My Dying Bride interview with Aaron Stainthorpe: "If you experience nothing in your life, you can't really be sad when it comes to an end"

26/10/2012 @ 13:50
For many years now, My Dying Bride have been one of Britain's finest musical assets. They have released great albums and they continue to offer great musical moments of art. Their latest album is another work of their usual standards. This release is an additional reason to talk with Aaron Stainthorpe, the frontman of the band. Friendly and approachable, he answered kindly to our questions about the "A Map Of All Our Failures", how they manage to create that dark and pessimistic atmosphere, the influences of the band and many other interesting things.

Hello Aaron, how are you doing?
I am fine.

Since now you have finished all the work with "A Map Of All Our Failures", are you satisfied with the final outcome?
Definitely, at the moment. Normally you will find faults and mistakes or things that you could have done better a few months after the album has been released. So far, we love it, it sounds really good. We spent a long time writing and recording and re-rewriting it, making sure it sounds perfect, in our view. If you ask me the same question in one year time, probably I am going to answer there is a couple of things maybe we could have done a little better. It is good as it is at this moment in time and I am happy with it.

My Dying BrideI guess this happens with every album, after some years you always want to change some things, right?
Of course, it is perfectly natural.

How long had you been working on this album?
It is an album three years old, because our guitar players were always writing material and recording on the computer. They did not stop really and when we got the deadline from the record label for the album, we said let’s get together and have a look at these ideas and get start to write an album. You look at the date of the files and they are three years old, but it doesn’t matter since they are still qualitive. The album is full of brand new riffs and older riffs, which give a nice feel because some songs feel like old classic songs for us already, even though they are brand new to the rest of the public, which is a nice feeling really.

Compared to your previous albums, which are the differences between them and "A Map Of All Our Failures", if any?
The most important thing is that now we are older and I think better musicians, I think my lyrics are better and I think my voice is better. When I hear the guitar playing, I think it is just wonderful. If you have been performing for 23 years like we have, naturally you must get better with everything to record. So having this in mind, surely "A Map Of All Our Failures" should be our best album to date. It is natural that it should be the best we have recorded.

My Dying BrideCertainly, it is natural to consider your newest album the best you have even done.
I think it makes sense because it is what you created and you should be in a better formula than you have ever been, so it must be our best material.

When you write music do you follow a specific plan or you compose it step by step during the entire process?
No, we don’t have a plan, because you can’t stick to a plan. Our music is quite passionate and emotional and if you have a plan, you just can’t stick to it, because you always change you mind about some ideas. You may come up with something that is even better than the one you had. We have a general idea, which again changes a lot during the writing process. When Peaceville says 'Ok guys, we need an album', we never automatically try to come up with a plan or formula or the sound that it is going to be like. We write the songs, individual songs to see what happens. If you have a plan, you just can’t stick to it.

Since your early days you have been 'loyal' to this gloom, dark and pessimistic atmosphere. Where do you receive inspiration from?
Inspiration really comes from anywhere. Even man made things, books, movies, even television, stories you hear from other people.  It is nice to take an idea and involve it into your own idea. We have a song called "Hail Odysseus" which is about pieces from the Odyssey, of the great Homers. We changed it. We take an idea by someone else and we completely twisted it into the My Dying Bride theme and feel at our own song. Inspiration comes from anywhere and since you don’t rip off somebody, you can take things and make them yours. I do read a lot of books and I like listening to a lot of music. The inspiration comes from all forms of art.

We can say that the world is a darker place to live in. Is this another source of inspiration for My Dying Bride?
It is hard for every generation I think. We are lucky because we didn’t go through the war, as my grandparents did. But it is still trouble. Yes we still got that influence in what we do. We have never been a political band, but we still can’t ignore what is happening in the world. That obviously makes your emotions change with all the problems around the world. They contribute somehow to the feel of your music or in fact in the art of any artist whether it is a painter or photographer or whatever. What is happening in the world must surely affect your style.

My Dying BrideBasically, I am saying that from my point of view, because in Greece the situation is much worse than in other countries. So if you live here you probably would have many reasons to inspire you.
It is an unfortunate place. I am sure that lots of creative Greek artists now receive inspiration from the problem that is going on. It is tragic really, but I am sure that Greece has been here more than anybody else and it is not going to disappear.

The cover of the album is magnificent. Is there any specific message behind that cover?
The cover is a direct influence from the actual theme of "A Map Of All Our Failures". I wanted a subject that was completely alone, have no family, no friends, nothing, just this dirty old bed and an old chair. And yet I wanted this person to have experienced a lot in this life. If you experience nothing in your life, when your life comes to an end, you can’t really be sad, because you have not really done anything with your life. So by that the person on the bed in "A Map Of All Our Failures" is desperately sad because his experience is a tremendous amount in his life. It is the suggestion that if you are desperately sad at the end of your life, then you must have had a great and creative life and you are sad because it is coming to an end. I needed to convey it in the cover. The cover is dark, miserable and melancholic and I think this is the perfect cover for this album.

I absolutely agree with that. Do you prefer singing with clean vocals or with extreme ones?
I don’t really have a preference. The point is that I don’t play any instrument and I like to do the best I can with my voice. That’s why I am talking, whispering, singing, shouting and screaming. I like to be versatile with my voice. It is hard to have death metal vocals on an album, but it is great to do death metal vocals live. So it is kind of 50-50. I suppose that the death metal vocals will always be with us. Perhaps when I get older, I am sure my throat won’t be able to create that kind of sound. So I will have to face out the death metal vocals. But until then I will continue to do that even in small amounts.

