Cradle Of Filth guitarist Paul Allender was scheduled to call at 1:00 p.m. sharp. It was now 1:30 and there was still no call. The publicist was contacted and virtually seconds later the phone rang. "I would have called on time but I completely forgot about it," Allender said. In fact he apologized about three or four times. That’s the kind of person Allender was. Though he appeared as some menacing gargoyle on stage with his band, when the makeup came off he was a funny and thoughtful chap.
Still, you couldn’t fault him for calling late. He was in the middle of writing music for the next Cradle Of Filth album—three songs were completed—and had just wrapped up work on Evermore Darkly…
, the sort of follow-up CD/DVD EP to the Darkly, Darkly Venus Aversa
recording. The CD contained a new track titled "Thank Your Lucky Scars
" as well as Darkly, Darkly Venus Aversa remixes [including an electro-trance version of "Forgive Me Father
" that left Allender less than complimentary], alternate album versions and an accompanying DVD. Cradle had finished a tour of Russia and were now hunkering down in anticipation of recording a new album. Amidst it all, the martial arts-trained guitarist talked at length about the music and life in the Cradle.
UG: Darkly, Darkly Venus Aversa was based on the concept of the demon Lilith. Many other Cradle of Filth albums were also concept albums. What is the appeal musically of creating records around a central theme?
Paul Allender: The concept doesn’t actually get decided ‘til like everything’s recorded and finished. That’s the very last thing, which gets decided whether it’s going to be a concept or not. Because when I’m writin’ songs, I try to write each track so it can stand out on its own. I don’t have songs that follow from one to another—I’d like to think each track can stand out on its own as its own entity. They’ll go to Dani and he’ll suggest, “Oh, can we put this one here and this one here?” because lyrically it might fit better or blah blah blah blah blah. You know? It gets put together like that and then the concept will get decided right at the last minute when Dan’s writing the lyrics. All the music and everything comes first and then it goes to Dani for lyrics and concept and whatnot. Doing a concept album musically is fine but lyrically—stuff on Dan’s side of things—to be honest is a bit of a pain in the ass.
Will the next studio album be a concept record?
I know the next one we’ve got coming out isn’t a concept. I’m writing it at the moment and it’s just a collection of songs. The new album has definitely, definitely gone back to what we used to be like for The Principle of Evil Made Flesh and Dusk… and Her Embrace. It’s totally gone back that way though it’s a bit hard to explain really. I know I’ve had a few friends that have come over and heard me writin’ and asked me to play them stuff. I’ve played it and they said, “Oh, well that sounds old.”
Did you want the next album to specifically sound like it was from the Principle and Dusk… era?
The last thing we want to do is come out with another album that sounds like the last two. So this is the reason why we decided to change up the direction and go back to what we used to do with the female vocals like we used to have on there. All the strong melody lines and harmonies and that sort of shit. I’ve also put a lot of punk orientated riffs back into it again. It’s really gone quite dark and pretty hardcore.
Did the punk riffs come from touring with certain bands or listening to any specific albums?
I’ve always wanted to put the punky stuff back into it again. Yeah, I’ve always wanted to do that. It’s just what happened—it’s just the way it’s come out. I mean I must admit this time ‘round like I said, “Let’s try and make it a bit different” but different in a good way. We listened to a lot of the fans this time and we’ve kind of gone the direction they wanted or the suggestions they’ve come up with. So we’ve done that but as I said, I’ve always wanted to put the punky stuff back in. For like Principle, there was loads of punk-styled riffs all over that and there were some in Dusk… as well. So we decided to go back into it again and the people that have heard it have gone, “Fuck, it’s amazing.”
Godspeed On the Devil’s Thunder was the first time you used drummer Martin Skaroupka and he also played on the Darkly, Darkly Venus Aversa album. What did he bring rhythmically that was different than your former drummer Adrian Erlandsson?
Oh, completely. As soon as Martin came and we actually started playing properly, it was such a breath of fresh air because it was so easy to play with him it is just ridiculous. He’s the first drummer I’ve played with who actually listens to the guitar riffs and basically plays the guitar riffs on his drums and it’s the way it should be. It sounds amazing and it fits and playing with a drummer like that is effortless. Once they know the songs and they know what you’re playin’ and especially with writin’ with him and he comes up with the parts, he puts so much feel into the tracks and it’s really, really good.
Another aspect of Godspeed On the Devil’s Thunder was that you played all the guitars on it. In an interview we’d done previously you said that James Mc Illroy was great live but that he sometimes froze in the studio.
