If you're a fan of macabre music, the following thought has probably crossed your mind: how many artists who write, compose and perform songs about vampires, demons, serial killers and occult mysteries actually live the lifestyle they portray in their music? Do they wash off the corpse paint, unstrap the spikes and knock off for a beer, or do they retreat backstage to their private ritual altar to chainsaw groupies in blood sacrifices to Baal or Cthulhu or some other dark deity? I naively used to suspect that UK metal icons Cradle Of Filth might be from the latter group, then started leaning more toward the former... then realized that I was way off the mark on both counts. If you talk to band founder/frontman Dani Filth, you'll find a man whose passionate love of the dark side is just his own way of keeping life interesting... in other words, he's one of us.
That's why I was so stoked to learn that Dani had joined forces with noted author Gavin Baddeley (whose book Lucifer Rising is one of the definitive chronicles of Satanic and occult music) to compile The Gospel of Filth: A Bible of Decadence & Darkness – an epic overview of macabre themes in art and entertainment, as well as a detailed history of Cradle Of Filth's creative evolution and exploration of the dark arts – and release it in an ultra-cool special edition just in time for All Hallows' Eve. It's such a significant work that I had to talk to Dani about it.
So hit the jump and revel in the wit, wisdom and weirdness as Dani opens up on this literary masterwork, his favorite horror babes, his hatred of oversized candies (more on that later) and plenty more dark delights!
FEARnet: First of all, thanks for lending us your time... I'm guessing October's one of the busiest months on your calendar.
DANI: Well, a few years back my girlfriend of 12 years and I got married on Halloween, so we try to do some cool stuff on that date to tie both celebrations together.
What are you planning for this year?
We're flying up to Edinburgh in Scotland to do some ghost-hunting in the catacombs beneath the city, as well as the obligatory husband/wife "get drunk and trash our hotel room" sketch!
My wife and I have a similar routine, actually...
Next year, we're planning to undertake the Dracula tour in Romania... obviously providing that the band is not playing at being vampires ourselves around this date!
Well, that could happen. So let's talk Gospel of Filth... did you and Gavin set out from the beginning to embrace the entire universe of dark art, or did this book begin as just a detailed Cradle Of Filth bio?
The original idea was to delve into as much of the night-world as we could hang off the areas in which Cradle Of Filth had explored – in lyrics, music, videos and whatnot. This proved to be by far enough material to cover, as we drew allegiance and cross-collaterized with other genres and ideas and religions and pursuits. Basically, the dark spider in the middle of our initial book idea threw his sticky web across the whole face of the occult. The thing just grew fatter and fatter as time went on, as was necessary to say we had covered all bases.
I'd say you succeeded in that goal. It also seems like you, Gavin and artist Nigel Wingrove [who handles much of Cradle's promotional photography] were cut from the same creative cloth, you know?
From the same pebble-dashed part of yo' underwear!
I'll take that as a compliment. Who else might you consider a kindred spirit in the dark arts?
There are tons and tons of people! strangely enough, a lot of the characters featured in The Gospel Of Filth... people like Tim Burton, H.R Giger, Anton La Vey, Diamanda Galas, Jeff Wayne, Dario Argento, James Hetfield, Simon Marsden, Clive Barker, and Tom Araya to toss off but a handful... though not literally. That'd be disgusting.
Nice image though, thanks. Moving right along then... I gotta mention my first-ever Cradle Of Filth experience, when I wrote a review of the Heavy, Left-Handed and Candid DVD about ten years ago. I really enjoyed that one, because it supports a theory I have about artists who explore the dark side: unlike many of the characters they depict in their art, the artists themselves seem to be some of the happiest, most well-adjusted people in their day-to-day lives. There's lots of material in this book that seems to support this. Am I totally off the mark, or would you agree?
Why the hell not? Most people I know from my travels in different medium are all really genuine, funny, cohesive individuals who have a tendency not to take themselves too seriously... and the reason they're into this vision of life, in my opinion, is not only for escapism, but to embellish their lives even further.
How about you personally?
In my case, I love life all the more because of the different stuff I’m into. I might be in Cradle Of Filth, have an affinity with scary movies, keep bats and eat children, but I also want world peace and like go-carting and eating seafood.
Since this book explores the visions of so many individuals throughout history, it must have taken years to compile...
In total, the whole thing has taken five years to complete, from our initial first idea to create a rich compendium of the dark side using Cradle Of Filth to springboard from, right up until the book's recent completion and print run. Okay, so the concept remained stalwart throughout the whole experience, but the book just kept growing and growing, as we expanded upon all the deliciously dark things that make life so damnably intriguing. Mind you, if you dare to undertake the odious challenge to create a modern-day grimoire, then you'd better expect a lengthy amount of time in its research.
But a great experience, I imagine.
I'd say these were five years well-spent... in the company of femme fatales, Gothicism, vampirism, serial killers, werewolves, Satanists, diabolists, ghost hunters, musicians, horror filmmakers, illicit sex and drugs, oblivion, magicians, madmen... and worse still, the English!
