My Dying Bride has been dooming for 26 years and have released several now classic albums. On each album the British metallers have always succeeded in creating a depressing feeling and eerie atmosphere. Metal-Rules.Com sat down with the vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe to talk about several interesting topics.
I was just trying to recall that when you last played in Finland. I guess it was at Tuska?
No. We’ve played a festival recently and traveling to get that was so difficult. We said, let’s not do it. It’s too hard to get there and get home again. Then our agent said; if you don’t do this one, you won’t go to do Tuska again. We said, okay. Will travel even further to do this. I can’t remember what it was called, but we’ve done Ilosaari and Tuska and the name of the one I can’t remember. (It was Seinäjoki Metal Fest in 2015 AL-note)
I remember seeing you in Finland in ’95 for the first time with Cathedral.
Wow, yeah. That’s a long time ago. You don’t even look old enough to…
Then you played at Tuska. So you have been in Finland three times actually.
At least, yes. ( My Dying Bride supported Iron Maiden in 1995 AL-note)
My Dying Bride has a really strong connection to Finland. Back in the day I discovered you, when doing the tape trading, I was following the underground late ’80s, early ’90s. The important interviews which I have read from your early days was in the Isten Magazine. Do you remember the Isten Magazine?
It’s a long time ago.
It was really an important magazine along with Morbid Magazine and Slayer Magazine.
Of course. Yeah, yeah. That was before the Internet, when people traded magazines. Those were the good days.
That way I discovered My Dying Bride by doing the tape trading, I got a hold of your tape and the next thing you were on Peaceville, releasing an EP and then on MTV. I thought that was a really quick start.
That was a surprise, yeah. It was very quick. We were lucky. We never had a manager. So we managed to do these things ourselves, we created these opportunities to be in these places. Which is quite nice, really. I guess there is an element of luck. It doesn’t matter how good you are, if you’ve got no luck you’ll go nowhere. So there is an element of luck and hard work. When me and Andrew and Calvin formed the band 26 years ago, in fact it was a 26th birthday on Monday.
We had no idea we would travel all around the world and play all kinds of festivals. We just thought it would be great to make a record, just make a record. If we can make a record that all our friends can see it in a record store. That would be awesome and achieved that goal really quite quickly. Hard work and dedication I guess, because we all had day jobs. We were working hard, families. I used to work for 12 hours in a plastic factory. So you start work 6:00 in the morning, finish work 6:00 in the evening. Straight to rehearsal for three hours. Rehearsing, home, repeat. It was hard work. But if you’re not prepared to do the hard work, you’ll get nothing back. So we worked hard and it was good.
You and Paradise ended up to Peaceville as well as Darkthrone, Autopsy, Pitchshifter and you have been really loyal to Peaceville all these years. Have you ever thought on the long career that, “we could have a better deal with some bigger label” ?
We have an offer from other labels, because we’ve probably had 10 contracts with Peaceville. Because the contract only last for five years or something, around three years or seven. It just depends. But when a contract ends, Peaceville aren’t stupid, they know we will look for other labels just of interest. They say to us; look, when you get a new deal for another record label. Let’s have a look at it and we will try to beat everything in their contract and they did.
We got a contract, handed it to them. We changed a few figures to make it look even better, gave to them and they said; yeah, we can do better than that. Right, we will stay with Peaceville. They’ve never tried to change My Dying Bride. They’ve never said; come on guys, we need a three minute radio song. Bring in some publicity. They’ve never said anything like that. We can do anything we want on Peaceville records.
It is basically the freedom of artist and bands as Autopsy keep on getting more and more brutal on every album and they’re now back with Peaceville again. Another thing was Darkthrone, that was a different saga.
Yeah. I don’t know what happened with Darkthrone, because they were a different band in the early days and then they changed a little bit. I think they wanted to get off Peaceville. So I think they recorded everything all at once. Gave it to Peaceville and said; we’re going. So they left Peaceville quite early I think.
