Interview: Cradle of Filth
Wed, 29 Oct 2008 11:53:48
Cradle of Filth Videos
"Honey and Sulphur" is more than just the lead single from Cradle of Filth's latest black metal opus, Godspeed on the Devil's Thunder. It's the perfect description of the band's sound. Seductively saccharine gothic melodies give way to scorching riffs and demonic double bass. Cradle of Filth have become the face of black metal. They're the perfect gateway drug for the genre, and they've converted their fair share of hard rock fans into full-fledged underground metal heads. Cradle's been around for a long time, but they manage to stay sinister, especially on their latest offering. Frontman Dani Filth sat down with ARTISTdirect to discuss finding literary inspiration, working with Dario Argento and crafting his own tome of evil in this exclusive interview.
Godspeed on the Devil's Thunder sounds like your most extreme record yet. It's quite a statement.
We were on fire after headlining that Viva La Bands tour for Bam Margera last year. We thought we'd get as much written as we could before Christmas. We were full of the fire of playing live. Also, an interesting fact, after Christmas, it was the year 2008. We realized that it'd been 10 years since our album Cruelty and the Beast came out. That album was about this medieval serial killer, Elizabeth Bathory. At the time of Cruelty, I remember writing a load of notes about Gilles De Rais and thinking it was too soon to do something similar to the Elizabeth Bathory story again. Ten years after, I read through my old notes and went, "Hey, this is a good idea!" The music was in that vein, after playing with all the bands that we had. Keep in mind, we've had a new drummer for the last couple of years. On this new record, he was like the powerhouse behind the change in pace. You're right, it's a return to form, I think. Not saying that any of the previous records weren't, but it's a return to form in the fact that the keyboards create a real melodrama.
How did you come across the story of Gilles De Rais?
I did a load of research back in 1997 for the Elizabeth Bathory Cruelty and the Beast record. The two go hand-in-hand. It reflects in the records as well. The Elizabeth Bathory record is a bit more feminine, while I'd say that this is a more masculine version of that record, probably due to the subject matter. I came across the story way back then, and I'd written notes prior to cross-collaterizing everything. Since then, I've revisited the notes, and I've immersed myself in loads of research as well. It's European, but it's not a story that's really known worldwide. It's not like everyone in Europe knows this tale. That's not the case at all. When I was revisiting the notes, I said, "Christ, this is perfect. It's like it was written for us." It's actually a more interesting story than the Elizabeth Bathory one is.
What especially attracted you to this story?
It has elements of everything, and there's a real redemptive factor to it. The fact is, as a marshal's son, protector and one-time bodyguard of Joan of Arc, Gilles de Rais was very pious and Christian. He became marshal of France, and he was like a guardian of France. He became overly wealthy. People looked to him as the defender of France from the English. Once he separated from Joan of Arc, he was pronounced as a heretic or false prophet. He suddenly lost faith. My interpretation is, he'd come as close as you could to touching god. When he retired from the war and he had this enormous wealth and fortune, he fell forward and completely went the other way. He went to extremes of Satanism, Diabolism and demon worship in order to replenish his ever-diminishing fortune. He spent so much of this huge fortune on just traveling around France, re-enacting the plays about Joan of Arc's triumph. I read a book that mentioned he had thousands of people in his entourage. He was working like Bill Gates [Laughs]. I think that's the interesting thing. He went from being close to God to being the complete opposite, and then he came back in the end, seeking redemption so he could finally be cured. His whole story is fascinating.
It's quite a rollercoaster. You can feel that on the album. There's a real ebb and flow of emotion, sonically and lyrically.
Yeah, the album starts off with a bang. The first couple songs that get into the story are very lovelorn. Then the album is like a rollercoaster into the dark path. He becomes aligned with alchemists, starts experimenting and advocating Satan. It's like a different time frame for the storyline. The whole thing is special. The artwork is just out of this world. The booklet's fully illustrated. It's so good. I can't really describe it. It's just fantastic and surreal. It combines all of the elements and parts of the story in there. When you look through the booklet, it's almost like walking through the story visually.
Cradle of Filth has always had a great cohesion between image and music. On this album, it seems more full realized than ever. Would that be an accurate assessment?
I'd say so, yeah. I'd be a fool not to [Laughs]. I agree totally. I think the stars have all come right on this. Everybody who worked on the record was fully immersed in the whole mythology of the whole dynamic storyline. We've got a perfect working relationship with Andy Sneap [producer]. We were just locked away in a studio for three months. We brought back people that we'd worked with in the past. Everything felt streamlined.
The title track and "Corpseflower" make for the perfect conclusion.
That second to last song adopted the album title in and of itself. When I remember the old school thrash days, on a Metallica record, you'd always expect the last song to really sum up the album. It wouldn't end on a slow note. It'd just be "Bang." We wanted to end the album with a real in-your-face, fast song, but it goes through a rollercoaster of emotions and feelings before ending up in that gorgeous medieval outro.
