** We make it no secret we’re fans of My Dying Bride. From their Hall of Fame induction to innumerable citations in pages and blogs, My Dying Bride has appealed to our inner and outer miser for an age or two. Well, this session was originally sent off to My Dying Bride in June, hoping to get a scoop on the group’s Maryland Deathfest announcement, but since this is doom we had to wait until October for the Bride to answer. Either way, scoop or not, we’re still happy-sad.
Map of All Our Failures had some interesting stuff on it, but I felt it lacked the spirit of previous full-lengths. Obviously, this is from a fan’s perspective, but was there a different musical approach to Map than, say, For Lies I Sire or A Line of Deathless Kings?
Andrew Craighan: Hi, Chris. Yes, a big difference really. We spent probably the best part of two years going through various riff structures and ideas, writing and re-writing, recorded The Barghest O’ Whitby EP (a limited release) in between and still had more for a second EP The Manuscript after it. We didn’t feel we compromised in any way and meticulously ensured that what we were writing made us (primarily heavy metal fans who like doom) happy. So, we didn’t feel we were lacking anything from an insider’s perspective. And if we did it wasn’t spirit. If there’s one thing you do need 23 years on is the will and energy to do it, which we had in fucking oodles. It has the same spirit as any other release had in my view.
Although I felt it lagged a bit in spots, Map seems to be wildly appreciated by longtime fans. What did you make of the response?
Andrew Craighan: I think the response was to be as expected in a rather downbeat way. It’s pretty simple, some people really liked it and some didn’t. For me, there was new kind of reaction to it too, which I quite enjoyed for its honesty and simplicity, which was a new breed of young metaller. The ones with short hair and loads of neck tattoos kind of picked up on it and said I have no idea who or what the fuck these guys are doing and I don’t fucking like it because it’s too slow and miserable but they’re clearly good at whatever it is so 8/10. We saw this a lot. One review from someone, who could only be 9-years old, proclaimed he liked the bits that sounded like Tenacious D and when it didn’t sound like Tenacious D he didn’t like it 5/10. Isn’t the Intershed wonderful? You simply can’t argue with logic like that. And why would you?
You used Mags for Map. Did you know what you wanted production-wise going in? There’s a lot of separation between instruments, which is nice to hear.
Andrew Craighan: Yes, Robert ‘Mags’ Magoolagan was involved again and we recorded it at Futureworks in Manchester, England. Mags will be with us until he says otherwise; he’s part of the gang and also does our live sound and laundry; well, I think it’s laundry he’s doing, there’s always some low rhythmical rumbling scraping sound onstage when he’s around, anyway, a good guy. Back to the mix though to be honest we probably knew what we didn’t want more than what we did, if that makes any sense. The mix and feel of the album couldn’t be quite as fierce as The Barghest O’ Whitby was due just having done the The Barghest…so, we knew to steer clear of that approach. We did want clarity but not at the expense of heaviness a bit of crunch, feedback and growl, you know not too clean it’s still got to be metal. A tricky balancing game but as usual time and money runs out and you have to stop at some point. I like what we got but I have an inkling that we might go for a darker more sinister sounding mix next time. Time will tell.
I’ve always been intrigued by Aaron’s lyrics. They’re dark, thoughtful, and well written. Map of All Your Failures sounds pretty dismal. In true My Dying Bride fashion, of course. What’s going on lyrically?
Andrew Craighan: On this LP a lot more variations on theme than some of the later albums and for me some of the best lyrics for some time which is a task as Azz [aka Aaron for you 9-year olds] really does have an eye for this style now. Take “A Tapestry Scorned,” for example, in this we are dealing with a mythical tale of betrayal, murder and magic all beautifully told to a dreary but heavy-as-fuck soundscape. Why you think this lacks spirit is simply beyond me but such is life, or Hail Odysseus. In my eyes another great song a real story from mythical antiquity with our very own My Dying Bride twist in the tale. This music isn’t just plastic pop. It’s soul-crushing doom and I understand it’s not for everyone and not many can feel or see its dark delights but it’s there for those that can. I could go on but if people are intrigued enough to be reading thus far they are welcome to check out the songs online and see if doom is for them. Or even (dare I say it) buy them online.