My Dying Bride was more like doom-death, but when years have passed by, you have added more different kinds of elements like gothic and dropped the death growling on several albums. I guess it was like an evolution of My Dying Bride, you didn’t want to stick to the same that you had done during all these years.
Yeah, because we don’t want to do the same thing over and over again. Because it’s just not boring for the fans, it’s boring for us. Just writing the same songs is just going to be terrible. I don’t play any instruments, so I need to try to improve my vocals each year. It’s not working very well at the moment. But you have to try and be better than the last album. So every album is as good as we can do it, but when we start working on the next one. We look at the previous one and we think; okay, that was good. The next one must be better than that. We think; how do we improve that?
Because that was great. Let’s just try, let’s try different ideas. We always do crashing doom, let’s do some crashing doom. Let’s do something a bit more catchy, a bit more head banging. A bit more up-tempo. I listen to the vocals and I think, I need to stretch the vocals a bit further. Maybe try and reach some notes I’ve never reached before. I just keep it very, do death metal vocals. Do some talking, some whispering, some singing, some death metal growl, some black metal screeching.
Trying keep it good enough variety in there, to keep people still interested. That kind of makes it difficult to give a label to My Dying Bride, because it is doom-death, gothic. Some people think we’re just a doom band, which is… It’s insane. When you listen to the first demo tape, it’s the newest album.
There is no doom-death metal vocals in there. I have never done an interview where I said, we’re a doom band. We’re a doom death, gothic band. That’s what we are and that’s difficult. Those are three different genres, which we somehow manage to be part of and still do okay. Because we do Wave-Gotik-Treffen in Leipzig recently, which is a Gothic festival. We seem to appeal to the gothics and we played the Inferno Festival in Norway. So we appeal to the hardcore death-doom/ black metal fans.
It’s nice that we can put one foot over there and one foot over there and people still like us. Because there is a risk that the death metal fans will hate you, because there is too much doom. The doom metal fans will hate you because there is too much death-metal. The gothic won’t like you because there is not much gothic. You could have no fans when you’re trying to spread yourself too wide. But somehow we manage to keep…
Everybody, yeah. Which is great.
As you’re responsible for the lyrics for My Dying what’s come first for you – riff or lyrics? Do you find that “these are good lyrics now I have to find a riff that fits into” ?
It’s kind of both, because sometimes Andrew will ring me and say. “I’m really in the mood to play some guitar this evening at home. We’ve got the whole set up at home”. He says, “email me something to get this started. Some lyrics. Just email me something too, so I can look at it and be inspired to create some music around It”. I will do that all the times, he will say; listen to this. He’ll send me something and I’ll listen to it and I’ll think; fantastic, I’ve got something for that.
So it kind of works both ways, but for the majority of the time the music does come first. I’m not entirely sure why it seems to work out that way. I give them a few little lines and it seems to inspire them to create all kinds of things, and then they give it back to me and I say; yeah, that’s great. Really, I never use those original lines which inspired them. They’re kind of discarded and I start afresh and I start towards, to their music. Sometimes I’ll say; look, you play this riff and I want to sing.
Your riff is this long, my vocals are much longer than the riff -Can you play that riff four more times, so I can squeeze everything I want to say on it – They say; yeah, okay. That riff at the end it sound much better at the beginning after the first riff. So we kind of work together with the actual song structures, which is good. We’re a very democratic band. You want everybody to say something positive about the music, you just don’t leave it to one guy who’s going to do everything. Everybody has their input, and it helps to create the songs that we all love.
You said earlier that you don’t want to repeat yourself. Does it bring some kind of pressure for you as reviews of your albums have been mostly positive and knowing that people are expecting another high quality killer album from My Dying Bride. ?
Not really, not really. I guess we’ve been doing it for such a long time now. You write what you feel and you write from the heart, and you know that it has to be better than the previous album. It’s hard for us to judge whether or not it is, it’s up to the fans to decide if one album is better than the other. It’s not for us to decide. So you write what you feel and hope that it’s going to be creative, and you hope it’s going to be identifiable as My Dying Bride. It has all the hallmarks, trademarks of My Dying Bride. But you still want it to be different enough, to still keep it interesting.
