The Hand That Rocks the Cradle of Filth - A Conversation With Paul Allender

Where Cradle of Filth has a reputation as a band given to theatrical presentations and the occasional flight of fancy, guitarist Paul Allender is a man who speaks much in the same way he plays; straightforward, without wandering decoration and totally unique to him. As Cradle of Filth gets ready to spring their new album "The Manticore and Other Horrors" on the world, Allender and I sat down for the second time to discuss the album, the band's history, the martial arts, and a small army of odds and ends. It was at all points an entertaining and enlightening conversation about the man and his music.
M. DREW: You’ve said this Cradle of Filth album returns to the some of the things you guys did before. What does that mean for the album?
PAUL ALLENDER: For me personally, I felt that the last few albums was lacking the aggression that we used to have. It lacked attitude, and everything was a bit too nice. That’s my opinion, you know. I thought it got a bit too nice and we’re meant to be this really obnoxious, loud metal band, and all of a sudden we got nice and smooth and pretty. So this album, there’s a conscious effort made on my behalf and the drummer’s behalf to actually bring the force, the punk vibe we used to have, the real metal vibe we used to have. We have actually recorded, like, played together, since the first album. It’s all cut and paste. This time, I made a conscious effort with the drummer, to record it live in studio. It’s a lot more of an organic vibe, not like the cut and paste stuff so many people are doing right now. To be honest, I suggested doing it on tape again, leaving computers completely behind.
M.D: It seems like the trend today is that everyone is going for perfection in digital post-production, with their sound and drum triggering and all these other things. Do you feel like that’s negatively impacting the genre?
PA: Absolutely. This is the reason why we went back and played it together. The drums, as well. Most of the drum you’re hearing on record is all natural drum sound. So we’ve left the triggering and the over-playing and the over-producing side of it all behind, because so many people are doing it. To put it honestly, it sounds like a machine. There’s no human errors; not bad errors, but human twitches you’d normally get when you play. On this album, we’ve left all that behind. There’s no absolutely rock solid, on-point, bang-on timing. It moves, it flows, it sounds human. Like we’ve done it completely on purpose.
M.D: If this is a return to your extreme and punk roots, will fans of your last couple of albums like this one?
PA: I certainly hope so. We’ve had the two tracks that were released on Youtube and stuff. People seem to like it. People have said ‘oh yeah, I really like the last couple of albums, but this one sounds great, I can’t wait to hear it.” Obviously you get the people who go ‘oh, this is complete crap, I wish it was like something else’ and all that boring shit, but it is what it is; we’re a band and we’ve evolved and we’ve moved on. Yet again, we’ve moved on into another direction like we always do. You can’t stay on one particular formula. I remember reading one comment, there was one person who said ‘this is really, really crap, you need to go and sack everybody and go do “Dusk[…and Her Embrace]” again’ or whatever. There was another comment which actually made me laugh. They said ‘well, there’s a band in…’ I can’t remember where it was, fucking Chile or wherever, ‘they’re doing stuff that sounds like “Dusk” and “Cruelty [and the Beast].” My point to that is, if that type of music that a very small minority keep banging on us to go back to was massive, that band would be bigger than us. We’re going in a different direction for a reason, to keep the band alive again. If we had kept banging out the stuff that we always did, fans would be saying ‘well, shit,’ and the band wouldn’t be around now. So there’s a lot of comments I see online and I don’t get pissed off about it, because there’s no thought behind them, do you know what I mean?
M.D: Cradle of Filth as a band has always been associated with the vanguard of extreme metal. As more bands push in that direction, to do things harder, faster, stronger, paired with bands like Cannibal Corpse who have been doing it for a long time, what does Cradle have to do then to stay ahead of the game?
