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Interview: Aaron Stainthorpe (My Dying Bride)

Pure metal...interviews

The lengthy conversation that I had with Aaron Stainthorpe, singer of the British Metal outfit My Dying Bride was a once in a lifetime experience. I had a whole hour at my disposal, enough to ask Aaron about the bandís latest release 'Songs of Darkness, Worlds of Light', the significant number of upcoming new releases as well as to get some useful insight into how the music industry really works.

Well Aaron, 2005 is the year that we will be celebrating the 15th anniversary of My Dying Bride. How does that make you feel?

Aaron: I never expected to get this far down the line. Itís incredible, because we formed like many other bands have formed - a bunch of guys who had a few beers together and thought that it would be cool to start a band together. We thought that maybe we could make one demo tape and play a couple of live shows, and here we are fifteen years later and weíre still doing it. We enjoy it as well, which is also really important.

Which, do you think, are the main reasons which contributed to having My Dying Bride still here with us after all these years?

Aaron: I think itís because we never concentrated on money. We only concentrated on enjoying writing our music. A lot of bands they form because they want to become Rock stars, become famous and make lots of money, but they donít actually realize that itís a lot of hard work. A lot of young bands split up after one album, because there is no money. To me thatís silly. You should be in a band because you want to create good music and thatís exactly what we have done. We donít care if our albums sell very small quantities or very big quantities - thatís just a bonus. We like writing good music, and we will continue doing it and if Peaceville decided that they want to let us go, then we will try to find another label even if itís a small underground label. We will still find someone to release our music. We wonít split up, because this is what we enjoy doing!

The truth is that I was waiting to receive such an answer from you, mainly because of the fact that you have been with Peaceville records since 1991, which is a good fourteen years! I donít think that Iíve met another band that has been so faithful to a label for such a long period of time.

Aaron: Iím not sure if itís this or the other way round. Peaceville has been really faithful to My Dying Bride. There are some good points here, because Peaceville is from the same area as My Dying Bride, so if we ever need to have a discussion with Peaceville, sometimes itís cool to just drive round. It takes ten minutes to get there with my car, and I can have a coffee with Hammy and Lisa and thatís great. Weíve had a great working relationship with them for a long time. I actually knew both Hammy and Lisa before My Dying Bride even formed. They are friends and thatís wonderful. They donít want to rip me off, because Iíve known them for so long and I donít want to bullsh*t them because we have been friends for a long time. Weíve had a great working relationship. If we want something, and itís not too crazy, they will give it to us - if they want something, and itís not too crazy, we will give it to them! Thatís how you work well with people.

Since the release of 'Towards the Sinister' which was back in 1990, you have been releasing either an album or and EP almost every year. Thatís also quite a remarkable thing really. Didnít you guys ever feel tired from releasing albums and going on tour every so often?

Aaron: Yes, there were moments when it all got very tiring and we were looking for a break, on the other hand, though, there were moments when we were really lazy and we would take quite a lot of time off. We would tell people that we were going on tour for six months, but really we would only tour for two weeks (laughs). Everybody thought that we would tour for six months, and so...we werenít as busy as everyone expected, plus of course some of the releases that we had are really compilations by the record label. We didnít spend months in the studio writing and recording them. The live album was obviously recorded live and the Meisterwerk records are all compilations. Of course, they are all part of our back catalogue, and when you count them all, yes, it looks like there is one every year. Weíre not really as hard working as I think some people think. Plus in the early days, the contract we had with Peaceville was for three EPs and for three LPs alternating between, and we just thought that this was great. We were young kids and we had a great record deal, so we recorded everything that Peaceville records wanted us to do. Again itís because we like writing songs - if we didnít like writing songs, we would have split up years ago.

Lisa informed me the other day that you guys are going to release quite a few things in the near future, such as the re-release of 'For Darkest Eyes' DVD, the release of a brand new DVD, plus a box set which I am hoping you will now inform me of its content.

Aaron: Well, I have no idea why the original DVD is going to be re-released - you might want to speak with Peaceville about that. Itís obviously a marketing thing, but thatís fine by us, if thatís what they want to do.

