(KevinP brings us another installment of his short-interview series, and this time he talks with Andrew Craighan, co-founder/guitarist/composer of My Dying Bride, whose new album Feel the Misery is set for release by Peaceville Records on September 18 — and reviewed here on our site.)
K: One of the things that struck me last time we spoke (right after A Line of Deathless Kings was released in 2006) was how you would write all the music, then give it to Aaron, and he would lock himself away for a week or so with some wine and candles and just spit forth all the lyrics. He wasn’t privy to hearing the music beforehand. Has anything fundamentally changed in that regard over the years?
A: It was more or less the same on this one. I wrote at home and would send out odd and sods when I thought I had something of use. The band, Aaron included, would get used to them or learn the riffs in anticipation of needing to play it later. The full songs were then arranged again alone by me initially. Then, when in a playable state, we would rehearse them live at Voltage and re-arrange or write anything new there that fit or was needed. Again, completely developed without any vocals or lyrics by everyone in the band but Aaron. He doesn’t ever come to those parts of the process but has “demo” versions sent to him. What he does with them no one knows as he always seems “surprised by music” at the studio and on this one I got a bit more involved on the vocal melodies too, which was cool.
In fairness to him, he was having a truly rough time during the vocal recordings and it was obvious his mind was elsewhere on occasion due to a personal situation with his father. So we have to factor that in on this one. But he still delivered some fucking truly beautiful lines along with some of the best death metal stuff he’s ever done. He had to dig in though on occasion.
K: Even though most of the album was written prior to Calvin rejoining the fold, how did his return affect the final product? Were you surprised by how things ultimately transpired from when you first started writing to where it ended up?
A: His return did affect the music. The vast majority was done before his return, but there was still a lot to do and improvements made (to what I thought were pretty good songs) by using some of his riffs that I thought had a classic old school MDB feel to them. In places I’d deliberately ask him to write this type of riff for X minutes in the song, “A Cold New Curse”, for example. It all just worked, he’s very professional for a left-hander and is a fucking godsend.
Plus when we went loud with them at Voltage, he along with Lena, Dan, and Shaun were instrumental in getting some of the creases out of the songs that I couldn’t see because of a “you always love your own kids” type of blindness. The album became better than I could have imagined and I can’t take all the credit. The whole band had their say in this. Yes, me a little more in writing, but it wouldn’t be what it is without any of them. Philthy Mullins included, and he’s a fucking drummer!!
K: One of the more distinguishing features that jumps out at me on Feel the Misery is Shaun’s use of keyboards/pianos, which are more prominent than the violins. This reminds me of The Dreadful Hours record (even though he was not involved on that album). Do you ever have to say “let’s not use anything here/in this spot” ’cause maybe you want a certain sound conveyed?
A: When I was writing I had set ideas where violin/keys would go. It wasn’t always correct though, so we would write and re-write until we were all happy that the effect felt right. This then changed again once the vocals arrived and some things had to be moved/deleted or re-written. Shaun knows what he’s doing now and can almost anticipate what we want and where. But we work together well and he always comes up with the goods, even if his demo names for his parts ruin all sense of doom and sensibility.
(K: Note – I attempted to get Shaun to divulge this info and he wouldn’t. I can only assume he was too ashamed. Haha)
K: After 25+ years of doing this, are you still surprised/perplexed/immune/etc. to what fans’ expectations are and their reaction to each new release? How has your mental mindset changed over the years to these things?
A: I think I’m still susceptible to ego, as most band members are, even though I try not to be. I also know to not take it all too seriously now (but still fail sometimes). It’s music, not heart surgery. I forgot how to enjoy MDB for a while and this record is rekindling some of that. It’s metal, I love metal, so why am I not smiling? I have had to let go of some of the constraints I thought were important and that includes fans’ expectations or so called reviews (that are not peer reviews either). So my mindset has had to change or I had to clock out. As for what fan expectations are, I can’t add that to the mix, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. So on this record I just thought, fuck it, I’m doing a My Dying Bride record I would do. Then did.
K: I’m an old school elitist prick.
A: Ha ha, aren’t we all OSEPs?
K: LOL. So I preface this because I’ve been with you chaps since the beginning and I’m always going to be partial to the death metal portion of your sound (even though I do enjoy and appreciate all the aspects of your sound). One of the things I’m pleased about on the new record is the inclusion of more death metal (as compared to most of the recent albums). Yes, we had “A Chapter in Loathing”, the beginning/end of Barghest and ‘Vår gud över er”, but that felt like more of a tease, knowing what you could ultimately do if you really wanted to. So has your musical palette evolved or changed over the years?
A: For me I don’t think I’ve changed musically that much. I would always like an equal amount of death metal vocals in MDB or more for that matter. But ultimately I can’t force Aaron to do that. On the previous two albums I would have had more death metal if I could, but I can only vote once. And on those albums we had many differences of opinion on what MDB should be. This album is more my version of MDB. But I want to put this on record after saying what I just said: We all stood by the decisions taken on the last albums. We have a quite democratic vibe in the band and we collectively make the decisions and then live or die by them.
K: You’ve been able to grace us fans on this side of the pond with your performances on 70K Tons of Metal in 2012, Maryland Deathfest in 2014, and now 70K again in 2016. But have there been any serious discussions or possibilities for even a mini US TOUR (even if you piggyback it before or after a festival date)?
A: There was, but it fell through due to time. We all work for a living, MDB is just some dark skeleton in our closet . So unless the band gets significantly bigger in the next year (which is unlikely) it will stay this way. We do what we can though.