Anathema interview with Danny Cavanagh
Interview by Ashlinn Nash
Meeting a musical idol can be quite a daunting task, however if they are as humble and more importantly as down to earth as Danny Cavanagh, whose enthusiastic personality is one that can put you at ease straight away.
The Energetic front man and founding member of the Liverpool quintet, brings a whole breath of talent with him, ranging from early works such as; The Silent Enigma , A fine day to exit  and more recently Weather Systems .
It’s no wonder that talk quickly turns to the newest album released on the 9th June 2014 - Distant Satellites.
Hello, thank you for talking with me today, how’re you?
I’m fine, I live in London now I moved down two weeks ago so I’m really getting used to the city I’ve loved it here for a few years, so I’ve wanted to live in the place. It’s a nice place to live, it’s nice to be near the label and have some contacts and some work down here and I just enjoy the city because its so old and historic and I’m living with friend here.[smiles] So that’s good it’s just been a couple of weeks so a very recent development.
What have the band been up to since Weather Systems?
Well we made the live album, and that was quite time consuming to rehearse it to record it, prepare it and finish it and mix it. That came out 2013 last year and we haven’t really stopped, we started an American tour in September and then we went to write the album and immediately went to record the album and before it was finished he did another American tour while it was being mixed. So we didn’t stop from September until April.
So we didn’t really see home but I’m pleased because the results have been very good and you know it was hard work and it was a sacrifice but you know it’s paid off and so far 2014 has been very good to me and it’s the best year I’ve had in ages. [smiles] so I’m chuffed.
So you’ve now moved back from Norway?
Yeah, I went there for like ten months, I would go back but it would take a very special reason to go as it is I’m a lot happier in London, but Norway is a special country, but yeah I’m happy back here and live in England.
So it’s been refreshing to go and come back?
Yeah, I went back to Liverpool after living away for a few years and coming back, I was no longer under that feeling of “Oh I really want to get away from this place” so I could just enjoy it. I spent a year…exactly a year away in Liverpool and loved it. With London there is just more to see, I mean I’ve trodden all the pathways there [in Liverpool] and London is new and big.
There’s lots of gigs to go to!
[smiles] Yes! I saw Atoms for Peace last year, I saw them in the Royal Albert Hall and I saw Sigur Ros at Wembley. I was a good year for it last year.
You’ve just come back from touring with HIM what was that like?
It was great I really enjoyed it, obviously great venues, great band to play with they are very kind and the venues where packed out a lot of them didn’t know us so we really looking at making a quick impression and grabbing hold of the audience and not letting them go – smack em round the head and then get off the stage. [laughs] people get bored easily so we didn’t overstay our welcome a forty minute, short sharp intense set list. It was great I enjoyed it, it was a challenge you know because when you play to people who know the stuff it’s great and they do listen and it’s beautiful.
The challenge of playing to an audience who doesn’t know you is special and it it’s a good audience and an open audience which American’s usually are it’s a good experience, I also like being in the country. I just like being in America and travelling and driving through the towns and listening to all the different accents and having coffee in the service stations. Politics aside its a great country.
They have no idea what they are doing with a cup of tea!
No, no [Laughs] Master of reality wrote a song about that – T.U.S.A, Ginger Baker does a narration about this very subject, just him with a musical backdrop complaining about how American’s can’t make tea [smiles].
Distant satellites; is your new album, released in June, how was the writing process for this?
Great, well we did two sessions; one in Portugal in March 2013 and I lived with those demos instrumental demos for six months and then in November 2013 I got together with Vinnie and John who are the other creative parts of this band. We basically chose the songs during the November sessions. We recorded using a computer and white board and a pen and came up with the nine to ten songs and then we recorded them it was that simple.
All of the lyrics where written in the studio this time not something I’d like to repeat all the time, I like pressure. They all came together in that studio and it was intense, but it was pressure, it was hard work and quite long but all came out with the right results, it all comes down to the end result. If that is right then you can’t really complain, that is the main thing, if that isn’t right I basically go ballistic, I’m not a very nice person if the songs go wrong. I can compromise on other elements like with the music videos or road things like cheaper buses but when it comes to the music I don’t compromise anything.
I listened to everyday for two months and it started to fade into the background and when we release it and play It live I just let it go but the first couple of months after an album is mixed I’m with it all the time and then I let it go. It’s the same with every album, well not the live album, but with Weather Systems it’s been like that, just over and over and over again. I love it, I suppose I do write it for myself and for the guys too and what the fans make of it is really up to them its nice to be appreciated and that feels good but ultimately I’m kinda doing it for myself really.
