Our West Coast Contributor, Janie McManamon got to sit down with Richard Shaw of Cradle Of Filth before their March 3rd show at Cleveland House Of Blues.
Thursday, March 3, in Cleveland was like any winter day on Lake Erie: freezing, dismal, and covered in layers of snow and slush. In stark contrast, the House of Blues was burning with energy as a line of fans wrapped around the building, brimming with excitement to see British metal band Cradle of Filth. The band was winding down on their “Inquisitional Torture” tour with Butcher Babies and Ne Obliviscaris, which started in January. Before the show, I spoke backstage with guitarist Richard Shaw, who joined the band in 2014. Shaw shared his thoughts about Cradle of Filth’s esteemed imagery, visual motifs, and its ability to stay strong for 25 years. He also offered his thoughts on women in metal and U.S. politics.
Question: How has the tour been so far?
Answer: The tour has been fantastic. Some amazing crowds, amazing venues, get to meet so many amazing people, get to see cities that, as a guy from the UK, I never thought I would actually do a US tour. Some of us are new to the band, and it’s my first year of touring. It’s actually a great experience and we haven’t got long left to go now, so we’re making the most of it.
Q: What’s been your favorite place so far?
A: What, apart from Cleveland?
Q: Of course!
A: I don’t know! That’s really difficult because all the shows have been so good. The ones that stick out are like L.A. and San Antonio, off the top of my head, but I don’t know why. It seemed like the crowds were on another level.
Q: Can you talk about what the crowds have been like?
A: I mean, it sounds cliché but they have been incredible. They really have. Cause I’ve done a lot of tours with them before in Russia and Europe, and a lot of festivals, but it just seems like the American fans are so lovely, and so passionate. When I meet people after the show or at the meet-and-greets, they’re just the loveliest people in the world, and then they turn into maniacs when we go on. Between songs they’re like “Oh my god!” It’s like the complete opposite of Europe, where they’re very reserved during the show, and then they’re crazy when you meet them. It’s like the opposite. Over here they’re really nice, but then they go a little bit crazy when we’re playing the show. It’s really good energy.
Q: Has there been an experience with meeting a fan that’s stuck out to you?
A: Not really. It’s more the people you develop a relationship with over time. There’s quite a few fans that I’ve met that have been such lovely people, and they’ll friend you on Facebook and stuff, and every time you see them they’ve got more stories to tell, but you get the odd knotter who is just crazy and you’re just like, “Whoa, calm down, calm down! We’re cool!” But most people are really lovely.
Q: A lot of your songs and albums are centralized around horror and gothic imagery. Can we expect to see that during your shows?
A: We’ll have that. We’ve got the big backdrop with the artwork from the new album. On this tour it’s difficult because obviously we have to fly things over from the UK, so we haven’t got as much of the show as we usually have. But, saying that, we’ve got a great lights show, so, yeah, it is gonna be a lot. We almost feel like when there’s not as much of the theatrics, we make up for it with our stage personas, so we go for it a little bit more.
Q: Are you comparable to the fans in that you’re more reserved off stage?
A: Yeah, I’m a relatively quiet, but sociable guy. I’m like one of those guys where once you get to know me I kind of open up a little bit more, but when I’m on stage, something weird happens. You put me in a costume, and, I remember reading about Slipknot, and they said the same, that as soon as you get ready you feel this other person come out, and all the inhibitions are completely lost. It’s that kind of feeling that happens; you put stuff on and just become a different person, and don’t hold back.
Q: Cradle of Filth has been around since 1991. It’s gone through lineup changes, label changes, fanbase changes – what’s the secret? I mean that’s more than twice as long as The Beatles.
