My Dying Bride

 •  Posted in: Kogaionon Interviews

One of the longest standing bands in the history of modern Metal is MY DYING BRIDE, probably one of the few who has not accepted making any commercial music compromises. Due to the fact that this winter is set to have brought to light a new release, I have invited Aaron Stainthorpe into Kogaionon.

Greetings my friend, how does the end of the year look like from where you are standing?  Was 2008 a satisfying year for you all? I know your fans have been delighted with your live appearances; I read a lot of positive reviews… How did they (the gigs) go for you? Are there any details that would set apart the events, any differences, specific elements or peculiarities? Or were they built and delivered as concerts and nothing more? Could you perhaps make some references to them, individually?

Good evening. The year end looks pretty busy to us but not from a fans point of view, because we are putting the final touches to our new CD. We only have one more show this year, with Carcass & Napalm Death here in the UK, and that’s the last the fans will see of us until we tour with the new LP. We have the final mix and then the artwork to arrange and then it’s done, so we’re quite busy still. The shows this year have all gone very well for us with very few surprises. We do plan them meticulously and are not used to mishaps and anomalies and so I’m sorry to have to tell you and your readers that we don’t actually have any funny or overly interesting tales to tell from our travels abroad.

If I am to make references about the history of the band I could add that there isn’t long left until you’d reach two decades of existence. How do you see this period of time? Like a romantic one, a sentimental one? Have you ever dreamt of being able to perform in front of tens of thousands of people, crazed crowds that would cheer for you non stop? To see metal heads wearing MY DYING BRIDE t-shirts?

It is very hard to believe that we’ve been going for nearly 20 years, something I’d never have dreamt of when we first started out way back in 1990. Like all bands, we have had some great and not so great times, huge arena shows and small intimate shows, screaming fans and politely applauding crowds – we’ve had them all. I do look back with a smile though and with great pride too as I am very pleased with everything that we have created. We formed the band because we like this kind of music and so we don’t actually feel any pressure or need to do anything commercial or trendy. We’re here because we enjoy what we do, not for the money or fame.

At the end of the ‘80s the British Gothic Doom Death Metal nucleus was formed out of three major bands: MY DYING BRIDE, ANATHEMA and PARADISE LOST. Each of these bands have followed their own path, some more commercial, others more melancholic and atmospheric, your band being perceived as one that followed its own line, without letting itself be influenced by the coloring of the times. What do you reckon? How do you feel the music played by the two bands I have mentioned is compared to what it once was, at the beginning of the 90’s?

You’re right that we all had very similar roots but have now gone down different roads, ours being seemingly less adventurous than the other two, but that’s again to do with the fact that we play what we like not what people want. Both PL and Anathema have made brave moves into new and exciting area’s with mixed success and results, and I wish them all the very best with that but we’re just not that way inclined. We love doom/goth-metal and so that’s what we stick to and we’re rather good at it too. It would be utterly stupid and false if we did something else just in the hope of getting more record sales and fame.

How did the London gig go, playing alongside these two bands? Did it have any sentimental value for you guys? Are you planning an anniversary event for next year as well? Is your label perhaps doing so? What bands would you like to have on stage with you at an event such as this?

We had an excellent time in both Paris & London with the other two Northern UK bands and hopefully we may do more next year as an ongoing celebration of Paradise Losts 20th anniversary. It was great to be around Nick & Vinnie and the other guys as we haven’t played in similar places at the same time for a very long time. Our 20th will be celebrated in 2010 but I have no idea how just yet. Something similar to what we’ve done with PL but I can’t imagine what other bands I’d like to see there with us. I’m sure we’ll enjoy the celebration no matter who’s there.

Andrew and you are the only ones left from the old guard… Do you know anything about Rick? Last time I asked, in 2001, you told me that all communication ended between you two when he met someone (a woman) who had a certain effect on him… Has anything changed since? What can you tell me about Calvin? He was your tour manager, and a very talented musician…

Indeed, Andrew & myself are the last remaining original members, but we’re still full of ideas and still enthusiastic. I last saw Rick at the beginning of 2008 at a concert in Bradford and have learnt since that he suffered a stroke recently but has made a full recovery in a very small space of time. He’s fine now. Calvin was our tour manager for a few years after he left but I’ve no idea what he’s doing these days as he hasn’t been in touch. Ade left and got married and now lives in America and has nothing more to do with music. Martin got kicked out for not turning up to rehearsals but we’ve remained friends and are actually thinking about working with him in the future.

