After some uncertain years, because of personal problems and line-up changes, 2020 has seen the return of My Dying Bride with two new releases: the album “The Ghost of Orion”, which was published in March, and the EP “Macabre Cabaret”, which release is imminent as it will be out on November 20th. Their first releases under Nuclear Blast Records have shown us how the English band’s style is still great and never lacks of quality. We had the pleasure to interview Aaron Stainthorpe, the singer of the band, to talk about these two releases and other stuff.
Hi and welcome on Metalpit. After eight months from the release of “The Ghost of Orion” you will release a new EP in November. Why did you decide to release two works within this short amount of time? Are they somehow related?
They are very much related because we recorded the EP together with the album. We recorded eleven songs, eight for the album and three for the EP, and then we let Nuclear Blast pick the songs, as we kept arguing about who wanted which song on which record. So we gave all the music to Nuclear Blast and said “you guys pick, which song you want on the album and which on the EP?” And so they did! They picked the three tracks that are coming out on November 20th.
What about the story behind these new tracks?
Well, there isn’t one big story, it’s not a concept record, there are three different stories. They’re about life and how it can be a big struggle sometimes, but there are moments of gold and sunshine that really help us get by each day. Just going for a lovely walk with your family or with your friends, that can be brilliant. It’s not always doom and gloom, in the world. I write about things like that and I like to do it in a more poetical way, as I love poetry. Sometimes when you read the lyrics you don’t always understand what I’m trying to say. That’s just my style. They’re quite sad songs about life, love and the struggle we all have to get by each day.
Still talking about the lyrics, we know that in the lasts years you got some serious personal problems, you also changed two members and now there is a global pandemic. Do all these unpleasant situations somehow helped the writing process of the latest releases? Maybe with some introspective reflection that is connected to your usual lyrics.
We had a lot of changes and that affected the thing that we do and how we do them. Our old drummer left us the day before the recording of the album, and that wasn’t great, but luckily Jeff Singer, the ex-Paradise Lost drummer, stepped in and helped us, now he is our drummer. Andrew did all the guitars as our second guitar player left as well before the recording. That obviously affected the way he wrote, because normally a guitar player writes some parts and the other guitar player writes the other ones, and they both come together in harmony. This time Andrew had to do all of it, it was a hard work, but he did it and it sounds fantastic. Now we have a new guitar player, Neil Blanchett, but he joined after the album and the EP were recorded so he doesn’t appear on any of those. I was out of the loop for a long time because my daughter was very poorly. I haven’t really contributed much to the songwriting but obviously I wrote the lyrics. It was a very difficult album to do, with lot of changes, but if you work hard you get the results, and so we did! This is our first record on Nuclear Blast and we’re happy with the outcome.
By the way I hope that your daughter is fine after what happened to her.
Yes, she’s doing much better now, thanks!
I wanted to ask you if the new members contributed to the songwriting but, as you the EP was recorded together with the album, I imagine that Andrew did the most.
That’s it! Andrew worked very hard, on his own most of the time, but he is a great guitar player and songwriter too, he knows what he is doing, he’s been doing it for a long time. Neil only joined about a year ago so is not on any on the records, but Jeff is on them and he did a great job! The other guys are still there, Lena is still playing the bass and Shaun is doing the violin and the keyboards. We’re working hard at the moment, obviously with the pandemic there are no live shows, but we’re still rehearsing, once a month we get together and we make some noise, just because it’s great being in a band!
This year is the 30th anniversary of the band. When this critical situation will be over you have something scheduled to celebrate this achievement?
No, not really. We haven’t planned anything for our 30th anniversary, I think we will go out and have a few drinks, but there won’t be any special gig or anything like that. So, hopefully when the pandemic is over we can get back to playing live shows, and maybe wait for our 35th anniversary and then do a special show.
30 years are really a lot in the music industry. What are the most critical moments you lived during your career as a musician? And what about the best ones, if we can define them this way.
We had lot of great moments and not many disappointing ones. We toured with Iron Maiden back in 1995 and that was great. We also played in their football team, against an Italian team in Milan, which was fantastic. They beat us of course, but it doesn’t matter, it was still a great football match. We played also in Stockholm, in Sweden, and in Glasgow, in Scotland. To be running around with an Iron Maiden football shirt on and playing with Steve Harris was just amazing. Then a year later we went on tour with Ronnie James Dio, around United States. Those were great moments. I suppose that the negative times are when a band member leaves, because normally you travelled around the world together, you have been in studios together and you know each other very well. When someone leaves, it kinda leaves a little hole in your heart, but then you get someone else to replace them, and they become new friends, which is good! So we had some great times and luckily for us we haven’t had many bad ones.
I really enjoy how your music developed during the years without losing your typical mark. I noticed how the new release is even more focused on the doom and gothic side of your style. Is this something typical only of “Macabre Cabaret” or we can expect more doom and gothic elements rather than death metal ones even in the future?
