My Dying Bride
Aaron Stainthorpe: “Because my daughter was ill, I did not do anything for a couple of years. Now I am slowly getting back into things. It took me ages to record the vocals, because I did not really connect with the music like I used to do. But now we are stronger than ever!”
Gelukkig weten we nooit op voorhand wat het leven voor ons in petto heeft. My Dying Bride is altijd meester geweest in prachtige treurzangen in meeslepende doom/death metal stijl. Ook zijzelf bleven niet gespaard van enige kommer en kwel sinds het vorige album ‘Feel The Misery’ in 2015 uitkwam. Vandaar dat het vijf jaar geduurd heeft vooraleer ‘The Ghost Of Orion’ zijn beklijvende tristesse op ons kan laten inwerken. Eens temeer hadden we een diepgaand gesprek met zanger Aaron Stainthorpe.
Vera Matthijssens Ι 13 maart 2020
How are you Aaron, because these have not been the easiest years in your life?
It has been bad indeed, obviously, It makes you a different person, I think a better person. I feel stronger now than I ever felt before. But things are much better now, much more positive. Everything seems to be moving in the right direction, so yeah thumbs up! Everything’s good!
I am so happy to hear that! It took a long time and several challenges before this wonderful music on ‘The Ghost Of Orion’ was created. But let us start with a positive thing. The first thing I heard after ‘Feel The Misery’ was that you had changed from Peaceville – your home for such a long time – to Nuclear Blast, which is a much more big company. How did that happen and why did you do it as a band?
Well, we have been at Peaceville for many, many years and everything was fine. When our contract with Peaceville came to an end, we wanted to find another label, to see if we could improve My Dying Bride’s worldwide status, if you like. We had more to give to the world and we wanted to give more. I think we had reached the limit with Peaceville. They couldn’t give us any more publicity or promotion and we wanted so much more. We have loads to give and so Nuclear Blast came up with a wonderful contract. They are a great label to be on. Everybody is talking about them at the moment. So we said goodbye to Peaceville, but we remain friends with them. So hello Nuclear Blast and hopefully the future will be even more productive than the last thirty years.
Does it mean you have to do longer tours now or will you have freedom of speech and in wandering around as you used to do?
We can do anything we like. Myself and Andrew went to Germany to meet Nuclear Blast and they said: “We are not going to change My Dying Bride. You continue to do the things the way you do. That’s why we sign you. We like what you do, we won’t change you.” And so far that is absolutely true. We are arranging our own shows. At no point in time, NB has said: come on guys, we need a tour! It is nothing like that, absolutely not, which is wonderful.
Yeah! It is a bit like being on Peaceville. We got full artistic license to do what we like and we can do any shows that we like. They are just going to push us and hold our hands and be our friends as much as we need them.
I saw the list of interviews you have to go through these days. Wow, it is really a massive attack…
Even in the old days you got a long list of interviews. It is much better now, because there is Skype, obviously. In the old days you had to sit there, making telephone calls on an actual telephone. That got quite expensive. A week of interviews and it cost 500 pounds. But now it is fine. It is easy, I can sit here with a cup of tea. So much easier than the phone to your ear. The internet has made the world so much smaller. It is just better now than it used to be.
This is our first Skype interview in our long history!
Yeah! I just didn’t have a camera just until Christmas. Then I realized I may need a webcam, because many of the interviews will be on Skype. I know you don’t need to have a video camera, but still it is useful to have. Yes, I am very new to Skype. It is quite exciting really.
We are entering modern times haha, but the artwork looks archaic, like an old time painting…
We worked with Eliran Kantor to come up with a really nice artwork and I think he achieved that, because it is a really beautiful image. It is very different from other heavy metal covers and I think the fans are going to love it. But we wanted something different, not the usual rock ‘n roll cover. There is a kind of story behind it, but we don’t want to give it away yet, because it is like when there is a movie around, you don’t want to spoil it. We are not going to say what the album cover is about because we want the fans to come up with their own interpretation. Maybe in a year time we will tell the people why we did the album the way we did it, but at the moment we are keeping it a secret Vera.
I respect that. When you recovered from the sad news of your daughter and healing process, some other issues popped up as well in the band. I remember you were happy to introduce Calvin in the band again after his time as tour manager, but now he seems to be gone since 2018. What happened?
