Vocalist Dani Filth
***Interview By Lord of The Wasteland / Transcription by Sara "Jezebel Deva" Robbins
One of the bands that divides and separates the genre’s fans into two divisive and equally vocal groups is British extreme metallers, Cradle of Filth. Since first bursting on the scene with 1994’s THE PRINCIPLE OF EVIL MADE FLESH, Cradle of Filth has gone through countless lineup changes within the band itself as well as several moves between labels. Morphing from a blackened thrash band into what can best be described as a mix of extreme symphonic Gothic speed metal, the one constant that has remained throughout Cradle of Filth’s lengthy career is its diminutive frontman, Dani Filth. His vocal style combines high-pitched screeches and wails with throat-shredding roars and that dynamic has been the pinpoint of many of the band’s detractors. Like them or not, one can never call Cradle of Filth’s music “boring” and after a ten-year gap between chats, we finally had a chance to sit down with Dani Filth and discuss all things band-related, focusing on Cradle of Filth’s latest concept record, GODSPEED ON THE DEVIL’S THUNDER, as well as the forthcoming autobiography, A GOSPEL OF FILTH, and, of course, the infamous “Jesus Is A Cunt” t-shirt.
Let’s talk about the new record, GODSPEED ON THE DEVIL’S THUNDER. It’s the third release now on Roadrunner Records, and I guess that’s the longest the band has ever stayed with one label?
Well, we were with Music For Nations for three records, as well.
Oh right. Obviously, Roadrunner is the best of the bunch so far but what do they bring that your previous labels failed to do?
Currently, yeah, we’re doing very well with Roadrunner. They’re very supportive, got great street teams, they got distribution. It’s working very well.
Good! It’s always a plus when we can actually find the record in stores (laughs).
Isn’t it? (laughs)
This time you have Andy Sneap producing, who seems to be the guy everybody wants. What was it like working with him compared to the previous producers you’ve worked with?
On the last record, Rob [Caggiano] produced it and Andy Sneap mixed it. Whilst we were debating about the next record, Rob went back to join Anthrax, and we became friends with Andy and decided perhaps we would use him. He’s got his own studio and it’s very sort of atmospheric. It’s a converted farmhouse on the top of a valley in England. It’s very atmospheric. It was already planned how we would tackle the record in advance. We’d have a studio A and studio B set up. We’d also sort of use, for example, Clank and various amps. It was also sort of pre-ordained and it made it a lot easier and swifter.
A lot of people are calling the record a return to Cradle of Filth’s older sound. Do you feel the same?
I would say it’s a mixture of both really. It has elements of our older stuff and elements of our newer material. I think it’s a progression for the band and maybe just a passing nod back to the earlier times. You know, we wrote the earlier albums, so we’re allowed to do that, I guess.
There’s a couple tracks that jumped out at me such as “Midnight Shadows Crawl To Darken Counsel With Life,” which certainly sounds like something you guys would have fit into the tone of CRUELTY AND THE BEAST.
NYMPHETAMINE (2004) / THORNOGRAPHY (2006)
THORNOGRAPHY was more instantly accessible with a lot more melodies and it had a lot more guitar on it. Did the band want to go back to do a faster, heavier sound with the new record?
Yeah, but we didn’t actually sit down and say ‘right, this is a checklist, this is what we gotta do for the next record,’ these things are sort of organic when they happen. We were writing the material off the back of the last tour. We were sort of in a fiery state of mind. We had six weeks to write before everybody went their separate ways for Christmas. We had a lot of ideas. We were brewing over the course of the tour and then that coupled with the atmosphere and even the time of year sort of generated the ideology that we would do a concept record much in the vein of CRUELTY AND THE BEAST but moreso a masculine, heavier version of it.
So as you mention, the new record is a concept record that deals with the life of the fifteenth-century French nobleman, Gilles de Rais. Who first brought that concept to the band and thought it would be a worthy concept to tackle?
