Heart of Steel: Interviews

MY DYING BRIDE
AARON STAINTHORPE - MY DYING BRIDE
 Interviews & Intro by Lord of the Wasteland


Legendary British doom metallers, My Dying Bride, have just released their latest collection of depressing ditties entitled, SONGS OF DARKNESS, WORDS OF LIGHT. The band is going on 15 years now and their latest disc shows no sign of them losing ground as the leaders in doom. With all the poetic, ominous lyrics, wretched moods and heavy riffs intact, the centerpiece of the new CD is the voice of Aaron Stainthorpe. The My Dying Bride vocalist called me for a lengthy chat (80 minutes) one Sunday afternoon and despite the band’s gloomy lyrics, Stainthorpe surprised me with a ripe sense of humor, self-deprecating wit and upbeat attitude. Could this be the same fellow who pens such songs as “The Sexuality of Bereavement” and writes miserable lyrics like "Suffer in your nakedness, before your dark art. The filth and the stench of you is hell in itself?"

 

Your new CD, SONGS OF DARKNESS, WORDS OF LIGHT, is out soon but fortunately for me, Lisa at Peaceville sent me an advance copy a few weeks ago. I’ve been listening to it over and over and I have to say, this is quickly becoming one of my favorite My Dying Bride CDs!

Thank you very much!

 

The first thing that caught my eye was the cover. I understand that Andy Green, who also did the cover for your 1996 CD, LIKE GODS OF THE SUN, was brought in to do this one, as well.

Yep.

Why did you decide to go back to him after eight years?

Well normally I would do the artwork. In fact, I did attempt to do the artwork but I was coming up with some pretty surreal ideas and the rest of the band just weren’t sure that what I was doing would represent what this album sounded like. We ended up farming it out to Andy Green who, frankly, came up with a better image than the stuff I was doing. Better from a general point of view. The stuff I was doing was kind of unfocused and, as I say, quite surreal. They were just blurry colors. I liked them, obviously (laughs), but the rest of the band found my ideas a bit hard to swallow. We knew Andy Green did a good job on LIKE GODS OF THE SUN so we contacted him and once again, he came up with the goods for this album.

 

What’s with the half-faced angel on the cover? I tried to figure it out myself and I just don’t get it (laughs).

He’s a difficult guy to get hold of, Andy Green, and we picked this image simply because it looked nice. I know that sounds like a very simple excuse, but it’s the truth. If there is some hidden meaning or added depth to that image, we haven’t been told yet what it is (laughs). I’m probably going to see Andy next weekend to see what’s happening in the picture and where the inspiration came from.

 

 

Has there been any controversy over the cover given the nudity?

I haven’t heard anything, although over here [England], the first release is actually the limited edition box. Because it is limited, it has a sticker saying “limited” and it’s right over the breasts on the front cover. Now I don’t know if that’s intentional, but I think it quite probably is. I don’t know what the normal jewel case version will look like because, clearly, the normal one won’t be a special edition, so if it’s going to have some kind of censorship, I don’t know what it’s going to be.

 

 

I didn’t know there was going to be a special edition version! What is in the package?

I didn’t know anything about this until somebody on the My Dying Bride website pointed it out! I e-mailed the record label and mentioned it to them and wondered if it was possible if we could have a copy (laughs) and they agreed. I got some just yesterday actually and it’s in, like, a fold-out cardboard box. Inside is a poster of the album cover, a fridge magnet and, obviously, the CD booklet. It’s just a nice little package. I don’t know how many it’s limited to but it’s kind of out of the ordinary that it’s actually being released before the jewel case one.

So there aren’t any bonus tracks or anything like that?

No, no. Everything that we’ve recorded for this album has been released on this album. There’s nothing extra on this box.

 

 

The new CD was supposed to be released back in October of 2003. Is it true what I read that it was actually the artwork that caused the delay?

That’s true. I was coming up with these images and the band was saying, “Well that’s kind of interesting. Can we develop that into some kind of direction?” (laughs). I really was coming up with these weird and wonderful things and I just couldn’t understand what the band wanted and I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted myself! You could tell that in the images. They weren’t focused. They weren’t going anywhere. Yes, the colors were nice (laughs), but you need something a bit more in depth than that, so when the actual delivery date came up, we still had no artwork! That’s when we said it’s too late and we decided to get someone else to do it. Big apologies to everyone else, but really it was me not being able to come up with the goods, I guess.


It’s been about 2 ½ years since the last My Dying Bride studio album, THE DREADFUL HOURS, came out. Were you taking your time in writing this one?

Not especially. We are quite lucky that we don’t have any pressure form the record label. They never say to us, “Here’s your next five year schedule. You must have a release on this date.” There’s never been anything like that; we kind of do an album when we like. I didn’t realize it was such a long gap between this one and the last one because we’ve had a couple of non-studio releases and we’ve been playing live and then we started writing this. We recorded it in the summer time. We’ve never really done albums every year. It’s always been at least a year and half to two years between albums, and I think that is quite good because it means we aren’t churning out the same stuff and you have enough time to be influenced by other things which could influence the way you write music. For My Dying Bride, it’s natural to have a large gap between recordings, but it’s a development gap, and not due to laziness. We don’t start writing an album as soon as a new one is released. We take a break. We tour. We are actually busy “behind the scenes.”

 

 

Do you see SONGS OF DARKNESS, WORDS OF LIGHT as an improvement over THE DREADFUL HOURS?

Oh certainly. I mean I love THE DREADFUL HOURS. It’s become my favorite My Dying Bride album.

Really?

