When I first met Metal Sound’s editor Marko, one of the things over which we immediately bonded was our mutual love for 90’s melodic black metal and we all know that there was no better band in that field than Suffolk vampires Cradle of Filth. Cradle’s undeniable apex was in year 1996 when they have unleashed two immortal classics upon the unsuspecting world: V Empire or Dark Faerytales in Phallustein and Dusk… and her Embrace took the metal scene by storm and remained as potent as ever throughout all these years. So try to imagine my excitement when Marko told me that he has made contact with Mr. Greg Moffitt… and if this name does not ring any bells for you maybe the nickname Damien will.
Greg has played the keyboards for Cradle of Filth from 1994 until 1997, he was the integral part of what many fans consider the band’s best line up and was featured on above mentioned classic two 1996’s releases. It turned out that Greg happily accepted our humble invitation for the interview, and in our further cooperation proven to be extraordinary gentleman willing to help in anything we needed, not to mentioned that he is full of anecdotes that us Cradle fans crave for madly. I just know that this interview will be like a bomb to all the Cradle fans out there, Greg has not spoken for years about these subjects so crank up V Empire and Dusk and relive that glorious time once again with us!
Greg for the beginning could you tell us something about your formative years as a musician, how did you start to play keyboards? Do you have classical education or are you self taught?
Yeah, this is how I started with keyboards. I liked metal of all types, I have played the guitar throughout the eighties, we had band together in school. So I have played guitar, always have, but I’ve got… I don’t know if you have this kind of thing in your country but back then, if you went to the public library where they have books sometimes they also had records and you could also borrow records. I don’t think they do it anymore. So I got this album by this German band called Tangerine Dream cause I really liked the cover, I didn’t know what it was but it caught my eye. That just really turned me on to that style, electronic music, I never heard anything like it so it wasn’t very long before I started wanted to something like that myself. This was back in 1989, something like that, so in 1990 I started playing keyboards so… that’s just how it really got started. Just hearing that music and just thinking I wanted to do something like that myself.
Now please go back in time and try to remember how did you become a metalhead and how did your dive into the extreme metal waters went?
Most people get interested in music when they are in their early teens, when they are 13 or 14 years old. I was the same, I bought some pop music that I didn’t like and I was just searching for what was out there. Then I saw… At that time came out Ace of Spades album by Motörhead, I really liked the look of the band, I thought “this is something I might get into” so I got that album. That was just something I was looking for and then I was off to the races as they say, I bought every metal album I could afford which is LP for one week. Back then you get the vinyl LP for 4 or 5 pounds and I got it from the pocket money at week. As for more extreme metal, Venom came with blow around that time as well and a lot of metal got obviously a lot more extreme throughout the eighties. It was Metallica, Venom, Slayer… all that stuff that came right around that time, thrash metal, all that stuff like Sodom, Kreator… You know the development of that music in the eighties and that led to that… I guess the most extreme thing I remember getting into early was probably Bathory, particularly their second and third album was really extreme at that time. It wasn’t long after that before Norwegian black metal started to come out with Mayhem and stuff like that. It’s really natural progression. You would quite often see the people who would get into extreme metal back then: the heavier and more extreme the bands got, the more you wanted to hear stuff like that. I am actually not sure today if it’s possible to be more extreme, the limits have been reached. That’s basically how it all happened.
You are still remembered as the member of Cradle of Filth’s golden nineties era so to speak. You have entered into the band replacing Benjamin Ryan in 1994 so please tell us how did you came in contact with Cradle of Filth guys, were you friends before you were a member of the band?
Believe it or not, I have answered an advertisement in Metal Hammer magazine. I don’t really know why I answered it, basically the advert said “mean band seeks keyboard player, name band with record deal”, it didn’t say who the band was and that’s pretty standard with the band now. We don’t want unnecessary saying such and such, it would attract the wrong sorts of people. I had no real intention, I haven’t thought of being in a band. I hadn’t been in the band for several years, I was solely playing music and it never crossed my mind. But for some reason, I don’t know why but I decided to answer this advert. I basically wrote the letter because back then you didn’t have an e-mail and a few days later I got the letter back from them saying that I need to go down to Suffolk which is where the band was based, you know meet the band, have some sort of jam or whatever. So I did and they basically said “if you want the job, you’ve got it”.
Those years in Cradle of Filth were marked by your turmoil with Cacophonous records, could you please tell us something about that period and the atmosphere in the band?
