Interview: Devilment’s Dani Filth talks New Album

Formed in 2011, Devilment officially slithered into the collective metal consciousness with its 2012 demo, Grotescapology, which caught the attention of Nuclear Blast’s Monte Conner and subsequently led to the release of debut album The Great and Secret Show of 2014. Its fusion of thrash riffs, perverse surrealism, and gothic sensibility won legendary Cradle of Filth frontman Dani Filth a whole new fan base and paved the way for a second release. Devilment II: The Mephisto Waltzes is a mesmerising trip through more  intense themes and even bolder, darker soundscapes. Thanks to our good friend, John Howarth of Nuclear Blast, we had a chance to chat with the eloquent, inventive Dani Filth about the new album, the band’s upcoming domestic tour, and some of his artistic inspirations.

SR: I’ve been listening to a promo version of the new album and it’s fantastic. What sort of feedback have you been getting from people who’ve had a chance to hear it so far?

DF: Well, yeah, people have said they loved it, but you can’t tell for sure, can you? But yeah, it seems to be very positive. The record company are pushing it very well. I know that because we’ve got tons and tons of interviews. Yeah, it’s all good. We couldn’t actually ask for a better result. We did put a lyric video out a couple of weeks for the track Under the Thunder and it looked positive from the fans. I was going to say we haven’t had much fan reaction, but that’s untrue. We have. But that’s only one song. We’ve actually just finished editing together the video for Hitchcock Blonde which is a performance video that we shot in a disused, definitely haunted, hotel. It’s really cool. That’s coming out on October the 24th – a week before Halloween. Then a week before the actual album drops on November the 18th, we’re doing an animated video for the track Full Dark, No Stars – well it’s not fully animated, because that would be very, very expensive. By then, hopefully, people will have listened to three songs and have a good cross section of the record. So, we should be able to garner their responses from that.

SR: What are your favourite tracks?

DF: Well, at the moment it’s Hitchcock Blonde because I’ve been watching it for the video and that sort of heightens the track, you know? I like Shine On Sophie Moone; I just like the aggressiveness of it and the fact that it disappears into this weird, transient bit at the end that’s very bizarre. There’s a bonus track called The Seductive Poison. I like that song – it’s really cool. It’s on the special edition. What the hell – I never buy the normal version. If you have the chance to get the special edition for a couple of dollars, you’re not really going to want to miss out on some good extra songs.

SR: How did Danzig and The Misfits inspire this release?

DF: Well, they didn’t as such. It’s a by-product, really. The album title The Mephisto Waltzes was inspired by the album cover, but also the four waltzes composed by Franz Liszt which were called the Mephisto Waltzes which concerns the story of Faust. You know, Faust and Mephistopheles – hence Mephisto. But we called it Devilment II as a sort of homage to Danzig, because he titled his second album Danzig II: Lucifuge. And Lucifuge, in ceremonial magic, was another big demon. Also, Glenn Danzig was the singer of The Misfits and he penned a track called Mephisto Waltz, which was based on a film called The Mephisto Waltz, which was an American horror movie that came about during the seventies when that was a trend in cult movies like The Omen and Rosemary’s Baby and Amityville Horror – that sort of thing. And that took its name from the piano work of Franz Liszt. The main character in that film is a concert pianist who sells his soul to the devil for longevity – for eternal life. So with all that combined, it seemed apt…and with the cover, as well…with the woman on the cover doing this strange tarantella… it gave the impression that each of the songs is like part of this book or bible or piece of music, and each one is a chapter of the Mephisto Waltzes. It’s perfect for a band called Devilment.

SR: I did hear you use the term grimoire in an interview. You were also discussing the beautiful artwork and how you felt a bit let down by your last piece of in-house album art for Cradle of Filth.

DF: Not the last one. The last one was amazing. I was talking about The Manticore and Other Horrors, which was the album before last. Originally, we were going to use the same artist because she’s already done the pieces. She deals with the surreal and great models – almost like a fashion shoot, but very surreal. It’s just fantastic looking.

SR: Where did you find her?

DF: I can’t remember. I think someone suggested her to us. But someone else in the band didn’t agree with it and, in the end, we went with a house artist. I wasn’t overly enamoured with the finished result. So basically, we left it. And between them, we had two come out: we had the Devilment album and a Cradle album. Then for this album, I don’t know why but I was just thinking ‘Maybe, maybe…Just maybe’. And then, unbelievably, she was still interested and she still had a couple of the pieces still available if we wanted to use them, which I find was just ludicrous. Because people buy them and art galleries show them all the time. So anyway, we used six really good pieces from her that worked with the album. And we had another guy called Dan Goldsworthy who linked them all together. He was basically the graphic designer. For the special edition, he also submitted a couple of pieces of his own that worked with the extra tracks. So the artwork is fantastic and really sums up and correlates with what’s going on lyrically and sonically.

