Dani Filth (lead vocals) from Cradle of Filth
CRADLE OF FILTH have been forging their way through Extreme Metal since 1991, controversy over the notorious t-shirt with a masturbating nun bearing ‘Jesus Is A Cunt’ and (let’s call it) lively discussions amongst the purists as well as a rich career bearing nine commandments in the Filthian Metal stands behind them. The latest, tenth commandment titled as ‘The Manticore and Other Horrors’ will be ready for its unleashing on Halloween. I have spoken to Dani Filth about it and many other things...
Reflections of Darkness (RoD): Your new album ‘The Manticore and Other Horrors’ has a lot of punk-orientated riffs as has been announced, I only got it yesterday, but from what I’ve heard I gather there are some thrash influences too not to mention it seems to be pretty diverse in terms of mixture of style, what’s led you to go into this direction?
Dani Filth (Dani): I think was a natural progression, Paul, our guitarist, when we arrived to record, looked toward our back catalogue and he saw something that was a little amiss – that we haven’t done that kind of feel for some while. I think he was missing the lot principle of ‘The Principle of Evil Made Flesh’ and ‘Midian’ and he thought we’ll use that as a springboard, as an inspiration to come up with a lot of stuff on this record. So, like I said, it was a natural progression, it wasn’t particularly planned. It’s just that the core elements of this band on this record has been three people, myself, Paul Allender and the drummer Marthus [Martin] Škaroupka, and Marthus did some of the orchestrations as well as played drums, so we’ve kept it very close to our chest, very sort of like a core unit of the band and it’s just bought out this vibe in the music. Not only has it got a sort of punk element, but it’s got a very traditional metal feel to it as well, which is extreme, but I think we’ve just pushed the envelope a little bit on certain aspects of our sound.
RoD: What are your personal favourites from this album and why at this moment in time?
Dani: My personal favourite, I think, is probably ‘Manticore’ and that’s why it’s become the title track. Obviously the album is a full-blown concept album as we’ve done with previous two releases and that’s represented by the album title ‘The Manticore and Other Horrors’, it’s almost like Edgar Allan Poe would have ‘The Raven and Other Stories’. It encapsulates what’s going on, it’s like a lots of little stories orbiting the main theme, I suppose, much like ‘Midian’. So yeah, I really like this track just because I like how it was presented when Paul and Martin came up with the original skeletal structure of the song and it just caught my imagination because it had this sort of slightly eastern, slightly ethnic vibe about it, but really heavy. It reminded me of the track that we’ve written before and is vibe-wise if not a bit similar to a track called ‘Doberman Pharaoh’[Damnation and a Day, 2003], which in itself had an Egyptian feel to it, so it’s slightly outside our scope of writing and that attracted me to it. I think it has all the elements of CRADLE OF FILTH (CoF) in it, but all in one song.
RoD: Can you tell me about how the concept of a bestiary of monsters evolved for this album?
Dani: You know, it’s just a loose term “monsters”, by monsters say I’m talking about songs with that traditional dark fairy tale feel like ‘Frost On Her Pillow’, ‘Illicitus’ and ‘Pallid Reflection’, sort of vampiric, sort of Gothic 19th century horror vibe about the lyricism, there’s a few tracks like ‘Siding With the Titans’ and ‘The Abhorrent’ that utilise the HP Lovecraft world of huge mythological beasts that metaphorically are coming back to reclaim the Earth and you can tie it to the Mayan prophecy that the world is going to end this year on 12th of December. There’s also personal demons featuring on ‘Huge Onyx Wings Behind Despair’ and ‘Death, the Great Adventure’, which is a track on a bonus disc that comes out with the digi pack, this sort of songs are influenced by personal demons as I said, the fear and grief and stress, worry and just dark thoughts and those thoughts and feelings being overcome, so those songs are like an exorcism really.
RoD: I think it really resonates with many feelings people are having right now, and I think these songs can be definitely a catalyst for the fear that at times overwhelms people to think the end of the world is coming.
Dani: Yeah, and metaphorically speaking, because with CoF I have always utilised in my lyrics a colourful language to signify stuff that may be quite bland without it.
RoD: You marry off the past and present sound very well; your influences from the past have been well talked about already. What do you listen to that inspires you from the more modern, current music?