So you really donít have any idea if thereís going to be any bonus material added to that new edition, like the video for 'The Prize of Beauty' for instance?

Aaron: No, I donít think so.

My Dying Bride

So how are you going to convince the fan of the band that already possesses the original copy to go ahead and buy the re-release then? (I laugh)

Aaron: Well, this is it - I donít have to (laughs). I donít care if people buy it or not (laughs). If people buy it, then thatís fine but if they donít buy it, it doesnít matter because itís a re-release anyway. They already bought it, why are they going to buy it again? (laughs).

Thatís a fair question, but knowing myself, I am going to buy the re-release - donít ask me why though (I laugh).

Aaron: I think sometimes...I donít know how it is in other countries, but in England sometimes our DVD is very difficult to find. Some stores will only keep it for a couple of years, and then it becomes old and dusty, and theyíre not interested in it - they want a new product. I guess that Peaceville can recognize this, and so they simply created a new artwork for it, and they may have digitally enhanced some other stuff - Iím not sure. Then, by putting it back into the stores, the stores think 'cool, it may be a re-release, but itís a new product officially' and they will stick it back into the shelves so that people that couldnít find it will now be able to do so.

Itís all marketing, but I donít mind it. If people buy it, then thatís great! As far as the new DVD is concerned, the main part of it is the live show that we did in Belgium. Actually, this was two years ago, so this is quite an old show, but it will also have 'The Prize of Beauty' promotional video on it, and the new 'The Blue Lotus' video, which weíve just now finished making. Thereís also a lot of backstage stuff and also a lot of fan art too.

Weíve contacted through our website all our fans and said 'send us your artwork thatís inspired by My Dying Bride, and weíll put it on our new DVD'. A couple of fans also send videos as well - theyíre not brilliant, theyíre OK and we thought that it would be great to put them on.

Making a video is kind of a big deal for amateurs, and if some of our fans have gone out of their way to make some videos, even if theyíre not going to win an Oscar, they look great, theyíre fun and most importantly, theyíre inspired by My Dying Bride!

I think that the new DVD will probably sell really well, because it has a new live show, promo stuff, backstage stuff and I think that it is a bit more interesting than the original DVD. Iím not sure when the release date will be for any of these items, including the box set - again, this is an unusual thing that I donít know so much about. We did the Meisterwerk albums a few years ago, so as to celebrate our tenth anniversary, and I guess that, in order to celebrate our fifteenth anniversary, Peaceville thought that it would be cool to do something I guess a bit similar. The Meisterwerk things really were the kind of rare stuff - the demo stuff and the EP stuff that a lot of people would possibly not be able to find, whereas the new box set is basically what we would consider our best material. Again, I have no idea when thatís going to be released.

Talking about best material: I saw on your website that you mention 'Like Gods of the Sun' as your favorite My Dying Bride release.

Aaron: It was, until very recently. I love that album because I think it was the first album where I chose not to do any Death Metal vocals, so I tried other vocal styles, plus for me, the guitars were really heavy on that album. I donít know, the combination of really heavy guitars and my vocals plus the way that the songs were written....This was a great period in our career, and for me, that album had everything about My Dying Bride that I liked at that time, and until the release of the album 'The Dreadful Hours'. Now, 'The Dreadful Hours' is my favorite album, because again it has all the bright elements of My Dying Bride, including the Death Metal vocals as well. It has really melodic flow stuff, but also quite a lot of aggressive stuff, and for me it seems to feel as the ultimate My Dying Bride album, even though some fans will always say that 'Turn Loose the Swans' will always be the greatest. That was a very good album in deed, but I think that 'The Dreadful Hours' is now my favorite.

Even though I was first introduced to the bandís music in 1993 by the release of 'Turn Loose the Swans', I still find it very difficult to indicate my favorite album of the band. I know that I got really hooked on 'The Light at the End of the World' when it was released, but I guess it also has to do with the fact that this was the album that brought back to the surface the heavier side of the band.

