My Dying Bride Nov 1998 Mindview
In the early nineties My Dying Bride, together with those other two big Peaceville guns Anathema and Paradise Lost, was directly responsible for the revival of modern doom metal. The evolution of these three tenors is interesting to follow at the very least. After losing their frontman Darren, Anathema started treading more psychedelic paths, while Paradise Lost is aiming for the big money tries very hard at being the new Sisters of Mercy. Because both bands have thrown overboard all doom elements they grew up with, all eyes are now turned towards My Dying Bride.
The five from Bradford, West-Yorkshire, are also moving away from their roots by trying something new about every two records. After the release of 'The Angel and the Dark River' in 1994 it became apparent that the old My Dying Bride, praised for its heavy riffs and Aaron's fantastic grunt voice, had become past perfect. The band started exploring new, more romantic/poetic roads, supported by more melody and melancholic violin parts.
In 1998 My Dying Bride lost first hour drummer Rick Miah and violinist Martin Powell, which caused everyone to expect a new musical change. That that change is this radical will be tough on the old fans, that much is certain. Mindview went on a quest for the how and why. Aaron (vocals), Ade (bass), Calvin - now with short hair (guitar) and Bill (the new drummer) gave their views on the band and the new album.
When you didn't show up for the Graspop festival last year, rumours were already flying that the band had split up.
Aaron: "I heard those stories too, but you know how it is. Contacting the band itself is the best way of avoiding the grapevine. The only problem then was Rick Miah's illness after finishing our US tour. Rick wanted to leave the band because the whole circus of touring, writing and recording became too stressful for him. We couldn't find a replacement fast enough, so there wasn't really much else to do but to cancel all summer festival gigs."
You wrote most of the music, Calvin, and the album title was your idea as well, right?
Calvin: "I had this bizar idea that humanity has finished 34.788% of its evolution, there's not much more to it. I heard all those stories that I had nightmares or visions, unbelievable how these stories are twisted sometimes. As usual Aaron did all the artwork. We gave him carte blanche for the cover design, it didn't have to fit with the album title. He gave us a whole range of designs through his computer, from which we picked one. I think it's fenomenal, the best cover we ever had. He's now following a course on computer design, he's becoming a real PC freak. He's got all sorts of equipment, scanners, printers, photo-editors, studiosoftware, you name it. Ade and Andrew are computer-adepts too, by the way."
Aaron: "We wanted something modern for a change, instead of all the usual crucifixes and churches, something that would stand out. I have put a lot of time and effort in it and now I'm busy with designs for our shirts and other merchandise."
Before, you sometimes wrote material while already in the studio, did you do that this time as well?
Aaron: "No, we had plenty of time to work on the new songs this time. We didn't exactly sit still while we were looking for a new drummer, you know. Nine months without a drummer was plenty of time to get all our material canned beforehand. For the very first time we actually put everything we wanted to do down on paper en when we hit the studio we just had to follow the script. Because the entire plan was ready beforehand, the recordings proceeded very smoothly. Ofcourse the record company was very pleased about this. I remember them asking when we would start writing a new album. I said, laughing: "Hey, it's already finished, guys" which made them fall from their chairs, you can imagine."
Calvin: "Today we heard the first responses to "34.788%... Complete" and they were very positive, even though everyone is surprised by the new sound ofcourse. At last we are ahead of our time again, heheh. The new songs are a logical evolution with still a lot of reference points to our earlier stuff. You can still hear very clearly that it is My Dying Bride, but the sound is completely different from our other work, because the recordings were done in a different way. We used to make albums with a totality-sound in which all the songs fitted. This time we treated each song as an individual piece. You see, certain riffs and melodies in a song need a special sound, sometimes clear, sometimes dark. That is why the seven new tracks are so different from one another. It was quite a challenge, but all the elements we wanted in there are successful, we feel. The production went pretty weird too, this time. We used to do everything in Academy Studios; this time we only recorded there, the mix was done in Chapel Studios. Different equipment gives a different sound, just what we wanted."
