Thus Spake the Wretched
CoC talks to Andrew Craighan of My Dying Bride
by: Pedro Azevedo
The attentive CoC reader may notice that My Dying Bride were last interviewed in this publication not long ago -- CoC #56, as a matter of fact, shortly after their latest studio album _The Dreadful Hours_ [CoC #55] came out. Why, then, would we interview them again so soon? Well, if you look at our Album Asylum and Chaotic Concerts sections in this issue, you will find reviews of a live album, a DVD re-release of a live video tape, and a gig. Yes, My Dying Bride have been rather active lately, and very remarkably so: their latest opus _The Dreadful Hours_ was my favourite album of 2001, and also came second in the overall CoC writers' top 20 [CoC #57], just behind Opeth. At 8:30pm sharp, my phone rings and I ask My Dying Bride guitarist Andrew Craighan how he feels about this result.

He thanks me for my personal choice, and acknowledges that "Opeth are a very good band, so that's not a bad place to be." But has every review of _The Dreadful Hours_ been positive, or is the band still being accused of choosing the easy path of going back to their musical roots? "The reviews have all been very, very good, full stop. We were accused of choosing the easy option on _The Light at the End of the World_ [CoC #44], which is something I never agreed with. Some people just didn't know what to say -- most journalists who are actually into the band never mentioned this, they just saw _TLatEotW_ as a great return to form, MDB doing what MDB do best. Those who were not into the band saw it as a step sideways, or a step back; I never saw it like that at all. When Calvin [Robertshaw, guitarist] left [after _34.788%_ [CoC #35]], we had to decide whether to continue with MDB as MDB or put My Dying Bride in the grave and start something new, because half the band was gone [including drummer Rick Myah and keyboard/violin player Martin Powell -- Pedro]. We just decided we can do this, this is what we do and who we are; we did what we felt in our hearts: cold, miserable, stupidly long songs that only MDB can get away with. <laughs> Our fans liked it, felt it was what they wanted to hear from MDB. The experimental crowd didn't like it, didn't think it was experimental enough for them, but I don't care -- we don't have to be too outlandish anymore. With Hamish [Glencross, guitarist] we now have a more stable line-up, a solid outfit who understand what our brand of blackness and doom is all about. And _The Dreadful Hours_ is what you get from that. We don't want to do the jump up and down metal that is popular these days."

It's been a long career -- going on twelve years now -- and the band must wonder whether they will be able to top such a solid album next time. What does Andy think about that? "That's a scary question. I thought _The Light at the End of the World_ was a brilliant album, but _The Dreadful Hours_ is even better -- I just thought, how the fuck did we do that?! <laughs> In between the gigs we're already putting down ideas for when we start to record, and it's a nerve-racking time -- thinking whether the next album is going to be better than _The Dreadful Hours_. It's a testing time. We don't know what we are going to sound like. I just hope we can at least equal _The Dreadful Hours_, or make something even better. We have some ideas to make it even more miserable in certain places which should sound good on CD."

My Dying Bride have recently been doing a bit of touring, and they traveled down to Portugal and the excellent Hard Club [see review in this issue]. It was the gig of my life, and apparently it was rather good for the band as well. I mention the excellent setting provided by the Hard Club, and Andy immediately agrees. "It's such an idyllic place. It's a strange place for gigs, such a beautiful setting, whereas gigs normally take place in industrialized parts of cities. Myself and Adrian especially enjoy drinking Port wine back home, so drinking it in Porto was like going to Mecca! <laughs> We did the whole tourist thing, the gig itself was almost secondary! <laughs again> But that club is fantastic, it's one of the best I've ever been to, it just looks great sat there by the river [Douro]. It was a really special gig for us, too. The band played particularly well; the night before [in Lisbon] was OK, but in Porto it was as close as it can get to the band being in top form."

"The gigs have been going very well. We played in Dublin and Greece recently. We thought the Portuguese crowd was very active and noisy, but there must be something wrong with the Greeks! We had never been there before, so they were absolutely ballistic. We actually got our first ever fan mail letter from Greece, but it took us twelve years to go there -- it was really special. We had a few problems in the first Greek gig but managed to overcome them, and on the second we were on fire. Dublin was OK, but it wasn't the best of gigs; still, we hadn't been to Ireland for eight years, and we played for a full crowd. We've been selling out gigs all the time, which is a massive achievement for MDB."

Although I elaborate on this in my gig review later in this issue, I cannot avoid mentioning how much the band seems to grow when playing live, Aaron's vocals especially noteworthy in the live setting. "It's a bit strange, I have to admit. On record we're quite controlled -- not too loud, not too distorted, but it's still got the power. Live we like to do the full heavy metal thing and have everything louder than everything else, and everything becomes more exaggerated. The band is playing better live than ever, and Aaron is in top form -- if I had been in the crowd, I would have been impressed with Aaron as well. There is a very special chemistry in the band now, and the crowd reacts very well -- they can't seem to get their eyes off us, they stare at us and we stare back... and we like it! <laughs>"

