In the world of music, there are leaders and then there are followers. Since their formation in 1990, MY DYING BRIDE have always spearheaded their own path. Others simply followed. They were one of a handful of UK bands that helped to bring doom metal to the forefront of the underground metal scene and transform it forevermore. Groundbreaking albums such as Turn Loose the Swans, The Angel and the Dark River, and 34.788%…Complete remain as some of the most revered underground metal albums. Gothic themes, overbearing feelings of misery, darkness, and depression are the MY DYING BRIDE trademarks. With their latest work, Songs of Darkness, Words of Light, the band has crafted another solid album that traverses all over the MY DYING BRIDE map. APESHIT spoke with founding members, vocalist Aaron Stainthorp and guitarist Andrew Craighan, to find out what’s ailing these Brides in 2004.
APESHIT: MY DYING BRIDE has been around for quite a long time now. What’s it like to still be around making music where mostly younger bands dominate the underground metal world and many of your peers are no longer together or have totally transformed musically?
AARON: It’s a good feeling although we don’t really dwell on it. We simply enjoy writing this kind of music and will continue to do so regardless of the state of the scene.
ANDREW: We feel more or less the same, we never really looked left or right to see what the others where doing anyway so the fact that the scene is different and our so called peers have disappeared from view really doesn’t mean anything to us. We travel our own path, normally the least trodden and the one on the left.
APESHIT: Songs of Darkness, Words of Light sounds like a culmination of various eras of the band. How did you guys approach the songwriting process? Did you guys feel compelled to continue in the classic MY DYING BRIDE vein?
AARON: We’re not really sure what “classic” MY DYING BRIDE sounds like because we are on the inside looking out while the rest of the world are looking in.
ANDREW: We just write what feels natural to us. We are not interested in what might be considered the classic view or the experimental view or the neo-gothic fuck-knows-what. We approached this CD differently mainly because Shaun had damaged his arm drumming. And this led to rehearsals and writing at rehearsals being cancelled. So we all wrote reclusively, secluded from the others and brought the ideas occasionally to each other to sound out. We then went straight into recording with just two songs close to finished and the rest created in the studio so the “classic” sound really never got thought about due to Shaun’s injury causing such a sea of change. The cunt…
APESHIT: Are you guys comfortable with where you guys are at musically and artistically? Have you felt the need or desire to branch out further into new territory as you did with 34.788%…Complete?
AARON: We are very happy where we are at this moment in time regarding the music we make but that certainly doesn’t mean we won’t look forward to pastures new. You never know what the future holds and so should always keep a close eye on it in case something different is lurking there. We may or may not attempt another 34.788%… but we certainly won’t rule it out.
APESHIT: Certainly, there is no band out there that sounds like MY DYING BRIDE. With each release, you guys have really been leaders and not followers in what you do. How have you been able to retain such a unique identity?
AARON: I’m sure it has a lot to do with our purposeful ignorance to the scene and our complete lack of addiction to money. It’s heads down and concentrate on writing, for MY DYING BRIDE and not “oh, I wonder what they’re doing” while gawking at other bands. Also, we draw many an influence from non-metal music and that helps keep us apart from similar outfits.
The Dreadful Hours was quite a return to form for the band particularly after the more experimental 34.788%…Complete album. You guys received a lot of critical acclaim for that album…did you feel any pressure to come up with something that was as good, if not better with Songs of Darkness, Words of Light?
AARON: No, we never feel pressured to do anything. We move from LP to LP with no regard to past or present. We write the songs that interest us at that moment in time whether they are similar to previous releases or a new direction. Turn Loose the Swans was a massive LP that we are naturally proud of but we have never made a conscious effort to re-capture that sound because it’s just not what we want to do. If some folks think there is a twinkle of that LP in the new recording, then that’s just coincidence. All the records will have hints of others because we are still MY DYING BRIDE after all.
ANDREW: The only pressure (if any) comes from having to make it work because you live on it. For us it can be as obscure as we want it to be and we can enjoy it. We are all mild mannered reporters by day and our extra curricular activities are secret even to those we work with. Pressure does not exist when you remove money, that applies to any job. “Now get this fucking interview in on time!!!”
APESHIT: You guys recently finished filming a video for the song, “The Prize of Beauty.” Can you give us a little background on how the video came together and what it is about?
AARON: The song is about a man who is infatuated with a dominating, powerful woman and so we would have liked to re-capture that in the video, but this has not happened sadly. Due to budget and timing, the video has been released unfinished which is not good. We would have liked another month to finish it but the record label were having none of it. The LP was already a few months late so I can see their point of view. As it is, it’s an OK tool for promotional purposes but that’s about it. No story at all, just the band playing although we hope to include the full and finished version on our next DVD.
ANDREW: It’s just a video that only MY DYING BRIDE fans will appreciate. We had some great help from RIO Rocks in Bradford making the video and they should be thanked for that. We felt it time to try our hand at videos again after the long absence and we have now understood once again why we stayed away for so long. See you in eight years!
