Exquisite Torments: An Interview with Dani Filth

Love them or hate them, Cradle of Filth occupy a very important place in the heavy metal pantheon. With a style of music that in their early days was seen as aligned with the Norwegian black metal scene, they were among the first bands that broke out of the underground and made harder, extreme music palatable for a wider audience.
Meeting Dani Filth only a couple of days after their show in this year’s edition of Bloodstock, there was certainly a lot of ground to cover. With a new album under their belt, and a fanbase that can put most bands to shame, there was certainly a lot to cover.

Photo: Alexander Trinitatov

I don’t think that we’ve gone out of our way to be shocking.

MB: Hi Dani, thank you for taking the time today, especially so close after your performance with Devilment. On that note, do you feel that the live shows have become more difficult as the years pass? I know that you put a lot of effort with your style of singing, so I can imagine it gets harder and harder.
Dani: I guess so. A tour is really a big mountain to climb when it’s just starting, but once it’s on its way, and you’re in a good team, it gets easier and easier. You’re not physically doing a huge amount on stage, although you do a lot of the stuff that happens “in the background” (the interviews, etc.).

MB: I was recently reading that you’ve defined Cryptoriana, your new album as “a cross between The Hammer of the Witches and Cruelty and the Beast”. These are two albums that represent two very different stages for Cradle of Filth. Cruelty, on the one hand, being at the time considered “an essential black metal record,” whereas Hammer was seen as more symphonic and Gothic. What do you mean exactly when you see this new one as a combination or a mix?
Dani: This album has a big New Wave of British Heavy Metal sound to it. By that I mean a lot of twin guitar works, and which heralds us back to Cruelty and the Beast. At the same time I align with Hammer of the Witches because it is our previous record (same line-up, same studio), and some of the songs in Cryptoriana were actually from that recording session, but were then developed further.

MB: CoF were considered a very shocking black meta band when you started (you are even mentioned in the seminal book on black metal “Lords of Chaos”); how do you feel that this changed over the years? Especially for a musician like yourself, it must become harder and harder to be shocking.
Dani: I think that, for starters, apart from the Jesus shirt (which we saw as an anarchic statement, not as a satanic one… not to mention hilarious) I don’t think that we’ve gone out of our way to be shocking.

By definition, because of what we are as a band, we stand over that proverbial line where people might deem things to be “shocking,” but I think that nowadays the world has moved forward. If you watch a lot of TV programs, stuff like The Walking Dead, they contain scenes that back in the early 80’s would have been deemed X-rated, and yet now they pass as “normal.” The world has moved forwards in that respect.
There have been times when people have challenged Cradle of Filth for being like that, for being too ornate, too poetic, for having this cavalcade of “gothicness” surrounding us. Whereas on one side there were people who thought that we were a “shocking” band, others thought we weren’t shocking enough! We’ve always straddled that line, that juxtaposition.

MB: I remember back in the day buying the VHS of From the Cradle to Enslave, the one that included the x-rated version of the videoclip. It does seem to be like there was a desire to be seen as rupturist, and that this has become harder because, as you said, a lot of popular culture has become harsher.
Dani: That video was a prelude to Cradle of Fear as well. The director was an underground b-movie horror director, and that’s how the video was steered. If you compare that to our latest video for Heartbreak and Seance,” it’s on the same level, but it’s got a completely different feel to it.

MB: Speaking of movies… is that something that you’re still interested in pursuing? Because I do see in your videos that there’s obviously a very cinematic element to your band’s image, even if, of course, the music stands on its own.
Dani: Yes, I think so. I’ve done a few voice overs for a cartoon movie lately, and a small bit part for a film called “Baphomet” (and it really is just a bit part where I play a doctor of the occult), but it’s definitely something I’d like to do.
It’s not as cut and dry as just wanting to do it though, since we spend a lot of time making Cradle of Fear, and for not exactly a lot of money. We employed people on deferred payment (meaning they got paid when the film went into money, which it did), and borrowed people from other movies. It was all very guerrilla and underground. We borrowed people, sets, make-up artists and actors. It was a lot of work, a real labor of love, and I don’t know if we’d be able to do that again. I’m not saying that I wouldn’t want to do it, since it would be a great idea, but I just seem to get busier and busier. 

MB: Well, last year you released something with Devilment, and now you’re doing it with Cradle of Filth. Even when Cradle of Fear was released it was already surprising that you had the time to make a film, so obviously it’s even harder now. It’s nice to see that you still want to do it, even if time doens’t really allow for it.
Dani: Well, there are a lot of things that I would like to do. I really want to write my first novel. I wrote a poetry book, but didn’t get around to releasing it… I don’t know why, maybe I was just a bit embarassed by the time I finished writing it [laughs] I looked back on it and thought “… it’s OK, but I’ll just keep it personal.”
It would be nice to get back on the movie side of things. As you said, the band is very visual, but even just shooting a video like “Heartbreak and Seance” we had to spend a weekend in Latvia to do it, and we had to combine the artwork, photography and video budget into it to make it happen.

Photo: Art?rs B?rzi?š

MB: When it comes to the poetry. Is it in the style of Edgar Allan Poe, sticking to the gothic style, or something else?
Dani: I think you can say that… I’d go as far as calling it POOetry!

 

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Considered by his mother as the brightest and prettiest boy, J’s interest in metal started in his early teens, listening to bands like Iron Maiden and Metallica (coupled with an embarrassing period in which Marilyn Manson “totally represents me, man”) eventually moving into the realm of power, black, and death metal.
He holds a PhD in law, trains martial arts, practices law, and enjoys coming up with excuses as to why he has to miss work after going to a concert. He also dabbles as a concert photographer, you can see his sub-par work on his instagram.