Cradle of Filth
A little over a year ago, while in the midst of my first interview for Ink Nineteen , Mick from Prolapse, in mid-tirade, asked sarcastically, “Do you like Cradle of Filth?” The answer was yes, and a year later I’m writing a piece on Cradle of Filth for Ink Nineteen ! It’s these little spooky coincidences that keep me infinitely amused, while probably boring the readers to death.
Where was I? Ah… Cradle of Filth, at the time of this interview, were mere weeks away from a triumphant second headlining slot at the 1999 Milwaukee Metalfest. If you were lucky enough to go, you probably have a new favorite band/reason to live now. Cradle of Filth are arguably the biggest thing ever to come out of the European Black Metal scene of the early ’90s, and they are on the brink of total rock-god-status, all without compromising one iota of their singular aesthetic. Embracing vampiric and horror imagery, death METAL ferocity, punk aggression, gothic bleakness, dramatic bombast, and lyrical elegance, Cradle of Filth are an absolute epiphany of darkness.
Christ, I’m falling into the label game. They’re brilliant, how’s that? Don’t believe me? Check out their most recent full-length, Cruelty and the Beast , an epic tribute to Countess Bathory. I got the chance to chat with lead singer Dani Filth, a very articulate individual to say the least, and here are the results of our little conversation:
Cradle of Filth will be headlining a night of the Milwaukee Metalfest very soon, are you looking forward to that?
Yes, um, I’m not actually sure what day we’re playing, I think it’s the 31st (of July). And, of course, it’s a headline slot. Yeah, yeah, we’re really looking forward to it. That’s actually preceding a few extra shows that we’ve slotted in. I can’t run them off the top of my… I know it’s Montreal, Toronto, Columbus, and a few others, Philadelphia, I think. Just because, as long as we’re in the country, it seemed fitting that we try to please a few more fans. Reach some of the places that our showcase shows prior to last Christmas didn’t reach.
This will be the second time you’ve played the Milwaukee Metalfest. How was the first time?
Oh, it was excellent. Notoriously, Milwaukee always has irreparably bad sound. But it’s not really the sound that people go to see. (laughs) Or go to listen to. It’s the fact that it’s a prestigious festival and an event. And, although you may not get more than three, four thousand people, which isn’t comparatively big with other festivals, it’s the prestige of it. It’s an event that perhaps the true underground goes to. I mean, last time, I met people from Russia, from Brazil, who’ve traveled specifically to see this event because it’s the underground festival of the year, in the world.
Are there any bands you’re specifically looking forward to seeing?
The Misfits. [I’m] Not overly sure about the rest of the lineup. I was looking forward to seeing Manowar, but they’ve pulled out. I’m not sure, but there’s bound to be loads of good bands playing. Marduk. I’m looking forward to seeing Marduk.
Cradle of Filth recently got done playing the Dynamo Festival. From what I read, you pretty much stole the show. How do you feel about it in the aftermath?
It was cool. We just made sure we had a fucking huge light show. It was on par with Kiss. (laughs) We invested a lot of money in it. Most of the time we spent dodging the various bombs and flame cannons that went off during the set. But that, in itself, is like the biggest metal festival in the world. Well, second to none now that Donnington in England no longer functions. And we just wanted to make a bit of a show of it. We played the gig with a replacement drummer, so we were quite worried about the reaction to it. But it served its purpose and went really well. And of course, any festival you’re there for three days and you end up getting wasted. It’s brilliant. (laughs) You can’t ask for more, really. Maybe free money.
Was playing outside at Dynamo a problem at all?
Luckily, at Dynamo, at that time of the evening, dusk had set in, which was quite fitting. Therefore, the light show, which is usually quite extensive — and will be even more extensive on these few dates in America that are coming up — the light show and the explosives and the pyrotechnics were able to be seen. It added a little bit more atmosphere to the band going on, rather than playing in broad daylight, which, the previous Dynamo we’d played, we had to do. By the time we’d come off it was ten o’clock and it was practically dark. It served its purpose, we were lucky. The next night, because of Metallica’s extensive set, bands prior to Metallica were going on at half seven, it was ridiculous. We were lucky, really.