When Andrew was writing the new material for the new album with Calvin, Calvin realized after a while that he just wasn’t into doom metal anymore. Calvin is into thrash metal and death metal. So he told Andy: “this is not what I want to do anymore”. So they shook hands and Calvin left. But it was not like a nightmare or so, because then Andrew could do all the guitars on the new album himself. I think most the guitar players would love to do all the guitars themselves and now Andy got the opportunity to do that. And we got another guy in now, Neil Blanchett. Neil was not on the album, but Neil will help us out when we play live. He is from a local band called Valafar, so he is helping us. And then we got Jeff Singer, the ex-Paradise Lost drummer. He is going to play drums live for us as well, but he did do the drums on the album, because our old drummer Shaun Taylor-Steels left us at the beginning of the recordings as well. So we got Jeff Singer in, to do the album. Shaun left just because of stress. He was having a lot of problems with his work and at home and he could not handle everything. Luckily we now have new guys to help us live..
And there is a connection with new drummer Jeff Singer and the studio from Mark Mynett where you recorded the album… Singer’s drums were already put up there…
Jeff is a really good session drummer. He works in the studio with Mark, teaching people drums as well as drumming on other people’s albums when they don’t have drummers. So his drum kit is always in the studio, it has been used for many people. So we don’t even had to get the gear there, it is already there, that was fantastic.
For the first time you did not work with producer Mags in the studio. That must have been completely different for you…
Yes, I think Mags is moving towards retirement now. We haven’t seen him for a number of years. Someone pointed in the direction of Mark Mynett and Mark came up with great new ideas for the album, so it is interesting working with him. I think if Mags should have done this album, it would sound very different from what it sounds now. Mark did a great job and we are looking forward to work with him live as well, because he will also come with us when we play live. It is quite exciting for us really, it feels like a fresh new start.
After 30 years a whole new beginning! Are you going to do something special for that 30th anniversary of the band?
We’ve got nothing planned yet, which is crazy! We really need to work something out, but at the moment there is absolutely nothing planned, which is insane! We will do something… we just don’t have anything yet. We sort of imagined that the album would come out at the end of 2019, but we were just messing it up in the studio, because we have extra cellos and violins. There was lots of things happening. And we just thought: “forget it, let us not rush the album”. We better make it perfect as we want and bring it out in 2020, so that’s fine.
You have two guests on the album. How did you come across Lindy-Fay Hella from Wardruna for instance?
Well, Andrew is a big fan of Wardruna and he approached them. He said: “here’s the lyrics, here’s the music. Would you like to join us for a little while?” and thankfully Lindy-Fay said yes. She recorded a lovely piece of music for us. We put it right in the middle of the album, to give people a break from all the doom metal that’s happening around them and it is a lovely piece of music. I think she has an amazing voice and I think Andy’s guitar playing is fantastic. There’s only two people on that song: Lindy-Fay and Andy. There’s nobody else on that song.
It is really a solace to listen to, like the title says…
Oh yes, it is a fabulous piece of music. It works really well with My Dying Bride, even though it is not particularly My Dying Bride style, but I think it works well.
Jo Quail on cello is the other guest, an accomplished name. How did you get in contact?
When we were doing the album, we discussed having some cello on the album. Luckily Mark knew Jo and he said: “I will give her a ring.” Shaun, our violinist, wrote some cello parts for her and we sent it to her and she loved it. She came up to the North of England and recorded the music that Shaun had written and she came up with some own ideas as well which we recorded. It sounded wonderful! She is a very, very talented musician and we are lucky to have her on this record. You can hear her particularly in ‘Your Woven Shore’ at the end but also on a number of other songs on the album.
There is also a nice story about finding the title of this album…
Well, the title I wanted was: ‘A Ghost Crawls from the Mouth of Orion’, but that was just a bit too much. That is a long, long title, so we shortened it to ‘The Ghost Of Orion’. But again, no spoilers. I don’t want to tell people what it is about yet. I want people to make up their own mind and use their own imagination to come up with their own answers. That’s what My Dying Bride fans do, with every album. People come up with different concepts and ideas on what certain songs are about. And I think that is brilliant.
Are you sure you cannot reveal something about ‘The Old Earth’, one of the long epics?
Sorry Vera. I always write stories, quite cryptic, difficult to understand unless you read between the lines. So if I tell you what it is about, there is no mystery anymore. So I am going to hang on to this description for now and in the future I will probably do an interview and explain what this song is about. When I have seen what the fans think about it, because that interaction with people is quite nice.