APESHIT: I can imagine that the role that the band plays in your lives has changed over the years considering the fact that you are all much older now. Can you describe how your focus on MY DYING BRIDE over the years has changed and/or stayed the same in relation to your life?
AARON: The band has always been very important to me not only right at the start but even now too. It’s been with me for so long that I can’t think what life would be like without it, although I’m sure I could cope. We are self-managed too so it’s not just the music but it’s all the finance and dealings we do too so we really have our hands full. It is still a hobby though and one I can choose to give up any time I like.
ANDREW: I think we understand now how fortunate we have been. We have toured with IRON MAIDEN and DIO, played on the same bill as SLAYER (we blew them away by the way) and JUDAS PRIEST, and headlined over CANDLEMASS (blasphemy as far as we were concerned). I mean, fuck me, this is heavy metal heaven! We have recorded CDs that people in countries that weren’t even free when we recorded them write to us and say how we have helped them. We are apart of a blessed darkness called doom metal. We really didn’t understand the power of our actions back then and really didn’t understand the gift being offered to us. It does come at a price though and hard work is only the first taskmaster you have to appease. We still feel the need to create crushing metal though, misery for misery’s sake.
APESHIT: MY DYING BRIDE’s lyrics are very honest and powerful and obviously very dark and depressing. Is writing lyrics and vocal lines a cathartic experience for you? What are the perfect conditions for you to write?
AARON: Very cathartic, yes. I need to exorcise my demons and writing helps a lot. We all suffer moments of darkness where we feel so low that we’re not sure who we are or what our lives mean anymore and that’s when I feel at my most creative and thus, that’s when I write. And it really helps. I believe everyone should have an outlet for their grief, pain, misery and the more artistic, the better. If I didn’t write lyrics for MY DYING BRIDE, then I would find something else to do. None of us should bottle negative thoughts up inside our heads because that will take you to an early grave. I’d concentrate on my artwork (www.azzron.com) and also look at making short movies as film-making is a great interest of mine.
APESHIT: Most of your lyrics, Aaron, seem to be very personal as well. But there are certain lyricists, such as DARK TRANQUILLITY’s Mikael Stanne, who intentionally make them a little cryptic. In Mikael’s case, he feels uncomfortable exposing himself too much to the outside world. Can you relate to that how he feels? How do you feel about exposing such personal thoughts and feelings to the world?
AARON: What Mikael says rings true with myself too. I wear my heart on my sleeve but also try hard to disguise the genuine facts lest they reveal too much of my inner self and thus make me an easy target for ridicule. It’s essential for me to rid myself of some personal “baggage” and this band affords me just that opportunity.
APESHIT: One of the continuous themes of MY DYING BRIDE is the contrasting of polar opposites such as melody and brutality, beauty and ugliness, light and dark, love and hate. Can you give us some insight into the methodology behind this approach?
AARON: Well, it’s not quite as “deep” as one may imagine. Life is full of good-versus-bad metaphors. Stories old and new are rife with the struggle twixt the forces of evil and righteousness, from the bible to Lord Of The Rings, Star Wars and a thousand other tall tales. It’s the stuff that almost makes life more interesting. It’s classical and popular, and so I like to divulge myself as often as I like.
APESHIT: The underground metal world has certainly blossomed in the past five years and the mainstream world has certainly seen an impact. A band like EVANESCENCE has certainly borrowed sounds and imagery from what bands like MY DYING BRIDE helped put on the map. This year’s Ozzfest is even going to see a healthy serving of underground metal. How do you feel about those bands who really have some commercial momentum? Do you regret that a band of your stature hasn’t had such widespread appeal?
ANDREW: Sometimes, after a few ales maybe. But I am more than happy with my lot. I don’t want to have the band dictate to me when and where I should be more than I’m prepared to take, which is where the bigger bands end up. We are not a commercial band (much to the astonishment of most) and we are happy having a beer at the Spangled Bull in Dewsbury on a Saturday night being ignored by everyone because they know fuck all of who we are. Apart from Beryl, the landlady who likes some obscure outfit I’ve never heard of but they had long hair too.
AARON: It’s very nice to be popular but when we first formed the band we certainly didn’t expect to get where we are today because we knew the material we were going to write would always be a bit hard for the public to swallow. You don’t call yourself MY DYING BRIDE, write very morbid songs and then expect world wide fame. We’re here for the artistic release not commercial gain. Many bands split up because they wonder where all the money is; confirming that they were only in it for the cash. We have always kept a firm eye on strong songs with no regard what so ever of record sales. It doesn’t bother me at all if younger bands make it big and famous because it’s not what I’m after. My goals are different and they don’t involve praying that our next release makes certain sales figures or we’ll get dropped by the label.
APESHIT: Andrew, you launched your own record label, Blackdoom Records, with guitarist Hamish Glencross last year. Can you tell us how that is coming along? Is it going to be strictly a doom metal label?
ANDREW: No, it’s not going to be a strictly doom label. Check out the band, INDREAD COLD, on our webpage www.blackdoom.com for further proof.
AARON: Andrew and Hamish have a wide musical taste and will always keep an eye out for anything good!