As Hellraiser villain Pinhead, Doug Bradley embodies one of horror’s most iconic characters. Dani Filth knows the iconic actor well, having worked with him on a number of Cradle Of Filth albums over the years. Perhaps, then, we shouldn’t be too surprised that when we reunited the two for a special conversation about all things horror and metal, we could hardly shut them up… not that we wanted to.
Dani: Pinhead is an icon of horror. Why has he been such an enduring character?
Doug: “Oh, Jesus! The more I’m asked this, the less sure I am that I know the answer. Maybe that he’s simply been around an awfully long time. Millions of people who’ve never seen the movie know the image. The image goes out there, like Frankenstein, Dracula, the Wolf Man; it takes on a life of its own and becomes part of the culture. I have a clipping of a Sunday Times interview with Alice Cooper and in the accompanying photo he’s wearing a Pinhead shirt! You can put him in the same bracket as Freddy, Jason and Leatherface, but Pinhead is kind of exceptional. It is an extraordinary, very difficult, disarming image; it draws the eye.”
Dani: “I saw a statue of a female Pinhead the other day, from Sideshow Collectibles. You looked good!”
Doug: “So now I’ve transgendered! Certainly there were always a lot of ambiguities going on with Pinhead. Let’s not forget, he wears a skirt…”
Dani: Can you remember the first time we worked together?
Doug: “I have a memory around the time you were doing the movie Cradle Of Fear, sitting with you and the director in a pub in Camden Town; you’d done Cruelty And The Beast with Ingrid [Pitt, famed horror actress who narrated the 1998 album], and I liked your writing. Here I should address something: I’m a huge disappointment to the vast majority of my fans because I don’t ‘do’ heavy metal! But I was always drawn to the imagery, and I liked what I knew of Dani’s writing. I got a call from the band’s manager; she said the band were putting the finishing touches to the album and Dani wondered if I’d put some spoken word to it. She said, ‘We don’t have much money…’”
Dani: “Ha ha ha!”
Doug: “I enquired how much that was, and she was absolutely right! But I thought, ‘What the hell’; it was something entirely different in my career, it sounded intriguing, so I went down to the studio and we did that recording for Midian.”
Dani: “I think – no, I know we embarrassed you, because when you turned up everyone was there with their Pinhead stuff, and you were like, ‘Oh Christ, not again.’ You worked on a few other things after that: Thornography, Nymphetamine, Godspeed, which we recorded around my house.”
Doug: “I remember you had a skeleton under the floor in your kitchen…”
Dani: “That’s right! Unfortunately, he’s upped and legged it. We had a crappy plumber who flooded him out, so he now lives on my mic stand. So we worked together on a few occasions, and we may well work together again…”
Doug: “I never heard from you after that. You never write, you never call, you never send flowers on my birthday… I do remember coming out of that first session for Midian and pleading with you to do something in 4/4 time! Trying to get somewhere near an off-beat in, whatever it was, 17/25 time signature…”
Dani: “That’s what always worked with actors, though; they have this natural cadence where they can talk across anything, just like Ingrid before you. Neither she nor you took very long, but it fit perfectly. And we were very cheeky on Midian by getting an ‘Oh, no tears, please’ in there. It’s such an iconic line, isn’t it?”
Doug: “It is. I was very fortunate. I had tremendous lines over the first four movies.”
Dani: “But the association with Midian actually came from your part playing Lylesberg in [1990 Clive Barker horror] Nightbreed. I keep meaning to get the extended version…”
Doug: “The Cabal Cut? I recommend it, it resets the film as close as possible to the movie we shot before Fox fucked it over. The movie as released back then was a travesty of what it should have been, effectively torpedoed by Fox in their infinite wisdom – the thing they couldn’t get hold of was that the monsters were the good guys. At times it was pandemonium; so many actors needed prosthetic make-up, and it doesn’t happen quickly. Just to get all the make-up done at the right time was pretty chaotic.”
Dani: What was it like working with Blackcraft Wrestling?
Doug: “I’ve always said both the curse and the fun of being an actor is never knowing what comes next, and I certainly would have never predicted this. I’ve had a relationship with Blackcraft for a few years now – I’ve done t-shirts, I helped promote their whisky – and the main guy contacted me out of the blue to say he wanted to launch Blackcraft Wrestling and wanted me involved. It’s so far out of leftfield I didn’t know where to begin, but I said yes, and everything happened very quickly. We just did the first show in Pittsburgh, so it’s been three months from, ‘I’ve got this idea’ to going live with it!”
