Interview: Richard Shaw, Cradle of Filth

By Mark Derricutt

It was a cold bleary eyed Saturday night as the clock struck midnight, and counted towards 1am… the time set forth to conjure Richard Shaw, guitarist for legendary UK black metal act Cradle of Filth. We talked ahead of their sold out, first ever performance here in New Zealand.

Good morning. Good evening. I'm not sure how the time is kind of working out with us here. It's one A.M. here.
One A.M.? Wow, its two o'clock in the afternoon here. So, sorry for keeping you up.

It's all right. I kind of actually fell asleep and then I just woke myself up really, going, "Oh crap."
Yeah, it's just a bit mad here at the moment, especially the time and everything. I'm busy doing all kinds of stuff getting ready for the tour. Yeah, glad we could get this interview done though.

Yeah, it's good. It's a little bit short notice, but yeah. So the tour starts in... What is it, about three days? You're starting on the third by coming down to Perth, in Australia, then I think you've got about six more dates around Australia..? Hitting Auckland on the 12th, and then you've got six more dates continuing on... So that's quite a good stretch of dates in a short period of time. Is it kind of typical for you guys' schedule? That's quite compressed.
Yeah. We tend to do a lot of shows where it's like four or five shows in a row. Day off. Usually a day off is a travel date to wherever we are going next. So it's pretty full on, but you know what I mean, it could be a lot worse.

We get to see the world and play for some great fans and stuff. It's just finding little bits of time to sleep. It's always easier when you're in a tour bus. But like for instance when we're in Australia, we'll be flying everywhere. So just trying to get little bits of sleep when we can. But we're kind of fueled on adrenalin, really.

So you joined the band right about 2014 or so?
Yeah, early 2014. My first tour was a headlining tour with Behemoth in February of 2014.

What album was that for? Hammer of the Witches came out in 2015 didn't it?
So it was technically the end of an album called The Manticore and Other Horrors. I was kind of right at the end of that tour cycle. It was kind of like a tour that was plunked on at the end of the world tour for that. Paul Allender couldn't do it, so I was kind of meant to replace him just for that tour. I mean, I was asked if I would like to stay after the tour. And here I am, five-and-a-half years later.

Well, that's a good thing. I think musically, the last few albums have kind of... I know they seem to... Cradle's kind of varied over the years. Starting off with a, kind of, very straightforward, almost traditional black metal, and then going into more of a death metal, while still keeping a lot the symphonics and everything.

Now - I think rhythm guitar seems to be a little bit more varied, is that possibly be your inspiration and your input into the writing there?
I think it's a combination of all of our writing, really. Because when Paul left, it seemed like it kind of freed up Daniel, the bass player, to write. Because he's a very good guitar player as well. He wrote a lot more. Martin, our drummer, who also plays keyboards on the albums, he did a lot of writing. He was freed up to write a lot more. As well as Ashok (guitars) and myself coming into the fold.

We wanted to bring back that kind of twin guitar kind of thing that Cradle was known for around the time of Dusk and Her Embrace and Cruelty and the Beast and Midian, and all that kind of stuff, which Cradle hadn't done for a little while. But that was the Cradle of Filth that really excited Ashok and myself. I think that was what it was. It was a combination of all us four writing together, and Daniel and Martin being able to free up and write a lot more. And there's just this chemistry that worked, and they were always bouncing ideas off each other.

In my original demo, which there were no guitar solos, that was more Dani Filth's idea. He was like, "Right, I don't have any lyrics for this bit. Why don't you put a guitar solo?" Which was kind of a surprise to all of us, really. Because I never really wrote with guitar solos in mind. So I was like "Well, do Cradle do guitar solos?" Very rarely. So when Dani suggested we put guitar solos in, we were pretty much putting a guitar solo on every song on Hammer of Witches.

I think he just liked the fact that he can have a little break, and I think he's just a fan of musicianship and guitar solos in general. So he was all for it.

When you traditionally look at black metal, there's not really a lot of solos in there. It's a very lot of I guess tremolo guitaring and very kind of... Just the intensity, the shrillness. I think that's where Cradle kind of like separated itself from a lot of that kind of true cult black metal. By taking in a lot of different influences in a different direction than say Dimmu Borgir, which was very heavy on the synths and orchestral, and that.
Definitely. I'd agree. I think as much as we all love black metal, I think it's one of those things where you could almost see how it could get boring very quickly and get kind of repetitive. I think Cradle had a good idea in terms of like not breaking away from black metal, far from it. But just incorporating more elements into it.

It's like when you hear about a lot of the new bands in the British heavy metal scene. It was a similar thing in the thrash metal scene in the early '80s. It was a similar kind of thing. Like bands realized... Yeah, we've got this great intense new music, but it can quickly become very limiting if we're not careful. The band decided to not break away from it, but incorporate more elements into it. And I think that's what Cradle did. It was this idea that many did the same. Behemoth kind of doing the same kind of thing.

You just don't want to get it too formulated. And I think as writers, songwriters and musicians, you kind of don't want to end up to keep repeating yourself, anyway. Especially when you've been in a band as long as say Dani has with Cradle of Filth. It's like, you can understand how that can get a little bit samey and a little bit boring after a while, like you're almost stuck in a rut. So I think it's good to keep the fans guessing a little bit.

