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Total Fucking Darkness: An Exclusive Interview With CRADLE OF FILTH Frontman Dani Filth

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Monday, June 16, 2014 @ 9:19 AM

“It seemed like we were destined for failure, but we just fought hard against it and that's where we are now.”

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If there was ever a band that exemplified the “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” spirit it is English miscreants CRADLE OF FILTH. The band’s 20-plus year career has featured a never-ending series of lineup changes (nearly 40 members have been on the roster, with several coming and going more than once), battles with labels, legal squabbles and censorship issues – not to mention a visa snafu the put the kibosh on their last U.S. tour in 2013.

What was to have been CRADLE’s debut album in 1992, Goetia, not only was never released, all but one track was erased. The band then ended up recording its second album, 1996’s Dusk And Her Embrace, twice after the lineup fragmented during legal proceedings with another label.

Today finds CRADLE OF FILTH and frontman Dani Filth (aka Daniel Davey), the lone original and constant member, in an all-to-familiar position – addressing personnel changes and negotiating for another label deal. In April, longtime guitarist Paul Allender announced his departure. The band’s other guitarist, James McIlroy, went on the disabled list with a chronic neck injury and doesn't seem likely to return. So CRADLE is forging ahead with touring guitarists Richard Shaw and Marek “Ashok” Šmerda and has begun working on material for a new album to be released next year on an as-yet-undetermined label.

Yet while all this has been going on, Dani Filth delved deep into the CRADLE archives to unearth the band’s third demo, 1992’s Total Fucking Darkness, and other material from that era for a re-release that “hit stores” in May, as well as crafting the story for a graphic novel, The Curse of Venus Aversa, with comic book author Kurt Amacker that should be out soon as well. This fall will also see the release of the debut album Filth recorded with the band DEVILMENT.

During an interview via Skype, Filth offered the following about CRADLE OF FILTH’s long and turbulent history, revisiting the old days and how a band that seemed doomed from the outset became one of extreme metal’s most popular acts.

KNAC.COM: Since you're promoting Total Fucking Darkness, I'd like to focus on the old days, but before we get to that I wanted to address the current status of CRADLE OF FILTH since a lot's been going of late.

DANI FILTH: Cool, however you'd like. With this band there's always lots to talk about (laughs).

KNAC.COM: Paul Allender is out of the band again?

FILTH: Yeah, he decided he wanted to pursue his other project [WHITE EMPRESS]. He'd moved to America anyway, quite a while ago, in fact, a few years now. And he had some personal issues, so he was unable to undertake our recent co-headline tour with BEHEMOTH. And then I guess he decided “I'm quite happy just doing my thing in America,” producing, doing his side project. It was an amicable split really.

KNAC.COM: So no huge surprise, no real drama?

FILTH: Not at all. It was a mutual parting of the ways, I guess. We also had the situation with James where he'd hurt his neck and was out of action. It looks strange on paper, obviously this band has had quite a few lineup changes, and it has been odd, but it's been amicable and everything. We had to find two guitarists for the tour regardless, because James needed an operation to repair his spine [which he ended up opting not to get at the last minute] and Paul had personal issues that kept him from doing the tour so we had to find guys to replace them. We weren't about to back out of the tour. With the news that Paul wasn't going to rejoin the band, it was easy enough to say, “OK, fair enough. We've got two great guitarists who've been out on tour with us” and move on from there. And the band are currently writing, I think we've got nine or 10 songs penned already.

KNAC.COM: Well that answers two of my next questions, whether James was still in the picture and if the guitarist turnover was having any impact on the songwriting. Apparently it is not?

FILTH: No, no, no, no. We actually wrote a few songs whilst we were on tour. I've written one set of lyrics thus far and we're sort of collating the music, what's gonna work, what isn't gonna work, and it's all sounding fantastic. Twin guitar harmonies back in. I hate harking back to older glories, but people are asking does it sound like Dusk? Does it sound like Cruelty? But I would say is has that kind of flavor to it, mainly because of the twin guitar harmonies. Keyboards, Lindsay [Schoolcraft]'s doing a fantastic job on that, and Martin [Skaroupka], the drummer, he also writes keys as well as plays drums. So we quite a big pool to pull songs from and everybody is very excited about it.The band are actually in negotiations at the moment with a new record company, I can't disclose who it is yet because I don't want to jinx anything.

KNAC.COM: That's not new territory for the band either?

FILTH: No (laughs) it is not. But it's going to be a good collaboration with the label we're signing to. The contract's with our lawyers at the present, so it should only be a matter of a few weeks before that gets sorted out. And before we continue, I've got another band that I'd like to mention called DEVILMENT. They are going to be signing to the same label. And Paul Ryan, who is the guy I started the band [CRADLE] with back in college, he came onboard to help with this Total Fucking Darkness reissue, and since then we've become good friends again. He's a booking agent, quite a big booking agent with The Agency Group here in Europe, and because of that he's come onboard as management for DEVILMENT. So it's all quite incestuous.