It’s just so rich! There are many different aspects to the album that I like. I was thinking while we were writing the new one that it’s going to be hard to top THE DREADFUL HOURS because from my own personal point of view, I thought it was brilliant! I still listen to it now quite regularly. This new one I guess is a natural progression from the last album. It’s not a gigantic leap—we’re not reinventing the wheel with this stuff. But I think that as we’ve matured, the songwriting has matured. I think you can see that we’re much better at doing what we do now than we were even just a couple of years ago. We structure the songs better. We can play our instruments much better. I’m trying to do more interesting things with the vocals, which comes with practice. On the early albums, we stuck with a doom and death metal formula, but with a certain amount of bravery, I thought, to hell with it, on this album I was going to be a bit more experimental.

 

 

I wanted to ask you about some of the songs from the new album. On the first song, “The Wreckage of My Flesh,” I’m trying to make out what you are saying at the beginning of the song, but I can’t quite make it out.

You won’t make them out because it was mad ranting for want of a better phrase (laughs)! We wanted almost a Lord of the Rings, mass army, something menacing coming…a big build-up with some kind of animalistic noise going on, but unidentifiable. Really, I just kind of stood there in the microphone booth, just kind of yelping and screaming stuff. I was half forming words but not finishing them. Once we recorded it all, we kind of chopped it up a bit so it sounds even more distant. They’re not actually words but I’m just making noise really!

That’s what I thought! I didn’t want to insult you by asking if it was just gibberish and it wasn’t (laughs)!

No, it is gibberish! It’s just meant to help with the build-up of that song. I think it works quite well.

 

 

On “The Scarlet Garden,” are there violins used again, or is that done with a keyboard?

No, it’s keyboards again. There has been mention of violins on this album, but there aren’t any. We haven’t had violins now for about six or seven years! Keyboards are improving so much now. In the past, you’d use a violin sound on a keyboard and it was VAGUELY violin-like. Of course these days, the keyboards that we use in the studio are so modern, they actually sample real violins. When you play them, it sounds really, really good! We used much more keyboards this time around but if we got the chance to use a violin player again, I think we definitely would. Keyboards are a great instrument but if you can get the genuine article, it’s going to be that much better. We aren’t openly advertising for another violin player but I guess if someone came along and said, “Hey, I like your music and I play the violin. Should we get together?” then, sure, we’ll give it a go!

 

 

“Will My Dying Bride be getting another violin player?” You must get asked that question a lot?

(Laughs) We get asked that question probably more than any other! As I say, we aren’t actively looking for somebody. When Martin [Powell, original violinist/keyboardist] joined in the first place, he simply approached us with a tape and we loved it and he joined. If somebody else out there in the big wide world gives us a tape and happens to be kind of local-ish, then there’s no reason why they couldn’t join the band.

So there is a job opportunity out there for one lucky person!

Yeah, I guess so!

 

Well hopefully you find someone, not that I think My Dying Bride is anything less without a permanent violinist.

We’ve actually rehearsed with a couple of violin players in the past—a couple of young ladies. I didn’t know this because I’m not a musician, but apparently playing classical violin is vastly different from the type of violin that we’ve used. This one girl, although she was classically trained, when we brought her to the rehearsal room, she almost literally froze. She just couldn’t get anything out that would fit with the music, so we had to let her go. We tried it again with another person and the same thing happened! “The Four Seasons” by Vivaldi was no problem but stringing together a few notes with the guitar takes a lot more skill than you would imagine. I guess Martin had a lot more skill than we gave him credit for!

 

 

The third track on the new CD is called “Catherine Blake.” Is that song about the wife of poet, William Blake?

(Laughs) No. But everybody has said that, so I kind of wish I had done it really (laughs). From time to time, I like to use a character’s name for a song rather than a title that gives away some form of description of the song. The actual character of Catherine Blake doesn’t really appear much in the song. It’s not about her. She’s more just a cog in the big machine of the music. It’s nice to use a name, though, because people ask, “Who is he?” “Where is she from?” “What’s her history?” “What will happen to her?” Suddenly, just by having a female’s name in the title, it has generated much more interest than if I’d given it a typical doomy title. I never even thought about the William Blake link until it had been recorded and Mags [sound engineer] in the studio asked if there was a connection. It never clicked when I was writing it, but I knew that I was bound to be asked that question in the future. It’s a nice association and I don’t really mind it.

 

In the press release that was sent along with the promo of the new CD, it says something about “My Wine in Silence” having “commercial appeal.” Do you agree with that statement? Can you imagine My Dying Bride with a “hit single,” for lack of a better term?

It should really read, “commercial…for My Dying Bride.” People don’t like depressing music, they like happy music and “My Wine in Silence” is a pretty manically depressing song, but for My Dying Bride’s style, it has a certain commercial appeal. It’s not multi-layered or overly complex like some of the other songs. The music and lyrics are both very simple and it’s instantly accessible because of that. It’s got a dark pleasantness to it. I think it’s one of those songs that when you listen to the album for the first time, that may be the one you like first. It’s so simple that it’s easy to absorb and therefore sticks in the mind quicker. Because of the structure of the other songs, you need to listen to them four or five times to really get into them. “My Wine in Silence” certainly isn’t commercial in the whole scheme of music.

No, I don’t think you’ll be fighting Britney Spears for the top chart position or anything (laughs)?

(Laughs) Well, it would be quite interesting. You never know how these things happen from time to time. We have no great plan to conquer the world.

 

(Laughs) There is another mysterious female character on the CD—“The Blue Lotus.” Did anyone inspire this track?

The character is called The Blue Lotus as you say, and it’s kind of my attempt at a dark fairy tale. The lyrics on this song could be read without any music at all. It almost reads like, “Once upon a time…” where there’s the story and then they all live happily ever after, only they don’t live happily ever after because it’s My Dying Bride (laughs). It’s very much fantasy, but The Blue Lotus is the name of this “sleeping beauty” character and it all turns a bit nasty towards the very end.

