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INTERVIEW: Dani Filth & Lauren Francis – Devilment

Suffolk county gothic-metallers DEVILMENT made somewhat of a splash in 2014 with the release of their debut album The Great And Secret Show. Now on the verge of releasing their second effort Devilment II: The Mephisto Waltzes, and embarking on a UK tour next month, Distorted Sound sat down with frontman Dani Filth and keyboard player/vocalist Lauren Francis to find out exactly how it all came together and what’s to come.

Devilment II: The Mephisto Waltzes is out November 18th, what should fans of the band expect from it?

Dani: Yeah, same day as METALLICA, haha. Well, by the time the record drops, they should have heard three songs which I think are a good cross-section of the material. Under The Thunder just came out as a lyric video, the proper one which we spent three days filming in this haunted hotel was a song called Hitchcock Blonde. Whereas Under The Thunder is really heavy/brutal/a bit groovy, Hitchcock Blonde has more of a ZOMBIE/MANSON-esque vibe to it I suppose. And then the fourth track Full Dark, No Stars – it’s really heavy but it’s got a big strong female lead for most of it, so I’d say it’s a little NIGHTWISH/SLIPKNOT really. So yeah, it’s a heavy record but it’s got a lot of, dare I say it, pop sensibilities. And when I say that, I just mean we spent a lot of time making sure all the songs were really catchy and well-written and concise – no unnecessary warbling off onto weird tangents or anything, y’know? Trying to get into a chord change.

Obviously with this being the band’s sophomore album, did you feel pressured to match up to the previous record at all?

Dani: Yeah, yeah, now it’s actually moved into proper band territory as opposed to people going “oh it’s just an ego project” for me. And we’re getting a lot of response, a lot of good response from people for this one – like 8 times more than the last record. And it’s all been really positive, apart from the obvious couple of twats you get on the internet who think they know best. It’s been really strong and I’d put a lot of that down to; obviously the songs are great, but I think the people who thought the first one was a bit of a flash in the pan have now woken up and gone “oh this is actually a proper band”. Because nobody likes following a project where you really like an album and then nothing else happens with them. And I imagine people’s frustrations with something like that, and now I think they’ve realised it’s a proper band, it hasn’t got a limited shelf-life and there’s continuity there, the band are improving. Because you know there was also a slight line-up shift which comes because the first album was quite swift in its deliverance. So we’re finding our feet as we go along really – it sounds, I hate to use the word, but more mature. But I am the oldest person in the band, so I can be forgiven for saying that. I mean, Lauren’s 28 – she’s literally a child [laughs].

With Devilment II: The Mephisto Waltzes obviously now being the sophomore album, did you feel any kind of pressure to match up to, or exceed the previous one?

Dani: Well, everybody does really I suppose, but yeah. Production wasn’t a problem because we were using the same studio, and we were as anal and thorough; thoroughly-anal as we were with the first one, if not more. But I think we wrote this one with a slightly different consensus – a slightly different lineup, new songs, all that. Everything was new about it, so there was maybe one eye on the past but we didn’t want to stray too far and have people going “Hang about, that’s not DEVILMENT”. But no, we just wrote, and there’s people saying “Woah, there’s a lot of different material on here” – as I mentioned, the three songs that are categorically, slightly similar to one another but they give the vibe of the album. And so I know we just wrote a lot and just tried to make the album as good as possible really, and tried to get everything in there really. Shine On Sophie Moone has a real punk vibe for example, and then it descends into some weird wackiness. There’s some songs that’ve got a real thrash vibe to them.

Would you say there was a specific effort in the songwriting process to try and achieve the diversity you’ve mentioned in the different songs?

Dani: Yeah, I think so. I think it was more the fact that the different people in the band all come from various walks of life and different musical backgrounds, and I think that comes across. Lauren and her background musically, she’s like a wedding singer and she also does a lot of funk stuff, and so her voice is very different. And then, you know, my background as well means the lyricism has that macabre twist to it but it’s hardly comparable to CRADLE OF FILTH. And then, yeah, Matt the drummer also plays for a band called EASTERN FRONT who’re an extreme black metal band, but his musical direction also lies in the fact he’s also drum roadie for IL NIÑO. Colin’s very much into his nu-metal and all the American stuff like KILLSWITCH ENGAGE and CHIMAIRA and that. And so, everybody’s backgrounds all sort-of come together really and it just sounds like DEVILMENT.

What sort of lyrical themes are you tackling on this record then?

Dani: Well magic, mystery, sexual, dark. It’s always dark when it comes to me. Things like Hitchcock Blonde and Shine On Sophie Moone deal with infatuation, I think that’s a good word. Alfred Hitchcock’s infatuation with his blonde leading ladies in the former. Infatuation with the heroine of the piece in …Sophie Moone, sort of like a stalker-type thing. Hell At My Back and Judas Stein take Biblical references but again, it’s like personal strife, looking forward. I always use metaphors and bedazzle my lyricism in nods to this and that, but at the core of that there’s always some kind of human tragedy. But yeah, it’s magical I guess.

Do you consider it to be a concept album?

Dani: Well I think a lot of people probably will label this one a concept record because the artwork, which is fantastic, mirrors very well what’s going on per song. I think with CRADLE OF FILTH now we’ve done five conceptual records where it’s been a continuous story throughout, but even the ones that don’t, where I’ve just themed a collection of songs have been irrevocably looked on as being a story album that’s conceptual. So, I dunno, people will probably join the dots and cross the T’s on this one too.

