Straight from the horses mouth, it’s clear that Devilment are no longer a vanity project of famed Cradle of Filth frontman Dani Filth. The production of a second album merits that fact, where time and effort have been spent into curating a dark and experimental craft of music. The outcome is ‘Devilment II – The Mephisto Waltzes‘, and we inquire into it’s development.
With projects like these we often wonder if it’s just a bit on the side for musicians such as Dani Filth’s caliber, but he reiterates that it is certainly not, and already put those queries to bed with a well-produced first album. We ask about the album, the differences between Devilment and Cradle of Filth, and about how he is free to experiment on another project out of his main one of 25 years.
Listen to the unedited interview or read the transcript below:
So Dani, let’s talk Devilment!
First of all we know that this is a second band on top of another big band you’re in, a band we might have heard of called Cradle of Filth. How are you finding the time to balance the two projects?
With extreme difficulty as I’m finding out. Well it’s not too bad…I mean you can mix the two, but not in the writing way – don’t mix the writing process of two bands at the same time.
When we finished the mixing of the Devilment album, we went to the Czech Republic to collate all the ideas for the new Cradle of Filth record, and that begins recording at the end of this month and the album’s got to be delivered the second weeks in May. We take Christmas and New Year’s out of the equation…weekends…gives us a bout 4 and a half months in the studio. So basically working on that, I’ve split my days into half doing press, and half rehearsing for the Devilment tour, also rehearsing and writing lyrics for Cradle.
You must be feeling the burn a bit.
It’s OK, it’s kind of balancing. The last couple of records have been a little bit like a snow globe – when all the bits have fallen to the bottom you just turn it over and start again!
It’s going to be thrown slightly out of whack on this touring cycle as Cradle are about to undergo a world tour, so we’re going to be out on the road considerably longer for this next coming album than we have in the past. It’s going to be alittle off kilter, it’s not going to be an album per year…but we’ll see!
So I guess with a second band you’ve sort off ejected yourself off that regular cycle…
It’s actually quite refreshing. As soon as you get sick of one – you know get sick of the work, play and repetition…but as soon as you have a mix and master and done the press, you can move to something else.
So with Devilment do you feel like you can go outside the confines of the Cradle themes and do something a little different?
Oh, totally. I mean if you considered, and I’m not at all comparing myself to any of these people, Cradle as something like Lovecraft, Poe, Baudelaire, Stoker, Byron, Shelley…maybe Devilment is like Tim Burton, Sylvia Plath…it’s more modern and slightly more surreal.
It’s equally dark, but there’s a lot more I can get away with in Devilment because we haven’t had the longevity or history that Cradle have had. With Cradle we’ve had 12 albums and numerous other things, people expect a certain thing out of us. We couldn’t get away with writing an album about Mars!
Nope, that would definitely raise a few eyebrows!
Well it would wouldn’t it! I think if we did that with Devilment people would be like ‘yea, that’s cool, it’s just a bit wacky!’.
And now a second Devilment album – the title ‘Mephisto Waltzes’ is very interesting indeed, all I know about that name is it was a series of waltzes written by Liszt…why did you choose this particular title?
Well…we had the artwork before we actually decided on the title, and it just sort of suggested it – this girl doing a sort of strange dance on it, it was like a dance of death which implies that all the songs on the album are linked to these kind of devilish endevours.
Also there’s the fact that we actually called it Devilment II, as in two fingers up, you know…it’s the second album and it’s not a vanity project. The record company, the band, the fans warrant a second album, so it’s a proper band.
It’s like Danzig as well, you know ‘Danzig II’…another big demon in the hellish hierarchy along with Mephistopheles or Mephisto. He was also singer of the Misfits who made a song called ‘Mephisto Waltz’, and that was also based in turn from a film in the 1970’s called ‘The Mephisto Waltz’ which was loosely based on the canon works of Liszt. The main protagonist in the film sells his soul to the devil because he wants to be a concert pianist…it all came full circle.
With all that meaning behind the album title, does that tie in musically at all?
It suggests that all the tracks are part of this ‘dance of death’. The track ‘Dea Della Morte’ which means ‘Goddess of Death’, I really like as its got a lot of cadence and rhythm to it, and again that was inspired by the girl on the cover. On the reverse cover as well which is very similar, it’s velvet black with a main figure who seems to be undergoing some sort of strange transformation.
And with the music, would you say now that you have got more of a solid idea of how you want to continue on with this band?