 

 

Did Sarah Stanton play keyboards on this record or did you enlist Johnny Maudling from Bal-Sagoth?

She plays about half of the album and the other is played by Mags, our sound engineer. Both our guitarists, Hamish [Glencross] and Andy [Craighan] chipped in with some keyboard playing themselves. In the past, we’ve used Johnny Maudling from Bal-Sagoth. We may have approached him this time, I don’t really know, but he isn’t on this album. It’s Sarah, Hamish, Andy and Mags has done a little bit, too.

 

 

How did Johnny end up on the other albums? Are you good friends with the guys in Bal-Sagoth?

Oh yeah. Martin, our old violin player, actually lived with Bal-Sagoth for a while, so obviously there was a connection there. Martin actually recommended Johnny play keyboards on some of the stuff, because Johnny is just one of the most amazing keyboard players. He can listen to a song two or three times and instantly add superb keyboards to it. When we lost Martin, we contacted Johnny and asked him to be a studio musician for us from time to time. We’d send him a tape a couple of weeks before we’d need him to come to the studio, he’d show up, record his stuff in two or three days and then leave. It was brilliant stuff! Whoever happened to be playing the keyboards for us live would have to learn this great stuff that Johnny did and try to replicate it in a live situation. I don’t know if Johnny was available this time or not. I wasn’t really involved with the mechanics of the recording. I just turned up, did the vocals and then went home again (laughs).

 

 

(Laughs) Getting back to the new CD, how have the early reviews been for it?

They’ve been really good, actually. There has been a surprising buzz about it over here and I think in the States, too. I’ve done several interviews with Canada and America and people seem to be showing a lot more interest in My Dying Bride. I don’t know why. There must be something in the air (laughs)! The European press have been falling all over themselves to do interviews and stuff. Today has been great. I’ve just had the one interview with you, but tomorrow for instance, I’m going to be on the phone all day from the time I get up until about 10:30 at night! And that’s every day all next week! Since the second week in January, I’ve been doing interviews every single day. There’s been massive press and some of the online reviews we’ve read have been really, really positive. People are saying My Dying Bride are currently at the best we’ve ever been, which is wonderful! After doing this for so many years, you would kind of hope that we know what we’re doing by now (laughs).

 

 

Did you ever think that, fifteen years into the career of My Dying Bride, that you would be releasing such an eagerly anticipated album?

Well, you always hope to improve with each recording but the music business is a very fickle one and you can’t ever predict anything because trends change. It’s like a roller coaster…it’s up and down and fast and slow. Even if you try and keep up with the trends, you can still miss the boat or you’ll become so boring that no one’s interested. Thankfully, we’ve just stuck with what we enjoy doing and over the years, as I say, we’ve actually got better and better at creating music and structuring songs in a more interesting way. After such a long time, it finally seems to be paying off big dividends for us because the press has been phenomenal. There is massive interest in the band at the moment. I don’t know if the scene is changing to a more doom-y death-y style but if it isn’t, it might start changing that way very shortly.

 

 

SONGS OF DARKNESS, WORDS OF LIGHT was mastered at Abbey Road Studios. What was it like to go to work everyday in such a historical place? The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix….

It’s kind of scary when you first approach it because, well, obviously, there’s 10,000 Japanese people trying to walk across there (laughs), but when you see the building and you walk through the doors, you think, “WOW! There’s some great history here.” Then it just sort of turns into a regular studio. There’s memorabilia on the main entrance but when you get into your own little recording/mixing area, it’s just generic buttons. There’s nothing there to give any reference to it’s great past. There’s all sorts of people photographing you, hoping you might be somebody famous (laughs). It’s quite a unique place to go.

 

 

I understand you just wrapped up filming the first video from the album for “The Prize of Beauty.”

Mmm hmm!

Can you describe what the video looks like and what is happening in it?

Sadly, it was released before we had time to finish it. It sounds crazy but this is one of the few instances where our artistic integrity was kind of shoved to one side in favor of record label scheduling. This never happens with us. Normally they work very close with us and tell us, “When everyone’s happy, let’s go.” But because the album was delayed for such a long time, the video was going to be delayed by another month and the record label said, “Look, we just can’t do this again. The album is never going to come out.” So, we’ve released a video that, frankly, is unfinished and I think it looks unfinished. A lot of friends who have seen it say it looks great, but then they probably would! It’s basically the band playing their instruments along with the song and that’s basically about it. We were going to add different features because the song is about this guy who is obsessed with a power-crazed woman. It has a kind of S&M feel to it and yet there’s nothing like that in the video. We had ideas, which we filmed, but they haven’t appeared. The guy who’s working on the video, again, Andy Green, is still working on it and it will appear on our DVD, which will be released at the end of the year. Unfortunately the one everyone’s going to get see on MTV is, sadly, just not finished and quite frankly, I would have liked to have held on for a few more weeks.

 

You mentioned the DVD, which was actually going to be my next question. You filmed the Antwerp, Belgium gig for it, correct?

Mmm. hmm.

So this will be released later in the year?

Peaceville mentioned September, but I’m not sure. Schedules change, but yeah, we filmed a show last November in Antwerp. The first DVD we did was old songs shot in Poland many, many years ago and it was out of date, so we needed to do something more modern. For that live show, we did three songs from the new album and the My Dying Bride classics. What will also be included will be the final cut of the promotional video for “The Prize of Beauty.” There’s going to be some backstage stuff, things we filmed ourselves in the dressing rooms and on the tour bus, so people can actually see who My Dying Bride are. What they look like when they aren’t on stage. We talk to each other backstage with some commentary to the camera. There’s a student at Oslo University in Norway who is making a video as part of a university project. It’s actually for a song from the previous album called “My Hope The Destroyer.” If it materializes then I guess we’ll stick that on the DVD, too.