"The next studio album we’ve got coming out isn’t a concept. I’m writing it at the moment and it’s just a collection of songs."
Yeah, he didn’t really cut it. Personally I prefer to do it myself. If somebody else does one side of guitar for argument’s sake and then someone else does the other side, I mean it kinda works. But if you wanna absolutely get it nails on, I think it just needs to be one player on there just so it’s easier to actually have both sides line up properly. You know what I mean?
Even though you’ve written the parts, no other guitar player is going to interpret them exactly as you would.
Plus it’s a time thing. When you’re in a studio unfortunately nowadays and even then, you’re always constantly being hassled. Like, “C’mon, we’ve got to make sure we get this on time” and blah blah blah. And the whole red tape thing when it comes to labels and money. So it’s kind of a time thing as well just getting one person to lay it down that knows it better. If someone already knows it better than anyone else, that person needs to go and do it basically. There’s no point in actually havin’ someone on there—like I said whether it’s myself or anyone else—and it doesn’t matter what band it is who kind of knows the stuff or isn’t quite sure on something or isn’t quite as good as the other person in the band. Do you know what I mean?
So it’s always best to suck up the pride and say, “Yeah, you go and do it” or “I’ll do this ‘cause basically you haven’t quite got it nailed yet.”
James Mc Illroy is cool with that and understands his position in the band?
Oh, James is amazing don’t get me wrong. For the writing side of stuff and the performance, he’s fuckin’ unreal. He’s such a showman. Plus he’s workin’ at the moment [with his own band] so I’m writin’ this new album with Martin ‘cause Martin is actually doing the orchestration on it as well. Yeah, Martin is properly trained.
On Evermore Darkly… “Thank Your Lucky Scars” was one of the songs being considered for the Darkly, Darkly Venus Aversa album that didn’t make it. Why?
I don’t know why it didn’t get put on the album to be honest. I thought it was pretty cool but then again when I heard it back recently before changing it, I thought, “No, this needs to change; it’s quite bland actually.” So I think Dan redone some vocals on it and I changed some of the riffs on it and I put some punk stuff into it and I stuck a lead section on it. Yeah, I pretty much kind of brought it up to be good enough to be put on the disc coming out.
Your solo was like some Egyptian scale gone wild.
Ah, cheers. Just somethin’ a bit different.
On Evermore Darkly… there are a couple versions of “Forgive Me Father (I Have Sinned),” the track that appears on the Darkly, Darkly Venus Aversa album. Where did the Elder version come from?
All those are demos that come from my studio. Basically when I’m writin’ stuff, I come up with the whole complete demo once I’ve got everything from everybody else. I’ll arrange it and send it off and then it kind of just gets tweaked and basically what we’ll have is an album full of demos exactly the same way it should be on the album with everything: We’ll have a CD that I burned from my machine and that’ll be a demo version of the album basically. And all we’ll do in the studio is maybe tweak the odd riff here or there or add an extra sound in. But pretty much what we have on a CD from demoing will be the same as when the album comes out.
So you’ve obviously arrived at a point in the development of Cradle of Filth’s music where you can hear every note and every nuance in your head. You know precisely what will and will not work?
Yeah, yeah, it’s completely in my head how it should sound.
Was that electro-trance remix of “Forgive Me Father (I’m In a Trance)” by Rob C from Anthrax something you were hearing in your head?
I hate that fucking song [laughs]. I’m not into remixes like that; it was Dan’s idea. It’s something that he wanted on there. I’m not really into shit like that for being put on albums. But he wanted it on there so he god Rob to do it and yeah, it was kinda him and Rob. He just went off on a tangent and got Rob to do it on his own and that’s about it really.
“Lilith Immaculate” is a good example of keyboards in Cradle of Filth. In our previous interview you said keyboards were always more of an afterthought. Have synthesizers become more important in the band’s sound?
For that album, for the keys in general I wanted to try something different. I wanted the keys just to be more of like a background texture. A lot of the keys are right behind the guitars, which is a really cool thing and works really well. If it’s an important melody line or a keys playin’ like a good hook or something obviously that section has to shine above the guitar. Because when I’m writin’ if there’s a keyboard line, which is like really catchy and it stands out, I will make sure the guitars are right and really basic and sit behind it. It can be anything, just some chords, just to actually boost the top line of the melody. And vice versa as well—if I’m doin’ something on the guitar and I’m playing harmonies or I’ve got a melody line, I’ll make sure the keys just stick to basic chords underneath.