Do you have any plans for any extensive US touring?
We’re in the midst of writing another album. We’ve just secured… well, not just, for the last couple of months we’ve had a new drummer. A brand new drummer. The guy before, the guy who played Dynamo, and did the video with us, was always only temporary. So we’ve had a lot of, not upsets, but work to contend with. And being in the midst of writing another record, which is quite extensive work, and doing summer festivals has meant that the tour that we wanted to undertake in America has been postponed. Henceforth, we’re trying to squeeze in dates where we can. But it is a promise to our fans that the first thing that we undertake upon completion of the record will be a full extensive tour of the United States and Canada and hopefully venturing down… We did Mexico last year, but going further afield, you know? More dodgy countries, ones where you may very well get yourself shot in. (laughs)
Can you give us any hints as to what the new material is going to sound like?
Shit. (laughs) It’s purposely rubbish. I don’t know, perhaps it’s a lot catchier. Songs are shorter. I mean, I’m only going by a couple of songs that we’ve already written, “From the Cradle to Enslave,” “Of Dark Blood and Fucking,” “Suicide and Other Comforts.” They’re relatively short, bordering around five minutes, five and a half minutes, which is veritably a whisper in Cradle of Filth terms. But, saying all that’s said, they sort of maintain…It sounds by me describing it in that way that the songs are becoming weaker, but they’re not. They are actually more intense, to all intents and purposes. It’s hard to describe something as involved as this.
The first glimpse people are going to get of the new direction, and this is one thing we’ve endeavored to do to fill the gap, because when I was in the position of really having a favorite band and there was a two-year gap between recording… Our previous recordings have only had a year between them, so we’ve been pretty fast. But because of extensive touring and other commitments, by the time this next album comes out, it will have been two years. So we’re actually putting out an EP in hopefully about a couple of months, and that will coincide with a long-form video release which will feature the banned video that we recorded for “From the Cradle to Enslave.” Both things will be out at relatively the same time, and that will serve to breach the gap between one album and the next. And the whole purpose of it is solely to give our fans something to chew on, something to enjoy. It’s not an actual proper release, there’s going to be two original songs on there, there’s a reworking of an old song, there’s a darkwave mix, and there’s two covers. It’s just something, it works out to about 35 minutes long, it’s just something for the fans to chew their cud over with.
You recently became a father, what’s that like—
Oh, I thought you said what’s that — it’s being a male parent. (laughs). Um, what’s it like? I never take her on stage with me…
No, I mean like, you have to go from one extreme to the next. How do you keep yourself grounded?
Ooh, I don’t know. It’s a hard question. I don’t know if you trundle on at your own pace in your own person. That sort of thing never crosses your mind. I’ve never looked at it that way. I mean, yes, the majority of the days involve myself and my girlfriend taking it in turns to do the early shift of getting up like half-past five, and mine was today. So I was up early and I was looking after her for most of the morning and keeping her entertained. She’s six months almost, so she’s getting to that stage where she’s throwing things around. But she’s great. And then in the afternoons we’re rehearsing, so the days are sort of split between black and white anyway. It’s not that difficult, if you’re motivated enough to do it. I mean, the trouble is, bands you don’t have to be motivated, but with a baby, there’s no decision there, you have to look after them. Before, I thought fatherhood was quite a daunting prospect; I think it does to anybody. Most males I know, if they know they’re going to have a baby, they’re like “Shit!” I suppose I was of that school of thought as well until you actually have one. And then, perhaps this is very romantic of me, but your heart melts away. She’s a little bitch at times, anyway. (laughs)
Switching gears, the BBC did a documentary on the band, do you feel like talking about that?
