Cradle of Filth – Mutating and Surviving

Sunday, 19th July 2015

One very noticeable piece to Cradle of Filth over the years is how many members have come and gone, leaving vocalist Dani Filth to steer the rudder over the years. With new members come new influences and tweaks to the Cradle sound and admittedly, there’s been some turbulence along the way, with many fans looking to the group’s earlier works as the most essential. But the band has survived – and their newest offering, Hammer of the Witches (their first for label Nuclear Blast), dives back into those celebrated waters of the past.

The return of twin guitar harmonies is what really gives Hammer of the Witches it’s strength. The usual bedrocks of the band are (and have been) there, but the additional emphasis on guitar gives long-time fans something to chew on. DR was able to chat with mainman Dani Filth to discuss a variety of topics: the revolving bandmembers, forays into other media, downloading, and that rather infamous t-shirt.

Dead Rhetoric: Having replaced both guitarists last year (and keyboardist the year before), how did that affect the songwriting for Hammer of the Witches?

Dani Filth: I think it’s certainly improved it ten-fold. Before then, we only had one guitarist writing. Our other guitarist was purely a live guitarist. We had to get two new guitarists out of necessity, as Paul [Allender] had some personal issues and we knew he couldn’t do the headlining tour with Behemoth (in 2014) well in advance. So we knew we had to find someone to replace him for the tour. But around the 11th hour, we found out that our other guitarist James [McIlroy], who had been nursing a severe neck injury, was undergoing surgery, so he was out of the equation as well. So rather than cancel it at such a late hour, we found someone else in the nick of time. Someone that our drummer knew from his hometown in the Czech Republic. And then we were away!

We were playing very well, we were garnering some amazing reviews, and getting along famously as a band. It just seemed the most natural step to continue on in that vein. I don’t even think James had his operation until later in the year. Paul had his other project and was living in America, so he had kind of drifted away. It was a very shrewd thing to do, and it could have gone tits up, but it was more about surviving as a band, and we have gone from strength to strength because of it.

We were playing a lot of material from our older records as well, and then we suddenly got back this twin guitar harmony shit going on and it just felt great. We are now able to plunder our entire back catalog for the forthcoming tours, including a US one that will happen at the beginning of next year. We are going to be playing a bunch of stuff from the early days right up through.

Dead Rhetoric: I read somewhere that part of the writing came from what you thought fans wanted. Is it ever tough to say, that ‘we can do this’ while still looking at what you want to do?

Filth: I think it was a case that never being a band that utilized social media until a few years ago. Keeping that updated 3-4 times a day, like the woman that updates our social media does, we were getting stuff through that was a lot more personal. When it was announced that we were doing a new album and people had seen us play on that particular tour or the summer festivals, they were so excited and offering suggestions. You couldn’t fail but take notice a lot of it. We primarily write for ourselves and the two new guitarists had been introduced to the band playing “Funeral in Carpathia,” “Beneath the Howling Stars,” and “Haunted Shores” so this album jumped from that. So that obviously colored what they were writing from the start.

Dead Rhetoric: What do you feel is the core element of Cradle of Filth that defines the band?

Filth: I think a lot of things define us as a band. Even down to the fact that we always work with really prolific artists, no different on this album. With the famous Latvian contemporary artist Arthur Berzinsh – the artwork is fantastic. It’s just one of the little traits that we’ve always had.

Lyricism – we’ve spent a lot of time weaving my stories, heavily involved in the occult. This album reeks of witchcraft and demonology. So that’s another facet to our bow I guess. We are also a very visual live band. The whole thing is a little cinematic and atmospheric. Obviously Cradle has quite a trademark sound, and with the addition of going back to more of the very fast, melodic twin-guitar harmonies, like Priest-on-crack type stuff – that’s something else that’s going to appeal to the fans. Especially those from the Dusk to Damnation sort of period.

Dead Rhetoric: You mentioned the literary piece, how much research do you do before writing an album?

Filth: Quite a bit, but not a huge amount because I’ve been into this stuff forever. The ideology about the title track being based loosely on the Malleus Maleficarum, which was the book of persecution against witches in the Middle Ages – the music suggested that. But the idea for doing an album about that came ages ago – it was written down in a notebook and was waiting around to find a home on an album basically. When I did Godspeed on the Devil’s Thunder, which was about Gilles de Rais -there was a lot of research because I wanted to get it completely right. It was very historical and I didn’t want anyone saying anything. Obviously I’m a bit liberal and turned everything into a more fabulous work, but in essence, it had to correspond and correlate with proper time span and proper events. Putting those tracks in order, it wasn’t easy. At the same time, I didn’t want to take any liberties when it came to the truth, historically. So yeah, I did quite a bit of research there.

