Cradle Of Filth: the witches can’t change their spots

Dani Filth - Cradle Of FilthIt’s tough for a band to lose two guitarists at once, especially when one of them was a founding member. But if you are willing to take a new start, it can be a rejuvenating experience that will help you put aside the ways you’ve become stuck in. And this, it would seem, is what happened to a very famous black metal band (whatever genre Nazis might say): Cradle Of Filth.

In the following interview, you can literally feel the enthusiasm of the band’s leader, Dani Filth, regarding this breath of fresh air and the arrival of an actual duo of guitarists, who deliver riffs, melodies and harmonies with great complicity. For the band, the new record, Hammer Of The Witches, was an opportunity to start working as a six-piece again (when The Manticore And Other Horrors was the work of only three people), and to revive the spirit of the most emblematic albums of their career.

A very talkative Dani Filth talks about all this after the cut. Get ready for an interview about sorcery and eroticism, and for a few cutting remarks aimed at the band’s detractors.

Cradle Of Filth 2015

« You can judge us and call us as you want: speed, thrash, death, heavy-grind, bluegrass, punk… You do it! Yeah! And people might say heavy funk or a little bit more like Islamic rap »

Radio Metal: Since 2012 Cradle Of Filth’s line up have almost been completely renewed. Have you been anxious at any point about the band’s future, especially by losing two guitar players at once?

Dani Filth (vocals): We were a three-piece on the last record. And the bass player Daniel [Firth] recorded on the last record anyway. So there was Martin [« Marthus » Škaroupka] and Daniel. Lindsay [Schoolcraft] joined straight away after the last record, literally. Yes, it’s really just the two guitars. Paul went to American, he had his own band, he moved to live in America, and he literally wanted the band to not do anything for about two or three years, which I wasn’t comfortable with and nor was Martin the drummer who’s also one of the main contributor. We were offered a tour, it was all about this tour co-headlining with Behemoth – because obviously, not only it’s our living but it’s our passion – and we wanted to do the tour. So we said: “Okay, well, we’re gonna do the tour. If you don’t want to do it, then we’ll find someone to do it on your behalf.” And we did. We found a new guitarist in the shape of Richard [Shaw] and then we’ve gotten the bad news: our live guitarist James [McIlroy] who’s been suffering from a neck injury for years, it was getting so bad that they had to have some spine surgery, so he was gonna be out of the question and it was like: “Shit! We’ve got to find two guitarists! We’ve got to find someone else, it’s sounds nearly impossible.” But we did find someone, Martin’s friend Ashok, he plays for Root, and we just had the best tour, literally, ever. I mean, they’re so talented guitarists that we just moved it forward! It just all kind of went from there, I was like: “This feels perfect!” It was like a mutual parting of ways with Paul because obviously not going on tour with your own band is just like the start of something quite seriously wrong. But this worked out brilliantly because the album, it’s like Glenn Tipton and KK Downing, you’ve got two guitarists doing great sort of harmony stuff that’s very reminiscent of the stuff we did in the nineties and early naughties. So we’re really clean now, it’s great. Everybody contributed as a six-piece to the record and I think it’s showing the band really enjoying the celebration of what we are. People say: “What are you?” After eleven albums, EPs, videos and whatever, hopefully we’ve earned the right to say: “We’re Cradle Of Filth”. You can define us how you want. Essentially it’s black metal because it has to do with the occult but you can judge us and call us as you want: speed, thrash, death, heavy-grind, bluegrass, punk… You do it! Yeah! And people might say heavy funk or a little bit more like Islamic rap. You know, people can say whatever they like but I think after all this time, hopefully we can just be defined as Cradle Of Filth. Nobody says that of Iron Maiden. You know what? They say: “Have you heard of Iron Maiden?” It’s like: “Yeah!” Nobody goes: “Have you heard of that new wave of British heavy metal band Iron Maiden?” Because by definition people know who they are.

Your new album Hammer Of The Witches sounds undeniably Cradle Of Filth. You’re of course the heart and soul of the band, nevertheless, how did you manage to keep the consistency of the music and fidelity to the band’s trademark having renewed a large part of the band’s line-up in such a short window of time?

