Heart of Steel: Interviews

"A Day's Damnation..." 
An Interview with Dave Pubis of Cradle of Filth

Interview by MetalGeorge Pacheco

Editor's Note: This interview was conducted a few months back in Nov. 2003. Since then the band has signed with Roadrunner Records. That said, there is still plenty of interesting information presented in this interview...enjoy!

Dave - photo courtesy of the official COF website.Love them or loathe them, there's no denying the impact England's Cradle of Filth have had upon the modern day extreme metal scene. They've taken Black Metal aesthetics to unfathomed heights, but don't call them Black Metal. Making the leap to Sony Records for their magnificent "Damnation and a Day" opus, the Filthy ones have become adept at bringing their own patented brand of "Total Fucking Darkness" to the masses, and those huddled masses and accepted them graciously. I caught up with bassist Dave Pubis (upon meeting him, he decides to deadpan, "first of all, I'm not Dani") on the tour bus during 2003's New Jersey Metal/Hardcore festival.


How has the rollercoaster ride has been as of late?

It's been non-stop but it's something I wanted to do. If I'm going to do music in a band, when I have the opportunity to work everyday with Cradle of Filth, and I'm allowed to do that. I'd feel guilty if I didn't! (laughs) There's so much to do and to delegate. You get the shitty jobs that no one asks for, but I'm sure someone's gotta do it. If you want to control your own band, it's better that you do it than someone else, from loading the gear to doing interviews!



With the Filthy adulation pretty much nonstop since the beginning, I wonder how do you deal with that sort of adoration from fans and the press?

Well, I'm quite a shy person, because of my upbringing and where I'm from geographically in England. I'm a bit normal, so when people come over and say, "you're god!", I'm just like, "shut up", you know? (laughs) I just treat the way I'd like to be treated. When bands come to me and shake my hand, I'm blown away, and vice versa. I just like a bit of normality in the whole thing. I like to push that we're normal people. I mean, someone today warned me not to speak to Glen Benton, and I'm like, "why?" He's a human, I'm a human. If he can't deal with it, that's his problem. I'm just going to say hello to him, but someone said, "well, he doesn't even like Nile, you guys don't have a chance. He'll probably just say some shit about you". Sad, really.



Being the "freshest blood" in the band, so to speak (after exciting fellow Brits Anathema), I'm curious as to how it felt replacing Robin, the last original Cradle member to depart?

I didn't feel too bad, but I'm a purist and I like original lineups, so the irony is that I was replacing an original member. I was like, "god, this is terrible!", but for the band to continue, someone has to fill in the shoes. I think it's only a bad thing if the music gets worse, if there's a drop off in music. Personally, I don't feel it has, it's just gone a different direction. Maybe some people are happy with it, maybe some aren't. You can't please everyone, but Robin wasn't really interested anymore, and when you start to lose interest, it's probably best to just get out. Obviously, I'm well for it. There's this renewed enthusiasm when you first join a band. Whether that will last, I don't know...maybe I'll get pissed off and leave soon!



I can't help but gush about how brilliant the new record is.

Really? Thank you. I take that as a compliment, because it's the only record I've "officially" done with Cradle of Filth. I've done some other things, but that was the first sort of credited record. I'm happy when people say it's one that they enjoy.



Fans and press alike, including myself, feel that this is the best Cradle of Filth record since "Cruelty and The Beast". How has the response been from those outside the immediate metal spectrum, like MTV and such?

MTV? (laughs) Probably the same as it's always been. I mean, we can do a video that sort of caters for them, but I think because of the nature and reputation of the band, they'll always put it on late at night. We're not a band to be played at 12, or suppertime. It seems that even if we cater for it, it can't be played during the day. It's not because of the content, it's the nature of who we are, and maybe that's cool, I don't know. Maybe some people don't want it to be played on the radio full time, sort of have a little section where we are. I don't have a problem with it, really. I don't have a problem with MTV.



Of course, we can't talk to Cradle of Filth, and not jump immediately into cliche territory, namely the joining up with Sony. Was any pressure for some "single-ready" material from the corporate suits?

No. I think when they first signed us, they knew right away they weren't signing anything "cash--in-able". We had a fanbase already, we have sort of constraints over what we do already. Obviously we want to be accessible, that's only from a person point of view, not only because I want to sell more records. I want to listen to songs that I like. I'm not going to put blastbeats all over a record just because I think Glen Benton will like it!