PA: You have to try and keep evolving. You can’t stay in one particular style. Within our albums, each album sounds different, the songwriting’s different. You can’t stay…look at what would happen if the band goes ‘this is brilliant, this is the prototype.’ Pick any album [and say] ‘this is the formula, this is what people love, we’re gonna stick doing this for the rest of our lives.’ The band would get seriously bored with doing it because you’re putting out music not for yourself but for other people, and eventually once you release two or three more albums like that, the press will be gone, it sounds like the same old shit. Look at like, Morbid Angel or Cannibal Corpse. I like the bands, don’t get me wrong, I think they’re fuckin’ brilliant. But, they sound exactly the same as they did twenty years ago. There’s no change, there’s no different stuff. So with bands like us, we’ve managed to evolve and change, instead of saying we’re this band or this band or this band, we’re a straight metal band. Therefore, that leaves the whole canopy open for whatever interests you wanted to do. We’re not a black metal band, we’re not this vampire, fucking made up stuff or whatever people are saying, or a goth band. We’re the furthest from a goth band you could ever be. We’re a straight metal band, and it leaves us completely open to do whatever the hell we want.
M.D: So, putting you on the spot then, to what do you attribute the success of a band like AC/DC, who’s been pretty much the same band for forty years?
PA: Oh, yeah, totally. I had a conversation - I’m in another band, actually – and we have a guitar player. We had this conversation actually maybe three nights ago [laughs.] We’re talking about it and I’m like ‘yeah, they’re good, but what they’ve done, they’ve come onto a formula which has sold fucking ridiculous millions of albums.’ But they were around at the right time, when rock and metal was just starting off. So people like us, come around ’94, there’s already loads of pockets of different styles of the metal genre. So it’s going to be hard having that much longevity playing the same style over and over again. AC/DC, the first album, I think it was out in seventy-something, that was fine. All the hype around that time was Led Zeppelin and stuff like that. They’d actually niched a market for a whole new sound, and they just managed to put themselves at the forefront of the whole metal movement as it was just starting off, and they’ve managed to keep it. But I guarantee you, look at that AC/DC-sounding band, what are they called? Airbourne. I might be very well wrong here, but I can’t see them doing the same stuff over and over again. I haven’t heard anything from them since they released one of their albums.
M.D: Yeah, they released a second one, it wasn’t as good as the first one.
PA: Exactly. It was the same stuff, and you say that one wasn’t as good as the first one because that stuff’s already been and gone.
M.D: When Cradle sits down and you guys are planning an album, is there anything that someone brings up as an idea, and you all shake your heads and say ‘no, that would be going too far.’?
PA: Not really, as long as it’s kept within metal. If it’s got some solid rock to it and it works with the piece, of course we’re going to do it. We just play and record whatever sounds good. If it’s got the right feel and the right vibe, no matter what it is it goes down, so long as it’s not too far in the opposite direction.
M.D: Cradle has written songs over the years about some pretty fantastical ideas, both for this album and ones before. Do you ever worry that Cradle will fall over the line and people will start to think of you as campy, or you’ll be taken less seriously a la GWAR or a band like that?
PA: No, not really, because we don’t take ourselves seriously first off anyhow [laughs]. It’s theatrical, it’s theatrics. We do a lot of stuff tongue-in-cheek. We don’t take it seriously, well, we take the music seriously, but the whole thing we don’t take it seriously. As in like, we don’t actually live it for fucking days or every second of our lives. We don’t go around the house in leather and make up, that doesn’t work. I don’t think everyone goes ‘oh, it sounds like a GWAR,’ or like this or like that, because we don’t look at it like that ourselves anyhow. If you’re gonna get sucked into something like that and you believe that people at home, that the band it actually walking around in make up or putting up the fucking devil’s horns every second of the day watching TV, then you’re quite sad to me. [laughs]

M.D: You’ve been with Cradle a lot of years now and in two different stints. And you note that no two albums sound the same, but what, over all the years, what’s the single biggest evolution that the band has gone through?
