It’s been over 11 years since mysterious and icy cold atmosphere Of My Dying Bride invaded our souls. Throughout those years MDB developed and grew to the ranks of, and I’m not afraid to say this, Gods of doom and dark metal. They’ve been through highs and lows, they’ve toured with Iron Maiden and they’ve thought of a break up but "Dying Bride" never died. Now there’s more, Andrew Craighan thinks that with their latest masterpiece "The Dreadfull Hours", which believe me will warm your blood during those cold and lonely autumn nights, is just the beginning in their new chapter of misery...
How much have you and the band changed since the band’s inception? Is it the same passion and enthusiasm for the music as it was 11 years ago or is everything more or less calculated now?
I think, to be honest, it’s been calculated in the past to a certain degree but you’ve got to love what you’re doing to keep going for this length of time. But I think more now, specifically with the last two LPs, it’s more of a passion again. It’s not calculated at all, we just really enjoy what we’re doing again. So, I guess the answer would be straightforward; we just enjoy it now. We have been through this calculating stage and it’s not as much fun. Fortunately, we’ve got to the stage in our career, for whatever reason we’ve got a stable line up again and it is very much passion now. We do enjoy it so much that we don’t really think about anything else now. It’s just being in the band again and enjoying what we do.
The band went through a lot of personal and musical changes. Which period of the band’s career do you think was the most satisfying?
At the moment, it’s very satisfying. I’m extremely happy with the way the things are going but one moment I know for definite was better satisfying was between "The Angel and the Dark River" and "Like Gods of the Sun". It’s so obvious to me because during "The Angel and the Dark River" the popularity was such that it allowed us to tour with Iron Maiden here in Europe and during "Like Gods of the Sun" we were touring with Dio in the United States. There’s no way on earth I could say those were the bad times. Yes, it was difficult and it was a lot of work but Iron Maiden and Dio were some of the bands I grew up with when I first started getting to heavy metal and rock music as a whole. So, to get to tour with them both, on separate occasions, it was like... well, I was clearly dreaming. It was bizarre. It was bizarre time in my life, for a good reason for a change... So, definitely between "The Angel and the Dark River" and "Like Gods of the Sun" has been the most satisfying period for me.
Were there ever any moments that you thought of quitting or breaking up the band?
Yes. When Calvin left. We sat down, myself, Aaron and Adrian and tried to assess what would be the plan, what would we do? Do we continue with My Dying Bride and go on to rebuild it? As it turned out that’s what we did. Do we finish My Dying Bride and let her die? The answer was no, we continue with My Dying Bride, we’ve always been My Dying Bride and we’ll always be My Dying Bride. That was the question then but we chose not to. Looking back that was the best thing to do because after that decision we did, in my opinion, two of the best records My Dying Bride has done, two of the darkest sounding records in "The Light at the End of the World" and now "The Dreadfull Hours". So, it was a tough time. It was extremely difficult time. I’ve learned a lot about the bad since those times. Yes, myself, Aaron, Ade, Shawn and Hamish are part of My Dying Bride but we have bigger responsibility, seems now, to the people that subscribe to My Dying Bride who’ve been with us since the beginning. We wouldn’t just be letting ourselves down by stopping the band we’d be letting people down all over the world we’ve never met and we don’t want to do that. We want to keep going for as long as possible now. We really have a new vigor, new passion to keep going because it’s almost like a new beginning getting the band back together, releasing two good LPs and hopefully, who knows, but moving into stronger and bigger things.
Let’s go back to "34.788%… Complete". Everyone knows that it was your more or less most experimental album of your career, but what I want to know is the history behind the title. What exactly is 34.788% complete?
Calvin had an extremely vivid dream one time where he was sort of led around somewhere by a more intelligent authority, let’s say, who was saying, looking back at mankind and this kind of thing you are only 34.788% complete. This is where you are in a progressive state. I don’t know whether this was like spiritually, mentally or in a technological sense but whatever it was in that particular time, we are only 34.788% complete. So consequently we have over 60% still to continue to develop. At that time, the mentality within the band was such that we liked the idea. We thought it’s not typical of My Dying Bride and I think that’s what we enjoyed about it back then.
