Interview: Cradle Of Filth

Cradle of Filth, the royalty of all extreme metal bands, return with their new album, The Manticore & Other Horrors, this Halloween, spilling their blood, guts, and gore upon the red carpet of European lands with their upcoming tour in November & December. Lead singer, Dani Filth, talks to Bearded about music, mythological beasts, literature, horror movies, and paranormal activities...

Interview: Cradle Of Filth Bearded: The Manticore and Other Horrors is the band’s tenth studio album, what makes it different from the previous albums that Cradle Of Filth has offered?

Dani: Well firstly, it’s a new album. Since it is our tenth studio album, we are at a junction in our career where we feel relaxed about what to do. As with most records, we always write primarily for ourselves and then for our fans. So with that in mind, it’s definitely still Cradle of Filth. It’s cinematic, emotive, its fast, its dark, its ornate and symphonic. But there are also a few elements that people have picked out; that it’s very analogue sounding, with lush warm sounds with an emphasis on groove and hardcore punk riffs. We’ve used a few different, more modern samples, which we haven’t done before. We wrote as a three piece actually – myself, Paul Allender, the guitarist, and Martin, the drummer who also did the keyboards on the album as well. So there are a lot of elements to this record which build up to a noticeable bigger picture.

B: It has been self-labelled as your ‘tenth commandment in metal’ – there is almost a finality to this statement – like the closing chapter at the end of a creative cycle. Will the band be exploring other avenues musically in the future or would it be a kind of rebirth back to the beginning of your origins?

D: To be fair, I wouldn’t reach too much into it. We mentioned ‘tenth’ as it is our tenth album and we were just being biblical. I actually thought that we recorded our tenth album about three albums ago but that’s because we had some long play EPs like V Empire and Bitter Suites To Succubi, and then there are the live albums. It’s quite a round number and a big milestone for the band. Perhaps we have closed a chapter with this album – we sort of reinvented ourselves, at least we’ve been re-embraced by the British press. There’s comments that COF are back and another magazine said that we’ve never went away. It’s just how people look upon it. Thing is we have been busy in America, with the American/South American tours and summer festivals in Europe so we haven’t gone away in some countries. America’s a lot of hard work so we’ve been reaping the rewards there. Yeah, I think we’ve been embraced again by British press.

B: The mythological beast, Manticore, is said to have the body of a red lion, a human head and a voice which is a mixture of pipes and a trumpet. Why was the Manticore chosen specifically for the title?

D: There are a lot of different mythological stories about that creature and I really love the Lovecraftian aspects of it. I’ve also been over to India quite a few times and people over there still believe in this weird beast. There is also the tribute to Queen Victoria’s rape of the Indian Provinces. They likened the British lion rampant to a Manticore with a human face of Queen Victoria. It was a bit of a slur back at the time, with those who opposed the occupation saying this poisonous beast was bleeding their country dry. When the song was first being developed, when I first heard it, it had aspirations of being something more ethnic, like ‘Doberman Pharoah’, from our album, Damnation And A Day, which is about the dissolution of the Jews immediate, the whole Exodus. It had an Egyptian vibe to it straight away; I could just hear it, and much the same with this track. I guess inspirations comes from all walks of life, the time of year it was written, what you’re reading, what you’re watching. I couldn’t tell you how the start happened other than the song suggested something of that ilk.

B. Speaking of voice, it has been said that your vocal range spans several octaves. What are the side-effects of using your voice to such an extent? Have there been any incidents whilst performing on a live show?

D: Because I go high and low and everything else in between – or try to at least, I have to have an in-ear system – our gigs are very loud and raucous visual stage shows. There’s a collision of everything against the senses which can be disorientating so it’s always good to have this ear pack. However, if the device isn’t tuned properly you can sometimes have problems with the sound where you just can’t pitch right. But I guess it’s something that happens to everyone who plays a show using such a device. However, I have been trained not to lose my voice. I go to see a guy who usually deals with opera singers who does this weird face and neck massage. It sounds pleasant but it’s actually very painful but it loosens everything up much like a physio will work on a footballer’s knee or tennis elbow.

B: So there’s not miming - like Cheryl Cole on X Factor for instance?

D: God I’m so bad miming! I did it on our last video and at least once every time we’d do it, I’d just fuck it up and say the wrong thing. It’s a real art. It might actually be harder than singing.

B: It is evident from your atmospheric lyrics that you have a passion for writing, with gothic literature such as Lovecraft, Shelley and Milton being cited as influences. You mentioned that you have recently written an illustrated book of poetry. Could you tell us how you create ideas for your poems? Do you adapt to traditional techniques such as metre and rhythm in your verses?

D: Yeah, I am a bit Pentathlon or whatever (laughs) Actually, with the poetry thing, stylistically it’s a bit Roald Dahl– a bit quirky, fantastical, there’s also a more traditional 19th century style. I’m not very good at poetry if I don’t use rhyme– I got into it from writing lyrics. I like how words can skip along and criss-cross and other words rhyme from different couplets etc. I’m useless, absolutely useless at doing any particular poetry that doesn’t rhyme. It just not poetry to me anymore , it becomes like a shopping list. But there are some very strange ornate 18th century styles of rhyming where you only get the gist of it after you’ve read 8 or 9 stanzas when you suddenly realise that “Oh, this rhymes with line 101. Wow!”

B: Are you thinking of publishing the poetry?