Do you still paint a lot?
No, because my daughter was ill, I did not do anything for a couple of years. Now I am slowly getting back into things, you know. It took me ages to record the vocals, because I did not really connect with the music like I used to do. It took me a long time to get back into the music. And it will take me a long time to get back into photography, and a long time to get into painting. I am writing more though… I do like writing. I suppose that’s very easy to do, writing, isn’t it? You only need a pen and a piece of paper and you just write down your thoughts. So I’ll do a lot more writing and hope to gather all my short stories and poems together by the end of 2020 and hopefully next year I might release a book.
That’s big news. Don’t you feel anxious to share that with the world?
No, I have been writing for years and years and years. I got lots of stuff all over the house. I just need to gather it all together and then digitalize it and if I got enough for a book, then I will try to publish it. If I don’t have enough, I will continue writing. But I should have a book in a couple of years I hope.
Did My Dying Bride already play live again?
No, we haven’t played live in nearly three years.
And now with the new members and songs, a lot of rehearsals…
Yes, definitely. It is always difficult when you are recording with new people. So yes, it is hard work, but we are going to do it. The first show is in April, in Glasgow in Scotland. We need to be in form, so we are rehearsing like crazy at the moment to make sure we haven’t forgotten how to impress people.
Rehearsals are not that hard as shows, because there is no crowd to make you nervous. We got to start somewhere, so we will do the rehearsal gigs in England and then we might do what’s called like ‘a production gig’. It is not a real gig, but we go to a venue and we perform everything as with a normal gig, just without the audience there. So we can practice together in a proper live environment, just without the crowd there, in case we make mistakes. It will only take some time to get into it again.
You told me that the album is very different. In which ways do you feel that ‘The Ghost Of Orion’ is different?
It is different, because we are different people now, because of what we have been through. We are all different now. We all grew up a little bit and we are better in what we are doing. The things that have affected my life recently, have affected how I sing and the way I write. I think old school My Dying Bride fans will see touches of old school My Dying Bride here, so I think those guys are probably going to like it. But I tried to do a lot of harmonies with the vocals, lots more harmonies going on with the guitars; I think although it sounds like classical MDB, there’s some good new parts to it as well to keep it interesting, because we don’t want to play the same songs over and over again every single year. We want to write new and exciting songs, so we are going to do that.
Also more accessible I think…
Yeah definitely. We try not to be as technical as we have been in the past. We try to relax a bit more and write songs that we find more easy to listen to. We prefer great riffs over technical riffs, really well-played riffs. In the old days we used to show off a bit when writing very technical riffs and weird time changes and things like that and that’s fine, but now when we get older we can play riffs that we think: “Sounds really nice!”
I found out that you recorded eleven tracks, is that true, since there are only eight songs on the album?
Yes, that’s true, because when we were writing, Nuclear Blast said to us: if you can write enough material for an album and an EP, that would be very helpful. So that’s exactly what we did. We wrote eleven pieces of music, but we could not decide which ones to be on the album and which ones to be on the EP. So we said to NB: “You pick the songs for the EP,” because we keep arguing about which ones should be on it. So we let it up to NB and there is a new EP coming up later in the year. So we are just working on the artwork for that now.
What are the plans for playing live?
We’ve got a few festivals in the Summer. Some of them we have played before, some of them we never played before. Graspop is definitely on the list and that is familiar ground. All different things are coming up and we are working on our own headlining tour at some point. There is no information on it right now, we are still working on it. But we’ll be doing Summer festivals, so keep an eye on it.
What are the plans for video clips?
Yes a new video is coming tomorrow. It should have been released last week actually, when we were releasing ‘Your Broken Shore’ but it just wasn’t ready in time. But that’s fine, when you release it a week later, it increases the interest in the song. There should be three videos. We are doing two of them. We will do a video for the second song ‘To Outlive The Gods’ and then we allowed NB to do a lyric video for the song ‘Tired Of Tears’. There is more to come.
How do you reflect on these strenuous days now?
I am glad that we are back! Never going to split up. It was difficult. That was a test to see how strong we are. It was the worst thing MDB ever went through and I’m sure some thought that we would disappear, but we have made it. We worked our way through it and are stronger than ever!
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