Gavin Baddeley Interview
Gavin Baddeley (Right) with Dani Filth (Left, Obviously).
Gavin Baddeley is a freelance writer and journalist. His works include a highly enjoyable biography of Marilyn Manson and the acclaimed Lucifer Rising: A Book of Sin, Devil Worship And Rock n' Roll. He is recognized as an expert in the field of occultism and is an ordained Reverend in the Church of Satan. His next tome The Gospel of Filth: A Black Metal Bible is published by FAB Press later this year.
Can you give me some background info on your writing career so far?
I’ve been writing in some shape or form for over 15 years now, originally primarily as a magazine journalist, but I’ve increasingly diversified, working as an author, with three books to my name and a fourth imminent, plus sundry editorial work, consultancy and so forth. I specialise in what’s often broadly termed ‘the dark side’ and focus on anything that touches that area – whether music, history, TV, whatever – rather than on a specific medium such as rock music. I like the written word – I think there’s something truly magical about it – I love to read, and that’s a lot do with why I do what I do.
Tell me about your forthcoming book with Dani Filth...
It’s entitled ‘The Gospel of Filth’ and it’s more of an exploration of all things unholy, using Cradle Of Filth as a compass, than a straight band biog. I’m more interested in an artist in context as it were – capturing what inspires them, makes them unique, makes them create the kind of material they do – than the soap opera approach to covering music or whatever it happens to be. So, with ‘The Gospel Of Filth’ a book’s developed that uses Cradle Of Filth as a jumping off point to explore all manner of bizarre and curious spheres, from serial murder and Satanism, to Decadent poetry and necrophilia. Dani’s densely constructed, intricate lyrics invite that kind of approach and, as always, I’ve written the kind of book I’d like to read. There’s some eye-opening backstage gossip in there, a little pioneering scholarship, and some truly phenomenal visuals, as well as a few gallows gags hidden beneath the surface. It’s more ambitious than anything anyone’s ever published in this kind of area before, so I’m hoping it’ll turn a few heads (and maybe the odd stomach)!
Do you write full time? And how easy/difficult is it to get your ideas commissioned?
I write full time, but also work in all sorts of other capacities as the opportunities arise – I’ve done editorial work, PR, copy-writing, consultation, whatever – you seldom have the luxury of being choosy when you’re freelance, and it pays to be creative in the markets you approach as much as how you approach them. As a rule, editors and publishers say they want something different, something challenging, something controversial, but most of them are liars quite frankly. Give them the same ‘controversy’ they had last year, and the average commissioning bod is as happy as a pig in the proverbial. Getting someone to get behind a new idea or approach is often very difficult, but that’s in the nature of things. After all, if finding new angles and then getting them commissioned was easy, everyone would be doing it. In an area like rock music where much of the readership is happy reading about their idols prattling on about their favourite colour of socks does rather Invite lazy, cynical journalism!
What has been your most difficult writing experience so far?
Each one seems worse than the last! Being honest I don’t actually enjoy the process of writing – it is certainly work as far as I’m concerned – but it’s a hell of a lot better than many ways of making a living I’ve encountered in my dubious past. Parts of the process are fun – coming up with the ideas, making a breakthrough in research, getting paid – but I do find the actual writing a bit of a drag if I’m honest.
Who are your literary and non literary influences?
I read quite widely, but I certainly don’t consciously emulate anyone. There are many writers I admire, but I try not to borrow too directly from anyone stylistically. Having said which, inevitably the stuff you enjoy leaks into your own work by a process of osmosis, which I think’s healthy. In terms of attitude to writing, I admire some of the old school American men of letters – Bierce and Mencken mainly – plus anyone who can bring real razor sharp brevity to their work like Saki, as it’s a trait I struggle to match. I think non literary influences are important. You’d be surprised how many bands are heavily influenced by film, and by the same token I’m sure the character of books is hugely influenced by what the author listens to while writing. I think being as open as possible to unexpected influences is a great way of trying to keep things fresh, but I’m not convinced thinking about it too much helps!
What books are you currently reading?
I’ve just finished ‘Hitler’s Pope’ – about the Vatican’s collusion with the Third Reich in World War II – and just started a book about the conspiracy against the Medicis in Renaissance Florence called ‘April Blood’. I like history books a lot, and biographies, but don’t read a lot of fiction these days. I get most of that from film, and am an absolute horror fiend.
What are your five desert island discs?
That’s really difficult! How about the eponymous debuts from Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden, ‘Damnation And A Day’ by Cradle, Mussorgsky’s ‘Pictures At An Exhibition’ if I can have it packaged with ‘Night On A Bare Mountain’, and something by the Rolling Stones, maybe ‘Beggar’s Banquet’? Ask me next weeks and I’d probably tell you something completely different – five’s just far too few to even start picking!
What are your favourite rock books?
I thought Marilyn Manson’s autobiography was very clever, which made my task of writing an MM book that bit tougher! ‘Hammer Of The Gods’ is still a classic. More recently, ‘Lords Of Chaos’ illustrates how influential a strong book can be on its subject. The author Michael Moynihan did a lot to invent black metal with that book – he probably had more influence on much of the mythology of the genre than any of the bands he describes! Martin Popoff’s metal lists books are reliably good, though I don’t agree with everything he says (or share his affection for Queen, or indeed his conviction that they’re a metal band come to that). I could also have a go here at the large number of really bad rock tomes out there, but the cynical worthless dross is finally being eclipsed by proper books in the rock world, which is a welcome first in an area too long dominated by glorified merchandise and hackwork.
After Gospel Of Filth, do you have any other projects in mind?
I’ve quite a few irons in the fire right now, mostly of a devilish nature, as that’s the area I find most fascinating. I’ve done some radio over the years, and would love to have one of my documentary proposals given the green light, so fingers crossed there. There’s also an idea for a photo book which I’m currently considering, plus a proposal for a whole series of colourful ‘evil’ history books which I’m developing with an old editor of mine. Then there’s a meeting next week to discuss some consultancy work on a TV show, which would mean a trip to America, which would be fun. If the next time you see me, I’m asking if you want fries with that, you may safely assume that none of this came off…
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Don’t! Or more accurately, don’t think of writing as the soft option. Too many people see knocking off a few words here and there as a bit of a doss, and it can be, but it can also be a real grind, and the self-discipline can be demanding. It’s also a very difficult way to make a living – never knowing when the next cheque’s showing up is no fun. There are a lot of people out there who’d like your job, and most editors and publishers know that, and aren’t afraid to take advantage of it. So expect to be jerked around by idiots (no difference there from most jobs I guess) and to have more than a few lean months living off toast and blind optimism. If you understand all of that, and still fancy picking up the proverbial pen, then good luck – you’ll need it – in my experience shit floats rather more buoyantly than cream!
Interview by Neil Daniels 2008