Will Gould, aka William Von Ghould, aka the singer with goth-punk bloodsuckers Creeper, is getting lost in alcohol and the mythology of rock’n’roll. It’s 3pm on a Wednesday afternoon, and we’re sitting in a bar called Disorder in his adopted home city of Manchester. He picked the bar because it’s named after the opening song on Joy Division‘s Unknown Pleasures album, although you can throw a dart in Manchester and hit a bar that’s named after a Joy Division song. We’re three pints deep – or is it four? – into a drinking session that will continue for a few more hours and several more pints, and he’s in full swing.
“Where has all the character in music gone?” he’s saying, with a passion that’s only partly fuelled by alcohol. “Jesus Christ, there’s only so many times you can see someone wandering on stage in the clothes they were wearing to Tesco that morning. People talk about how brilliant it was that grunge wiped out hair metal. Listen, hair metal was way more fun.”
It should be noted that Gould is currently clad hair-to-toe in black. His hair is the colour of a funeral hearse, his eyebrows are artfully shaped into a low, vampiric ‘V’, and his midnight tan has been given a touch of life by the make-up he applied just before he left the 18th century former church he lives in. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him wandering around Tesco dressed exactly like this.
He’s a living billboard for Creeper’s third album, Sanguivore (a carnivore consumes meat, a sanguivore consumes blood). It’s a fantastically feverish 1980s goth-rock vampire opera with puncture marks on its neck and drama in its heart. Guitars chime, piano chords crash, synths pulse and choirs exult. The reference points come thick, fast and knowing: Floodland-era Sisters Of Mercy, Phantasmagoria-era Damned, White Wedding-era Billy Idol, Mother-era Danzig, cult late-80s fang flick Near Dark and its florid early-90s counterpart Interview With A Vampire. Oh, and Jim Steinman. Especially Jim Steinman.
“He created something that was even larger than the music he wrote, he created worlds to live in,” says Gould, who fell in love with Bat Out Of Hell after plucking it from his parents’ record collection as a kid. He reels off the names: “Meat Loaf, Bat Out Of Hell, Bad For Good, Bonnie Tyler, Pandora’s Box…” (he’s possibly the only person to have mentioned the latter, Steinman’s one-off all-female group, in the past 30 years).
Sure, it might all sound like the ultimate in ‘I ❤︎ The Alternative 80s’ cosplay, but Gould knows this and has imbued Sanguivore with a ridicule-proof heroism that Steinman himself would be proud of. Plus it feels like nobody’s made a record that’s as shamelessly, brilliantly over-the-top since the 1980s anyway.
But then Creeper have traded in the over-the-top since they emerged from the DIY punk scene in their native Southampton in the early 2010s. Back then they came on like a Happy Shopper My Chemical Romance, all swept-over fringes and baggy black T-shirts. But Gould did brilliant things.
Such as staging an actual funeral parade for their old songs at a London show a week before the release of their 2017 debut album, Eternity, In Your Arms. Or killing the band off on stage at London’s Koko a year later with the words: “Not only is it the last show of this album, but it’s the last show that we’ll ever do” – the exact same phrase David Bowie used to permanently retire Ziggy Stardust at Hammersmith Odeon in 1973, which is either the dumbest or ballsiest move in history.
“Oh, it was clearly a Bowie reference,” says Gould. “But at that moment, I didn’t feel like David Bowie, I felt like someone trying to uphold the mythology of rock’n’roll.” (Naturally, Creeper returned from the dead to deliver their arty, glammy, Britpoppy second album Sex, Death & TheInfinite Void – a record he believes was literally “cursed”, by the way).
Sanguivore keeps their end up on that front. It’s an epic concept album about two vampire lovers, Spook and Mercy, whose relationship plays out against a backdrop of 100mph car crashes, midnight body snatching and thwarted redemption. It’s packed with jugular-penetrating ‘cannibal babies’ and deathwish-holding ‘Armageddon girls’, bringing every Anne Rice fan’s teenage vampire fantasy to exhilarating life. Or death.
“Anyone who feels like an outsider can relate to that imagery,” says Gould. “When you don’t fit, when you feel like you’re from somewhere else, when people laugh at you for being a bit weird, there’s something alluring about it.”
The drinks are still flowing, oiling a conversation that ranges from Gould’s fascination with UFOs to his friendship with The Damned (Dave Vanian and Patricia Morrison’s kid is a fan, leading to the latter appearing on Creeper’s last album) to the genius of Scott Walker, Morrissey, Avalon-era Roxy Music and, indefensibly, Tonight-era David Bowie.
At some point we reconvene to a nearby pub that’s half Rover’s Return and half hipster hangout. We sit in the beer garden, where he can smoke a steady chain of cigarettes while eulogising the life-affirming beauty of 70s punk and bemoaning the fact that magazines don’t dish out bad reviews any more.
“Sometimes I wish somebody would say something bad about our albums,” he says, with the kind of bulletproof confidence that leads to outrageous concept albums about doomed vampire love that sound like that greatest record Meat Loaf and The Sisters Of Mercy never made together.
No you don’t.
“Yes.” He sucks on his cigarette. “Yes I honestly do.”
He leaves to fetch another drink, and then another. At some point a bunch of his tattoo artist friends arrive. Things look like they’re going to get messy, and the sun’s going down soon anyway. It’s time to leave. Gould stands to offer a wobbly hug.
Earlier, he said: “All my favourite stories are where a bunch of freaks come together and make something brilliant, regardless of whether the world understands it or not.”
Somewhere, Jim Steinman is sitting up in his grave and applauding.
Sanguivore is out now via Spinefarm.