Death to all false goblin metal! Nekrogoblikon have emerged from the bowels of sunny California to become one of heavy metal's preeminent melodic death folk comedy madness attractions. Buoyed by ever-present and salty mascot John Goblikon, viral videos and ace marketing have cemented the band as one of the rising touring attractions in the entire genre. Numbers don't lie!
Hours removed from a tour reveal alongside the mighty Gwar, long-time guitarist Alex Alereza sat down with Metal Injection for a deep dive into Nekrogoblikon's upcoming album The Fundamental Slimes and Humours, ownership of the weird, rise of the absurdly entertaining goblin-talk show Right Now, his definitive guitar hero and much more!
Have you guys toured with Gwar before? Obviously there has to be so much influence for what they've done in the metal space. I guess you could say Alice Cooper, but I can't really think of a band that came before Gwar that really owned the comedic aspect, the tongue-in-cheek and the satire like they did.
Yeah, definitely. It's surprising this hasn't happened before. It almost happened before, and due to all kinds of things going on we just couldn't make it work schedule-wise. That was like eight years ago, so I'm glad they offered it to us again because the timing is perfect with us having a new record. They have a new record coming out and I think a lot of fans want to see both bands together. At least we hear that from our end.
Quite the opposite, actually, and not in a negative way. We came from such a different place. John Goblikon became a part of the band in 2012, and we've been around since 2006. We started really tongue-in-cheek kind of as a joke with not a whole lot of thought going into theatrics. At first it was just "wouldn't it be funny to make an album that's just all metal songs, about goblins?" There wasn't a grandiose vision with it. It was just like, that's funny. We wanted to make catchy music that was quirky and fun and comedic and tongue-in-cheek.
It wasn't until we saw the "No One Survives" video with Brandon Dermer, who's the director and kind of the creator of John Goblikon. He's John's father. We did that video, we birthed this character that suddenly made the band noticed. We were about to get a festival offer and our manager was on the phone with the agents. And he said, "I think I could get you this festival, but the goblin is going to be there, right?" It's like alright, we got to do this thing now. At that point we owned it. This is like part of what we do. This is now an entertaining factor, part of our shows, and he's just this additional kind of bandmate that doesn't play an instrument. Like our mascot or our sidekick. It wasn't premeditated, but we embraced it when it came.
Did you feel a noticeable change in terms of the attention or the trajectory when you really leaned into that in the live performances? I know the videos progressively got crazier and you amped up goblin everything with John kind of being the face of it.
We were a completely unknown band until we had John. Very underground. We had a bit of a MySpace following back in the day and we had MySpace bots harassing people. People from all around knew about us, some people, but it didn't start to become a name anyone recognized until that music video hit, that first one with John, "No One Survives" that Dermer made. That went viral in two weeks and hit a million views. That's when the offers started pouring in and that's when we truly became a touring band. We didn't even tour before that. We were just like dudes at first going to school, then having jobs and on the weekends doing shows at shitty bars downtown and stuff. This turned into where we're actually getting paid to perform and all that kind of thing.
Any band that has a "gimmick" or embrace comedy elements I feel, especially in the metal space… they have to back it up by being heavy as shit and having a great live show. And you guys definitely fit the bill in that regard. Your albums are heavy, but they merge so many different things from the comedic, EDM and synths, but there's massive breakdowns. Is there a fine line for you guys for incorporating the things that are going to make you stand out and be different, but still being a melodic death metal band.
The only ones who are still around since that beginning era are Nicky, our singer, and I. He does the writing. And like for me, I've kind of been around this whole time. So both of us have this understanding of what's goblin sounding and what's not. And that doesn't mean that we've limited ourselves, but it's kind of the way in which we go beyond. An idea that's insane to us usually has to make us crack up. And if we have that effect while we're working on something, OK, that's goblin. That's on par. This is what our fans want from us. This is what we've been from day-one to an extent.
We just keep trying to take that a step further in every aspect. If we got a couple of breakdowns on one album, for the next album, "alright, how much further can we go with breakdowns?" On the other side of that you have the fun kind of accordions and major key songs. "Alright, let's go further with that, too." It's taking every element of what we've known to have done and just pushing that a bit further each time.
I loved the cover you did of "Chop Suey" a couple years back. To me that was peak Nekrogoblikon taking a song like that that's so loved and really making it your own.
I'm glad you liked it. The reception was great. It was amazing. And I think we made some new fans from it too. For the longest time, I've always wanted us to do a System of a Down cover because I felt like out of all the bands from that era that we grew up in to cover, they were like one of the most adventurous. The name of the game for them was like their only limitation was the song has to be really good. They go everywhere. There's influences from punk-rock to pop to dance to death metal to folk to everything in what they do. And I felt like Nekrogoblikon relates to that. Doing something from System of a Down felt like it was a good fit for us. And then it was just about figuring out how we make this specifically Nekrogoblikon in a way where no one else would think to do it.