Well, obviously the band had the first album out already that came out in 1994. I’m not sure was it in 1994 or the first half of 1995 but the band split in half, as you know, three members quit. I came into the picture towards August, September 1995 and the band was still signed to Cacophonous. Basically they owed them one more album, they signed a two album deal. The label was terrible, I’m not saying everybody who worked there were terrible but people running it were crooks basically. They were also the people behind the label Vinyl Solution as well which was around back in eighties, for example they have put out the albums by Bolt Thrower and Cancer. It was not good in the band, I arrived into the situation and it was already bad. You know, the band lost three members, they were not happy with the label, they wanted to get off the label, they weren’t getting paid… I’m not sure if I have strayed off your question but basically the band wanted to bounce back as quickly as possible, to replace the people who’d left and to get on with some new music. Basically because… you know, the press at that time was negative, if the band’s gonna survive. I think that Dani in particular wanted to make a point that the band would continue and even be better. So somehow the deal with Cacophonous was that they’d be given an EP and basically that would be the contract terminated. I think that the label could have insisted on an album but in the end they realized the relationship was bad on both sides so we agreed to do this EP. I was involved with that, some of the material was old, some of it was new, some of it was half finished. So when I joined the band we went straight into doing that, we recorded that towards the end of 1995. Then we severed the contract with Cacophonous and ever since then I have been trying to get paid for that record.
Also that era was the highest mark in black metal history without a doubt, so could you please try to remember how did it all went? All kinds of crazy actions were going on, were Cradle involved in some of those?
You are talking about some of the controversial stuff? Well, the band was pretty much separate. As far as I know, no one in the band was involved in anything illegal. We were just watching. A lot of the events that have happened in Scandinavia had already happened by this point. But yeah, it was certainly in headlines. It was 1994 in Kerrang! magazine here in the UK, which at that time was the biggest selling metal mag by a looong stretch, they had the pages covered with Varg Vikernes with the knives, the church burning of course were happening. We were cross in that as far as the media goes, they were writing about the Scandinavian bands and they would also write about Cradle so we have kinda been seen as the part of this scene but I really don’t think that Cradle did sound like any of those bands. We were quite separate doing our own thing really.
Regarding the incredible quality level, I still find it hard to believe that V Empire was recorded in a hurry just to break out of contract with Cacophonous. How do you recall the time of recording and how do you see the album from this distance? Some people even regard V Empire as the most important part of the band’s history…
Yes, it could be the most important part because… it was a time when the band just released one album and then the band split in half, it was disaster really. But it turned out for the best I guess, because I don’t think there would have been the second album if the band hadn’t gone their separate ways. It was too much tension there. I still love the record! I think it really stands up, I still think it sounds good, I still think both of those albums sound good. We recorded on analog when a lot of bands were recording digitally. Recording V Empire, it was done in so much of a hurry that I actually left the studio before it was finished because I’ve arranged to go back home for Christmas. It got to the point where I went “look guys, I gotta go” so we just got everything I gotta do wrapped up as quick as possible. So I heard the final thing after Christmas when I got the promo CD copy (laughs). But it sounds great, we worked in Academy studios in Yorkshire. We worked with Mags, the engineer, who did at the time the work with My Dying Bride, Anathema, Paradise Lost… Obviously the band did the work there before, they have recorded the first album there and I still think that the first album sounds good. It was very cold, the studio was supposed to be residential… It was residential, the bands could stay there but we are talking about the mattresses on the floor, you would just lie on the mattress in sleeping bag and there was no heating apart from electric heater. It was basically two houses that were turned into one building, there was no hot water, there was no shower so if you wanted to shave or wash you had to do it standing in the toilet because there was a sink in there. So the whole thing on one level was pretty miserable but it was enjoyable because what we were doing really quickly was sounding great, everybody was positive with that. In the evenings we went off to the pub and got drunk and came back and went off to sleep… and then we started the same the next day (laughs).
One thing has always struck me as odd: In the V Empire booklet we can see that there is a second guitar player, a Jared Demeter, what actually happened there, had he ever been a part of the band, or is he just a fictional character?
Fictional character. He was invented as Dani wanted to keep the image of the band as a twin guitar band. Stuart played all the guitars on the EP. The photo of ‘Jared’ is actually based on a reversed, distorted photo of Rob. By the way, The Demeter was the ship in which Dracula arrived at Whitby.
After that another legendary release Dusk… and her Embrace came, we know the stories that the band rejected to give the first version to Cacophonous. What was so different about it and will that version see the light of day soon?
