Cradle of Filth frontman, Dani Filth spoke to Overdrive amidst lockdown to take an ironically bright and happy trip down memory lane to reminisce about the recording of the boundary-pushing ‘Midian‘; a dark and melodic release touching base on a combination of monsters and twisted fantasies, which pushed the band further into the limelight of extreme metal.
Suitably unleashed during the most ominous time of the year, one of the band’s most popular albums reaches its second decade in existence next week on October 30th.
OD – On the 30th of this month, Cradle of Filth’s classic ‘Midian’ album will be turning 20-years old. When you look back to that era and the recording/writing process do you feel that the album has aged well?
DANI – I could tell you that if I had listened to it recently! It’s strange to think it’s twenty years old as it seems like only yesterday. It marked the start of a great relationship that we had with that particular studio, Parkgate Studios, in a place called Catsfield near Battle, where the historic Battle of Hastings took part in the south of England.
It was a big residential studio where we had a cook and a cleaner. With the producer; we’d chosen him because of his work on ‘Razorblade Romance‘ by HIM, and he’d been put forth by the record company as well. It all marked the start of this glorious relationship with the studio. We went back to record ‘Damnation and a Day‘ and ‘Nymphetamine’.
The studio isn’t there anymore; it was taken over by another place. It was like being on holiday – it was out in the middle of the country with beautiful surroundings. It was during the summer and it was amazing.
Every time I think of this album it reminds me of the great times we had as a band. ‘Midian‘ marked the start of the post-‘Dusk And Her Embrace‘/’Cruelty And The Beast‘ line-up, introducing Adrian Erlandsson who is currently in At The Gates. He was in At The Gates at the time of recording, hence the title of the song ‘At The Gates‘ on ‘Midian‘ – it was a little nod in that direction. Great times, new line-up; everything felt like a fresh start. Even if the album was shit it was still a glorious moment!
OD – From what I have read, the recording process was a very happy time for you, as things were going well with the band as well as the birth of your daughter, which makes it even more ironic that the album sounds so dark and foreboding. Did you find that dichotomy had a profound effect on you personally contributing to the overall atmosphere on the album?
DANI – Yes, that’s exactly what we wanted to try and achieve. I think it helped the entire scenario – everyone was getting along as a band, we had a lot of creative and artistic freedom. They didn’t know it at the time but it was the last record for Music For Nations, where we went on to do work with Snapper Music before signing to Sony. I think the liberal nature of the surroundings and being in a studio like that gave us more material to produce an album like ‘Midian’.
We had Doug Bradley on the record and he came down to the studio, which was fantastic as we were massive fans of Hellraiser, and it coloured the situation. J.K Potter also contributed to the artwork and I’m a massive fan.
At that point, I was also involved with the ‘Cradle of Fear’ movie [see the trailer below], so I was jumping backwards and forwards between agents. The producer came down for a few nights to party and film behind the scenes footage of the band in the studio.
OD -Of course, this was also the first time that began working with Dough Bradley [Actor best known for his role as Pinhead in Clive Barker’s, Hellraiser series]. It seems like there was a lot of creative freedom around this time, almost like you were given the freedom and you just ran with it. Would that be a good assumption?
DANI – Yes, absolutely. We had quite good success with ‘Dusk…‘ and ‘Cruelty…‘ that the record company basically just let us get on with it. We had a couple of visits from them but they gave us total free rein on the album.
OD – When you were writing Her Ghost In The Fog, did you have Doug in mind for that immediately or was it more serendipitous?
DANI – We did have Doug in mind, hence the Hellraiser narrative. Strangely enough, on ‘Godspeed On The Devils Thunder‘, it’s a little known fact that we approached Tony Todd from Candyman to undertake the role of Gilles de Rais. I have a CD somewhere of all of his parts.
Unfortunately, and fortunately, Todd’s manager had briefed him on the context of the work he was undertaking, and judging on his comments behind the mic, he was blissfully unaware that the narrative he was undertaking of de Rais was actual trial transcripts and not from my imagination, and I think he was a little offended by some of the things he had to readout.
I think there was one point during the recording process where he actually just walks out of the studio. So, coming full circle and the whole reason I brought this up – we said to Doug Bradley, “Sorry, but the subject matter is somewhat bleak and obtuse; our previous guy walked out”. Bradley [pictured below] said, “No problem, I understand – it’s Gilles de Reis!”. He had no problem undertaking the part.
OD -With the original recording I suppose you can’t use that now and only have it for your own personal archive.
DANI – Well… ‘allegedly‘ I have it! [Laughing]
OD – ‘Midian’ is considered as the first sounding Cradle… album with a big step up in sound and production, with some declaring that it was the bands big move towards a more commercial sound. Would you agree with that sentiment and looking back how important was that aspect for you?
