Back in Issue 66, MyM magazine spoke exclusively with Cradle of Filth frontman Dani Filth, to discuss the Victorians’ kooky obsessions, auditioning for Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds and why the band will never create a sci-fi album. And did you know Dani gets spooked by the number 13? Well you do now…
Formed in England in 1991, Cradle of Filth finally stamped their authority on the UK’s burgeoning black and death metal scene with their 1994 debut album, The Principle Of Evil Made Flesh. A monstrous blend of ornamental terror and pummelling vitriol, it marked the band out as a unique proposition and one of few modern acts capable of driving heavy metal forward while honouring its traditions.
For the last quarter of a century, Cradle of Filth have assumed the role of dark metal diarists, exploring the amorphous horrors that lurk in humanity’s shadows and revelling in the opulence of mortal sin across centuries powered by bleak romance and a lust for the sensually grotesque. The band’s line-up includes Dani Filth (lead vocals), Richard Shaw and Ashok (guitars), Daniel Firth (bass), Lindsay Schoolcraft (keys) and Martin Škaroupa (drums).
“This album represents an onwards and upwards drive for the band, building on the success of Hammer Of The Witches and pushing further with the venomous musicology to create something that is both unique and loyal to our previous incarnations,” says Filth, as he discusses Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness Of Decay. “We mutate, breed and run totally amok with this album. Plus, we covered Alison Hell by Annihilator, a thrash-metal classic that has been on our proverbial lips for centuries!”
Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness Of Decay is out now.
The album name suggests it is referencing the Victorians’ love of the supernatural…
It is, totally. I live in a Victorian house and I’m a massive Victorian horror buff – EF Benson, Rider Haggard, even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Robert Louis Stevenson. I’ve been reading so much that when it came time to create a new album, I was like, ‘Oh shit, what am I going to write this one about?’ My wife pointed out that I was literally reading a pile of books and asked why I didn’t base it around that? So that’s where it came from. And it’s a good theme.
Are you very Victorian in your outlook?
I pretty much am Victorian dad. I don’t actually put my child under the stairs and beat her with hogworts, but it’s close to that. No, I just think it’s a really cool era because the Victorians were absolutely fascinated with spirituality, palmistry, table turning, memento mori – photographing their dead, and so on. They thought it was part of a scientific experiment, I should imagine. And, in my opinion, all the best works of fiction came from that era as well. If I had studied when I went to college, instead of spending all my time getting off with girls, it would have been that.
Are the Penny Dreadfuls of that era as shocking as we would expect these days? Or were they just shocking at the time?
No, not at all. Most of them are about pirates, barring The Vampire, etc. They were more interested in the gothic era, which was actually roughly 100 years before. They were more into Byron and were trying to recreate that. I suppose the Penny Dreadfuls were a little bit like a comic book. Obviously, they didn’t have the internet or phones, and these were all about being thrilled – and they loved all that kind of stuff. Look at their wax work museums, where they used to show lots of scenes of dead people, or Scotland Yard’s Black Museum.
You’ve referenced HG Wells when talking about the album launch. Was he an influence?
I love HG Wells. My favourite album in the world, as I was trying to explain to the intern here earlier, is Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds. She’d never heard of it. I auditioned for Phil Lynott’s part but I didn’t get it – in brackets, probably because I was crap, but I was also going on tour. So HG Wells is a big influence. As much as I’d love to, Cradle of Filth couldn’t actually do a science fiction album, because I don’t think our fans would resonate with that. Even if it was old-school and a little bit steampunk, I still think people would be critical of it.
How did you turn all of the material you read and all of the other influences you have absorbed over the years into an album?
The process is that I have to wait, being very unselfish as I am, until I hear the songs. And people come to expect that of Cradle of Filth. It’s a lot easier with my other band, Devilment, because there’s not a legacy there, so it doesn’t really matter. With Cradle, people expect every album to be themed. Obviously that can be a literal pain the arse but I love it. And I love doing it, even if it does get a bit painful. But the process is generally that I wait for four or five songs to be written so there’s a theme. There’s no point writing one song and then realising that nothing else sounds anything like it. When you get those four or five songs, it generally gives you a vibe and from that I do my stuff. I’m a singer, I just get to hang around with musicians.
