Bringing vocal and spiritual harmony to the world; Nottingham seven piece Church of the Cosmic Skull made a big impact on the underground rock scene with their debut album ‘Is Satan Real’ mixing ELO-esque pop melody and Sabbath-esque heaviness. With their much anticipated second album ‘Science Fiction’ due to drop in May, Mass Movement decided to catch up with Guitarist/Vocalist Brother Bill to shed some light on the esoteric combo.
Interview by Ian Pickens
MM: Introduce Yourselves?
BB: Church of the Cosmic Skull is a twofold entity: A 7-piece psych-prog-rock / ‘occult pop’ group located in Nottingham England; and an ever-growing spiritual organization, spreading the light of the Cosmic Rainbow across this planet and beyond.
MM: Are the members of CotCS active in any other bands?
BB: Indeed, Brother Bill and Sister Caroline play in Dystopian Future Movies, Brother Michael is in Ulysses Storm, Brother Laurence has a couple of new projects coming soon, Sister Joanne has some solo material coming out soon.
MM: How did CotCS come into existence? Was it purely a musical project or was there an underlying philosophy that you wanted to explore as a group?
BB: I had written a number of songs which didn’t suit any previous projects so the time was right to bring a group together around them. The group grew as we experimented with the arrangements and vocal harmonies. Eventually it became clear that the number 7 was trying to communicate with us, and we were destined to become the musical conduits of the Cosmic Word.
MM: Would it be fair to say that Lyrically CotCS lean towards a pantheistic/pagan outlook; you drop the oft quoted Eliphas Levi couplet in the song ‘Movements in the Sky’…
BB: Our philosophy is based around the hallucinatory nature of reality, where you can invent your own gods. We accept all belief systems as subjective phenomena to be investigated wholeheartedly. Though the lyrics have personal meaning to me, hopefully they allow room for the listener’s imagination.
MM: Is the spiritual message of CotCS as important as the music, or more a way of making you stand out from other bands? Are you an actual Religious Organisation or is it a bit more tongue in cheek?
BB: We are a spiritual organisation with membership open to all living beings. The importance of this is your own judgement. The 7 Objects of the Church can be found on our internet web portal here: cosmicskull.org. Join us.
MM: The Rainbow Lodge?
BB: The Rainbow Lodge is our headquarters, the poorly attempted defamation of which was documented in a mini-series we were forced to release last year. You can find our more on our youtube channel youtube.com/churchofthecosmicskull
MM: Musically there’s been some not-so-surprising comparisons to ELO & Fleetwood Mac and some rather more esoteric comparisons to Ghost & Electric Wizard – have you been surprised at some of these comparisons?
BB: The music is melodic, with both male and female voices, and elements of classic rock, psych and prog, so the ELO and Fleetwood Mac comparisons make sense. In similarity to Ghost, we have melody and pop elements with an underlying darkness. We celebrate the balance of darkness and light. I think the likeness to Electric Wizard would be the creation of a whole world around the music, filled with visual stimuli and subversive intent.
MM: The vocal harmonies on your first album ‘Is Satan Real’ are a thing of beauty, especially on opening track, the superlative ‘Mountain Heart’; had you worked with Jo, Amy and Caroline previously or was it just a happy coincidence that your vocals complimented each other so naturally?
BB: Thank you. It should be noted that Brother Michael and Brother Samuel also sing many of the harmonies. I hadn’t worked with any of them vocally before, but have always enjoyed layering vocal harmonies on tracks I have recorded myself. I am a fan of Queen, Fleetwood Mac, ELO, Mamas and Papas, Eagles, Beatles etc. so it made sense to fully embrace the world of vocal harmony.
MM: ‘Mountain Heart’ has a very upbeat vibe to it , the next track ‘Black Slug’ has a much darker ambience; was it intentional to put these two tracks together to show the contrast in CotCS’s sound? The video to ‘Black Slug’ has a similarly disturbing atmosphere – what’s the song about?
BB: The balance of darkness and light is paramount. ‘Black Slug’ is about whatever you think it is about. For me it is about one thing, for you another.
MM: Tell us a little bit about the new album ‘Science Fiction’; it seems like you’ve taken a bit of an “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach to the recording, record company and graphics?
BB: I think the art and sound has evolved within the same universe. The learning process of audio production will continue forever, and it’s something I see as both enjoyable and integral to the whole experience of writing.
MM: Are you able to give a track by track breakdown of the album?
BB: We will be doing this for members of the Cosmic Family, around the release of the audio, so look out for it!
MM: CotCS appear to maintain artistic control of both the music and visual aspects of the organisation; is this something you intend to continue or are you open to working with other labels/producers/artists? You turned down major label offers to retain your artistic control right?
BB: We tend to keep as much of the creative side ‘in-house’, but certainly have nothing against working with other artists. Regarding the record company, we received several offers from major labels after the success of ‘Is Satan Real?‘ but nothing that suited us at this stage. We are a creative group, and can see how to do this ourselves. Keeping everything independent means we maintain an intimate contact with our listeners, the Cosmic Family. Working with the fantastic Kozmik Artifactz allows us to do that, while providing the highest quality of special edition vinyl and CD.
MM: The band utilise digital media as the main means of promotion; do you feel that digital/social media is inherently a positive thing? Is there any place for traditional printed media in the modern world?
BB: Social media is like television, a very powerful tool that can be used for good and evil. We have seen how addictive it is, and how damaging it can be. But at the same time it has removed a huge barrier between artists and their listeners. It allows us to discover the kinds of music and art that resonates with us as individuals, without relying on someone telling us what is worth listening to. Artists now have the ability to reach our audience without relying on record labels. So like any tool, it is good when used correctly. In answer to your question about print, I think people will always be drawn to physical tactile objects that are created with heart, hence the popularity of vinyl. The same applies to books and magazines when they’re done well.
MM: You’ve released a teasing announcement of an “elaborate live event on June 2nd” – are you able to expand on that?
BB: We will be playing a very special show in our hometown on that date, after a short run of UK shows. More to be announced soon!
MM: DesertFest Berlin on the horizon too?
BB: Indeed, Desertfest Belgium was amazing last year so we are looking forward to Berlin, which we’re doing alongside another fest, Sonic Whip in the Netherlands. We have also just announced Boomtown, and we are back over to Europe for some summer festivals, including Rock Im Wald and Woodstock Forever in Germany.
MM: How can people get in touch?
BB: We would strongly recommend joining the Cosmic Family to receive exclusive transmissions on releases and events: cosmicskull.org Join us. We love you.