Into the Darkness: the world of vampires, vintage horror, and Jim Steinman behind Creeper’s ‘Sanguivore’ - Knotfest

Into the Darkness: the world of vampires, vintage horror, and Jim Steinman behind Creeper’s ‘Sanguivore’

Posted by Maddy Howell in Culture on August 14, 2023

Vocalist William Von Ghould details the storytelling and sonic influences behind the band’s latest album and explains how community has been the key to Creeper’s success. 

There’s something to be said for a good story.

Through mere words, sounds, or images, stories can transport us to different times, places, and even universes, offering a brief respite from the complications of the real world. Whether it’s a tale of heart-racing romance, swashbuckling adventure, or spine-tingling horror there’s a magic that comes from being swept into a story world, granting the ability to forget about your surroundings and become wholly immersed in a new narrative. It’s not solely a feeling accessible through books and movies though – just ask Creeper.

With a penchant for storytelling and a love of all things spooky, Creeper have spent almost a decade thrilling the scene with grandiose concept records shrouded in darkness. Plotting a narrative inspired by J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan story throughout their early EP’s, 2017’s debut album ‘Eternity, In Your Arms’ saw the introduction of paranormal investigator James Scythe, a character based on Captain Hook. 

Developing their storytelling prowess on 2020’s ‘Sex, Death & the Infinite Void’ – which saw vocalist Will Gould portray a genderless character named Roe, the love interest of keyboardist Hannah Greenwood’s Annabelle – each new story has seen Creeper undergo a series of sonic evolutions. From hardcore punk to glam rock to goth, they’re a band who refuse to be confined to any boxes, a statement of intent defiantly affirmed on their latest album.

Named after an entity that needs to feast upon blood to survive, ‘Sanguivore’ is Creeper’s darkest record to date, delving deep into a world of love, loss, decadent excess, and vampires. Drawing upon the darkwave hedonism of The Sisters of Mercy and the rock ‘n’ roll campness of Jim Steinman, it’s a bold and outrageous statement, made by a band ready to lead the next generation of misfits.

Ahead of its release, KNOTFEST sat down with vocalist Will Gould, or William Von Ghould as he is now known, to talk through Creeper’s epic new chapter. 

It was released into an uncertain and anxious world, but the ‘Sex, Death & the Infinite Void’ era was huge for Creeper. It saw you continue building the narrative and visual world around this project – which was further enhanced with 2021’s American Noir EP – and once live music was back you translated that world to your onstage performance, rounding out with a landmark show at London’s Roundhouse. Did that feel like a fitting celebration of what you’d accomplished up until that point?

Von Ghould – It was odd because so much of what we had planned for that time had the kibosh on it when COVID hit. A lot of that record now just reminds me of my old apartment, which is odd because we had so much stuff planned for the shows. Doing ‘American Noir’ just after, it morphed into something else, and we continued the story with this posthumous extension.

It was out of necessity more than anything else, so by the time it came to the Roundhouse show we were truly ready for our next step. You worry about living inside these worlds a little too long and them becoming stale for you, because as soon as they become stale for you, they become stale for everybody else. That show was an incredible way to finally see it off, but there were mixed feelings. It was bittersweet, because we were happy to be moving on, but it was a shame that we didn’t get to do some of the things we wanted to.

Whilst closing off that chapter, that night also signaled the start off this new era too, in the dramatic and flamboyant style that we’ve come to expect from Creeper. How did the idea for the decapitation come to fruition?

Von Ghould – I had the idea about the decapitation long ago, and what’s funny is we actually had it before we did the Alice Cooper tour. When we were backstage, I realised how funny it was that we were touring with Alice Cooper whilst I had this whole scheme planned for a decapitation. 

All my favourite things in life are tricks, and things that appear one way but they’re not. I was a kid who played with packs of cards in school and was always doing conjuring tricks, so we’ve always done these stunts. I felt like the decapitation was a clever and fun way to end the era and launch straight into something else. The last time we did something like this was at the end of the ‘Eternity, In Your Arms’ cycle, but that time there was a year between our onstage breakup and the launch of our next thing. I felt like everyone would expect us to do the same thing again, so this time after the stunt we immediately launched into the new campaign by introducing Darcia. 

