise, the adventures of Black Nightshade, a London-based goth band who fall foul of the undead, and Reflections, a short-short from D. F. Lewis.
The Grimoire #10-13 (1993-1995)
The settled line-up was a smokescreen, Louis having departed during the April 1993 tour. Minus a lead vocalist, Vlad and guitarist Damien de Ville were unable to promote the album. There's no mention of any of this in #10, which has now gone A4 and again increased the page count to a very generous 32. The Grimoire has now taken to accepting contributions, kicking off with Necroscope magazine's Donna Crow on Hammer Films: A Voyage Into Horror. Sapphire mildly pans Anne Billson's Suckers as not Gothic enough, Richard Laymon's The Stake fares a little better and Raymond Leonard's The Nosferatu Inheritance come up roses. In place of any band news there's Vlad's An Insight Into The Charts, an exposé of 'fake indie labels' (subsiduaries of the majors) and a 'Gothic Directory' listing 'zines, fashion and jewellery outlets, etc.
Vlad and Damien eventually settled on Nial Murphy as the new front-man and we fans were in for a culture shock. Nial, it transpired, was a regular song and dance man, prone to cracking terrible jokes and going walk-about in the audience like he was Norman Wisdom in a frilly shirt. We caught the new line-up at the Marquee one bitterly cold November night headlining over Belladonna & Aconyte-era Incubus Succubus and wondered ...
Nosferatu belatedly confirmed Del Rey's departure/ Murphy's arrival ("his stage persona is more upbeat") in Grimoire #11 (1994), perhaps the finest single issue of the magazine, with much reader participation, most notably in the lively Why Goth? debate, and extended reviews section which took in Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast trilogy, Freda Warrington's A Taste Of Blood & Wine, Anne Rice's Tale Of A Body Thief, Vampire: The Masquerade and Bluff Your Way In The Occult by Alexander C. Rae. Sapphire concluded her Countess Bathory story, The Countess And The Tower, begun way back in #8, and then there was Bitch Corner, an ill-advised if understandable "kiss this" to "a certain collection of extremely illiterate Scouse gits [who] have taken it upon themselves to bitch about us and a whole host of bands, individuals and 'zines." Yes, kids. This was how we flame warred before the advent of the internet!
A bumper 36 page issue. The industrious Sapphire is all over this one with an appreciation of John Keats, short story The Vampire's Diary, and a long contribution to Why Goth? touching on the recent arse-gate scandal. Band news: they've recruited drummer Chris Clark, arranged a German tour and recorded second album The Prophecy. Recent single Savage Kiss has just missed out on a top ten indie chart placing. Everything is on the up - what could possibly go wrong again?
Grimoire #13 (1995)
An interview with Brian Stableford who cites Young Blood as the novel with which he's most pleased and "I've long been a fan of The Sisters Of Mercy, The Cramps and Warren Zevon. I keep finding new favourites. The most recent one is by the sleepers of Babylon. It's called Metropolis". Mr. Stableford also guest reviews the works of Poppy Z. Brite. More short fiction from Sapphire (Another Night, Another Lover), more Why Goth?, and Vlad contributes a "special four page band feature" which reveals they've split up acrimoniously and now he and Damien are fighting over custody of the name.
Vlad Janicek formed Shadowmaker who recorded at least one demo, Psychosis (1995). He also contributed a solo instrumental, For Eternity to the Vampire Guild's What Sweet Music They Make compilation. After which?
Louis and Damien reunited, kept the name, and have soldiered on to this day. Damien has written/ is writing a book about his experiences, Vampyre's Cry -The History Of A Gothic Rock Band.
From the first, I set myself against "literature"; the story was the thing, and no amount of style could persuade me to select a story that lacked genuine, unadulterated horror. For those who wanted something high-brow there was plenty.