A: Yeah, that’s the thing that gets me because I’m a huge, huge Beatles fan. When you think about what they achieved in that short amount of time, it’s mind-boggling. And nobody, I don’t think, will ever touch that. But like you say, it’s like, bands are having careers longer than those guys and I don’t know – I don’t know what it is. I think it’s the fact that there’s constant change. I think, obviously, yeah, every band wants to keep their original lineup together, but unfortunately that’s just not been the case for Cradle of Filth for one reason or another. But everything feels really, really good in this band with the lineup at the moment, and I hope it continues for a long time, but I don’t know what it is. I think Cradle’s just one of those bands that even within the metal community, they’re kind of unique, especially due to Dani’s vocal style. I can’t think of anyone who sounds like him. And he’s constantly pushing himself musically and lyrically; he’s always wanting to offer something new, and I think now with this lineup he’s finally got a band that’ll wholly embrace that and run with it, to the point where it’s like we don’t feel like we’re confined to anything. I think it is that constant change; we’re not one of those bands that’s gonna constantly stay the same.
Q: A lot of times, though, fans get upset with change. What’s your usual reaction to that?
A: It does depend on the band, I find. There’s some bands like Slayer, if all of a sudden they came out and did like a ballad, you’d sort of be like, “What the hell are they doing?” With Slayer, I know what to expect and it’s gonna be great. And then there are some bands where I would get disappointed if they didn’t change. Like you mentioned, The Beatles – they changed practically with every single album. I think it gets exciting, and that’s the way it should be with any kind of longevity. But, like I said, I think it depends on the band themselves.
Q: We’re in Cleveland, the kind of self-proclaimed birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve noticed this trend in rock where metal sometimes gets ignored or pushed off to the side in mainstream rock. Especially in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.
A: Yeah, yeah. With the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, it’s interesting. It seems like it’s a very mainstream thing, and that’s the thing I’ve noticed coming over to the states. I think it’s different in the UK where there’s an appreciation of metal and underground artists. But over here it seems like the more mainstream it is the more it’s praised, which, there’s nothing wrong with that. But it seems like, if you’re into metal, you’ve got to dig for it a little bit deeper to try and find the good stuff. And there’s so many good bands coming out, so many old bands that I’m always discovering. But it does seem like you need to do a little bit of work to find those bands whereas more mainstream kind of rock artists seem to be a little more accepted, hence why it’s called “mainstream” but yeah, you just have to dig a little deeper; it’s all there.
Q: Can you talk about the difference in the way music, especially metal, is received in the UK versus the US?
A: It’s an odd one. It’s very similar. Obviously, in the UK, we’re technically like a small island, really, but when you think about it there’s all these great bands that came out of the UK – classic metal bands, and don’t mind me saying, technically we started metal, bands like Black Sabbath and Priest. I think it’s very, very similar between the US and the UK, but in the UK we seem to completely turn our back on the charts. We are the kind of people that like to dig and find the newer bands and things like that. And then you get the people who are just happy listening to the radio. Music’s like wallpaper to them; it’s always around, they just never really notice it. Then you get a lot of diehard fans who have got to try and find the newest, craziest, most out-there band ever. In the US I haven’t seen it as much but I know it happens, but I think it’s all relative because you’re a much bigger country. I think that’s what it comes down to.
Q: Going back to the imagery, I know a lot of people have asked what your inspiration is, but I’m curious about why?
A: It’s one of this things – when Dani first settled the band, I think he was drawn to the metal imagery of yore. You think of bands like Black Sabbath, even that first album cover, there’s something pretty dark about it. I remember reading interviews with Sabbath, saying how they saw a film, and they wanted to put music to that film, like, music to scare people. It’s a similar kind of thing that Cradle have carried through. It’s like, they push it to the nth degree, and now I think people would be shocked if Cradle didn’t push it to the nth degree. You would never see us on stage without the makeup and without the costumes or anything like that. It just goes hand-in-hand with the music. It’s like a soundtrack to a very incredible horror film.
Q: Is it purely for shock value?
