Interview: My Dying Bride Vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe

It’s been a bittersweet 30 years British heavy metal icons My Dying Bride have endured in their career . After a couple of setbacks and family commitments, the future of the band was uncertain after the release of their 2015 record Feel The Misery. After 5 long years, we are nearly at the eve of their 14th studio album The Ghost of Orion released march 6th and boy, was this album worth the wait.

Thanks to John Howarth from Nuclear Blast, we got the amazing opportunity to have a chat and go into the mind workings of founding member and vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe ahead of the release.

SR: Your latest album The Ghost of Orion is out in just over a week. How are you guys feeling about the release?

Yeah I sort of try to not get too overly excited about releases, it’s kind of out of my hands once we’ve finished the recording there is nothing more I can do – it’s sort of in the lap of the Gods [laughs]. I suppose it’s this build up that we get a lot of feedback from because obviously all the journalists have listened to it and we’re already hearing their thoughts and ideas and I’m not really one of these guys who will be sitting there waiting on the day of release for feedback from the fans. I’m not planning on doing anything on the day of its release [laughs]. I’ll just go about my daily tasks.

SR: It’s just like your 14th album, doesn’t matter! [Laughs]

Yeah! It’s like – yeah, whatever! [Laughs] everybody does it!

SR: It’s your first album working with Nuclear Blast. Has there been much change from your past label, and how have you found it?

There has been a lot of press! That’s for sure! But that’s good, the promotion has been great! We went down to London- which for us “northern people” it’s quite an excursion. It was quite exciting actually! We didn’t realise YouTube had their own office down there. So we were in there recording all these videos and all these little… it was like the label was filming me and Andrew Craighan chatting about the album and each week they release a little segment from each video, so that kind of builds the anticipation for the release day. We’ve never done anything like that before, whether that’s the label or just a sign of the times- I’m not sure.

Skype’s a new thing for me as well, it’s good though because in the past you would have a list of 10 journalists you’d have to phone. You’d then sit there on your landline speaking to all the journalists and then you get your phone bill and you’d send that to the record label and they’d give you the money back. So yeah, this is way better! I can relax, it doesn’t matter what I’m wearing, and I can put me feet up.

Times have changed, we’re thrilled to be with Nuclear Blast. Peaceville did everything that they could for us, but I think it got to the point where we wanted more out of the world and Peaceville couldn’t give us anymore so we decided to look for a bigger label. We were hoping that Nuclear Blast would be interested but it wasn’t a given. When the contract was over with Peaceville, we put out the feelers that we were looking for a new deal and thank fully they came back with the best deal of all the others! There were a lot of labels queuing up- which is nice to see. After 30 years you sort of don’t know if your band has any relevance anymore… are you doing the same old thing? Are people used to you like an old wardrobe? But it was nice that all these labels were kind of fighting over us.

SR: That must feel so heart- warming. I love that!

We used to have a guy who is sort of the middle- man showing us a list of all these labels and me and Andrew looked at each other and thought “those are some quality labels” [laughs]

SR: Talking about change of the times, it is My Dying Bride’s 30th Anniversary this year. What do you think has changed the most in the industry and was there anything you wished stayed the same?

Well, downloads have obviously affected sales- not that we formed My Dying Bride to make money [laughs] if you form a band with the intention of making money you’re not going to last very long. But it’s affected the business in a big way, when we formed 30 years ago, Mp3’s and the internet were nothing. And that’s a lifetime for some people I suppose! So things have changed a lot- vinyls having a bit of a resurgence. The internet has been great but I’m not sure if I was forming a new band today- It would be more of a struggle to get your stuff out into to the world, the software is much better and so is the hardware! Once you’ve created your music and you can get up on your Facebook page and everything, but so can everyone else and you can be lost- you’re like a drop in the ocean. So for a young band to make a name for themselves these days, it must be really quite tricky. Thankfully we managed to get in there before all this happened to build our foundation and make a name for ourselves.

The internet is great I can’t really see any downsides. I like the way the world has been moving technology wise – I’m not a technophobe but I’m not a geek either. I can choose what I like but don’t really depend on it too much. I have a mobile phone; but I don’t do my banking on it. I send texts, I take photos on it and when I go on holiday I don’t even turn my phone on. So I’m not hooked but it’s there when I need it.

SR: Touching back onto the album, this album never got made with your daughter’s diagnosis, to members leaving abruptly, but when it came to fruition and all come together, I guess the rainbow after the storm. What was kind of the thing that kept you strong after the series of unfortunate events that you had?

Such a good question- I don’t know. You kind of man up, you kind of step up and think “oh well these are some challenges”. Do I lie down and give up? Or do you just plough on? You don’t attack everything, you just take small steps- and hope that you’re going in the right direction to get around the hurdles that have been placed in front of you. It’s just you have to pass on some degree of confidence of “I can do this”. We have had other members leave in the past… it must be something Andrew and I have been eating [laughs] cause me and Andrew have been there from the start. It’s just a small world… when someone leaves, you get someone else. It’s that simple.

SR: Everyone is replaceable

Yeah, it’s not a big deal. What happened with my daughter; again you just take a deep breath and you move steadily through it and you hope that you come out the other side ok-and we did! So yeah the album was a real tough one to do, the toughest one for me- that’s for sure.

