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My Dying Bride Interview

A Conversation with Vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe

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My Dying Bride

My Dying Bride

Peaceville Records
Updated November 05, 2012
My Dying Bride isn’t a band to drastically reinvent itself with each new album. Instead, the Yorkshire group has spent the last 23 years crafting and perfecting their unique synthesis of doom, death and gothic metal. Their sound is sombre and melancholic, but also intensely affecting and achingly beautiful. Vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe is hesitant to declare new album A Map Of All Our Failures as a pinnacle of his band’s career, but is rightly proud of it nonetheless, as we discuss the past, present and future of the English doom legends.

Marcus Jervis: The new CD offers everything a My Dying Bride fan could want. Now it’s out there, has it met your expectations?
Aaron Stainthorpe: It does, very much. We’re chuffed with it and it certainly ticks the boxes of what we like which is death/doom metal. You can say it’s not diversifying too much from what you’d expect, but with MDB is the type of band you know what you’re getting. In a few months, we might look back and think certain riffs could have been swapped, but it’s as good as it can be right now. I’ve just got back from hearing it at the gym, although it’s not really gym music unless you’re running really slowly!

Has there been any difference in the writing/recording process this time around?
It’s been better actually. Over the years, the whole process of songwriting has changed because of the available technology. Andrew (Craighan – guitar) and Hamish (Glencross – guitar) both have home studios and we have an enormous database of ideas, so a lot of riffs can literally be dragged and dropped into place, but you still have to come up with great riffs.

We rehearsed a couple of times once the songs were written, but for the recording we plugged into old valve amps and old Marshalls and it was very old-school. It’s very easy to record straight into the desk while you’re sat down with a drink, but when it came time to record, we sent everyone out into the live room and said, right, now give us some great heavy metal. It was like stepping into the past.

It seems the band has a very unified voice on this record.
Definitely. We always encourage the newer members to write and contribute their ideas. With Shaun (Macgowan) on the violin for example, we never just say, here’s the guitar riff, now play it on the violin – there’s none of that lark. It also comes from our drunken times together. We’re all friends and we socialize a lot. No one is unhappy.

Many of the songs on the album are quite lengthy and intricate, but very focused as well. Is that something you set out to work on, or is it a result of natural maturity?
I think it comes naturally; we don’t consciously plan anything. We don’t sit and think we’ll have a 60/40 split of death and clean vocals or anything. We’ve got to be flexible. I’d like to think that after 23 years, we’re simply better – we should know what we’re doing by now. Like it would be too easy and too cheesy to have too much violin, it would just be a gimmick. So, it’s kept to a minimum, so when it does come in, you really notice it, then it’s gone again.

Interestingly, this is the first time ever we’ve recorded more music than was needed. We recorded thirteen tracks; there’s eight on the regular CD and nine on the deluxe edition, so there’s four remaining that will most likely be released on an EP next year.

Could the latest album be seen as somewhat of a pinnacle in your career?
I don’t think so, not really. We’re not at a pinnacle because we’re still overflowing with ideas. There’s a phrase I use all the time that we have to top ourselves, that we can do better in the future. Once you’re at a pinnacle, it’s downhill from there.

It’s hard to avoid mention of both Paradise Lost and Anathema when looking at the career of My Dying Bride. Both those bands have diversified hugely from their death/doom roots, while My Dying Bride has chosen to remain true to those influences and hone the style to perfection. Can you explain why that is?
We love death/doom metal and like you say, we’ve honed that sound. When you hear an MDB album, you know it’s going to be a good, miserable album of death/doom metal. I suppose the most we’ve experimented is on 34.788 Complete, but even then, it was only minor experimentation.

We have other ideas that might not be suitable for MDB. Hamish has joined Vallenfyre as he wanted to play more death metal and I know Lena (Abe – bass) would like to play more of that stuff too. The next album might even be a double split 50/50 between death/doom metal.

We could do something more on trend, but then we’ll come up with a killer doom riff and just know it will be on the next album. I really admire Paradise Lost and Anathema because they’ve run the risk of losing older fans, and not necessarily gaining any new ones. We have ideas that are on the fringe, but that’s where solo projects come in – and also, B sides offer a little more room to experiment.

It’s sometimes suggested bands are a product of their geography and environment – with My Dying Bride hailing from the spectacular but often harsh location of northern England, have your surroundings inspired or influenced you?
Only after being in the band. I was born in Coventry, but moved to Germany with my family at a very young age and didn’t move back to Yorkshire until I was fifteen. I heard ‘Rime Of The Ancient Mariner’ on the Friday Rock Show (a now defunct BBC radio program hosted by the iconic Tommy Vance) and then discovered bands like Celtic Frost and Bathory from attending the Frog And Toad in Bradford. From that point, I knew what I wanted to do and formed MDB.

As for where we’re from, I guess it’s full of contrasts; you can look one way and see massive mills and I think that’s what inspires Nick from Paradise Lost, or you look the other way to lakes, woods and mountains. I can drive for literally five minutes and be on the moors. I’ll go out in the cold and the rain and it’s when you’re alone with your thoughts like that, you look inwards. It’s beautiful but depressing.

Looking back over the last two decades, how have things changed for My Dying Bride and what are your plans for the coming year?
Well, when we did our demo back in 1990, there was no internet. We would make up the tapes, run down to the post office to post them, then go home and wait for a call or a letter. Same with the cover designs – they weren’t done with Photoshop. It was manipulating a photo by hand and then photographing the photograph, taking it to the chemist for developing and waiting a week or so. Before computers and the internet, it was a very long-winded process.

It’s changed – too many people form a band to see how popular they can be. We have a great label in Peaceville and we have complete artistic control. There’s no pressure – we gave them The Barghest O’Whitby, which is a 27 minute song and they’re fine with that, they trust us. If you call your band My Dying Bride, you’re not going to have a hit single and they’re not trying to clip our wings. Some other labels have their own manifesto.

We’re playing in Europe in December and would love to go back to North America. We’re playing South America and you would think it would be easier to tour North America. Our shows are very select and special; we only do ten or twelve a year, and we put in a lot of concentration, effort and hard work.

We are shooting a video for “The Poorest Waltz” and there might be a new album at the end of next year – but that’s not official, that’s just me talking.

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