Cradle of Filth
The Hand That Rocks The Cradle
13 February 2009
Words by Simon Milburn
Cradle Of Filth have belted out a constant stream of releases over the course of their almost 15 year history. But whilst vocalist/mastermind Dani Filth screams like a banshee on stage, he is quietly spoken as he relaxes at home in the middle of the English countryside doing the press side of things for his band's latest slab of metal. I caught up with Filth upon the release of Godspeed On The Devil's Thunder to talk about returning to Australian shores, swapping labels, line-up changes, creating their latest album, concept albums and Gilles de Rais, and just how his band's latest album has been received by fans and press alike.
“Great, yeah. Very good. I don't know if I'm surprised or not. Well, it's hard to say. It's hard to be objective from this side. I like to think it's a great record - well, I think it's a great record - but it's just nice to hear it from other people. It seems to be doing really well. People are really looking forward to the forthcoming tour, so, yeah, absolutely, it's going really well.”
History tells us that concept albums can be hit and miss with fans, but Filth is fairly confident that they sit very well with his band's fan base.
“I think our fans appreciate the sort of level of depth that concept records go to - y'know, the fact that there's a lot of interaction between the lyrics and the music and both of those and the artwork and presentation and our performance. I think they really get into it. You have to undertake this sort of thing carefully because it could easily turn into just a bunch of songs about a theme and it could also go the other way completely and be really laborious.”
Some subjects, especially those that are factual, can present an overwhelming amount of information that could be used as a part of a concept album, and with Gilles de Rais, that was definitely the case.
“Kind of, yeah. We just turned it to our advantage and turned it into this gothic fairytale really. It's all about the killings. It's all about the reasons for the turning away from God, his fall from grace, and eventual redemption - it's just a vast depiction of just the nasty stuff. But obviously, if we made it too nice, it'd make for quite an unrewarding Cradle Of Filth record. We're not the Foo Fighters or anything like that.”
It's interesting to note that this album was not intended as a concept album initially. That came around well into the writing process.
“It wasn't until we'd written probably half the music that we decided that that would be a good idea that the music was going in that direction,” Filth explains. “It had a big feel to it, very atmospheric, and that kind of what turned me on to pursuing the Gilles de Rais idea because to me, a lot of the atmospheres were very reminiscent of some of our earlier work and hence forth, I went back through some old notebooks, lyrical notebooks, that I've kept since the Cruelty And The Beast days and this is ten years on from Cruelty And The Beast, so it just seemed that the stars were right. We'd already decided who we were gonna do the album with - we decided that Andy Sneap was the guy. He had spoken to us about how he wanted to record the record. So everything else was prepared. But only until about half way through, like I say, the writing of the music did we decide to make this a concept record about Gilles de Rais.”
Gilles de Rais was not a new subject to the vocalist and lyricist. Past lyrical ideas and scrawlings were the spark behind the topic of the band's latest effort.
“Like I say, just looking back through lyric books and I stumbled across his name. I'd done some research on him in the past and I thought 'Well, it's been ten years since Cruelty And The Beast and I know it's another medieval aristocratic prolific serial killer but it's something that can be the basis for a dark fairytale and it's been ten years.' So, I approached a friend of mine, Gavin Badley, who is an occult historian, and asked him the best books to read in particular that would elevate us above the usual person's understanding of the subject and it just went from there really.”
Although the subject matter may have been touched on in the past, to turn it into the dark fairytale that Filth envisioned, Filth had to buckle down and do his homework on de Rais first. He soon found himself researching de Rais and his antics for some time, which like all research, is what you make of it depending on your interest level in the topic.
“A couple of months, yeah. It depends on if you're into it. Everything's hard work if you're not into it. But no, it was ok.”
But even though de Rais might not have been a stranger to Filth, he still managed to learn a few new things along the way.
“It wasn't so much what I learned. People know what went on. It was more the other things - the Catholic ... er ... his kind of spiritual love affair with Joan Of Arc, the fact that he gave himself up or wanted to give himself up it would appear, he was quite a devout Christian by day and being a scholar, he wasn't into quantum physics back then, it was alchemy and demonology and all these other sorts of things that the Church banned. So there were other parts aside from the brutality of the tale that surprised me.”
The hard work was the reading and research. Once that was out of the way, the lyric writing process was easy.
“Yeah. We sort of twisted it into our own little way. We wanted to make it into a horror, gothic novella. Once the research was out of the way, it was plain sailing.”
Taking into consideration that this is a concept album, Filth was focussed on what he needed to achieve with the album to make it work.
“We wanted to make sure that the lyrics didn't get in the way of the music and that they both work together in unison and that the lyrics coloured the vocals with what was happening in the lyrics reflected in the music and vice versa. It was very cinematic.”
