Anathema's Daniel Cavanagh isn't the first artist to note that a great album had its birth in personal pain. But he has turned that into an uncommonly good record, A Natural Disaster, which sees he and brothers Vincent and Jamie, plus Les Smith and John Douglas striking boldly forth, edging one step closer to breaking big in America and making the record that will break the band into the mainstream. Sea of Tranquility's Jedd Beaudoin caught up with Cavanagh and discussed the album's evolution and the band's future.
Sea of Tranquility: What state of mind were you in as you sat down to write A Natural Disaster?
Danny Cavanagh:The songs all come from a period from around 2000, 2001 and 2002. I was going through a bit of tough time, to be honest. It was a strange time but a big learning experience. I was kind of messed up for personal reasons that I can't really go into but I was smoking a lot of dope, which I don't do anymore. I was staying at home, playing a lot of keyboards, playing a lot of acoustic guitar. I was really nervous in those days. The songs came to me very late at night. I'd just record some riffs and tunes and then I'd also write down my thoughts about what I was going through at the time. I also spent a lot of time listening to the radio, copying random words from the radio. Generally, just being creative like that. I had the songs and I just left them for about two years, until we need to make an album. I took a listen to the songs that I had and I realized that they all belonged on the same record. They were all written at the same time about particular things. It didn't makes sense to keep them for the next album. I thought, "We'll get these done, get 'em out of the way so that I can say what I have to say." The idea was, "OK, Danny, you can do this album and then the next one, we're going to mix it up again. Everyone will have material on there." That's the idea.
SoT: Have records always served as diaries for you or is this sort of an exception?
DC: I'd say that it's the case. It's just how you feel at that particular time. You grow and change and develop, as people do and music does. That's all there is to it. I certainly couldn't write these songs again. I couldn't write about the same subject. I'd have to write about something else. That's what I was feeling then. I haven't written anything for quite a while now but when I do, I hope to write about different subjects and more about the things that I'm experiencing now. I think a lot of songs are like musical photographs. For example, "One Last Goodbye" from Judgement, that's the kind of song that you couldn't write twice. It's very passionate, it's about specific stuff and I couldn't do at again because that's not my life anymore.
SoT: When you've written a song that's deeply personal and several years go by and you find yourself ready to perform it, is it every difficult to back to that initial emotion, or is it really just a matter of giving yourself over to the music?
DC:When I'm playing live I always get into songs musically more than anything else. I get into the tunes and the chords and the power of it. Sometimes, I'll remember the words and have a brief flash about why I wrote it. But generally speaking, I'm really into the mode of performing and just getting into the music, more than the lyrics. The lyrics obviously do hold a lot of meaning to me but I don't feel those things every day. I don't relive the experience every time I play the song. But if I'm singing, I'll put as much emotion as possible into it. I'd be really, really depressed if I did that. [Laughs.]
SoT: [Laughs.] The world has also changed so much over the last few years. Do you keep your feelings about world events and changes separate from your craft?
DC: Well, I don't know. This record certainly isn't political in any way, though the title could be construed as that. But this is more personal. In the future, I could come out and talk about the environment and what's going on there and the world from my particular point of view, like the way that Roger Waters does. But I haven't done that yet. I've written more about the people that I've been close to, the people I've loved, basically. That's what I've covered so far. In the future, we'll get into other subject and things like September 11th could come up. Certainly, when I picked the title A Natural Disaster it wasn't too far from my mind about the war and about September 11th and everything that's gone on before and after. I always felt that the title does fit the climate we're in. Maybe not lyrically, but certainly the song "Violence" is meant to express this kind of thing.
If you think about it, it is a natural disaster, this war that's happening. It is a natural consequence ... people and the choices that they make. It's a natural consequence of history, bad government and even bad religions. To me it seems natural, inevitable that these things could have happened. That's what I meant by the title, you know. You could take it like a divorce––if it's bad for the kids. But divorce happens. In some cases it's inevitable. Same with war. It happens. People make it just because that's they way they are. They've never really been any different. I was thinking about personal things when I got the title but I always aware that it could be construed in that way. If were to ever do a video for "Violence," it would surely have political footage.
SoT: I'm glad you mentioned that song. I like everything on the record, but I think that in the future, I'll probably flash to "Violence" first.
DC:It's very complete. It's a complete little thing of its own. That song's funny because the first day that I met my ex-girlfriend, we were sitting at a piano and she played the first few notes of that song. What I did basically was build the chords to move around there and built that section. When I got home I wrote the second half with all the piano at the end. It came really quite quickly. Almost instantaneous. It got changed around a little bit but basically it all started with the germ of those notes from what my ex-girlfriend played. It was also her idea to make it fast as well. That's my kind of thing to her.
I was actually going to give it to Cradle Of Filth. I called them and said, "I've got this song." They said, "Do we have to pay you?" I said, "Yeah." Then they said no. So, I never did send it. I decided, along with Jamie, that it should end the album because of the way it ends, with the piano. We quickly realized that maybe it didn't need a vocal, that it should be an instrumental. That's just the way it went.
SoT: To this point, the United States hasn't really embraced the band as much as we could have.
DC: We haven't really had the exposure over there. But I think that if we get the right exposure over there, we'll do quite well over there. America's the home of good honest rock music at the end of the day. It's the world capital of rock, really. Well, England and America. We think we've got a good chance in America. We just need to get out there.