Yorkshire's My Dying Bride is a dark, dark doom metal band, with a successful discography of 7 albums spanning 12 years. Sea Of Tranquility's Duncan Glenday caught up with vocalist and founding member, Aaron Stainthorpe to discuss the band's latest release, Songs of Darkness Words of Light .
Duncan Glenday, Sea Of Tranquility : Are you at all familiar with the Sea Of Tranquility site, or its previous incarnation as a hard-copy magazine?
Aaron Stainthorpe, My Dying Bride : I'm not familiar with it but I'm just about to check it out.
SoT : Aaron, most Sea Of Tranquility readers know My Dying Bride, but for those who are not yet familiar with you can you give us a very brief "nickel tour"? The band's background, where you live, how you perceive your style of music, etc.
AS : We began way back in 1990 and hail from the miserable, rainy hills of Yorkshire, about 200 miles north of London. We formed because we loved bands like Candlemass, Celtic Frost, Bathory, Slayer etc... and wanted to do something similar ourselves. Kind of gothic doom. Something a bit different from what was very popular at that time Death, Obituary, Morbid Angel
We only made one demo and were fortunate to get signed right after that and have been with Peaceville Records ever since.
SoT : Are all the members of My Dying Bride full-time musicians?
AS : No. This music is very much underground and so we all need a 'living' to pay the bills. Any money the band gets generally goes into new equipment.
SoT : What kind of day-jobs do you have?
AS : We never reveal what we do because it has nothing to do with the band. We have spent a lot of time crafting a certain look and image and it would damage the band if we admitted what we do. Our bass player does take his clothes off for a living though [Laughs]
SoT : What are the band's main musical influences?
AS : Nick Cave, Slayer, Dead Can Dance, Swans, various black metal bands, opera & classical.
SoT : So those are some of your earlier influences but what music do you listen to now? What's been in your own CD player recently?
AS : Because we have never had a manager, we live and breathe My Dying Bride and gothpmetal, and so to relax I have to listen to different genres. At the moment I am listening to Absolution by Muse and loving it.
SoT : Besides your own work what do you think were the best metal albums of the last few years?
AS : As I mentioned before, I don't really pay much attention to the scene although I'm very fond of a German band called Flowing Tears.
SoT : And the best recent non-metal albums?
AS : The Muse one above, Le Onde by Ludovico Einaudi, the new LP by Snow Patrol
I'm a very big fan of Nick Cave too, and Swans and Dead Can Dance.
SoT : Are any of you family people? You know, spouse, kids, fido, and the white picket fence etc.?
AS : Not really, although Shaun the drummer will be close. He got marred last year and has just had a baby but the rest of us are still single.
SoT : Knowing what you do now - would you let your kids get into metal music?
AS : I don't see why not. As long as you use common sense then any scene should be fine.
SoT : Where does the name "My Dying Bride" come from?
AS : I made it up just as we formed. It is not, thankfully, linked to any experiences I, or anyone I know, have had. I knew from the start that we would compose unusual, dark, emotional and often romantic songs and so I looked hard at finding a suitable name that would reflect this and also a name that would stand the test of time. I think it's still a great name.
SoT : How much time does the band actually spend together writing, in the studio, or even socially?
AS : That varies naturally. When we are writing we see each other at least twice a week, and obviously more when we start recording. Normally, once a week is about it and then weekends for drinks too. We are a very friendly outfit and socialize as often as we can.
SoT : That's cool it seems to me that it's fairly uncommon to find band members socializing much outside the studio! Are any of you involved in any side projects?
AS : Not really although Andrew & Hamish have formed their own record label called Blackdoom, and I am very much into designing CD covers [Click here to see Aaron's site ] but we have no musical side projects.
SoT : How have the band's sales been in the USA vs. other parts of the world, and where are you the most popular?
AS : We are most popular in Western & Central Europe but we are certainly spreading the net wider with each LP. I have no clue as to the sales in the US but lets just say we need to work on it.
SoT : Which leads to another question what is the marketing plan for the new album?
AS : Do a hell of a lot of interviews, plenty of advertising and lots of luck. We're not too concerned about sales though as we're in this band for the fun of it. Can you call this style of music fun?
SoT : Looking a bit more deeply into the band itself how solid has MDB's lineup been over the years? Have there been many personnel changes
AS : There have been a few. We are on our 4th drummer, 3rd keyboard player and second guitarist. It feels pretty solid now though and I would be utterly surprised if we lost another member.
SoT : When writing - it is music first, then the lyrics, or is it concept first then melody then lyrics, or
how do the songs come together?
AS : It's all of the above and any other combination you can think of. It really doesn't matter to us. On the new LP, "The Blue Lotus" and "Catherine Blake" were both written before the music while most of the other tracks were music first, words after. We have no real formula, just play away and see what happens. It's free and easy.
SoT : Who writes the songs, and how democratic is My Dying Bride, creatively?
AS : Very democratic, although I do all the words. One of the reasons the songs can often be quite long is because everyone wants to get their part into it. I suppose the guitarists do most of it to be honest but as a rule, we all chip in.
SoT : What elements of metal - or of music in general - would you like to try in the future?
AS : Good question. Get ready for a shit answer. I'm not sure. We would love to work with an orchestra but that's logistically very difficult. Perhaps a bit of opera too would be nice and quite possible if we really work at it.
SoT : Aaron, your songs tend to be very dark. Is an expression of your personality, or is it just for the music?
AS : Both. I am a moody bastard and generally only write when I am 'low' or feeling reflective. I can't write during the day because there are too many distractions so I wait until very late, open a bottle of wine and get emotional. It's a sorry state but it seems to work.