Dani: I’m a big fan of soundtracks and the last one I bought and I love is ‘The Dark Knight Rises’, which is the last soundtrack that Hans Zimmer, the composer, has written or has intended to write. I don’t think he’s going to do any more after this because it’s such a dark soundtrack, quite ambient, and it’s full of brooding horror and it fits the film perfectly. So I’ve been listening to a lot of soundtracks, other than that, I’ve recently bought or got quite a lot of different things. ..The new KREATOR album is fantastic, the last CANNIBAL CORPSE album I’ve really enjoyed even though I’m not a massive fan, somebody bought it for me and I just thought “wow, I’ll put it on when I’m feeling really angry or wanna eat zombies or something”. And also the re-released album, the 30th anniversary edition of ANGEL WITCH, which was really cool and that’s about it, that’s what I’ve been listening to recently.
RoD: Coincidentally I was going to ask you about soundtracks as there’s times when I think that your music would be perfect for Dario Argento’s movies especially the trilogy “Three Mothers”.
Dani: I actually did a song for Dario Argento a few years back, it was written by a guy called Claudio Simonetti, who was in the band called GOBLIN and who did a lot of the soundtrack in ‘Susperia’ and maybe ‘Phenomena’, I can’t remember exactly which ones they were... and the ‘Tenebrae’, that was another one I think. The song was for the film called ‘The Mother of Tears’ or ‘The Third Mother’, there’s different names for them. We did a rock song that had lots of choirs and stuff in it, which was great fun actually because I’m such a big admirer of both Dario and Claudio.
RoD: Which leads me to ask, if you could have a go at composing a whole score for a movie, which kind would you go for?
Dani: Definitely a Gothic Horror, but I don’t know if we could actually do it justice, because I’ve heard so many great Gothic Horror soundscapes whether it’s by Danny Elfman or whether it’s by John Williams and I’m talking about Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘Dracula’, or ’ Interview with the Vampire’, Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ or the ‘Omen Trilogy’, or ‘Hellraiser’, ‘Children Of the Corn’... I don’t think I could or the band could hope to better some of those soundtracks as some of those are just out of this world. But if we had a choice we’d go for something that was very Gothic Horror, but very modern and adult, I’d like to have some blood and guts in it.
RoD: You seem to be quite interested in the darker figures of history...
Dani: The music, before we write an album, dictates this inspiration and because of that it’s where we tended to steer it, towards stories involving historical characters like Elizabeth Báthory, Gilles de Rais, the whole concept of Lilith or like we did in the ‘Damnation and a Day’, which was about the character of Lucifer, although during that album we called him Feriluce. People have been asking whether we were going to do another concept album and who would we do it about and I really off the top of my head had no intention of doing one quite so soon because I don’t want to be repetitive and people expect something, but we want to keep it a bit fresh, and that’s why I think with this album I’ve achieved it by being slightly off the wall and different. But there’s no one that really springs to mind that I think “oh yes, I’d love to do something about that character”.
RoD: Considering the problems SEX PISTOLS had with EMI or say IRON MAIDEN back in the day when they were asked to cut their hair and play punk have you had any interventions from the labels you’ve been on regarding your music, style, and public image and so on?
Dani: No, we were quite fortunate really. We’ve been on so many record labels in the past; we’ve been on Roadrunner, now we’re on the big independent label, which is Peaceville, and we’re very happy with it because we’re in a good place. With Roadrunner, that’s gone, it’s disappeared soon after we left the label, we could see it was getting a bit tense as they’ve been bought out [by Warner Music Group]. There were people involved in that whole business that didn’t understand what Roadrunner stood for. But where we are now is good because we have a lot, massive control over what we do. Some people think that ignorance is a big part of a record company, and it’s not, I think they’re wise enough to know that we have our own path and our own direction and we’re very good at that, at knowing what we want to do, so they’re quite happy to sit back and just let us get on with it, but they’re big enough label to also have a bit of clout as well especially during these difficult financial times. I think having been on big labels like Sony and Roadrunner that it’s not the end-all being on something like that; it doesn’t necessarily keep you from the wall, as it were, because the Roadrunner has gone under, and Sony when we signed with them, the person that signed us to was really into the band and had some great ideas for us, but instantly as we signed he moved into another country and another job and we never saw him again. So I think now we’re in a good place and Peaceville has a good roster of bands, there are some great bands on the label, so we’re in a good company.