The Fundamental Slides and Humours, I think, is the most gonzo Nekrogoblikon record. It's amping that all up to 11 and really owning the merging of everything. Was there a recipe for this record or how you wanted to approach it?
A big difference this time than the last few times is that usually we'll have a bunch of songs that we made, like 11 or 12, and it's "alright, these are the album." This time Nicky started writing pretty quickly after we dropped Welcome to Bonkers. After maybe the second tour in support of that album, Nicky was already beginning to write "This Is It." He had a slew of songs. He has this big Dropbox folder, and I think there's at least 35 to 40 songs or song ideas that are long enough to be completed, not too difficult based on what's there. So it was a lot of just really pruning and choosing the absolute best.
He had some songs that were so good in the beginning, especially "This Is It" was a high bar to set for ourselves, it felt like. He wrote a lot of cool songs, but it's like we have to compare to this now. He kind of found this new flow where he stepped it up and then there was like a flow of songs that were just top notch, way better than anything he had written before. And we're like, "OK, these are the album." We still might do something with those other songs. We've talked about maybe doing B-sides or something like that, but we're not too sure at this point. We don't want to work on an album again for a long time. We spent a lot of time on this one. It was like the pre-pandemic and throughout the pandemic we've been working on this.
Where did the whole Right Now idea come from? That's the most perfect side hustle for you guys and is so hilarious. It's Conan O'Brien meets Gwar and Gremlins with zero fucks.
I was talking to, I believe, both Brandon Dermer and Dave Rispoli, who plays John Goblikon. It was right after Heavy Meta came out. And I had rented this warehouse space where we would practice and also sometimes throw shows and stuff and we were just talking about new things to do with the goblin and we're like, "OK, maybe he has a talk show and it's kind of like an awkward situation talk show." And I remember Dave being like, "OK, well, it's not like The Tonight Show, because to be online it can't be The Tonight Show or The Today Show." It has to be just like online. I was like, "Well, then it should be called right now because whenever you're watching it, it's going to be right now."
Settled on that, and it was a long discovery process for that too, just like with the band. The first season was just these two episodes we tried out. The reception was good, but the knowledge of the band wasn't and the awareness of the band wasn't where it is now. It was alright. People are liking this. Every element of it, music and Right Now included, had been long grinds to get them to where they're widely recognized now and everything. We just finished season four of Right Now. I think that was my favorite season of it yet. Dave was on top of his game, all Dermer's concepts for it he knocked out of the park.
For you, going back to your earliest days loving and discovering metal, were there some gateway bands for you or seminal records that really kick-started your love of heavy metal?
There's a lot of different ones within metal, because my tastes in metal are very broad. There's not not a single sub-genre I don't enjoy. The one that I think led me to being in Nekrogoblikon is Children of Bodom. Like Alexi's one of my guitar heroes, RIP. That's the big one. Hatebreeder, Follow the Reaper and Hate Crew Deathroll, those three albums I feel like were all seminal and all very much led to me being here.
Any parting thoughts on the record? This really feels like everything we've seen in the evolution of Nekrogoblikon rolled up in all its madness and glory. To me it's the most fun record you guys have ever done.
Thanks man, that's exactly what we were going for I feel. I consider it more accessible also than what we've done in the past while not apologizing one bit for being as weird as we are. It's kind of like, "OK, let's hone in these songs. Let's make these even catchier. But let's not take out any of the shit that makes us weird. Let's make shit weirder." Unapologetic is a big part of it, but still maintaining that making it fist pumping, making it fun, making you forget about all the shittiness in the world. That's usually one of our goals.
The Fundamental Slimes and Humours is out now via their own Mystery Box label. Grab it here. U.S. tour dates with Gwar listed below!
w/ Gwar & The Native Howl
5/19 – Ft. Wayne, IN @ Piere's
5/20 – St. Louis, MO @ The Pageant (PointFest PreParty)
5/21 – Wichita, KS @ TempleLive
w/ Gwar, Goatwhore, & The Native Howl
5/23 – Colorado Springs, CO @ The Black Sheep
5/24 – Grand Junction, CO @ Mesa Theater
5/26 – Sacramento, CA @ Ace of Spades
5/27 – Chico, CA @ Senator Theatre
5/28 – San Diego, CA @ House of Blues
5/29 – Tempe, AZ @ The Marquee
5/31 – San Antonio, TX @ Vibes Event Center
6/2 – Destin, FL @ Club LA
6/3 – Chattanooga, TN @ The Signal
6/4 – Charleston, SC @ Music Farm
6/5 – Charlotte, NC @ The Underground
6/7 – Joliet, IL @ The Forge
6/8 – Green Bay, WI @ EPIC Event Center
6/10 – Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club
6/11 – Sayreville, NJ @ Starland Ballroom
6/12 – Albany, NY @ Empire Live
6/14 – Hampton Beach, NH @ Wally's
6/15 – Burlington, VT @ Higher Ground
6/16 – Providence, RI @ The Strand
6/17 – Reading, PA @ Reverb