Aaron: Yes, that was because weíve already done the '34.788%' album before. That was basically all the crazy ideas that we had in our heads and that we decided to record them. That basically left us wanting to get back to the raw talent of our early days. All the experiments were done, now letís get back to write pretty simple, aggressive stuff. So 'The Light at the End of the World' was really quite raw and fairly aggressive at times. This is actually the easiest album that weíve ever written - something that weíve just enjoyed doing. We didnít feel that we needed to blow peopleís minds with crazy riffs or unusual structures - we just thought that weíve done all the crazy stuff on our previous album. For this one, let's just relax and enjoy it - come up with some great riffs, not over complicated, just enjoyable. For me, 'The Light at the End of the World' is the easiest and most enjoyable album that we ever recorded, because we simply didnít feel the need to impress anyone with it.

Having just mentioned the album '34.788%', I would like to know the idea behind such a title. You have to admit that this is quite an unusual name for a record.

Aaron: Our old guitar player Calvin (Robertshaw) had this dream one night, when he kind of had this vision that mankind...weíre like a clock and when we lived our lives, we would be like 100% and that so far we had lived 34.788% of our lives...

Oh God (I laugh).

Aaron: Yes, I know! He must have been drinking or smoking something (laughs), so he figured out...he said that it was God that told him that you have lived for 34.788% of your life - although thatís not even half way, because of apparently the way technology is speeding things up, our lives seem to be going faster and faster and faster. In reality, or relatively speaking, we have gone past the halfway point, because weíre using up Earthís resources much quicker with each year. Yes, it was one of these apocalyptic dreams, and Calvin just said 'that number, 34.788%, that just sticks in my head - thatís how long we lived, and we still have a lot of way to go, but weíre going there very very quickly'. When we heard about it, we said 'youíre crazy, but we like it'.

I never really understood why the album was never received that well by the majority of the My Dying Bride fans. Normally itís people from the press that need to get persuaded about something, but this time round, even though you had their support, it was the fans who didnít really get into it. Why do you think that was the case?

Aaron: Well, My Dying Bride, for years before that, built their foundation image as Gothic/Doom - everything was black with crosses, haunted mentions and all that gothic I guess 'cheese' to some extent. When we came out with that album, people just looked at it and said 'whereís the dark gothic crosses and the blackness? The title is not the usual poetically dark title that we would expect from My Dying Bride.

A lot of fans thought 'this is not My Dying Bride - this is somebody else'! Of course, we knew that the album would have been heavily criticized, but again, we donít care how many records we sell because weíre enjoying doing this.

We didnít write an album like that and expect to be the biggest selling album ever. We knew it would be criticized, but we didnít care. We liked it, we wanted to do it, and we did it and Peaceville thankfully they released it and they stood by us.

I am sure that Hammy and Lisa probably thought 'This would be a difficult one to sell', but we didnít care! I still think that this is a very strong album, and it was heavily criticized, mainly by the fans of the band to start with. Now, funnily enough, several years later, as our fans become getting older, they are now starting to realize that this album is really good. I think that if I gave it a dark, gothic cover and changed the title to something more typically My Dying Bride, then people would have bought it and loved it and maybe perhaps said 'Ok, 'Heroin Chic' is a weird song, and perhaps shouldnít be there, but the rest of it is still heavy, dirty, depressing, bleak My Dying Bride. We chose to do it in a weird way because we can.

I have always compared this release of yours with 'Into the Pandemonium' from Celtic Frost, because they received a similar 'treatment' by their fans when the album was released. Nowadays, you see all those people referring to it as a ground breaking album.

Aaron: Of course I remember that very well. I bought 'Into the Pandemonium' as soon as it came out, and I loved everything about it. It was a fantastic release and, of course, some people criticized it, because they wanted to listen to some classic Celtic Frost which it is now. I guess that some people could make comparisons with '34.788%', which I wouldnít mind at all. Was it ahead of itís time? I donít know! Itís just a bit interesting, a bit unusual and we thoroughly enjoyed it!

If you take a close look at the bandís bio, which is featured on your official website, you will see many different categorizations used in order to describe the bandís style. I think that itís really important to ask your opinion, as the bandís frontman. How do you feel about all those different titles?

