Interview with Cradle of Filth — “It’s obviously one of the most nihilistic and negative titles you could probably come up with, but there’s a glimmer of hope therein.”

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British black metal act CRADLE OF FILTH recently released their new album, “Existence is Futile,” via Nuclear Blast Records. As the band has a tour in the United States during the album release, we caught up with frontman Dani Filth after he returned from the tour to chat about the record. Read the complete interview here…

Hi Dani! Nice to meet you and thanks for having a chat with me about your record. How have you been during this crazy pandemic?

Oh, well actually pretty good during the first half of the pandemic because we were very fortunate that we’d come off a tour and had written an album, and we were in the studio. Although we couldn’t get all of our people into the studio when we needed to, the drummer had already done his parts, which is obviously very important to an album. And so I just… we had all demos done and everything, so I could continue. It just afforded us the luxury of spending some quality time, because nobody knew what was going to happen. Nobody knew when it was going to be lifted. So naturally, we didn’t have people breathing down our neck saying, “No, you’ve got to go on tour next week, so it’s got to be delivered by so and so” and we weren’t working full days, it was just me and the producer and it was very relaxed. It enabled us to really be critical and self-analytical about all the stuff that was going down. And I really enjoyed it. I mean, toward the back end of the pandemic… well… the pandemic is still here [laughs] but the lockdown period earlier this year, I did start feeling a bit like “ugh, when’s it all going to end, and when can we go back to normality?” But, yeah, I found things to get to… I learned to cook, found a new girlfriend. [laughter] We just carried on with CRADLE OF FILTH business, there was a preparation for our livestream and videos for the new album, and the artwork and you know, everything that goes around it, so yeah, I kept myself busy.

Actually, you mentioned the record was finished before the pandemic started. You just had the recording left. How has it been for you to be sitting on it for this long – I’m guessing without the pandemic maybe you would have released it a little bit sooner?

Yeah, absolutely. The album was technically finished a whole year before we released it, which is unusual for us. And obviously, people had it and there was the worry that it will be leaked. It was strange, yeah, because it still feels fresh to me. Because essentially, I’ll listen to the current thing I’m working on until it is not current anymore. So I’ll listen to this album and then if we write something else, I’ll start listening to that album, and it’s just the way I am. I rarely sort of go back and listen to old albums religiously if they’re in the past. I don’t know why, it’s just me. I mean, I’m talking about my stuff. So yeah, luckily it still feels a bit current. It feels great to have it finally released. It was weird sitting in on it. And it was also weird… it must be worse for Annabel, our new keyboardist, because she literally just had to be anonymous, remain incognito for pretty much a year and a half after joining the band, until her announcement at the livestream. So yeah, weird times. You know, what they say extreme conditions demand extreme responses, and that’s just what had to happen. It was enough to suffer for the pandemic, everybody did. It was a global phenomenon.

The album has now been out for two weeks more or less. How have the reactions been? Have you been following what people have been saying?

I did at first. I haven’t for a couple of days and the novelty of following it wore off, but yeah, I did. I read loads of good reviews. And yeah, the reaction is great. But because we’ve just been on tour in the States and when we did a big Halloween show as well, last week was kind of peppered by getting home and getting back, you know, unpacking and getting rid of the jetlag, and what have you. It’s only now that I started taking up the reins of doing more interviews. So hopefully, the fact that some of these interviews are post-album release will improve the longevity of the record, because I don’t believe we’re actually playing another show into like mid-February because, obviously, the pandemic is still raging. So, yeah, hopefully, I could fill the time in by keeping the album alive in people’s memories.

You’ve been on tour now in the US. People have been saying that this is going to be the new roaring ’20s and will lose go crazy. Is there anything you’ve noticed during your tour?

Among the obvious, not quite as many people as you’d be used to. And then weird protocols… let’s say, I think there was a venue with 1200 tickets sold, but only 1000 people actually showed up, so 200 people, that’s a sixth of the audience stayed away. For whatever reason, maybe some were ill, perhaps a lot or most of them I would think, as the promoter said, probably bought this ticket, but now the day has come and they don’t really fancy standing around with 1000 other people. So yeah, that was weird in that respect. Also, it felt like we were navigating a minefield because obviously, you’re trying to not get ill, and I think we were one of the only four bands that actually finished a tour without canceling any shows, which I think is commendable because of the amount of shit we had to go through. You know, there were venues where you had to do PCR tests as soon as you got there, and then we had to keep away from people in some places and everybody backstage. We had nobody backstage other than the band. So friends and family, well friends in America, not family, but even our manager stayed away. And then yeah, everybody that was working on the show had to have masks and it was really hard work. But it was incredibly fun. It was good to get back to it.

