The depressive metal of My Dying Bride has returned with a vengeance. It's been a bit ot time since we've heard from this influential band, and their latest symphonies Songs Of Darkness, Word of Light was well worth the wait. Still as visionary as ever, those who wade through the darkness of this masterwork will remember it for a lifetime. Our interview is with vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe.
It’s been three years since your last studio album. How does this new album compare to your previous efforts?
I would consider it be to the natural successor to the previous album. It sounds like it’s the next step onwards. You could hear the maturity between the two albums. It’s wrong, but I have to say it’s similar to the previous records, because clearly it’s the same band who wrote the material. But it’s slightly different in that we’ve the subjects from a different, more mature angle. So if you liked our previous album, you should like this. There’s not a huge difference – I just think we’re better songwriters now than we were before.
The title Songs Of Darkness, Words Of Light almost sounds hopeful in a way. Where did all this light come from?
Well, that’s the misleading part, you see. There is, of course, no light at all on this album. It’s like we’re tempting people in – come listen to this! It’s not all doom and gloom and misery. There’s a bit of hope in there somewhere. And then once they’re in, that’s it! They’re trapped. It’s just utter, utter bleak darkness. So yes, the title is slightly misleading, but aren’t many things in life?
Who is Catherine Blake?
Many people have linked Catherine Blake to William Blake – which I knew in the back of my mind would be made while I was writing the song. But she’s just a character who plays a small role in a much larger picture. But it just makes a nice change to use a character name as a title of a song as opposed to a regular title. It encourages people to look a bit deeper. People want to know more about this character. Where did she come from, where does she go? What happens to her? And so again, it’s almost like the album title – it’s kind of misleading – you assume the song to be about Catherine Blake and about her life. She only represents maybe ten percent of the content of that song. But again, it’s just a lure to get people in to find out more. It’s intrigue.
When you sit down to write lyrics, what do you use as inspiration? Where do you come up with the ideas?
You kind of have to wait for them to come to you. I read a lot of books, I watch movies, I see what’s on TV – I’m aware of what’s going on in the world today. I talk to people. I listen. I observe. You can try and force influence to come to you by reading certain books and watching certain movies, but if it’s not going to happen then it’s not going to happen. You have to wait and when the moment strikes, you grab it and you make the most of it. You hope that inspiration will come at you everyday, but it doesn’t. Sometimes I get writer’s block and I can go for a couple of months without the slightest spark – which is frustrating, but I don’t want to force it. I don’t want to become a bookworm and hope that something that I study will inspire a song. I read what I want to read, watch what I want to watch, and listen to what I want to listen – and if the inspiration is there, it will make itself known.
Who did the cover artwork on the new album and how much input did you have on it?
It was done by Andy Green, who did the Like Gods Of The Sun album cover for us too. We didn’t have any influence on it at all, because we really didn’t need to. Andy Green knows My Dying Bride–he knows our history–he knows the band inside out. He’s been a friend of ours for many, many years. And so we asked him to come up with a cover, because I’d kind of drawn a blank. I’ve done many of the album covers in the past. But I was running out of time and I couldn’t think of anything to do, so I threw together some ideas, which I wasn’t overall happy with – and neither were the rest of the band. So we got Andy to help us out. He came up with a couple of different designs. We picked the one we did simply because we felt the atmosphere captured in that image represents what the album feels like to us. It’s kind of intriguing, mysterious–a bit disturbing, very dark, a bit menacing. And that summed up the album perfectly.
The angel on the cover does not look too happy, that’s for sure.
There’s a bit of distress there, but again, that reflects in the music.
The band’s been around since 1990. Are you surprised the project has been going on for this long?
Of course we are. When you play non-commercial music, you can expect your lifespan to be brief. At best, we hoped and we prayed that we’d get one album in the shops so that we could show our parents (laughs) – that’s a cool thing. And it’s just been going on ever since. And we do sit down sometimes when we’re socializing–and obviously when we’ve had a few too many to drink–and we kind of scratch our heads and we look at each other and say, “How have we managed to get to where we are today?” Last time we had a moment like this, we were in Budapest. It’s just a beautiful city. We sat in this café overlooking the river near the castle – and people have paid us to go there! And we sit down and think, “How have we managed to do this?” It’s not like we’re a commercial rock band. We write cult underground music that’s kind of disturbing and depressing. How has it managed to take us this far? Our heart is in what we do. We’ve never had our eye on the commercial side of things. You don’t call yourself My Dying Bride and write this style of music and expect to make money. We’ve just been very, very fortunate.