My Dying BrideWhich one you think is more expressive?
If you are shouting is a very emotive way to express yourself, but it is harder to hear the lyrics. That’s great for the faster up-tempo death metal moments. But the majority of our albums is slow that’s why we need the clean vocals. The delivery of the vocals is important because it has to sound melancholic and to hear the words that have been said. There is no point in writing great lyrics if you are going to destroy them with death metal vocals. So, at this moment in time the clean vocals are more important than the death metal vocals.

You are for more than 20 years in the music industry. Which do you think is the best period of the band? The most creative, the most challenging, the most promising?
It has to be now. When you create something brand new, you have to hope that it is the best achievement up to date. When you look at the past, most of the people say "Turn Loose The Swans" is a classic album. It is great, but we have done so much more material since then. Even the weird "34.788%...", we love it and now a lot of people started to realise how good album actually is, many years after its release. Creativity is always there. I always have a notebook and I always making notes of words and lyrics. I know the guitar players always work on riffs and they record better ideas all the time. Something you do is your passion about your art. I guess the quiet moments, the sadder moments, when you lose a band member, in example when Calvin and Martin left both more or less at the same moment a long time ago, you wonder why they left, what is going on, are we still ok to continue without them. There was never any danger for My Dying Bride to split up when we lost account with Martin, because this actually made us stronger. Me and Andrew realized that we need to keep the engine going and in order to do that we need to write more music. There is a little bit of a depression when someone leaves, but it is a little bit. Then you feel back on top again.

Aaron Stainthorpe (My Dying Bride)I see that behind this pessimistic and miserable kind of music there is huge positive energy.
There is. We are positive. We can’t live our lives like our music. When I am listening to depressive music that makes me feel great. When I am listening to Dead Can Dance, that very melancholic but beautiful music, I feel fantastic and this is the similar thing with My Dying Bride. Even though it is depressing, people enjoy listening to it and feeling good when it is finished.

If we exclude "A Map Of All Our Failures", which is the record that came closer to your musical vision?
I think "The Dreadful Hours" is probably my favourite album. It contains everything I have ever wanted to be on a My Dying Bride record. I did the artwork , a personal input, lyrically is a strong album, the production is great. It was a good time for the band as well. Every song on it is powerful and passionate. It has death metal vocals, clean vocals, fast death metal parts, really melancholic slow parts. I think if someone never heard something of My Dying Bride and only needs to buy one album, that album should be "The Dreadful Hours".

Which is the one that your regret for?
I don’t think there is one. People always say "34.788%...", but I think it is a great album. We had never had released it if we were not confident enough that people would well accept it. There are some unusual songs but most of the songs are traditional My Dying Bride style songs. We have a weird title, a weird artwork and a couple of weird songs, but the rest of it is a classic My Dying Bride album. I have no regrets actually. I am proud of all our records and that is the reason when we play live, we try to play at least one song from every single album.

Are there any plans for touring to promote your new album?
There is at the moment. We have a show in a few weeks time, at Damnation festival in Leeds and after that we are doing a small tour around Europe. We are not coming to Greece at the moment, but Greece has been good for My Dying Bride. It won’t surprise me if perhaps next year we do the classic in Thessaloniki and Athens shows.

My Dying BrideWhat do you remember from your live shows in Greece?
The fans are crazy. They seem passionate and support My Dying Bride for a long time. One of my oldest friends is Greek. We were even writing to each other, before My Dying Bride, even before email. I am seeing him and his family growing up. Moreover, if I can get on holiday, I go to Greece most of the time for my holiday. So I love this country.

Which places do you prefer?
There are so many Greek islands. Myconos, Kefalonia, Santorini, Corfu.

Do you follow the current metal scene?
Not really.

Any favourite bands from the past?
What established me and My Dying Bride is Celtic Frost. Another big influence is Candlemass, who is still going and we did some great shows with those guys. If those two bands hadn’t existed I think My Dying Bride would not have existed. Moreover, I like German thrash in the old days, Sodom and Destruction. I like some US thrash bands. "Master Of Puppets" is one of my favourite albums. It is still an absolute classic. I am from a generation when you hear an album that is released and you are young, it stays with you forever. Maybe a 15-year old kid today listens to "A Map Of All Our Failures" and when he is 40 or 50 he might feel it is an absolute classic of his time. I like older bands, because perhaps I am an older person.

My Dying BrideWhat can we expect from My Dying Bride in the future?
When we recorded the album, we recorded 13 tracks. There are 8 tracks for the normal CD, 9 tracks on a special edition. Four more tracks left, so we are releasing an EP, probably March next year. In the next few weeks probably we are shooting a video for the track "The Poorest Waltz" and then a video for the EP. During the summer festivals hopefully we are coming to Greece next year. We are keeping quite busy.

We are expecting you either in a festival or in club. It is always pleasure for us to see My Dying Bride on stage.
We always have a great time there. We look forward to coming back.

Before we finish, would you like to say something to the Greek fans?
Thanks for the support for all these years. It has been just amazing. Every time we have been welcome with open arms. Warm, warm people and the food is great. One of the best things in Greece.

Thank you very much. It was pleasure for me to talk to you.
Thank you Antonis. My pleasure.