RoD: As you mentioned the difficult financial times, I would like to ask what do you think about the fact that the age of downloads has pushed musicians more towards the business side as they have to come up with more and more ideas for merchandise, work for their visibility and recognisability harder in the promotion etc.? Do you think that this is negative or positive development? How you deal with it?
Dani: Well, it depends on which way you look at it, you can look at it negatively and say that there are too many bands and people haven’t got enough money to spend on them as they had done in the past and so musicians are losing money and bands are splitting up, record labels are going under etc or you can look at it on a positive note, and think” well, it’s like with the back against the wall and it’s not easy but let’s conquer this mountain and let’s really fight back and come up with something that’s unique and imaginative and overcome the problem”. I mean, that’s easy thing to say obviously because we’re in a position when we’ve just done a great record, or so we’re lead to believe, but it was a lot of hard work doing it. I think sometimes you do have to look at the good things rather than the bad things. And it’s not just affecting musicians, it’s affecting everybody.
RoD: Regarding the touring you’re going to do, what have you got prepared? Considering you’ve had some really spectacular shows in the past...
Dani: We’re trying to emulate that although on the next tour we’re not going to be taking on any extras, like say in the past we’ve had acrobats, fire breathers, and gargoyles, giant puppets and all kinds of things like that, because the tour we’re going to embark on is a sort of a package tour, it’s not our tour as such even though we’re headlining, but that said, we’ve got some great ideas. When we get back to England after the press trips, we have a video to do tomorrow in London [15th September], our intention is going to be on getting the stage show prepared, maybe costume changes, projections, video screens, all that has to be shot for the interactions between what goes on the screens and the band. Our stage hands are building some electric light boxes to stand on, one of which has got a smoke machine in it, which can be controlled by me. So if I do have a big pimple on my face one day, I can put that on and harm myself [laughs]. So obviously we’re gonna put a lot of thought into it because we have to represent this album well and we haven’t played European tour for about three years as we’ve concentrated on the stage in South America and other places and it can be difficult to get back and obviously we want to get back with the bang.
RoD: I think the raw, sheer power and drive of the album’s gonna blow your fans off as well as all these things you’re getting ready. How do you deal with the demands of longer tours? I think it’s something many young bands would be grateful to have some advice on.
Dani: Well, when you’re young you think you’re invincible, but you are only a bit more invincible than when you’re older. I would say, lay off the partying a little bit, it’s very hard not to, but sometimes especially as you get a bit older it becomes more difficult to recover from and you don’t want the shows to be affected by that. And also to eat healthily, sleep a lot, try to pace yourself. I think the main thing is staving off boredom; a lot of people get really tired on tours just sitting on buses, sitting in hotel rooms or sitting in backstage areas, or on the internet. I think a good thing to relieve that boredom and keep things fresh is to go out and see places, see the sights when you’re in Europe or in America, do a bit of research about the place and plan your trips, keep yourself busy.
RoD: Also I’ve read that in your South American tour you had to have a police escort and at some point the fans started to rock your van. How do you cope as a band with pressures from the fans, have you got some stalkers and crazy ones amongst your fans, have that kind ever made you feel uncomfortable?
Dani: Yeah, we’ve had some very strange people, but generally they are all very good natured though. The only problem is when you get people, say like the incident not so long ago when we played Bloodstock, there was a guy in the crowd, who bought these gobstoppers, sweets big like cricket balls, and he threw several of them on the stage, one narrowly missed a disabled kid we had on the stage to watch our show in the wheelchair, one narrowly missed me, one almost hit the keyboardist, which could have killed her. And he actually hit our guitarist on the base of his spine, so we had to stop the show and he had to be rushed to the hospital for a scan to see if he damaged anything. And that sort of things... it’s just unforgivable, if he had killed someone, there would have been a manslaughter or murder case. There’s always the worry, look at Dimebag Darrel for example and it only takes one person. But generally people are very well-meaning if they’re your fans, and they don’t really mean to upset you or to stalk you, they’re excited, so that’s forgivable. And also a lot of our fans, which I love, buy us presents, and that’s great! And if someone brings you a present you give them a bit of your time because obviously they’ve gone out of their way and usually the presents they bring us are things they’ve done a bit of research on so you really like them, you appreciate it and I think it’s bit unfair if someone went to those lengths and that trouble to just go “allright, bye” and have them escorted off. So it’s a bit of give and take, fans have to be a bit appreciative of the fact that the bands are only human and they get it all the time and also for the bands to be aware that these fans have a dream to meet you and they don’t realise that it might happen every day of the tour. I think, it’s better to be aware of people, that’s all.