Well, it’s not a short period of time. It might seem like it to other people but it’s a long time for us, it’s like dog years. I think the spirit of the band lives on anyway, regardless. And everybody that’s involved with the band has been fans before. It’s not just like we picked out two guitarists out of the blue. You know, there were a lot of people up for the job and there was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, making sure people were right, until they learned the right parts… Luckily we found two really, really competent guitarists. Like I say, we got a big back catalogue, a lot of repertoire to draw inspiration from, and if you’re a fan of the band, you just know what sounds right. And even when we get in the studio, songs get changed, so it’s relatively easy in that respect. Plus, we didn’t want to leave a big gap, I didn’t want to do an album in two years time. Just going away, everybody could go: “Oh, they’re taking a break!” And then welcome you back. You could take five years off and write a shitty album, you know what I mean? In five years time everybody have forgotten about you! So that means nothing. It’s about being good and people going: “Fuck, it’s great! That’s really good music!” That’s what music should be: it’s either good or it’s not good! [Chuckles]

Cradle Of Filth - Hammer Of The Witches

« We didn’t want to replicate Dusk… And Her Embrace, Cruelty And The Beast or Midian. What we wanted to do is take the spirit of that and mix it with 2015 Cradle Of Filth. »

Do you think the new members have actually freshened up the music of Cradle OF Filth by approaching it with new ears? What did they bring to the table?

They brought their ability to play amazing guitars. They’re very competent, very adaptive, they listen to ideas… Everybody submitted about three songs each. Daniel, the bass player, collaborated with Lindsey and they came up with two or three songs. There were a couple of songs that didn’t make the album, one which was my favorite ones, but it was a case of… Well, it’s not about dictatorship; it’s about a band working in union. We could have easily done fifteen songs but we didn’t want to dilute, we wanted to work on ten songs and make sure those ten songs were amazing. Fifteen songs… Yeah, they would have been amazing but we would stretch ourselves a little bit thin on some of them. You know, those songs may get used in the future but… It’s been a good time to be part of the band. Well, it’s always been a good time but it’s exciting, it’s refreshing. I’ve been in the studio, literarily four months, so I feel like coming out of my chrysalis.

You said that Paul Allender “had a strong opinion” about being the sole guitarist on the albums. Were you missing having the two guitars interact, especially with the twin-guitar harmonies?

Yes I think so, but I don’t dwell on it too much. Paul’s an amazing guitarist but we are a two guitar band. James [McIlroy] was just a live guitarist. With this album, we just wanted to go back, we wanted to… We didn’t want to replicate Dusk… And Her Embrace, Cruelty And The Beast or Midian. What we wanted to do is take the spirit of that and mix it with 2015 Cradle Of Filth. Like the first song “Yours Immortally…”, it’s a celebration of everything we are. It’s like: “Here we go! Bang!” This is heavy metal, the celebration of heavy metal. You can enjoy it on a face value and just go “wow!” or get involved, read lyrics, enjoy the artwork, explore the philosophies behind the album if you want to. But initially, it’s just about enjoying the album.

You also said that the album “is going to be pushing the boundaries of what the band can actually do” and that “it’s going to surprise a lot of people.” The album actually sounds quite epic, with rich arrangements and more melodic than ever. Is it on these aspects that you pushed the boundaries of what the band can do and that people will get surprised according to you?

Well, yeah, we pushed the boundaries in the melody and the guitar work but it’s also brutal as well. The final test is to give it to a few people that are close to you for them to come back and say: is anything too loud? Is it the right balance? Because even after we submit the album to Nuclear Blast – don’t tell them! [chuckles] – we went back into the studio and changed a few bits [chuckles], then sent them the album and said: “Oh, use this one!” So it’s a test for the sound but also it’s a test so people can give their opinions about the feel. I had to keep asking the girl who runs the website, my wife, a couple of my friends, a couple of people from Devilment: “Are you listening to the same album?” Because one person was: “My God, it’s so brutal! There’s less keyboard…” Other people say: “God it’s really melodic, there’s a lot more keyboards…” It’s a big album, even with the two extra tracks. There are only two extra tracks but they’re like seven minutes apiece, and they weren’t written as extra tracks. It was only about two weeks before the end that we moved things around. Some people may prefer those extra tracks because their mood is quite different from the rest of the record. There’s so much going on but it’s such a story that I think people hear and read different things into it. Which is cool, which means it exists on different levels.

