I was afforded the chance to speak to Aaron Stainthorpe – the band’s vocalist – so I asked him some questions related to the album’s creation.
Ez: Hello, is that Aaron?
Aaron: It is, yes!
Ez: Hey Aaron, this is Ez from Culture Eater. How’re you going today?
Aaron: I’m doing okay. How are you?
Ez: Yeah I’m not bad Just really tired, but eh. You survive.
Aaron: Is it evening there?
Ez: Yeah, it’s evening here. It’s dark, it’s quiet.
Aaron: It sounds quite okay.
Ez: Yeah. It’s not bad. It’s been a long day, it’s nice relaxing way to end it.
I’ll start with probably one of the more obvious things:
It’s been five years since the last My Dying Bride album and you’ve now come out with [The Ghost of Orion]. Do you think the distance had any effect on the creation of the album, and if so what would that have been?
Aaron: Yeah, it will have done because…
We could have spent longer on the album. There was no deadline from Nuclear Blast. We could have actually carried on doing it. It’s one of those cases when when you’re given so much time. It’s a very rare thing because normally as soon as someone says “Can you do an album?” there is immediately a deadline and a budget. We had a budget but no deadline so…
Andrew – the main songwriter – with the other two members helped create a piece and then leave it for a week or two, then go back and listen to it again and go “Are there any inferior riffs?” and make them better. They did that with every single song and we don’t normally have that kind of luxury.
I was caught up with my daughter and the trouble she had in hospital so I was not taking part in any of the songwriting, but the rest of the guys had plenty of time to rework material to the point where some of the early songs were probably rewritten three or four times which has never happened before. They had time to fine tune them.
They hit the studio and again took their time recording. They did it in a really casual way. Andrew went in and did his guitars over a couple of weeks and then kept going in every now and again just to put a bit more guitar on here and there. Because he did all of the guitar writing, he obviously understood where melodies would work their best.
I think there’s one particular moment where there’s eleven guitars in one song. Again, we’ve never had the opportunity to do anything like that before, but we had the time to do it, so we took that and ran with it.
The album is very, very layered. There’s all kinds of stuff going on because we had the time to do it. We’ll never get that time ever again, but it was worthwhile doing.
Ez: You say that, but you never know. If the record label’s willing to go “Hey, do an album”, they might just do it again, you know?
Aaron: I doubt it. I think they were sympathetic because of what I was going through. They didn’t want to push, but we’ll see. Obviously this one’s just come out. I don’t even know when the next one’s scheduled.
We’ve got an EP coming out towards the end of the year as well. [Nuclear Blast] actually asked us if we could do about seventy-five to eighty minutes worth of music. That would allow for an EP later in the year. We said “Yeah, that’s fine”, so we recorded eleven songs, put eight on the album, but we let them pick which ones for the EP ’cause we love them all and we couldn’t decide. We just kept arguing.
We picked a few songs we definitely needed to be on the album and the rest were a free-for-all, so the record label just picked what they liked.
Ez: With the album, do you feel as though it’s an expansion of your core sound or do you feel it more reaffirms the My Dying Bride sound?
Aaron: The last album – Feel the Misery – got the best reviews of any of our albums. There were even a few ten out of tens which is just staggering really, but it means there’s more pressure when you record the new one to make it equal, if not better than the previous.
We kind of hope we’ve done that, but you really have to make sure that when you record an album, you really please yourselves as a band.
I know that sounds a bit cheesy, but one of the reason’s we’ve lasted for thirty years is because we write what we want to write. We don’t write for other people and as we’ve grown older and had more experiences, we’re better at what we do than what we used to be.
When you add all those things into the mix, we should be getting better and better with each album and improving on every record. I think we are.
You could argue that after thirty years no one cares anymore. Everyone’s familiar with the band. We could record any old garbage and people would still buy it and go “Yes, My Dying Bride”, but that’s just not good enough. There’s no way we want to do that. We’d be bored out of our minds if we continued to do the same thing over and over again.
In our case the band has to really enjoy what we do or we’re simply not gonna do it anymore.
Ez: Well there’s few bands that can do the same thing over and over again, like Motörhead. It’s good to hear that after all this time you guys are not willing to rest on your laurels so much.