This album has a slightly different lineup to the one heard on The Great and Secret Show, with Danny Finch and Aaron Boast both no longer in the band. Did that affect the creative process much at all? 

Dani: It actually didn’t affect us in the slightest as far as I can tell. People made a really big deal out of it because you know, it was maintained that we’d lost a founding member. Well, not the founding member, but a co-founding member with me anyway. And well, it made a little bit of a difference obviously as you’d expect with such a tight-knit band, but at such an early stage in our career it was easily surmountable. As with the drummer, losing Aaron wasn’t a personal thing or because he wasn’t good enough or because we fell out; I play football with him every Wednesday. It was just something that between his job, his children and such that he just said “Hey guys, I’ve gotta pass on it”. And y’know, he recommended other people. So that was a natural progression, and Matt, the new drummer is a formidable player and he’s really put the album up another rung on the ladder.

You recently released Under The Thunder as the first track from the record – how representative is that song of the overall sound of the album?

Dani: Well, production-wise, it’s very representative because it’s fucking heavy and it’s clear and clinical. And it just utilises every member of the band I suppose – it’s got a really fucking heavy bass, big guitars, a lot of rhythm work going on. The chorus is a lot of interaction between me and Lauren so it brings that contribution, or rather a window into that, to the front because she’s become more of a part of the album. So it introduces that well. It was the perfect song too really because of the length, it wasn’t too long and it’s aggro. We obviously wanted to save Hitchcock Blonde for the single, having shot a video for it and stuff. And something like Full Dark, No Stars is a brilliant song and people would love it, but it wouldn’t have been something you could introduce right off the bat, because there’s so many female vocals on it that it wouldn’t have been representative I think. So I think Under The Thunder just ticked all the right boxes really – the right song, right place on the album, really delivers all the parts

How have you found the response to that song from your fanbase to be? 

Dani: Oh, brilliant – just going on the YouTube hits right now, having done so for the last twelve CRADLE albums that YouTube’s been going for, looking at the likes and dislikes and the comments it’s formidably better, and it’s exciting really.

You’re back out on tour across the U.K. in December with eleven shows on the cards. How much are you looking forward to getting DEVILMENT back on the road? 

Lauren: I think everyone in the band’s really excited to get back out really, because it’s been a long time now since we last were. I mean, obviously we’ve been focusing on writing and recording for a while now, and we’ve got Matt in as a new drummer, so we’re really keen to get him out and let him out of his cage and all that. But yeah, we’re really excited – I think towards the end of the tour last time with LACUNA COIL and MOTIONLESS IN WHITE, and our festival shows, it felt like we’d sort-of established our live shows and now we’ve had this break and everybody’s itching to get back out there by now. We get to showcase the new material, and so we’re really excited for everyone to hear it, and very proud of it.

Are there any places in particular you’re looking forward to playing?

Lauren: Well obviously we’re looking forward to every show equally, but even more equally I’m looking forward to our show in Colchester because it’s my hometown so a lot of my friends will get to come and see us. I mean, a lot of people got to see us in London last time but I think since we’ve stepped it up another gear with the new album I’m excited about people coming to that, and it’s always nice to play at home. And the Norwich gig will be like that for some of the other band members too, the guys from Ipswich. I think those shows in particular will be the ones held close to our hearts.

DEVILMENT have obviously been going for a while now as a band – how would you say the live show has evolved since you got started?

Lauren: Well, there’s been quite a long gap now between our last tour and now, so I don’t know whether I could say the live show’s had that much time to develop. I certainly think we’ve got a sense of how we interact on-stage together though, and it was all a bit testing-the-waters when we first went out because we’d never performed together, other than jamming in the rehearsal rooms, and there’s quite the sense of camaraderie there but I think we’re excited to take it up another notch with these next shows now.

Are there any songs you’re particularly looking forward to performing on this run?

Lauren: I’m looking forward to singing more really. I mean, I had a couple of tracks where I did a fair bit of singing on the last album, but with this album I’m doing a lot more singing and a lot more powerful singing which is more within my comfort zone, so I’m looking forward to that more than anything. But I’m looking forward to performing all of the new material, just because obviously we’ve been jamming it and there has been demo versions and things like that, but now we’ve got the final album versions of the songs solidified and we know how the dynamics are going to work. And I just think the whole thing’s really exciting honestly – it’s like you’ve been working on something for a really long time and this is finally it now, we finally get to put it out there and perform the whole thing now. And also playing some of our old songs which we haven’t performed for ages too. But yeah, just singing more is what I’m excited about.

With regards to setlists for the tour, is it going to be heavily weighted towards Devilment II: The Mephisto Waltzes, as we’d probably expect?

Lauren: Yeah, I mean there’ll be more from the new album than the old, but we’re going to pay homage to the old album and there’ll be stuff from both. We’ve only got two records so far, so there should be plenty for the people that still want to hear the old songs, and there’ll be a lot of fresh stuff too.

Have many plans been made for 2017 yet? Are we likely to see you at any of the major UK festivals next year?

Lauren: Erm, nothing set in stone that we can announce yet – we’re hoping to be able to do some dates in Europe because we loved getting out there last time, and obviously we’re looking forward to the summer festivals, but yes, nothing that I can announce or that’s been set in stone as of yet.

Well thank you very much for your time guys.

Lauren: No problem, lovely speaking to you.

Devilment II: The Mephisto Waltzes will be released November 18th via Nuclear Blast Records. The band will be touring the UK in December.

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