Well, the latest news on that I’ve read recently, I don’t know the details but if you look on Cradle of Filth’s site, maybe in the news section… I hear something about that they are going to release the Dusk sessions, the original ones as they exist. I don’t know what’s that gonna consist of, but I do know that the band before they split in half has already started recording Dusk. The songs were mostly there. So when I joined the band, after we did V Empire we knew we were gonna do Dusk… and her Embrace album and in order to save money, there were some stuff we were able to use from the original recordings. The only thing we did use were the drums ’cause they’ve been recorded to a high standard. So in order for me to work on my parts of the songs, I was given a couple of bits. I did the intro for example, and Malice Through The Looking Glass was the new song but the others existed in some form. I was given the cassette with drums, bass and some guitars in the background so I had to work around that. What exists on the actual master tapes I don’t know, whether they got completes… you know the guitars and everything, I’m certain they probably do. So that’s the story as far as I know, so when you listen to Dusk, the official version, the drums are from the original session and everything else was recorded by line up at that time. We’ve recorded in DEP International in Birmingham, it’s pretty professional studio there which was actually owned by reggae band UB40, so it was pretty expensive. We worked with Kit Woolven who was old school rock producer but I think he did fantastic job, the album sounds great.
As we all know Dusk… and her Embrace was huge breakthrough for the band, how did you receive the success of that album, were you taken aback by it or were you honestly expecting that?
Well, we knew the songs were good and one of the reasons I’m happy to know how brilliant the Dusk is… because I’m not blowing my trumpet as we say here, because most of the songs were written already so that’s why I feel confident saying how great it is, I’m not trying to lift myself up. We knew the material was good. Once we got into the studio which was sounding so good, we all felt really good about the album. When we signed for Music For Nations, there were other labels interested including Earache, Nuclear Blast and we noticed when we went to talk with various labels they were virtually just saying yes to everything we wanted and when they said “oh, we won’t be able to do this or that” we said no, they would go “ok” (laughs). Basically we had our choice of labels and that was a good sign, there were several labels who were waiting in the line and said “please sign”. To answer your question: we signed with Music For Nations. they really believed in the album, they pushed properly the advertising for the album… For example, when we came back after we played the show in Bradford in north of England, we saw big billboard posters on the streets advertising the album, and that was like… for the underground album that was something else. Label promoted it really well and when the reviews started coming in all of them were really, really good. When the album came out before we went on our first tour we sold around 100 000 copies of it which by our standards was huge! Yeah, just everything fell into place, we went touring and some of the venues were too small, selling out, got moved to bigger venues… So for a while, that whole year pushing that album it was just one good news story after another really.
Also try to remember the atmosphere surrounding the recording of Dusk, I am also interested to know something about those legendary photos featuring the band feasting and drinking blood from the model’s hand, those photos perfectly reflect the atmosphere of the album as well.
Well, that’s another sign how much people believed in the album, we had money to spend on doing things like that. For that particular photoshoot that you’re referring to, we spent a day in London in a studio, there were hired models that must have cost a good few hundred pounds, we had set, dressers… we were there all day. I just remember it was really cold, it was fun to do but it was quite boring as well because when we weren’t being photographed which was quite much of a time we were just sitting around with nothing to do. And of course after that we had to do more photoshoots for another purposes, sometimes we would just go somewhere for a walk and took some pictures but we did a session with Ross Halfin, who is one of the best rock photographers out there, he is famous for his work with Metallica and Iron Maiden. So it was serious stuff going on, the album was definitely making money and there was money behind it.
In booklets of V Empire and Dusk it is written that all the music was done by Cradle of Filth but how much of a creative input did you really have, for what songs were you responsible for?
I probably have to pull up the track listings and go through it, but… The new material on V Empire like for example Queen of Winter, Throned or the opening track, anything that wasn’t from the first album – I have created my parts, you know they keyboards. I didn’t really play exactly the same as Ben did because I couldn’t really hear properly all the things, I did an impression of it if you see what I mean. On Dusk, there were few bits of keyboards on the tape that I was given to work from so again I just came up with my parts really. There was not that much of a new material as I have mentioned, we did Malice Through The Looking Glass, the main riff in that – I wrote that. But there wasn’t much opportunity really to contribute you know, the most of it was already done so that was kinda that. Oh yeah, this is just a whim how much the Dusk was popular: when I joined the band there was no money and once Dusk came out we were immediately able to become full time professional, the band paid everybody full time. When V Empire came out we did a couple of tours but it was financing itself really, there wasn’t really some money there.