Dead Rhetoric: Is that something that you feel is important to the overall characteristics of an album, even if you do take some liberties with it?

Filth: Yeah. The thing about the Cruelty and the Beast album, it was a bit more of a dark fairy tale. I interjected some more fabulous stuff in there that was slightly off-kilter from the truth. But the whole premise behind the Gilles de Rais saga and story was the fact that it was so real, and it did happen. There were transcripts from the trials that you could relate to, and I just found it more horrifying and disturbing because it was real. And by keeping it in reality, it made it a little bit darker really.

Dead Rhetoric: There have been a lot of member change-overs through the years. Do you feel this has played a part in allowing Cradle to continue to evolve?

Filth: Yeah, but it’s about mutating and surviving. If you break a leg, you get it fixed. The same with a band. If it was a radio station, you wouldn’t expect the radio station to give up and shut down because they lost someone. The same with the band – we are very passionate about what we do, and people have left for all kinds of reasons over the years. I don’t think we’ve sacked anybody since the year 2000. Mainly, it’s because they think they can do better themselves, it’s too much hardwork, they are about to start a family, or they are moving. And the band just continues. You either bury your head in your hands and give up or you say “fuck it, shit happens” and move on.

Dead Rhetoric: There was recently a detailed Rolling Stone piece on your infamous “Jesus is a Cunt” design. Do you ever step back and think, “All this controversy – this is all based upon a shirt?”

Filth: It’s ridiculous, but it keeps rearing it’s head through so many strange occurrences. The last one was ridiculous. The fact that it was being shown in a museum in New Zealand was weird enough. But the fact that someone was anti- and wanted it covered up (and go to the lengths she did), highlighted the shirt and brought it to a much larger, worldwide audience. The whole thing is just insane. Little things like that have marked it’s history. Even people getting arrested, and it’s been used by fashion models on catwalks. It’s been worn by a couple of weird celebrities and has been crossed referenced on a few TV shows (such as Californication). It is strange, and it always rears its ugly head under strange circumstance.

Dead Rhetoric: Switching gears a bit, where did the idea of doing the Cradle of Filth graphic novel come from?

Filth: We love dipping our toes in the proverbial soup every now and then. We did the movie Cradle of Fear back in the day, we wrote the Gospel of Filth, which was this massive encyclopedia about everything we talk about in our lyrics. A massive book, it took us 5 years to write. When the opportunity arose, via the co-author Kurt Amacker – who already wrote comic books for other people and was a friend of mine and suggested it. I thought it was cool, and he suggested that we do it through Kickstarter. He said it would keep it out of my hair and it gives the fans these amazing opportunities to do things, like being drawn into the comic book or have Skype conversations. It was a win-win situation. Being a big fan of comic books, I wanted to do something that was a bit integral to the ideology of Cradle of Filth. It explored a mythical back-history, involving characters like the demoness Lilith. It’s seemed like a really good idea and it’s been very successful – it’s being distributed worldwide and it’s cool. It’s something else.

On the other hand, I don’t know why we bother sometimes, because we do get a lot of detractors, and they say “eh, what was the point of that?” And they are missing the point by saying that. It’s not a money-making scheme and such. The amount of time that you put into it doesn’t really warrant what you get out of it. You are working for way less than minimum wage. It’s just a love thing. It’s being able to say, “yeah we did that, and we did it really well.” With the movie and the encyclopedia, it’s just another string to our bow.

Dead Rhetoric: You mentioned detractors – do you feel that the band has been skewered in that sense? It feels like it was a bigger thing long ago, and you’ve outlasted them at this point. But do you feel that the band was slagged for being in the spotlight?

Filth: I think it’s better to be talked about than not to be talked about. I haven’t got time for it. As long as 51% are in favor of the band, then the majority always wins. Really, I’m so busy that I haven’t got time in the slightest for anyone saying things bad. Even if I wanted to, I look at it with mild amusement nowadays. If I ever see anything online, not on Blabbermouth as it’s to be expected – but on our Facebook page, if someone is writing something derogatory, I just think it’s the most pathetic thing I’ve ever read in my life. You’ve just wasted your time telling other people who like the band your pathetic little thoughts when you could be actually be doing something creative about something you do love. Like or I’ You just think, why are you bothering? Why?

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