Aaron: I think that theyíre a testament to how interesting My Dying Bride must be if people cannot put their finger on what to describe them with. People say that weíre gothic, doom, Death Metal...they do struggle to sometimes come with the right definition of what My Dying Bride is. But again, that is a positive thing, because if they simply said gothic, then that would mean that weíre not really very interesting - we just play gothic music. Now, the poor journalist has to try and explain to the readers what My Dying Bride is, what theyíre supposed to sound like, and they struggle sometimes to do that. I think that this is a wonderful thing! When you just say Thrash, you know exactly what a Thrash band sounds like. When you say Death Metal, you know exactly how a Death Metal sounds like, and to me, it is a credit to the music that weíve created all these years that even today people canít quite describe My Dying Bride as easy as a lot of other bands out there.

That is very true, and thank you very much for sympathizing with us (I laugh).

Aaron: Thatís quite alright (laughs).

OK, letís talk about the bandís last studio album 'Songs of Darkness, Words of Light' which was released almost a year ago. Whatís your opinion about it nowadays?

Aaron: Yes, I am definitely satisfied with it. Again, I thought that the 'Dreadful Hours' was fantastic, and I still do, but I do now feel that the 'Songs of Darkness, Words of Light' is...I can imagine this album being my favorite in a couple of years. Itís got everything as a release, like some really awesome doom moments of complete misery. The last few minutes of 'A Doomed Lover' are so great that makes my hair stand on end! The last few minutes of that song are what I consider to be doom - thatís how Doom Metal should sound. Then, there are some really aggressive parts that when you hear them you will probably think 'that guyís possessed'(laughs). Itís great to get to scream sometimes on some of the songs, to actually get that anger out. I enjoy doing that sort of stuff - I enjoy the whole writing process. This, by the way, was the most difficult album for me to write.

How come?

Aaron: I guess weíve written a lot of songs now, and I do try to get better with each album, obviously, but that becomes more and more difficult each time. The fans expect so much from me, and I expect so much from myself. I could never sit down and write the song in two minutes, without any depth. I have to spend a lot of time researching and concentrating and making sure that all the words are exactly right, without trying to repeat myself from earlier material. This is very difficult, because the subjects that interest me are the kind of darker things in life, and there is only so many times that you can sing about death and misery and lost love and romance - you canít keep doing it for every album. I have, but I somehow managed to approach this subject from different angles, and the fans donít seem to be getting bored yet.

While I was writing 'Songs of Darkness...' there were moments where I was thinking 'Iíve done this before, I cannot continue doing this because the fans will hate this. Itís the same as in Turn Loose the Swans, but just so happens that itís released fifteen years later'. Somehow, through really hard work, Iíve managed to come up with the goods, and people appreciate it, and so weíve now settled down to start writing material for the next album.

I can see that itís going to be really hard because I have to beat the last two albums, which personally I think are fantastic, so how do I top them? Itís just going to be hard for me. I will get no enjoyment from writing the next album - I will only start to enjoy it once itís fully recorded, and I can take it home and listen to it there when itís finished. Until then, I have plenty of months ahead of me to really struggle and come up with the goods.

When you say that youíre going to write the new album, are you only referring to the construction of the lyrics or also to vocal and even guitar melodies?

Aaron: I obviously do all the lyrics, but the writing process involves the whole band. We have always been a very democratic band - everybody likes to contribute something to the songs. Although I donít play the guitar, if I come up with an idea the will listen to it. When I write a lyric, I kind of have a tune in my head of what I think that it should sound like. Then I take it to the rest of the guys and its a little bit embarrassing when I have to stand in the middle of the rehearsing room going 'daddadadadadadadad' (note: Aaron was trying to impersonate the sound of a guitar riff with his mouth - regardless to say that we laughed our hearts out for a few seconds).

They can convert my stupid muttering to guitar tunes, and it all comes together really well. Sometimes they say that it sounds like sh*t, and some other times they say that, with a little bit of work, it can become a great riff.

The lyrics, again, are very hard to write because I am unfortunate enough to have a really good back catalogue of well-written words, and I must get better. I cannot go backwards because whatís the point to that - itís counter productive. I must go forwards.