I am still listening to those two albums after all those years, and my biggest love about them is the magical atmosphere found therein. How do you explain that, how did you succeeded it? As if some kind of strange forces took hand in recording of the albums…
I’m not really sure to be honest. In the band we had one guitarist at that point, Stuart recording all the guitars for V Empire. We were optimistic as ever, I know that Nick and Dani and Rob were very pleased that they have the band back again. We rehearsed the material in a rehearsal studio, you wouldn’t know… the studio in Ipswich that the band had already been using. That was a cold miserable old place but it seemed… it was in countryside, just the same as home. To answer your question, I think there was a certain atmosphere running just at that time of the year. It was autumn and everything was very atmospheric. I don’t know, V Empire just happened as if by magic. We were just not thinking too much, we weren’t thinking too much of what we were doing, we kinda just go with what felt good. And then the next year we did Dusk, i think everybody were really pleased to be… we had some money coming in, we were in this big studio with this serious producer, everything was just sounding so good. I think it was a phase in the band’s career when we couldn’t really go wrong. I don’t know what changed after that, if you know what I mean. It’s a difficult question to answer but the best I can come up really is that the band was just on the roll and that’s just what came out of it.
I became familiar with Cradle of filth through those two live videos for Malice through the Looking Glass and Dusk and her Embrace that you have done for MTV Headbangers Ball, so could you please try to remember that specific show for me.
Oh yeah, that was great fun! That was after the album came out. We went to London once again to MTV studios and then we were told we’re gonna be filming, I think we filmed 3 songs. We were gonna play live in the studio but it wouldn’t be broadcasted live, it was prerecorded and they were gonna put it on the air. So we just went on… yeah, it was the first time I have ever done anything like that, you know being in the film studio and obviously there were all those technicians there. We just got set up and we just went through. I don’t remember exactly when it was done, whether it was after the first… we did two tours in support of Dusk so whether it was before the first tour or after it, I’m not sure. But the point is, we were rehearsed so it was pretty simple. But couple of the times we fucked up so we have stopped and just ‘go again’ but that was the beauty of it, it wasn’t live, it wasn’t being broadcast so we were able to have a couple of starts. I think we have played really well, I’m glad. I think one of the crucial things was that we recorded in the afternoon so we went to the pub afterwards but we haven’t been to the pub before so everybody was pretty fresh (laughs).
Also tell us something about the Cradle of Filth live tours in that period, how did it went and what were the best memories and bands that you have toured with? If I am right, you have gone to America for the first time back then…
No, I never went to America with Cradle so I don’t think… I think that they went to America with the next album but not at that time. We did two tours in about two months, over two months each, and obviously we did festivals. On the first tour we took Opeth as our support band, that was their first European tour that they’ve done. They have travelled on the bus with us so that was good fun, the Opeth guys are very, very nice. I still know Mikael to this day. I went up to the festival last year to say hello and he went “aaaah, Damien!” (laughs) and I was like “yes, that’s me”. Opeth couldn’t really be more different from Cradle at that time; I am not talking about the music or such but in terms of personality because the Cradle thing was just alcohol fueled absolute madness whereas Opeth were really quiet and didn’t really drink. Couple of guys at that time were still in college so they would get up in 8 o’ clock in the morning and do their homework haha, their college work. I guess that it had to be done but that was bizarre. I think that tour was definitely the eye opener for those guys but you know, they were good people to be around. I have watched them every night on the tour so I probably saw them around 60 times. We toured with lots of bands after that. One of the most interesting was the German tour we did with Dimmu Borgir, In Flames and Dissection. That was interesting because Dissection were at their peak then, there were plenty of nights we were watching those guys and we went “shit, these guys are really good, we have to really try hard”. Dimmu Borgir and In Flames were also really on with their careers, especially Dimmu. You can imagine how it goes, four bands all together in one place, that was quite interesting to say the least. Other tours… We did two major tours, the support on our second tour, I seem to remember it changed depending on what country we were in so we didn’t have one band travel with us all the time like we had with Opeth.
Dynamo 1997 was your last gig for the band after which you were gone from the band, this is maybe a bit unpleasant but please tell us why have you left the band?