A: I don’t think so. I would say – well, obviously there’s the shock factor, the infamous t-shirt – that was made for shock. There’s no doubt about it and it did its job. But, to me, in a world where you turn on the news and you see scenes of war and certain things happening in the US right now that I probably shouldn’t get into, but you just see things that are more shocking in day-to-day life on the TV than you do at a rock show. I think it’s gone beyond shock rock now, where, in a way, that’s a pretty cool thing. Some bands made it on shock alone, where a lot of their music didn’t survive; the longevity wasn’t there. But now, it’s not enough just to be theatrical and to shock. They have to have the music to match it. Cradle’s always been one of those bands that have managed to do that, and it’s why they’ve had such a long career.
Q: Do you think in the early stages of that career that the shock value played a role in getting Cradle known?
A: Definitely. Definitely. It’s the same way with KISS and Alice Cooper. But then again, those bands had the songs to back it up. Even bands like Slipknot, to me, why do you think Slipknot have managed to stick around for so long, despite the initial shock of the first album. They’ve got the songs to back it up. As long as there’s a band that’s always trying to redefine that kind of shock rock thing, and they’ve got the songs to back it up, it’s going to keep everything interesting for everybody, the way I see it. You need those bands to come along and stir it up a little bit. To give everyone a kick up the arse. Sorry, kick up the ass. You’re American; I forgot.
Q: Speaking of Alice Cooper, I’m not sure if you guys watched the Grammys, but did you happen to catch the Hollywood Vampires.
A: I saw little bits of it. I didn’t see the full performance.
Q: What did you think, just of what you saw?
A: I thought … I don’t know. It was one of those things where it was a lot of hype, but that’s justified considering who was in the band. Great show. I didn’t hear much of it, to be honest with you, I’ve only seen like little bits on Facebook, but I’m more than willing to check them out and hear what the Grammy performance was. I’m intrigued. I’m intrigued on what they can deliver.
Q: What surprised me about it was that they had Johnny Depp playing guitar.
A: Yeah. I heard about it a couple years ago, about Johnny Depp to perform in this band together with Alice Cooper and Joe Perry, and that got me intrigued. I heard a couple songs from the album, and I think they’ve got the songs to back it up. So it’s not just going to be a short-lived hype, I hope. Well, obviously their schedules must be pretty manic to get them to go together on tour, but it would be interesting to see them live at a festival or something.
Q: A lot of people might expect your personalities to match up with the dark, scary imagery you guys have. Obviously, you’re not dark or scary people.
A: I’m not dark or scary. At least I hope not.
Q: Not at all! However, what do you think is surprising about you guys, such as interests or other music you listen to?
A: Well I’m the weirdo of the band in this sense, because I grew up a rock and metal kid, but weirdly enough until I joined Cradle of Filth, I started to listen to metal less and less. I was probably just like a session guitarist. I’m required to play the guitar for whoever needs me to play guitar, so I’m into all kinds of different styles of music. I grew up a Beatles fan. My grandparents brought me up on Elvis and Buddy Holly and Doc Williams, and all that kind of stuff. Backstage, we have all sorts of interests. I think Dani’s the one guy who’s like full-on metal, but horror soundtracks. He’s big into film soundtracks and big orchestral scores. Daniel, our bass player, he’s very much a metal guy as well, but very much into bands like Queen. Lindsay’s a big Evanescence fan, but also likes a lot of pop stuff like Ellie Goulding’s stuff, so we have a little bit of everything going on backstage. I think my collection gets listened to the least. I’ll put something on and it’s like, “Oh God, Rich! Change it! Change the song.” So, yeah, we’re into everything but I think that helps in a band. If we’re all into the same stuff then we’re just going to end up sounding like our influences, whereas when you’ve got this big melting pot it’s going to keep things interesting and keep bringing different ideas to the table.
Q: Your individual images are also diverse. In some of your pictures, Lindsay has antlers, and Dani has his face painted. Do you have inspiration for each of those as well?
