Interview with Britain’s most infamous band’s Cradle of Filth
Always one of Britain’s most infamous bands, and now one the most legendary after a career that exceeds 20 years, Cradle of Filth have always combined shock value with originality, frenetic musicianship and some truly memorable artwork. From their intricately, beautifully horrific album covers to the TV-unfriendly video for “From The Cradle To Enslave” and THAT t-shirt, there’s never anything Cradle does that doesn’t stay in your mind. While they’re musical Marmite to a lot of metal fans, they have always existed on their own and continue to do so, on their own terms. Adam Stanley from Heavy Music Artwork met with vocalist and main man Dani Filth to find out a little of what motivates him to build such varied pillars of sinister creativity around the band (they’ve got a book, several home videos, a glut of rich music videos and of course myriad musical releases under their belts), and what is next for British metal’s most repellent sons.
HEAVY MUSIC ARTWORK: Dani, how do you stay inspired and excited to create the kind of art Cradle makes after being a band for 23 years?
DANI FILTH: How do I get inspired? I think just as I always have done, just read while I’m on the toilet – I’m on the toilet quite a while – watch a huge amount of movies… I have those cards, you know, the unlimited card thing so any break we get (which isn’t very often), I and my wife will go and watch a film – so we get to see quite a few really. So that inspires me, I get inspiration from music and seasons and things like that. And I’ve been hanging out with a different crowd, so I have a local band called Devilment… I have to stop calling them locally because they hate it! I have another band called Devilment, and they live in my locality – in fact, two streets along – and they’re considerably younger, and they’re very much into what they’re doing which is great to be around. It’s sort of like a youthful vigour, so I’m getting inspiration from that as well.
HMA: Cradle often includes humour with its disturbing imagery and abrasive music.
DF: I wouldn’t say that musically we do… God, that would be awful! We were talking about that they other day – Bathory, the album “Blood, Fire, Death”; and there’s a massive buildup in this song, and then he just puts a “dee na nee na nee ner” (sings childish melody) in there and it’s just like, that’s ruined it, you’ve just ruined the entire album for me!
HMA: That’s not what I meant; what I actually meant to say was in fact, what got me into Cradle was pissing myself laughing at Dani’s Inferno when I was about 17. What makes you able to always laugh at things where many other black or extreme metal bands cannot?
DF: Yeah, yeah, you can’t take yourself too seriously. I presume it’s because we’ve been, without pretention, very successful with what we do and you know, I’ve lived quite a normal life in regards to family and what have you, so the people I mix with are a little bit more grounded. It’s a good thing, you know, to have a contrast of artistic people that hang around with family and other people that keep me grounded in the real world but… sometimes you have to take a viewpoint of the world where you have to see a lot of the humour in it, which keeps morale up… you know we’ve got a wicked sense of humour, and it’s just fun to enjoy yourself and enjoy what you do, whether it’s like us which is quite morbid to many people… I’d say it’s like black humour. We get on famously and it’s just one of those things; it’s a very British thing. I think the Czech guitarist that’s filling in for us at present, I think he’s just starting to get used to it. Well, it’s only been three days but he’s learning our humour and our mannerisms.
HMA: In this light, what is your take on occultism when sharing the bill with a band who, at least at face value, express far more severe Satanic sentiments than what I get from Cradle?
DF: I’ve just been doing an interview with Nergal from Behemoth where we got to ask each other questions, and you know, it’s quite revealing. He enjoys everything, he probably enjoys life more than I do seeing as he’s recently got over leukaemia, so he’s probably got a different perspective that’s a little broader than mine – at the moment! Their doctrine, as it were, their musical doctrine is very regimental and mythological, and like a battlefield in Persia and that kind of thing – that’s what it throws up to me; this sort of Satanic army. But you know, offstage they’re a good laugh. They can see the ironies in some things but there’s an irony in anything anybody does you know – it’s all about perspective. But it’s good to laugh at yourself, you know what I mean? Keeps you from being a pompous git! [laughs]
HMA: You’ve had several lineup changes – how does Cradle manage to still sound so distinctively Cradle on each album, aside from your vocals?
DF: Well I just think it’s something that could happen, it’s like an entity that could just grow legs and scuttle off, and it would be Cradle of Filth whoever it enslaved… like a sort of alien. But I think people who have joined this band have had an appreciation and they have a perspective being around the band – it kind of grows over them, they get it, if you know what I mean. They catch the disease!
HMA: You guys put a lot of effort into everything you do, there’s a lot of detail and thought in everything from the music to your stage makeup to the sumptuous album covers. How do you find that balance between taking things seriously and taking yourselves too seriously? Or do you reckon there’s also a place for certain artists who take themselves very seriously?
DF: I think every artist takes the way they present themselves seriously, even if it does come across as looking flippant or liberal. You know, “oh we just really wanted to go with that red cover”. I mean you look at Metallica and their Black album, and they were deliberating over what to have on that cover, more than some other band who might be [affects disinterested tone], “What do you reckon about this?” “Oh yeah, it’s great.” I like stuff to be perfect… I wasn’t overly impressed by the last album we did, and I had a hard job working with the artist who did that… [at this point we’re interrupted by a phone call from Dani’s wife, which goes on for several minutes!]
HMA: Your music videos are always a standout thing, very smart. That ‘Cradle to Enslave’ video is still fucking amazing, I remember when it came out, it was on MTV at about one in the morning and I was like, fucking great! Why am I so aroused? Anyway, was it a goal of yours even before you started the band or when you started at least, to create really memorable signature videos?
