Interview: Cradle Of Filth
I know local bands now, but it's just not the same as the pre-internet years; they seem more magical. . . When you contacted people – because no one had a mobile phone apart from Don fucking Johnson – it was phone calls from my mums house, or a public call box, or writing a letter and waiting for the reply, or sending tapes off and waiting for one in return.
Early into a tour in support of their twelfth studio album Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness Of Decay, I managed to catch a few words with Cradle of Filth frontman Dani Filth to ask about the album, as well the band’s rich history and what lies ahead.
E&D: First of all thanks for your time. You’re are only a couple of shows into your new tour, how has it gone so far?
Dani: It’s been good. The biggest difference is that we are doing our tour back to front this time compared to our normal ones; they usually end in Ireland, whereas we started this one there. We are also doing this without a tour bus; so we flew to and from Ireland, and we are staying in hotels every night, which is something we haven’t done for a long time. It’s something that I do with Devilment, but it’s different for Cradle. It seems to have worked so far, apart from last night when we are all awoken by the fire alarm in the middle of the night. It means we have to be quite regimental about stuff.
E&D: The new album has been out for a little while now. What can you tell us about it?
Dani: Cryptoriana… is basically hilted in the Victorian era, and it really deals with their infatuation with spiritualism, death and other morbidities. The idea came to us after we had been to Brno in the Czech Republic for a writing session. It was such a prolific session that we came away with 90% of the album already written, at which point I was like “shit, what am I going to hang all of this around?”. But strangely enough, and I don’t know why, over the course of the summer I had been reading a lot of Victorian horror and ghost stories – mainly collections by the likes of E.F. Benson, Ryder Haggard, Robert Louis Stevenson and Arthur Conan Doyle – and it suddenly dawned on me that this was a fertile ground for ideas for the album. It worked really well, the album was fast, and with big sweeping waves of Gothic melancholia, and it all came together quickly from there. Every song is based on, inspired by or written in the style of those authors.
E&D: A lot of your albums seem to be tied to one concept. Is there a particular reason you write that way?
Dani: We’ve done four proper conceptual albums, as in a story from A to Z. I think because of those four, it’s backed us into a corner where people think they are all like that – like when we did something like Midian, which was more of collection of songs orbiting a main theme. This album and The Manticore and Other Horrors are like that too. I guess because of the other conceptual albums, it makes it seem like there’s a lot more to it than there actually is. I suppose the artwork helps with that as well. The cinematic feel of the music will add to the storytelling too. I really enjoy involving and getting immersed into an album, stepping further into it by exploring common themes and threads. It also helps that the guy that did the artwork [Artūrs Bērziņš] also directed the first video, and we’re using him again for the next video, before we head into Europe. That will come out to coincide with the American tour next year. We are going to Latvia soon to shoot that. Me and him sat down and explored themes and lyrics, and then he put his mark on what he saw the album as being.
E&D: Another thing that gets mentioned a lot is the fact that there has been a lot of line-up changes over the years, but the band has remained remarkably prolific. How have you managed that?
Dani: We spend a lot of time together as a band – tours will do that, working and living so closely. People get accustomed to the sound of the band and were fans of the band beforehand – that helps that they are aware of the material we play. We are family, and people forget that when we are out on the road it’s like dogs in that every year seems like seven years. When we integrate someone new they are fully integrated into the band; and after living in each others pockets it’s not long before they are a full part of everything that’s happening. Even though Cradle are seemingly spread across the galaxy, when we get together we work very hard – [like] the time we got together in Brno, which was a week-and-a-half before a festival in Slovakia. Brno is also the hometown of Ashok & Marthus, and he has his own studio there, so it was cheaper to do it there. It also meant we got to go out on the piss a lot! Sight-seeing and everything. It was a really good team-bonding exercise and I guess you appreciate the time more; and we did a lot of the albums pre-production, hence why we came away with so much of the album done.
E&D: As well as dealing with changing line-ups, you have worked with many different labels such as Sony, Roadrunner and Nuclear Blast. Were those experiences any different, and did they change the way you work?
Dani: Well, we never really paid any attention to record companies, to be honest. At first with Nuclear Blast, I didn’t think that they paid a lot of attention to us; but now its transpired, having grown close to people there, that they left us to get on with it because they are very trustworthy. The fact we had a lengthy history before signing to them, and being quite successful, they were quite happy to let us do our own thing. But yeah, Roadrunner were very keen to push the radio-friendly singles because those years were basically the back end of what the music industry was. There was still some money in it, there were still a lot of record stores, and more than just YouTube to air your videos. I think being on Roadrunner was the main reason why a single like ‘Temptation’ was released. That was a slightly “twist your arm” type of thing.
E&D: The band came to prominence around the time that the Norwegian black metal scene was gaining international headlines. An early Cradle tour saw them in the UK with Emperor. How did you become involved in that scene?