It's very grandiose, but it's very accessible. Have you started thinking of music video ideas yet?
I was just given treatments for the video from some people we've worked with in the past. We're going to do a video for "Honey and Sulphur." That track really sums up the album.
“The album is like a rollercoaster into the dark path.”
How was working on a song for the Dario Argento film, Mother of Tears?
I did that, and the film came out last November. There's a special edition of our new album coming out at exactly the same time as the standard edition. There are a couple of tracks that weren't in the main story. We kept them back because they would've made the album over 80 minutes long. Some of those tracks are on there. There are also demos, which are really interesting as well. Then there's a remix of the "Death of Love" called "The Love of Death." There are a couple of tracks released on the MVI. So I think in total, there are 12 extra songs. That comes out exactly the same time as the normal album. This way people can't go, "Oh what a rip-off." They have the choice to buy an album with 13 tracks or with 25 tracks. The song from Mother of Tears was going to be on there, but it's actually not. I got the soundtrack for the film a couple weeks ago, and I'm quite pleased. My song was actually the title song on the credits.
Collaborating with Dario Argento is quite an honor. Were you a fan of his earlier work?
Definitely, I thought films like Tenebre, Suspiria and Opera were great.
He's got a dark orchestral aesthetic that he mixes with real Satanic themes, similar to Cradle of Filth.
It's funny that you should say it, because he really does that. He's got that dark symphonic sensibility. He does the same thing with colors. If you look back at his early work, especially like Tenebre and Suspiria, they have this very Techinicolor, Disney-esque look to them. That has a certain thematic presence to it as well.
You guys have had that vibrancy too because every element has always stood out. It's got to be great to find a kindred artistic spirit like that.
They're few and far between. It's good with this artist that we've used because he does a lot of corporate work, and when he comes to us he can unleash his dark side. All of the things that he's got pent up can come out in his art. The artwork is very vibrant and different. It's very fairytale-ish in a way that's very adult. You can look at it and go, "It's very fairytale." Sometimes people do fairytale-inspired artwork, and it doesn't really conjure up how you would expect an album to be. People that want to look serious will always have photography or photographic artwork. This is a blend of painting and photography, and it is very fairytale. However, it comes across as even more sinister and violent because of the subject matter and vibrancy of the story.
You've had that aesthetic forever too, so it works in the context of Cradle of Filth.
We've also steered away from making it too "Medieval" [Laughs]. It is timeless, but there aren't any blades or anything [Laughs]. It has that timeless representation. The medium being used is so modern that it balances out nicely. It's medieval, and it's futuristic and up-to-date. You don't look at it and go, "Oh my God, this is an album about people fighting with swords."
That modern gothic sensibility adds in an element of seduction as well.
Yeah, this artwork definitely draws you in.
What's happening with your book? Is it being released around the same time as the album?
The special edition will be. Initiallly, there's going to be a leatherbound version with an extra chapter in it. It's complicated to explain why it is has to be that way, but it has something to do with the fact that it's going to be published worldwide. That's coming out, and it's going to be available through our web site. That's going to be limited to about 20,000 copies. Then, after Christmas and the New Year, the book that you'll find in Borders and all of those shops is coming out. It gives the fan base an opportunity to get it first. It is very special. Even now, we've been working on it for three-and-a-half years. I just got chapter four back from the publisher with the artwork. It's been a race against time to get it finished. It's a huge back. It covers everything from dark romanticism and witchcraft to the occult. It's one of these books that you could pick up at any time and find something completely new and fascinating because it's got insight from so many people. It's got what I think is Anton Lavey's last ever interview in there. We've got interviews with Tim Burton, Marilyn Manson, Tom Araya, Glen Benton, Christopher Lee and Clive Barker. It's like a literal tome where you can open it up and always find something to be blown away by.
It's got your history too, right?
Kind of, I don't want to scare people off by making them think it's just a Cradle of Filth book because it's not at all. The thing that retains it being Cradle of Filth is it has little blocks out where I come in on things the same as all these other people. Mainly, it's a history of the occult and people's fascination with the dark side. It's been co-written with an occult historian. It draws parallels and comparisons between us. For example, chapter five is called "Dusk and Her Embrace." Each chapter is named after a different album. That chapter in and of itself is about the advent of Gothicism, from mystic times up through the current music scene and the music scene in the '80s. "Godspeed On the Devil's Thunder" is obviously the last chapter. That deals with medieval mysticism, oblivion and things like that. It draws parallels, but it's not a Cradle of Filth book at all. If you picked it up at Borders, you'd pick it up in the occult section, and it'd be a huge encyclopedic celebration of the dark side with a passing nod to me or Cradle as a guide, basically. The guy that we'd written it with had conducted a load of these interviews before the book was even incepted. It's almost like people give their stamp of approval so you know the information is authentic. When you've got Quentin Crowley and interviews with people like Anton Lavey in the book—there's no higher authority on the subject.