I was reading some of your bio, and I was seeing your top five guitar players. Brian May. Richie Kotzen... Underrated I find. John Petrucci, Nuno Bettencourt and Steve Vai. All of these legendary lead players, rhythm players. I mean, Richie has got such good tone and feel. A lot of people just go, "Uh, he's that Poison guy?"
A lot of them are definitely underrated.

That's not the kind of list of guitarists that immediately spring to mind when I think ah, I'm going to talk to Cradle of Filth - that just goes to show you that as musicians, there's a lot more behind your creative inspiration that kind of like feeds into the actual output that is possibly black metal or death metal. I guess, it's just that whole combination.
Yeah. It's almost a thing where because I was brought in from outside the black metal genre, that's where all my early influences are, really. Like more kind of classic rock, classic metal. All kinds of different styles of music really, because I was a session musician before I joined Cradle of Filth. So I had to be well versed in a lot of different styles. But, if you talk to any member of Cradle of Filth, we're all the same. We're all into completely different styles of music. And of course that's going to seep into Cradle's music at some point.

Dani himself, he's like an encyclopedia... I can't even say it... Like an encyclopedia of knowledge about really every heavy metal band under the sun, no matter how obscure the band are and only released like a rehearsal tape, he'll know of them and tell you every track on their album. But he's also got this ridiculous knowledge of film music. So he's a big film buff and he just knows all the soundtracks to every film going.

We're all completely different styles of music, yet it all works and it comes out in the music, works out. I think if we all just listened to black metal 100% of the time, you're going to end up with a very repetitive album, the way I see it.

Like on the last album, I wrote... Well, we all wrote a song that's called Heartbreak and Séance. It became the single. But I came up with this guitar riff, and that was just based on a country idea I was trying to perfect. I was like, what happens if I tweak a note here and there or if I just turn the gauge up on my amp a little bit more, and all of a sudden it becomes a Cradle of Filth song. Maybe I shouldn't have told people that that came from a country over here. It's basically a country lick I was trying to learn, but I messed up and it became a Cradle of Filth lick. It's just how it works. You've got to get influence from everywhere, really.

The way I see it, you can't really be too limited. I'm into guitar players who have great rhythm chops, great writing chops, as well as great lead chops. It's all about the songs at the end of the day. Of course, the guitar playing is exciting and grabs me at the same time, but many of them have been my favorite players.

Definitely. I see also, Bigelf is one of your favorite bands, which again, underrated.
I love Bigelf.

Even pre-Portnoy joining, it's so good. So getting back to the tour though... I get a feeling we could talk about bands and music for ages.
Whenever I have interviews, we talk about all the bands outside of metal and people are like... If you talk about that, it's like now we've got to get... Back to Cradle of Filth.

So the tour is Cruelty and the Beast, in its entirety. Can we expect any of the new material as like encores, or is it just going to be straight the album and that's it? Or is there anything...
The way we've been doing it in Europe and Russia I think is pretty much the way we're going to be doing it in Australia and New Zealand. We come out and we play Cruelty and the Beast in its entirety, no stopping. Exactly like it is on the album. Because before this, there's a lot of songs from Cruelty that have never even been performed live. So that was pretty crazy when we were actually playing it live for the first time in Karlsruhe, Germany.

There are some songs that are trickier to play than we expected them to be. We were like ah, they have never been played live before. Because in the live set, it's a very different beast when you're recording an album. So there were some technical challenges there, but once we got into it, we're like okay, let's expand it.

So we ended up doing Cruelty and the Beast plus taking songs from a back catalog. Our encore is supposed to be like almost six or seven songs, I think. In Europe, we were like well, let's take out the hits, so to speak. So we stopped playing Nymphetamine and Her Ghost in the Fog and From the Cradle.

I think that people expect because we play Europe so often, we always play those songs. It was like why don't we do something different? So it was assumed the songs from the later albums, songs from the most recent albums, they're a bit more obscure. But I think because we don't go to Australia and New Zealand often, we will keep it to the hits, but adding a couple more from the back catalog. A few little surprises here and there as well.

I think the first time you've actually been to New Zealand...
From what I gather, yeah. That's why we're going to make the most of it. Yeah, we're going to do one show in New Zealand, but I think we sort have made plans to stick around for a few days after. I hope we come to New Zealand more often, but you never know if it's the only time we'll ever be there. So we thought we'll make the most of it.

It's already sold out, which definitely helps us. But I was hoping there'd be an upgrade or something, but it's not happened. But it will be an amazing, amazing show. It's sold out. People who are from where I live... We would see them years ago, and they're just saying the fans are kind of chomping at the bit for the show. So it's exciting. It's going to be a good one.

I often find on shows down here, especially in Auckland, a lot of people seem to wait until the last week or so to buy tickets. I don't know whether that's just budget... But yeah, the show sold out within a couple of weeks or so. Everyone was like, "Whoa, this is the first time we've sold out this quickly." I know of quite a few disappointed people who haven't got tickets.
Yeah. If we could put everyone on the guest list... You know, everybody who didn't get tickets, come on down anyway. Obviously, you can't do that. Because it would be a shame to miss out. I thought of promoting when it sold out that it would have been upgraded, but I've heard nothing of being upgraded. That's a shame but - if you are there we'll have a great night.

I was hoping that at least we could have got moved to a bigger venue or something, but it's something that sometimes happens.

We're highly starved for venues down here at the moment… That's our time that's kind of quickly gone by. So, it's been great talking to you.
And you, and I wish we could do this again and just chat music!

Cradle of Filth hit The Studio this Thursday night., September 12, 2019.