Dani: Were you the ‘ringmaster’?
Doug: “I was MCing to an extent. I was really, really scared approaching the live show. I had no map and compass for this. Put me onstage with a learned script, or on a movie set, fine, I know what I’m doing, but I’ve never had any experience of this sort of thing.”
Dani: So is Blackcraft wrestling less ‘staged’ and more violent?
Doug: “The first bout I introduced was a ‘ladder match’ – I was only vaguely aware of what this would entail! There’s a chalice dangling above the ring, and four wrestlers. One of them has to climb the ladder and get the chalice first, and this thing was crazy. It’s insane. These people were hitting each other with stepladders – real stepladders, big ones. They’re not made of rubber, I assure you. If you hurl a human being across the ring and he lands on a stepladder, you can’t fake that! It’s happening! When I got back into the ring, I was standing in front of a guy with blood pouring down his face and torso. Initially I was quite calm about this – I’m used to being around people covered in blood – but then a little voice said, ‘Ah yes, but this isn’t fake.’ So that was my introduction to Blackcraft Wrestling. They had Falling In Reverse playing live at the end of the evening.”
Dani: You mentioned you’re not much of a metalhead. What music do you listen to?
Doug: “Back in the late 60s I was very much into blues-influenced rock. I was a big fan of Cream, loved early Led Zeppelin, my first gig was Deep Purple round about In Rock time. Then when 1977 happened The Clash came into my life, probably my second favourite band of all time, and all that came after: The Jam, The Damned, The Stranglers, Echo And The Bunnymen… But I continue to listen to new music, and I am a huge fan – and I know this is controversial because I know some people turn up their noses and say ‘They’re not metal!’ – but I’m a huge fan of Ghost.”
Dani: “Oh! I saw them at the Royal Albert Hall!”
Doug: “It’s a big deal, playing the Albert Hall, and it’s great that you were there Dani. The new album [Prequelle] is wonderful, there’s a couple of tracks that sound like they come out of Les Miserables or something. I met them at a convention called Texas Frightmare Weekend in Dallas. Ghost were playing Dallas that night, and they actually came to the convention as Papa And The Nameless Ghouls, and everything stopped! They came over to my table, it was very disconcerting. I’d seen what they looked like, and to be honest I thought, ‘I know what you sound like! You sound like – [Doug imitates a vomiting dog], so I don’t wanna know!’ But they stood around me behind my table and were talking to me sotto voce through their masks. So we went to see them that night, and I was blown away by them. My only regret is that we went front-of-house to talk to their merch guy and missed their version of Here Comes The Sun.”
Dani: “That reminds me of an endearing memory. The third time we worked together, you’d just been on an advert for a bank or something. I said to you, ‘The other day I saw your face on the side of a bus’ and you just turned to me and said, ‘Oh, fuck off’! I was actually in bed at the time – I looked out of the window, and you were there, facing me at window height, it was surreal!”
Metal Hammer: Coming back to horror for a second fellas: are there any particular films that you two have bonded over?
Doug: “I don’t think we’ve had this conversation, have we? Well, my favourite horror movie of all time is [1935’s] The Bride Of Frankenstein.”
Dani: “Absolutely, I’m a massive fan of Universal. They’ve now started to redo them, but I don’t know if that’s a good thing. The first one, Dracula Untold, was promising, until he started turning into flocks of bats, and getting a bit cartoony. They’re remaking The Bride Of Frankenstein – I think I heard it’ll be Angelina Jolie, I don’t know what you make of that?”
Doug: [sharply sucking air through clenched teeth] “Not much.”
Dani: “My favourite film is Night Of The Demon, based on MR James’s Casting The Runes. Even though they showed the big cheesy demon at the beginning and the end. But still, an absolutely brilliant movie.”
Doug: “I’d fully agree with that. It scared me a lot when I saw it on TV, I remember.”
Dani: So, have you got any plans for Halloween this year?
Doug: No. For the likes of you and I, reprobates that we are, every day is Halloween. To be perfectly honest, last year I sat on my porch and handed out candy. How scary is that?!”
Dani: You should do it in full garb! But it’s not the sort of thing you can put on yourself, is it?
Doug: “Not easily or well, no.”
Dani: “Not without a decent hammer, at least!”
Published in Metal Hammer #315