DANI – I would hope and presume that’s the process that most people go through when presenting the recording of an album. We really wanted to get a great solid production. Parkgate was in our sights. I believe the record company suggested that residential studio and that producer. We had some good engineers working on the record who were courtesy of the studio.
I believe it was a guy called Doug Kirk who we took with us from the studio and he worked on ‘Damnation and a Day‘, and then further along he worked on ‘Godspeed…‘ and ‘Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa’.
‘Midian‘ was the start of a great relationship with a lot of people, and the start of a relationship of getting great productions. We revisited that studio and must have spent a year over the course of three albums within that studio. It’s so criminal that it doesn’t exist anymore – there was a very large residential house beside the studio which we referred to as ‘the mental institution’. Subsequently, when the studio was bought out, they bought it.
OD – What memories do you have upon the release and touring cycle for the album?
DANI – They were great. We had a launch party for the record in London which was fantastic. We had hired this building that was a sort of half-church, half-meeting place. We had fire breathers and lots of exotic performers – very S&M. Doug Bradley came along, we invited a lot of our friends, people from the industry and other bands.
It was one of the last big launch parties I can remember. 200 people or so – Cradle of Filth candles, a free bar, we were all in our gear for photoshoots. There was a lot of press there. For the tour that followed we brought out a band called Christian Death, and Usurper from Chicago – it was a crazy tour.
So many fucked up things happened on ‘Midian‘ tour. It was pretty mental. We were young, we were fresh-faced, it was a fresh line-up, we had just done the album of our lives. We hit the road full of zeal.
OD – Would you care to divulge any stories from that tour?
DANI – One story just off the top of my head… we had a day off somewhere in Germany. We took the tram into the city with Christian Death and we went to a really posh restaurant in a very affluent district.
There was an opera house opposite the restaurant and while we were eating our meal, the conductor, some of the members of the orchestra and some of the staff, all in their penguin suits and the women in fabulous dresses, all turn up and had reserved tables – it’s basically them and us in this very posh restaurant.
For reasons unbeknownst to anyone other than Maitri (bass, Christian Death), she decided to grab a load of food and throw it over her shoulder right into the middle of their table. We all thought “oh my god…”, yet it turned into a massive food fight between us and these people who had just spilled out from the opera. [Laughing]
Literally – the place was just covered. That party went long into the night. Overall it was successful – a very crazy tour, but great.
OD – ‘Midian’ was your last album with Music For Nations before the band inked a major deal, with Epic. I remember reading about that and it just seemed amazing that an extreme band could secure a deal like that.
DANI – Signing that deal took a little while to come into fruition because we did ‘Bitter Suites to Succubi‘ with Snapper, which was like an interim record – which isn’t technically a full record as it’s got rerecorded tracks and two cover versions.
But yeah, it took a while to get that deal in place and our management worked very hard to have that happen. There were no negative vibes other than the usual. Well, people were maybe more sort of weary.
When someone signs to a major label no one really knows how to deal with them, you’ll be put on the back shelf and then your career will be over. But the door was open and it was glittering beyond. We thought it was a once in a lifetime opportunity and thought “Fuck it, we’re going to take it!”
Nick Raphael, the guy who signed us at Sony, was really into the band but said: “I have no idea what your music is about – all I know is that you’re very successful and I dig what you’re doing”. He had everything at our disposal.
I remember going to a Sony party in London for a Madonna record release; Madonna was there, Jay Kay from Jamiroquai… We were regular haunts to this Ivy Club in London with the people from Sony – every now and then we would go there, and it was literally the haunt of TV personalities. [Laughing]
OD – It sounds like you made yourselves right at home with Sony…
DANI – Yeah, Sony was great – though it did come to pass that there was a mix-up of roles at the label and the guy who signed us was moved to a different country to have a different job, and his successor had absolutely no idea what to do with us.
We weren’t put on the back-burner, but what was great was that we weren’t held to account, like; “Yes, you’re signed to Sony but we don’t know what to do with you… but you can escape”. What happened was they just let us go! Roadrunner was waiting in the wings and that’s another story – we went on to record our biggest selling and most popular album which was ‘Nymphethamine‘.
OD -Did you get any backlash from other bands because of that huge deal?
DANI – I still think we did the right thing. I guess there were remarks behind closed doors of us signing to Sony, but nothing really to our face. There were a lot of warnings and some “You’re going to come out like the Backstreet Boys of black metal”.
Everyone at Sony said “It’s going to be so played and watered down”, and it was quite the opposite. I think we purposefully went out of our way on Sony to disprove that analysis to create an album that was literally falling off a CD – I think it was 82 minutes – this huge record, and I think we were bolder, braver, faster and heavier than before. It was two fingers up to the whole-fucking-lot of them. [Laughing]
OD – Going back to Midian – this saw the return of Paul [Allender, guitar] and the arrival of Adrian [Erlandsson, drums] and Martin [Powell, keyboards]. How much influence to the sound of the album did they input, or was there any from them at all?