We also liked it because it was a very very strange time for us and another thing, the record company hated the title and we like that a lot. So, with those things in mind it was decided that that should be it, very simply. There isn’t really a great deal to tell about it. It was basically sort of math theory on where the humanity was. When you see the background to the title it’s not the most insane idea the world has ever had. I think back then we were all subscribing to a very similar thought anyway. It fit very well with what the music was sounding like and what the cover was going to be. When we choose a LP’s title we don’t just choose it because it looks or sounds good we actually attempt to make it work with the artwork. We try to make a complete package. So, because it had a very techno feel of also being numbers and percentages as well with the cover looking like it did it fit very well. Looking back it was a good decision.
I read somewhere that "...Complete" didn’t belong to the list of your favorite albums. Did this change of musical direction have any affects on personal rotations after its release?
Well, two of the members had already left. Rick and Martin had already left, Calvin was still with us but it didn’t change anything personally between myself and Calvin or the band and Calvin. Calvin is now our tour manager, we’re still very close friends. I spoke to him earlier tonight, in fact, I speak to him every day now it seems. So, there is no animosity. The people in the band didn’t fall out, he just chose that after "34..." he had enough. He chose to help himself so he could concentrate on getting his life in order by leaving the band. We obviously didn’t think that was the best thing to do but we couldn’t change his mind so we had to accept it. We didn’t fall out in any way, shape or form whatsoever. We still, in fact we are probably better friends now than we were in the band ‘cause we actually talk more now. In the band we used to just work together. Now we can have a relaxed conversation without always talking about the band.
How did it happen that you landed on Peaceville’s label again? Don’t tell me you didn’t have any serious offers from other labels?
If I did say that I would be lying anyway. [laughs] No, the simple reason is that once we became free agents we shopped around and we got a few offers from labels from Europe and England and every single one of them simply couldn’t mach Peaceville’s new offer. Not the freedom in artistic license, not the freedom in merchandising. We don’t want to be too restricted to what are we allowed to do. With freedom of title choice, freedom of artwork, freedom of studio choice and also how much money we will be allowed to spend in a studio, Peaceville came back with all answers and none of the other records could even come close. So, it was pretty easy really to go back to Peaceville. And we did this not only because they matched that contract; we know Peaceville, we know how they work and they know what My Dying Bride is capable of. They know if they just leave us alone to just get on with the job, everybody will be happy and rewarded in a sense that they can make enough money out of us to keep them happy. So, it was easy to go back to them. We don’t want to be messed around, we don’t like contracts, we don’t like... well, we don’t like record companies, to be honest, and they just allow us to be a band. They don’t fuck around with us, they don’t get involved with us and we just turn in a piece every two years and say, "There you go, that’s the new one". It’s great cause we don’t want to get involved in all that commercial bullshit another record label would have us do. Not just myself, the entire band enjoys the underground. We still consider ourselves an underground band, which is a probably a bizarre statement but we subscribe to that. We are not rock stars. A lot of bands are really into being commercially successful and selling a fucking million records we are not really interested in that. The key to My Dying Bride is to be allowed to do exactly what we want, no mater how it sells. At the end of the day Peaceville will not complain and we’ll not moan that is not commercial and that’s what we want. They just allow us to be My Dying Bride and release incisively miserable records time after time just because we want to. And they say, "Yeah, we’ll continue to support that" and that’s perfect for us.
"Meisterwerk" – are you satisfied with fan’s selection for those albums? Are there any songs you would like to skip and replace with something else?
To be honest, I’m perfectly happy. In fact I was surprised how well it all went for me because I had no idea what people were gonna choose and yet they all pretty much chose everything that we expected. We gave it to the fans to choose and then for me to sort of say, "I’m not sure about that" that wouldn’t be right anyway. So, even if they chose something I was completely unhappy with and I though that was the worst MDB track ever I wouldn’t change it. People have voted for it, they took the time to vote for it and they should be allowed to hear it whether it’s my favorite or not. So, I’m more than happy with the way they turned out and more than happy with the response they’ve got because I’m not a big fan of compilations and that kind of thing ‘cause it just looks like the record company wants to make some money. Again, being adverse to self-commercial side of things it wasn’t something I was happy with but I was glad the fans backed us and came out to help us choose the songs.