You know what? You could have asked them, I don’t know. There was a lot of tension in the band, a lot of good times but also a lot of times when… not so much me personally but other people in the band weren’t getting on. Sometimes had to be pretty negative, I think there was pressure building up within the band and kinda something had to give. The band came round to what Nick, Dani and Rob… Rob was the guy who I got on best with, we always had a really good relationship, not so much with the other guys. Although I didn’t have a problem with Dani such as a lot of people find him hard work, but I never really find that. Anyway, there was three guys came around to my apartment, Nick said “basically we feel you were holding us back” which I don’t know what that means… Reason I always use is I was invited so late, but as for why – I just don’t know. I don’t really mean that having me out of the band was really a solution to any particular problem. But I think that somewhere in the minds of Nick and/or Dani… To be honest with you, on that day I remembered Dani’s face, looking at him… I got the feeling that he wasn’t at all sure this was the right thing to do, that he was all certain about it. You know, sometimes when things are going wrong you will change something and maybe everything would be better after that. But we can see over the years just getting rid of one person doesn’t necessary solve all the underlying problems. I don’t know but at that point it was the time that was tense and negative so even that evening after they left I remember feeling really relieved, I didn’t know what the Hell I was gonna do next but I was just like “phew!”. You know, breathe out, I’m no longer part of this. To be honest, it felt kinda good in the long way.
After that you were not the member of any other band, tell us did you continue to do the music at least for yourself and what have you done in your life?
I got the publishing company Zomba… I got letter from them a few months after I left, basically wanting to buy my contract. What that meant was that they were going to give me some money and then if I wrote, if I released any material over the next couple of years they would own it. So they gave me 4.000 pounds which was quite a lot of money back then and I never had to pay that back if I didn’t write any new songs, publish any songs. So they were interested in if I’m gonna do anything and I did do a lot of music but I have never released any of it. I never really had the desire to join another band, but I did get to know the guys in My Dying Bride around about 1999. We had discussions about me doing keyboards for them as they were in transitional phase at that point, but it never happened because… The way they work is that they don’t do the long tours ’cause the guys in the band got the day jobs, so they would go right on the weekend to a couple of festivals, come home, couple of weeks from then do a couple more – you know, that’s how they work. And they had the festivals booked from May right through to September, probably about 20 shows. I couldn’t commit to doing that because it was so spread out over long period of time, so it was like, what’s the point of me rehearsing with the band if I can’t even do the shows. So they found somebody else who actually could do it.
You went under the name Damien Gregori throughout the whole of CoF era but as you have said to me, that came out of misunderstanding. Can you clear that misshapen with the name once and for all?
Only under the name Damien, actually. The whole Damien Gregori thing came from one Music for Nations press release and I have no idea who came up with it! You will notice that I am never referred to as Damien Gregori on any of the records. I only chose Damien as I noticed that on the first album, the band used their full first names – Benjamin, Nicholas etc. I thought ‘Gregory’ was not very black metal, so I chose ‘Damien’, partly from the movie The Omen and partly as that day I was playing November Coming Fire by the band Samhain. Their guitarist called himself Damien and obviously it’s a cool name.
Have you listened to Cradle’s records after you left the band and what do you think about them? IMHO Cruelty and the Beast is the only one that could stand next to Dusk or V Empire, was the writing process for it started while you sill were in the band?
I’ve heard a little here and there but I’ve never actually sat down and listened to any of it. As far as I know, nothing for Cruelty and the Beast was done while I was in the band. Later on, I did play a little keyboard on the band’s cover of Dawn of Eternity, but that’s the last time I was in a studio with them.
This is maybe a bit far off but would you do some reunion with Cradle of Filth if they asked you to?
NOOOOOOOOOOO! (laughs) I got no problem with Dani. I do some work with the festival here in UK called Bloodstock, Cradle played a few years ago and Dani was there for two days with his wife and daughter, I had a good chat with him. I haven’t seen him for years, it’s not like we are friends or anything but it was amicable, he used to have no problems with me. It was never any problems with Dani, it was the other people in the band I’ve been with over the years. It was with the other members but Dani had nothing to do with these. Any time I like to see Rob very much, it is always nice to see him, he is a lovely guy. I even saw Nick Barker, he played at Bloodstock the drums for Anathema of all people. I hadn’t seen him for a long time and towards the end we really did not get on, to the point when one night when we were recording Dusk… I said something that obviously annoyed him, he got drunk and he threatens to kick over my hotel room door if I didn’t open it, it got to that point. Anyway I saw Nick at Bloodstock and we had a chat. I told him he done a great job on drums for Anathema and he said thanks. Everybody is older now and I like to think that they are more sensible but I can’t imagine doing anything, even like one off thing… I just can’t imagine it. I have no reason to do it. I’d have to want to do it. Good luck to the band though!
Well I really have to thank you for this interview and wish you all the best, thank you for the music as well!
Well, it’s really nice that after all this time I still get people saying that… whether it’s people who are the same age as me or younger people, they just get into the music. I think that those records have definitely stood up the test of time, so it is nice to hear. You are welcome, take care!
- Answers by Greg Moffitt
- Questions by Slobodan Trifunovic and Marko Miranovic