My Dying Bride
Interview with Aaron Stainthorpe
What drove you to start My Dying Bride and what were the band’s early inspirations, both musically and lyrically?
I was listening to Celtic Frost and Candlemass and loving it, so, naturally, and aided by alcohol, I decided that I’d like to do something similar, so I grabbed a few mates and formed My Dying Bride (simple).
Even if part of the rising British Doom Metal scene, My Dying Bride has always carved its own niche with its own flair of poetic and sonic despondency. Have you or the other members felt like outcasts when growing up? If so, do you still feel like an outsider looking in?
Growing up listening to Rock and alternative music, while adorning myself with the fashions and couture this entails, naturally made me stand out from the other brats in our area, so a degree of loneliness was always within me. No member of the band has had the misfortunes of growing up in particularly desperate times or from torn families, so we don’t really have an excuse for creating the melancholy that so easily drips from us, we just love doing it.
Whether more or less accessible, your music has always been as heartfelt and figurative as your lyrics. Do you usually write your words before having any musical source in mind, or is it the other way around?
Originally, it was a bit of both, but on the new record (and on A Line of Deathless Kings), the music was written before I’d even scratched out any rough ideas. I then take this music and allow it to wash over my emotions and enable me to conjure up those inner thoughts we all would prefer to leave lurking in the lower regions of our brain, thus crafting emotive and often heart aching visions.
I read that you preferred to write with the aid of a bottle of cheap red wine by candlelight. Do you still recreate this spiritual nirvana to let your muse flow? Did you ever taste, or like, a good old Porto?
It is, indeed, true that I chose to write my lyrics in the Poe-like atmosphere of my wood-panelled room aided by a good wine – although I have a little more money these – and a few spluttering candles casting long, sinister shadows upon the walls. With these surroundings, half of my work is already done.
As for Porto, it has a lovely rich taste, but a bit too fortified for the tasks ahead.
By reading some of your lyrics, one can easily feel within some of the more pastoral and archetypal environments portrayed on British novels, yet with a twist of veiled lust and sensuality. Do you hold the name of the band as a figure of speech or has it more of a real implication?
I believe there is a dark link between grief and passion, loss and lust, one that is taboo and pushed aside but that I explore with delight and intrigue – a fetish, if you prefer. However, it’s not linked with the name of the band. I needed a name that would give rise to visions of utter sadness and forlorn love, desperate grief and great flowing tears, but not of kinky desires.
One might assume that you are as gloomy and downhearted as your music. Would it be a fair analysis of your own selves? Otherwise, should one regard your music as escapism with a cathartic nature in principle?
We are surprisingly jolly people, giving wealth to the thought that what we create does, indeed, have cathartic values. Naturally, I get as depressed and lonely as anyone else, which is, exactly, the right time to write lyrics, as then it leaves me feeling awake and bright and golden, having exorcised my negativity into the words of My Dying Bride. I think everyone who is feeling low should try to get creative, as it often works wonders as a cure.
Gradually, your voice metamorphosed into a very own style. Was that unpremeditated? How and why were you moved to try out such a personal approach and do you have any artists that you look up to for incentive?
I’ve certainly evolved as a vocalist over the last few years, which will become especially noticeable on the new album, although it was never really planned, it just sort of grew. We all get better with practice, and I’m no different wanting to further myself with each release.
With regard to inspirational artists, well, I still enjoy the tones of Nick Cave and Michael Gira of Swans.
Off and on you have tackled the subjects of Religion and God, and while one can easily take you and your work as rather metaphysical in essence, would you say that they serve as allegories more than one-sided references? How do you hold both concepts?
As an atheist, my use of biblical elements is merely there as reference for the vast majority of our audience who can associate those images with a subject matter that they are familiar with. I have no belief in any god and I think that religion is, actually, responsible for more pain and suffering, and the ultimate destruction of mankind, than any weapon. Religion could have been wonderful, however, we chose to bastardise it and turn it against our fellow humans and, sadly, there is no turning back: we are doomed at the hand of God.