We’re trying to never repeat ourselves, and it’s funny because Creeper is such a weird ragtag band of people. A lot of the most important people in Creeper aren’t even in the band, and there’s a group of weird creatives working behind the scenes. My partner Charlotte was very involved in the makeup, but also helped with stage management. We’ve got an amazing lighting person called Hayden, and our friend Lilith who does drag also did some amazing stuff for us. Everything with Creeper is always a bit mad, and there’s a workshop of people trying to pull these things off.

It must feel rewarding when it all comes together and you can create visuals as impressive as that though, because that prosthetic of your head looked absolutely identical…

Von Ghould – It looked cool, but the process of having it done was awful. I’m normally quite a good sport with stuff, but it was weird. We had to go down to this abandoned prison in Gloucester to see a man called Clive, who’s a really talented horror makeup guy. I had to have all this really heavy stuff on my face, and he was telling me all the warnings before. I was just going, ‘Yeah, I’ll be fine’, but once he started doing it, I felt so claustrophobic. You can’t see, you have stuff in your ears, and you have stuff in your nose – I was freaking out!

These huge curtain close moments have become a defining part of Creeper’s story, with each distinct finality at the end of each era leading to a glorious rebirth at the start of the next. Your latest chapter is marked by ‘Sanguivore’, an album immersed in the dark world of vampires, vintage horror, and Jim Steinman. Where did the first drops of inspiration come from?

Von Ghould – A lot of it comes from movies, but one specific thing that inspired this story was seeing The Damned do ‘A Night of a Thousand Vampires’ at the London Palladium. It was supported by The Circus of Horrors, and we were amazed. I was already planning on a vampire record, but seeing one of the master inventors of horror punk at work was really influential. 

Aesthetically, films like Near Dark and The Lost Boys inspired what the band should look like. We’re always trying to do the opposite of what we did on the last record, and our last era was a very bright white glam-infused Americana record with complicated lore, so this time around we wanted to do something darker. For the last album, Charlotte had designed this incredible look for the character of Roe for me. She bleached my eyebrows and created these looks that were really out there, but this time around we’re wearing sunglasses and sinking into the back behind a veil of darkness.

That darkness carries through into the narrative of Sanguivore too…

Von Ghould – In terms of the narrative itself, Interview with a Vampire was a very big film for me growing up, and we’ve been leaning into the tropes of vampire lore since our very first record. This time around, we had a whole world to play in and we were able to create a character of a strong, young girl based on Mercy Brown. I was very aware that the last few things we’ve done have all ended in a story of romance, so this time we wanted to create a dynamic between the two characters that was more platonic. 

It’s a story of love but shown in a different way. We’re exploring a lot of different themes, and it’s a lot more violent than before. It was exciting to dive into the realms of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds inspired murder ballads and playing with a lot of fun eighties stuff. The Jim Steinman stuff is a huge part of it too, especially with the ideas that he had for the lost boys on the album ‘Bad for Good’. With that alongside the 80s vampire film of the same name, the pieces fell into place as we were making it.

This idea of world-building and character creation is nothing new for this band, but given the state of the world right now and how overwhelming life can often seem, do you think there’s more of a need for the escapism and freedom of fantasy worlds in music?

Von Ghould – I’ve thought about that for a long time. When we first started Creeper, I noticed that a lot of bands were reflecting the real world in their music, and a lot of punk is that. So many of my favourite punk bands do that, but it felt like there was a lack of escapism and a real requirement for someone to step up and offer that. In these darkening days, that’s truer than ever, and sometimes you just want to put a record on and escape into a different kingdom for a while. That’s a skill that I always valued in my favourite storytellers. I remember being a very lost kid, putting on records, and loving the feeling of going away for a while. I would discover new characters and notice new things about the record each time around, and Creeper have always been in pursuit of providing an escape like that.

Even outside of the narrative, this feels like the darkest Creeper album to date. You’ve always been a band to lean into your gothic and rock opera influences, but the sheer number of nods to Nick Cave, The Sisters of Mercy, Gary Numan, and Meat Loaf in here is crazy. Was there a particular mantra or vision that drove you to delve as deep into those sounds as possible this time around?