You always struck me as one of those people who would spend plenty of their free time reading books. Maybe itís because I know Lisa. Am I to assume that books have been a good source of inspiration for your lyrics?

Aaron: It is true - I do read a lot. Sometimes books are the source - sometimes I will purposely go and find a book that I will hope might inspire a My Dying Bride song. This was a perfect case in the Nick Cave book 'And the Ass Saw the Angel' - this completely inspired me to write 'The Raven and the Rose' from the previous album.

This was a direct inspired song there, and I think that I even credited Nick Cave on the last album for the inspiration. However, I am also a big fan of comedy.

At the moment Iím reading a book from Ade Edmonson who, along with Rick Mayall used to be in 'The Young Ones' which was a crazy English programme from years ago. This guy is basically insane, and this book is hilarious - a book full of stupid jokes and funny stories.

Of course it will not directly inspire me to write a song, but I still need to feed my mind with lots of information, and sometimes if you get too much into the real heavy stuff and all that Shakespearian poetry and the ancient Greek tragedy, it is essential to get away from all that by reading a comedy book. This helps clear your mind a bit and makes you feel good again. You are not bogged down with all this intellectual bullsh*t, and then itís good again to go back to Shelley and read something that he wrote which will hopefully inspire you to write some good lyrics.

Again, you cannot read that material all the time, because you will become so depressed that your lyrics will mimic the great poets too much and people will see that. The fans will look at your lyrics and say 'well, Shelley wrote that 200 years ago - itís not new'. Youíve got to be inspired by other people, but not rip them off.

Does that mean that you always feel like youíre under the microscope when it comes to your lyrics?

Aaron: Yes, definitely. I wrote, completely coincidentally, a lyric which was also featured in a book that Andrew was reading. That was during the 'Symphonaire Infernus' era, and when I saw the book I couldnít believe it. I wondered at the time if other people have read the book that Andrew was reading and thought that I have copied it. I do feel that every single thing that I write, even the song or the album titles, is going to be analyzed by a lot of people. I shouldnít look at the My Dying Bride forum so much, because thatís where all the fans go. But they are die hard fans and they will criticize everything and look everything under the magnifying glass. I shouldnít really go there because Iím really too self-critical - I should look at what the journalists say and stick to that. I should not read what our die-hard fans will say because, quite naturally, they will tear everything apart to find out every single scrap of information.

I sincerely hope that you will not take everything that is written by the music journalists too seriously...anyway, letís talk about the artwork of your last album. I would like you to explain to me the whole concept behind such an impressive work.

Aaron: Well, I donít know if youíre aware, but I didnít do the artwork this time. I know itís kind of weird, because a lot of people expected me to do it. The simple reason for not doing it, was that I completely ran out of time doing the artwork because I was too busy doing other things.

We had to ask a friend of ours called Andy Green if he could help us out, because Andy actually did the album cover for the 'Like Gods of the Sun' release. Heís got a lot of experience, and we basically said 'come up with a couple of ideas, and letís have a look'.

We picked that one because we felt...itís a bit embarrassing, but we just thought that it looked good (laughs). We edited a few things because the image in the front originally had a lot of chains coming from the womanís flesh, going to the side of the cover and me though that it was a bit cheesy. It looked like the hellraiser or even more like a Black Metal album, so we made him to take those away and make some color adjustments.

It sounds very shallow, but we simply liked it. I thought that it represented the material that weíve written for that album, so we said 'thanks Andy, it looks great - weíll use that'. There is no story behind the album cover, but it doesnít mean anything - it just looks good (laughs).

Tell us a few things about the unbelievably good production that youíve managed to achieve on the last album. Being a member of My Dying Bride for the last fifteen years means that you have also developed a wider knowledge as far as the recordings are concerned. Do you nowadays feel a lot more relaxed when you know that the time for the recording of the next album is approaching?

Aaron: Yes, I do feel more confident because I believe that you always learn from your mistakes. Things that you wanted to do differently on your previous album, you now can. Also the recording process has changed a lot over the years. In the early days, of course, we recorded on these huge reels of tape and editing was very difficult back then. If you had a technical piece of editing to do, you just didnít do it - you thought 'to hell with it - let the song go'.