Have you got a title for the DVD yet?

Nothing at all. It will probably just be called “My Dying Bride Live” (laughs). We never have titles like that. Even the live album was called VOICE OF THE WRETCHED.

The first tour dates kick off soon with some European festivals. Do you have a setlist put together yet?

We have got a setlist actually! It’s not finalized but it’s damn near. I have it on my computer here somewhere. Would you like me to read it out?

I’d love to hear it!

This is not in any particular order. This is just what we’ve penciled in and what we’re hoping to play. “The Wreckage of My Flesh,” “Catherine Blake,” “The Prize of Beauty,” “The Raven and the Rose,” “The Dreadful Hours,” “She Is The Dark,” “The Fever Sea,” “Like Gods of the Sun,” “The Cry of Mankind,” “Your River” and “Sear Me.” That’s probably about four hours worth of music (laughs)!

(Laughs) I was going to say, that’s an awful lot of songs!

We still have another one we might be doing, “Vast Choirs” and we’re keeping “Under Your Wings, Into Your Arms” on the sidelines, as well. If we get the chance to do them all, that’s great, but as you mentioned, we are playing some large festivals and normally the most you’ll get is an hour. We’ll probably get most of these done because with the adrenaline rush, you always play a bit faster than you should.

 

 

Is there any chance of you coming over here for a Canadian tour?

We hope so! We’ve been there before with Ronnie James Dio and we had a great time. We would love to come back. There’s no real reason why we can’t. We’ve asked our promoter to arrange some shows over there and it’s up to him to talk to whoever the Canadian promoters are and they’ll thrash out the contract stuff first. We give him a list of territories we want to play and we just sit back and wait to see what happens. There’s often red tape that we know nothing about. Someone somewhere always wants to rip you off and sometimes we’ll want to play somewhere but it never happens. But we have asked for Canada to be on our list for this year or possibly next year, but we’ll just have to sit back and hope! When we were there with Dio, it was only very brief. We did Toronto and possibly Montreal? I don’t remember to be quite honest. We were so awestruck by Niagara Falls (laughs)! We went up to the CN Tower and had a great meal in the revolving restaurant up there. It kind of made everything else disappear in our memories!

 

 

You have a very distinct voice. How do you maintain it, especially when having to go from the clean vocals to the death vocals on stage?

I’ve been extremely lucky in the past. When you consider I’ve been doing this for nearly 14 years, you would expect me to sound like Barry White or something (laughs), or not be able to speak at all! It’s strange. I must have some sort of an asbestos throat. I can scream happily until my eyes are popping out on stage and then go instantly to a whispering, normal vocal without any pain or suffering at all. After the show, my voice has dropped down an octave or two, but that’s all. There’s no pain, no redness, it’s not sore, and the next day you would have no clue whatsoever that I had been screaming my nuts off the night before. I’m just very, very fortunate.

 

 

Are there any songs that you are unable to sing live because of the range or complexity of the vocals?

Only one at the moment and it’s a great song! One of my favorite songs, “Two Winters Only.” We actually rehearsed it last year. The vocals on that song are nothing spectacular. They aren’t any different from any other songs but when we rehearsed it, I just could not sing it! I don’t know why! I couldn’t get the notes out properly. I tried singing it higher, I tried singing it lower and it just wouldn’t work. It’s such a beautiful song, I would just have loved to have done it live but I just can’t sing it anymore and I don’t know why.

 

 

Do you have any vocal training at all or is it just a natural voice?

(Laughs) Well, it’s very nice of you to ask if I’ve had any training but, no, nothing at all. I’ve thought about it sometimes, but it’s a lot like my artwork. I don’t want people telling me what’s right and what’s wrong. I don’t want to be influenced by anyone’s idea of what’s right and what’s wrong. I know I’m not a great singer. I call myself a “vocalist” rather than a singer. A singer is someone who can get all the notes. You know, Frank Sinatra was a great singer. I could never do his songs but saying that, he probably couldn’t do my songs, so I think what I do works well. The vocals I create work well with the music that we create. As I say, I can’t sing Sinatra songs because you can’t take this vocal style out of My Dying Bride. It won’t work anywhere else. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to sing properly but then if I could, I might end up murdering songs like Christina Aguilera does, hitting 300 notes in one word (laughs). It would sound ridiculous and I’m quite happy with the way things are.

 

I have a few questions about the writing style of My Dying Bride. What is your inspiration for writing such depressing music?

We’re not entirely sure. I guess something must be in the air where we live. We live just a few miles south of York and a couple of hundred miles north of London. It’s out in the hills and it always seems to be misty and lots of forests and lakes. It’s almost exactly what you would expect the imagery of My Dying Bride to be. Although we don’t go and sit in the forest in the middle of the night and write songs, you can’t help getting the place where you live out of your blood. It’s part of us. That must influence the writing in some way, but in the early days we were influenced by bands like Celtic Frost and Candlemass. They were doing doomy, avant-garde stuff. We just loved what they were doing and, as young kids, we decided, let’s do that kind of stuff, as well. Fortunately for us, Candlemass stopped doing what they were doing and Celtic Frost turned into some obscure glam-rock band, which kind of left the door open for a band to do some weird, avant-garde, miserable, weird stuff. Clearly it worries our parents when they listen to the album and they think, “WHAT THE HELL IS THIS? Where have our children dragged this morbid stuff from?” (Laughs) We have vivid imaginations and we’re influenced by books and movies. Some of the stuff is influenced by personal mishaps in life. Nobody has lived a perfectly good life without tragedies and we’ve used them as part of our songwriting. I think that dwelling on the darker side of life seems much more interesting and evocative than the happier things. The charts are full of happy pop songs and that’s cool. It’s just nice to look at a different emotion in a different way. Miserable subjects just seem more interesting to me than the happier ones.