D: Yes, it’s being illustrated by a guy called Sam Araya, who did our artwork for the Thornography album and I’ve kept in touch with him since. The illustrations are finished but as with all the other projects, like Gospel of Filth (book), Cradle of Fear (movie) and the orchestral album, Midnight in Labyrinth, it’s a case of fitting it all in. There are 25 illustrations and they’re all very Pre-Renaissance in style with an archaic gloth but modern twist. So I guess whenever we can fit it in but not at the moment with the tour and promotion of the album.

B: Regarding the Other Horrors in the title of the album, what kind of horrors does this refer to?

D: The title of the album is reminiscent of Edgar Allan Poe’s, The Raven and Other Stories, with the other horrors referring to the other songs on the album. Whilst the last two albums were concept records - this one isn’t, but I still saw the songs as themes orbiting a bigger picture. In Layman’s terms, some journalists have referred to it as ‘an album full of monsters’, which is cool if they want to label it as that.

B: Speaking of monsters, if you were to conceive a monster inside the womb of your own gothic fiction, what counterparts would the monster be made of?

D: I was doing this thing for Halloween last week for an American magazine where I thought we were talking about the album and they said, “Oh no, this is about your top 10 mythological monsters”, and I literally had to scrabble around in my brain for an answer. It all came out that five of them were sea dwelling octopoid, big slimy horrors, like Zulu for example and funnily enough, the Loch Ness Monster came up along with Kraken and Leviathan. Yeah, I think it would be a lot like Zulu – huge amphibious, winged, tentacled nightmare.

B: The album, Godspeed On The Devil’s Thunder, was centred around the historical serial killer Gilles de Rais. Could you tell us wow the story was weaved into the narrative provided by Doug Bradley?

D: The story starts off with the death of Joan of Arc which was the catalyst as Gilles de Rais was her bodyguard, and from what was gathered from the trial transcripts and information which has been kept, he idolised her. Doug Bradley (Hellraiser) was basically narrating the trials from the transcript; it was authentic material and worked very well in the context of his transcent into madness because after Joan of Arc’s death that he went a bit mad. He had enormous wealth, he was one of the wealthiest people in France and he threw this massive pageant, travelling around the country as a free play documenting her win against the English. He felt so close to God with her that without her, he strayed away and thought that if he can’t be close to God anymore, I’d be close to the Devil. He spent a huge fortune on magical rites and all kind of things to get rid of his enemies. As his coppers grew low, he got involved with alchemy trying to replenish his fortune. Along the way, Satan demanded all these sacrifices and he ended up copulating with children and murdering them. He was a bit of a bugbear legend, Bluebeard. It’s really about his descent into madness and eventual arrest and trial. Originally, Doug Bradley’s part was played by Tony Todd, who played Candyman, however he was misinformed about what he was reading by his agent and he stormed out of the studio. We’d worked with Doug Bradley on several occasions in the past so he kindly stepped in.

B: The band recently shot the video for ‘Frost On Her Pillow’. Could you tell us a little about how the filming went?

D: It’s actually finished now and you can see it on our website. It was great – we were shooting in this disused boating yard in the heart of London’s docklands. It was a two day shoot with this big Winnebago parked up in the middle of it and the whole thing became a bit like a refugee camp. There was a Succubus and a Voodoo Priest – it was like Pan’s Labyrinth in the way it was shot – very fairy tale-esque. But we are shooting another one before we go out on tour. This one would be more of a horror one – setting fire and blowing the head off zombies etc. It’s going to be cool! It’ll be a night shoot in a big manor’s garden somewhere near Romford a couple of days after we release the album.

B: Have you ever experienced a paranormal activity during the shooting of any COF videos?

D: Not during a shooting for a video but I have in the past. We used to live in an old cottage in the heart of Suffolk in a town called Hadleigh, which the Witchfinder General, Mathew Hopkins, once stayed in. There duvet would lift up and the room would be freezing and things like that. There would be steaming gales where the window was shut and yet it felt like there was a storm going on. It happened several times.

B: It sounds like a Hammer movie to me. You seem to be heavily influenced by the classic Hammer movies of old. What do you think of the new Hammer movies that have been made so far? Are they ruining the legacy or adding to it?

D: I think I love Hammer movies like I do the Carry On movies – a bit of nostalgia. Looking back, a lot of them were really poor however there were some great ones. I liked the fact that they were shot in Technicolor, that they were dramatic and the acting was brilliant. But I also really like the new ones - Let Me In (the remake of Let the Right One In), Wake Wood was really good, and The Woman In Black was fantastic. I even liked the Wolfman, with Anthony Hopkins which I thought was very cinematic.

B: You quoted in your recent blog that ‘Siding with The Titans’, is one of your favourite tunes from the album. Could you tell me a bit about the backstory?

D: It’s metaphorical. The end of the world was portrayed by Lovecraftian entities coming back and usurping the world. It’s prevalent in a lot of myths; Greece, Roman and Lovecraftian mythology where literal titans who were released from prisons where they’re under the ground, in space or between the spheres. It’s really saying that on Judgement Day, I’ll just be on their side as there’s nothing else to do!

B: Finally, is the COF tour bus all satanic rituals and virgin sacrifices or is it more Harry Potter and Ker Plunk?

D: I wish! (laughs) No, it’s all good fun. We have very liberal attitudes and are laid back. We could almost be boring – that is until we have days off. Then it would turn from Harry Potter to something a little nastier when everybody lets rip! But for the most part, we try to make it a home away from home.