KNAC.COM: Or goes around comes around?

FILTH: Yeah. I think it was about September of last year a mutual friend put us in contact, so we all met up and went for a curry, had a beer and got chatting and it rollercoastered from there, really. The idea to put out the demos, with some new material, just kind of cropped up and, speaking of incestuous, we decided to put it out through Mordgrimm. [Frater] Nihil, who runs Mordgrimm, used to run Cacophonous Records, and CRADLE's first two proper releases were on Cacophonous. And Paul had put some of his own stuff, when he was on a band called NINE COVENS, out on Mordgrimm, so it was a no-brainer really. So we collated all this rare material and artwork and photos, and got Daniel P. Carter, who is a Radio 1 disc jockey, onboard to do a triptych, the three stages of Hecate, as artwork and it just rollercoastered from there. And then he [Ryan] decided to come onboard helping with my other band as well. So it's been quite a happy reunion, really.

KNAC.COM: A quick DEVILMENT question before we get back to Total Fucking Darkness, I guess everyone wants to know what the is band like.

FILTH: It's different from CRADLE. There's no point in me doing another band like CRADLE. It's quite unique, it's rockier, I guess, it's heavy, it's very heavy. That said, it has kind of the same set up. It's got six people. We've got a female keyboardist who also does some vocals, but it's different. It is very different, and it's hard to describe why it's different, but it soon will become evident. People will be able to hear it soon. We've finished the album now, it's called The Great And Secret Show, and fingers crossed – nothing's penned yet, we're still in negotiations with the record company – the aim is to put the album out the first Monday after Halloween, so Nov. 3. And then we go out to support the album in Europe, supporting with a couple bands, again I can't name them until that is clarified.

KNAC.COM: Whatever happened to that other band [TEMPLE OF THE BLACK MOON] you were involved with guys from ANTHRAX and GORGOROTH/GOD SEED?

FILTH: That is still in operation. The trouble with that, Rob [Caggiano] left ANTHRAX and joined VOLBEAT and they've just been touring constantly. John Tempesta has put the drums down. Rob is tracking the guitars in a couple weeks, end of July. It's one of those things, the whole album's written but you've got five people in five different bands and it's an absolute logistical nightmare to get everyone together. John's busy with THE CULT, I've got CRADLE and now DEVILMENT, and we've got GOD SEED and ENSLAVED, VOLBEAT. It's a bit disappointing because I would have liked for this to have been put together a lot sooner, the material is very, very strong. It would be a complete waste of time if we didn't see this through. We've got 13 tracks written. It's been the product of quite a few trips to Norway and America. But it will happen when it happens.

KNAC.COM: To get back to Total Fucking Darkness, what was the impetus for revisiting and re-releasing that material from that?

FILTH: I guess really it was to put something out that did it justice. We went to Tim Turan in Oxfordshire to master it and he did a really good job. The original demos were done on a four-track 22 years ago. And, fortunately, Nihil had some really good rehearsal tapes, which almost sound better. There's a whole bunch of eclectic old artwork and flyers and rare material that we put together into a really nice package. We also have a track [the delightfully titled “Spattered In Faeces”] from the defunct album that we were recording for Tombstone Records, which was actually between demo two and demo three that was called Goetia. But, unfortunately, the record company went bankrupt and we couldn't come up with the money to pay for the master tapes, so they were wiped. So we only had one track that we salvaged from that, we were only allowed to take one track away.

The next stage would be to release the original Dusk And Her Embrace album, because that was recorded for Cacophonous in '95, but it didn't come out until '96, the reason for that being that we took Cacophonous Records to court over various things, and eventually we won. But sadly that version of the album never got released. We actually won the rights to re-record it for Music for Nations. So there is another version of Dusk And Her Embrace, with “Nocturnal Supremacy” and “Queen Of Winter Throned”. The next big thing really would be to try and unearth that and get that put out, at some point in the future. It only exists as a cassette, I believe, that would have to be treated with real kid gloves. We wouldn't be able to remix it or anything like that.

KNAC.COM: For a band just getting off the ground, as you were back then, to go through something like that twice in just a couple of years, I can't imagine how exasperating that must have been for you.

FILTH: We were also going through a lot of turmoil with the lineup. It was quite frustrating. It gets confusing, [keyboardist] Benjamin and Paul Ryan, they were brothers, and Paul Allender, they left the band to pursue THE BLOOD DIVINE because we had two managers, and we were in legal wrangles with Cacophonous Records, and they couldn't see a future in the band.