The album was recorded at Grindstone Studios, which has apparently the reputation of being haunted. Did you feel a special atmosphere over there?

Well, strange enough, whoever wrote that was obviously making it up to make it sound a bit cooler but the thing is… Because we’ve read it and went: “Haunted? How did they know?” Because it’s an old building and one room is freezing because geographically, it used to be store stuff, hundreds of years ago, so it’s really cold anyway. It’s not a huge studio and the toilets are outside, it’s in the middle of the countryside, it’s not… I mean, we’ve done the whole living a residential for months. Not only is it expansive, but when you got the whole band there it becomes a party. This time was all about working hard and everybody flew in separately and stayed at a guesthouse, which was actually bigger than the studio. But it’s close to where I live, it’s like a half an hour drive. Half an hour there, half an hour back, everyday, four months. Like I said, it’s not the biggest studio but things kept going missing! Like one day: “Where the fuck that guitar head gone?” “You move it!” “Of course I haven’t!” “Where is it gone then?” And it turned out it was in another room! “There’s only two of us here and you didn’t move it and I didn’t move it, then what the fuck is going on?” So we laughed at that because we knew they made it up but we were like: “How did they know? It’s so weird!” [Chuckles]

Cradle Of Filth 2015

« Artists have used models to paint because it’s beautiful and it’s their version of the immaculate. […] that’s how many people see perfection. »

The album is called Hammer Of The Witches, named after the Malleus Maleficarum, a medieval document of guidelines regarding the persecution and torture of witches. How did you approach this theme through the album?

The album isn’t a concept record; it’s loosely defined as a concept because of the album artwork done by Arthur Berzinsh, who’s a Latvian artist and has put out some of the best artwork that we’ve ever had, which is saying something, he’s tied it all together. There’s a medieval vibe to the album, like in “Onward Christian Soldiers” which is about the crusades and draws parallels with the religious turmoil nowadays. There’s a few songs that pertains the whole witchcraft kind of ideology, and the title of the track, obviously, Hammer Of The Witches as well. The album itself is really about the fact that the age of persecution has long gone now, it’s like a new time, it’s a fresh time. The Hammer is in the witches hand now, it’s like a retribution for the centuries of persecutions and torture. As I always do, my lyrics can be read in the context of the 19th century or 18th century or 17th century or middle ages, but they always pertains to things that are going on in our current times.

Do you have a special fascination for witchcraft and the spiritual liberation that witches represented and were persecuted for?

Yeah, definitely, always. I mean, it’s not the first time we touched on the subject at all, it’s just the first time that we’ve dedicated the essence of the album to it. At first the title was just suggested by a song and I just thought it was a great working title for this song, and that’s all it was for a while. And then people went: “I love that title! It reminds me of Hammer horror!” Or somebody in Germany said: “Hammer Of The Witches, it sounds like Manowar!” People had all these different ideas and they kept sayin: “You’ve got to keep it as the album title!” It just stuck. It’s like the Devilment album, The Great And Secret Show, I had Clive Barker book, The Great And Secret Show, I was writing some lyrics, and I kept seeing the spine, because it’s really big, on my bookshelf and I was like: “That’s a good working title, I can play with that!” And after a while, that became the song title and then it became the album title because, it had nothing to do with the book, but it was just perfect for what we were trying to express. Sometimes things grow into being; they take over their own shape; they become like living entities without you realizing. So, a bit like Hammer Of The Witches as well. And that’s a good sign! When it’s taken over your ideology and twisted your mind, actually creating lyrics to become the end title, then you know that it’s working.

Who are the witches of the modern world according to you?

Anybody I guess who have got the potential to rectify past mistakes, undo wrongs… There is a big witch cult at present, people still celebrate… You have the Wiccan tradition, especially in England. I was on a site the other day actually and they had amazing stuff. They’d done replications, they even had like an 18th century vampire hunting kit, a replica of course but it was all in silver containers. All the stakes were made out of a special wood, from a special tree – I don’t remember what tree it was, whitethorn or something – and then they had like Baphomet statues and Wiccan rings… It’s still a big thing, even in this day of supposed reason.

You’ve always associated women and eroticism to occultism and horror. What does this association have been symbolizing to you?

