[Interview] Cradle of Filth’s Dani Filth & Kurt Amacker Talk ‘The Curse of Venus Aversa’ Graphic Novel

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Dani Filth is the frontman for England’s extreme metal band, Cradle of Filth. The group’s music has always been explored the dark arts and the depths of horror. Now Filth has partnered with writer Kurt Amacker to make the transition into the comic book world with the new graphic novel, “The Curse of Venus Aversa”.

This 72-page graphic novel drags readers back to the cold, dark days of Victorian England, where the salacious poet Lord Daniel Impudicus faces down authorities, hoards of vampires, and an ancient goddess after the murder of his lover Gabrielle. The book is illustrated by Monty Borror, who delivers some phenomenally gruesome black-and-white artwork to bring this story to life on the printed page.

Rather than go the traditional route, Filth and Amacker have a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the production of the book. Fans can check out the “The Curse of Venus Aversa” campaign online at and pledge their support. With just a few days before the campaign closes, Filth and Amacker sat down with Bloody-Disgusting to spill all the gory details about “The Curse of Venus Aversa”.

Bloody-Disgusting: Kurt tell us about your background, because you have said that Cradle of Filth’s music was an inspiration for you becoming a writer. What was it about the music that spoke to you on a creative level?

Kurt: When I first heard Cradle of Filth I was kind of shiftless. I wasn’t in trouble with the law or failing out of school, but I was just unsure of what I wanted to do with my life. A friend introduced me to Cradle of Filth, and their reverence for English literature and history reminded me of some interests I’d had before video games, the Internet, and Goth clubs started taking up all of my free time. I hadn’t read much recreationally in years outside of my weekly comic books, and Cradle inspired me to pick up a book again. I quickly developed an interest in the sort of true crime history—Elizabeth Bathory and Vlad Tepes, namely—that they sang about. Fortunately, I was smart enough to read respected history texts as opposed to watching the History Channel—and while that might sound a bit arrogant, discriminating between the two has served me well. After reading a lot in a very short amount of time—books about Tepes, and Bathory, along with Jack the Ripper and others—I got this idea for a comic book that ultimately became my first miniseries Dead Souls. After finishing school, my reserve unit in the United States Marine was activated for the Iraq war. But, a knee injury put me on my ass for months, so I wasn’t able to go over. So, I did administrative work at Camp Pendleton and spent a lot of time recovering, reading, writing, and listening to music. I finished the script for the first issue of Dead Souls there. And, what started out as a sort of superheroes-by-way-of-Cradle story ultimately became more like crime fiction with a supernatural angle, cults, conspiracy theories (none that I subscribe to, but what great ideas!), and, of course, Vlad Tepes and Elizabeth Bathory running around New Orleans slaughtering criminals. I met my publisher, Marc Moorash, of Seraphemera Books, in early 2008, and he lit a fire under my ass to finish the first issue. I’d had the art done (I don’t draw, just to be clear) for a while, but I just needed someone to get me on a schedule. Since then, I’ve put out comics with Seraphemera for five years, including the first two parts (of three) of the 69 Eyes’ graphic novel series.

In short: Cradle of Filth’s themes and imagery inspired me to read a lot again. And the ideas from both digging through historical tomes and listening to their music (over and over again) inspired me to write a comic book.

BD: How did you go from being a fan to eventually getting hooked up with Dani and collaborating with him on this project?

Kurt: When the first issue of Dead Souls was ready to come out, I really wanted Dani to read it. I’d met him at a signing in 2007 and gave him a fan letter that thanked him and the whole band for (unbeknownst to them) setting my life on a very positive course in a relatively short amount of time. I called Amy Sciarretto at Roadrunner Records, with whom they were signed at the time. I asked if I could interview Dani for a supplementary feature in the back of the comic. I thought it would be cool to—while not avoiding the subject of music—talk to him about history and literature like students and readers of those subjects, and not just as a member of Cradle of Filth and a fan. Roadrunner sent Dani the comic. He (thankfully) liked it a lot, and so we did the interview. I was really pleased that he was well-spoken and had a solid grasp of history (as opposed to, again, History Channel sensationalism). After that, we just kept in touch and I’d always send copies of the other comics I put out with Seraphemera, or we’d hang out after a Cradle of Filth concert. One morning, I woke up and there was this e-mail asking if I’d be interested in writing a Cradle of Filth comic. I wasted no time in saying yes, and we were off to the races.

BD: Dani, tell us a little bit about your background as a comic book fan. What got you into comics and what types of books are you currently reading?

Dani: As a youth I was really into Eagle (Dan Dare, et al), 2000AD (Judge Dredd, Anderson, and of course, the Dark Judges) and a child’s horror comic called Scream! which was awesome. Then I progressed into Marvel (especially Ghost Rider, The Uncanny X-Men, and Secret Wars), and then in my teens a bunch of Tim Vigil stuff like Faust, Splatter, and the Texas Chainsaw comics, and anything a little risque, though my favourite of latter years has to be The League Of Extraordinary Gentleman by Alan Moore.