Going back to your new album, what I wanted to discuss first is the cover art. I’m from an art background and when I looked at the cover art, it instantly reminded me of my favorite Renaissance painter, Hiëronymus Bosch. I was wondering whether that is at all what the artist or what you guys were inspired by?

Well, I gave it to the artist, this is the third album he’s done for us. There’s “Hammer of the Witches,” then “Cryptoriana,” and it seemed natural to go back to him for this third record. Because basically, the band almost reinvented itself, we had a lineup change back in 2013. People have said it’s like a revitalized, reborn CRADLE OF FILTH with this lineup. And so we signed to Nuclear Blast at that point. So it felt like this is a triptych, you know, which is also something that Hiëronymus Bosch employs. Yeah, in fact, on that first album that came back “Hammer of the Witches,” was inspired by the right wing of the Garden triptych which refers to the hellscape of the Garden of Earthly Delights, in which you can see this Birdman. And yeah, we’ve basically done the version of that particular character because it kind of symbolizes the meaningless of existence and people’s infatuation with death, and what have you. And yeah, basically just having done two amazing album artworks left off to his interpretation. Naturally, the pandemic affords us enough time to go backward and forward and adjust things and talk about it, and what he’s actually come up with is fantastic. I mean, obviously, the artwork extends throughout the booklet. I think he came up with eight or nine separate pieces. Maybe it was seven.

I think maybe the reason why I like the cover art so much is that I think it reflects the title very well and the themes of this record. Bosch’s work has always been a mystery, but it’s usually interpreted as being about the perils of life’s temptations and such. I wondered if that’s sort of a good interpretation of what the album is about as well. You know, existence is perhaps futile, but we should make the best of it… you only live once, that kind of thing?

Yeah, exactly. I was just explaining to this Russian guy that it’s obviously one of the most nihilistic and negative titles you could probably come up with, but there’s a glimmer of hope therein because it’s basically saying that if there is no grand overarching plan for a soul, no religious reward at the end, no heaven or wherever, then life’s to be cherished for what it is, you know, a process of evolution. Maybe it is a happy accident, maybe we were made by someone else wherever, but unfortunately, until you die, you don’t really find out if there is anything beyond that. So I think there is definitely a positive message. It comes across as quite brutalist, naturally. But I think it’s one of those things which is up for discussion, everybody’s interpretation of what it means.

Well, existentialism, of course, is something that has been covered in art and in literature and philosophy. Think of Albert Camus or then Kierkegaard. Are there any specific sources that you maybe read while working on this album?

No, I was just really inspired by the fact that we spent three years touring the world and obviously, we’re only playing the places that are big sprawling cities, big metropoli, so after a while, I felt like, especially when we toured South America, I felt very overwhelmed by the population, by how many people there were, and kind of just had this feeling that there are too many mouths to feed, and how we’re sourcing this, how we keep all these people alive, and what’s the purpose of all this? And yeah, I guess I wanted to do something a little bit more modern. And if I talk about the triptych of albums, you’ve got an album, “Hammer of the Witches,” which was essentially medieval in concept, then “Cryptoriana,” which is about the Victorians eras, infatuation with the macabre, and spiritualism, etc. So, it just found out that we were more moving forward. So, something that had classical lyricism, but dealt with current situations felt like a good step, that CRADLE OF FILTH hadn’t trodden before. So the kind of things fell in place. It’s hard to say exactly, it came from here, but I can’t remember the actual moment everything clicked. And that’s one way to pursue… sometimes ideas come from listening to a collection of songs that people have written and then you start getting a theme. And I like themes. I like albums to have a context that people can relate to, or at least immerse themselves in.

I guess with what you mentioned, it’s extremely relevant, especially considering the Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, for instance.

