Vincent Cavanagh (Anathema) interviewed

** Decibel caught up with Anathema guitarist/vocalist Vincent Cavanagh on the group’s first headline tour of North America. Since we’ve been into the Liverpudlians before they had a full-length [many thanks to tape-traders and Witchhunt Records], we jumped at the chance to talk to Cavanagh, who was clearly having moments of his life while on stage and off. Read on… Anathemaheads.
What’s it like to headline a tour in North America after all these years?
Vincent Cavanagh: It feels like a complete eye-opener. We are here with complete open minds and ready to absorb the experience and everything it has to offer. We’ve been meeting people every night. It feels right. There’s something about this place. It feels natural. Strangely familiar. I like it. It feels good to us. I really hope—I’m quite sure, actually—this is just the beginning of something. We know what kind of shape the band is in. We have a hell of a lot of new material.

Does it feel like the same band from 10 years ago? Twenty years ago?
Vincent Cavanagh: Oh, no. Not even the same band it was two years ago. We’re always fucking changing. That’s the nature of who we are. As people. It’s what drives us. Change. Evolution. Musical as well as personal. The two go hand-in-hand. If what you’re doing is honest or outside of genres, really, then it’s hard to paint yourself into a corner. If you really know us anything we do isn’t really a change in direction. We’re always a few steps ahead. Changing things. For us, we always know what the next album’s going to be like. And the one after that. For us, we’ve got lots of fuel left in the tank, so that’s why this tour feels like the beginning.

Are you kind of happy you waited this long to kick things into high gear?
Vincent Cavanagh: In every cloud… you can always find something positive out of it. That’s one way of looking at it. I’m always looking at things from a positive angle. We’re positive people. We always have been. We’re completely open-minded individuals. We have a very strong identity. With each other, too. There’s so many other areas of musical exploration. And we’ve given ourselves so many ways to explore. We’re improving in the sound, the production, our techniques. The creative process is always the same. That doesn’t change very much. None of have any classical schooling. It’s all auto-didactic. There’s no rule book or study mechanism to write songs. It comes naturally for us. It’s deep and personal. It’s as natural to us as getting out of bed and having a cup of tea.

Were you surprised at the success of Weather Systems? It elevated the visibility of the band a bit, right?
Vincent Cavanagh: Ah, no, not really. It’s all about keeping the momentum going. It was obvious that if followed We’re Here Because We’re Here quickly, people would have a strong interest in the band. That’s exactly what happened. And we’ve just released Universal, which was a lot of work. Now, we’ll be recording the new album in December.

Who will be producing it?
Vincent Cavanagh: Christer [André Cederberg] again. He’s our guy now. He’s our George Martin. [Laughs] Yeah, man. He’s the guy we’ve been waiting for all these years. He’s kind of in the band, in a way. When we’re in the studio, he’s right there. He’s part of the team. He’s part of the sound we’re trying to create.

Oh, so tell me a bit more about Universal.
Vincent Cavanagh: It was a massive budget. I realized, to play with an orchestra like that [Plovdiv Philharmonic Orchestra], was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up. After doing the last three records—We’re Here Because We’re Here, Falling Deeper, and Weather Systems—it felt natural. The next step. The opportunity presented itself in a country where the audience is ideal for the band. Then, of course, the setting itself was a huge incentive. It’s a huge, ancient monument [Philippopolis]. Imagine something that looks Greco-Roman, but derelict. Really beautiful, actually. The orchestra was, well, wow! We couldn’t play that concert and not film it. It was a one-off. How could we not record it? It turned out really well.

What do you make of trying to get away from the “metal” tag and yet you’re touring with “metal” bands?
Vincent Cavanagh: They’re not metal bands. Mamiffer is very far away from being a metal band. Nothing like it. At all. It’s a mix of ambience, field recordings, beautiful piano. It’s completely unique. Alcest, if you listen to them, sound nothing like a metal band. If it was up to me, I’d be on tour with Radiohead. I mean, if you look at our second record [The Silent Enigma], it was very much metal, but it was edging away. Eternity was a different direction. Alternative 4 was a big step forward. Every record is different. For us, what we like to do is change all the time. We’re basically refracting our own personal change through the music. In the most honest way we can. In a way, when our music shifted away from metal, it became more honest. In the early days, we’d play a metal gig and when we’d get back on the bus, we’d be playing The Beatles on the stereo. And Pink Floyd. That’s what we’ve always been into. It’s one of those things when you’re 15, 16, or 17, you want things to be loud and heavy and aggressive. Some of us grow out of that. Some of us. I don’t have interest in genres. A song’s a song.

What do you want fans to take away from Universal and Weather Systems?
Vincent Cavanagh: Like us, to be in the moment. Everything we do is kind of in the moment. Whether you’re singing, playing guitar, or whatever, it’s important to capture the honesty of the moment.

** Anathema’s new album, Universal, is out now. The audio CD is available HERE. The Blu-Ray DVD is right HERE. Imbibe now or forever hold your peace.