Aaron: "The drums were recorded in two different churches and a couple of big mansions. And as we had always worked with Academy Studios, we now wanted to know what mixing in a different studio would do for our sound. And it worked, we really sound different and I'm happy about that. Mags and Calvin did a great job on the production. We would have failed miserably without Mags, who now is an honored underground producer. For us, he's an extra band member who thinks on the same wavelenghts."
You say that your music hasn't changed all that much, but I still think it's a rather serious turnaround.
Aaron: "There is one song that a lot of people are going to critize. ["Herion Chic"]. Some people describe it as a dance track, others even as hiphop. True, it is unusal, but you know that we like to do unusual stuff. Most fans of the early days will hate, we know that, but we just do what we want, that's how it has always been. The record company told us that we should write three-minute pop songs to make lots of money, but we don't do that sort of thing. We just hope that others will learn to appreciate what we make."
Your music changed, the artwork is different, the old band logo vanished. Have you ever considered changing the band name?
Calvin shakes his head: "Hey, I don't think we changed that much! The doomy elements we always had are still there on this album. The basis of My Dying Bride is still audible, we just changed our look, the visual aspect of the band."
Let's talk about the songs themselves. A title like "The Whore, The Cook and the Mother" seems about the trinity of the modern housewife...
Calvin, after recovering from a serious laughter-attack: "I don't know exactly what the story behind that song is. Aaron is very excentric about that, he prefers to write at home, alone. Only on three songs we got him to write about something modern for a change, but "The Whore..." is another one of his typical death-sex-religion texts. The second song is about Evander Sinque, a fictional character who goes mentally insane. Quite probably a lot of it is autobiographic and contains Aaron's own ideas on how the world turns. This is my personal favourite, by the way."
Aaron: "I'm trying to pull free of the usual Shakespearean stories. Writing about things that are happening in our world today is something that interests me, instead of pure fiction. It's really hard to explain - just listen and decide for yourself. Don't worry though, you'll still find a lot of my famous death-sex-religion in the song topics. I like those topics and will probably always keep ties with it, but in a more modern context. Before, you could close your eyes with my poetic/romantic lyrics and imagine yourself back in time 200 years, but now it's about guns and stuff, things I never dared writing about before."
What happened to Aaron's voice? On "The Stance of Evander Sinque" he sounds like he's stuck in a mousetrap with his fingers...
Calvin: "He keeps surprising us. After "Like Gods of the Sun" he worked hard to improve his voice and enhance his reach. When we recorded those two cover songs for the Peaceville "X" compilation, it suddendly showed - especially on the Portishead cover - that Aaron really could sing! He developed a good feel for pitch and he can put different textures in his voice. That's why he wanted to use a different vocal sound for every song this time, which really worked well I think. On this record he really gave the best of himself I think."
Is that Michelle of Dominion I hear on "Heroin Chic"?
Bill and Calvin look at each other in wonder: "How the hell did you guess that? No one until now had any idea who it was singing along on that song!"
Bill, the new drummer, lives with her at the moment and is eager to go on about it: "After Dominion split she now works with Dan, the bass player, to work on new musical ideas. As a Canadian I still have some trouble with the authorities concerning staying in a foreign country, but I have lived in England for almost three years now. Michelle is really focused on exploring her personal ideas about music. My life didn't really change all that much since I learned to know My Dying Bride. Musically it's quite a change from Dominion, but I learned to know the band members a lot better and feel really good about it. At first I was afraid that it would be difficult because I didn't really know very much about their music, but fortunately the spark quickly caught. I'm doing my best to be creative and still different, so that new ideas can develop. Personally I'm surprised about the evolution the new My Dying Bride songs have undergone, from their first concept to what eventually ended up on the record. In the meantime I've had the chance to practice on the older songs, with the coming live performances in mind. My first time live with the band still has to happen, I'm very curious to see how it will work out."
Aaron: "Bill, as the new drummer, is important to us. At first the record company wanted us to hire a session drummer to record our new album, so that it could be released a month sooner. We rejected that idea. To take a stranger with us into the studios, someone we might never see again afterwards, we didn't like that idea at all. We had a few arguments over it but eventually we got what we wanted and now Bill is a permanent band member."