Yeah, this is all pre-pandemic as well. The album’s literally shaped by the fact that everything was done under lockdown. But yeah, it’s just ironic clearly, I mean, there’s a line in one of the songs that talks about the forefront of the coming plagues and I was thinking, fucking hell, I wrote that back in November and now, because people come, “Oh, I see what’s happening, oh, yeah, you wrote this album during the pandemic, you’ve written it about the pandemic.” And I was like, “No, we didn’t actually didn’t write about the pandemic at all.” I’ll say it’s a happy coincidence because obviously, it’s not a very happy situation, but it’s just ironic, but then mankind’s beset by plagues, famine, war, four horsemen stuff, constantly.

Yeah, exactly. Interestingly enough, there’s a couple of bands that wrote albums before the pandemic that were kind of prophetic. For instance, HAKEN wrote an album that is called Virus.” Anyway, when you guys released “Necromantic Fantasies” some months ago, a lot of people felt that there were a lot of old-school CRADLE OF FILTH vibes. I think that you can hear that in the album as a whole as well. You mentioned you never really go back to albums, but do you feel as if you were channeling some of your other albums while writing?

I think having toured for three years, playing “Cruelty and the Beast” in its entirety, for example, and tracks from a multitude of previous records, so you can’t help but do that. What I mean by looking backwards has been, I don’t religiously go back and listen to old records. If I’m going to listen to it religiously, it will always be the new one because it just goes current. So it’s just a thing I do. But as in respect of your question, of course, we have been all in our past, we’re not going to suddenly do a reggae album, for example. And I think a lot of if you’re playing a certain style live, if you’re playing “Cruelty and the Beast,” you’re playing a style of music of CRADLE that harks back to 1997-1998. So, yeah, that’s gonna rub off I guess in the writing. And also, back then, we had two very strong musicians in the band and that’s something that has come back to the fore with the addition of Ashok and Richard to the band. And so we’re playing on that. Some say we’ve got a lot of New Wave of British Heavy Metal influences and I say, well, yeah, because we’re a British heavy metal band. I know we’ve got a couple of Czechs in there, but IRON MAIDEN have got a Swedish guy in their band [ed: this is incorrect], so swings and roundabouts, really. It’s our path to tread to take over the mantle from other bands in the past, I think it’s just built into our psyches to make music that would have been a little reminiscent of bands like THIN LIZZY, SAXON, and PRIEST, MAIDEN, and all these other bands that preceded us in in the British Isles, much like the Scandinavian metal scene. You know, AT THE GATES, that there’s a very strong, distinctive sound that other bands from that country will pick up on naturally.

Exactly. Is there any track on the album that you have a cool story to tell from when it comes to creating them or is that a bit of a blur considering you wrote them during the tour?

Kind of a blur. “The Dying of the Embers” started off as a completely different song, it was one of the few songs in the studio we really sat down and at one point, we were like, “No, this isn’t making the album at all.” But then because we had the time to sit down with it, we rearranged it, and I rewrote the chorus. And yeah, it just blossomed into something else. It was one of the few songs that CRADLE do where – because normally we have everything ready, and we go in and not much changes – but this time, it afforded us a bit of leeway and that song came from like… I literally hated it. I was like, “I’m not singing a song I fucking hate and I hate this song.” And then, we worked on it a bit more and then we changed some bits and then I begrudgingly went: “Fuck it, we’ve got the time, I’ll rewrite the chorus,” and then it just turned into a really great song. There was a turning point where I went: “You know what, this is actually really fucking good now.” I know there are a lot of bands and some of them I know very well, who go into the studio with like a handful of ideas and then build the album in the studio. I think we’re a bit more involved as a band with so many different parts and that we could do that but we never have, and this, I think, was one of the first times that we really got the opportunity to pull something apart and literally rebuild. It was kind of cool.

Was there anything about that song that you knew could be transformed into something worthwhile?

Well the thing is… we just changed some of the parts, some of the structure. We got rid of one [part] that it just completely changed. And it became something really cool and I think that’s partly thanks to our producer, Scott Atkins, who is almost like a seventh member. He’s got very great ideas about what the band should be. You know, he knows so much about us, so he can get the best out of me as well. And he’s one of these people that we don’t just keep around because he just blows smoke up our arse. I mean, he’s the first person who will say, “look, Dani, this is shit, do something else,” which I appreciate because sometimes you can be so close to something that you can’t see the wood for the trees. He understands the band. He’s now been… I think he’s done five albums… five records he’s produced or been part of and for one he was the producer of the guitars. He was brought on board to help with that. So yeah, by now he should know us pretty well.