Have you ever played any shows here in the States?
Yeah! You must have missed us. We came over to promote the Like Gods Of The Sun album – I think it was ’96 – we actually supported Ronnie James Dio and we were there for six weeks. I think we played a show every single day. Some of them were headlining shows of our own. When Ronnie had the day off, we continued to play. So yeah, it was a great tour. It’s been a long time since we were there. We are trying to work out something so that we can come back – either later on this year or early next.
What was it like working with Ronnie James Dio?
It was fantastic! He was one of the nicest guys we’ve ever met. As soon as we met him in Denver at the first theater, he came straight to our dressing room with all these English tea bags and English beer – especially for us – which we thought was a really kind touch. It was the worst tea and the worst beer in English (much laughter), but it’s the thought that counts. He just had a big smile on his face. He was just a funny, amusing, humorous guy. The whole of that crew were really nice guys as well. We had a great time. And there was an opportunity to continue the tour with them. We kind of did the East and the North and a little bit of middle America, but we never went over to the LA area and all that Western side. And we didn’t go into the South much. We had been in England for a week, and they called us back and said, “Do you want to do the second part of the tour?” But unfortunately our drummer had just left, so we couldn’t do it, which was a great shame.
How did the Dio fans react to your music?
Of course some hated it and some loved it. The bigger and more metropolitan the city, then the wider the attitude. We played a couple of redneck places and obviously we didn’t go down especially well there. But people stood and they watched. They might not have liked it, but I don’t think many Dio fans had actually seen this kind of thing before. So you get some who hated it, but most of the crowd actually stood there with their mouths open, not entirely sure what was happening. And of course, there were some My Dying Bride fans who made it to the shows as well. So overall it was great.
When you’re not doing My Dying Bride, do you have a day job or any other side projects?
We all work. We always have worked. Again, it was because we knew we were going to play a weird kind of cult music, so we never gave up our day jobs. We could just about afford to live off the music, but we wouldn’t be able to drive our cars and we’d be eating shit all day. We’ve always worked. It keeps out feet on the ground. It’s stopped us from becoming bigheaded rock stars. There are no bad attitudes in this band – we’re all very social and very friendly. When people meet us, they’re surprised at how friendly we are. And that’s partly because we have our feet firmly on the ground. And we’re self-managed. My Dying Bride has never had a manager. We do the work. We have help from solicitors and accountants and promotional people. But generally we take all the phone calls and we run My Dying Bride ourselves, which takes a lot of time. So it doesn’t give as much free time to do much more.
What sort of day jobs do you have?
We don’t bother telling anyone, because it doesn’t have anything to do with the music. To be honest, we subscribe to a kind of imagery that our day jobs may harm. You know, My Dying Bride–the whole atmosphere and ambience we’ve created over the years–would be destroyed if I were to tell you where I worked. So we don’t bother telling anybody. It’s irrelevant really.
Do you have any messages for My Dying Bride fans here in the States?
Some of them have had a taste of My Dying Bride in the past with the Dio tour. But we are going to get back. It’s really not up to us. And I thank the fans for holding out. We will make it back. If we can get through some bureaucracy and red tape, we’ll try and reward you guys with something a bit special. And can I quickly promote my website?
Sure. Go for it.
I normally do the artwork for My Dying Bride. I only did it this weekend – it’s called Azzron.com and that’s basically got all the artwork on it and all the stuff that influences me. There’s some MDB covers on there and just all kinds of images I’ve worked on over the years.
MY DYING BRIDE: Their Official Home Page!
PEACEVILLE RECORDS: The Record Label for My Dying Bride!
AZZRON.COM: Artwork created by MDB vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe!
THE HIGHWIRE DAZE HOME PAGE: Return to the Main Page!