So I assume you all went in with a clear head regarding what you wanted, like creative control, and ownership over merchandise and such? Many a band falls into the same major label pitfalls...

To be honest, that all stems from laziness, doesn't it? If you can't be bothered anymore, someone is going to be there to pick up the slack. So if you start becoming a bit despondent with the artwork or gigs, someone's gonna take over it. So we've always gotta be well to get out of bed and do something for the band. Otherwise, you might just lose it all. There's a million bands out there that could overtake you if you just don't try and do something positive! I'm very aware of what's going on around us.



If there's one thing you can say about Cradle, is that beneath all the atmosphere and trappings, they have always been humble with their success and influence over the years. They've never forgotten the underground, it seems, and even feel surprised at their own success.

Well it wasn't long ago that I was in bands that played for 50 people who didn't care. It can be like that again if you don't watch what your doing. I watched the first band today, and I have been watching other bands, and meeting people, and they're totally blown away that we're even watching them; which I think is ridiculous. People like to watch bands. What, are we supposed to, hide? (laughs) It's not keeping your feet on the ground, it's just being yourself. Some people don't like watching bands, I do.



Getting into the nitty-gritty of the album, "Promise of Fever" is the welcoming to this grand theatre. It's heavy and brooding, but at the same time with all the trappings of a typical Filthy tune. One thing that is immediately noticeable, however, is how tight the band has become as a unit, especially rhythmically.

Essentially, me, Paul, and Adrian, when we rehearse drums, bass, and guitar, we take pride in what we do. All right, there's keyboards and backing vocals, and "everyone's just wants to see Dani anyway, so we're not really bothered", but we are. We're proud to be a 3 piece, as such. We have a session guitarist to make it sound heavier, like twin leads and such, but at the core of a band we still take pride. Obviously we don't do a gig, but we can play the songs pretty close to how they are as a 3 piece, and I think that's good. That's the main part of every band. Everything else can just jump on top and make it sound better.



It sounds like your playing more to Adrian's strengths this time around. Rather than having all these blasts, it was more of a groove to it...


...which brings me to "Hurt and Virtue", one of my personal favorites. A really upbeat and anthemic tune, with a little staccato section behind the harmony. It seems your trying a bit more with the "stop and start" technique...

Yeah, it was the engineer's idea. As an engineer, he has to record everything, and if he doesn't try basically all the ideas and gets bored with a certain part, he'll say straight away, "try something different here...cut out the guitars, cut out the keys...". He never said for Dani to cut the singing! (laughing) We had to sort of imagine the other 12 songs. We wanted to keep people's attention, and ours as well. We tried every trick in the book, really. We were exhausted by the end of the recording, idea-wise. 



"Carrion" possesses an abundance of grandiose orchestral effects, recorded in Budapst, if I'm correct...

Well, I didn't personally go, but it was obviously an idea we had wanted to do for a long time. It adds a different angle to the songs when they were finished that we didn't really see at the beginning. It gave it a whole different feel. Some songs used it more than others did. "Carrion" definitely did. Did you know that "Carrion" is on a soundtrack, actually?

No, I didn't, actually!

Yeah, "Dominator"! It's a cartoon feature with Dani. "Carrion" is used for the opening title. It's like, "fucking hell, that's me!" when you go to see it!



On the other side of this orchestral side setting off this whole new dimension, there like "Presents For the Poison-Hearted", which has an almost old school thrash feel to it. It's almost Destruction-esque, yet would sound out of place on "Vempire" either, with it's dramatic, gothic impact. I can only assume that the love of the old school still runs deep within the veins of Cradle of Filth?

Yeah, I think on this album we wanted to emphasize that a bit, sort of become more of a "metal band" again. I don't know what we'd turn into otherwise...

Perhaps going New Wave?

Yeah! (cracks up laughing) or an EMO band! We just wanted to take it from a personal point of view. 



"Doberman Pharoah" is very soundtrack-ish in scope. It captures the whole "Egyptian Theme" quite well. 

"Yeah, when we wrote that, the working title was actually "Morbid", because we felt the opening riff was a bit Morbid Angel. It turned out to be an entirely different track with all the different samples and stuff. We wanted a lead guitar part right in the middle, but we couldn't get it right; not playing-wise, but we couldn't get the atmosphere right, so we placed the sitar at the end! It's just experimental, so that gives it the whole Egyptian feel. It goes well with the story.


