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Cradle of Filth | Damnation And A Day | interview | Dave Pybis | metal | Lollipop
Cradle of Filth
Damnation And A Day (Epic)
An interview with bassist Dave Pybis
by Scott Hefflon
Cradle of Filth, of course, rule. For ten years, European metalheads have understood what American audiences seem to only now fathom: Freaky extreme metal just doesn't get any better than Cradle of Filth. With one graveyard-dirt-caked foot in black metal (blastbeats, shrieks, facepaint, and scantly-clad virgin sacrifices) and the other hopping fiendishly from death metal to thrash to spooky classical (and far more), Cradle of Filth are kinda like Slipknot times ten. Aside from, ya know, offering exponentially more dynamics than any given Slipknot song (cuz let's face it, those guys, while mind-blowing, really only have about five different songs, and all the rest are damn-near interchangeable knock-offs of the same), Cradle of Filth is simply, like, freaky... Like truly scary. Even die-hard underground metalheads sometimes get spooked. I sure have. Their chanting black mass on a dark, windy night, the trees outside whistling ancient secrets, and even I get shivers, and it takes a lot to get my neckhairs to stand straight up, ya know?
So now, finally, Cradle of Filth is signed to Sony and will play Ozzfest this summer. As they say, ya gotta give the Devil his due...
You're the "new" bassist, but you've been in the band for a year and a half or so...
Yeah, time has totally flown. In May, it'll be two years since I got the message from Martin (Foul, keyboardist). I was crewing for Orange Goblin at the time, on tour with Alice Cooper in England, and Martin called and asked if I wanted a job. I knew exactly what he meant. (laughs) They invited me to a couple festivals when Robin (Graves) was still playing, and he knew I was going to replace him straight after the festivals. We did a rehearsal together, and he showed me some stuff. I'd been learning the parts on my own from the records, and it was interesting because he'd play some part high on the neck that I was playing low, and vise versa. For his last show, he had to learn one of their really old songs that he hadn't played in years, and I'd been practicing it for three weeks, so he asked me how to play his own song. (laughs)
Did you change the way you learned any of the songs from watching him play?
No. I have the nasty habit of drinking too much while playing, so you learn to go by feel. Cradle shows are crazy from start to finish, so when you're going mad on your instrument and you're drunk as well, you really have to trust your feel. So the last thing I was going to do was reprogram how I learned to play the songs. I practiced every day, three times through the set list a day, and I couldn't listen to anything else. Some of the songs are eight minutes long, and the arrangements and structures are very complicated.
Well, it's not like you've never played bass in a band before...
Just a different style. Maybe I'll go for the Metallica job next. (you can hear him crack a ghoulish grin)
How long did you play bass with Anathema?
Three years. They've been going since '92, but I was just there for three years and recorded two albums with them: Judgement (1999) and A Fine Place to Exit (2001). A Fine Place to Exit caused me to leave, because I wasn't into it musically or personality-wise.
Did you tour for A Fine Place to Exit?
No, the Cradle job came up for the summer, and Anathema wasn't doing anything. They had the Milwaukee Metalfest show booked two days after the Cradle tour finished, so I offered to do the Cradle job, and then do the Anathema show, but they were stubborn and said I couldn't do both. I wasn't going to sit around all summer to just do one show, I wanted to work all summer and tour. So I left Anathema.
Didn't the two bands kind of come up together in England?
Yeah, Cradle supported Anathema in '94 on their first European tour. I was working at Peaceville Records at the time, and I remember getting the original Cradle logo to put in the adverts. Working with Anathema was very frustrating at times, because potentially, they're musically brilliant...
But as Anathema became less and less metal, you left and joined the most extreme band on Earth!
It may sound juvenile to the members of Anathema, but I enjoy headbanging, I enjoy playing faster than everyone else, I enjoy wearing face make-up, I enjoy wearing PVC trousers, and I enjoy meeting fans... I enjoy every part of this band. I'm not that talented, but I want to work, and Cradle has given me the best opportunity in the world to work every fuckin' day.
Did you have a hand in writing Damnation and a Day?
And was this your first time writing with Cradle?
Yeah. I was involved in putting together the best-of, Lovecraft and Witch Hearts, but Damnation and a Day was the first I helped write. I came in right after Bitter Suites to Succubi, so I didn't have to go through the chaos of writing the album, I just got the fun of playing the songs afterwards.
Cradle of Filth is a very hands-on band - one might say control freaks - involved in everything from album art to tee shirts, every step along the way...
Young bands don't understand that when you sign a deal, there are commitments, and whether you're part of the process or not, the albums will come out. Last year, we had to do the best-of and the live record, so we could either get involved and make them good, or we could be lazy and complain about them afterwards because they're shit. And that's the thing about Cradle of Filth, we get involved to make sure each release is special.
Last year, we were writing the new album, finishing the DVD, Dani was promoting his movie role in Cradle of Fear, and we have the live and best-of records. Most bands would've crumbled under the pressure, but we just fuckin' did it.
You have a background in the non-musical aspects of being in a band from Peaceville, right?