SR: What was the writing process like and did you anticipate how dark the lyrics and themes would get?

DF: Well I do think there’s a very positive message on the album. I mean, I know it’s dark to begin with; but I think to do that, there’s a light shone. I mean, it’s about overcoming a lot of these emotions that prevail on the album like infatuation and obsession and depression and addiction. I obviously dress it up poetically and give it metaphors and what have you. The writing process was good. Obviously, as a band we really wanted to improve on the first record. We wanted to show everybody it’s a proper band and not just an ego project. So I think when you get to a second album it’s like the record companies have given the go ahead, the band’s been given a go ahead, and you’ve made a second record; so people kind of have to take you seriously – that it is a band and it has got longevity.devalbum

When it came to writing, we just tried to play on the strengths of the first one – took the best bits and things that we thought worked. And also, the musicians, as well…Lauren, for example, or Colin, the guitarist, they were additions to the first album. Much of the first album had been written, and their parts had been written before they joined. So I guess now they feel like fully-fledged members, from the off. They were able to indulge their creativity from the get go. We’ve expanded upon guitar…well, everything really. Yeah, we’ve expanded upon everything, but we’ve tried to retain the Devilment sound. We didn’t want to drift too far so that people went, ‘Well, it’s the second album but it sounds nothing like the first.’ We spent a lot of time in the studio making things concise and big and choral and memorable – even dissecting and breaking songs up and what have you. But we also tried to move forward, but not move forward too much (Laughs), which is a bit tricky.

SR: As you were saying, Devilment started off as a sort of side project and has really taken off. Were you initially surprised by how well the first album was received?

DF: I was, yeah. I mean, I know I obviously had a hand because I’m known for my stuff with Cradle of Filth, but at times that can be a hindrance as well because people expect too much. People are also loath to help someone when they think they can help themselves. Yeah, at times it was like a doubled-edged sword. There was much fighting against and for. You had to fight twice as hard to do things. People expect something and a certain style, so it was hard. And it makes things even harder because you’ve got to try twice as hard. You can’t just throw anything out because you just pray then….pray that if you throw anything out people aren’t just going to go, ‘Well, that’s not good’, or ‘Don’t like that’, or ‘What the hell were they thinking?’

SR: You’re obviously the linchpin of Devilment and Cradle of Filth, though the bands have their own styles and images. When you’re fronting the bands in a live setting, do you have to access different creative energy at all?

DF: I wouldn’t say that, but definitely different stage spaces. Devilment don’t have as much room (laughs). We were touring with Motionless in White and Lacuna Coil, who were obviously first on the bill. I’d just come back from a big headline tour of Russia with Cradle of Filth. I came back on a Monday and I went out on the Friday. So, yeah, there were three days in between. Then suddenly, from playing pretty big sized venues – well, as big as the tour we went out on with Devilment, except that Devilment were starting, so our drum kit would be in front of another drum kit in front of another drum kit on the stage, you know what I mean? Big difference. And rather than a nice dressing room, we had a nice hallway to get made up in. Although, we did share a bus with Lacuna Coil and I knew most of their crew, so that was easy – or easier. You know, maybe I got into the production office if I was lucky, with my laptop, for a couple of days. And if there wasn’t a dressing room, there wasn’t a dressing room and they were the breaks.

SR: Is there fun in the newness, though?

DF: Yeah! Yeah, totally! I would say. I mean, I’m having a bit of a resurgence all round, really, with bands. The new Cradle album got really, really good reviews. I’d say that the band is – I’m not, but the band is – probably 90% towards writing a new album. And they’re going to be in the studio at least doing the drums prior to Christmas. It’s great, the new album, as well – it’s really great. And I think that both bands serve as catalysts to the other. It’s like turning a snow globe upside down when you’re finished with one. The album has to be delivered by the second week of May for release in September next year when Cradle then start their world tour which we’ve been planning for a few years. That means we will be coming back to Australia and we will be going to New Zealand for the first time as well.

SR: So, in order to see you again we have to wait until September next year when you’re here with Cradle of Filth. You’ve got a bunch of UK dates coming up with Devilment in December. What are you most looking forward to about the domestic tour?