How will do all this, live? And a lot of fans are wondering about how the violin parts will be performed, with Martin gone.
Calvin: "Yes, we have given that a lot of thought. To find a replacement with the same skill, who would also fit in with the band and could get along with us, proved to be a difficult job, because violin players are not found on every street corner, let alone one who wants to play in a metal band! There will be violin live, but you won't see anyone with a violin on stage. We'll do our live stuff, aided by a DAT-tape."
But you won't become like Paradise Lost and only play songs from the last two albums, saying that all the earlier stuff really was a mistake?
Calvin: "After these press meetings we will put our heads together to assemble the setlist for the coming live shows. We will also select songs from the older albums to be able to put the necessary keyboard and violin parts on tape. There are fans who have known us for years but have never seen us live before. It would be a shame if they never heard an old song on a My Dying Bride concert, right? During the "Like Gods of the Sun" period we did two tours, remember? The first was to promote the new album, on which we mainly played new songs because of the limited playing time. The second tour was meant as a catalogue of what we had accomplished all those years. So a lot of older stuff was played during that tour [which really pleased the fans; nvdr]."
In the past, My Dying Bride has toured extensively with Iron Maiden and Dio. Are there still names of which you dream?
Calvin: "Of all the metal bands I grew up with Maiden and Dio are probably the most successful. That Maiden tour especially was an incredible experience for us: travelling through Europe for six weeks and performing for 6000 to 12000 people is a dream come true, you know. The US tour with Dio was smaller, there was no room for stage effects and stuff like that, but that also was worth it. At the moment I don't dream of other bands, because we want to travel as headliners again as soon as possible. Still, you shouldn't forget that we have been lying still for almost two years and have had ourselves locked up to record the new material, that's why we lost a bit of the feel with the metal scene."
Aaron: "For the release of our new album we will definitely headline ourselves. A tour with big names is an experience in itself ofcourse. I remember that Dio-crowd: all old guys with beard, waiting to hear some in-your-face metal; they had never heard of a band like My Dying Bride. Some of the show were disappointing, but in some cases they collectively went nuts and that was fenomenal."
Do you think to be able to conquer the US market with "34.788%... Complete"?
Calvin: "We hope so. The album will now be released simultaneously in Europe and the US, instead of two months later as often happens. Ofcourse we would like to win popularity in the US, because that market is so huge that we could do several great tours and make a nice amount of cash. My Dying Bride is my life, my everything and I'm not ashamed to admit that money would be welcome. That's what everyone wants as a reward for hard work, isn't it? Still, it's not as simple as it looks, the US is rather conservative on "new" foreign bands."
Aaron: "Through the years the sales of our albums in the States have been rather low. After those Maiden/Dio tours our popularity there has risen enormously because we were featured in all the metal magazines. By the way, Dio sneaked out for a week, so that we suddenly could do seven shows on our own, with all the media attention just for us. The US adventure has really paid off, because our sales there already doubled. We now realise that My Dying Bride is about more than just the band. We've got a business to run!"
Do you still think of My Dying Bride as an underground band?
Aaron: "In terms of CD sales, yes. We can't compete with the mainstream rock bands, but that's not what it is about for us. Our music still is focused on a small group and we're happy when we can live off without too much worries. We still play in small places, so I still think we're underground. I don't think we'll ever become "big" because our music is too extreme for that. Not as extreme as some half-nutty bands, but still unusual enough to make a lot of people not understand what it is about."
(Pointing at Calvin's Adidas-outfit) Do you have any spectacular hobby's besides the band?
Calvin: "Heheh, no, that's just to keep up appearances, because I'm probably the laziest person on the planet. I have my own home where I do some daily chores and filling in the interior; apart from that I do some design work - anything is fine really, as long as I can be creative."
Bill: "I like to be in shape physically, that's why I do all sorts of things to wear myself out."
Ade (through Internet): "Two weeks ago I found a new job as a technical-commercial employee in a company that sells computers, servers, backup systems and such. That's why, unfortunately, I couldn't come along on the press tour. The band and my job take up all my time, although I do keep in touch with the metal scene through Internet. Myself and Aaron are completely addicted to computer, but you already noticed that, probably."