 

 

It’s very interesting speaking to you for the first time because I guess I had this pre-conceived notion of what you might be like based on the band’s music. You seem to have a great sense of humor and you seem a lot lighter than I was expecting.

Everybody who meets My Dying Bride is god smacked for all the wrong reasons because we ARE actually human beings, believe it or not. Because of the image that we subscribe to, people expect us to be set in a dark castle, drinking our deep red wine and that’s a great imagery, as I say. We have played upon it, but we can’t possibly live our lives like that because we would have killed ourselves after the first E.P.. We find these subjects very interesting and the imagery is very grand and dark and menacing and scary and haunting, but that’s the kind of stuff that we like. When I write the lyrics and create the artwork, I only do those things when I am particularly depressed, so what you get is quite genuine. You get a guy who is really pulling at the heartstrings here because he’s low, so you’re really getting the genuine article. It’s very therapeutic, though, because once I create the artwork or the lyrics, then I’ve allowed the negative thoughts inside me to be released and I’ve kind of unleashed them on to My Dying Bride. I’ve got somewhere to put my depression and it’s called My Dying Bride. When I’ve created something, I feel great afterwards! It’s people who leave their emotions all locked up in their heads…they’re the ones who are more likely to be suicidal. They’ve got no outlet. They’ve got nowhere to put their misery. As I say, if I feel miserable, I start writing lyrics and I really pour my heart out into what I’m doing. You can see that in the lyrics. Once that therapy has passed, I feel great again. I’m generally a happy guy!

 

 

So the music is a very cathartic experience for you?

Exactly like that, yeah. If it weren’t for My Dying Bride, I would need some kind of an outlet for my misery. I guess I’d attack the artwork a bit more and I’d love to actually make movies. Not big Hollywood blockbusters, but grainy black and white art house things. I NEED an outlet. I can’t keep it bottled up because I’d be dead in a year.

 

 

Some of your songs have titles and words in other languages like Italian and Latin. Do you study other languages?

No, but I find it interesting. I grew up in Germany because my father was in the British army and we’ve traveled all over Europe in the band. I’m not the kind of person who thinks Britain is the best and I’ll never leave the island. We did have a great empire once, but I absorb other people’s cultures with relish. I want to know past and present and things about other people’s cultures. I let some of that influence My Dying Bride. We’ve used French, Latin and Turkish, even. Weird and wonderful stuff not because we’re trying to show off how metropolitan we are, but because it’s interesting to hear that people are scratching their heads wondering, “What does that title mean?” We like not giving away the full picture. If people are really into the band, they’ll research what the foreign words mean. Again, it adds another level. We like to keep My Dying Bride on many different levels with the photographs, the artwork, the lyrics and, again, with the foreign language. Some people might think it’s a bit pretentious, but I just think My Dying Bride is interesting on more than one level.

 

 

How does a My Dying Bride song come together? Do you write the lyrics first and then give it to the other guys to add the music, or vice versa?

Both ways actually. With “The Blue Lotus,” I completely wrote one night at home on my own when I was feeling miserable with a glass or two of red wine. I just wrote that song in one night and presented it to the band a week or so later. I said, “Here’s the song. I would like it at this kind of pace. This part of the song needs to be aggressive, this part needs to be melodic” and we would all work it out together adding ideas and riffs and stuff and we fit the music to the story. The other way around works wonders, too. I might get a take from Andrew and Hamish, the two guitar players, with several riffs in a kind of rough order and they’ll say, “This is the feel we’re going for. Can you stick some riffs on this?” Then I’ll listen to it over and over again and start to get a feel or look for an idea. Then I’ll start to write the words that work well with the stuff that they created. It’s a great medium because there is no set formula. I’m glad for that because I’d hate to be the one who has to produce all the lyrics first and I’d also hate to force my lyrics to fit someone else’s music all the time, so I’m happy that it works both ways.

 

 

Since Hamish is about ten years younger than the rest of the band, does he bring anything different to the table when writing? Maybe different styles or influences?

Yeah, I guess some fresh blood, if you like. He’s a great guitar player and he has great maturity for such a young man. His Dad is a great guitar player who has been in hundreds of bands in every style of music and that has clearly influenced Hamish as a young boy. You would not imagine his age when you met him because he is so articulate. He’s such a well-educated musician. He plays the keyboards and the violin—not to the level that he can play with My Dying Bride—but he plays umpteen other instruments. He helps out with vocal lines, too. He’s really multi-talented and he was a big fan of the band for years. When we approached him about joining, he leapt at the chance. He’s given us so much energy watching the way he works. For such a young guy, you wonder what he’s going to be like in twenty years! He’s already a genius. I went for some drinks with him last night and I felt rough this morning (laughs)!

(Laughs) Can’t quite keep up with him?

(Laughs) Well we love our English ales, but Hamish is a bit mad because when we’ve had several jugs of great beer, then he starts getting whiskeys and brandies and that really kills the night (laughs).

 

You mentioned your former keyboard/violin player, Martin Powell, who is of course, now in Cradle of Filth. Have you stayed in touch with any of the other former members of the band such as Rick Miah, Bill Law or Calvin Robertshaw?

Not Rick or Bill because they have just disappeared! Everybody knows we have a website and you can actually contact My Dying Bride through the website, but they have clearly chosen not to do that. We can’t get hold of them either, so I have no idea what Rick or Bill are up to, but Calvin is actually our tour manager now! Calvin is still on stage when we play live. He’s just on the side of it, that’s all. No one will recognize him because he’s had all his hair cut off, but he still likes the music business. It’s the business he likes now. He’s not that keen on standing on the stage or creating songs, but he is still very much with us.