At the moment I’m reading whatever I get my hands on, namely a rather cool ghost story by the name of 326 Belisle Street, some gritty zombie fiction by Wayne Simmons, the new Susan Hill, and a nitpicked slew of Lovecraftian shorts. Oh, and my Bible!

BD: Cradle of Filth has always been a visual band and there is a theatrical element to the group’s show. The Curse of Venus Aversa graphic novel takes elements of Cradle of Filth albums and the concepts of those albums. How do you go from translating those elements and stories from one medium to another? How do you pick and choose what elements to use?

Dani: Well, Cradle Of Filth has a huge wealth of source material to draw upon, with the main antagonist of this graphic novel being the dark goddess Lilith, whom has been venerated and explored within Cradle’s lyrics for quite some time, especially on the concept album Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa from which some of the initial storyline has been plucked and bastardised.

Kurt: That’s always a challenge with comics based around music. It’s been tried a bunch of times and it’s rarely succeeded, I’m sorry to say. Initially, Dani and I worked out a rough story based on some of the songs on The Manticore and Other Horrors. But, trying to draw out stories from songs proved to be more of a challenge than we anticipated. The end result was both unspectacular, and it also neglected the English Gothic literary tradition that Cradle of Filth has, on most albums, drawn from. We decided to do a story that was inspired by the overall aesthetic of Cradle of Filth and that ultimately ties into the band’s origins. I won’t explain how Lord Daniel Impudicus is tied to Cradle of Filth, because that would mean giving away the ending!


BD: Tell us a little bit about the genesis for The Curse of Venus Aversa and why it lent itself to adapting it into a graphic novel…

Kurt: I should be clear here. The Curse of Venus Aversa is a graphic novel drawn from Cradle of Filth’s extensive back catalogue. It’s not a direct adaptation of the song “The Cult of Venus Aversa” or the album Darkly, Darkly Venus Aversa. Actually, that album has a sort of novella written to accompany it that came with the album’s luxury boxed set. This isn’t a graphic novel adaptation of that, either. Rather, this is an original story that draws on the literary influences behind the band, while liberally sprinkling bits of lyrics in the dialogues and the book’s ongoing narration. It also explains where the band came from in a larger sense. It’s not a biography—fictionalized or otherwise—that ends with the formation of Cradle of Filth. It reveals the dark forces in the universe that will lead to the band’s creation one day.

BD: Cradle of Filth’s concept albums have always been extensively researched. What kind of research when into this project and was there an effort to keep the historical elements accurate or are you simply trying to create compelling fiction devoid of any limitations?

Kurt: We are trying to keep the history accurate when it applies. Obviously, most people don’t encounter angry goddesses and Wonderland-like alternate worlds. But, Oscar Wilde shows up as a supporting character. We had to make sure that the book took place when he wasn’t imprisoned. And, though the story occurs when he was living in France, we work around that by explaining that he snuck into England to see an underground performance of his Salome. That play hadn’t been presented yet, so we make it clear that it’s a clandestine thing. And, because he’s just out of prison, we see an older and world-weary Oscar Wilde. He’s going to die a few years from the story’s conclusion, so he isn’t quite the libertine bon vivante we normally think of.

BD: Is this a finite story or does it leave the door open to come back to this world with future graphic novels?

Dani: Oh this definitely leaves things open for another foray into the dark side for sure!

It is an enclosed story in its own right, but there are so many possibilities to extend this further, as the proverbial gateway to Hell is pulled completely off its hinges at the end of the book…

Kurt: I love that the book isn’t even out yet, and we’re already talking about sequels! I’m completely serious in saying that. I never knew the fans wanted a Cradle comic quite so badly, but here we are. Yes, I’d love to work with the band again on a sequel (or prequel or spinoff or pornographic parody or what have you). And actually, without giving anything away, the book ends in a place where we could take it in two remarkably different directions—but both completely logical in the context of the story.

BD: Talk a bit about the artist on this series, Monty Borror, and why his style was a perfect visual for this story… From the preview pages his style reminds me of old-school horror books from Boneyard Press or even artist Frank Forte (Vampire Verses) work.

Dani: Well that’s exactly it. He is also a music fan who has a real penchant for this type of visceral period horror, who just lives for illustrating it. Plus he really wanted to undertake the project. Enough said!

Kurt: It’s funny you should mention Boneyard Press. Hart Fisher is one of my heroes, so that’s a very complimentary comparison. Honestly, though, meeting Monty was like finding a $100 bill on the floor of a bar. He’s a fantastic artist, and he understands that we are trying to create not just a gory horror comic driven by metal, but a work of legitimate Victorian horror fiction. He understands that marriage between the horrific and the sublime—and when to emphasize both.

BD: This project currently has a KickStarter campaign to raise the funds to bring the book to fruition. Why not take this project the traditional route and try and find a publisher?

Dani: Well, considering the extensive fan base Cradle possesses and the difficulty in securing any kind of publishing deal that is in favour of the people that actually write the bloody thing, then this was definitely the best option by far, as it is a lot more immediate and fan-driven. You actually feel like a part of something important with a campaign like this. And at the end of the day, no-one is actually twisting your flesh to make you buy it!