RoD: I gather that the age group of 14 -16 year olds forms a large segment of your fan-base. There is still quite sterile system at schools that promotes music but only of the socially acceptable genres, and exclude metal and punk, do you feel proud of an achievement that you’re able to motivate these kids to think alternatively, to be able to stand out from the crowd and that in a way you’re proving them with alternative education?
Dani: Yeah, sometimes people think it’s a bad thing, they see just the exterior, and when you’re young you do dress in the most ridiculous things, say like me, when I was young I used to wear the most ridiculous things and then you look back and think “God, that’s being stereotypical”. And I think if you look past the way people dress because there’s a lot of the kids that dress in black, have skull earrings, black nail varnish and often they’re seen as outcast, although now I think there are more people like that. And a good thing you need to look at indeed is that we have motivated people to read literature and do all these things that they find out through the band and often they are kind of gainsaid by their parents, I know it sounds ridiculous, but yeah, I think again there are positive aspects to take from it. And yes, it makes you feel quite cool when you are given credence for doing that and you get acknowledged for helping people.
RoD: I’d also like to ask you about the orchestral album, the ‘Midnight in the Labyrinth’. What was it like going back to your catalogue?
Dani: It was the vibes of those songs reverted back to the band about three years ago. Somebody gave us the idea, we liked the thought of the soundtrack vibe and that we might do some different interpretation of those songs. And what we actually did is we were working on it in various pockets of time between tours and recording new albums. And the reason why it came out this year was just because we had a space, which we filled with releasing it. It wasn’t planned three years ago that this would be the definitive time to do it. It was just the way it fell really, and it was only that some journalist misconstrued the fact that it was a fan-only release. There were only 15 - 20 thousand versions of it printed and they found home with our fans, but of course few copies found their way into journalists’ hands in Britain and they went like “ooh, I don’t think we like this direction CoF are taking, they have no drums, no guitars on it” and they just got completely wrong end of the stick, because it was essentially something we did for our fans.
RoD: I’ve also few questions about the covers you did, say like your SISTERS OF MERCY cover ‘No Time To Cry’...
Dani: Yes, we did several of those, SHAKESPEARE SISTERS and Temptation by HEAVEN 17 as well.
RoD: Are you thinking of doing anymore?
Dani: We’re not at the present moment, we might do, but we’re waiting for something unexpected to do. It’s a bit pointless to do a cover of a song that’s too close to the sound of the band; if that’s the case you might just as well to do your own song instead. So we always chose something a bit different that we can turn into a “Cradle” song henceforth we chose those very differently sounding bands and reinterpreted it.
RoD: I think a cover of the Demon Cleaner by KYUSS might right be up your street, would you ever consider that one?
Dani: Maybe, I don’t know. It’d be very hard probably, because everybody in the band has their own opinion. Even those covers that we did were an act of faith, a leap of faith really. It would be challenging... My wife usually suggests some ideas for the covers, and they’re usually strange and wonderful ideas in theory but maybe not in practise.
RoD: You did a great video for the ‘No Time To Cry’ SOM cover, it had a feel of German Expressionism feel, are you particularly fond of it?
Dani: Yeah, I think it’s a great video; it’s got a Murnau feel, somnambulistic, a little bit like the sleepwalker from the Dr Caligari, that sort of vibe. And it was cross-pollinated, there’s no band performance in it, but there’s a little story of twins caught in the demented house, how they found out that they actually murdered their father and they are trapped spirits and that was set against a lot of imagery that was taken from Nigel Wingrove’s films, and Nigel Wingrove was an artist we’ve used in some of our records. I like that it’s without band’s performance and more unexpected.
RoD: I know it was way back now, but how was your collaboration with Christian Death?
Dani: That was quite good fun and then we toured with them and they supported us on the European tour. Yeah, really good fun, they’re crazy people; there were some very amusing stories and anecdotes that can be taken from that experience.
RoD: As we’ve run out of time, I’ll let you go; thank you, it’s been a real pleasure talking to you.
Dani: Thank you very much.