Compared to when you were a younger band, what do you feel is the biggest challenge these days when it comes to creating an album? Other than trying to be better of course.
Aaron: I don’t think there are challenges as such. This album was challenging for me because my mindset was elsewhere, so The Ghost of Orion was super tough for me, but previously all of the other albums; they’re not a challenge. They’re actually…
It’s like if you know you’re pretty good at painting you’re happy to start another painting and you’re gonna enjoy that process and you’re hoping that the final results will be good and you pretty much know they are because you’re doing it and you won’t finish it until you like it, and it’s the same with this.
We don’t think “Alright, okay. We’ve got a new album to do. Ooooooo, how are we gonna approach this? What can we do? ohhEEEEEERRRRR!” There’s no fretting or stressing because we like what we do. We’re not doing something we don’t like so it’s generally smiles on faces from day one, and you can even have a laugh in the studio. Even if it’s take after take after take and you’re getting it wrong you can still laugh and say “Alright, well I’ll get it right eventually.”
I’m not a singer; I’m a vocalist, so I can’t get all the notes but I try. Sometimes I’m really stretching to get something that’s just on the very cusp of my abilities. Sometimes I can’t get it and we think “Oh, do you know what? Fuck it, use the auto-tune.” *laughs*
It is a creative thing. You’re having fun creating something you know you’re capable of doing. We certainly don’t find there are any stresses. Where the stresses would come is if you were in a band that relies 100% on the income from music. You need to create something that you don’t necessarily like yourself but you’re doing it to sell the most amount of records. That’s pressure and because My Dying Bride is a hobby for us – it’s not our main form of income – we can relax and really enjoy what we’re doing, because if it bombs it doesn’t matter! We’re not going to lose our homes.
Our collective means it won’t bomb because we don’t write stuff like that.
Ez: Fair enough. That makes a lot of sense. You’ve actually caught me off guard there. *laughs*
Ez: I was giving the album a spin just before I came into [the interview] and I noticed a lot of it is… you do have a bit of a mix of sounds, but when it comes to the title track it’s a very kind of ominous, mostly instrumental kind of cleanish guitar track. It comes closer towards the end of the album before the penultimate “The Old Earth” but it still kind of has the same feel as the rest of the album. Was that an easy translation to make when it comes to sound?
Aaron: There’s a few things on this album that we’ve not done before. The Ghost of Orion‘s title track; I’ve heard some people say it is an instrumental. It’s because my vocals on it are so low that on a sort of average ambient listen you don’t realise there are vocals there. It’s one of those tracks that’s really been made for good quality headphones ’cause in it I’m whispering the lyrics and they sort of flow in and out like a gentle breeze.
And again we didn’t have to do this. We could’ve done a standard song but we have standard songs and we don’t want to do standard songs all the time. You’ve got to do some things which might raise an eyebrow.
Of course we’re in a studio and we’ve got these massive speakers and we can listen to it on war volume. This sounds awesome to us, but if you listen to that particular song in your car you won’t hear any vocals whatsoever because they’re just there. They’re on the brink of not being heard so really the title track is a headphones-only song, but we’ve done quirky things like that in the past.
I like doing them. I would do a whole album full of that stuff but it’s not gonna work because you just… I could do a side project and get away with that I suppose but I don’t want to. I like the juxtaposition between the real sort of songs where you really have to open your ears and hear every nuance that’s happening against things that are full-on 100% doom and really LOUD. That up and down I think works really well.
I think that’s why we’ve always sold ourselves as being a doom-death band rather than just a doom band. All these bands claiming to be 100% pure doom; they’re so dull ’cause they’re doing the same thing!
We punctuate what we do with bursts of anger. You know, the death metal vocal will come in. There’s the whispering. The violins and the cello. We have to break stuff up a bit because any 100% form of a music, after a while is gonna get very very dull indeed. You have to have different spicy ingredients in there to keep it interesting. Otherwise everyone will tune out.
Ez: That makes a fair bit of sense too. Well, something more specific to you: was there anything in particular you were looking to achieve with your vocal performance on this album?