Kurt: There are a couple of reasons we went with Kickstarter. First, graphic novels based on rock bands are considered toxic by the actual comics industry. They’re rarely any good and they don’t sell. KISS, Alice Cooper, and Ozzy Osbourne are the only bands I know that have had successful comics on a critical or commercial level. There might be a couple of others, and if I’m forgetting them I sincerely apologize. A lot of musicians have written comics, but I’m referring to titles actually based on a band or its songs. And, the comic industry is famously difficult to break into. I’m an underground comic writer with a loyal (and beloved—thanks y’all) following. Just giving this to a publisher would’ve meant months of waiting and rejections before settling on someone. Publishing one book like Cradle of Filth is doing isn’t all that difficult. It just made financial and artistic sense for the band to self-publish. And, Kickstarter gives you a way to test the market without risking thousands of dollars up front. If you budget accurately and then make your goal, you’ll know you had a good idea. If you don’t, then you know that something is wrong and you need to go back to the drawing board.

BD: In recent months, KickStarter has drawn a fair amount of detractors who equate the site with a digital form of pan-handling. How do you respond to that and what are your thoughts on the surge in popularity in crowd-funding sites?

Dani: As I just mentioned, no one is forcing you to buy it! Times change and people have to adapt, too. Musicians are having a rough time of it of late what with all the digital download sites, and those who feel that music should be given freely, despite it being the bread and butter of people’s careers. At least going down the Kickstarter route, you’re ridding yourself of all the bloodsuckers and middlemen who are leeching off of your hard work. This is no easy picnic by any means, and every campaign involves a massive amount of work. But, at least it connects the artist directly with their core fans and provides those fans with some real connectivity with the artists they look up to.

Kurt: I used to be very anti-Kickstarter. I will admit that up front. I felt like if the market wanted your work, you’d sell well enough. But, I’ve since converted after working on this project. I admit that I was wrong. There is a tendency among fans to not buy things when they feel like they will be available later. You figure you’ll buy it sometime and it’ll always be around. With Kickstarter, if the project doesn’t make its goal you don’t get paid. That gives fans a sense of what’s at stake. Artists and companies create products hoping that people will buy them quickly. Their paintings, comics, DVD, CDs, t-shirts, or dolls aren’t meant to sit in a warehouse waiting for fans to get around to them. When you pledge to this campaign or any other, you are adding to the inventory of orders we ultimately place to the comic printer, the dollmaker, the t-shirt printer, and the like. And, as Dani said, file-sharing and even Youtube have completely changed the business model. You have to make fans understand that these creations literally depend upon their participation. It’s just laying bare the way things have always been, if you think about it.

BD: Tell us about the idea to offer handmade voodoo dolls created by Dani Filth and then have them ‘blessed’ by a New Orleans vampire tour guide… Who came up with the idea (which we all love by the way)?

Kurt: Ha! Dani didn’t actually create the doll. Alicia Smith from Quarter Kids here in New Orleans did. She’s made voodoo dolls for a lot of musicians over the years. It was my idea, because after Dani did the interview for Dead Souls, she made a doll of him and had me ship it over to Suffolk. When we started the Kickstarter campaign, we were thinking of other perks we could add for backers. Alicia wanted to make more Dani dolls, and he liked the idea. As for the blessing by the vampire tour guide? Lord Chaz is still out there (watching, and waiting…). You’ll have to watch the little short movie we released to see how that went. Check it out here: http://youtu.be/nCTMZp_kxiI.

BD: Dani, a number of musicians have made their foray into comics with Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine, Alan Robert from Life of Agony, Claudio from Coheed and Cambria, and Gerard Way from My Chemical Romance. What do you think it is about hard rock and metal musicians that allows them to be able to create in both mediums?

Dani: I think there has always been a very deliberate fine line between metal and comics, as both are deeply rooted in the art of escapism; plus heavy music has always nurtured creative primordial instincts, mutating them into other aspects of expressionism; be it lyricism, poetry, dance, visual artistry or just plain and simple ol’ fashioned murder.

BD: Give us your best pitch for why people should get in on the ground floor for this project on KickStarter…

Kurt: I like to say under-the-ground floor! Seriously, though, the first printing of the comic will be whatever fans order through the Kickstarter. There may be a second printing, but it will have a different cover and it won’t be out for a while. The other items—the new t-shirt and the voodoo dolls—may not be available after the campaign. We will have to wait and see. But in a larger sense, this shows what fans actually want—as opposed to mere speculation or surveys of the market. Filth fans wanted a graphic novel and they want more from the band, and we’re giving them that. Anyone who would argue otherwise is just ignoring the numbers. And now, people can buy into this idea by pledging for the band’s first Kickstarter campaign. And, this is just the beginning….

And now for a lengthy preview…

 
  • Darkness69

    One of the greatest bands out there – great music, incredible lyrics, awesome shows. Kurt Amacker collaborated with The 69 Eyes on their comic books, so, all in all, this ought to be good!