The Hand of Doom
CoC talks to Aaron Stainthorpe of My Dying Bride
by: Adrian Bromley
There are a lot of people in the metal music business who like to think of themselves as rock stars. My Dying Bride singer Aaron Stainthorpe isn't one of them; instead, Stainthorpe is a passionate musician who breathes life and emotion into his music, creating eloquent realms of love and darkness that cast their spells upon us as we listen to their music.

The band's latest album on Peaceville Records, titled _The Dreadful Hours_ [CoC #55], is a masterpiece of mood and darkness, flanked by the band's love of depression and beauty. Continuing on where their last album _The Light at the End of the World_ [CoC #44] left off -- a return to their older form of death metal growls amidst depressing music passages --, _The Dreadful Hours_ sees the band expanding their work with enthusiasm and experimentation, but still remaining true to their roots.

"I think _The Dreadful Hours_ is a nice mix of the experimentation that we used to do as a band and the sound that we brought out with the last record, a sort of returning to our roots album", starts the singer. "The old death metal vocals are here, things are faster and more aggressive, and we still have the slow, miserable sections too. We've also added some contemporary touches here and there to the music; that was done so that we could drag our music out of this medieval mire."

"A couple of people who have already heard the new record are saying that it sounds a bit like _The Angel and the Dark River_ [CoC #8] and some parts from _34.788%... Complete_ [CoC #35]", explains Stainthorpe about the early reactions to the new MDB disc. "People are excited and it is a good compliment for us that people can still see that we are still sounding like MDB, as well as recognizing what we have done in the past in this new album as well."

About the recording process involved for MDB -- the band is comprised of bassist Ade Jackson, guitarists Andrew Craighan and Hamish Glencross, drummer Shaun Steels and keyboardist Yasmin Ahmid -- the singer reveals: "We just try everything when it comes to studio work and trying new ideas and sounds for the band. The things that don't work get tossed out. We all pretty much think in the same terms musically -- I mean no one is going to throw in a Beach Boys riff or something like that. <laughs> We aren't that radical when it comes to changing our music. We know what we can do and get away with. We know how far we can push the boundaries for MDB. We just jam a lot, and out of that mess and spontaneity comes the music. Things will start to take form and we'll see songs start to take form and we work on those. We are all democratic about how the songs are to come together. We don't sit down with a blank sheet and say the song has to be nine minutes long, fast here, slow here. Once we strike the first note of a song, we don't know where the music will take us. It could be fifteen minutes long, three minutes long, fast or more aggressive. We just don't plan it."

And I guess if you did plan it all out, the impact of MDB's music would be less effective then?

"Possibly. I think if you have a structure written down for people to look at when writing music, then you are really going to constrain yourself. If you have a structure and someone has an idea and it doesn't fit into that agenda, the idea gets lost. We don't bother with guidelines. They're stupid."

After so many years of creating music with MDB, what inspires the band after more than a decade to continue doing this? What inspires Stainthorpe?

"I have no idea, really. <laughs> That is one of the greatest questions I always get asked. This is a struggle to be honest", he admits. "We have never had a manager, so we have always done things ourselves. We have seen the business side of things, as well as the fan side of things. We have a really broad perspective of how things are. And besides the fact that we are a big band in this genre of music, we are still nobodies in the scene of music. Being a band in the underground and with a cult following doesn't really amount to big bucks. Everyone in the band has jobs. That is how we make our living. The money we get from the band is really pocket money. Maybe Andy will buy new guitars with what we make. We don't flick any of our money away. The small amount of money that we do get back, we put back into the band and to buy new equipment. We invest it into things that will no doubt help the band out as we continue to create music. We might buy a new game for our computer or something like that, but we have never had the money to buy a new car or something crazy like that. This is underground music and if you got into this to make money, you have completely taken the wrong path."

"We have been at this for eleven years now and that is because we enjoy what we do", he says. "We would have given up years ago if it had been about the money. I think that is why a lot of bands give up, because they assume that because they are in a band, toured the world and sold records, that they should be rich. It doesn't work like that. We have never thought that. We were fans of Celtic Frost and Candlemass when we started off and we knew they weren't rich, so we had no illusions when we first started off. We just thought it would be brilliant to put out one CD. We have just been excited that each year or so that we can put out a great sounding record. That kind of thinking just pushes us a long each new album. We have never imagined being signed to a major or rolling around in money because this is underground noisy music and it is hard to sell."

So why have fans latched onto MDB over the years?

"I think it must be something like a soap opera on TV", he responds. "I think some people will leave us for a year or two and come back an realize that nothing much has changed. Other people might leave it for a month or two and think loads of things have changed with us. People change all the time. Most of our early fans are probably married with children by now and they aren't into diving off stages anymore. When we first started off, people were so excited about what we were doing. Fans come and go all the time and we aren't any different. Christ, I haven't bought a Candlemass record in god knows how many years and that is because I have no interest in what they are doing right now. I just don't feel like buying their records. And our fans are like that too. We aren't out to win our old fans back with each new album. Every band, no matter how dedicated your fans are, you'll lose fans with each new album but you'll gain some as well. It is great to see younger faces at shows now, new fans that are just getting into our music. Every album you put out is hit-and-miss with your fans."

