The Wet Nuns Scrapbook of Doom
Ah! Fresh blood! Welcome to the Exposed Crypts – a labyrinthine collection of passages and coffins we share with rats, rotting corpses and a Greggs Bakery.
Rob and Alexis from Sheffield psychobilly-hick-horror duo Wet Nuns visited us recently, accompanied by director 'Deathly' Darren Topliss, to show us some holiday snaps from their 'Northern Gothic' music video for Heavens Below, which transforms the fair city of Sheffield into a doom-laden metropolis of gore-dripping horror.
So here's the Wet Nuns Scrapbook of Doom (it was going to be the Wet Nuns Scrapbook of Blood but blood is really difficult to print onto) – a collection of exclusive stills and chat from Wet Nuns first, fatal stab at the music promo…
Alexis – So Wet Nuns are all about black metal, rituals, witchery…
Rob – Yeah, with a deep south twist. Like chequered shirts, axes and babes.
Darren – Just being daft, really.
Exposed – So how’d the idea of the video come about?
D – I was really into this production company called Canada and they did a video for this guy El Guincho called Bombay. It was a series of stills – a lass wearing a dress made out of sparklers, that kind of thing. So we took that idea and tried to turn it on its head based on what Wet Nuns are about and what makes us laugh.
A – The concept for the video is ‘really over the top and stupid’. Essentially each scene is like a still. It does feel like a music video version of Tumblr.
Rob – It’s our vibe. Leather, fire, upside down crosses and goats…
A – Darren sent us this really funny email that was literally this massive shopping list of horrible props and gear he wanted for the shoot.
R – And we already had most of it!
D – Four pounds from the butchers! It was a struggle filming it cos our actor Chris insisted on cutting its ear off and trying to get its brain out. Which wasn’t very nice.
R – Chris is a legend. We’re gonna make him a superstar. I met him from punk gigs when he was in a band called Skip Lickers.
A – Chris usually only works when it’s dark so we were lucky to get him.
D – That’s what he said. He said “I don’t really do much during the day. I just go out at night when the darkness comes…’
R – He phoned me up the other day to tell me he’d found a wah-wah pedal in a skip…
D – I never thought about getting an alligator in the video. It was snakes originally. So I went to Sheffield Exotics, which is across the road from La Chambre [An equally exotic swingers club in Attercliffe]. But there was this gator in the window. I wanted to get a shot of it snapping its jaws together.
Exposed – Take us through the conversation with the shopkeeper…
D – I just said ‘Hiya. I’m making a video about this band from Sheffield and they’re a bit naughty.’ He was a big lad, tattoos and stuff, and the nicest guy ever. The guy was like ‘Oh, you’re not supposed to tap on the window’ – it said not to do it on a big sign – but he did it anyway.
Exposed – How big was it?
D – It was about there to there [Darren points from one end of the table to the other]. Quite big. They had scorpions and stuff too.
R – I’ve eaten scorpion.
Exposed – Was this in Rotherham?
R – I was in Norfolk. It was in a lolly.
Exposed – You should have asked for your money back.
A – This is from Wet Nuns practice room out by Victoria Quays.
D – The wall’s been painted black and the red and black worked really well against the inverted cross.
A – We made the cross ourselves out of florescent lights and wood painted red.
R – The severed plastic limbs look quite good in this one.
Exposed – Model’s own?
A – Yeah. For gigs we used to make our own bunting, which was string with severed feet on it (laughter).
R – They were actually novelty horror door stops from a pound shop.
A – We just went in and bought twenty seven of them.
R – It got to the point where the string had got completely tangled up so it wound up being this big ball of severed limbs swinging from the ceiling of the venue.
D – This is Frin. When I started shooting we liked the idea of having Wet Nuns Nuns, who’d all have a certain aesthetic – the white makeup and inverted crosses.
Exposed – So what’s the relationship between Rob & Alexis and the Nuns? Are they zealots? Do they have the voodoo sign over our loveable hick duo?
D – They’re just friends.
Exposed – Well that’s a relief! I thought they were gonna sacrifice them to the great god Pan or something. So Frin is on her way to a sacrifice?
D – Yeah, she’s just doing what witches do. Or whatever they did back in the day.
R – Walking through woods…
A – Casting a plague on a couple of people…
D – That’s Josh Bedford in Sheffield General Cemetery. We love the whole ‘Easy Rider’ thing. Josh is actually a pro BMXer.
Exposed – Did you get him to do an endo off a mausoleum?
D – No. He did nearly knock my camera off its tripod tho when he came past in the shot. But you want people who are into having fun and are gonna take more risks.
Exposed – The cemetery is quite overgrown isn’t it?
A – That’s why it’s so beautiful. There’s no shortage of great places in Sheffield to film something like this. You’ve got the peaks – these big rocks and forests….
R – I’m really happy Nine Ladies stone circle is in the video.
D – This was one we did the other day. We originally wanted this to be at night and put a stick of fire in between each of the rocks and have three Nuns in there and have loads of skulls. Nine Ladies Stone Circle is nine thousand years old.
R – It’s meant to be the second most powerful stone circle in the UK after Stonehenge, which is quite funny cos it’s quite ‘low key’.
D – It’s just outside Bakewell and no-one I know knows where it is.
R – They have big parties up there on the solstice. I’ve been up there cos I don’t live far from Bakewell. We’d take some booze, stay up all night, dance around. There’d be fire breathing and teepees.
D – There’s a king stone set off over here that looks upon the circle. Then in the trees there’s loads of ribbons and offerings.
R – The site was threatened by a proposed quarry a few years back and a load of activists built treehouses and lived there for five or six years.
A CUT ABOVE
D – That’s Amy and that’s Slim, who manages the new Broadfield. I wanted to have a scene where a guy’s given a cut throat shave, cuts his throat a little, then licks the blood off the blade.
R – My Mum hated that one.
D – It was the back of the blade she licked. I cut myself testing it on the back of my hand.
R – I knew some people who owned a tattoo shop in Birmingham and some guy wanted his tongue forking. They pierce your tongue, leave it to settle for two weeks then literally just get a scalpel, pull it through the piercing and literally drag it through and out. (*Wet Nuns, Darren and Exposed is violently ill.*)
A – You can move the two bits independently afterwards as well apparently.
R – They have to cauterise the wound straight away with like a soldering iron type thing. Which produced an interesting smell. And the bloke afterwards was like – ‘I really fancy a pork sandwich’… (*Wet Nuns, Darren and Exposed are even more violently ill.*)
Heavens Below is out now. Visit Wet Nuns at http://www.wetnuns.com/. Darren Topliss's Flickr feed is at http://www.flickr.com/photos/darrenjohntopliss/
Interview by Rob Barker