Dani Filth: My Life Story

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WHEN AND WHERE WERE YOU BORN? “July 25, 1973. Hertford. Arse end of nowhere. We always lived in the countryside. It’s nice being a kid, growing up in that sort of environment.”

THERE CAN’T HAVE BEEN MUCH EXPOSURE TO EXTREME METAL IN A PLACE LIKE THAT.

“You’d be surprised. At 12 I got my first compilation tape from a friend, which was a really eclectic mix. It had stuff like Plasmatics on it, Stormwitch and AC/DC and the first song on it was Evil Has No Boundaries by Slayer. It was just like, ‘Whoa, bloody ‘ell!’. But because it was such a weird mix, I didn’t find any differences between things, you know? I think that’s kind of stuck with me. The transcending of genres – or the blurring of ’em.”

WHAT CAME FIRST – METAL OR HORROR FILMS?

“Horror films. Thriller came out by Michael Jackson, and everybody was into it! I remember that and the smoggy, cigarette-stained video stores, y’know? Where all the covers are yellow from them chuffin’ fags and that. And they always had the under-the- counter ones – like The Evil Dead, when it was banned, and The Last House On The Left, stuff like that. It’s like forbidden fruit. When they re–released all the video nasties like Driller Killer and Zombie Flesh Eaters, you watch ‘em and you go, ‘Oh my god, they’re crap!’. But at the time, because they were banned, it was like picking up a bit of treasure. ‘If the police catch me I’m gonna be in trouble!’.”

DID HEAVY METAL AND HORROR HOLD THE SAME APPEAL FOR YOU?

“I guess so. My friend brought to school Kiss’s Destroyer, Don’t Break The Oath by Mercyful Fate – which is still one of my favourite albums of all time – and Ozzy, Speak Of The Devil. It was like, ‘Fuckin’ hell, this is all really in your face!’. And that was the appeal of it, I’m ashamed to admit. The shock tactic really worked. Everything was really graphic – skulls and leather and chains. W.A.S.P. were a prime example. Cheesy as hell…”

IS IT TRUE THAT YOU SET A PYTHON LOOSE IN YOUR SCHOOL?

“My friend lent me this snake so I could draw it for my final A Level thing. Left it there at night, and there was an inquisitive cleaner – we presume – who looked at it and left the lid off and it escaped. There was a big hoo–hah, one of the teachers almost got sacked and the governors had to be informed. And then they found it about eight weeks later in another part of the school – it was just curled around a radiator. It was hilarious!”

WERE YOU INTO THE OCCULT AS A TEENAGER? DID YOU TRY OUIJA BOARDS OR ANYTHING?

“Plenty of times, yeah. I had some friends who were would-be witches and we’d do it often – with quite scary results, in fact. Things moving around on their own; glasses smashing.”

DID YOU GET INVOLVED IN RITUALS?

“A little bit later on. But it’s not the sort of thing I want to go into, really. Wouldn’t say I’ve grown out of it… I’ve got about 300 serious books on the occult. But now it’s more like a Van Helsing type thing where he’s got a full library of really dark stuff, like Lovecraft and tracts on vampirism in northern Romania, but he’s not using them to conjure forth Azrael or something like that – they’re reference material.”

HOW DID YOU START THE BAND, AND WHAT VISION DID YOU HAVE?

“I was in punk bands. I remember playing this sixth form party in this village hall. At that point we were called Hash Gordon & The Drug Barons From Mars. I was Dani Hash. They didn’t realise what they were up for, y’know? We were playing this really fast hardcore and stuff, and the sixth form reps went, ‘Right! That’s it!’, and started trying to close the curtains. Our bass player, Craig From Mars, downed his bass and twatted this guy in front of everybody, and this huge fight broke out! We disbanded after that. Went through various bands until I met up with the original Cradle guitarist, Paul Ryan, and formed a band which was nicely titled Feast On Excrement! And then Cradle just sort of got together.”

AT THE TIME OF CRADLE’S EARLY DEMOS YOU WERE CONSIDERED THE UK’S ONLY BLACK METAL BAND.

“I bought Deathcrush from Mayhem the first week it ever came to Britain and I thought it was just fucking crap. It had a pink cover, and [drummer] Hellhammer is wearing one of those novelty Scots hats with the stupid hair on the back and he’s playing a ukulele! I just thought it was shit. I was gonna go into journalism and I took a year off and said, ‘Let’s see what we do with the band’. We did three demos and an album that thankfully didn’t get anywhere – it actually got erased at the studio because the record company didn’t stump the money up. Pretty much exactly the same time that demo came out, Darkthrone decided they were no longer a death metal band and brought out A Blaze In The Northern Sky.”

DID YOU HAVE MUCH CONTACT WITH THE NORWEGIAN SCENE?

“I had contact with Euronymous. A few letters went backwards and forwards. And Emperor – obviously – cos we did our first tour with ‘em. Not Darkthrone, though – I don’t think the guys from Darkthrone particularly like us [laughs]. They’ve spent their whole lives trying to be underground, and we’re doing the complete opposite, and obviously it doesn’t wash with ‘em at all.”