This is your twelfth album. Will album number 13 hold any kind of significance or any fears for Cradle of Filth?
Bear in mind, I thought this album was number 13, because we’ve had quite a few EPs and stuff. I guess you’d call this our twelfth disciple. We won’t be calling the next one 13 though because obviously – and I don’t mean to exaggerate – a million people have already done that. But thanks for that. I’m really worrying now. [Laughs] I didn’t even think about that until you mentioned it.
You’ve covered Alison Hell by Annihilator on this album. Are you a fan of covers and putting your stamp on other people’s songs?
This is a normal song for us. We’ve previously done Temptation by Heaven 17 and Stay by Shakespeare’s Sister, Devil Woman by Cliff Richard – believe it or not – with King Diamond singing on it as well, Sisters of Mercy. So we’ve done some pretty weird stuff because I think it’s cool to do something strange. We’ve wanted to do this song for yonks, literally 20 years. It was only because we met up with the guy twice in the last couple of years who originally wrote the song, and I mentioned to him when I was a bit drunk that we were going to cover it and he was like, ‘Oh my God, that’d be amazing. I can’t believe it!’ So we really had to do it then. But this is a song that if people hear us play it, and they’re not familiar with the band who wrote it, they might think it’s one of ours. It’s not as weird as those others.
The video for Heartbreak and Séance is online now. How many days later were you still finding bits of fake snow on your person?
[Laughs] It is an amazing video. There were 80 people working on it. There was no CGI whatsoever – they were originally going to use some but they couldn’t see the point. I remember standing on the plinth of naked people and looking down and saying, ‘There’s a bloody bird in here!’ It was a stunt bird, so that’s the attention to detail that was applied to that video. But if you didn’t know it was going to be there, it was a bit eye-opening. That was cool as hell.
We went to Latvia because we knew it was going to be cheaper. The guy who directed it [Artūrs Bērziņš] also does our artwork and is a genius. Normally, I’m quite finicky about stuff – this has to happen, and then this has to happen. But I just left this one in his capable hands and I’m very glad that I did. I just got to turn up and think, ‘Wow!’
He’s been described as the “sacred monster of Latvian postmodernism”, which is a great title…
He’s very famous and very contemporary. And not only does he direct and photograph and do all those amazing visuals, he also writes music and has just written a book. So I think he’s quite deserving of that title. That all makes me feel a little bit sick and untalented in comparison. But he’s a genius and I love him to bits. The only thing that gets a little bit upsetting is that when you work with people all of the time you realise that at some point you will depart from them.
In that video you are holding a mic stand that looks like an evil motorcycle handlebar. What happens to props like that after the shoot?
That’s a good point because during the creation of the video they’ve invested a lot of time into things like the backdrop and these banners that were modelled on the sigil for the Order of the Dragon. And we just didn’t take it home with us. I was thinking about that the other day, asking myself why we didn’t do that, because they were amazing and must have cost a fortune.
We imagine your house is filled with artefacts like that…
My house is like a Victorian museum and probably looks pretty much how you think it does. I’ve got two Egyptian mummies and a mess of other weird stuff.
Are you attending the MCM London Comic Con?
I was supposed to come along to the May show to talk about my voiceover on the Realm of the Damned motion comic but we were still in the studio. But I’ve been waiting to come for years – I was supposed to come last year, and the year before that and the year before that! There’s always stuff that gets in the way. One of my friends goes every year and tells me how brilliant it is. We won’t be playing because our band’s spread across the known galaxy but I’ll be performing in my own way.
Comic con attracts a lot of cosplayers. Do you get people turning up dressed as you at gigs and other events?
We do. Although, I’d prefer them to dress as Harley Quinn, as that would be much cooler on the eye. Fuck it, maybe I’ll dress up as Harley Quinn.