So it was me, [drummer] Nicholas Barker and [bassist] Robin Eaglestone to carry the flag as it were. We spent literally a year in that legal dispute with Cacophonous, and it was quite bleak because of it. But, fortunately, we won the rights and then we offered, like a peace offering almost, the V Empire EP to Cacophonous. So, basically, from having a year of doing absolutely nothing, '96 was like this proverbial catapult because V Empire came out in April and in November Embrace came out, so that was a massive push for the band. So every dark cloud has a silver lining, or something like that, although we didn't see it quite like that at the time.

KNAC.COM: What was it like to go back over the Darkness recordings and listen to it again with fresh ears? Along with the recording being so raw, the band's sound is fairly crude at that point as well.

FILTH: It's very different, and I think it comes as a surprise to some people, it's vastly different to what CRADLE OF FILTH was like a few years later. But I'm pleasantly surprised, especially by the rehearsals, because they sound great. It's there, people can hear it, there's no trickery, that's how we sounded. That was recorded with a little portable Tascam tape player, I believe we had to use a wooden lolli[pop] stick to wedge the record button down. It's 22 years old, this year is the 20th anniversary of The Principle Of Evil Made Flesh. It's just something that goes way further into the past. I think it's a good window back into time. It also does justice to the demos and allows people and fans who want to explore the origins of the band to do that very thing.

KNAC.COM: And in the end, it got you guys noticed and allowed you the opportunity to more fully realize your creative aspirations.

FILTH: Absolutely. The thing was, I gave up a potential career in journalism to work on this band. I allowed myself a gap year, as it were, and at the end of that year we got signed, which was great. The demo was responsible for that. It brought us to the attention not only of Cacophonous Records, but there was a promotion company called The Syndicate and they put us on with bands like CANNIBAL CORPSE and CANCER and PARADISE LOST and CARCASS, so that gave us the rung up. But since I didn't have a job, and I still haven't had a proper job (laughs) in the following 22 years, it gave us the opportunity to spend all of our time honing and perfecting our craft. And we did sort of look into the future and think what we wanted to do should we have less monetary restraint.

KNAC.COM: It probably didn't seem like it at the time, but Goetia being scrapped seems like a blessing in disguise.

FILTH: It didn't set us back. Had the album come out, CRADLE wouldn't be where we are now because we would have been stuck on quite frankly a shitty little label. Things would have been very different. It was quite difficult, we had so much going against us at the time. The fact that our band split in half and this album didn't come out and that album didn't come out, we were in court. It seemed like we were destined for failure, but we just fought hard against it and that's where we are now.

KNAC.COM: And the music you were playing was still very much an underground thing at the time. So you had that going against you too.

FILTH: And this was back in the day before torrent sites and the Internet. Few people even had a mobile phone, so getting the word out and spreading your name wasn't easy, especially if you were an obscure black metal band from England at that time. Everything was still being done word of mouth, tape trading and flyers at festivals, that sort of thing. It was not quite as immediate as it is now where everyone can buy an album in their bedroom.

KNAC.COM: Facing all that adversity and persevering certainly prepared you well for what was to come later, which is probably what's allowed you stick it out for 20-some years despite all the turmoil the band's been through?

FILTH: Of course. But despite appearances, it hasn't quite as chaotic as it was at that time. The lineup changes have all been gradual. I'm quite convinced the logo could grow legs and just form its own band (laughs). The label thing is irrelevant, really. That's what you do to put albums out. It's like getting a new credit card, they're there to fund and promote the band.

KNAC.COM: To circle back to what you were talking about earlier and your career as an aspiring journalist, how has your new venture into publishing gone with the Curse Of Venus Aversa graphic novel?

FILTH: That's gone very well. I haven't actually got my copy yet, I've got the pdf. They've literally only just come off the printing press. Myself and my friend Kurt, who I met a long time ago, he's been writing comics for quite a while. He's done the 69 EYES comic, he's done this and that, and especially Dead Souls which was about Elizabeth Bathory and Dracula, but in more of a modern context, so I was impressed by that.

He'd come to shows, etc., etc., and we got to talking and said “all right, well what about doing a comic?” And we decided to do a Kickstarter campaign as well, which was very successful [it raised more than twice it's $20,000 goal], basically just to fund it. And we got it put together, it's about 80 pages, it looks fantastic. It's going to be worming its way into comic stores on its second printing.

So it's another thing the band has done. We wrote the book “he Gospel Of Filth, we made the movie Cradle of Fear. I think we just like experimenting and seeing how far we can push the boundaries of what bands are perceived to be.

Pick up a copy of Toal Fucking Darkness in the KNAC.COM More Store right HERE.

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