Exclusive Interview: Cradle of Filth’s Dani Filth
Dani Filth is, unsurprisingly, a hard man to get ahold of. The frontman for Cradle of Filth, arguably the most successful extreme metal band of all time, is extremely busy, and tracking him down for a phone interview takes a number of months. What is a surprise, then, is how funny and conversational the singer is when we finally get a chance to talk. Laid-back and full of good humor, Filth happily chats with me about his band’s legacy and their love of gothic horror in a way that displays a level of self awareness one might not entirely expect from a man who at any given moment is dressed like a baroque Cenobite.
It’s been twenty years since the Invoking The Unclean demo. How do you feel having been around for so long?
It feels good, good to still be here and be at the top of our game. Has it really been twenty years? It doesn’t feel like it. When this all started, we got into the band for the typical reasons—we wanted women, etcetera. My wife, then my girlfriend, was working a shitty job, and we were hoping to get a deal within a year. Then we got a deal, but one year later the band split in half, and in 1995 there was a lawsuit, but then again, that allowed us to do Dusk…And Her Embrace and Vempire or Dark Faerytales In Phallustein. If it wasn’t for that, we couldn’t have done those albums. There are a lot of times like that—you have your backs against the wall, so you go in guns blazing. Some band members have sailed along the way, too, but many of them did very little for the band. It was often like dragging a dead leg. And in all that time, you’ve been living a musician’s life, which is like dog years.
What’s kept Cradle of Filth going while so many bands like them have fallen by the wayside?
A lot of things. Great management, for one, which has been a constant since Dusk…. They’ve done things that have pissed the band off, but they were right for the band. There’s also a likeminded ideology and vision of what the band should be. We used to get too drunk and get thrown out of places, but now we all have a strong work ethic. Cradle of Filth have a great team behind us and a hard-working road crew.
A chief recurring theme in Cradle of Filth’s music and imagery is gothic horror, specifically vampirism. Tell me what that means to you.
I find that generation of gothic traditions, aesthetics, and literature quintessential to our work. It’s inherently British, isn’t it? We started in a village steeped in old witchcraft traditions. Matthew Hopkins, the witch hunter from Vincent Price’s Witchfinder General, used to live near there. A lot of that Hammer Horror-style, very British horror, is what Cradle of Filth have come to represent. The imagery of gothic culture, combined with metal theatrics and a cinematic kind of feel, have come into our style.
The Manticore and Other Horrors is a very solid record, but I’m not sure I’d call it a black metal record.
That’s never been a title that’s entirely worked for us, though. People these days, who’ve been around just after Damnation and a Day, are into what we do, but they talk about, ‘Well, I remember when they were…’ Just after our tour with Emperor, we were getting a lot of stick. ‘Ah, it’s just not black metal.’ For a long time, Cradle were the only British ‘black metal’ band, and we got a lot of shit from idiots who thought you had to have guys looking like badgers holding point sticks. Some people just disappear up their own asses. I was working on this project in Norway with Ice Dale from Enslaved and John Tempesta. We went out with the guys from God Seed and Immortal and some other unpronounceable band. And I was watching the guys from these bands drunk and singing along to YMCA, and I realized it was all sham! Abbath is like Ace Frehley! Immortal fucking love Kiss! We all just want to listen to early Destruction and Angel Witch. Who cared about your costume or outfit?
How would you describe the band’s sound on Manticore?
I think it’s much more akin to NWOBHM-type metal than black metal. Though it’s not limited to that. There’s a lot going on.
Your vocal style is usually a real high-pitched harpy shriek, but on Manticore it’s a little gruffer and more pronounceable.
Well, it was within my vocal ability to do it, and I wanted people to be able to hear my damn lyrics for once! I didn’t just want to do Dusk… again, same reason that Reign in Blood was made to sound different and clearer. I’d like people to understand what I’m saying, when a lot of the time these vocals can just sound like an orc with nails in his testes. I’ve always been deep into the occult, and would like people to hear these ideas and think about them.
The band is, at this point, down to a trio. How was that during the writing process?
We actually had four people working on the album. Paul had some help with writing, and our keyboardist does a lot of work but he had some help as well.
Over the years, through countless line-up changes, Paul Allender has remained a fixture in Cradle of Filth. How have you guys remained close?
None of us necessarily spend too much time hanging out when we’re not working. But Paul has got the Cradle vision down, and has a lot of great ideas to keep the fire going. He worked his ass off on this album, and he always does, which is part of our shared ideology for the band. In this kind of music, you need a person with similar ideas as to how a band should be.
With the lyrics on Manticore, specifically the song “Pallid Reflection,” you appear to be very self-aware and almost tongue-in-cheek.
There’s a lot of introspection going on with this album. Some of the lyrics can get a little lost in translation, but there’s meaning there—you’re writing about blobby terrors from beyond our world, but you’re really writing about yourself. A lot of the stuff on this album is about overcoming demons. In that way, it’s a rather positive record. It came out of a personal space and experiences.
You’re about to embark on a tour with The Faceless, Decapitated, and The Agonist [This tour was canceled soon after this interview. –Ed.], which is typical in that Cradle tend to tour with bands that don’t necessarily share your sound. Is that intentional?
I think all these bands appeal to us. In Europe, you generally tour with similar acts. It’s always a lot more concise. But it’s a lot more liberal in the US. I think the fans there see the Halloweeness of it all. We’re always undertaking tours with different bands. We’ve played with GWAR and CKY. In between Ozzfest dates, it was us, Killswitch Engage, and Shadows Fall. This is really no different from that. Extremity—that’s the connection.