When Andrew did the writing he sort of raised the bar, let’s be honest we could write anything and the fans would buy it. But we don’t think that way especially when you’ve got a new record label, you kind of want to show off a bit. So he raised the bar and when it came to being in the studio, my vocals didn’t match anything that he did and a lot of my ideas were rejected by him and Mark Mynett – the studio engineer, and I thought “what’s going on, I’ve been doing this for years” I needed to up my game. We did a lot of experimental ideas and tried different styles, and we got there in the end. It was a long, long tough journey for sure.

SR: The key word that I want to focus on is”accessible”and “accessibility” is the overall thought behind this album. We’re you at all worried about the backlash from being a sell out or anything because you have taken your sound a bit of a step back?

When we say accessible, we mean accessible for My Dying Bride. We will remain a cult underground band forever because well, we’re called My Dying Bride and we write particularly miserable songs. We’re never going to be popular- it’s as simple as that. But accessible from a My Dying Bride point of view and if some of the die- hard fans think we’ve sold out because we’ve moved to Nuclear Blast, they couldn’t be more wrong. We were thinking about becoming more accessible while we were still at Peaceville.

When you’re young and in a band you want to be a bit technical and show off. Now we don’t just play music- we’re a bit cleverer than that. As we’ve gotten a bit older we’ve matured and we kind of want to put our feet up a bit and say we’ve done our shouting, this is what we’re doing now. Even with being a bit easy going on the music, we’ll play a killer riff 5 and a half times and it would be awkward and then you’d play another awkward riff and then it just becomes jarring just because it was so technical. Now it’s like you play the riff 4 times and then you switch to another riff for 4 times its so relaxing to listen to. If you can feel a change coming, don’t fight it! Just go with it!

SR: As you were having a lot going on with the making of this album, you gave Andrew all the writing duties. As someone who is a control freak- how do you just kind of let go like that?

[Laughs] that’s easy! That’s because when you’ve got someone like him there who you’ve known for over 30 years- I meant talk about safe hands. Also, he wrote the last album because Hamish [Glencross] left at the beginning of that recording and writing. That album, The Field of Misery got the best reviews out of our entire career and Andrew is responsible for 99% of it. He’s got a good track records, so when Calvin [Robertshaw] left at the beginning of this record it was just a blip and I barely battered an eyelid and I knew what Andrew as doing and it’ll be great because he hasn’t got anyone else there trying to get their slightly inferior riffs in the way.

SR: I was reading about the way you write lyrics, with a blank piece of paper and a glass of wine- you write down whatever is in your head and fill the pages with scribbles and you’ll look over them over the next few days and sometimes something will jump out at you. How long have you been doing this technique for?

I’ve always done it. Even before I was in a band. In school I was hooked on English literature, terrible at maths but I loved words. I loved reading and the manipulation of words is wonderful. You can make people cry with just a few strokes of a pen and I liked that it didn’t hold power for me, but I just liked the idea of it. So even at school I was writing my own poetry. Then as I grew up I started getting into Rock music, started to go to this rock club in Yorkshire where we all used to go… where I met the guys who formed My Dying Bride. Because I can’t play anything, naturally I was going to be a vocalist and I immediately realised that there was an outlet for my wordsmithery.

Of course Death Metal bands were at the height back in those days, but there was never any chance I was going to be writing about blood and guts and mayhem like that. I wanted to write about more sensitive subjects which was kind of unheard of in extreme music. But I thought; to hell with it, I just started to write what I really felt and tap into my inner thoughts and instead of just writing poetry I would have a bit more of a flourish with words and sometimes reverse what I’m saying, put the end first and jut attack things in a different fashion. It’s worked well, I tend to get quite a bit of feedback for the lyrics which is wonderful. It’s quite a cathartic process because all my thoughts are on the paper and my mind is clear.

Even when we don‘t have an album to do, I still do it- write poems and short stories because I have a need to do it.

SR: What’s your fave track off the upcoming release?

I don’t have one, I haven’t even listened to it. The studio is like torture, you start one song number one and you hear the first minute, and then you hear the first minute again, and then you hear it again. All you hear is fragments of the album repeatedly put into your skull, to me it’s like torture. So when the whole recording process was over, I walked away and thought “oh I’m not listening to that, cause that was a bloody nightmare” so I’d give it a break for a while. I don’t have one yet but I’m sure one will come around over the next year or so. It’s just not an album that I listen to at the moment.

SR: Tell us a little bit about the album artwork

Well I gave the lyrics and a few ideas to the artist Eliran Kantor– who had been in touch with me a few years before, but because of my daughters illness everything was on hold for the band. I said for him to contact me in a couple of years because nothing is going on right now, and he was absolutely fine. When I released a statement saying My Dying Bride are back, we’re starting on a new album… and he got back in touch. So I got all the lyrics sorted and had a few ideas for the title and I did, I gave him everything and obviously he is aware of MDB’s sensibilities; it’s not going to be full of spikes, and blood, and upside-down crosses and all the rest of it- it’s great fun but it doesn’t really suit MDB’s attitude. And he came up with the image that he came up with, he needed no corrections at all, as soon as I saw it I loved it immediately, I thanked him profusely. I’ve actually got two versions- one without the title and another without the band logo framed on my wall at home… it just looks like a masterpiece.

We’re very thrilled with it and I think it speaks volumes as an interpretation of the music.

SR: If there was any song in the world you wished you’d written, what would it be?

Good question… wow… I’m so broad minded when it comes to music- I like everything. There are a lot of great moving songs out there. I think Avalanche by Leonard Cohen would have to be up there.

The Ghost of Orion out March 6th!

iTunes link: https://music.apple.com/au/album/the-ghost-of-orion/1491322787