I did. Actually, I wrote the lyrics in my apartment. Like I say, it’s reminiscent of the material at the time some of the atmospheres that were around the CRUELTY AND THE BEAST record. Maybe I was struggling with the ideas for the lyricism, so I revisited my old lyric books and there I tripped over the name Gilles de Rais and, obviously, I’d done some research on him in the past. He is another aristocratic, medieval serial killer, although we’re not concentrating really on that. We’re concentrating on the entire story as a dark fairy tale, a catalyst for his descent into madness, as well, as the murders and his eventual redemption. But we’ve co-written a book with the occultist Gavin Baddeley, as well. He’d done some research on Gilles, as well. Therefore, he was able to point me in the direction of some notable books, books to avoid, etc., so that helped a lot, as well.
I’d never actually heard the name and then when I was doing a little research, I found out the Celtic Frost song “Into The Crypts of Rays,” was actually based on the same guy.
Yeah, henceforth, we did a cover of that on the special edition of the new record.
Right. Did you have any troubles securing the rights to do that song from Celtic Frost or did they give you their blessing?
No, not at all. You can cover whoever you want. You don’t have to actually ask the writer.
Have you heard their thoughts on your version at all? Have they mentioned anything?
LOVECRAFT & WITCH HEARTS (2002) / DAMNATION AND A DAY (2003)
One of the first things that I really noticed with the new record is that the artwork, not just the cover, but through the whole booklet with the whole Red Riding Hood and the Wolf on the inside is that it’s really striking and very brilliant color-wise. Considering the horrific stuff this guy did, what made you go for something that was very colorful over something maybe darker and more ominous that would fit the subject matter?
There are some ominous pictures in there, but we wanted to do something reminiscent of the medieval period. We also wanted to do something that was like a passion play, the heraldic lyricism and the dark nature of it, the symbolism more importantly. We liked this guy [David Ho] and we found his work prior and approached him and asked if he’d like to do this work on our album. We just wanted to be different from stuff we’d done in the past. We’re one of those bands who like to veer off from album to album. We don’t like to do too much the same. We want to surprise people and sort of keep abreast of the pack that way.
Doug Bradley is back and his narrative really is utilized well on the new record. I think it brings the story to life and effectively gets the listener wrapped up in the story. When you begin the writing process for a new record, do you sort of envision his role as being part of the record?
Not necessarily, no, but with this record we thought it would be good since there was an actual trial transcript and we wanted to bring it to life. We wanted to see that there was an actual reality behind all of this. But if there is a narrative involved as the material’s being developed, sure.
I read somewhere that Tony Todd from the Candyman movies was originally going to do the narrative for the record.
He was going to do it, yes, but he actually went into record stuff but it was halfhearted because his agent or manager hadn’t told him the scope of what he was undertaking. He just assumed he was doing some tragic death metal band glorifying child murder and alchemy and sorcery, etc. Halfway through, he kind of stormed out and said, “I can’t do this.” He hadn’t been told we were basing it on historical fact. He knew about the band but hadn’t been told all the details. It was all sort a bit of a mess, really. Fortunately, Doug Bradley stepped in at the eleventh hour. We set up a makeshift studio at my home and he kind of rescued the part. But, you know, it’s Doug Bradley! He’s a thespian. He’s great.
BITTER SUITES TO SUCCUBI (2001) / LIVE BAIT FOR THE DEAD (2002)
The band’s new drummer, Martin Škaroupka, makes his recording debut on the new album. One song that really stood out to show off his skills was “Sweetest Maleficia.” Did he audition for the band or were you already familiar with his work?
He auditioned while Adrian [Erlandsson] was departing from the band. There was a crossover period where Adrian helped on some of the summer festivals. He was busy with the At The Gates reunion as well as his wife’s band [Nemhain], so we auditioned Martin in that period, like I said it was a crossover period. Once Adrian had finished working with us, Martin was able to step into the breach.
Mark Newby-Robson is the keyboardist on the new album and he also has some past history with the band, as well, having played on THORNOGRAPHY, as well as some earlier tours. Now, he’s actually credited with songwriting on the new record. What sort of made yourself and Paul step outside the band for help with songwriting this time?