When you play live, you seem to be engaged in a performance of your own, almost as if you were acting on top of singing. Since you seem to be a somewhat introverted person, how do you manage to be in front of hundreds of people on a regular basis? Has it been easier to cope with it over the years?
It has been noted many times that I do not like playing live. The reason is that I almost become the character in each song, and therefore endure the suffering that he or she is going through to a certain degree. With my eyes closed, I delve into the sinister world I created in verse, which leaves me feeling extremely drained after each performance. I often lose perspective of where I am and have no acknowledgement of the audience or even the other band members, such is my possessed-like state. I would be much happier if we never played live.
Once, you filled the opening slot on an Iron Maiden tour that even had you coming to Portugal at one point. What memories do you hold from that unusual tour and do you like coming to Portugal every now and then?
We loved the whole Iron Maiden tour and Portugal was great; the weather was fantastic and the people we met were friendly and interesting.
We have been back a few times. Sarah’s first ever live show playing keyboards for us was in Portugal and I’m sure we’ll return with the new album. I have never visited Portugal for personal pleasure, but I’m sure I’ll make it one day.
On your earlier shows, Martin Powell used to play both violin and keyboards, which conferred an even more romantic and theatrical approach. Recently, I read that he was supposed to come back to the band and record new violin tracks. Is there any veracity to this? Regardless, why did he leave the band and are you planning to work together in the future?
Martin didn’t actually leave, he was kicked out for not coming to rehearsal, but that’s ancient history now and we’re all good friends again. We never bothered looking for another violin player after him, as we felt we could manage easily without, which was the case. However, we now have another in the lovely form of Katie Stone and the music is now better than ever! I’m afraid I think it’s unlikely that we’ll be working with Martin again, but you never know.
Unlike most artists, you’ve been proudly working with Peaceville since day one. What is the recipe for this successful relationship and have you ever had to think things over at one point?
We’ve had an excellent relationship with Peaceville, simply because they actually listen to what we say and don’t pressure us into stupid decisions. Having very good communication with many people at the label has made us friends, as well as colleagues, so that anything is possible and we have no desire to move to anyone else.
Apart from My Dying Bride, you also use to paint works of varied nature. Would you mind telling more about this and for how long you have been doing it?
I’ve always been interested in the arts and have used my creativity to embellish our music with covers for several recordings, being heavily influenced in early years by Dave McKean. I used many forms of media but, with the progress of technology, I mainly use digital cameras and computer software these days, as I find it very flexible. I’ve been lucky enough to have my work displayed at a few galleries and have even sold a few prints, but it’s the chance to express myself, visually, that I love the most. I’m probably not going to win any awards for my work but that’s not why I do it. Like my lyrics, my artwork is a visual expression of my inner thoughts and so they are often not the most pleasant thing to look at. Have a look at www.azzron.com
, but don’t expect Van Gogh!
Your graphics and videos have been quite artistic since they have the ability to easily transport the observer to more inspired realms. Have you ever had the drive, or initiative, to work with film? If so, would you prefer a more austere sort of production or rather the more basic, but sometimes even more compelling, black-and-white, low-budget method?
I’d certainly love to have a go at making films and I often make sure I have my say when we shoot promotional videos. I have no interest in the turgid, predictable shite that comes from Hollywood and would much rather be involved in low-budget artistic efforts with compelling actors and gripping subject matter. If I wasn’t in My Dying Bride, I’m sure I’d be involved in the video/film industry, with perhaps even my own modest company.
Have you got any artists, books, movies and paintings you tend to look up to?
My tastes change every 5 to 10 years, so the art that I liked when I was younger seems less impressive today – likewise for Music and Film. I won’t preach what I’m into these days, as it’s often rewarded with crass comments from opinionated individuals because, of course, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”.
My Dying Bride