I know you had the US tour. I’m presuming that you are planning to take this record to the road. Any ideas of when that could possibly be?

Funnily enough, I was literally talking to our manager for 10 minutes because I had one of the interviews, I just obviously got the time wrong or something, I was contacted about that, whatever. So just talking about that, we were planning to announce everything shortly after our big London show. There’s been a few complications, a few dates. I mean, I know roughly when the dates are happening, but I’m not gonna say because for one I don’t want to jinx it. If I say to you, “oh, this is happening here,” it probably won’t happen there because things are going to change. But we are looking at a very busy… we’re busier in 2023 than 2022. It is going to be busy, but not in respect of what it used to be. There is the European tour, we’re hoping to come to Scandinavia, which includes Finland, obviously, in March, but that’s just tentative at the moment. They’re working on dates because we’re hoping to do a British, well, a couple of big shows in England and then we want to do I think Scandinavia, Baltics, and Eastern Europe. We’re also going to Russia, probably not at the same time, I think that’s later in the year. And then we’ve got two co-headline tours with another band, a big band happening. I think the States is going to be like April/May, and then the Europe side of that would be probably the third quarter, so backend of August/beginning of September time. And then a handful of – well, hopefully, more than a handful – of summer festivals. And then we see how it goes, but 2023 is one we’re really looking at. We got a new management company, the guy from DEVILDRIVER and his wife, and they’ve just been excellent, really helped everything, love them to bits. And they’ve just got a grand overarching plan for us pretty much for the next 10 years. But we have goals to reach things to do and everything takes time. But yeah, definitely we’re coming back and that’s obviously when we’ve managed to suppress all these weird COVID variants by that point, and there are no lockdowns because obviously touring’s obviously, like I said earlier, like a minefield at the moment, but hopefully, things should be good for that.

Are you already looking into how you will bring this album to the stage?

Absolutely. We’ve really brought up our production level. So what I mean by that is we have a pyrotechnics crew, so we already have dry ice, video walls, fire, sometimes confetti, sometimes sparks from the roof or from the floor, and lots of staging. Yeah, we’ve really moved up and we’ve decided that we’re going to move up to the next level from that. So there’ll be some shows that we may say, “Look, we’re just not going to take that as a show because we can’t bring our production,” but yeah, we really wanted to put it to the next level for CRADLE. I mean we’ve got a great crew as well, like literally the best crew. They’re amazing. And yeah, I think America was a real trial for everybody and it’s good to see that everybody pitched together to make it work. So if things go back to normal, then we should be in a very good place. But yeah, we want to come and do shows and we want to make them a real thing to come to, that’s like, “Wow, this just looks great, sounds great, the songs are good, a good setlist.” When it really gives something back to our fans now that we have the opportunity to do so.

Looking forward to 2023 then?

2022 should be good. We’re coming back next year already. It’s just that in 2023, we know it’s going to be way busier just because of everything. Of course, you got to remember there’s been a lot of stuff that’s been canceled from last year. It’s been moved to next year or got canceled, maybe next year or this year, whenever. A lot of festivals. So they’re going to try and work around all that as well. It’s a fucking mess really.

Yeah and besides that, with Brexit it’s even more complicated to go on tour for you guys.

Yeah, exactly. On top of everything, yes… Brexit.

Anyway, I won’t keep you any longer! Do you have any last thoughts you want to share with your fans and people who will be reading this interview?

Well, hopefully, they’re not my last thoughts. [laughs] Hopefully, I’ll have some more thoughts after this interview. I’d just like to say thank you to everybody for supporting the band. I hope everybody enjoys the new record. I’m particularly proud of it. I think it’s a great record, it sounds great, etc. But I’ll leave that up to other people’s perspectives, views, and opinions. Thanks for the continued support, we are looking forward to be coming back to Scandinavia and obviously Finland. We were there in 2019, we had a great day off in Helsinki. Keep an eye out for dates, obviously. Instagram, Facebook, our website cradleoffilth.com. There are a lot of exciting things happening around the band as well, for instance, our blood red gin is coming out when things die down a bit. Check out our new merchandise, our comic book series via Incendium, action figures. Exciting times, indeed.

Interview by Laureline Tilkin