Reviewed below is _The Voice of the Wretched_, their brand new live album. One thing that quickly became evident to me as I first glanced at the track listing was the fact that it contained three songs from my favourite MDB album, 1993's _Turn Loose the Swans_. "It's just coincidence", answers Andy after pondering for a moment; "I've never noticed that. We have got quite a career now, twelve years coming up, and when we play live there's always someone who shouts for an obscure song that we never play live. We would like to, but we can't play everything for everybody. But on the Peacefest gigs [where _The Voice of the Wretched_ was recorded -- Pedro], _The Dreadful Hours_ wasn't yet fully ready to be played live -- we only played "A Cruel Taste of Winter", which was later changed for the CD. So we intended to bring stuff from the EPs -- we actually rehearsed "The Thrash of Naked Limbs", but in the end decided against it for some more _Turn Loose the Swans_. It just happened, we wanted to play some older stuff for our older fans, and everyone says _Turn Loose the Swans_ is their favourite record, so... but we didn't plan it, it just is."

Having re-recorded "The Return of the Beautiful" (from 1992's _As the Flower Withers_) for _The Dreadful Hours_, and now having included the first song they ever wrote, "Symphonaire Infernus et Spera Empyrium", in their live set, how does Andrew feel going back to such old songs? "I don't think we've changed that much in style and mentality", he replies. "If you look at the style and composition, those are all very solid songs. When we play "Symphonaire" live, it fits perfectly into the set, the slow beginning that grows into total carnage -- which is rather difficult for us to play now, actually, since Shawn [Steels, drummer] blasts through it at a million miles an hour. <laughs> A lot of people who go to our gigs may have never heard that song. Some of the people won't know the full history of My Dying Bride, and it is a good opportunity to say that this is what we sounded like ten years ago. It's good to really blast them out. As for "Return to the Beautiful", the idea had been bubbling and simmering away since 1997, since the tour with Dio in America, which lasted for six weeks. It was a friend of ours from a band called Novembers Doom", he starts. I wonder whether his name is Paul Kuhr, the band's vocalist, and Andy tells me I've guessed correctly. He continues: "Paul said we had to re-record it, that it was such an amazing song, and suddenly everyone was saying that -- we were thinking whether he had some sort of conspiracy going! <laughs> Anyway, it eventually happened; we nearly put it on _The Light at the End of the World_, but the CD was already full, and then when we wrote _The Dreadful Hours_ we managed to squeeze it in. We also made the ending a bit more brutal. It was such a joy; I actually played both guitars, I was so proud of it. I still prefer the first version, to be honest, but it felt very good, and I'm glad it's there."

_The Voice of the Wretched_ covers every era of My Dying Bride, and I ask Andrew an unfair question: which of those eras was his favourite? "The most enjoyable and care-free time would have to be around _Turn Loose the Swans_, going into and through _The Angel and the Dark River_. That's when we did the most touring and we had the most exposure. The records were very well received and it was a very nice time for us. It's been brilliant all the time, except when it started to become very difficult before _34.788%_ -- a product of a band under extreme pressure from its record label, but I still stand by that record, which was done under not so nice circumstances."

Did they consider the possibility of moving to a different label at the time after having been on Peaceville for so long? "We know Hammy and his wife Lisa [Peaceville label owners -- Pedro] very well now, but even before we signed to them -- and we were very excited to sign -- Aaron already knew them reasonably well. We also understand that they had a business to run. They may like the music, but it's a business. We trust them to a certain degree, and they're very local to us, too, which is good. We didn't want to sign with a label from London -- which, given the connections at the time, would have been Music for Nations, and I can tell you any band who's with them is in for fucking trouble. I would be reluctant to leave Peaceville even now; you can't get this trust anywhere else, and it makes life easier. Being in a band is hard work sometimes, and you need someone to rely on, and we feel we can rely on Peaceville."

The events Andrew refers to happened during the time when Peaceville was temporarily a sub-label of Music for Nations. "When that contract with Music for Nations finished we were very glad. The whole problem was coming from Music for Nations; Hammy didn't have full control over Peaceville anymore, and it freaked him out. The [Music for Nations] people in London weren't into the music, and it was difficult for them to grasp a band like MDB -- they got twelve minute songs and asked "where's our commercial hit?" -- MDB doesn't do that, fuck that."

Which reminds me of how Anathema, currently on Music for Nations, have made their way into MTV with a video clip off their bland _A Fine Day to Exit_ [CoC #55]. "I can't comment", says Andrew. "I haven't heard anything of theirs for a long time -- the last thing was their demo _An Iliad of Woes_, actually, which I liked. Since they became signed to the same label we were on, and their style was similar to ours, I just didn't want to be influenced. So I've simply lost touch with what they're doing, although I know they're not doing metal anymore. I only heard one song off the new record, and it reminded me of Radiohead -- but I like Radiohead. I know it's difficult to be in a band and on Music for Nations, so I know the trouble they're having; but MDB is my main concern."