In the live setting, no Cradle fan ever goes home disappointed. Setlist-wise, the band always mixes it up.

There's a lot of fans in there. Some people say we don't play enough old stuff, some want to hear new stuff. We're very aware of what people might want. Plus, I love the old stuff; there's a lot of atmosphere. I love the fact that those guys wrote that stuff, and it's a pleasure for me to play it. I'm totally in awe of some of the stuff they wrote. I mean, Robin's parts are fucking amazing. I would never write anything the way he did. I'm a totally different style of bass player. We try to mix it up as best as possible, we don't want to bore anyone and shove the new album down their throats. Then again, that is the reason we're here, so we might have 3 new songs, then go back to the old shit.



Being a bassist myself, I have to ask about influences...

Cliff Burton. That's where it all started for me. I saw him 2 weeks prior to his death, and that's all you need to say about bass players, really! I'm a guitarist at heart, so I like to keep it simple. I don't like to write anything I can't reproduce live, so there are no effects on the record, really. What you hear live is basically what I played on the record. I like to keep it all clean, we actually don't use any guitar effects live. It's all straight through the heads. 



Do you play with fingers or a pick?

Pick, because it came from my guitarist background. I have played with my fingers before on record to add that different texture, but I couldn't do it live. It's not powerful enough. It's very soft, just to get rid of some of the click when you use your fingers it takes a day and a half to practice!



Venturing back into "Damnation" territory. Specifically, "Babylon A.D." and "Mannequin" are two of the catchier songs on the record, but still anthemic and effective as well. The bass work here is especially stand out.

Yeah, it's more to the point. It's easy to drift off into 8 minute long songs, but we just broke them in half, so if we had any ideas, we just split them this time.


There are cool nuances going on, such as the emotional orchestral and lead sections after the chorus...

We're really aware that a lot of the record has this sort of atmosphere that we try to recreate. It only comes across when you sort of back up on the guitars a bit. Obviously, it's easy to just do the heavy stuff, but we're very sort of "atmospherically aware". We like to create a proper environment in the studio to get a feel for it. It's not something you can order, you have to feel it.



Juxtaposing this theme, the album actually finishes up with two really intense tracks, "Thank God For the Suffering", and "The Smoke of Her Burning". It's almost like they're meant to follow each other. They spiral downwards with this denouement feeling, even though I noticed that Bay Area Thrash circle pit breakdown near the end! 

(laughs) Yeah, that last track is very riffy, and guitar oriented. Martin, the keyboardist, wrote that. He's a guitarist, really. It comes to the climax and then falls apart, it goes with the story.



With all these guitarists in the band, I wonder what the songwriting sessions must be like?

Lots of stress, arguing, and fights! It's the same process. Every day you have an idea, and sometimes people don't understand it, so you gotta go home and demo it properly, and get the point across that way. If you're not up with the technology, you lose a lot of ground because someone who can record the stuff at home might get to present it quicker, because it sounds better. It's difficult to produce a whole orchestra on a song when you don't have a whole orchestra in your house!



So is there a definable Cradle of Filth sound? One where you can tell if a new song contains all the proper Filthy elements?

Yeah, because obviously I was in Anathema before I was in Cradle of Filth, and I had to learn how to play Cradle of Filth songs, get into that style of playing. Now that I've got it, I don't really know how to define it. Lots of hard work, concentration, and persistence. Obviously there are things we can write that is obviously not Cradle stuff, but we like that sometimes. Dani calls it "flare". When he comes up with a completely bizarre idea, he's open minded and says, "that's fucking cool! Let's do some more of that, I'd like to do something new!" Then when we write something that obviously sounds like Cradle of Filth, he might go, "ok, that sounds like "Dusk"", which is even cooler because it mixes it up a bit. We can't stray too far away from the formula. I'm not sure about Cradle having a distinct sound. I think we have a certain charisma. We're quite volatile, and I think people find that exciting. When you buy a Cradle album, it sort of says something about you. It's like a lifestyle.



Cradle has always been a band that pushes things conceptually, while so many bands follow in their footsteps. To what do they owe the desire to remain leaders, and not followers?