Dani: It was a case of doing a lot of tape trading. We were in contact with other bands globally and around that point, apart from the British Goth scene, everything was merging into death metal – the whole Peaceville, Earache, Nuclear Blast type of thing. There were smaller labels around like Osmose Productions, that were kind of responsible for the European black metal scene thriving as much as it did. They had Rotting Christ, Impaled Nazarene, Immortal, Beherit, as well as Absu and Profanatica and all of these other bands. We just got thrown into the mix a bit; and I remember drawing a couple of covers for fanzines along the way, as way of recompense for getting features in there; and from there we got talking to booking agents. It took a while. I was talking about it with someone from the Guardian recently. I know local bands now, but it’s just not the same as the pre-internet years; they seem more magical because everything had that sense of mystery because there wasn’t full access to all the information about everybody. When you contacted people – because no one had a mobile phone apart from Don fucking Johnson – it was phone calls from my mums house, or a public call box, or writing a letter and waiting for the reply, or sending tapes off and waiting for one in return. Everything wasn’t so immediate; and if you got an album, even if you didn’t like it, you’d play it to death and get your money’s worth.
E&D: Black metal seemed to be a very insular scene at that time, with bands being very vocal about peers who strayed from a particular style. What changed for black metal to become so broad?
Dani: Ironically, at that point there were so many different bands – not everyone had gone down the path of sounding like Darkthrone, looking like badgers and posing in the woods with sticks. It was already quite expansive back then. Anyone that was of any note sounded completely different. You had Masters Hammer, Impaled Nazarene, Sigh from Japan, Absu from the States, Moonspell from Portugal, Rotting Christ and Necromantia from Greece as well as Enslaved and Emperor. It was all very different.
E&D: Quite a lot of those bands have come back and reformed, and revisited classic material. Is that something you see yourself doing?
Dani: Well, we are releasing Cruelty & The Beast next year because it will be the twentieth anniversary of that album; and we’re remixing it, so it’s the album plus ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’. We’ve done test mixes, but when we get back after this tour, we’ll be in the studio for two or three weeks with a producer. It’s going to be quite hard to make some of it sound bigger as the drums on that record sound like two pins striking two more pins, so we’re going to try and boost that sound; but not at the expense of any of the atmosphere, because it’s a very atmospheric record. We’ll be walking a tightrope there. I can’t see us doing any reunion shows or just one whole album shows unless the money was really good. Without being crass, it’s a hell of a lot of work for everyone to start learning a whole entire album, especially when we are already on a world tour as of now that carries on until the end of June, and pretty solidly after Christmas.
E&D: With the the albums you have revisited is that something that will continue?
Dani: Occasionally. I’d been wanting to put out the original Dusk… And Her Embrace for ages, and the record company just said let bygones be bygones and we’ll just do it. The Cruelty thing is a different matter altogether. The master tapes were found – it’s apt because it’s the twentieth anniversary. I think these things are coming out now because we are having a bit of a renaissance as a band. We’re looking at starting having an inkling towards what will be our third album with this line-up, and this line-up has been a fresh injection of life into the band, so it’s attracted other avenues; plus, while I have been doing Devilment, it’s been a bit of free time.
E&D: Principle Of Evil Made Flesh and Dusk… And Her Embrace were gateway albums for many people into black metal; and the re-release of Dusk holds up to the interest in that era of the band. What do you think made those releases special?
Dani: The production. Even Cruelty now… OK its got its vulnerabilities, but at the time the quality was surpassing what other people were doing. The artwork and imagery, everything came together on those records at the right place at the right time; good record companies; and we were touring a lot. One of the tours around Dusk was called “Gods Of Darkness” and had Dimmu Borgir opening, In Flames, Dissection, and then we headlined; and there were also the shows with Emperor. We toured England with Dissection and Immortal. It was very mysterious, and these bands had big reputations, so people wanted to see them. But we went outside of black metal. We would play with At The Gates, Anathema, Vader and Malevolent Creation, so we were quite fortunate in that respect as other black metal bands weren’t really doing that. Then when Dusk came out we got the chance to go to America.
E&D: To go back to the demos and Dusk, you worked again with Paul Ryan and Nihil. How was it collaborating with them again after all these years?
Dani: Really cool. We’d remained in contact – I wouldn’t say close contact – but we were in touch and still are. He was our booking agent after he left the band. I get a few messages from him about the football, but yeah it was good. It provoked memories, and there was definitely tinges of nostalgia about it, which was good. It kind of brought things full circle.
E&D: You’ve mentioned a lengthy tour, but what else does the future hold for Cradle of Filth into 2018?
Dani: We’ve got this and we’ve got a break. I’ve got some Devilment stuff, and some behind-the-scenes work to do with Cradle, like shooting a video. After Christmas we do Europe, which is a long tour. Then we have a week off before we do South America, USA and Canada, Japan, Australia and then Asia, which should take us to mid-June; and then we are playing a few festivals. We are concentrating on winter festivals next year – we have about six or seven of them – then in 2019 we will do all of the summer festivals instead of sitting on our arses. In between all of that I guess we’ll be preparing another album. We’ve just confirmed a Tel Aviv show, and we’re always getting offers from weird and wonderful places – it’s all just a matter of fitting it all in and working out the best itinerary. Next year there will be festivals in Portugal, Greece… maybe two there… one British one, and one more after that until the winter. A busy time, but hopefully lots of fun.