I also like the fact that Shaun’s starting to come into his own. How important was Shaun to Map?
Andrew Craighan: Pretty important I’d say. We like the violin being back in the mix as it is useful asset to our more sombre ditties. He is becoming with each release easier to work with (not that he is ever difficult mind) as he knows what we want and where, etc. and has in many instances has now trumped us to the best melody lines, the little swine. On Map, I would have to agree with you that he pretty much hit the nail on the head with all the work he did, so credit where credit’s due T’t Youngun!
I know I’m slightly nuts, but I felt The Manuscript tracks were better than the Map tracks. Did you know which tracks weren’t going to make it to the Map album?
Andrew Craighan: Bloody hell! No, as it happens all the tracks bar one were written long before the studio was booked and the one we wrote in the studio became “A Pale Shroud of Longing” and very nearly got left off of the EP. But right up to the very end we didn’t have a full idea [of] which were in or out. I think we started with “A Map of All Our Failures” the actual song then built the rest around it in relation to how they sounded around that. We’ve never done that before, so it was quite unique for us.
Were the Manuscript choices more flow or thematic-oriented?
Andrew Craighan: The Manuscript was chosen as the title track simply because at that time we liked the theme of the lyrics on that song the best. Plus the song itself was good enough to build the EP around it. Again a none standard lyrical work The Manuscript and a very well told tale. The rest were simply and with no disrespect to them not going on the LP as I explained above.
How are the two releases related lyrically?
Andrew Craighan: Not in any way.
And the mix for The Manuscript is different. Why is that?
Andrew Craighan: This was due to us experimenting a tad nothing too drastic just something we simply fancied doing.
How has My Dying Bride changed or its outlook changed in the digital download era?
Andrew Craighan: It’s much easier to be miserable now and we’re certainly less optimistic about our future than ever before if that gives you any clues. Times have changed and music of all types is suffering from people considering bands as throwaway items, possibly due to the consumerist ideals that we’re force fed by TV. The days have gone I think when bands like us (on a small scale) and before us the really big boys (Iron Maidens, Metallica’s and Slayers, etc.) who are made truly special in a big way by lifelong devoted fans and it’s not down to the newer bands being lacklustre or lacking in talent or conviction, it’s just they seem to billed as the next big thing then disappear to be replaced by the next big thing, etc. The easier it is to obtain anything in life the less value and meaning it has. And right now music is free to anyone apart from the bands making it as they ultimately pay for it. So, it’s never been harder to be in a band than now. I can’t see honestly how it can continue for much longer. Don’t get me wrong I’m not just moaning at the so-called youth of today the band has always been at the bottom rung of the music ladder but the digital ladder starts much fucking deeper down. (a song title in there somewhere methinks). I hate Christmas too and bunnies.
Is the band and music more personal now? Or is there no change from, say, 1995?
Andrew Craighan: I think for me this is kind of related to the above moan due to the scene today. For me, it’s always been personal. I mean, how can it not be? But now it means more to me to just be able to do it while it lasts, I love it, being a metaller as always been my dream since I heard Bat Out of Hell (I know it’s not metal now, but I didn’t back then), Marshall stacks, long hair, tattoos, loud spiky guitars, gigs in foreign places and all the welcome goodies that it attracts. So, being a metaller in a band that gets to do it loud I really take it personally and just try enjoy each moment of it. Which, in truth can be hard sometimes. But overall and as much as I do, I can’t complain.
When can we expect My Dying Bride in the US? Maryland Deathfest 2014, maybe?
Andrew Craighan: Yes, sorry this is so late as you would have had a good scoop there, but the news is out now. So, see you at the Maryland DeathFest in 2014. It’s a one-off gig for us, no tour, so if you’re into English doom that’s where a full pint of it will be. It’ll be cloudy and raining too.