With Filth's comments about the album being cinematic, it must be asked then if there are any plans to perform the album in it's entirety at some point in time.
“Perhaps, yeah. Maybe. I went to see Maiden do the same thing with A Matter Of Life And Death and it was completely boring and most of the audience were (bored) as well. So, I don't know really. When we come to Australia, people expect us to play the set they want to hear - the hits, really. I mean, it would be an idea, yeah, and there's been some talk of doing it, but it's an early stage and we haven't even started touring for this album yet but it maybe something we come across, yeah.”
But even for this veteran of dark concept albums, there were still challenges to overcome even with this album.
“Um, like I said, just making sure it all works and that there's no fillers or anything like that, and that people can enjoy it solely as a collection of cool Cradle Of Filth tracks as well as being a story. It has to work on every level. That was the hardest part about it - not running away with itself and just making it too overblown, too long and having filler songs. There's no filler songs. There's nothing that we all thought 'We need to bridge a gap between one idea and another. Let's put this in.' That was probably the hardest part.”
Along the way though, particularly over the past couple of albums, the band has seen members come and go. Filth's approach seems to come from how you roll with the punches of line-up changes even though it can be distracting.
“Yeah, it can be, yeah. It can be very distracting. But it's just one of those things that you get on with. I do think that people seem to forget that we work constantly throughout the year, and people say, 'Oh but you've got a new drummer on this album,' and we say, 'Well, no, he's actually been in the band for two and a half years.' It's an awful long time when you've been doing show after show after show and in the studios and press trips and everything else that goes around with the band. Sometimes I guess it's like when people work at magazines. The magazine still has the same title, the same outlook, doing what the magazine does in whatever genre it happens to fall in. But, along the way, there'll be different editors, different press people and it's just the same here, and unfortunately these are things that happen. Sometimes, people aren't good enough to carry on, other times people find the work too hard or want to spend time with families or to go back to university - it's just one of those things that happen to ensure that the engine runs smoothly continually.”
To say that Cradle Of Filth copped some flack over their move to Sony Music for their 2003 opus, Damnation And A Day, would be an understatement. The cries of 'sell out' were somewhat silenced by the band's only album to be released on a major label. Since then, they've settled into a new home at Roadrunner Records, and it's a position that Filth is pleased with.
“Yeah, (it's) cool. I mean, it has the same flaws as every other record label I guess but we seem to be sitting very well with them. It's actually our third and theoretically last record if that is the case which we haven't even begun to talk about yet. We have the next year and a half worth of touring to undertake, so, it's just something for us and our management to address when the time arises.”
The label changes and line-up changes are a part of the band's almost 15 year history. In that time, the metal scene has changed quite a bit as well, so it's interesting to see where Filth sees his band within today's metal scene.
“Well, it's not really for me to comment about that sort of thing. I don't really know. I get on and do my job and that's it. We all love what we do but we're not really interested where we sit or whatever. We sell more records than any other black metal band on the planet so I'd like to think we're near the top at least of our own sort of respective scene. Other than that, it doesn't really interest us. I know we've taken Gorgoroth, Moonspell and Satyricon and Septic Flesh out on tour with us. Um, I really don't know. I don't have time to worry about that sort of thing.”
No doubt Cradle Of Filth have been busy over the last few years. So much so that it's been almost eight years since they've played to Australian audiences.
“Well it takes an awful lot of money and time to get to Australia and you have to do it with Japan as well in order to be able to afford to do it. We were never going to come across and do it at an amazing loss to ourselves because basically our band is our job and no one would go work for less money than what they started with, would they? It would be ridiculous. We do have plans for May to come over and all the details are kind of with our booking agent at the moment. He is sorting it out. At the moment I think we have until about April locked down with the second leg of our Filth Fest tour and then that's the next thing on the agenda. So people should really keep a look out on our website.”
Filth has a few fond memories of the band's last tour but more importantly, is confident that the band will be back this time around.
“I remember having a day off in Sydney - that was cool. It was great shows. We've wanted to come back but we've been doing a lot of albums obviously and the normal tour rigmarole and as I say we didn't have the opportunity to come down. But that's going to change with this record.”
Cradle Of Filth's latest album, Godspeed On The Devil's Thunder, is out now on Roadrunner Records through Warner Music Australia. Cradle Of Filth are bringing their live show down under for the first time in years. Check out Cradle Of Filth on the following Australian dates in May 2009: 22 May, Metro City, Perth; 24 May, Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide; 26 May, Palace Theatre, Melbourne; 28 May, The Metro, Sydney; 31 May, The Arena, Brisbane. For more information on Cradle Of Filth, check out www.cradleoffilth.com.