DATE OF INTERVIEW:
7th December 2016
With untenable speculations and gratuitous criticisms misconstruing the Dani Filth fronted Devilment as merely a "side-project" upon delivering their debut album in 2014, 'The Great And Secret Show', two years on and it seems they've succeeded in quashing such suppositions with their sophomore work. Not only has the recent release of the band's new album, 'II - The Mephisto Waltzes', engendered prevalent opinion that Devilment are an entity in their own right, but the band have crafted an all-too-rare beast within the second decade of the twenty first century. For this is an album that has a full grasp, stylistically, on established metal idioms while progressing said idioms into sincere, fresh sounding territory. The songs sound current and accessible, without ever relying on the ephemera of contemporary trends. Yet, most importantly, this is moving the genre forward from what's widely perceived as a self-imposed stagnancy. Out on the road in support of 'II - The Mephisto Waltzes', Metal Discovery met up with Dani on the evening of Devilment's show in Nottingham to discuss this most compelling of works, as well as a brief update on the new Cradle of Filth album; Hitchcock heroines; Hammer Horror; Christmas songs; and a few entertainingly random anecdotes thrown in for good measure. Both equipped with beer, the discussions commence...
METAL DISCOVERY: So, this run of UK dates are Devilment's first ever headline shows, I believe…
(Dani Filth on the different aesthetic parameters between Devilment and Cradle of Filth)
"I have freedom with both bands but, with Cradle, you know, we couldn’t get away with doing an album about an alien invasion."
Dani Filth backstage at Rock City, Nottingham, UK, 7th December 2016
Photograph copyright © 2016 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
MD: Does it feel good to finally get the band on the road as a headliners?
DANI: Yeah, it does, yeah. I’m a bit disappointed about the size of the stage tonight. We played Colchester Arts Centre yesterday, which is a really nice, old, converted church. If you could mix the two, and this was backstage there! It was great; a really, really good gig… about two hundred people. So, yeah, it’s not the size of audience you’re used to playing, as such, but it’s good nonetheless, you know.
And we’re obviously doing everything low key, as well. That’s what you have to take; you can’t just jump straight in at the deep end. I mean, we’ve got a lot of privileges, I guess… well, not really privileges because I was in the band… it was even harder to get a record deal with me being in the band. But, you know, being on Nuclear Blast and everything, and the album’s doing really well, etc… but you have to pay your dues. If you want to go out and do your own headline shows… we felt it was important because you’ve got to get your leg up on that rung at some point or another, otherwise you start touring a lot as a support act; you start finding yourself being condemned to that position.
MD: Yeah, it’s like building it from the ground up again.
DANI: Yeah, so we’ll take the rough with the smooth and if there’s a hundred people here, there’s a hundred people here.
MD: I guess it’s a bit of a nostalgic kick for you, playing this kind of size venue again?
DANI: Yeah, totally. Well, the last time I was actually in that room was a few years back… well, I say a few years back but it was probably more like six or seven, and was for the launch do for ‘Thornography’.
MD: Ah right, a few years ago, then… 2006, would that have been?
DANI: Actually, it might’ve been for ‘Godspeed…’, actually… yeah, it must’ve been. So, 2008 and I came here with Andy Sneap, and Martin Walkyier, and my wife, and Colin Richardson…
MD: All the clan…
DANI: Yeah, I can’t remember much because I was fucking hammered!
MD: I think any time anyone has a night out with Martin, they end up wasted!
DANI: Yeah, of course, without a doubt! I remember a party, from the same era, actually, because he came down to the studio and guested on one of the bonus tracks. We had a barbeque and there were a load of us, and Martin ended up… we couldn’t find him for ages, and he’d somehow managed to get under the house and fallen asleep. And he fell off the back of a stone wall, as well, about eight foot, onto his head… but, luckily, landed in a cabbage patch!
MD: That’s an anecdote and a half!
DANI: Isn’t it, yeah!
MD: He was round my house a few years ago and was too drunk to make it up the stairs to use the toilet, so ended up pissing at the end of my garden, all over my girlfriend’s herb garden! She wasn’t too pleased! She forgave him, though!
DANI: Well, you know!
MD: The new album then, totally amazing. Nine and a half out of ten from me in my review.
DANI: Oh, brilliant.
MD: You’ve progressed since the first album, so everything sounds more refined, tighter, diversified and mature. Did the creative process feel like a more cohesive and collaborative one, this time around?
