If anyone knows how to celebrate Halloween, it’s Dani Filth. Tales of witchcraft and the occult have formed the basis of his songwriting since he first formed Cradle Of Filth, and their last album, Hammer Of The Witches, was no exception.
Dani’s in the midst of touring the record, and takes a break to chat to Hammer about his love of all things ghoulish and what he’ll be doing on his favourite holiday this year. Thankfully, a plan made in jest for the whole band to dress up as Hitler was quickly rubbished, as they realised they’d be playing in Nuremberg that day.
“Yeah, we thought they probably wouldn’t find that very funny,” says Dani. “So I’m just going to do my make up to make it look like I have a really tiny face.”
Dani’s gothic awakening can be traced back to two things – a childhood in the quiet backwaters of Suffolk, and Michael Jackson’s Thriller video.
“When Thriller came out, there was a whole documentary to go with it, it was that big,” recalls Dani. “I remember the director, John Landis, giving a history of it, and it showed a clip of An American Werewolf In London. I asked my dad if I could watch it, and I remember the night distinctly because it didn’t occur to me at the tender age of about nine that it was a horror comedy. I thought it was really frightening, even the funny bits. And I watched it on my own; my dad had gone to pick my mum up from a PTA meeting. I literally shat myself! When they came back, my dad was clawing at the window. I’ll never forget the feeling of being so scared of a film – it got me hooked.”
Fittingly, the small Suffolk town of Hadley that Dani grew up in had its own gruesome past. “Our house used to be frequented by [17th century witch hunter] Matthew Hopkins, the Witchfinder General,” he explains. “The subject of our last album was loosely based on that and his exploits, and growing up, there was always a fascination with witchcraft because of the location. I’ve always been into it.”
Halloween celebrations, though, weren’t a big affair, which led Dani and his mates to find their own fun. “We are actually skateboarders rather than goths,” he laughs. “We did get a bit of a reputation for ourselves, but it wasn’t too bad. Even though I loved bands like Bathory, I was more about the brightly coloured trousers and odd shoes than [the goth aesthetic]. We used to do things like get really drunk and go to a graveyard and run around a certain grave thirteen times, because people in the country didn’t take too kindly to you dressing up as monsters and knocking on their door.”
Dani’s teenage Halloween escapades soon turned from fun and games to something more serious, when he formed Cradle Of Filth at the age of 18 and took a gap year to see if the band worked. The rest, as they say, is history, but Halloween has always kept its magic for Dani – so much so, that he chose it as the date for his wedding.
“It’s a bit sad I’m not at home this year because it’s our tenth anniversary,” he says. “Every year, we go and do Halloweeny things; one year we got a swanky hotel in London and went to see Ghost Stories, then I recorded a video in the woods with zombies the same week. Then another time we went to Edinburgh and did the ghost walk. It’s all about the celebration, and I love it. My wife’s obviously into it as well or she’d be like, ‘why did I bother!’”
It isn’t just the spooky side of Halloween that Dani’s into. Unsurprisingly, he’s also well-versed on the legends behind the day. “I love the whole ideology,” he says. “Samhain – the original Celtic name for it – was all about honouring the dead by having a huge bonfire and everybody getting drunk and making merry. It was about the paths between the living and the dead crossing.”
You’d expect a devotee like Dani to have something to say about the commercialisation of Halloween – after all, it’s second only to Christmas as the time of year that the seasonal aisles fill with the kind of plastic tat that falls out of your cupboard under the stairs for years to come. Surely a discerning figurehead of goth culture like Dani can do better than a plastic pumpkin?
“Actually I think it’s cool, the horror masks and ghoulish toys in the supermarket,” he says. “I think we’ve got a lot better at Halloween in the past 20 years over here in England. Clubs and pubs really promote it, and people make more of an effort to dress up.”
So, there you have it. If the Cradle Of Filth frontman himself thinks it’s alright to embrace the tacky side of Halloween, then it must be. Surely he must be in his element, then, whenever he gets to spend Halloween in the States?
“They have so many bloody holidays over there, it’s unreal!” he laughs. “Growing up in England, I always felt a bit left out that we didn’t really do Halloween [like America]. You see it on all the movies. Touring America with Type O Negative was great, that really fulfilled the whole spirit of Halloween for me. And another year, we got sent to LA and took our wives. We had the Rainbow club open for us and went a bit wild – I came away with the worst hangover, but it was worth it. But that kind of burst my bubble a bit. I thought Halloween in America would be amazing, but it was actually a bit shallow. I grew up making as much effort with it as I could, but over there it’s just part of their lives. The opening of an envelope is an important event there!”
This Halloween, the band will be playing in Germany and plan to “fill the stage with pumpkins.” But Dani isn’t feeling the pressure.
“Every bloody day is Halloween when you’re in Cradle Of Filth!” he laughs. And he probably wouldn’t have it any other way.
Cradle Of Filth’s latest album Hammer Of The Witches is out now, via Nuclear Blast. Get your copy here.