Von Ghould – I grew up with The Sisters of Mercy, The Damned, Bauhaus, and all those classics of the genre, which has always been reflected in the clothes I wear and how I look. It made a lot of sense to delve into them this time because we were writing and recording with Tom Dalgety, who was a massive nerd on all the same bands as us.

Something that I noticed across the album is that there’s definitely a lot of Sisters of Mercy influence, but it’s all the Jim Steinman led stuff. It’s inspired by the bombastic, loud, overly camp stuff like ‘Floodland’ or ‘More’ from ‘Vision Thing’, rather than an album like ‘First and Last and Always’. That’s where artists like Meat Loaf and Bonnie Tyler come into this record too, and it seems to be the Jim Steinman influence that has pulled it all together. That’s why we decided to dedicate the record to his passing, and it was intended as a homage to him.

It’s great to meet people who appreciate those records too because they’re not particularly cool. I think they’re really cool, but I’m a little nerd, so I’m not the benchmark of what’s cool or tasteful in this world! We’re leaning into the goth influence on this record, but it’s the bombastic, over the top type of goth rock that’s in on the joke. It’s outrageous, but that’s the point. We’re not making darkwave or synthwave, there’s humour to it. I think all of the best Steinman songs were the ones with weird sexual innuendos that you suddenly notice one day, and that’s the same currency we deal in. It’s goth, but all the campiest, kitschiest bits.

Speaking of the sonic influences of ‘Sanguivore’, how much of that can be attributed to having Ian [Miles, guitar] back in the driving seat after having to step back on ‘Sex, Death, and the Infinite Void’? The way the two of you bounce off one another creatively seems to have been the key behind a lot of Creeper’s magic moments, so how was it to have his full creative vision behind this?

Von Ghould – It was amazing to have Ian fully back in the room for that, but it took quite a while for it to become that way. He’s always going to be in recovery, but there were some points where we got close to just putting everything on hiatus. The first song that we wrote was ‘Cry To Heaven’, and I was wanting to do a Billy Idol meets The Sisters of Mercy type song. We’d had a few tries in the past that didn’t really work out, but this one turned out great.

Watching him come back to life and be able to transform the band was so cool, and it reminded me vividly of when we first started the band. Ian is extremely talented, and this time around he was let off the leash a little. He’s got some Metallica influence in there, there’s some Judas Priest influence, and he’s got riffs and solos. It’s odd for me because I’ve never really written that stuff before, so I had to work out what to do with my voice and how we were going to approach it. 

Tom’s anchoring helped there, and the three of us sat in various churches trying to write these songs. It feels very comfortable this time around because there are elements of both of our wheelhouses in here. We’re always trying to change things and challenge our sound, even though I think sometimes people would just be happy if we just wrote a load of fast songs. We’re always asking what more we can do, and this time around we’ve done that by trying out lots of things that we loved growing up.

It seems impossible to deny that this is the most realised Creeper album to date, and something that solidifies that is the sheer attention to detail. For any fan of horror, history, or darkness there are lots of little nods throughout the record, like the reference to Lorraine Warren in ‘More Than Death’. Is it rewarding to see people pick up on those at various points throughout the record’s roll-out?

Von Ghould – It’s been really, really fun. There’s a song called ‘Chapel Gates’, and it’s the funniest one on the record for me because it’s got the best little jokes. Ian came in one day and told me about Mary Shelley losing her virginity on her mother’s gravestone, and I was like, ‘That can’t be true’. It was though, so I wrote a lyric that said, ‘She’s getting laid, but not to rest’. 

I was having so much fun with it, and there are all these little moments throughout the record. The ‘More Than Death’ one about Lorraine Warren is quite a sad one, but what I like about it is that if you don’t know what it’s referencing, you have to go and look it up. It’s rewarding for the listener, and we were thinking about that with the album title too. Unless you’re Italian, you probably don’t know too much about what ‘Sanguivore’ means, so you have to do some research. 

It involves you having to interact with the record, and I think that’s what’s missing from a lot of music now. Now, I tend to listen to a band and then move on to something else, but when I was younger it was a much more involved process. I would listen to the record whilst reading through the lyric book, and I’d look at who they’d thanked in the acknowledgements to find new bands from that. Even when you put a 12-inch record on, you have to flip it over, so there’s a ceremony to it. It involves you interacting physically with it, as well as mentally, and we put a lot of effort into making Creeper records an interactive experience so that you notice something new every time you listen.

