Metal’s Poetic Edge – An Interview With My Dying Bride
Originally published on Ghost Cult Magazine’s Website 08/05/2013
My Dying Bride is generally seen as one of the godfathers of the UK doom/death metal movement in the early nineties.They’re still going strong despite several line-up changes over the years. Recently the band released an EP, containing leftover songs from the A Map of All Our Failures sessions. Ghost Cult caught up with singer and frontman Aaron Stainthorpe to discuss the new MDB release, Aaron’s dabblings with poetry and the recent adjustments within the band.
The Manuscript E.P. contains the song with a Swedish title ‘Var Gud Over Er’. What inspired this song and why the Swedish title?
It means “Our God over Yours” and concerns the vicious attempt by religious fanatics to convert a fictitious town I placed in Scandinavia, to their own beliefs, which as you would expect, goes horribly wrong. It features some very aggressive vocals as befits a bloody battle over which holy path to follow. And the Swedish title lends itself well to the subject matter and also offers a little mystery to non-Swedish speaking folk. Traditionally, My Dying Bride have used many foreign language titles and this adds to that colourful collection.
One thing your lyrics succeed in doing is combining aggression with vulnerability. Take ‘The Barghest O’Whitby’ for example. The vicious beast is feared by many but he himself is actually lonely and isolated. What inspires the creation of these great characters?
Telling tales is what song writers do and it’s always worth looking at a subject from an unusual angle as it adds something new to the story. There are many beasts in folklore of which all are spoken about from the village’s/humans’ point of view but I decided to create my own script taken from the viewpoint of the dark menace and the emotion it endures which is never normally known.
Have you ever considered becoming an author? Maybe you could produce a companion novel to an album in the future?
I’m not sure I could write a book but I do enjoy writing short stories and am actually working on putting all my literature into one volume, including all the lyrics for My Dying Bride along with notes and information on song meanings. It’s a project for the future though and won’t come out for a few years yet.
How do you decide wither a lyric requires a spoken section, clean singing or growling?
It all depends on what the character is enduring. Death metal vocals, because of their aggressive nature, naturally give a heightened sense of anger/revenge & hatred and can be very effective when paired with brutal riffing and pounding drums. And of course, the flip side would be the whispering, which conveys sadness and loneliness but also menace too so can be used to draw the listener down what looks like a safe passage only to cut them off with a burst of unexpected horror.
In the last two years you’ve released Evinta, The Barghest O’Whitby, A Map Of All Our Failures and now The Manuscript. What has prompted you to be so prolific as of late?
I can’t pinpoint any single reason only to say that we simply have a wealth of idea’s gushing from a cornucopia right now and are even thinking about the next LP which we may even record later in 2013. I feel that when you have the juices of creation babbling up inside you, it’s only natural to let them come forth. Perhaps there is something in the water in Yorkshire that is moving us to compose so frequently.
You have former Akercocke and current Voices drummer David Gray working with you for live shows and your old drummer Shaun Taylor-Steels playing with you in the studio. Do you see this arrangement still being manageable with David’s commitments to Voices?
David is no longer with us which is a pity as he was not only an accomplished musician but a wonderful bloke. The relationship we had with both drummers worked well for a couple of years but we now have Dan Mullins back with us so that has added stability to the unit once more and we hope to record with the little fucker on the next LP.
You and Andrew run the business side of the band. How important has it been for you to manage yourselves and retain that control?
It’s very important to us, after all, who know the band best? Sometimes the business side of things can take the shine off the creative side but we’ve leant to deal with that over the years. More bands should manage themselves – it’s fun!
What’s next following your festival dates this year?
We are poking around with new ideas for new songs and we may even be able to squeeze the recording of the next full length album in this year, but if not, we’ll take our time and it can come together when it’s ready, but we’re busy and that’s just how I like it.
November 5, 2013 | Categories: INTERVIEWS/FEATURES | Tags: Aaron Stainthorpe, Bride, Dan Mullins, David Gray, Ghost Cult Magazine, Map Of All Our Failures, My Dying Bride, Ross Baker Journalist, Ross Baker., Shaun Steels, Yorkshire | Leave a comment
MY DYING BRIDE
Ross Baker talks to Aaron Stainthorpe about their illustrious 21 year history
Many artists use their work to express darkness and pain but few do it with the same grim romanticism as My Dying Bride.
Backstage at Manchester Academy, vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe cuts a friendly figure in contrast to his enigmatic stage presence. In person, he is eager to discuss various topics spanning the group’s 21 year history, not least the forthcoming new release “Evinta” a collection of re-interpretations of the band’s earlier works given a fresh spin with new lyrics by Stainthorpe and contributions from French opera singer Lucie Roche.
I first asked Aaron what fans could expect from the new release and why MDB have chosen to revisit their earlier works in this fashion. “Reworking, I’m not sure that is the right word. Journalists have asked why we covered old songs. We haven’t. We’ve taken lots of different riffs and melodies that we consider the best moments from all our songs, put them in a pot, ladled them out in a haphazard manner and given them to Johnny Maudlin from Bal Sagoth who helped put these together. You may get a twelve minute piece which starts with the third riff from “A Songless Bird” followed by the first riff from “Like Gods Of The Sun” so it’s My Dying Bride but not as you know it. It’s all played on classical instruments, so it’s very different. It’s My Dying Bride’s music but not songs.”