 

What about Yasmine Ahmed who played keyboards on THE DREADFUL HOURS CD?

She completely disappeared (laughs)! She sent us an e-mail once saying that she couldn’t contribute to the band anymore, but wished us all the greatest luck for the future. That was it! Completely disappeared! I have no idea where she is anymore which is kind of a shame because she was a really, really nice girl, but Lord only knows where she is now.

 

 

I would like to go back to what many consider the biggest misstep in My Dying Bride’s career, the 34.788%…COMPLETE album. Why do you think that record was so hard for the fans to accept?

I think it was the packaging more than anything, and again, I was responsible for that (laughs). I wanted a break from the usual Goth imagery, just to see what it would be like. With a title like that and artwork like that, we knew it would be criticized but we were brave enough to still go ahead with it. Now, years later, people love the album, but it was a shock for them back then. The only really obscure track on there was “Heroin Chic,” and if we had taken that off and repackaged the record with a suitable title for My Dying Bride, it would be classed as just another My Dying Bride album. People just found it hard to stomach the album title, the cover and when they heard reviews concerning “Heroin Chic,” it was just too much. People thought, “Ffft, I don’t know what’s going on here, but it’s not the MDB we used to know and love!” Bizarrely, a few years later, they all love it again! It was a brave thing to do and we weren’t afraid to do it, so we did it anyway!

 

What is with the spider on the cover?

Well, again, this was a piece of artwork that I created when I wasn’t quite all there (laughs). I’d had a drink (laughs)! I wanted something interesting, unusual, unfocused and something that people would talk about…

And that you got (laughs)!

Exactly! I think I achieved that without having any real story of what it’s about.

 

Can you explain the title, as well?

That was something that Calvin came up with. He claims to have had some weird dream one night about how mankind has a set amount of time on Earth and we’re using it up all the time. He had this weird figure that we had used up 34.788% of our time that God has given us. We thought, “You’re a bit mad…but we like that,” so we used it as our album title.

 

How do you feel about the album seven years later? Do you have any different impressions of it now?

When we released it, we released it because we loved it. We knew we had created some interesting stuff, some great songs and we were proud enough to release it and we knew it would be criticized. We took it on the chin and expected everything we got. When I listen to it now, I really think we should have repackaged it because it is brilliant, particularly, the opening song. I think the opening song is phenomenal and some people won’t have even heard it because they skipped the album because it didn’t look like typical My Dying Bride. I can’t believe how good it is despite the criticism it received. It’s a gem and if anyone hasn’t heard it, they should go out and listen to it because I think it’s cracking!

 

 

Did the fans’ reactions cause My Dying Bride to go back to what they saw as the “traditional” sound of the band?

Not fan’s reaction. We always had some wacky ideas sloshing around in our minds and we wanted to get them out. That was why 34.788% COMPLETE was what it was. It was our “experimental” album, if you like. We thought we would get all the crazy stuff out on one album and that would lead us back to our roots for the next album, which is exactly what it did! We felt that we could get back to some raw, good old-fashioned riffs and no fancy stuff. It was almost like a plan to write some damn fine MDB stuff and not try to blow everyone away with originality. I think it worked quite well.

 

 

What do you think would have happened if fans had the opposite reaction to that album and absolutely loved it? Would My Dying Bride have gone more in that direction, or would you still have gone back to the doom and gloom?

Well that’s an excellent question and one we’ve never been asked before! Therefore I have no answer for it (laughs)! No, it’s a great question, though. Maybe we would have re-looked at it? Although we say we don’t let ourselves be influenced by record sales and sales figures and fans’ reactions, you can’t avoid them. If the album had charted in various countries, I guess we might have looked at each other and thought, “Is this what people want? Shall we ignore what we want to do and go on with this?” Clearly, we’d see a bit of money from it and sometimes you can be driven by money, but it didn’t happen and we never really expected it to. It did what it needed to do. We’ve never really been a commercial band. We’ve never had our eye on the money. You don’t form a band called My Dying Bride and write the most miserable stuff in the world and hope to make money (laughs). It’s just not going to happen.

 

As a tip of the hat to your fans, My Dying Bride let them choose the tracks that would turn up on the two “best of” MEISTERWERK CDs. Were you and the band pleased with the choices? Were there any songs that you wish would have been chosen that were not, or songs that were chosen that you wish had not been?

I think it was pretty much what we expected. We’ve all got our favorites and they all appeared there. A song like “Two Winters Only,” which we had completely forgotten about, turned up. It kind of disappeared in the background and we had never played it live, but we weren’t sure why. The fans brought it back to our attention and upon listening to it again, we though that it was a real cracking song! Same with a few others, but there were really no surprises. To flesh it out a bit more, we included some of the more difficult to get hold of songs. It was great. We allowed the fans to pick for us. We could have easily done it ourselves, but we don’t buy our records. We don’t know which are the best songs and we wanted people to tell us what they think are the best songs. Who better to ask than the fans?

 

 

Will there be a third MEISTERWERK CD?

I don’t see why not. It won’t be for a couple of years, I imagine. I think we’d approach it exactly the same way. We’d ask everyone on the Internet to pick their favorite songs that weren’t on the last two MEISTERWERK records and we’ll stick them on.

 

 

Why did the band stop releasing E.P.s in between full-length records like you did in the early years?

It’s a business thing. Back then, releasing an E.P. was a perfectly justifiable thing to do. The market was there for it, as people bought E.P.s back then. People don’t do that these days, not in this country anyways. When we first signed with Peaceville Records, the deal was for 3 E.P.s and 3 LPs. The business changed, times changed and the record label decided that E.P.s don’t do it anymore. Some countries don’t stock them, so we simply stopped doing them.