Nowadays, we record straight onto a hard drive, a computer, and the whole song is basically visual on a monitor. You can see every note played like a heartbeat. It looks wonderful, and it makes editing really easy. You can basically cut and paste various parts of the song all over the place, without having to re-play it - itís incredible. It fills us with confidence, so we welcome new technology. Many people shy away from it, but we pretty much welcome it. Itís simply there to aid us - it cannot write a good song for us, but itís there to simply make both the writing and the recording process easier for us, and thatís only a good thing!

So yes, we go into the studio with our songs which are about 80% complete, and we know that we can finish them in the studio. Again, the studio is always local - weíve always used Academy and that even closer that Peaceville! I can walk to the Academy! We know the owner really well, so we go there, we chill out, we watch TV with him and his family and we record our stuff when weíre happy and ready to do so.

We do those things with a cup of tea and a pizza, being really relaxed and comfortable. Peaceville are really generous and they say 'spend as much time as you want in the studio and let us know when we can come and listen to some stuff'!itís a great working relationship, and also a great studio to go and work at. Theyíve got all the latest technology and fantastically, they always given us a better deal because weíre a local band (laughs).

We approach every album now with renewed confidence, because we know that the production can only get better, simply because the technology that helps us to do that is getting better too!

My next question has to do with your latest video 'The Prize of Beauty', which is the first video that you made after the one for the song 'For You' - the latter having been released almost eight and a half years ago. Why did it take you guys so long to invest again in this specific form of entertainment?

Aaron: There are a couple of reasons for that. One of the main ones was that basically MTV and a few more other music channels in England had altered the kind of material they were prepared to play and we though 'hang on - thereís no point in spending £10.000, filming a brand new video if MTV canít be bothered showing it. MTV Europe even changed a little bit, but the British side of things was really sh*tty, and we just thought that we canít justify spending that much money if not many people will see it. We just thought 'letís not bother then'.

Our videos, to be honest with my hand on my heart, have never been good anyway. Letís have a rest from doing videos, and continue writing our music, and if the scene changes in the future, then weíll do another video.

We felt that, when we did 'The Prize of Beauty', MTV and other UK music shows are now back on line with the more interesting forms of music. We thought that thereís renewed interest in My Dying Bride, and people are prepared to show more extreme videos so the timing is just right - letís do another video.

Again, Peaceville said 'OK, weíre ready when you are - let us know how much money you want and you go and do your next video'. Unfortunately, the video is nowhere as good as it should have been. Weíve completely run out of time again. It was just pure laziness on our part. We should have had that video finished months before it was.

Peaceville gave the deadline by saying 'MTV will show the video to promote your album, but it must be released round the same time as the album and we were so slow with it. We were late and MTV said 'well, we will show it a couple of times, but only if it makes the deadline'. We were running out of time, so we said 'cut, just send it', and it was nowhere near finished.

I am more embarrassed about that video than some of the first ones that we did, because I know a lot of the elements that were not included. We have done another one anyway, 'The Blue Lotus'. I havenít seen this one yet because it has only just been finished. Basically, it has the usual sort of band playing along with their instruments, trying to Rock níRoll with a bit of a fairytale, because blue lotus is a grim fairytale. Thereís a little bit of that narrative filmed in there as well, and from some of the steel shots which have been e-mailed it looks really good. I cannot wait to see it - I will probably see it for the first time tomorrow!

I wish I was there to see it with you!

Aaron: I hope itís good.

Aaron, allow me to disagree with you as for the quality of some of the previous My Dying Bride videos. The one you did for 'Cry For Mankind' for instance was brilliant as far as Iím concerned.

Aaron: Well, that was OK. In fact, funnily enough, it was the same guy who made that video who just made 'The Blue Lotus', so it was good to start working with him again. Heís got some great new ideas, and as I say the stills look great, and hopefully it will look really good.

Time for a very unfair question: which is your favorite composition from the 'Songs of Darkness, Words of Light'?