So when I listen back it’s like “okay that’s what I wanted to say” and I feel grateful to the producer Christer-André Cederberg or grateful to the band or Steven Wilson and all the possitive energy that just comes from the heart of the people who have helped in making it happen. I usually feel that, usually when it is finished.
Christer-André Cederberg is your producer again,what was it like working with him once more?
It was a dream, he’s our George Martin he’s the 5th Beatle, he really looks after everything from the beginning to the end of the process from the demoing stage to the end result he will be there and in the room helping to make the decisions , talking about the music and discussing every note with us. The final decisions are ours but the music means almost as much to him as it does to us and there is a very positive and capable, professional and great worker and a good friend. So no complaints it’s all good he basically makes all the difference, he’s worked really hard on the previous albums and I’m sure we’ll be calling him again.
He goes through the extra mile for you, he had to have a really serious operation and was in a lot of pain and it happened towards the end of the album and at first he hid the difficulty from us so we didn’t realise how serious it was. He still finished the album on time the doctors advice was to not work for two months. He was like “I’m going to do this album and I’m going to finish it but I can’t do all the songs” he had to drop two songs and we had to find somebody to do these two songs so I was panicking. So I said get Steven Wilson and I’ll stop panicking so we got him he did those two tracks.
I was going to ask how Steven Wilson was involved
He’s great, it was nice to work with him again, it was nice to connect with him again and nice to hear his results and he was a revelation again, it came back after six hours of receiving the files with the songs nearly finished as I make the final adjustments but yeah amazing.
It’s the lack of shoes that must be it?
[laughs] He’s very, very good, very dedicated and very professional.
The Artwork for the album was based on the artwork collection called “Distant light” did this have anything to do with how you named the album, was it something of an inspiration or was it a complete coincidence?
It’s pictures from the instillation, I just typed it into google saw some stuff and I was with John and the I typed in “Distant light” into google, this was from John’s recommendation and on the first page of google images was his image. Clicked on it and John immediately fell in love with it. Emailed the guy that night and he replied the same night that the art work was on it’s way and there it was and they are all images based on a installation he made in New York I don’t know if it’s still there, simply that.
I think the enthusiasm of John and his reactions to those images really sealed it for me as it really spoke to him and the title track is his title. “Distant satellites” is from him, he came up with the song title and he wrote that song and Vinnie helped him to finish it but when he told me the name of the song and what that meant I just felt this enormous wave of compassion because I knew what he was saying and five minutes later it was the album title and it was literally as simple as that. The we had a celebratory curry.
Are there any particular influences you’ve had for this album, lyrical or musical wise?
No not really, just allowing the music to express itself really I mean there were a couple of things, like where I’d gone to see Atoms for Peace and what I liked about that was the blending of the analogue and the electric. They had all these great tones and these electronic beats and it was all buzzing synthesizer noises and stuff but at the end of the day it all came down to the song writing which was very strong and the vocals where very strong and that is what did it.
They are great fucking songs and that’s why they are produced in this way and I was just blown away by that and I danced for a hour – hour and half and I haven’t done that in ages. It shook me up a bit and my musical landscape for several reasons Thom Yorke is a very brave musician he’s always prepared to push the limits and he’s prepared to loose people along the way. He really combined elements of the electronic with this lovely piano piece with a pulse underneath it and I felt like a different musician to the one I was when I walked in. That brought onto the song “Distant satellites”
Which probably would have come up anyway but it was a real confirmation that we should start to bring in the laptop a little bit more, as I say that probably would have happened anyway but it was a confirmation that we need to be a little bit braver and that’s what we’ve done on this album hence the second half of the album being different.
Will there be any artistic input from Lasse Hoile within the tracks video releases?
Well we’ve been talking to him but it’s a bit early days, the art for the album was done separately already completed and they didn’t even know who Anathema were. We are talking to him about but we shall see how we get on.
What was the experience of recording a live concert like?
Funnily enough everyone was really nervous and on the second song I made a conscious decision to just stop worrying about what could go wrong I don’t really play much in one of the songs I just play piano I just had a moment where I took it all in to just stop worrying so I just listened to the orchestra listened to the vocalists and felt solid with the road crew we had and enjoyed playing to the audience and it was quite electric and it was the best gig of the whole tour. I think making the choice to enjoy it and I think you can see I am relaxed and dare I say it you can see everyone in the band is.
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
Lots of touring, there is a full tour August lots of live shows, lots of acoustic stuff and then I guess I’ll get together with Vinnie and John and start thinking about new songs at some point so maybe this time next year we’ll start on demos for the next album.
Thank you very much for talking us today
Anathema return with latest release Distant Satellites(2014) Which is out on the 9th June 2014
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