Excepting the two of you, you had some other line-up changes, pretty unstable ones though. Hamish seems to be the oldest of the bunch. Lena seems to be a perfect choice for the bass and Dans’ arrival seems to be a smart move as he was known as a talented drummer both in THINE and BAL-SAGOTH. Are these musicians more talented than the ones you have initially started off with? Perhaps even the best out of all the line-ups you had so far?

It’s impossible to tell who will remain in the band when you first ask them to join as we all live different lives and have different priorities, things can change in someone’s life which may force them to leave. Hamish is rock solid and a highly valued member, and I hope that Lena and Dan will be with us for the foreseeable future too. The band feels very tight and firm and I’d be very shocked if we lost anyone sometime soon.

How has the change in balance (male vs. female musicians) affected the way things are now working in MY DYING BRIDE? Surely there must be some changes, some things you do differently merely due to the presence of the two ladies…

No not really. We still swear a lot, wonder about on the tour bus in our underwear, drink and argue…. and the girls join in too! Sometimes, if the dressing room at a venue is very small, the men leave and allow the ladies to change. It’s cool having ladies in the band as it adds another level of interest, not to mention the fact that they are very talented.

Katie represented a natural move for the band, especially since Sarah is now a mom and during live performances the keyboard remained uncovered. More so, the newly re-introduced instrument, the violin, is an element of great importance for the fans and has been since a long while. I know she was recommended by a few of your friends. Should I assume that you listen to A FOREST OF STARS? Do you enjoy the music played by them?

I’ve never heard of them. Was that Katies other band? I’ll ring her and ask. Anyway, we were never looking for another violin player but when we needed a new keyboard player we asked Katie and it was just a huge bonus for us that she could also play the violin. It sounds wonderful on the new LP and I’m glad it’s back.

A good while ago you were telling me that you will bring the violin back only if you will find the most suited person. Does this mean that Katie is “the chosen one”? You were also saying that you were considering starting a project with Martin Powell. Was the intent abandoned in its “just an idea” stage? How come you didn’t choose him to perform on the new album? What is the difference between him and Katie? I'm referring here to both musical and technical capabilities…

I’m not sure Katie is “The Chosen One” but she’s certainly a welcome addition to the MDB fold and she’s a pretty little thing too, which is nice. The project with Martin never got off the ground as we were both busy doing other things. It may or may not be something for the future. We did want to work with Martin on the new LP but he was quite difficult to pin down and seemed busy with other things, and then Katie came along and filled the requirement so we had to forget Martin and move forward – we had a deadline. The main difference between their styles is that Katie’s playing is less classical but much more folk mixed with abstract soundscapes and unusual ideas, which is fantastic. Some of the things she does on the new LP are utterly amazing!

How was the DVD of the gig you had in Amsterdam received? It seems that you are having a great time over in Holland…

It has gone down a storm with many fans saying it was better than the previous “Sinamorata” live DVD, with much more feeling and passion. I don’t watch our own performances so I can’t comment on that except to say that it was a great night and we all felt good and that must have been captured by the camera’s.

Your collaboration with Peaceville is an indisputable success for both parties involved. Is friendship tying you together as well or its just business? How come you didn’t go for bigger labels, like Nuclear Blast, Roadrunner or Century Media? Or you haven’t been approached?

We have had an excellent relationship with Peaceville since the day we signed with them and both parties have worked with respect and maturity towards each other (as well as friendship) which makes for a very strong bond. When a contract with Peaceville ended, it was natural for us to have a little look to see if any other labels might be interested in MDB, and quite a few were but their offers were terrible. With each new contract with Peaceville we were offered more, which was nice, and other labels wanted us for next to nothing, which simply isn’t going to happen.

And we made our way to the new album, released by Peaceville as well... My understanding is that it is going to be one with a lot of returns to the roots, with melancholic tracks, sad and depressing ones, but melodic nevertheless. One of the tracks has quite aggressive vocals on it, more violent than ever before. I was reading the other day that you’re left with dealing with the effects and with the mixing. Is that accurate? What is your own view on this album, how do you see it, compared to the previous ones? It’s closer to… which one of them?

The new LP certainly has something for everyone, especially misery. I can’t think of an album darker than this one, but with melody too which makes for very sombre listening, and of course the violin adds huge amounts of atmosphere too. We’ve worked long and hard on this one and are very pleased with the results so far. We just need to make sure we don’t fuck it up with the mixing!

 

I know you stopped dealing with the design of your own booklets. Is it for the best? On the other hand, my understanding is that your art started to attract some interest, as much as to even make money out of it. How long until we’ll be able to see an exhibition in Europe? As far as I know, you only had one so far, in New York.