The brand new live CD is not coming out alone: the _For Darkest Eyes_ video is being re-released in DVD format [also reviewed in this issue] with a couple of extra features. "It could have been better", admits Andrew. "The main problem is that there is not enough new stuff on it. It's not really Peaceville's or MDB's fault, it's just a bizarre twist of fate -- after _34.788%_ the band dipped into the shadows and didn't do much, no videos or recording of gigs. Now, having released _The Dreadful Hours_, which along with _The Light at the End of the World_ has put MDB back on the British doom map -- I don't think anyone else is doing this kind of thing in Northern Europe --, Hammy and Lisa are really ecstatic with MDB's success, and it's to their credit as well. So we've got a new format, DVD, what can we do? Since there was such a dip in the band's activity, there's nothing new to put in it, so it's just a format change. I was talking to Hammy about a video for _The Dreadful Hours_ and he was very enthusiastic. I can imagine we may do an MTV-style video for the next album."

One of the extras on the DVD is their Dynamo '95 performance, originally released in a double-disc edition of _The Angel and the Dark River_. "We enjoyed it a lot, but it was our first gig after six months, so we were rusty. Rehearsing in a rehearsal room is one thing, but in front of 3500 people or more, suddenly you're not sure how to play the songs in a -live- environment. That's the importance of playing warm-up shows. We learned valuable lessons that night, but it wasn't the ideal place for that! <laughs> We didn't do any warm-up shows before Portugal, actually, but we're a bit more long in the tooth now."

Compared to the Krakow gig featured on _For Darkest Eyes_, Martin Powell's violin is no longer a part of their music; yet during the Porto gig, I never had a chance to even think about that. "We've been fortunate in that respect", he says, "only a few people ever complain about that. Those who are more open-minded about MDB would love to see him back, but overall they think it's not the loss they expected it to be. When we toured for _The Light at the End of the World_ we wanted to test the water, and we were surprised with ourselves and the crowd response. We usually mingle with the crowd after the gigs, which is a very eye-opening experience, and people weren't mentioning it much at all -- "It is a shame, but you're good enough without it", and that was a great relief. You can replace guitar players -- no offence to Calvin, you could replace me too --, but violin players who are into doom metal aren't easy to find. We actually rehearsed for a month with a violin player, a young girl from Halifax, and she could play very well, but once you put the band around her she was completely lost, and it just wasn't happening. I actually met Martin a couple of times since then, in a pub near where we live in Bradford called Rio's -- we usually go there -- and I talked to him about the good times and it was nice. Maybe he was a bit drunk, or just giddy from seeing old friends again, but he said he'd like to play live with us again -- but he's away with Cradle of Filth at the moment. We didn't fall out in an ugly way at all, we're still very much friends, so..."

And how does the future of My Dying Bride look like to Andrew? Is the passion still intact? "I have to admit at the moment I have more energy for My Dying Bride than I have had in a long time, but after _The Light at the End of the World_ I wondered if we were doing the right thing. I have a great fiance, who's a great fan of MDB; I'm often a miserable twat, but then she reminds me how special MDB is. I'm feeling very positive -- even though we sing about death and doom, I'm very happy at the moment. <laughs>"

(article submitted 3/7/2002)

1/14/2002 A Bromley My Dying Bride: The Hand of Doom
12/9/1999 P Azevedo My Dying Bride: The Bride Returns to the Bleak Rainy Moors
11/19/1998 P Azevedo My Dying Bride: The Bride No Longer Wears Black
4/9/1997 A Bromley My Dying Bride: Behold the Bride
3/14/1996 A Bromley My Dying Bride: Dying With Pride
11/27/2012 P Azevedo 8.5 My Dying Bride - A Map of All Our Failures
6/15/2009 K Sarampalis 6.5 My Dying Bride - For Lies I Sire
7/13/2008 P Azevedo 7 My Dying Bride - An Ode to Woe
10/23/2006 P Azevedo 7.5 My Dying Bride - A Line of Deathless Kings
9/26/2006 P Azevedo 7.5 My Dying Bride - Deeper Down EP
12/17/2005 Q Kalis My Dying Bride - Anti-Diluvian Chronicles
10/10/2005 P Azevedo 9 My Dying Bride - Sinamorata DVD
3/23/2004 P Azevedo 9 My Dying Bride - Songs of Darkness, Words of Light
7/3/2002 P Azevedo 9.5 / 9 My Dying Bride - For Darkest Eyes DVD
Anathema - A Vision of a Dying Embrace DVD
7/3/2002 P Azevedo 10 My Dying Bride - The Voice of the Wretched
10/19/2001 P Azevedo 9 My Dying Bride - The Dreadful Hours
8/12/2001 P Azevedo 8.5 My Dying Bride - Meisterwerk II
1/10/2001 P Azevedo 8 My Dying Bride - Meisterwerk I
12/9/1999 P Azevedo 9 My Dying Bride - The Light at the End of the World
11/19/1998 P Azevedo 7 My Dying Bride - 34.788%... Complete
2/4/1997 P Azevedo 10 My Dying Bride - Like Gods of the Sun
3/14/1996 A Bromley 8 My Dying Bride - The Angel and the Dark River
7/3/2002 P Azevedo My Dying Bride / Mysterium Catharsis in Doom
3/13/2001 V Anderson My Dying Bride / Katatonia / Soundisciples / Beyond Dawn / Thine The Snow in Their Hearts
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