DANI: Well, definitely. The first album was written over a period of time and the songs were taken from different epochs of the band. It sounds more confusing than it was… you know, different lineups; people just came and went very quickly until we got a definitive lineup. I mean, even Colin [Parks] and Lauren [Francis] joined the band midway through and contributed immediately, but I still feel, as I know, they felt like passengers on the first one; whereas, this one, they were immersed from the off.
We did a lot of work in the studio with Scott Atkins who, actually, right at this very minute, is recording… well, he finishes, probably about now, the drums for the new Cradle album, because Martin [Skaroupka] flies back to the Czech Republic tomorrow. I saw Scott last night because he came to the show and he’d finished recording all the drums. Today, they were just seeing if there were any parts that needed anything…
MD: Was that a short window of time for Martin to track all the drums then?
DANI: No, he had two weeks… a lot of work there, moving from one to the other, but I trust Scott implicitly because he’s very focussed and works very hard. People say, “well, having both bands go to the same studio and same producer, surely that’s tempting fate?” It’s like, no, that’s quite the opposite, because he knows exactly the parameters of the band and what to do.
MD: The arrangements of the songs on the new album are phenomenal, in how they combine and seamlessly shift between all the disparate passages… was there a lot of hard work involved to get everything to gel so perfectly?
DANI: We had some dissection in the studio. We jettisoned a song which, to be fair, I keep banging on about that I saw some potential. It was a song called ‘Plot Spoiler: There Will Be Monsters’, and I loved it. I think I was the only one who had a vision for it and, subsequently, I was on tour in the states with Cradle and I came back and they’d jettisoned it. Had I been there for the argument, I’d have won it! But I still, to this day, think it’s a fucking phenomenal track. In the vein of ‘Under the Thunder’ but with a little bit more sort of weird vocal passages.
But, yeah, a lot of dissection in the studio, as in, like with ‘Under the Thunder’ – Lauren wrote a chorus, I wrote a chorus, and we couldn’t decide which one was better. Not because, “my one’s better than yours”… and, in the end, we just chopped ‘em in half and used half of each, which really worked. ‘Dea Della Morte’, we literally rebuilt the chorus in the studio. So, yeah, it wasn’t by chance that it came out like it is. And then other people argued we should’ve put ‘The Seductive Poison’ on the album… but, you know, I don’t know why they throw that… well, I know why they throw the wall up, any record company, to segregate extra tracks, rather than just have the whole album play out as intended.
MD: I wrote in my review of the album: “Devilment are where discord meets concord head-on, on an album of perfectly fused contrasts and compositional brilliance…”
DANI: The plane and the band?!
MD: You could read it that way!
MD: “…where the coupling of Dani and his musical comrades is a secular marriage made in heathen.” That’s a bit of pretentious wank… I went off on a tangent there! But do you think that’s a fair summary; do you feel this is the perfect musical marriage?
DANI: Pretentious wank… that’s a fair summary!
DANI: Yeah, I guess so, yeah. It’s definitely a dichotomy. It’s a marriage of extremes. But, yeah, like trying to find a fine balance, really, a bit like Catholicism! The dirty and the dark and the beautiful, all playing off one another. You know, it’s not on all the tracks, but there are a few tracks where we have that beauty and the beast vibe going on, and I just think it works. I’m not saying we are a totally original band, because I don’t think any band can claim to be that anymore, but I think that we’re original in what we do and what parts we’ve stolen from other genres.
MD: I think when certain renowned vocalists from bands go off and do other bands it does often feel like their side projects, but this feels like a cohesive band in its own right, which is its intention, I guess.
DANI: Well, yeah, and hence titling the album ‘Devilment II’. It’s a slight nod to Danzig and I’ve always quite liked them doing it like that and having the subtitle, but it’s also a bit of a two fingers up to everybody that says, “it’s just a vanity project.”
MD: Personally, I’d describe the album as progressive, as well. Not progressive in terms of the genre, like not generically progressive, but genuinely progressive, because it all feels very fresh. You have a handle on metal’s past but it feels like you’re moving it forward at the same time. Do you regard it in that way?