I see as artists from pre-renaissance era have seen… I mean, look [he points at the pictures hanging on the wall of the room], there’s loads of pictures of women, you know what I mean? Well, this one’s got Ray Charles in it, this has nothing to do with women [laughs]. He’s a blind black guy… It’s the female form as seen as a canvas for creation and if you go to any big art gallery, whether it is Prado in Madrid or the National Gallery in London, whatever, you know, artists have used models to paint because it’s beautiful and it’s their version of the immaculate. Whether it’s a replication of a divinity or not, that’s how many people see perfection or godhood. There’s something really sensual but also slightly tragic about relationship between sex and death or evil and sex or just beauty and corruption. You know, there’s a very fine balance there because life is so short that the pinnacle of beauty is so fragile, it’s just like a flower in the wind. So that’s why people strive to capture it at its essence, it’s very cool. And also, on a purely, purely aesthetic level, it looks good. You know what I mean? I’d rather have a beautiful woman than some big fat ugly bloke! [Laughs] To be perfectly honest!

Cradle Of Filth 2015

« There’s something really sensual but also slightly tragic about relationship between sex and death or evil and sex or just beauty and corruption. […] Life is so short that the pinnacle of beauty is so fragile, it’s just like a flower in the wind. »

In March of last years the band has released for the first time commercially its 1993 demo Total Fucking Darkness. Why doing this now?

Mainly because I got reintroduced to the guitarist that used to be in the band, Paul Ryan, who now a booking agent for The Agency Group, they’re huge. Cradle has now moved on to them, Devilment has moved on to them and I’ve become good friends with him again. It was just an idea he had. We thought: “Yeah, come on! It’d be really underground!” Everybody’s saying how sold out Cradle Of Filth are, you know, a big band in magazines all over the place… “Let’s do something and show people: ‘Hey look! This is where it came from!’ Let’s do it on an underground label.” We did a box set which we underpriced. We had literally like 70 pounds worth of stuff in it, so we really didn’t make a profit at all. And all the hardcore fans bought it, primarily people that were fans of the band from that era. So, it was just saying: “This is our humble origins.” Some people got it completely wrong, they went: “What the fuck is this? It sounds completely different!” There’s so many bootlegs out there that we got a chance to remaster the originals. That’s the definitive. You don’t have to scout on the internet some shitty… You know.

Have you got any news of James McIlroy’s health?

I think he’s doing okay. I haven’t heard of him recently but I think Richard [Shaw] heard from him and he seems to be doing alright. He’s back at work. It was about a year ago, I heard that… Well, he told me, because he came to a Behemoth show, it was quite shocking actually because he spent a year waiting for a heavy operation on his spinal column. I think they were supposed to be putting a disc in. And he got to the actual operation lying on the gurney and the doctor actually said: “We’’re gonna fix a screw so that two of these vertebras would not move.” And he went: “No, fuck that!” Because he wouldn’t be able to move his neck properly. So he literally went back to square one and start again by looking for an operation. He could pay for an operation but was gonna be like forty thousand pounds, like stupid money. I should check in on him actually, to be fair. But that was the very last thing I heard from his own mouth.

Would you still leave the doors open for him to return someday?

Possibly. I think this line-up we’ve got now is perfect for the band, which is getting on so well together and we’ve got so many ideas, I can’t even comment on that, to be fair. James was only ever a live guitarist. So it would swing against because, obviously, if you got one of the new guitarists writing for the album, that would necessarily dictate that they would play it live. But who knows? Stranger things have happened…

Interview conducted 20th, june 2015 by Valentin Istria.
Retranscription, introduction & questions: Nicolas Gricourt.
Pics: Sam Scott Hunter.

Cradle Of Filth Official website: www.cradleoffilth.com.

Laisser un commentaire

  • Red Hot Chili Peppers @ Lyon
    Queens Of The Stone Age @ Lyon
    Kiss @ Lyon
    Skid Row @ Lyon
    Hollywood Vampires @ Paris
    Depeche Mode @ Lyon
    Scorpions @ Lyon
    Thundermother @ Lyon
    Ghost @ Lyon
    Spiritbox @ Lyon
    Metallica @ Saint-Denis
    previous arrow
    next arrow
  • 1/3