Aaron: No because I have a comfort zone and I get to the edges of it and quiver a little bit and return back to my shell because as I mentioned I’m not what you’d class as a singer. To me a singer is quite capable and happy to get all the right notes within their range, whereas a vocalist…
I’m thinking, though not comparing myself to the likes of Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger, who… if you really think about it, Bob Dylan can’t sing; let’s be honest, but he’s such a tremendous vocalist.
That’s how I consider myself: I can’t sing, but I can vocalise with the help a great band behind me.
When I went to the studio I sort of knew what I was gonna be doing. This album was tougher because the last album was such a long time ago. Andrew and the rest of the team had really raised the bar for this album and because I wasn’t taking part I literally entered the studio and started listening to it and said “right I’ll do the lyrics”.
I was still in old fashioned mode. I hadn’t raised the bar yet, so when I did my first round of vocals they were terrible. I thought “Hold on a minute; this is what I do and it’s not working anymore.” I had to do a little readjustment and I’ve sung more on this album than I have on previous albums. I’ve really tried to get the notes and we’ve done a lot of double-tracking, triple-tracking to harmonise the vocals. I’ve double-tracked stuff on every album but this time we really went for it to add a lovely harmony [and] lovely rich sound, so that’s kind of new I suppose.
I hope that the more you sort of practise and stretch yourself into these new areas you do become [better], so hopefully on the next album I may have become a slightly better vocalist and maybe expanded my range somewhat.
If you play guitar, you really want to be a good guitarist with a full capacity and it’s the same with vocalists. We don’t want to be a one-trick pony; We want to be able to dip into our tool bag and bring out a variety of items. So hopefully the experience on The Ghost of Orion will set me in good stead for the next album.
Ez: Well hopefully it does, but it’s a pretty decent performance.
Just a couple more questions for you Aaron. How did you guys came to work with Lindy-Fay Hella?
Aaron: Andrew is a big fan of Wardruna and his partner Deborah is a professor in witchcraft among other things. She’s very much into Pagan and folk and she’s been in touch of Einar of Wardruna for many years. She’s been over to interview him for various things so their household has a very close connection with [the band].
When Andrew was – for want of a better word – noodling away creating the music for the song he could sort of imagine in his mind her voice on it along with mine. I didn’t know much about Wardruna if I’m honest and I said “Yeah okay, let’s ask her and see if she’s interested”, so we sent the music over. She was very interested and she delivered the goods and we were blown away.
When I heard it I just thought “Look, no way I’m singing on this because it’s perfect already.” It’s just guitar and her vocals. There’s no bass, no drums, no violins and I just thought “I might ruin this *laughs* so I’m gonna step aside and we’ll leave it in its ethereal state because sounds just lovely”, so we did.
Ez: Fair enough. Lastly, what do you think My Dying Bride’s place in metal is at this stage?
Aaron: I don’t know because after thirty years you wonder if you’re still relevant, but looking at the review from the last album which were – as I said – the best we’ve ever had.
After that album our contract came to an end with Peaceville Records. Because of the reviews on the album we sort of hoped there was some relevance still to My Dying Bride in the world so maybe this could be an opportunity after all this time to maybe expand on that, so with the contract being over we shopped around.
Amazingly there were eleven record labels all hankering after a bit of My Dying Bride and we kind of hoped Nuclear Blast would be in there and they came up with a wonderful offer which we couldn’t refuse and so we signed it.
They’re a happening label at the moment. They’re – I hate to say this, but they’re on trend. To be wanted by a label like that, it means a lot to us. It means yes; we are still relevant. We have something to say and people want to hear it so that’s absolutely fantastic.
You know, the amount of press I’ve done… I mean, I’m getting a sore throat. It’s not the virus; I’ve been doing interviews since January! Every single day! I’ve talked my head off and I’ve got loads more to do today. There’s people out there who still think we have something and I think that’s wonderful.
Ez: Well, we’ll leave it at that. Thank you for your time. You’ve been an absolute pleasure Aaron. Please stay safe. I hope everything goes well for you and your family.
Aaron: Thank you very much. I appreciate your time as well. Stay safe as well and wash your hands!