IN THE EARLY DAYS, CRADLE WERE RUMOURED TO BE GETTING DEATH THREATS FROM SATANISTS IN SCANDINAVIA…

“There were a few incidents, like some guy jumped onstage when we were touring with At The Gates and Anathema in Germany, with a fucking great carving knife and the bouncers jumped on him. The fortunate thing was that we were in England and obviously there’s a substantial tract of water which separates us! As well as isolating us it gave us a lot of enemies, because we were different and we weren’t part of the clan. We’ve had threatening letters in blood and stuff, and people have slagged us off in the press. I know that one of them was a postman! That’s not very black metal is it? You’re not even under Satan’s command; you’re under the postmaster’s command in Oslo! You’re hardly Aleister Crowley!”

YOU STARTED APPEARING IN THE MEDIA AROUND THAT TIME, BEING ASKED TO COMMENT ON THE SPATE OF CHURCH VANDALISMS IN BRITAIN.

“God, that brings back memories. Y’know, that was so pathetic. I’ve always liked the fact that there’s a church in every village. I think it’s quaint. I think it’s part of our heritage. This guy vandalised a load of tombstones. I remember thinking at the time ‘That’s fucking crap, how dare you?’. People are buried there.”

IN 1995 YOU GOT YOUR OWN TASTE OF CONTROVERSY WHEN CRADLE FANS STARTED GETTING ARRESTED FOR WEARING YOUR ‘JESUS IS A CUNT’ T–SHIRTS.

“The only thing I regret is that everyone always brings it up. We sold fucking thousands and thousands. Jesus was targeted because everyone can relate to it. It was a ‘Fuck the jubilee’ type thing. Just an anti-religious statement. It was rebellious. But as I’m keen to point out, it was a long time ago.”

WHAT ABOUT THE BBC’S LIVING WITH THE ENEMY PROGRAMME, WHERE YOU TOOK A COUPLE OF CONCERNED MUMS ON TOUR?

“At the time it was fine, just another thing that we were doing, ‘cos the band had just suddenly broken big and we were doing all kinds of weird things. I remember doing this bloody feature with something like NME or Loaded, going out for the night – like a proper heavy boozing, snorting session – with one of the guys from some boy band. Just hanging round with all these people that had nothing to do with the scene. It was suddenly very, very strange. We took that with a pinch of salt. I never actually watched that programme. I just couldn’t bear to. I was in the other room and heard all this laughing – my friends and my girlfriend were really chortling.”

DID YOU WORRY THAT YOUR FEATURE FILM, CRADLE OF FEAR, WOULD DETRACT FROM THE BAND’S MUSIC AND FURTHER DAMAGE YOUR CREDIBILITY?

“It was an extension of the From Cradle To Enslaved video. We did that with Alex Shandon. Me and him became good friends and I said, ‘You know, the principles you applied to the video, we should just extend them and do a film’. It didn’t have anything to do with the scene, ‘cos half of the music on there was jazzy hip-hop fusion stuff. I don’t think that and the scene clashed at all really.”

WHAT EXACTLY IS THE ONSTAGE CHARACTER OF DANI FILTH? DO YOU THINK OF IT SPECIFICALLY AS BEING THAT OF A VAMPIRE OR SOMETHING?

“Erm… no, it’s just me, except that on stage I’m full of adrenalin. I’m gonna come across as a bit of a nutter. It becomes its own kind of entity, like a dark shade, that you have to slip in and out of. In our book that we’re bringing out, The Gospel Of Filth, I brought out some of the funniest pictures of us, the band, where we look like the Village People of black metal! It was ridiculous! I’m not saying we’re gonna drop it, but we’ve experimented with all kinds and I really don’t like it – it makes actually me laugh these days. Even now, with black metal bands, you look at black and white pictures, in a forest, in make-up that looks like a flattened badger… You just think that if your mate down the pub was to see this he’d go, ‘You’re a twat, mate’, and punch you. Whether you’ve got a spiky stick or not! We may just drop it altogether soon. We actually got a Scuzz TV interview dropped yesterday, because we weren’t going to be in our make-up with all the stage gear. Fuck you! If you’re not talking about the music, fuck off! We’ve always put the music first and foremost. Whether people think that or not. Whether we got recognised for ‘Jesus Is A Cunt’, it doesn’t matter. You either love or hate Cradle, there’s no middle ground. ‘Oh god, what a load of sellouts! Aren’t they the Boyzone of black metal?! Oh those prats! Oh those poofs wearing make-up!’. We have no time for some journalist’s smarmy comments.”

YOU MENTIONED THAT IF YOU WEREN’T A MUSICIAN YOU’D HAVE BEEN A JOURNALIST…

“I don’t really know. I’m writing – I’m actually halfway through a book of poetry. I’ve just suddenly decided, ‘Christ, I may as well get off my arse and do something I’m quite good at’. Some of it’s quite quirky. Sort of black humour, Tim Burtonesque. But then some of it’s esoteric. Some of it’s like Sylvia Plath. I don’t know really where it’s going…”