Aaron: Hmm!this is a good question, because!I like 'My Wine in Silence', because itís slow and very depressing. Plus, the version that Iíve got is the version that I wanted to have. The version that is on the album is not the version that I wanted to be released, but Andrew, the guitar player, liked it and everybody else liked it. As I said, Iím a democratic type of guy, so I said 'OK, release that you bast*rds (laughs). Can I please have my version?' Basically, my version does not have the aggressive vocals so itís all mellow. So, thatís a great song, plus stuff like 'Catherine Blake' has all the right elements. Itís a wonderful song to sing. Weíve played it a few times live and it just works really well. It has all kinds of classical My Dying Bride elements to it!I suppose that if I had to pick one song, it would be 'Catherine Blake'.

'The Wreckage of My Flesh' is also a very good song, but letís not really get into that kind of thinking now. Talking about live performances, I saw the band live for the very first time a year ago when you played in the London Astoria. This was part of a three day tour that you guys did, and then I was hoping that you guys would play again in London soon - something that didnít happen, at least to my knowledge.

Aaron: Thatís true! Itís strange because this is actually business bulsh*t! The Astoria has a contract where if you play there, you must agree not to play in London and possibly even the UK for at least six months!

Youíve got to be joking!

Aaron: No, thatís a genuine contract and because we havenít played in the UK for quite a long time because itís sh*t (laughs) we said 'Yeah, Ok - we only intend to do one show in the UK anyway - we might as well do it in the Astoria'. Believe it or not, there are a lot of clubs all over the world who have identical contracts. Some of them say that 'if you play here, it must be twelve months before you play again in this country'.

Norway is one of these places. We played!in fact, we broke the contract because last year we played at the Inferno festival and just a month later we turned up at another festival there and the people who organized the Inferno festival are still trying to sue us. Well, they can fu*k off! They are not getting any money because itís a rip off - itís completely insane! If we have to go to court, then theyíre not going to win. Even though it is the contract, itís a bullsh*t contract. There are countries all over the world that have these crazy demands and there are some bands that are happy to break the contract and play everywhere but you have to be careful!

It must be really nice to see that there are so many people out there who 'love' music and will do 'anything' to promote it!(note: this was quite sarcastic, in case you guys didnít get it).

Aaron: Yes, itís completely ridiculous!

OK, letís change subject. You told me that you guys have started recording material for your next studio album. Are you willing to give up any info as to how itís going to sound?

Aaron: I have no idea - we havenít played anything yet (laughs). I have written one set of lyrics, thatís all. Both Andrew (Craighan) and Hamish (Glencross), our guitar players, have about ten riffs in no particular order. I havenít even heard them yet, so itís very early. Same with all albums: weíve never really planned an album. We never know how itís going to sound like. We never sit down and say 'this album must be really aggressive, or this album must be the doomiest album ever'. Itís never like that. We simply write what we enjoy writing, and if it happens to be more doomy than aggressive, then itís just coincidence. There is no formula!sometimes the lyrics come first and I ask the guys to write music to stick with them, and sometimes theyíll come with the tapes and say 'this is the music - itís about six minutes long, can you write the lyrics to fit it'? Thatís the way we like to work and I believe that this is another reason why weíve been together for so long. Nobody says 'you must sing this - itís my song and itís fantastic'. We are always very flexible, and that has to be the best way of writing.

Can I ask you to explain to me of how you feel about live performances? I read on your website that you hate being on stage, and that sounds strange coming from the mouth of one of the most expressive Metal frontmen.

Aaron: I would be happy if we didnít play live ever again! When I write the lyrics, Iím often in a very unusual frame of mind. I can get very emotional and I can write whatís in my heart. When I come to play these songs live, I really live the moment when I wrote the lyrics, and itís hard for me. If Iím feeling depressed and upset and sad, I do not want to stand on stage in front of thousands of people and sing my heart out. It hurts too much! I canít do it! I only do it because the rest of the guys are so enthusiastic about doing it.