DANI: Well, hopefully. Other people have said other things, like it’s more goth orientated which I don’t know… maybe it is. But, yeah, maybe. I think there has been a movement of pushing metal forward but it’s gone that sort of Kerrang way, do you know what I mean? You know, is it actually metal or is it something from a hairdressing salon?! I know you get the clean with the rough, but I really despise it when you get blokes doing it. I literally hate it; you know, with clean singing and then, “rah, rah, rah, rah”. And, usually, the “rah, rah, rah” is awful as well.
MD: Exactly, yeah.
DANI: It’s like jack of all trades. Just concentrate on one. Get two singers if you have to. So, yeah, if it was actually moving metal forward, that would be a great accolade.
MD: I think it does. I think it’s one of those rare albums where it does feel like… I mean, when I first listened to it, it has handles on the past, but also sounds new, and without succumbing to the, like you said, Kerrang hairdo generation of metal.
MD: I also wrote in my review that you’ve transcended side-project speculations with this second album, so have you found that people have been taking Devilment more seriously as a standalone entity, rather than regarding the band as a Dani Filth side-project?
DANI: Yeah, definitely, because that hasn’t cropped up at all. I obviously get the cross-pollination with questions about Cradle… obviously, that will come to the fore but, yeah, people regard it as an entity in itself, which was noticeable in its absence for the first record, as you just pointed out. So, yeah, I think people have been taking it seriously.
MD: Do you feel emancipated from Cradle’s aesthetic parameters with Devilment, in that you’re able to explore a different side to your creativity, both lyrically and musically? Do you feel like you have more artistic freedom, or is it the same level of freedom, just expressed in a different context?
DANI: It’s the same level of freedom… well, I have freedom with both bands but, with Cradle, you know, we couldn’t get away with doing an album about an alien invasion. But, I think with Devilment, people just think it was a bit kitsch and a bit fifties and just a little whacky.
MD: A bit hammy.
DANI: Yeah, the first album was a little bit more hammy; this one’s a bit darker and a bit more mature. But, in the same sense, Cradle’s got a history and people kind of expect archaic kind of lyrics and no songs about modernity, as such. You know, you wouldn’t mention limousines or stuff like that in Cradle lyrics…
MD: Or even Hitchcock.
DANI: Or even Hitchcock, yeah, of course not. I’ve always said that Devilment’s more current, like Sylvia Plath, David Cronenberg and that kind of ilk, whereas Cradle’s always been a bit more Baudelaire, Stoker, and…
MD: Byron, Shelley…
DANI: Yeah, exactly. So, I think that’s a fair analogy to make.
MD: So, being the big Hammer Horror fan you are, would you ever want to do a Hammer Horror album with Devilment, now you’ve moved those artistic parameters? I think it’s been twenty six years since Warfare released their ‘Hammer Horror’ album… which is not a great album, I have to say. I still have my vinyl copy of that and how on earth they got Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee to write notes for the back cover, I will never know!
DANI: Yeah, I think Christopher Lee bought into things. And yeah, I’ve got a CD copy of that. I got it from Silva Screen, strangely enough. It is pretty awful.
DANI: I liked Warfare before then! ‘Mayhem, Fuckin' Mayhem’ is a great record.
MD: Yeah, they were a great band, but they did this Hammer album and the main guy… was it Evo?... said that he went to Whitby and sat there looking over the cliffs when writing the lyrics… fair enough, but it’s not a great album. There are some okay melodies on there but it’s as hammy as some of the Hammer movies, maybe!
DANI: Yeah. So, no, I don’t think so.
MD: You wouldn’t sneak a little bit of Hammer in there?
DANI: Maybe. Maybe ‘Dracula A.D. 1972’.
MD: ‘The Satanic Rites of Dracula’ is a better film, I think.
DANI: Do you?
MD: Yeah, it’s got a great soundtrack, too… and Joanna Lumley!
DANI: Yeah, but I think there’s something about ‘…1972’ that I just love. It’s just so ridiculous!
MD: What about the ‘Victorian England Under Martian Rule’ album? [an April Fools' Day joke in Terrorizer magazine in 2000, a lengthy article allegedly providing details on Cradle of Filth's next album]. Will that ever see the light of day now, under Devilment?!
DANI: [Laughs] Quite possibly! Well, ‘Plot Spoiler: There Will Be Monsters’ was pretty much that, but we didn’t want to call it ‘Victorian England Under Martian Rule’! In fact, the new Cradle album is very Victorian… all the songs relate to Victoriana. That’s the common thread throughout the new Cradle album.