I am currently working with people in Romania who are very keen to exhibit my work, which is great, and am also in talks with someone here in the UK about taking part in an exhibition in 2009. Art is something I enjoy as it’s a way of expressing myself visually rather than through lyrics but generally with the same sort of dark and miserable outcome and it seems quite a few people like it too as some have requested prints via my web page, which I’m very happy to supply, although they are extremely limited to perhaps just 2 or 3 examples. I’m sure I’ll contribute to the look of a My Dying Bride cover in the future but not just yet, although I’m not entirely sure why.

You were recently stating that MY DYING BRIDE on stage does not equal to a simple concert, but a show in its own rights. Following this statement, one could say that the clothing (yours, at least) is quite unusual, your hands are painted with dye (red, I think)… everything seems to be part of a ritual, born within a mystical symbolism. Is this just my impression? Are you aiming to deliver a message this way? As through music and lyrics it is all pretty clear…

I cannot simply walk on stage and sing the songs then walk off again. My work is much deeper than that and I engulf myself with the characters I’ve created in my lyrics and almost become them when I’m on stage, which makes it a very dark place to be in. I lose sight of the audience and perception of my surroundings including the other band members, and slide uncomfortably into the shoes of those lost souls that make up my lyrics, forcing me into all kinds of dark shapes of twisted agony and suffering. This is why I would be much happier if we didn’t actually play live. But I can’t force my idea’s onto the rest of the band and deny them the chance to play shows and so I have to take the pain and go ahead with it.

We are living in an era where nothing is certain, nothing is constant, everything moves fast and chaotically, everything evolves faster than we can often perceive. Where are we actually going? Are you finding yourself within this continuous and seemingly never ending fight to be number one? As, if your not first it seems that you are definitely last, the underachiever, a slacker?

It all depends on your outlook on life and what you hope to gain from your time here on Earth as well as the expectations of others, especially family. I have been lucky in that I was never pushed too hard by those around me into things I wasn’t comfortable with, and allowed to try new and different things. I’m very happy and satisfied with my life right now and can watch the world race by at breakneck speed and in total chaos as I sip my wine and pen my lyrics. One great way to ease the pressure, if it builds too much is to get creative, which is what I do. Instead of letting things build up in your head with a probable outcome of anger, let it out by writing, painting, sculpting… getting creative. Turn that darkness into a physical being, a manifestation of your black thoughts made three dimensional. Don’t bottle up your pain, spread it out before you and watch it grow. It leaves you feeling extremely good indeed!

You once said that “Inspiration should flow over you from everywhere”. But what if it doesn’t? Have you ever felt uninspired? What should one do with such emptiness…? Turn on the TV and watch EastEnders?

Of course I feel uninspired, we call it writers block, and you just sit there doing nothing. There’s no point in even trying to compose something if there’s no feeling in it as it will turn out rubbish. I only write when I feel inspired so it’s not really much of a problem.

In the context of life, of your life, music and what comes with it must feel like a true gift. And yet… performing it live seems excruciating for you. And so, my question is: what has music brought into your life? If the creative process is a form of personal release, what does re-living those feelings do to you? Never-ending circle, is it?

I’m not too sure I’d call music a gift – we can all make sounds, some nicer than others but it’s still heard. Some are better than others but not necessarily gifted. The lyrical composition does indeed give me relief from the burden of anguish and you’re right that it all comes flooding back when we perform live, but it’s brief and worth the small sacrifice.

What does happiness, being content, mean to someone who lives the feelings that transpire through the music and lyrics of My Dying Bride? Happiness = what?

It’s whatever you can make out of the things you’ve been given. I don’t have much but I very much enjoy what I’ve got, and that’s true happiness. Sometimes I’m down and sometimes I’m up, just like everyone else, but I try to turn the down times into creative times, and that’s a big difference.

Are you someone who lacks patience? My understanding is that you were unable to learn how to play the guitar or the keyboards. Do you reckon you will have the time/patience to write a book on the history of My Dying Bride? Or to actually define in real pages the poetry ideas that are floating within you? Do you need a muse? Or perhaps the easiest justification of “the inability” would be the lack of time… convenient, elegant and… why not, an example of cowardice towards yourself…

I must admit to not being a very patient man. I get quite angry when simple things cannot be achieved by myself and those around me. I have thought a lot about writing something that won’t turn into MDB lyrics, a novel or a selection of poetical works, but I never seem to have the time or the right spirit for such an undertaking, although the poetry would be within my sights. I’m certainly not interested in chronicling the history of My Dying Bride.

The full interview will be featured in the Kogaionon magazine No.10.
November, 2008