Because we have a certain sound which we like and the fans like. Again, if you repeat the same thing all the time, it’s going to become very boring. So you have to keep that sound, but you have to just spread its wings just enough. To bring in a little bit of variety, to keep it interesting. Keep the foundations there, but it’s like a tree. Just make it, spread its branches a little bit further. Pulling some different elements, stick them on that foundation to still keep it interesting. Because we love the sound we’ve got, we love that crashing C sharp, the guitars. You’re always C sharp and it’s got a great feel to it, a great vibe.
You can feel it in your heart, but you have to add variety to that. You can just do the same thing; you have to add variety in there. I think we still got a bit of variety. I’m sure some people probably think; they were great on the first two albums and then they went downhill. We’re getting new fans who probably are not interested in the early stuff. We’ve been around long enough now to a kind of span, when young people were young like us. They’ve grown up, had their own children and now their children are listening to My Dying Bride. Which makes us sound really old. But it’s nice to know that we still mean something today, because when you do an album. The last album we did…
Yeah. The reviews were great and I thought that’s great. We still mean something, because sometimes reviewers go. My Dying Bride, they’ve been around a long time. Let’s give them seven out of 10. I’m not going to listen to the album, it’s going to be good. That’s okay. But it’s nice to know that people are listing and taking notice of what we do, and we get to play some great festivals. So it’s great.
I read a couple of interviews and I noticed that there was something common, like back in the day you had the candle light and a glass of wine when writing the lyrics. I think it is the same nowadays – You have a glass of wine when writing stuff. It brings some kind of great mood.
It sounds totally cheesy, like something from a Hollywood movie. But it’s true because you can’t write songs, I can’t write songs during the day time. There is too many interruptions. The telephone, the Internet. There is always something happening during the day. When I’m writing I don’t want any interruptions. So I don’t start writing until at least 11:00 O’clock at night. Turn everything off, turn the fucking computer off; the television, the radio.
Everything is off, the lights are off. Some candles, it’s just relaxing. Nobody uses candles anymore, we don’t need to. You’ve got fucking thing on your phone. When you light candles, it’s just wonderful. You can hear them, because the house is so quiet. You can hear the flame and you don’t experience that anymore. Pour yourself a big glass of wine, I hold in my hand all the time when I write. Because my hand warms the wine and you can smell that.
You can hear the flame, you can smell the wine. It puts you in a zone, and you can write freely for hours because there is no interruptions. The whole world is asleep, my whole world is asleep. So you can be very, very creative and you really get into the mood. Yeah, I still do it now. That’s just how I do it. I hear it; some people write on the tour, some people write on airplanes. I could never do anything like that, I’m too busy. My mind is too hyper, in the evening it’s relaxed.
In my opinion, your lyrics are like poems.
It has been said, yeah.
Have you ever thought of releasing a book of your poems but not lyrics?
Tell me about this, what’s going to be in the book?
It probably won’t have lyrics…
What is the difference between the poems and lyrics, if you release that book?
There is no difference really, because when I write lyrics sometimes I’m not listening to the music. I’m writing something and I think 50-50, this may become a song for My Dying Bride. It may just become one of my poems that goes into my book as poetry, I don’t know yet. But I still like writing, because I’ve got something to say. So I have to say it. Even if we’re not preparing a new album, I am still be writing. I just put it somewhere safe. I am working on a book at the moment, it probably won’t have the lyrics because the lyrics don’t belong to me anymore.
It belongs to the record label, and I’m trying not to get the record label involved. Because it becomes political and it becomes bullshit when record labels are involved in sort of your own project. So it probably won’t have lyrics, but it will have all the things that I have ever written along with a lot of the art work that I’ve created over the years. But there is no deadline, I’ve got no publisher or anything. I’m just working on it on my own. When it’s ready, it’s ready. It could be next year, it could be 10 years from now. We just have to wait and see.