About the makeup of the new disc and how it came out, Stainthorpe comments: "I am still very much into what we did with the last record and I thought for sure that _The Dreadful Hours_ was going to become "The Light at the End of the World Part II". I don't think I have changed very much with my style of writing since that album and I wasn't sure of how things would end up. I had a blurred vision of how things were going to be, but not totally sure of the end results. I think the rest of the guys in the band were unaware of how this record would be. I think this record has turned out better than I had expected because there are certain elements that weren't on the last record that are on this record. Those new ideas have listed this album a bit higher than _The Light at the End of the World_ and for me, it makes me feel good. It also makes the rest of the band feel good, and you can see the smiles on their faces, regardless of this being miserable music. We are really happy that we created this album."

And knowing quite well that the music of the band is very personal to them, so are the ideas behind songs. The singer explains to CoC the ideas and emotions that influenced the music on _The Dreadful Hours_, whether they are inspired by worldly or personal events in his life.

"It is a bit of both, really. Generally, if I include something of a personal nature, I try to disguise it a bit more", he offers up about the songwriting. "I don't mind certain people knowing certain parts of my private life. But if I am going to give over some of my inner feelings, I am going to cloak them and make the lyrics more surreal. I don't mind sharing things, but I am not going to open myself up to everybody. If I am inspired by a book or something, which will be quite obvious in the lyrics and will allow them to follow the story I am telling. Influences for songs come from everywhere for me: books, film and stories that people have told me. Songs on any MDB record, the ones where people can't seem to get their heads around and understand, those are the ones that have a bit more of a personal touch to them."

What does Stainthorpe get out of a good MDB song or album? How does it make him feel?

"It feels good, but even though I am not a perfectionist, I always see room for improvement. Because we've built these songs from scratch, nurtured each riff, note and lyric and even the artwork, we see our creations from the inside. We have brought these things up from tiny little atoms to the behemoths that they have become. We can't see the music of MDB as outsiders do. It takes interviews like this or talking with fans to really grasp what we have done. I have interviewers telling me they like this song because of a certain riff, and I think to myself, "that wasn't the original idea, but it worked!" I have an idea and vision, and when I hear what other people say, I think it blends quite well with what we have done. We are on the inside looking out, while everyone is on the outside looking in."

In today's music scene, where there are almost as many genre terms as there are bands, does Aaron see MDB as a different band compared to others in the music scene?

"I think we are different", he begins. "When we started out, all of these music journalists had a hell of a time describing what we were doing. They strung together all of these words like doom, gothic, blah, blah, blah, and ended it with the word metal. It was great, because it meant that people couldn't pigeonhole MDB that easily. Now when people describe MDB, they only have to use the name and people who are aware of us know what to expect. I have seen MDB's name pop up in other bands' reviews now, and that is good, because it gives you a certain viewpoint to start off with the band's music. It is great to know that "My Dying Bride" is almost a phrase to describe a certain style of music. It is great to see how it has become for us, but it was quite funny how people were so confused with what our band was doing musically."

The topic turns to the mood of the band. For those of you out there who have followed the band for years, you know all too well that the mood of MDB is unmatched by other metal acts. The doomy, gloom-like state of emotions that cloak each release is intense and beguiling. I ask Stainthorpe about how the band captures that mood in the studio. It must be difficult, right?

"We really try to get into the mood. I really try to get into the mood, because when I write the lyrics I don't write them half-heartedly. I really try to get into the mood of things", Stainthorpe notes. "I try to dig inside myself and try to find this really dark, miserable force. I only write the lyrics when I feel miserably low. You can't write lyrics like this when it is a hot, sunny day. It just doesn't work."

"When I take the lyrics into the rehearsal room, which is pretty dim because there is only one light, I really try to get into the mood and so does the band. When we get into the studio we have a good laugh and drink cups of tea, which is a typical English thing to do -- forget that rock 'n' roll Jack Daniels shit. <laughs> We have a level head. When the riffs start to come together it begins to get serious. Sure, if someone plays a bum note we all laugh at each other, or if I forget lyrics the laughs come out and the amusing moments come out, but we try and keep it fairly professional. It can get carried away pretty quick in the studio if you start messing around. We have been at this for a long time now and it is quite easy for us to slip into these dark and doomy riffs. It comes quite natural to us."

Did you ever think it would last this long?

"Not really. We were just so excited to put out our first demo. Then we set a goal to tour Europe and we did that. Every goal that we have every set out for MDB over the years has been achieved. We don't really have goals anymore and that has made us perfectly happy with what we are doing."

He ends, "You can't be into this music business for anything else than happiness for what you do musically. We can't be in it for the chicks, because we never tour. We don't make mega bucks, so we aren't in it for the money. We are in this because we enjoy it. It is that simple."

(article submitted 14/1/2002)

7/3/2002 P Azevedo My Dying Bride: Thus Spake the Wretched
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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