OK, enough of the past because we could go on and on... Tell me how the writing process of "The Dreadfull Hours" went? Did you have a feeling of proving anything... because personally, I can’t stop listening to it, it’s that good.
Thank you very much I’m glad it’s having an effect. When we were actually writing we weren’t actually sure what we had. We didn’t know what it was going to turn out like because what we do is, we have the basics of the songs; the skeletons and then we take the skeletons of the songs to the studio and we put flesh on the bones. And there isn’t really a better description of what we do.
In the past we would take full songs and then just record them but over time we’ve learned that in the studio you can have greater control and a wider field of vision of what’s happening. So, now we are going in with the skeleton of the song and then flesh it out. Sometimes we’re even going in with the skeleton and then we eventually remove that completely and end up rewriting it. So, from now on, sometimes we have 75% of the song done and the rest is just spontaneous work in the studio. We just see what happens, which is brilliant because most of the time what does happen is that [which] can’t be planned, it can’t even attempted to be planned. You get the feeling it just works. It’s an amazing feeling. The actual writing process is pretty much this same as always, we’re trying to adjust to the lyrics. Aaron will give us the lyrics and we’ll try to basically create the atmosphere around them to make it work, to make it believable. It can be difficult because he changes the lyrics so often, because he’s always striving to make them a little bit better then they are, and sometimes it makes it difficult for you to write the music to something that’s constantly changing. Overall, we know exactly what we want. We know what My Ding Bride always sounds like so it’s not difficult to get the atmosphere going.
How does the lyrical concept differ from your previous releases? Is there a common theme on this album?
No... well, there are the usual sex, death, and religion sections; we are still pretty much under that umbrella but I think one of the key differences this time lyrically is the fact that a lot of the songs are not as mystical and poetic as it was in the past. Some of them are quite disturbing in a sense of being true to a life’s horror. 'The Dreadful Hours' is basically about a murder of a small boy by his father, which is a very disturbing story because the background that it’s set to is simply the boy is scared of the dark and a father is a violent man who has no patience, no tolerance for the small boy.
I’m still wondering about this song, to be honest, because it’s so true that it must have happened somewhere in the world. It’s a little bit too true for My Dying Bride; we haven’t really touched anything quite as close to the bone as this. I think the song itself is one of my favorite songs of all time of My Dying Bride, but the lyrics are very, very sensitive and people could be quite upset with this. I’m not sure that’s what Aaron was intending but when you’re listening to the song and when you sit down with the lyrics too it’s quite disturbing.
We also touch upon the ancient, Greek tragic stories that we used to play in the past. We’ve taken ‘Le Figlie Della Tempesta’ which is an Italian sentence that means ‘Daughters of the Stone’ and that song basically relates to... it’s similar to the Sirens of Odyssues where he’s drawn to Ireland by the song of the sirens. It’s similar to that but it’s not such a mystical point of view, it’s almost like a warning. Be aware of women; make sure you understand what they really want and what they’re doing because otherwise they can be... well, it’s almost a warning. It goes against for what My Dying Bride normally sings about because we normally congratulate women and love them in a romantic way and this is a step into completely different direction; a warning against women, don’t go there, they are dangerous beasts, be extremely careful.
So the lyrics are a little bit schizophrenic in places, not traditional in any manner. Another one, I think worth mentioning is ‘A Cruel Taste Of Winter’ which the original plan for this one was that we’ll play the song live, but each night the lyrics would be completely different. So, every night you would hear a different version, it would be like an exclusive version every night. We liked that idea a lot and we’ve actually practiced it cause we played a couple of gigs in Poland, Belgium, Holland and one gig in England in March. It worked, it worked extremely well but when it comes to the CD, we decided we would really like some lyrics on the CD for this, something definite. So, Aaron basically said, "I’ll tell you what I’m going to do for this one. I’m just going to ramble, I’m going to treat it like I’m insane and I’m going to mumble and I’m going to ramble and I’m going to come up with sentences that don’t mean anything next to the sentence above or below and I want to see what it sound’s like" and he just wrote down everything he thought. And what he wrote down it’s just a rambling of an insane man. It’s clear there’s something wrong with him and yet in the context of the song it works perfectly and yet it shouldn’t work because there is no consistency to it. It’s fucking bizarre how it works. It’s a strange angle on something and it’s a new angle and it works this time, but I’m not sure if we could do it again. I think for me those are some of the key elements on this record. The other stuff is not straightforward, it has differences to it but it is pretty much all in line what My Dying Bride people might be expecting to hear from us.