DANI – We wrote the album from scratch and everyone was integral to that. Even though they were newcomers in the band, Gian [Pyres, guitar] who was on ‘Cruelty…‘ with the arrival of Adrian from Sweden and Martin who lived in the north of England, rented a house together which became ‘the Cradle House‘ and subsequently became the party house and the writing house.
We were very prolific in working together to get that record down. At the time we actually thought it was a bit hodgepodge and sewn together because there were so many influences and everyone was working equally on the record. We were worried it would become a bit too disjointed but it wasn’t.
OD – Of that era and now with the anniversary, is there anything that you would have changed about that period of time given the chance?
DANI – Well.. probably would have bought more lottery tickets. [Laughing] I did make the horrible mistake of racing some people in a car and overtook them on a railway crossing that I didn’t see – I cleared the entire railway crossing like the Dukes of Hazzard and fucked-up the suspension on my car.
But other than that, no, not really. I think it’s really bad to dwell on the past like that. If you get all nitty-gritty and self-analyze every moment of your life, everybody would be like “Yeah I could have done that”, or, “Yeah I could have made this decision and my life would be twenty times better”. No; it’s a learning curve. I think back to it and it’s got a certain feel and flavour – the entire time I was there was like being on holiday, even the whole vibe about the record was very fresh feeling and the people who were involved with were great. We just had a fantastic time.
OD – So back to nowadays – you mentioned earlier you were currently in the studio, what’s happening? Where are you with things right now?
DANI – As of today, the producer is taking his girlfriend away for a birthday present for a few days so I’ve actually got five days free. I have my friend here with me from Spain and she’s staying with me for a couple of weeks; she’s currently in quarantine.
We’re in the mixing stage with the new album and it’s absolutely fantastic – dare I say it’s probably the best record we’ve ever written!
It’s got everything everyone wants from a ‘Cradle…‘ record. At this stage I purposefully say this to all journalists who approach and ask me what the record is about – you just have to listen, I can not describe it.
There’s just so much going on and there are so many different tracks – everything has a unique flavour to it. We’ve been working on it since the end of February and I know it seems like a long, long time but it’s all been during quarantine, where things haven’t been so available and there have been travel restrictions.
OD – So, things are going exceptionally well by the sounds of it?
DANI – Yes, it’s been very relaxed. It’s quite a contrast compared to the last two years where we have been lucky and been very busy. We played something like 120 gigs last year and the year before that was around 160 – toured the entire world twice over.
We were very lucky that this year the pandemic started as we were going into the studio anyway and we managed to get our drummer from the Czech Republic in before the lockdown happened.
Our second guitarist couldn’t get in until July because that was only when he was able to travel. The whole thing has no pressure and is relaxed, because, well, nobody knows what the fuck is going on! The record company aren’t leaning on us like “Christ, you’re supposed to deliver four weeks ago, what the fuck is going on?”
OD – If by some miracle there’s a vaccine released and the world starts to get back to normal, do you know anything about a tentative release date?
DANI – We do – I can’t talk about it but we have a release date and we’re working backwards from that. Our press starts in January and we have a video that we’re going to be shooting in Latvia.
We have a live stream which is coming up on the Devils Night which is October 31st [since rescheduled to Feb 20th, 2021] and we have to fly the guys in from the Czech Republic.
Believe it or not, even Scotland is under lock and key at the moment, so, it’s all very tentative… but that will pay off. The album needs to be delivered, and it’s going to be delivered by the end of this month, which will have bonus tracks.
The album release date has been put back several times as well as all the tours. We would have been on tour right this second – a big co-headliner tour with another big band and another up and coming band in the USA – that’s been pushed back I think four times already. So, dark Gods willing, hopefully, next September – a whole year late – something might happen.
Cradle of Filth host a live streaming event on February, 20th, 2021 with online tickets available from this link. A recent statement from the band regarding the change of date can be found below…
Due to the ongoing covid crisis and the uncertainty of travel, we, unfortunately, need to move the date of our Livestream event. With band members residing outside of and throughout the UK there was a real chance of quarantine or travel issues. The new show date is Feb 20th, all tickets remain valid and everyone who bought one is automatically entered in to win a custom Cradle of Filth Midian guitar worth over $2,000.
Sorry for any inconvenience, the show will be an epic event not to be missed!”-
‘Midian’ is available from Nuclear Blast’s online store which can be accessed via this link.
Oran O’Beirne [Interview]
Norrie Kivlehan [Transcription]
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