DF: Well yeah, strangely enough, and credit where it’s due, those video directors will take away the idea – the lyricism anyway – and they’ll map out their own idea and come to you with it; and in some cases they’ll ignore you and go with it [their treatment] anyway. But you thrash it out a little bit, and it becomes developed. It always changes slightly anyway because they never take into account the length of time, and it’s always the things that were planned which are left out all the time. But yeah, it was always the plan, it was the plan to something a bit more filmic and cinematic. Hopefully, there’ll be some plans afoot soon; I’m doing like a… well we’ve done it as a documentary but it’s going to be piloted toward people. Myself and the guy from God Seed, Tom – King to everybody else – we’re investigating cults and it’s called “Take Me To Your Leader” and it’s like a spiritual cleansing journey. We’ve gone and shacked up with Hare Krishnas and meet faith healers and Mongolian folk singers and stuff like that. That’s the gist of the pilot-y thing, and that’s funny but myself and the director, who’s directed a couple of our recent music videos, Ross Bolidai.
HMA: Oh I know who that guy is, yeah.
DF: Yeah, he’s coming tonight. I and him are going to get together and look at some other stuff as well – I want him to direct a video for my band Devilment that I mentioned.
HMA: He’s from Romania isn’ he?
DF: I’m not sure where he’s from to be fair. I think his parents are Indian actually!
HMA: You have some of the best-looking, most memorable artwork. You always know it’s a Cradle album with the rich detail and bold imagery. Standout ones for me are some of the obvious ones; Dusk and Her Embrace, Supreme Vampyric Evil and Cruelty and the Beast from the earlier albums, and then Darkly, Darkly, Godspeed and The Manticore from later years – but there are just tons and tons of separate artworks for singles and other promo materials. They’re always very intricate and yet immediate.
DF: It gets more and more difficult to be fair. Sometimes artists approach you. Especially because our albums are so themed or have a story, like “Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa” – a story that runs concurrently throughout, chapter by chapter. You want someone who’s going to visualise that but be unique. We’ve managed it with quite a few people in the past, June Williamson and Nigel Broomgrove, uh, JK Potter, Natalie Shau [sic] – we’ve worked with some great people over the years… but again, it’s a collaboration, and I think the people who approach us and the people who want to do something different… literally, they could present something like Samuel Rayer, who did “Thornography,” has done. I’m planning to do a poetry book at the end of this year, I’d written it ages ago; and he’s [Rayer] recently finished illustrating that and he used the illustrations as part of an exhibition in Seattle.
HMA: All your covers pretty much feature a central female figure, apart from Godspeed. What is it about the combination of dark imagery with erotica or at least feminine beauty that you like so much? Is it a conscious decision to maintain this kind of theme, given that Cradle can do what the fuck they like after so long?
DF: Well yes, we preferred it from the off and I think it was something that started with “The Principle of Evil Made Flesh,” which was a really powerful cover – probably still my favourite to this day. It was just a very bold and brash image, but also very beautiful – beautiful but tragic; it was constantly, like, raw and awake. [at this point Dani gazes off into the distance distracted]
Sorry! I was thinking about the cover so much I forgot what the question was!
HMA: Haha, that’ cool; we were just talking about the female theme on your covers.
DF: Yeah, yeah! Well, I think it’s just run on from that [“The Principle of Evil Made Flesh”]. I’m very interested in the character of Lilith and strong women as well – some like Elizabeth Bathory has a more morbid touch to them, obviously. But we have divulged, you know – we went and did the album about the fall of man, which is “Damnation and a Day,” which doesn’t have a female figure… but generally, more often than not, we are attracted to the fairer sex, and that has become part of Cradle of Filth in various guises. It’s just part of the colour scheme.
HMA: How would you say your sonic vision for the band has changed since you started?
DF: It’s hard to say really because you don’t really perceive the differences… you know, our set tonight, for example, is quite old-school but obviously with a modern twist because we’re playing it today. So when you look at it as a picture, almost like a story or presentation, you can see that they all follow each other, they’re the same themes and what have you. I suppose you just… mature? That’s an awful word, mature! Sounds like cheese… You don’t want to do the same album twice, and within a 20-year career, there’s going to be a certain level of expectation and experimentation because of it [the length of Cradle’s career].
HMA: You’ve done a movie, a book, home videos, shitloads of music videos and what, 10 albums? What else do you or Cradle of Filth feel you want to say artistically next?
DF: At least 10 albums! Haha! Ooh, I’d like to become a chess master, please! I don’t know… we still feel sprightly enough. I mean, we’ve actually started writing on this tour, we’ve got a couple of ideas down – well a couple of songs, almost. It sounds good! We always take a little time off. This year’s not going to be particularly busy for us – we’re going to Russia, I think we’ve got a few summer festival dates – but mainly we’re going to just chill out, and we’ve got other projects on the go. Then we’ll start building towards the next album – we want to really be in the studio recording it by the end of the year.
HMA: So can we expect anything different from the sound of that?
DF: I don’t know, because it’s always governed by what’s happening at that point. I think with this tour and playing all the older material and stuff like that, it could head in that direction [an older sound], just naturally, a development, because that’s the frame of mind you’re in at that point in time. And it also depends on like… things change with seasons as well. When we record an album in summer it has a certain flavour to it, and I’m noticing it as a pattern with the ones that I remember recording in the summer [sounding different] compared to the ones recorded in the autumn, so many factors contribute. So who knows? That’s a good way to end that one then, saying, “Fuck knows!
HMA: Well, that’s all, thank you very much for your time.
DF: Yeah cheers!
Interview by Adam Stanley, Photos by Alex Milazzo – Copyright 2014 © Heavy Music Artwork. All Rights Reserved.