You want to make sure all the instruments are properly orchestrated so they don’t clash with each other.
There’s nothin’ worse than trying to have a really cool melody line on either instrument and you’ve got another instrument trying to do exactly the same thing and compete for the space. It’s a complete waste of time and a songwriting nightmare.
You worked with producer Andy Sneap on Thornography and Godspeed On the Devil’s Thunder but you didn’t work with him on Darkly, Darkly Venus Aversa. Why?
We did approach him but he said he didn’t want to do it. He goes, “I’ve done two albums and I really suggest you find someone different to do this one.” Which is fair enough ‘cause you don’t want a lot of albums sounding exactly the same.
“The Persecution Song” has huge rhythm and lead guitar sounds. Are you still looking for the ultimate tone or have you found the Paul Allender trademark sound?
"It’s really gone quite dark and pretty hardcore. I’ve always wanted to put the punky stuff back into it again."
I don’t know really. I can just sit there and come up with a guitar sound and will listen to it and record it. When we record, I’ll just play a riff and then we’ll get another guitar sound and obviously not the one we just tried and then we’ll play the same riff with a different sound. We’ll have about seven or eight tracks of different guitar sounds of the same riff and we’ll go through and I’ll re-listen to the stuff when I’m not playin’ and go, ‘Uh, I really like that one.”
So you do experiment in a way with different guitar sounds?
I always compare guitar sounds before I start to see what is the best one we can get out of the collected [tracks]. Because the producer has already got the settings written down, then we just go back to that and we’ll use that one for the album.
Did you use a PRS in the very early days of the band?
No, I wasn’t actually on PRS until I actually left the band. I mean I left the band for a while and basically that’s when I got my first PRS when I was doing a band called the Blood Divine.
When you listen to the Cradle of Filth albums before you got your PRS, can you hear a difference in your playing?
Oh, completely. It’s horrible [laughs].
“The Spawn Of Love and War (Elder Version)” has a slightly different mix than the one that appears on the Darkly, Darkly Venus Aversa album. The riff seems to pop a bit more on the remix.
I don’t know how they’ve remixed it; I don’t know what extra stuff they’ve done. When I record guitars, I always record a clean D.I. [direct inject or straight into the board with no effects] as well. So I make sure just for stuff like this because if you’ve got a clean D.I. you can always re-amp it and play it back to yourself and just mess around and get a completely different sound. They might have done that on there but I don’t know. But the thing is I always record clean D.I.s just in case. Or at the end of an album I might go, “Actually I hate this guitar sound” [laughs] and then I’ll re-amp and listen and go back and rerecord the sound again. That way I’ve already recorded the riffs and it’s been played in properly so then we’ll discuss just getting the sound again and it’s no hassle really.
“Summer Dying Fast” is a preview of the upcoming Midnight Labyrinth orchestral album that will be coming out. Cradle have always been heavily into orchestrated sections in the music—strings, vocal chorales and things like that—so an album of all orchestrated music really makes sense. Would you agree?
Yeah, totally. Midnight Labyrinth is a collection of songs off the first three albums [the first three albums and the EP, V Empire (Or Dark Faerytales In Phallustein)] converted into orchestral pieces. Mark Newby-Robson [auxiliary keyboard player who has worked with the band since 1999] arranged and did all the orchestration for the whole thing. Fuck, he’s done a helluva job. Amazing.
When you listen to “Summer Dying Fast” for instance, can you hear all the power of the original track?
Yeah, but you can’t look at it as a proper album—it’s an orchestral thing. As long as you accept the fact it’s an orchestral album and that’s what it’s there for and not trying to compare it to the original songs. I mean if it was a complete covers album, yeah, fair enough then you could like compare it to the original songs. But it’s a complete entity on its own you know? So you can’t really compare and go, “Well, I don’t really like that version, I prefer that one.” But then again if someone says that anyone is gonna turn around and say, “Oh, yeah, but the one with the guitars is blah blah because it’s the original one.” But I think Mark’s done an amazing job on that album and once it’s mixed and stuff and comes out, I think it will be really, really cool.
Did you have any input in terms of suggesting parts or arrangements?
Well actually it was me and the manger that come up with the idea. The original idea was to actually have video with it as well. The idea was to have visuals with it as well so you could have the music coming across in all its glory then having actual visuals representing the music in certain parts like you would in a silent film. That was the idea of it but it was an absolute nightmare trying to find film sections that people would let us use or anything that was out of copyright infringement. We wanted to get the old stuff but a lot of the old stuff is still in copyright so you can’t use it without paying extortionious amounts of money. Do you know what I mean? So we just ended up it as an album.