Gavin describes Cradle Of Filth as essentially the ultimate rock band, because you've taken the rebellious aspects of music to an esoteric level, just as others have done in literature or visual arts over the centuries. But to me it also seems like this book is affirming the old adage that "the devil has the best tunes." Would you say that true art should by nature be confrontational and provocative?
Not all art should be... only the most interesting!
I totally agree.
I just think that every facet of a band's art needs to be explored in order to define the personality of the band. It provides the music with much more substance, stirring it from a sometimes two dimensional backdrop of little depth. People always love to scratch a little deeper, otherwise you wouldn't have extra disc DVDs full of documentaries about set design and goblin's fingers, would you? Art should be tangible.
Do you think Cradle fits that ideal of the ultimate rock band?
That'd be a cool tag, but none of us have married a porn star as yet.
Oh yeah, I forgot that's a requirement. By the way, another cool thing about this book is the recurring reference to your film Cradle of Fear. I interviewed the director, Alex Chandon, back when the DVD came out, and he said the original concept of a COF film would have depicted the band members as powerful demons stalking the earth, but the budget just didn't allow for that. Are you interested in doing another horror film?
There has always been the inclination to undertake another horror movie, it's just that when work began on Cradle Of Fear, everybody took deferred payments as a means to getting the film out there for as little budget as possible; films can be expensive bloody things. This rarely happens a second time in the business – I mean, it's pretty damn rare to have happened the first time, to be honest – but most of the crew were friends and colleagues of the director and producer and were in-between bigger jobs. That said, the film was very ambitious in its size of cast and multiple anthology plot.
Are there any concrete film plans in the works?
There has been lots of talk in the past of doing another movie, and especially as Cradle Of Fear went on to become the biggest British underground film of all time, for a while... the trouble is finding investment in your movie, and we were unfortunate that mine and Alex's ideas soon outgrew our benefactors’ vision of just how much they thought it might cost. So, if anyone out there is interested in investing in a decent, gory British horror film, please, bare your healthy pockets and step forward...
I'll do my best to get the word out, 'cuz I'd love to see that. Now, you've explored many dark historical and fictional figures in your albums over the years, from Countess Bathory [Cruelty and the Beast] to Gilles de Rais [Godspeed on the Devil's Thunder]... have you ever considered doing a concept album or film about Lewis's The Monk? I've always wanted to see that story explored on a grand scale, and I would think your music would be a natural fit.
Strangely enough, the idea did cross my mind for a fleeting moment whilst researching the other two characters... but we're in the “habit” (get it?) of making music rather than undertaking history lessons, and we don't really want to fall into a rut wherein people expect the same old shit from us from album to album – which is kinda what befell King Diamond, with his continuing enthusiasm for home-grown horror stories... no offense to his unholiness.
I think this book is one of two FAB Press releases this year that horror fans have been salivating for... the other being Hammer Glamour, which I just picked up recently. It's interesting that Gavin referenced the "glamour from Hammer" nickname for Ingrid Pitt. Aside from Ingrid, Who would you consider the sexiest personalities in horror cinema?
To name but a smattering, Sigourney Weaver as Ripley in Aliens, Ursula Andress in She, Monica Bellucci in Brotherhood Of The Wolf, all the Brides of Dracula... he always has impeccable taste in the fairer sex... Tippi Hedren in The Birds, Jane Seymour in Jack the Ripper, Ingrid and Britt Ekland in The Wicker Man and Sil in Species... both alien and blonde supermodel versions. Why? Are you insane?
Well, yes... but that's beside the point. Going further off-topic, I was worried about Paul Allender and the others being injured during that whole "gobstopper" incident at Bloodstock [where an audience member pelted the band with fist-sized hard candies]. Did everyone recover from that?
That whole episode was just so ridiculous and dangerous... not just for the band but for the people watching the show from the side of the stage as well. There were two children that were almost hit (killed no doubt, had they been), as well as one narrowly missing myself and our keyboardist Ashley, which was unfortunately not the case with Paul, who was hit on the base of the spine as he turned to the monitor desk. Luckily for him, he wasn't permanently hurt, as a full-body scan in the nearest hospital attested to.
I'm relieved to hear that. What's the damn deal with them selling weapons-grade candy at these events anyway?
What a fucking stupid thing to sell at an outdoor festival in the first place! Those "gobstoppers," despite being labeled as confectionery, actually weighed a full kilogram and were tantamount to the size of hockey balls! The perpetrator was the really lucky one though... had the police caught him, he may well have been arrested for attempted murder, or at least GBH. Still, there's time, as people are still looking.
So, on a final note: What's your greatest fear?
Normality terrifies me greatly and the thought of losing my creativity. That, and giant spiders from the future laying waste to Hooters!
Do yourself a solid this Halloween and get the leather-bound, signed edition of The Gospel of Filth (you can order it from FAB press here) complete with the groovy gold-stamped Order of the Dragon emblem and a bonus chapter written by Dani... or better yet, buy a copy for that special naughty boy or girl on your list, preferably in exchange for deviant sexual favors. That's my plan, anyway.