An hour before we go on stage, Iím just a miserable, unhappy guy. It has nothing to do with Rock star attitude or anything. I become very quiet, and I donít talk to anybody. I usually think 'why am I doing this - itís hurting too much. Itís painful. I can simply walk out right now if I really wanted'. Somehow though, I manage to summon all that courage to do it, because I know that I would upset a lot of people if I did walk out. I am on stage!some people say 'why does that guy look so theatrical, why does he fall on the floor and looks always so sad'. Itís because I am! I would rather be anywhere but on that stage - itís hard work. I pull all these weird shapes and positions! Iím almost trying to hide myself from the crowd.

I am trying to defend myself, because Iím opening up my heart to all these thousands of people and it just makes me squirm. It uncomfortable! Iím writhing around in agony!it just comes out, and I cannot help rolling around on the floor, almost being sick! Itís an awful feeling and I would prefer not to do it ever again!

It kind of makes sense now!

Aaron: If I didnít put so much hard work into the words - if I just wrote any bullsh*t 'yeah, love me baby, yeah, yeah', then of course I could sing that stuff because itís mindless. I put so much hard work into all these things that I do!I canít help re-living that moment on stage, and it just hurts so much!

My Dying Bride

Have you ever felt being on stage, playing one of the songs that really mean a lot to you, and having been in a situation where you receive something really negative from the audience? It must be really bad for a person like you to experience something like that.

Aaron: This is another bizarre reason why I become so introvert on stage. There are people in front of me in the crowd, but I donít see them! I look straight through them, because Iím in my own little world. Some people are stage diving and I donít see them. Sometimes, I fall over on stage because I have my eyes closed for nearly the whole of the show, because Iím in some land of torment. Sometimes after the show, Andrew will say 'wow, did you see those girls right in front of you - they were great, beautiful looking women' and I will just say 'nope, I didnít see them'. Fortunately we have very little negative reactions to our live shows, but if there was some, I wouldnít have seen it anyway!

Your favorite place in the world that youíre always looking forward to visit with the rest of the members of the band?

Aaron: We do like to play places that we havenít been to for a long time. When we played in Norway last year, it was seven years before the last gig, which is a long time. Places like Germany, Holland and Belgium have always been faithful to My Dying Bride, so we will always visit those territories. They are not especially interesting because weíve done them all this time. When we played in Greece, we loved that because weíve never been there before. That was a wonderful experience. When we played in Budapest it was a fantastic show. We are hoping to play in Turkey, Romania and Russia - weíre trying to arrange a gig in Moscow and possibly get to Japan and Australia. We had a wonderful tour in America several years ago with Ronnie J.Dio which was great. I love culture and society of new countries, so every time we go away, Iím the first one to do the touristy thing. I like to check out the places where we play live, so for me, the best places are the new places.

What is your proudest moment as a member of My Dying Bride?

Aaron: Oh, thatís a good question! I would say that there have been lots, and actually, this one goes back to a live performance. Not one specific show, but there has been many shows where the crowd has been absolutely fabulous. The best part of the live show for me is when I say goodnight (laughs). There are some nights when weíve stopped playing and the band is lying in the front of the stage and we bow to the crowd, and the crowd is going apesh*t! I stand there, and thatís the only time that I actually see the crowd and I just think 'wow, this moment is a great buzz, but it only lasts for two minutes - if only the rest of the show was like that' (laughs). To see a hall packed with fans covered in sweat, hearing their applause is a really great moment! Itís nice to be able to say to yourself 'weíve done it all. Weíve played for two hours, itís all come together perfectly - well done guys'.

Aaron, I think that itís time to finish this interview. I am really looking forward to listening to the new album when it will become available, but hopefully I will see you earlier, at a live show here in London.

Aaron: We will probably play in London at the end of this year, I presume. I think that the new album will probably come out near September/October this year, and we will do a winter tour starting or ending in London.

Can I ask you to send your message to the fans of My Dying Bride and the subscribers of Get ready to Rock?

Aaron: I can try, and it will be something like 'thanks for the support'. Fifteen years is a long, long time. I canít believe that weíre still here, and Iím sure that our fans cannot believe it. There are some die-hards who have supported us for all this time, and I salute you guys!

Album review

Interview © 2005 John Stefanis

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