A: You’ll have to ask them, really. For the rest of us, I would say that it happened by accident. When I joined the band, the last thing I thought about was what I’m going to look like on stage, because I had two weeks to learn the entire set. So I was thinking about the music, and as soon as it was like, “Right, we have to get ready. We’ve got to get the makeup on,” we were like looking at each other going, “What do we… do?” So it kind of happened by accident and we just delved into that. I know Lindsay and Dani, they think very much about this – they’re the singers, so they’re going to be the focal point for a lot of people. They think about it a lot. They’re always changing their look, and I’m not sure where the influences come from. I know Dani’s a big film buff, so I think he sees things in Del Toro films and things like that where he’ll just go, “That’s pretty cool. I wonder if I can incorporate that,” but you’d have to ask him. From the few conversations I’ve had with him – it’s usually film based. He does read a lot as well, being the wordsmith that he is. I think he takes a lot from literature as well, like the imagery that’s evoked by certain things. He’ll go, “I wonder if I can actually put that imagery on my face.” That’s the way I see it. He’s a very well read individual, he’s seen lots of films, so he’s always searching for inspiration, not just lyrically, but for the imagery as well.
Q: You guys have always had a female vocalist in the band. What I’m wondering is – a lot of people don’t see how important it is that women succeed in metal…
A: It is. Very much so.
Q: A lot of people, often times, when they see a woman in metal, they turn away. Could you talk about that? If you’ve seen that at all?
A: I think we’ve been incredibly lucky in that we’ve never really been singled out. I’ll backtrack. The thing that really winds me up is that there’s a genre called “female-fronted.” That winds me up. You don’t hear of a genre called “male-fronted,” so why should it make a difference? To me, I think we’ve been very lucky. We just did the 70,000 Tons of Metal Cruise and there’s a lot of female vocalists for bands that were on there, and I think it was great because we didn’t see any fans or any bands looking at each other going, “Oh that’s just a bunch of girls singing for a band,” but they took them seriously – they treated them as bands. I think, hopefully, we’re coming around to that in this day and age. It’s a shame it’s taken so long, considering that in every other style of music, you’ve got incredible female vocalists. Nobody thinks that it’s odd, but yet, in metal, it was regarded as such. I think we’re getting out of that a little bit more; I think it’s more about the individual that’s into it rather than the scene. It’s less of an issue. As a matter of fact, I think anything that’s kind of “female-fronted,” there’s an expectation for it to be brilliant, in a way. If they’ve already gotten out there and made a name for themselves, they’re going to be very different. I think that’s what we’re seeing with Lindsay and with the Butcher Babies; they’re doing something different. It’s just so cool to see.
Q: Just for fun, since there’s been a lot of political mayhem going on here in America, what do you guys think of all that?
A: We see little bits. When we’re looking to get a signal on the bus, since we’ve got a TV on the bus, we occasionally watch the news. I just find it strange. Me, personally, I find it strange. Even in the UK, the only person you ever hear about is Donald Trump, and it’s like, no wonder he’s leading all of these polls, because nobody knows who the other candidates are. I think that’s a scary, scary thing. But, you know, it’s all scare tactics – hopefully. Most of the Americans I’ve met on this tour are like, “Please don’t judge us from what you’ve seen Donald Trump do. Please don’t judge us. We all don’t think like this.” And we know that, but it’s kind of scary at the same time. But it all sorts itself out. I think it would be really strange if he came to power considering how many people he’s managed to piss off in the process. That’s what I think about it.
Q: You don’t seem too concerned.
A: Well, at the moment, no. I mean, yeah, it was a novelty thing. I don’t agree with the things he’s coming out with at all, but the fact he’s winning some of these polls – it’s like, “Right. Okay. This isn’t as funny as it was. This is looking like reality. The way I see it, as long as there are ethnic minorities that vote, and there are a lot of them, there’s no way he’s winning. That’s the way I see it. That’s my opinion, I can’t speak on behalf of Cradle of Filth, but that’s my opinion on the matter.
Cradle Of Filth’s latest release “Hammer Of The Witches” is available now. You can check out more about Cradle Of Filth at their official website.