Hmmm. It was actually shot like a year and a half ago, and it was at the end of an extensive tour of Europe, so we were pretty shabby by the end of it, anyway. It served its purpose. I mean, it was a good laugh for fans who are that ardent in watching it. I actually only watched it once and will never watch it again. Solely because, I mean it’s funny, but it doesn’t fairly represent the band, and it doesn’t reach any conclusion. There’s no hidden integrity to it. There’s nothing vital to the existence of the program. It just runs along and that’s it. There’s a little conflict, there’s a few very amusing parts in it to do with the band, where it’s quite obvious that several members of the band, that will remain anonymous until you watch it, were off their tits on some kind of drug. But it’s amusing, and that’s solely the purpose of it. I think it actually ran in a series with other shows putting people in confrontations, i.e. the farmer and the animal rights activists, the homosexuals and the rugby supporters, or jocks, and Cradle of Filth and an estranged parent. Ours was the only one where we ended up going out on the piss with the estranged parents and then decided, “they’re quite a lovable bunch of people really.”
I’m curious about your image and how it has changed over the years, is this an unconscious progression, or careful planning?
I wouldn’t really call it an image, because when people… I mean, I had some guy, for some reason, from Australia turn up on my doorstep yesterday. Apparently, he was on holiday in England and dragged his father all the way from Southampton; that’s quite a stretch, that’s like over four counties, just to come on the off chance and catch us in. I was angry at first, because I don’t like people just bursting into my home life, but he was quite a nice bloke, and he was surprised, he was like, “Christ, you look just like you do on records!”
But the thing is, as the band has been getting bigger, and there’s been more money to spend, obviously your tastes get more expensive. The way you want yourself portrayed, the photographers you use… I mean, some of the photographers we use, like Simon Marsden and Chris Bell, cost a lot of money. A lot of the artwork we use, the photography we undertake, the merchandise, shirts, etc., posters, album covers, in the video, a couple of the models we use are very famous, in England at least, in the sleaze and fetish scenes. They don’t come cheap, but whereas they cost a lot of money they make up in other things, like they’re very good at their job, that’s what they do. It’s important to me because I feel you can portray… You know how Indians believe you can capture other people’s soul with a photograph. Rather than using oils, which is probably the best medium, or pen and ink to create an atmosphere, you can actually steal something from what people would call a live environment, and you can manipulate that as well. And if you can manipulate that live environment, you can do anything. It literally is a process of magic.
I can see that, because I never thought of Cradle of Filth as a KISS-type band, where you could just take the makeup off and be done with it. I see the way you portray yourselves as a totality, visually and musically.
Yeah, I think people got used to us wearing the makeup, and if we were to take it off, I think people would run away. (laughs) Screaming.
You get the Goth/Vampire tag thrown your way incessantly, is that agreeable to you? Would you prefer to be seen as purely Metal?
I like a blend of everything. I don’t really consider us anything anymore. I’m not saying, “We have transcended the realms of tag-ability and therefore we just exist.” (laughs) None of that shite. A couple of years ago when Vempire came out, one of the most ridiculous things I ever read was one of those album listings for mail order and it said, “Cradle of Filth: the New Album – Vempire . Gothic-doom-death-black…” And it was like two or three lines of the most ridiculous, know what I mean? Fair enough, they don’t know what they fuck they are. Tags are a bit stupid, a bit silly.
I’ve visited a number of the Cradle of Filth fan pages set up on the web, and I’ve noticed that most are them are rather similar. They all seem very…
More obsessive. Do you ever look out into your audience and think, “Oh god, you’re all taking this too…”
No, I think that’s great. I really do think that’s great. I mean, what a bunch of hypocrites, if what we advocated from the stage wasn’t reflected in the crowd. I can’t stand people like that, I really can’t. For someone to meet us, and then we’re sitting there, with a flute of champagne and a pink feather boa, going, “Simply darling!” People don’t expect that, and we don’t expect to do that. We wouldn’t treat our fans in that way.
I’ve seen your column in Metal Hammer every so often, do you have any plans to do any writing outside of Cradle of Filth?