Well, it's more not replicating yourself. Not that we're anything special, because we turn out so much stuff. You don't want to replicate yourself, so we stay grounded ahead of the ballgame. We're very aware of old and new bands, sort of a "know thy enemy" sort of attitude. We're not going to not listen to a Slipknot album just because Shagrath said not to, know what I mean? We want to be aware of what's going on, and you've got to open up a bit. We want a heavier album because we want to be relevant to what kids are listening to.



With Cradle spearheading it's own unique take on the Black Metal genre, it's amazing how the genre's evolution has taken off. Bands like Dimmu Borgir have achieved the closest level of success to Cradle's, yet they have become nigh-unrecognizable when you compare it to the Filth's progression. If you listen to "Principle of Evil Made Flesh" and "Damnation and a Day", there is a logical bridge of musicality there. So when exactly does Black Metal's popularity turn to commerciality?

It's so elitist. I think the true Black Metal bands would think certain bands who go out and tour a lot...it's the whole Black Metal atmosphere, you shouldn't go out and tour a lot. You shouldn't sell records. You should remain true to the 10 people who bought your demo (laughter)!!   It's cool for them, but it makes us not Black Metal, so it's a bit irrelevant to us. We're obviously not a Black Metal band. We're just an extreme metal band who do what the fuck we want, and balls to everyone else. It's more of a punk attitude, to be honest. It's like, "we'll cause chaos, we dont' care if you get it or not". We don't care if certain people in Norway don't like us or not. They want us to be a Black Metal band originally, so now we just think, "fuck you". 



You could certainly draw a direct line of descent from Venom to Maiden to Cradle of Filth, so how about Britain's metal history?

Varied, extremely original... Geographically it's a tiny place, but to have so many different kinds of bands from Napalm Death, Carcass, My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost...

Don't forget Akercocke and Anaal Nathrakh!

Yup, Akercocke and all of the newer stuff...plus you have the hardcore scene. It's amazing, really, and it's said that a lot of new bands don't push that originality still. I mean, you can be who you want to be. You don't have to listen to all the old UK bands to know, but we're kind of proud to still be an original band in that scene in England. It's like, "wow, after all the original bands who've come before, you would think you'd run out of ideas by now!" I always say that to any new band, above all things, "try to do something different"."


Changing gears, I guess you can't escape Dani being the face of the band. Do you prefer it that way?

Sometimes! (laughs) I mean, when he gets asked to do certain things, I'm glad I don't have to do it. I'm quite a shy person, and I hate radio ID's and being on TV, being the star of the show. I don't want to be that, so I don't have a problem with Dani being on the cover. The way I see it, it's pushing the band. I understand the basic rock 'n roll cliche of the singer with the band behind. I mean, obviously Metallica didn't follow that mold, so that proves you don't have to follow it. I don't have a problem with it. If the press want to see it that way, I don't care. I don't want to be on the front cover, anyway, so I don't have a problem with what Dani does. Good for him. It's a lot of work!



With so many people latching on to the image of Cradle of Filth, one has to wonder: do they go hand in hand, without one overshadowing the other?

Definitely. I'd like to think we could get rid of all of that, and still be entertaining. I'd love to do a gig just dressed like that, the intensity would still be there. If they [the fans] understand that we were doing it for it's own purpose, I think they would understand and let us do it. Not forever, because it's part of the whole thing. It's like Kiss taking off their makeup. It's like someone's died. Might as well change the name. Of course, being one of the most popular metal bands in the world ain't easy, ya know. One has to keep busy. 



What's on the horizon...

A new album. We're going home to do a new album pretty quickly. We want a new album by next summer, in time for any festival opportunities. We want to concentrate on the US still, not because it's a market, but because it's still someplace we've never really been. It sort of feels like we're bored of Europe, just because we've been there so much!


Let the drooling begin...

Cradle of Filth Select Discography

Orgiastic Pleasures Foul demo 1992
Total Fucking Darkness Demo 1992
Principle of Evil Made Flesh 1994, Cacophonous
Vempire 1996, Cacophonous
Dusk and Her Embrace 1996, Mayhem/Fierce
Cruelty and The Beast 1998, Mayhem/Music For Nations
From the Cradle to Enslave ep 1999, Music For Nations
Midian 2000, Koch/Music For Nations
Bitter Suites to Succubi 2001, Spitfire/Abracadaver
Live Bait For the Dead 2002, Abracadaver
Damnation and a Day 2003, Sony/Abracadaver