I assume there is some kind of religious background and aspects involved in your lyrics, like themes from the bible.
The bible is a great a source of inspiration, it’s a massive book. It’s filled with lots of, it’s just a collection of crazy stories. Some of them are obviously bullshit, some of them are inspirational. Some of them are very powerful, it’s just nice to read them. It’s a great idea. Maybe I can take that idea, twist it a little bit and make it something more interesting even. I used to read a lot of Shakespeare. You can’t copy Shakespeare, you can’t copy the bible. But you can take something and you start to think; hold on a minute, they could have taken this in a different direction.
Giving it a twist and it makes it more interesting I think. Yeah, you get inspiration from even movies you see on TV. You say; that’s a great idea, I’d love to have written something like that. But I can’t, because it’s already been written. However it’s planted a seed in my brain, which will grow into my own idea. If I twist it enough. Sometimes, you don’t always buy anything. You just think, an idea just popped it right away. I’ve got to write it and I’ve always got a pen and a paper with me ready to go. Because although I can’t write material on the road, you can still get a little idea. Something someone says to you, you might think; really clever, I’m just going to…
I’ve got a folder always filled with scraps of paper from restaurants, napkins and cigarette papers. Notes, just little notes, ideas and things like that. Which I need to really type onto a computer to keep it, because I’ll loose this eventually. Then when it comes to creating a piece for My Dying Bride, you get all these pieces together and say. Let’s take that one. That’s where the idea begins, now let’s turn that into something more creative and off we go.
The Christians and bible hymns are the main things when you’re speaking about the lyrics. Have you tried to explore other religions for your inspiration?.
Because I’m predominantly from a Christian community. I don’t know enough about the other communities, to start dipping into their territory. You’ve got to know a little bit about your own background and your own world, to be able to speak about it. I don’t know enough about other religions to be qualified enough, to talk about it in a mature way. So I just stay away from it…
I have understood – Feel the Misery- the name is kind of made up in tongue-in-cheek ?
It is and it isn’t, because you’re probably right. But you can feel the misery on every My Dying Bride album, that’s the way it is. Traditionally we’ve gone for title that’s a bit more elaborate, a bit more poetic. Feel the Misery is quite a short title and it’s straight to the point, you don’t need to think about it. That tells you exactly what you’re going to get. When you do something like The Angel and the Dark River, people think of; what does it mean?
What does it mean actually?
That’s what I want people to think, I want them to think. Who’s the angel? Where is the dark river? It just conjure up these images in people’s minds and they build up their own idea of what this thing is about. That’s why sometimes in the lyrics I am purposefully a little bit unclear about why I’m writing, because I want people to make up their own mind. What I’m talking about. I’m not telling them a story, I’m suggesting a story. They fill the rest in themselves and I think that’s a great way to write. Its fine telling a telling a story, I’ve told lots of stories. Where there is a start, the middle and an end.
There are characters, you can see the journey. No problem. There is others which I prefer, where there are characters but you don’t really know what they’re doing. There is suggestions about what they’re doing and where they’re going and what will happen to them. I leave it at that and let people conjure up in their mind, what they think it’s going on. You get feedback from your fans saying; this song is about, blah, blah. You think, that’s a great idea. I will conjure in that. That wasn’t my original idea.
One question before concluding. Tell me what is your favorite My Dying Bride song or three ones?
“The Dreadful Hours”, because I just think it has everything you would expect from My Dying Bride. “Two Winters Only”, a song we’ve never played live. We might do one day, but we haven’t played it yet. It’s a very powerful piece of music. I love “The Prize Of Beauty”, which we played the last tour. Again, it has really slow parts, really fast parts. Death metal vocals, black metal vocals. That song is more epic than people think is, it’s just got everything in it. I’m glad we played on last tour, it’s been great.
Thank you very much for your time.
My pleasure, thank you very much.