This album is definitely more experimental. A couple of the musicians joined half way through the writing process of the first record, and then they probably felt more like passengers than actual band members. But as with any second album you always want to experiment, but you don’t want to push it too far away from the initial style. It could be a great record, but you don’t want people scratching their head and saying ‘this isn’t what I bought in to.’
So we have to keep one eye on the Devilment sound, that sort of groove, big beat vibe. But I think this one is darker and dancing in quite strange territory, especially in ‘Hitchcock Blonde’ and ‘Shine on Sophie Moone’ have strange parts in it. ‘Dea Della Morte’ I would just say is very weird full stop.
‘Full Dark, No Stars’ is our 3rd video which came out Monday, is kind of an anime type thing which a graphic artist actually drew out, as opposed to our first one which was kind of a half lyric, half performance…but yea…I think it’s all pretty experimental…we upped the ante on everything. We really played on the strengths of the first album.
I know you’ve been busy with Cradle, how much did you contribute to the development of the album yourself?
Well mainly I’m just a lyricist, but I’ve always had a hand in saying, ‘Well this is OK’, ‘This needs expanding upon’, or ‘This is a good tune’. But everyone here does the same thing. In ‘Under the Thunder’ for example, I had written a chorus, Lauren had written a chorus, and we couldn’t choose which one was the better one. In the end we just took half of her’s and half of mine and just spliced them together.
And that’s really what the album was about, a lot of work in the studio where we’d be like ‘You know what, that’s absolutely shit, be honest, let’s just do away with it’, and that happened to a couple of songs where we literally just had to sort the weeds out from the chaff and be honest with ourselves. We dropped a song which actually I loved and saw a lot of potential in, unfortunately not everyone did…but I bowed down gracefully with that one, it was just like ‘OK, fair enough’. You know, as long as I get my say we can move on to something else.
Now you mention the song titles, that was something that struck me on the first time I saw the tracklist to the album. Titles like ‘Hitchcock Blonde’ and ‘Shine On Sophie Moone’…I mean is that a reference to the porn star?
Well it is, but it just worked with the title theme. There used to be a TV series called ‘Shine On, Harvey Moon’ and I always liked the title as it’s a play on words, and the song, when I listened to it, sounded more based on human emotions. It was built on all these bad emotions, it’s quite cathartic.
‘Shine On Sophie Moone’ is about fan obsession driven to the point of fanaticism – she doesn’t want to be that person but kind of idolises the position, like an untouchable person that somebody feels they’re candid because of their job…so a starlet, much like the subject matter even if it’s a slightly different.
With ‘Hitchcock Blonde’, even name checks kept the laxity in it which is quite handy as writing lyrics a lot easier! Wish that could happen a bit more…
If only writing for Cradle was as easy as Devilment eh?
Well I wouldn’t get that far! There was one of the bonus tracks where I’d written the lyrics, kind of a little story about the effects of alcohol, and the producer said ‘We just need to lose this line’. So I literally had to recreate the same thing with less words, and it was a real task. I think that’s the thing – when we think of simpler structures and simple choruses, we have to make as big a point if not bigger. It can be a lot tougher to write.
It’s interesting to hear that, one would usually think that writing the simpler stuff would be easier…
If you look at all the simple pop songs lyrics are really simple, but obviously I didn’t want to do ‘Tonight is a good night’, or ‘I love you…blah blah blah…let’s go…baby, baby, baby…’, so to make something quite profound and catchy is a lot more difficult to create than the drawn out songs that go on for 8 minutes and are all over the place. It’s not easy.
Well the album is sounding fantastic. I wanted to ask about Devilment in the live arena, I recall there was only one tour you guys did a couple years ago?
The only full tour so far was with Lacuna coil, but there is one coming up in December of the UK. We have done a bunch of big summer festivals before though like Graspop, Rock Harz and Hammerfest. Obviously like I said Cradle are in the studio, so it kind of puts out Devilment from doing anything extensive until the summer. Fortunately though we share the same booking agent as Cradle of Filth so we’re not stepping on each others toes, but because Cradle are embarking on a world tour as of September, there’s not going to be much room to do stuff in the summer. We’ve got about a four month window for Devilment to get active, but that was our main tour thus far. Not the biggest stages, but we’re looking forward to playing a lot more.
And when you do get to play will you have a stage show to match the eccentricity of Devilment?
Well we will try as much as we can, we are not playing massive places, really only 200-400 capacity.
Well thanks Dani for speaking to us today, really appreciate it!