We have a lot of session musicians in our band and that’s why there are only four people on the back. Both Charles [Hedger, guitar] and Rosie [Smith, keyboards] are tutors. They work at universities and colleges for half the year working in their own respective musical circles and they tour with us for the rest of the year. Yes, we have worked with Mark Newby-Robson in the past. It was a collaboration Paul and I wanted to undertake to get the new record to a level we wanted everyone to hear.
FROM THE CRADLE TO ENSLAVE (1999) / MIDIAN (2000)
The second song on the record is titled, “Shat Out of Hell.” I have to ask, is that a clever play on Meat Loaf’s “Bat Out of Hell?”
(Laughs) Well, kind of, yeah!
“The Death of Love” strikes me as this record’s “Nymphetamine,” the song that sort of stands out as a possible single. The lady who’s singing on that, Carolyn Gretton, is she in another band or where would we have heard of her before?
No, she was a member of the choir. Originally, Sarah Jezebel Deva sang it. She sings the harmonies and does narration but we needed someone better at presenting the placid nature of Joan of Arc, and after sort of experimenting with a few things, we went with her. Carolyn was the lead vocal from the choir, so she was given a second chance with it and we just liked what we heard. It just worked really well.
You’ve done a new video already for “Honey and Sulfur.” Is there any talk of what the next video’s going to be yet?
Well, there is talk about doing a second one but at the moment, obviously we’re on tour, so maybe a little later in the year. We put out some ideas but we’re keeping our cards close to our chests.
CRUELTY AND THE BEAST (1998) / DUSK AND HER EMBRACE (1996)
You mentioned the tour which finds you guys playing in Montreal tonight with a pair of great bands supporting, Satyricon and Septicflesh, and then you’re out here in Vancouver on February 2nd. How long of a set are you playing on this tour?
We’re playing about eighty minutes, about an hour and a half. It depends…at the moment, a few in the band are sick. I’ve got a bad throat, just because we’ve come from Mexico to Canada, hot to cold, so we’re getting over some bugs at the moment but probably about an hour and a half.
Are there any treats in the setlist this time out? Anything out of the ordinary or any surprises coming?
We’re kind of playing a bit from every album to keep fans happy. It’s a nice sort of cross-section of material from over our career.
I was reading a review from the Mexico shows which stated that Sarah isn’t actually touring with you guys. Is she sitting out this leg of the tour?
Sarah’s no longer involved with the band. It’s kind of personal, nothing bad, she’s still good friends of ours. She’s spending a lot of time in Australia at the moment because she’s seeing someone over there. Rosie Smith is taking over her vocal duties and it’s working really well.
Are there any plans for recording another live album or a DVD or anything like that on this tour?
Not on this tour, though, we are in the midst of filming at lot of stuff, so who knows what will turn up.
I saw you guys live on the MIDIAN tour where you had the stilt walker and all sorts of theatrical things like that that came with the show. Is this more of a stripped down set?
It’s not stripped down but there’s more of a performance base. We only have a certain amount of people we can bring on tour with us, that’s the problem. We have a bigger show, bigger lighting rig, bigger things and stuff going on on the stage. It’s a bigger show, but it’s just more performance-based around the band.
Obviously, your music has a lot of theatricality to it with the concept of the new record and so forth. Have you ever given any thought to working with an entire album concept and working it into a start to finish production like Judas Priest is talking about doing for their new record with actors playing out the whole thing like a stage play?
Yeah, that’s crossed our minds from time to time. Again, it’s something we’d have to sit down and work out. At the moment it’s the beginning of a very long tour. Not only here but afterwards we’re going back to Europe, then to Australia, then to South America. At the moment, we’re sort of concentrating on doing the job at hand.
VEMPIRE OR DARK FAERYTALES IN PHALLUSTEIN (1996) / THE PRINCIPLE OF EVIL MADE FLESH (1994)
Looking back on some of the older EPs and other releases, there’s been some dance remixes of Cradle of Filth songs that were featured as bonus tracks. Is that something that is sort of a passing phase or do you think you guys will do that again in the future?
We did one on the special edition of the new album. We did a Skinny Puppy-style remix of “The Death of Love.”