 

 

One of the better known My Dying Bride songs is “Sear Me,” which the band has recorded three different versions of over the years. Was it originally written as a trilogy, or was it revisited each time because of the popularity of each track?

The first one was very, very popular. I think we did the second one because the first one had a very sad, morbid feel and yet I screamed over it. The vocals were all really loud, aggressive stuff and I wanted to do something that wasn’t loud and aggressive. It was a really “nice” song, if that’s the correct word, so we did completely the opposite to the first one, with just violins, keyboards and the vocals that I really wanted to do. The only thing that links the three songs together, besides the title, is that main opening riff. They are completely different songs that just happen to have one riff in them that links them. The third one happened almost accidentally. Someone was coming up with a guitar riff which sounded like it could have been included in “Sear Me,” so when that song was being played, someone else threw the “Sear Me” riff on top of it and we all though that it really worked and we should have another “Sear Me.” We certainly never planned a trilogy and I can’t imagine there being a fourth one.

 

 

The band also re-recorded another track from the first album, “The Return of the Beautiful.” You changed the title to “Return to the Beautiful” and put it on 2002’s THE DREADFUL HOURS. Why did you decide to take another stab at that one?

We always loved that song but the production on the first album wasn’t really of a good quality. We didn’t have a lot of money and studio time was tight, so we kind of thrashed through it as quickly as we could. Looking back, we thought it was a shame that such a great song had been treated the way it had. We’ve known for years that we were going to re-record that song, but we just had to find the right time to do it. Some people will say the original is the best. I think the new version is the best because it was how it should have been done in the first place. I don’t think this is going to be a trend. You can’t re-record all of your old songs because you weren’t happy with the sound, but we felt that one justified a revamp.

I have a few questions about your artwork. Where do you get the inspiration from for doing the My Dying Bride album covers?

The same kind of places I get the inspiration for the lyrics. Places like films you might watch, books you might read, people you meet in every day life who tell interesting stories, images I may come across. I really enjoy photography and I photograph all kinds of weird and wonderful things. Sometimes they’re utter rubbish and sometimes you see something a bit more interesting than the initial subject. I take loads and loads of photographs and put them straight on to the computer and they’re there for me to use when the mood hits me because, just like the lyrics, I can’t create an image in bright, sunny daylight, or a nice hot day. It has to be when I’m feeling a bit low and miserable, then I get more creative. When I’m depressed my creativity increases ten times. I let ideas pop into my head and I use and abuse them and the results are pretty depressing.

 

 

You mentioned that you had worked on some ideas for the cover of SONGS OF DARKNESS, WORDS OF LIGHT. Can you comment maybe on one of the rejected images?

(Laughs) There were a few that I wanted to use that were rejected! Half the band liked them and half the band weren’t that keen and the record label said they were okay. There was a lot of humming and hawing, which, you don’t really have to use words when someone hums and haws and aren’t especially happy about what you’ve come up with. I was still working on the idea when we asked Andy Green to come up with some ideas, too, because it’s better to have more ideas than not enough. Andy came up with 3 or 4 ideas and again, we were rejecting these! It was strange because we were rejecting my artwork and his and I was thinking, who is going to finally say, “Let’s pick that one”? Finally, Andy came up with the one that we all thought would represent the album best and everything else got pushed by the wayside. There were three or four ideas that I could have used and, again, half the band liked them so they never saw the light of day. Although they are on my new website, www.azzron.com!

 

 

Have you ever had any work displayed or exhibited in England?

No, it’s all dark and mysterious and that’s not what the public wants to see. You can’t fill a gallery with this stuff or else you’d have to offer razorblades and tissues (laughs). Like My Dying Bride’s music, it’s not commercial, happy stuff. It’s my thoughts translated into images and that’s upsetting and not commercial for most people. I enjoy doing it and fans enjoy seeing it, so I guess through fans’ demands to see other works, I created the website. Now fans can go and look at My Dying Bride artwork and other stuff I’ve just created. There are some bands that have used other artwork and there are links to their websites via mine.

 

 

Once My Dying Bride decides to call it a day, do you see yourself carrying on and maybe doing album covers for other bands as a career, or is your art something you like to keep for yourself?

I do it for myself initially because, as I mentioned before, I need an outlet for when I get depressed, so they are all done for me, by me. Just this week, I had a band e-mail me from Finland asking if I could create an album cover for them and I had to e-mail them back saying I can’t because they will then give me guidelines and to be honest, I can’t stick to rules. I have to be able to let loose and do my own thing. Anyway, I said to have a look at the website and pick an image that they thought might be useful for their record and we would work on that.

 

 

Are you involved with the layout and design of the My Dying Bride website at all?

No, not really. The guy who runs it, J1, does such a great job and I don’t want to say, “I’m the singer and I’m an artist, so you should listen to me.” He does a fantastic job and there’s no reason for me to start butting in. I send him a CD-ROM with all the artwork on it and he picks things that will look good on certain pages. He lives in Holland and he came over to England to show me how to create my own website, so I could update it on a regular basis.

 

 

In the bio section of www.mydyingbride.org, you have listed Canada as your favorite country. I’m very happy to hear to that, but is it about our country that you love so much?

I’ve only been there very briefly but I think it just looks fantastically beautiful. The one and only time I’ve been there, I loved it. The people I met were fantastic, everything looked great…I was like a kid in a candy shop! There was just a weird buzz that I really liked. I felt comfortable there. I always wanted to go Banff and Jasper and see all the outstanding natural beauty that there is there. I will come over there for a holiday—God knows when I can get some time away from the band—but it’s just so spectacular, that I’ve got to see more of it!