As this method of reinterpreting an act’s back catalogue is extremely unusual, I probed Aaron about how song sections were chosen for this project. “Me and Andy listened to every single song from our catalogue and we had notepads and a stop watch and were noting down our favourite riffs and how long each section was. The initial work done by me and Andy was tough but we were drunk so it was quite pleasurable too! We handed all these notes to Johnny and he would add elements or take parts out. It was great to listen back to the early stuff. We nailed it when we were young guys. I’m quite proud of some of the stuff we did. It wasn’t a case of us being young and stupid and saying let’s write some crazy music. We must have had pretty mature heads on us even in the early days.”
While the forthcoming classical collection “Evinta” will have MDB fans literally frothing at the mouth in anticipation, the previous album “For Lies I Sire” was a strong release which featured a welcome return of the violin to the band’s musical arsenal. Why had it taken so long to gain the services of a new violinist? “We’d had violin for a long time but when that stopped we wanted to know how we’d do without one. We’ve actually spent longer without a violin player now than with one. We never sought a replacement for Martin (Powell). It was only in the last couple of years when Sarah Stanton, our keyboard player, became pregnant and had to leave the band that Dan mentioned they had a friend who could play keyboard and violin so we got Katie Stone. We thought this could be great but we kept the violin down to a minimum because we didn’t want it to be the reason people bought “For Lies I Sire” because it would become a cheap gimmick then. It would be like “oh none of that heavy metal means anything! Violin everybody!” So we had already written the music and added violin to it. We didn’t advertise it either. We didn’t call up all the magazines saying “The violin’s back!” it would have been silly and lame. When people heard it on the album they were ecstatic so it’s with us. If it disappears again, we might look for a replacement we might not but it will never be a lead instrument. It’s just there to embellish what’s in place.”
On the recent E.P., “Bring Me Victory”, MDB chose to cover the folk song “Scarborough Fair” which as expected took on a more desperate tone. I enquired as to why this song was chosen. “It’s a classic Yorkshire song. Looking at the lyrics I Liked the tale of this woman setting seemingly impossible tasks for her potential husband for him to prove His undying love to her. There are 11 verses to the whole song which would get a bit momentous. Simon and Garfunkel do the first three but all the versions seem to omit the punch line as in did he or did he not marry her? I looked at the lyrics and we did a couple of them and the final verse which everyone seems to skip as well a few of my own lyrics at the start which I kept in with the theme of the original. It was a great way to do a reworking of this song. It’s a passionate romantic song that s performed in a very dark fashion, perfect for My Dying Bride!”
Staying with the theme of classic tales, I asked Mr. Stainthorpe about his well documented interest in the romantic poets like Shelley and if their tales of beauty and tragedy still inspired him today “No because I loved literature when I was younger and our early albums were inspired by literary greats but I realised after a while that if you are only reading this sort of literature you’re missing out on other things that can inspire you. Movies, T.V., my own experiences were used. I found my own ideas and identity rather than just delving into the usual suspects. I’m enjoying being inspired by looking out of the window on a winter’s night with a glass of wine. I live in a hundred year old house, we only have a small garden but in winter it looks fantastic as it’s totally overgrown and I love the poetry but now inspiration can come literally from anywhere.
Throughout their history My Dying Bride have had many line up changes. Most recently, drummer Dan Mullins has left the fold and the band have used Akercocke drummer David Gray for live performances. How had the line up changes affected the direction of the band’s music? “Dan is so accident prone last time I saw him he was djing in a club on crutches. He’s a walking nightmare. He’s broken both his arms and legs this past year. He couldn’t commit to the band so we have David Gray who is doing the live stuff with us and for the studio we are using Shaun Taylor-Steels, our old drummer. We have decided we are officially a five piece now. Shaun will do rehearsals and recording and Dave will do live stuff. We aren’t going to have an official drummer. Lena (bass) is still with us and Katie was replaced by Shaun McGowan but it feels rock solid now. It’s not really affected the way we write because Andy and I formed the band and without being disrespectful to anyone else, are the core. Hamish is there as well. He has been there longer than Calvin our original guitarist. We can’t do without Hamish. The three of us create everything and the other guys will bring their ideas to our ideas. I would like to see them more involved in writing but I think they don’t want to intrude on old dinosaurs coming up with the riffs as they’re youngsters’ ha-ha! Maybe in the next couple of years we can turn that around.”
With the delayed “Evinta” finally seeing a release in June and the “Albion in Ruin” tour underway, I enquired as to the group’s next move. “We are already writing the next studio album which is pencilled in for an August or September release. Andrew and Hamish have lots of riffs compiled on a computer, so it’s just a question of arranging them into songs. I’ve already written some lyrics to inspire them a bit. We’ve booked the studio time with Mags, so it is imminent! It will be out this year.”
Looking back over a 21 year career that has seen them travel the world and influence everyone from Amorphis to Swallow The Sun, was there a moment they were most proud of or anything would they have done differently? “I wouldn’t change a thing! I’m very proud of everything we have done. I’m not embarrassed about any of our early stuff. If we were to go back and do anything I think it would be interesting to see having a manager would have made us more successful. Andy and I run the band always but I sometimes think could we have been bigger or would a manager have just said money, money, money and driven us into an early grave? We are here because we make the decisions. If they’re wrong, on our own heads be it and if they’re right, we take the credit! I think that’s the secret to longevity. We are our own bosses!”