Does Aaron stand behind all the artwork again?
Yes. This artwork isn’t new though. The reason this artwork is being used at the moment is, a couple of years ago, maybe 18 months ago now, I was going to do a side project, a more up tempo, more aggressive sounding band, possibly even black metal, and Aaron had this artwork, the one we have used for "The Dreadfull Hours" now and he wasn’t all that impressed with it. He didn’t think it was any good, but I saw it and I thought "Fuck me, that it’s perfect for what I want to do, absolutely perfect" and I said to him "Can I have this piece for this band I’m gonna do if we release a demo or something like that?" he said "Yeah, yeah, sure, no problem". But I was still concentrating on My Dying Bride and never got the chance to put this band together and it never really took off. So, the artwork was there, always on the back of my mind and then when the record started to become more aggressive, more violent but still very sinister and very dark I remembered this artwork because of its contrast. It shows the aggression clearly in control and you have a defenseless child or a small man who’s being attacked. But not only just the content of these two antagonists on the page, the fact that the whole artwork looked ancient, it looked like a painting by a caveman who saw something happening he didn’t really understand what it was that he saw but he’s trying to paint it as best he could those thing coupled with the music, coupled with the title... I said, "This has to be a cover". It’s just perfect. So, when he went and took another look he brought it out and that was it. It was just too good to be true.
Without a doubt, "The Dreadfull Hours" is one of your darkest epics. Was going back to your roots intentional? Does it mean no more experiments in My Dying Bride?
No. I think this is the beginning again. We’ve come to a point now that we’re so confident, we’re so full of ourselves, that I think this is almost a new beginning. I think "The Dreadfull Hours" is the beginning of the rejuvenation of My Dying Bride. Not necessarily in popularity but in misery, in what we create musically, lyrically and visually. We’ve got to the stage were we know the limits of what’s going to happen within the band. We don’t make living from the band, which is why we can be exactly what we are and because of it we can be so absolutely free and so absolutely true to ourselves. I honestly believe that the next record will be, if it’s possible, even darker... more sick. There will still be experimentation in a sense that we’ll try, but not to push boundaries because it’s a pointless pursuit for us, but there will be definitely things we haven’t tried before that we’ll attempt to use if they work. I do honestly see a very... I won’t say a bright future because that’s not the right word, but I do see a future for My Dying Bride... but only in the constraints that My Dying Bride normally works. It’s strange but I’m looking forward to the next record already even though this one is not even released yet.
When can we see you on the road, especially here because in Europe you’ll be playing sooner or later?
The plan is, you know November’s Doom, Paul is a good friend of mine and he’s trying to put together some sort of doom festivals next year. So, he’s trying to put it together and we’re trying to help him by saying "Yes, we well play". There won’t be an American tour because we can’t commit to that kind of time scale but we’re gonna attempt to come over at least to play this doom festival and maybe two gigs but that’s probably going to be it I’m afraid for the next 12 months. I’m not even sure if we’re going to do a European tour this time. We might just do festivals. We are seriously and definitely looking at playing a doom festival in the United States at some point in the future.
Please tell us, why shouldn’t we do favors for people or animals?
[laughs really hard] My old friend of mine used to say this because he was just a fucking miserable bastard. It was just a bizarre thing... "never do favors for people or animals". He was such misery in the context of My Dying Bride. His mentality was if you don’t do favors or anything to anybody how can you upset anybody? He was just a fucking misery but I liked his mentality and I stole it from him. I wish I was that way. I would do favors for the devil I’m so willing to help people... It’s just a little bit of fun. [laughs] The key to it for me is what kind of favor would you fucking do for an animal? [laughs] That’s the question you’ve got to ask yourself.
Any final words?
Stay true to fuckin’ metal and don’t subscribe to the news of pop sensations that’s happening right now because once it’s gone you’ll be back listening to heavy metal anyway... and look out for My Dying Bride at this doom festival next year... And thank you for this interview it’s been very enjoyable, I have to admit.
Entered: 10/17/2001 4:24:41 PM