 

 

What are you listening to in your CD player?

Not a lot of metal, funnily enough. I can’t live and eat metal, so I try to get away from it from time to time. I’m listening to the new Muse album, but I can’t remember what it’s called and as soon as I put the CD in, I lose the box immediately (laughs). I know that song number five is the best, but I think Muse is just a fantastic band. It’s strange because I sometimes see hope in the commercial world for My Dying Bride because when you look at a band like Muse, who release singles over here and get to number one, they are miserable guys! Sometimes I wonder if one day, maybe we could have a hit? Clearly, the British public likes their miserable people!

 

 

What are your thoughts on Internet downloading and all this mp3 controversy?

Well there’s nothing we can do about it. It’s like death…we aren’t going to worry about it because it’s going to happen. Even if some kind of law comes in, there will be another loophole which means someone else can do it some other way. Over here, particularly in eastern Europe, there is no such thing as copyright laws. We’ve done shows in places like Poland and people are actually selling bootleg CDs of ours in the same venue where we’re playing! And it’s the guy who owns the venue that’s selling them! There’s nothing you can do about it. We’ve actually bought some bootleg t-shirts because they look better than the originals (laughs)! We just kind of laugh and go along with it. If someone can stop it one day, then fair enough but we just move on.

 

 

Does anyone in My Dying Bride have any side projects that fans might be interested in checking out?

Andrew and Hamish have started their own record label, Black Doom, and they’ve signed two bands and released a couple of CDs. That’s something that they both enjoy doing, but musically nobody’s got anything else other than My Dying Bride.

 

 

What do you think of some of these older bands that are getting back together and putting out new albums, with Judas Priest being the best example?

I’m sort of mixed. I’ve never been a big fan of Judas Priest, so I wouldn’t even be interested in listening to their records. Somehow, I think it’s a bit sad that these old guys are doing this, but then if one of my favorite bands were to get back together, I’d be very, very happy about that. I guess there’s nothing wrong with it if they want to, but sometimes I can’t get over the feeling that they’re doing it just for the money. Therefore, it’s going to be a commercial piece of shit, but a band like Exodus, obviously there’s nothing commercial there at all! They’re probably doing it just because that’s what they love doing.

 

 

How successful is My Dying Bride? I’m not asking for a dollar figure, but is the income you get from the band enough to make a living on?

Well we could but we wouldn’t eat (laughs). This is noisy, underground cult music. Although we’ve made a name for ourselves over the years, it’s still underground music. We’re playing some larger summer festivals this year. We’re not doing Ozzfest or any of that sort of stuff because even My Dying Bride is too underground for those kind of things. We do earn money from the band but we all work. We’ve always worked. As I mentioned earlier, you don’t form a band called My Dying Bride and write miserable music and expect to make a lot of money. The money we’ve made has been put straight back into buying new equipment. We do this because we enjoy it. We didn’t form the band to make money. If we did it, we would be called some more commercial name and play more commercial music.

 

 

Do you mind me asking what you do for a living outside of the band?

We don’t tell anyone to be honest. It’s not that we’re ashamed; in fact, we’ve all got very good jobs. It’s just so unrelated to the music and as I said before, we subscribe to the kind of imagery that people come to expect the dark, gothic thing. We don’t ever tell anyone what we do because even if they just glance at the answer, it shatters that whole image that we’ve spent 14 years creating.

 

Fair enough. How are things going with Peaceville Records? You’ve been with them since day one.

Yeah, everything’s been good with the exception of this little cock up with the video release coming out a bit too early. It was very annoying because we’ve had such a great history with them. They’ve been so relaxed with us it’s been fantastic. We tell them when we’ve got an album we’d like to release and they’re cool with that. So many other bands get pushed around by their record labels endlessly and, thank God, that has never happened to us. We do what we want, when we want and the label helps us in every way that they can. We’ve never had a manager. My Dying Bride has always managed ourselves so the label has helped us along more than they really needed to and we really appreciate it.

 

 

Is there anything left that you would like to achieve with My Dying Bride before calling it quits?

Well, no. We’ve been very fortunate that all the goals we set for ourselves were achieved within the first two years that we formed. Doing a first album…great. Touring in a foreign country…brilliant. We’ve played on the Iron Maiden football team! We’ve done loads of great stuff and we’ve been very fortunate. Some bands might think that we’ve done it all now so we might as well stop. As I say, we achieved all of our goals 12 years but we still do this because we enjoy it, it’s in our blood!

 

 

What are your thoughts on the doom scene in 2004?

To be honest, I try not to listen to it too much. I do purposely distance myself from the scene for two reasons. One of them is because I create the stuff myself and I need a breather from time to time and another reason is that I don’t want to be influenced by too much of what is popular in the scene. I may be influenced by some really great bands that have made a name for themselves and although I may like to think that they don’t influence me, in the back of my mind when I’m writing lyrics, one of their ideas might pop up and everybody might spot it. If someone says that a My Dying Bride album sounds like someone else’s it is by pure coincidence.

 

 

All right, Aaron. I very much appreciate you taking time out from your Sunday evening to speak to me. It was a real pleasure talking to you today.

Thank you very much. Hopefully we can make it over there sometime and we can have a couple of beers!

We’d love to have you!

That would be cool!

Well good luck with the new album and the tour.

Cheers, mate! Take care!


Read my review of SONGS OF DARKNESS, WORDS OF LIGHT

Thanks to Lisa at Peaceville Records (www.peaceville.co.uk) for the promo and for setting up the interview with Aaron.

My Dying Bride’s official site: www.mydyingbride.org

Aaron Stainthorpe’s official site: www.azzron.com