Well, I have no idea, because we try to don’t think too far in the future, even though Andrew is already writing new material. We never know, when we start a song, if it’s gonna be more death metal, more doom or more gothic. We just start putting it together and it evolves, we don’t force it in one direction. As I mentioned earlier, Nuclear Blast picked the songs for the EP, so it’s just pure luck if there are more gothic songs. I still enjoy doing the death metal vocals as well as the clean ones. We like doom, death and gothic metal, sometimes it’s just a little more one genre than the other, but we don’t plan that. Even if Andrew is writing new music now, I have no idea if the next record will be more doomy or even more death metal or gothic! We just have to wait and see.
How was it to work with Nuclear Blast Records after all those years of collaborations with Peaceville Records?
It has been really good! We signed the contract a few years ago actually, but as I mentioned my daughter got sick, so we stopped being a band for a while. Nuclear Blast were very supportive, they sent over toys and games, which was fantastic, and they never gave us a deadline for the album, they just said “you do the album, whenever you want, and just deliver it to us as soon as it’s ready”. It’s amazing for a big label to say something like that. “The Ghost of Orion” was our first record with them and “Macabre Cabaret” will be the second one. So far things are great, we correspond with them nearly every single day, they ask us to do great things and we do great things for them. They’re really nice people, as were the ones from Peaceville. We have been very lucky, we’ve had nice labels. I know some bands goes through the whole career with terrible ones, but so far, even it’s still early with Nuclear Blast, it’s fantastic!
Nowadays you’re very well known and lot of bands are influenced by your stile, but when you started playing, and doom/death metal was just a rising style, has some band, or other kind of artist, influenced your growth?
I listen to a lot of music genres, not just metal, but the early metal bands really inspired My Dying Bride in the older days. These days I listen to a lot more, I enjoy Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, as well as classical music. I listen to anything, really, and if some of it it’s inspiring, then it might encourage me to create something not the same but kinda similar. You know, you can’t really accuse My Dying Bride of sounding like Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, but is a very influential band for me, as Leonard Cohen and some other great artists. You can’t copy them, that’s not the right thing to do, but they can definitely influence the way that you create your work, and it’s the same when I read a new book, if the author got amazing talent like Mervyn Peake, who wrote Gormenghast trilogy, that inspires me to write in a similar stuff. So I have been inspired by all kind of artists, not just metal. I love heavy metal but I also like loads of other stuff in my life. even the scenery influences me, here in Yorkshire we have lovely green hills, lakes, rivers and forests and that influences me as well, it’s important that I enjoy where I live because it helps me with my work.
Are there any musicians from the recent years that you would like to recommend?
Last year I saw a band called Wolvenman, they’re from Wales and I thought they were really good. They were really heavy, the singer was crazy (laughs) and the live show was amazing. They are a small band, I don’t think they are on a big label, but they’re a band to look forward to in the future.
Also our guitar player Neal is in another band called Valafar and they are doing some good stuff at the moment. Those are two band to watch out for!
I also know that, beside your activity with My Dying Bride, you’re also an artist and you did several artworks for some bands. Is there any aspect of cover arts that you usually observe carefully and how is it important, for you, the connection between artwork and music?
Well, I think the artwork is always important, and it annoys me when you see some bands cover and it’s just some rubbish photograph. I just think that’s not good enough. Even going back to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, most of their album covers are terrible, but the music is still great. But I think that is important to have good artwork on the album cover. If you look back at My Dying Bride history, I think we have done some fairly nice pieces of work. In fact, the artwork of “Macabre Cabaret” is probably one of the nicest we ever had. That was done by an Italian guy, actually. I’ve done some, I like to be creative sometimes, and it’s also nice to give the work for the album cover to somebody else, because sometimes I’m so busy with the music and the promotion, as My Dying Bride don’t have a manager, and I manage the band with Andrew and we’re busy all the time. So, when we were putting “The Ghost of Orion” and “Macabre Cabaret” together, I just didn’t have time to the artwork, so we asked Roberto Bordin if he could do it for us, and he has done a wonderful job. The album cover was actually done by Eliran Kantor and the EP’s by Roberto, and I might do the next one, it just depends on what mood I’m in and if I have time. I’m also creating some artworks here and there and I’m always writing poetry and short stories, some of which turn into lyrics for My Dying Bride, and some will go to the book that I’m trying to put together at the moment.
I’ll look forward for that book! You mentioned your past and I have to say that I love the artwork of “Turn Loose the Swans”, which is the album that got me into your music.
That’s cool! Did you know that “Turn Loose the Swans” has three different covers?
Yes, I’ve got the CD and it’s said in the booklet.
Right. The vinyl has a different cover and also the cassette tape, which is quite interesting.
That was the last question. I thank you so much for your time, and feel free to say anything you want to your listeners.
We’ve had a lot of support from your part of the world! No one is doing anything at the moment, when it comes at live shows, which is a real shame, but when the pandemic is over of course we’re gonna go back on the road and do some touring. We always play in Italy, because our tour manager is Italian, which is wonderful. I just hope that we will get back on stage soon, but it’s not looking good, and even next summer might be too soon, so it could be a year from now before we even go on stage. I really don’t know, it’s crazy what’s happening in the world, but we’ve always had great support from Italy, we’ll always play there and thank you to all our fans for supporting us over the years.