As well as these references to significant people and events, there are now subtle nods to Creeper’s own story within your songs that fans will be able to pick out. Something that feels intertwined within this record, whether it be in the words or the music itself, is the bond that you have with one another – especially between you and Ian – that eternal friendship feels like a real marker of this band’s past, present, and future now…

Von Ghould – It naturally fell into place. With the vampiric idea of rebirth and being reborn, this felt like a rebirth of the two of us as co-songwriters. This record is a tribute to friendship, and it’s about our combined love of many things. When I listen to the album, I can hear me and Ian all over it. I always say that we’re like two separate genres of horror films. I’m a Rocky Horror, Beetlejuice, or an old Hammer Horror, whilst Ian is a scary gore film like Terrifier. At different times throughout the record, you experience different things, and that’s a combination of the two of our personalities and influences.

So, it’s a story of our friendship, but it’s about Spook and Mercy’s friendship as well. It’s about remembering what it is to be human, and whilst there’s a fictional narrative at play, along the way it references real life. It’s the sound of us remembering what it is to write together and remembering what’s important.

That’s something that seems to play into the community around this band too, because Creeper fans have developed a unique connection both to this band and one another. Thinking back on growing up as a fan of this scene, and finding your own community in this music, how vital is that to everything that Creeper do?

Von Ghould – We were punk kids, and we were very involved in DIY punk. Finding all of my friends through that scene was vital, because I was a very weird kid in school. I found it hard to connect to people, and punk rock gave that to me. I definitely see that same spirit in our audience, and I see a lot of those outsider kids like Ian and I were.

It’s incredible that we’ve now created this mixed community filled with different people from different backgrounds. I love when mothers and fathers bring their kids to come see us, and when people tell us that they met their partners or friends through this band. It’s an amazing thing that happens when you have shared values and shared ethics. Creeper is a safe space where you can be yourself, you can wear whatever you want, and be whoever you are. That was what was so inviting about punk to me when I was younger, alongside the DIY ethics that we still have within this band.

We’re building stuff all the time. It drives me insane when I hear someone say, ‘They must have had a crazy budget for that’, because I’ve lost every house deposit I’ve ever put down due to how destroyed it’s got from us spray painting stuff. It’s all about showing that anyone can get on the stage and do this. I’m not the most insane singer in the world, Ian’s not the most insane guitar player in the world, but we hope we encourage people to be creative. I want people to listen to us and think, ‘I can do that, and I can probably do it better!’ The possibilities are endless and limitless, and that was what was amazing about punk for me when I was younger.

Starting out as a punk band who were excited to headline their local venue in Southampton to making an album that is as undeniably huge as ‘Sanguivore’… how limitless does this feel now?

Von Ghould – In terms of creativity, 100 per cent. I always wonder how many people actually want to come and see something like this, but it surprises me over and over again. Every time people seem to want to come out, support this, and be involved in it. It feels limitless in terms of what we can make, what we can do, and what the shows can be. It’s just so fun to come up with all of these ideas, and it being my job to make sure that they happen is insane. 

I worry though, because what I do is I’ll build something and then I’ll want to smash it to bits and rebuild something else. It’s always difficult, but this one feels a little different. I’m really hoping people are going to respond to it because everyone in our band is really excited about this record in particular. We’re excited about what it can mean for our live show, and the fun we can have with these songs. It does feel limitless now, but at the same time we still just feel like a little a hardcore band from Southampton.

Sanguivore is due out October 13th. Pre-orders are available – HERE

Following the release of Sanguivore, Creeper will embark on their Sacred Blasphemy Tour. See a list of confirmed dates and cities below.

Get tickets – HERE


NOVEMBER 5th – Bristol, O2 Academy

NOVEMBER 6th – Glasgow, Clyde Room

NOVEMBER 8th – Nottingham, Rock City

NOVEMBER 9th – Manchester, Academy

NOVEMBER 10th – London, 02 Shepherd’s Bush Empire

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