PA: I think when we done like “Damnation and a Day” because that could have exploded really, really big, when we were signed to Sony. When that happened, there was a lot of ‘shall we or shan’t we’ that went on, whether or not it was a good idea. That was the time when labels were jumping on the biggest bands in a lot of different scenes. But I’m not a believer in ‘what if,’ if you get offered an opportunity, you just gotta fucking do it, if it works it works, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. It obviously didn’t work. It was all very nice having a full orchestra and full choirs and months in the studio doing it, this that and the other, but at the end of the day when the album came out, they didn’t know what to do with it. We lost front covers, we lost advertising, we lost so much stuff. The people at Sony seriously devalued the band. In so many different territories worldwide it was ridiculous. I’ve never seen anything like it, to be honest. Luckily they let us go without doing anything, they just let us go. I think one of the turning points was Sony and stuff, other than that, I can’t really say. I’m hoping this album is a turning point as well, because I really feel like the band’s come three-sixty, you know? Everybody’s got the same buzz and the same vibe when we first did “Principle [of Evil Made Flesh].” It’s fucking brilliant, brought back some of the stuff that the band lost over the last few albums, which is great.
M.D: So you would say then that this album feels more comfortable for you.
PA: Oh, completely. Even the manager, she said ‘this is more like it.’ She said ‘finally, something fresh.’ Because if we had the same writing process as we had done the last couple of albums, we would have come out with an album exactly the same as the last one. You can’t have that. If we’d released another album like the last one, everyone would have gone ‘we’ve got to go through all this crap again.’ So this time, I really wanted to emphasize this, we can’t go that way. No fucking way. We’re got to do another writing and go in another direction. Still keep it as we are and still sound like Cradle, but I want this back in it, I want that back in, I want this, this, this, this and this. We’ve got to do it and we did.
M.D: This is a question as much for me as it is for anybody else. Being of a certain age, you were right in your formative years growing in the middle of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and right at the start of this sensation of American thrash. When you think of your influences and what you most closely associate with the idea of metal, being an English musician, what comes to mind first?
PA: Oh, my main influence was Maiden. Straight away. They’re the whole reason I started playing guitar. Maiden is mainly the whole reason I got into metal. [laughs]
M.D: So you feel closer to those bands than you would Metallica or Slayer or bands like that?
PA: Totally. Maiden, Judas Priest, Motorhead, I got into those three bands on the metal side of stuff. Then I started getting into Slayer, Morbid Angel, Deicide, stuff like that. Eventually Cannibal Corpse and stuff like that.
M.D: I know within the last year or so you were going forward with launching the Vomitorium, how’s that going for you?
PA: To be honest, I put it on hold. I kinda did a bit of soul searching since I been living in the States, and I feel like I’ve been spreading myself too thin. So I put that on hold. I want to go back to that later, but at the moment I’m solely concentrating on music, doing a lot of studio work. Also, I’ve got another band on the go, which I’ll release later on. I’m not gonna say too much about it, I’m gonna wait until the whole package is completely finished and then I’m gonna release it properly. One thing I hate about when someone says ‘oh, I’ve got a side project,’ they tell people about it all the time, and then what happens when it’s released is that it’s all watered down. In this day and age, people always want stuff straight away, like now. I’m not gonna do that; I’m gonna wait til the whole thing is finished, music is done, video is done, Facebook, Myspace, website, Youtube channel, the whole list, is completely done, pristine and looks a million dollars and then release it properly.
M.D: The only thing I’ll ask you, because you said you don’t want to say too much, is will it sound like Cradle, or will it sound like something totally different?
PA: Well, it’s a metal band. If you can imagine Motorhead crossed with Slayer’s “Seasons in the Abyss” type thing, with [Marilyn] Manson-style keyboards. There’s more electronic stuff…we haven’t used too many choirs or anything, so it’s not too much like Cradle. Lot of synth. It fuckin’ rocks. We got a female vocalist as well, she doesn’t sing too mellow like you would expect, she sings like…she’s got a really fucking attitude-like voice. You wouldn’t expect it from a girl. She sings in tune…
M.D: Not like an Arch Enemy?