As I said, I'm not as talented as some of the other members, but I work hard, so I was a perfect candidate for the position. I was 20 when I got offered a job at Peaceville doing graphic design. I did a fanzine and was in my own band, and when I look back on my time at Peaceville, and I got to work on some of the most influential records in this genre: Paradise Lost's Gothic, Darkthrone's A Blaze in the Northern Sky, all the early At The Gates, a lot of Autopsy, on and on... I run into these guys now, and they remember me being this kid doing all the design work... I've also crewed for a lot of bands - that's how I got the job with Anathema - so I've done a lot of different stuff. So this is easy, sitting in a hotel room in New York, drinking Corona and doing interviews, talking about me all day... (laughs)
Was there a gap between Peaceville and Anathema?
Yeah, there was about three years when I mostly did my own band, Dreambreed. I was the singer/guitarist, and Duncan Patterson, Anathema's old bassist, was in the band. It was more dark rock, like maybe Paradise Lost, but with no Depeche Mode influence. (laughs)
I noticed your bio doesn't use the phrase "black metal."
Good. When Cradle started, the whole Norwegian black metal thing was in full swing, and they shunned Cradle of Filth as an English poser band. Over the years, Cradle got bigger and bigger, and now being on Sony, you could argue that Cradle of Filth is the biggest black metal band in the world. There are all these black metal bands copying Cradle of Filth now, a band they used to shun... We're not black metal, we're an extreme metal band.
What music do you listen to?
I'm a bit old-fashioned... When Dani (Filth, the singer) and I met, we realized we had the same taste in music. I love the Misfits, early American hardcore like Minor Threat, Black Flag, Bad Brains...
So your love of speed came from early hardcore, not metal?
And the independent state of mind as well, wanting to stay in control of all aspects of our band. Maybe not as anally as Fugazi... (laughs)
I always gave England credit for doom...
Heavy, slow... Much like some of the stoner rock, only one camp is stoned and the other's drunk. (laughs) But yeah, early My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost, and Anathema was an excellent scene to be a part of. Cathedral started off as a doom band and then became a stoner band. Napalm Death, Extreme Noise Terror, and Carcass are all from around here as well. When I'm home, I can sit in the pub with what some might consider rock stars... I always wanted to think that New York was like that as well, that Anthrax and Type O Negative and Biohazard were all getting pissed together, but it's not like that here (in New York). America is just too fuckin' big... (laughs)
Cradle of Filth seems to go through a lot of drummers...
I think it's been four... It used to be Nick (now in Dimmu Borgir, Old Man's Child, Lock Up), and then WAS (W A Sarginson, from The Blood Divine), then this Dave guy who played on the From the Cradle to Enslave EP and lasted about two gigs, and now Adrian (Erlandsson, from Penance, At The Gates, The Haunted). That's four drummers in a year.
And a guitarist just left as well, right?
Gian, yeah. He left for about 10 months about two years ago, but he's an original... He's on tour with Christian Death right now. We still remain friends. We have a session guy for the Ozzfest tour, and if he survives... That's what I did. I did 10 months of session playing before they asked me to join the band.
What's working with Dani really like?
Let me tell you a parallel story... I'm a huge fan of the Misfits, and we're doing a cover of "Halloween II" and we hope to get Glenn Danzig to sing on it. I've heard Glenn is a fan of Cradle of Filth, but when I met him, I don't think he knew I was in the band. I can appreciate the fact that he didn't know me, but it was a weird situation and we didn't get along.
When people meet celebrities, it's a big deal to the fan, but maybe I'm waiting for a drink at the bar...
"Are you delivering my drink? No? Then get the fuck away from me." And then that former fan rushes back to the Internet to say what a jerk you are...
(laughs) I see you know the feeling... We're just living our lives, and people often base their opinions of you on a single interaction, and often that moment doesn't go smoothly because you're distracted, or busy, or in a bad mood. We aren't bad people - we're quite normal actually - we don't drink blood and eat babies, we're a hard-working metal band.
So you're on Sony proper now?
We're going through Red Music or Red Ink, which is the independent side of Epic/Sony.
You used to be on Music for Nations, and then available in the U.S. through whatever company happened to be working with Music for nations that week...
Yeah, and that was a real sore point... But the Sony deal has really worked out well so far. They haven't interfered with the music in any way. They knew we were a big band, and we knew they had the clout. So we made a brutal, in-your-face Cradle of Filth record, probably our most extreme yet, so it's not like Sony made us into a boy band. (laughs)
We got to pick the single, and it charted in England immediately. "Babalon A.D. (So Glad for the Madness)," track number 12. We also did a video for the song, directed by Wiz, who's done videos for Marilyn Manson. We got offered a lot of big-name producers for the album, but we went with Doug Cook, who started with the band, and we got other people to mix the songs. We got Rob Caggiano from Anthrax (who's done various nü metal like Dry Kill Logic and Ill Niño), who flew over from America and really cared about the band after he was finished. He brought us a powerful, modern sound, because we're going head-to-head with Korn, Slipknot, and Marilyn Manson. We're obviously not trying to play like any of those bands, but can't have tinny-sounding guitars and no drum boom if we want to take on Linkin Park. (laughs) If we can get a blastbeat played on MTV or the radio, that's one up for extreme music.