DF: Sleeping between each gig (laughs). No, I think it’ll be fun. It’s not going to be huge. You know, the gigs are between 200 and 450 people per night. We’ve got a good band called She Must Burn supporting us and local supports. I think it’s going to be fun, you know? Actually, the tour manager is the old Cradle of Filth keyboardist, Lecter. He’s driving and doing the sound…It’s all very in-house. We’re staying in sort of cheap motels. It’ll be fun. It’s going to be different. It’s going to be a challenge. But I think it’s going to be really good because everybody’s really up for it. It’s only 11 dates – I think we’re out for 2 weeks in total. It’s just before Christmas, as well, so hopefully it’ll be quite festive.

SR: Well, I’ll definitely be catching you when you come down with Cradle next year, but hopefully we’ll get to see you with Devilment before too long.

DF: Yeah, well hopefully so, but I’m not sure when we hit Australia – I think it’s next year, or early in 2018 as part of that world tour.

SR: Who have been your greatest inspirations and who did you look to for inspiration when you were starting out as a metal frontman?

DF: Cronos from Venom, Tom Araya, King Diamond, Bruce Dickinson, Glenn Danzig. I think that probably covers it.

SR: What are your top 5 desert island albums?

DF: Oh, come on. Don’t do this to me. I’m absolutely fucking awful at that sort of thing. Probably, off the top of my head, I’d take Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of War of the Worlds – it’s one of my favourite albums ever. It’s about the invasion of earth, based on the H.G Wells novel. It’s brilliant. I once actually auditioned for a part in the stage show. I actually went to the guy’s house slash manor slash massive recording studio and bored him senseless about how much I loved the album for a whole day. Yeah, I’d definitely take that. I would take a classical album as well, because if I was on a desert island I’d get shit bored after a while listening to the same thing. So I’d probably take the soundtrack for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Let’s think. I’d probably take In the Nightside Eclipse by Emperor… Reign in Blood… And then it would be an Iron Maiden mix album, which doesn’t exist. I’d like to say Somewhere Back in Time, but that’s got a couple of shit songs on it. So it’d be an Iron Maiden medley album. They’re probably going to bring it out anyway; by the time I get stranded on a desert island, there will be that album.

SR: You reference a fair bit of literature in your work. What are your favourite books?

DF: All kinds. At the moment, because of the Cradle album, I’m reading a lot of Victorian gothic horror. I just read Tales of Unease by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Then I’ve got an M.R James one that I’m about to plough through. A whole bunch of stuff like that. There are some other authors who did stuff in the Victorian style that I’ve just read as well. There’s a guy called David Hayes, who’s self-published. He did a really good collection of Victorian-themed stuff. That’s basically what I’m reading at the moment.

SR: What are some things that might surprise fans to know about you?

DF: I like vacuuming.

SR: Nobody likes vacuuming.

DF: I do. I bought one of those ones that’s cordless. I love it. It’s great fun.

SR: Is it therapeutic?

DF: It is, yeah. Totally therapeutic. I find myself making the cat drop hair.

SR: What else?

DF: That’s about it. That’s all I’ve got time to do. I could spend 5 hours a day doing that. It’s therapeutic. I love washing my cars. That’s therapeutic as well. It’s a skill. It’s like an X-Man power. It doesn’t matter if it’s the middle of the day with no clouds in the sky. I could be in Ethiopia and they could just drop me in with my cars, I’ll wash them, and 10 minutes later, it would rain. Without fail. I could bring water to the masses – that’s what I’m saying.

SR: You’re not living up to the Filth name.

DF: The whole reason is to get it dirty. You’ve got to get it dirty to get it clean. It’s the eternal conundrum.

SR: What’s the wildest thing that’s happened at one of your gigs?

DF: A lot of strange things happen. Somebody threw a prosthetic leg on stage. That was in Sydney, actually. Somebody got their neck broken at a show when somebody jumped on top of them. That was a bit insane. We didn’t know about it. Lots of things happen. When we were doing Ozzfest, loads of crazy things were going on. When Killswitch Engage were playing, we jumped onstage all dressed as different things. I think our guitarist was dressed as a giant white bunny, and we had someone dressed as Winnie-the-Pooh. Oh and one of our performers went on in a pink tutu on a tiny little bike wearing an inflatable pig costume. Just stupid things like that, basically.

SR: What message would you like to send out to your Aussie fans ahead of the album’s release?

DF: Check it out and have a look at the Under the Thunder video. The video for Hitchcock Blonde is also soon to come out. And after that, the Full Dark, No Stars puppetry/animation-type thing will be released. It’s not actually done yet, so I can’t really say what it’s going to be like. Those three things will give a very good example of the album which will hit on November the 18th. You can find everything out about Cradle, me, or Devilment just by going to the Facebook pages. We’ve got a great social media woman called Laura who updates them all. As soon as anything comes in, she updates. She probably updated everybody about this interview yesterday.