SoT : 34.788% is sometimes thought of as your best album to date, and it is certainly very different to Songs of Darkness, Words of Light. It is almost 'progressive' in its style, and in the variations from song to song. Songs of Darkness, Words of Light, on the other hand, is slower, more somber, and apparently somewhat simpler. Where are you going in the future - along the Songs of Darkness, Words of Light path, or back to the style of some of your previous work?
AS : Fuck knows. We never plan records. We just get all our idea's together and work on them until we have enough material for an LP, then get recording. It's only after the thing is laid down that we get the full 'feel' for it. We never know if it's more doomy than the last or more 'death-metal' sounding until we listen back a month or so after recording. It's best not to plan too much otherwise you will give yourself limitations which could easily compromise your artistic expression.
SoT : Of your whole discography, my preferences have been 34.788%, or perhaps the older Angel And The Dark River. Which do you think has been your best album to date?
AS : It was Like Gods of the Sun for a long time but now I favor The Dreadful Hours. I'm sure everyone has a favorite and will happily argue all night with friends about it, which is nice.
SoT : On the new album, I rather liked "My Wine In Silence", but as the artists you'll obviously have a different perspective, and every artist has their favorite songs that they have recorded. What are your favorites on the Songs of Darkness CD?
AS : That is a great track but mine fave is "A Doomed Lover". It's just so epic sounding and very doomy. I love it.
SoT : I wasn't able to detect an underlying theme on the new album could you explain the idea behind it?
AS : Easily. There isn't one. All the tracks are individual and are simply related through misery and hopelessness. I'd love to do a concept LP though but I'm not sure the rest of the guys would go for it.
SoT : Who does your cover art, and what if anything is the significance of the mutilated angel on Songs of Darkness, Words of Light?
AS : I normally do the covers but not for the latest. That was done by Andy Green, a close friend of the band. I don't know much about the cover to be honest. It sounds a bit shallow but we used it because we liked it and that's all. No hidden meanings or story.
SoT : Where did the title Songs of Darkness, Words of Light come from?
AS : It just popped into my head as I was writing the song "The Wreckage of my Flesh" and it kept leaping out at me to use it. It's slightly misleading of course because, although there are indeed songs of darkness on the record, there are no words of light.
SoT : That answers another one of my questions I was going to ask in what sense you would you say there are "Words of Light" in these songs. The pervading mood on the record seems to be darkness.
AS : I could really have put a little more effort into finding a more suitable title that would accurately portray the content but "Songs of Darkness, Words of Light" just sounded great.
SoT : It does sound great the two ideas have a nice contrast. Similar question, but in reference to a previous album - what did the title "34.788%" mean?
AS : Our old guitarist Calvin, now our tour manager, came up with it. He had this dream where man had a limited amount of time left on Earth and so far we had used up 34.788% of it. He did smoke a lot of shit back then!
SoT : What guitars and setups do you play, and what effects systems do you use?
AS : I'm not sure but I'll tell you what I do know. Both guitarists use the same gear and they are Pod Pro's through Marshall cabs. And probably some other guff to no doubt. Check our web site for more info.
SoT : You mentioned earlier that you've been with the Peaceville label for a long time a kind of label loyalty one doesn't always find these days. What do they do for you that other labels don't?
AS : Listen. We have a great relationship with them because they are so laid back and easy going. Mega sales don't drive them, but good music does. And they have beaten any other offer from other interested parties.
SoT : That's cool! I know of some bands that hop from label to label almost with every release. The European metal scene is quite different than the North American metal scene. How would you describe the differences, and how do they affect you?
AS : I'm not sure because I take little notice. Not a lot affects us because we very much like to do our own thing and if you keep your eyes on the scene too much you will begin to be influenced by it and we don't want that.
SoT : When playing live - what are the major difference between the European fans and the US fans?
AS : We have only played a handful of shows in the US but the fans were as nutty there as they are over here. I asked our guitarist Andy this question and he says there is no difference as far as he can tell.
SoT : Talking of touring who has been the best band to tour with?
AS : Iron Maiden I think. We did six weeks with them all over Europe and even got to play with them on their soccer team against Italy, Scotland and Sweden. We ate and drank with them and they treated us very well. We toured the States with Ronnie James Dio too and that was a blast. Great guy and fab country. Hope we can return soon.
SoT : What have been some of your funniest or strangest tour experiences?
AS : I once shat myself on stage! I was not feeling too good and as soon as I yelled the first note, I followed through. Not good. We had several road accidents on the Turn Loose... tour and thought we were going to die at one point. That's not good either. Seeing all the great, historic cities of Europe though has been excellent. Superb foods and wines, great beers and folk, masses of culture and beauty. Everyone should come to Europe before they die.
SoT : In conclusion, Aaron, what's next for MDB in terms of albums?
AS : We have one more LP to do on the current deal and will have a look at the situation then. We'll probably re-sign and carry on though because it's great. I have no idea when the next LP will even begin to take shape or what it will sound like but I suppose late 2005 might be a good release time.
SoT : And do you have any planned tours?
AS : Not tours as such but certainly a few live shows. Mainly European festivals with a few headliners thrown in for good measure. We are trying to get to the States but there always seem to be a lot of red-tape. We'll keep at it though and maybe turn up there near the end of this year.
SoT : Aaron, thanks very much for taking the time to talk to us! The new album is great, and we hope it helps accelerates your penetration into the American market. Take care!
AS : Thank you very much. I look forward to playing over there again soon. Cheers!