Well, given half the chance, given the time, I probably would endeavor to do something like that. But the majority of my time now is obviously split up between being a father and running the band. If I had a spare six months here or there that was solely mine, then I probably would like to start writing properly. But it’s bad enough trying to juggle managerial skills with running merchandise and rehearsals, with writing lyrics and juggling songs. Not saying that it’s all me, everyone in the band pitches in. That’s the beauty of the creativity in this band. But there is a lot of hard work and it is a manacle that grows ever heavier.
Whenever I wear a Cradle of Filth T-shirt out and about, even in Florida, I will inevitably be stopped by someone who turns out to be a fan, and it’s not just metal types, there’s goths, punks, skate kids. What do you attribute your widespread appeal to?
I don’t know, it’s not for me to say, is it? I suppose it’s the rebellion of the punk era, some of the stuff on the last album had a real punk vibe to it. Like I said, the rebellious factor, the I-don’t-give-a-fuck attitude. Perhaps it’s in the way we come across, some of the stunts we pull in the public scenario. Like, god knows why, we got quite a bit of respect for slagging off the… I don’t know if you heard about the Kerrang! Awards last year? They had these people to present awards and we won “Best International Live Act,” for whatever reason, and the woman who presented ours, she writes a column for a big newspaper, and she’s a model. They call her the Blue Blood Model, the “It Girl,” because she’s in the lower echelons of royalty. And we just thought, “Oh great, this is the perfect opportunity.” So we got our award and then completely slagged her off in front of everybody. We got a lot of respect for that because it was the punk thing to do. Anti-establishment and all that. It was something not a lot of people expected. A lot of people probably thought that we were pro-establishment because of some of our regal imagery. That girl was just a stupid cow, she always is. Obviously the goth element comes standard really. I don’t know, if I stood away and started analyzing our fans then you’d fall into that trap that a lot of bands in America do, where they go, “Oh! Machine Head are selling… Hey, hang about a minute! Spiky hair is in and a thousand piercings all over your face, we’ll get that, we’ll jump up and down onstage, Roadrunner will have us!!”
Favorite band of the moment?
I don’t know. I’ve been listening to loads of stuff lately. My girlfriend bought the new Red Hot Chili Peppers album, and I actually quite like it. At the same time I’ve been listening to the new Immortal album, it’s fucking killer, the new Marduk album is brilliant, just got a collection of a darkwave band called Wumpscut, Born Again , that’s heavy-going, that’s cool. I quite like the new Star Wars soundtrack, believe it or not, and Nightbreed as well. Dead into soundtracks.
How did you develop your vocal style?
I don’t know, it’s probably because it’s the only thing I can do. I used to be able to sing, and I’m having a hard job trying to now. I don’t know, you just fit into something, and the music demanded that. If you had someone like the singer from Candlemass on it, or Anthony Kiedis’ vocals on it, it would just sound completely wrong. The music we were writing demanded the vocal style like this.
I found an odd quote about you from a fanzine: “We refuse to support Cradle of Filth’s new lifestyle and way of thinking.”
Which would be what? That we drive around in Mazarattis and Bentleys? God…
You took a lot of scene flack for a couple of years just for the use of keyboards…
The ironic thing is that most of our true fans understand our sense of humor. Recently, I did a very similar interview for Terrorizer , and I just took the piss, and the thing was I did it in a way that was totally serious. It was a face-to-face thing. And I was just rattling off all these figures, I was saying last year I earned, oh, nearly a hundred thousand English Pounds and bought a really sleek sports car, just taking the piss totally. But being so tongue-in-cheek and up my own arse that if you read it, you’d laugh at it. Still, there were so many people going, “Oh my god, we can’t be having this! How dare they? They’re going to get popular and then what will happen to our scene?” It will probably get bigger and you’ll be able to buy some decent records! People don’t think about that, they want their own tight-knit community. They want all their rock stars either dead or on their way to being dead or working at the local supermarket!
I’ve hit my time limit. Do you want to close out with any words for the Americans?
Don’t tempt me.