What instrument did you hear representing your guitar solos?
It would have to be violins. One thing I wanna do is the next time we gig—because we’ve got all these orchestrations done for them old songs—I wanna play some of these old songs live but have the whole orchestration on backing track as well. Because Martin plays to a click anyhow and we’ve really got clicks set up for everythin’ so everyone seems to have decided they wanted to go with it. I mentioned it a while ago when Mark was actually doin’ this album and yeah, everyone was totally up for it. So what we’re gonna do when we start giggin’ again is stick the whole orchestral pieces on backin’ tracks and then play the old songs but with guitar, drums and vocals and the orchestration.
In a backwards sort of way, it’s what Deep Purple did with their Concerto For Group and Orchestra album.
Yeah, that type of thing but we just won’t have like a massive amount of people onstage [laughter].
Were the songs on Midnight Labyrinth chosen because they translated more readily into orchestral versions? Or were they simply the band’s favorite tracks?
Well, they were mainly chosen because we liked ‘em and a lot of fans are really into those albums. And also it just kinda made sense to try and revive that type of thing but in orchestral [style]. Because we can’t go around and do another cover utilizing a full band so we decided to do orchestral versions of all them songs. And they worked really, really well; I’m really chuffed with them.
So choosing a song like “The Forest Whispers My Name” from The Principle of Evil Made Flesh album had a lot to do with being a fan favorite?
"We decided to change up the direction and go back to what we used to do with the female vocals like we used to have on there. All the strong melody lines and harmonies."
Yeah, totally. I mean we played that live on the last shows we did. It goes down really well. And essentially on the new stuff that I’m writin’, there’s a lot of that type of riffin’ on this new Cradle album I’m doin’ at the moment. Yeah, it’s like Principle and “Forest” and all that sort of guitar playing I’ve put back on it again.
On You Can’t Polish a Turd…But You Can Roll It In Glitter Rockumentry on the DVD, you document your experiences touring in Russia.
It was weird because usually before when we’ve gone to Russia, we’ve only gone to two, three places at the most and that was just like main cities. But this was the first time we’ve flown and got the trains and stuff from smaller places because we’ve never been to that part of Russia before. It was a bit of an eye-opener [laughs]. It was good though and it was really, really cool. And yeah, the gigs were great and just the general travel of it was amazing. But yeah, it was very different compared to like St. Petersburg and Moscow.
It probably felt like the early days of the band when you were doing the small clubs and stuff.
Yeah, it was exactly like that. Because these other places nobody had a clue who the hell we were [laughs]. It was actually really refreshing and really cool. I mean there was fans turned up, there was people turned up but all different types of people turned up which was kind of really strange. We had like loads of old people in the audience as well. “Do you actually know this is a Cradle of Filth?” You know what I mean? We’re just sittin’ there goin’ on full makeup and playing as loud as we possibly can and these old people are just sittin’ down in front and like clapping their hands and stuff. It was like, “Oh, shit—really?”
How would you characterize your performance on the DVD from the Burning Down Graspop festival?
That was amazin’. Because to be honest when it was bein’ filmed I didn’t know it was being filmed for a DVD, right? I had no idea. I saw the cameras there and I thought it was just like a normal festival where they shine the cameras on people and then they project it on a screen on the side of the stage. I just thought it was one of those. And then after making stupid faces and God knows what in the camera, I was told, “It’s for the DVD.” I went, “Oh, fuck, you should have told me.”
Because they didn’t tell you, your playing probably came off more natural.
Yeah, I think it was considering in the whole gig there is no edits, no overdubs. No nothin’. What’s on the DVD is straight off the desk and raw and straight from the stage.
Cradle of Filth have their own iPhone app—how does that feel?
It just gives you like information and all that sort of shit you know.
At this point you’re finishing up the songs for the next album?
I’m writin’ ‘em. I’m waiting for my computer to come out from bein’ serviced ‘cause my motherboard died on me. So I haven’t done much writing at all really for about a week and a bit because my computer is bein’ fixed. Hopefully it’s coming back today so once that comes back, I’ll carry on writin’. But yeah, I’ve just been writin’ songs at the moment and I’ve got three tracks finished. And Midnight Labyrinth comes out soon. I think the DVD is comin’ out this month actually. Isn’t it?
Interview by Steven Rosen
Ultimate-Guitar.Com © 2011