A lot of people think Cradle of Filth is a gothic metal band but how influential were bands like Sisters of Mercy, Bauhaus, Echo and The Bunnymen, etc. on you as a musician?
Not really. Sisters of Mercy, we were kind of fans of, but not really no. When we’re talking about gothic, we’re talking more about gothic literature, gothic architecture that kind of thing.
Has there been any discussion towards giving the older albums the remix/remaster/reissue treatment?
Yeah, although I believe someone at Music For Nations put out a boxed set. I’m sure when the time is right we’ll be approached about it.
Have you ever given any thought to doing a solo album outside of the band?
No, I’ve done a few bits and bobs like the Dario Argento track for his movie and some guest vocals here and there but not really because it’s our livelihood. Eighty percent of my time is spent with the band. The only thing I really have outside the band at the moment is a book, THE GOSPEL OF FILTH, and a poetry book later on which I’ve finished but obviously can’t bring out around the same time as another book.
THE GOSPEL OF FILTH (2009)
Is there a firm release date for THE GOSPEL OF FILTH yet? Last I saw, it was just listed as Spring 2009.
It’s supposed to be. I’ve just got to check with our publishers, FAB Press, but the final alterations are being done to the last chapter then it’s a green light, so we’re looking at Easter.
Some poor soul in New Zealand was busted for wearing the infamous “Jesus Is A Cunt” t-shirt that Cradle of Filth made way back when. Looking back now, do you regret the problems that surfaced because of the various run-ins people have had or do you think the publicity is a good thing?
I don’t regret the idea because I don’t regret anything. I regard our fans as being highly intelligent but if anyone would wear a “Jesus Is A Cunt” t-shirt in a mall in front of police officers, well, they’re asking for trouble aren’t they? You wouldn’t go down the street naked without some fear of retribution. Yes, the press has been good but also very negative, as well. Very touch and go, really.
As serious and dark as the band’s image has always been, there’s always the humorous side, as well, with the plays on words and such. Does there need to be an element of light to balance out the darkness?
I think so. We don’t concentrate solely on the dark side. I think with the attributes of the artwork and other things that pertain to the band, historically with some of the concepts and literature, it comes across as a fine balance in places.
CRADLE OF FILTH 2009 Touring Lineup
(l to r: Sarah Jezebel Deva, Dave Pybus, Charles Hedger, Dani Filth, Paul Allender, Martin Škaroupka, Rosie Smith)
Jan. 15 – Starland Ballrom – Sayreville, NJ
Jan. 16 – The Palladium – Worcester, MA
Jan. 17 – Metropolis – Montreal, QC
Jan. 18 – Capitol Theatre – Quebec City, QC
Jan. 20 – Sound Academy – Toronto, ON
Jan. 21 – House of Blues – Cleveland, OH
Jan. 23 – Harpo’s – Detroit, MI
Jan. 24 – The EaglesClub – Milwaukee, WI
Jan. 25 – House of Blues – Chicago, IL
Jan. 26 – First Avenue – Loop Station, MN
Jan. 28 – Gothic Theatre – Englewood, CO
Jan. 30 – MacEwan Hall – Calgary, AB
Jan. 31 – Edmonton Events Centre – Edmonton, AB
Feb. 02 – Commodore Ballroom – Vancouver, BC
Feb. 03 – Showbox – Seattle, WA
Feb. 04 – Roseland Theatre – Portland, OR
Feb. 10 – The Grand – San Francisco, CA
Feb. 11 – Henry Fonda Theatre – Los Angeles, CA
Feb. 12 – Grove of Anaheim – Anaheim, CA
Feb. 13 – Marquee Theatre – Tempe, AZ
Feb. 17 – House of Blues – Dallas, TX
Feb. 18 – House of Blues – Houston, TX
Feb. 20 – The Masquerade – Atlanta, GA
Feb. 21 – The Club at Firestone – Orlando, FL
Feb. 25 – NorVa – Norfolk, VA
Feb. 26 – Rams Head Live – Baltimore, MD
Feb. 27 – Nokia Theater – NewYork, NY
Feb. 28 – The Trocadero – Philadelphia, PA