PA: No, no no, nothing like that, she sings properly. Almost like a Skunk Anansie-type vocalist. It’s just different. I’ve played it to a couple of close friends, they’ve gone ‘fuck yes, this is brilliant.’ It’ll get out there once it’s finished, I don’t believe in giving people little dribs and drabs.
M.D: Offhand, do you have a timeline in mind?
PA: I’m hoping it’s going to be released in the next year. Obviously, Cradle comes first. I’m taking my time over it, so it works absolutely fine, and every song is like ‘fuck yeah, that’s brilliant.’ So all the rest is absolutely spot-on. If it’s not released within in the next year, then fair enough, I’ll just keep going and going until it’s actually finished properly, and everybody goes ‘oh yeah, that’s more like it.’

M.D: I know you have a long history with the martial arts. What form do you specialize in, and do you ever find that your martial arts background helps with your music career, maybe gives you the discipline to live on the road or something like that?
PA: The last thing I did was a mixture of shotokan karate, with aikido, judo, jiu jutsu, cool stuff, it’s a big mixture of styles. It was good fun. I haven’t trained in a few years now, since moving to the States I haven’t trained much because I’ve got too busy getting my shit together, you know? I’m actually gonna go back into it again soon with my girlfriend’s brother because he trains. So I’ll start training with him again, should be fun.

But it definitely helps. The thing is, I’m very much a black and white person. There’s no in-betweens, no gray areas. And that’s down to discipline training. For me, I won’t start anything unless I can finish it. I’m very much straight-forward thinking. I don’t like these people that start something and then moan about it, say ‘I’m hard done by it.’ That’s fucking the complete coward’s way out of stuff. You have to have discipline to actually get stuff done. Having people moan about their everyday life, I think it’s…I’m actually gobsmacked at how some people have got. They expect other people to do stuff for them, et cetera. At the end of the day, I’m very much a person, and this is because of my martial arts training, I’m very much a person [who believes] if you’re a man, you deal with it. Man the fuck up and just get on with it. I’ve applied the discipline training I’ve had to absolutely everything. My training has actually molded me into the person I am now. If someone pisses me off, I’ll tell them straight away, instead of keeping it there bubbling in the background. I don’t like people who moan about something behind the back of somebody else and won’t say it to their face. That’s all a part of discipline training and it’s completely molded me and given me complete respect for everything in the world. For work, for jobs, for living in general. I actually won’t take handouts or anything, I would rather work for stuff than have someone give me stuff. I would rather work for it, no matter how long it takes.

M.D: The things that piss you off that you have to confront, does that occasionally include your bandmates?
PA: Yep. [laughs] Yeah, it’s just general stuff. When you’ve been in the band long enough, you’re gonna argue. It’s like a family, you’re gonna argue. [laughs]
M.D: If you could make equal money doing music or art or martial arts, which one would it be?
PA: Music. It would be music. I don’t believe in making money off martial arts. The way it’s all done now, it’s so commercialized now, it makes me sick. When it was devised, the whole fighting system, was devised to protect the ones you love or family or whichever. You train because you want to do it, because you want to reach that high of spiritual essence. It’s not there to try and fleece ridiculous amounts of money out of people where you’re teaching them a watered down version of it. Really, that’s not right. In the years I’ve been doing it, when I trained in the UK, I didn’t pay for nothing. Even when I taught, I didn’t charge students at all, no money. All I wanted was the high of the training and that was it. When I moved to the States, they want membership dues, and you got to buy this and do this and do that before you even start training, it’s like ‘fuck that.’ You start talking like two hundred dollars a month, if not more, just to go down to the club twice a week. That goes completely against the grain, that’s not why it was devised, to make money out of people. I will go back to teaching again and I’ll do it free again because I like it and that’s the way it should be.

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