Exorcising misery with My Dying Bride's Andrew Craighan

MY DYING BRIDE – An interview with Andrew Craighan

Band: My Dying Bride

  • Andrew Craighan – Guitars
  • Aaron Stainthorpe – Vocals
  • Lena Abé – Bass
  • Shaun Macgowan – Violin
  • Jeff Singer – Drums
  • Neil Blanchett – Live Guitars

It truly was an honor for me to speak to Andrew Craighan, guitarist and founder of doom metal legends My Dying Bride, and I am sure many of you are eager to hear from him. We had the chance to discuss the band’s comeback The Ghost Of Orion, five very complicated years after their previous release, as well as their new partnership with Nuclear Blast, and future plans.

This is the first My Dying Bride album in five years, so everybody was waiting to see what would have come out of your mind in The Ghost Of Orion. Can you tell us something about the writing process that brought to this record?

It’s been a difficult and very different experience, I am sure that you are aware of some of the troubles that Aaron has had to go through [Stainthorpe’s daughter was diagnosed with cancer in 2017], which obviously had an effect on the band in various ways. Then we had some departures which were a bit of a shock, as we weren’t really expecting them to take place. Keeping the answer musical, though, a lot of it was just singular, in the sense that there was no real choice. We had the choice to quit like the people that left made, but I didn’t want to quit, although at times what was happening was quite demoralising. That’s when we dug in as we say in English, I think it came from the Great War in the trenches, “to dig in”. It was that kind of mentality, if you know anything about My Dying Bride, we’ve been around a while. I have a fairly good idea of what we should do musically, regardless of situations. The key was the amount of time we had to work on the material, while Aaron was kept away because of the situation. Nuclear Blast then left us to do what we had to do.

This actually leads to my second question. You had been working with Peaceville for almost thirty years. What was it like to work with someone else? Did this have any influence on your creation?

Originally, we didn’t think of anything, as usual we took some professional advice when we came to the end of the contract with Peaceville, and this advice was very clear: «Do not sign back to Peaceville», not because they were bad, but because Nuclear Blast, or Season Of Mist, Century Media, these other labels were better, and Peaceville doesn’t do it like these guys anymore. And they immediately said «Do not change anything, we don’t want anything other than what My Dying Bride is». After that, because of the situation with Aaron, we didn’t feel like we signed to anything, the band was a bit lost. At that point, their staff was so on the ball, the three girls that work with us are just phenomenal, it’s a joy to work with these people. They are professional and for me it’s been a welcome change, this is new and so far so good.

My Dying Bride 2020So I am guessing that finally having the chance to work again with the entire band when shooting the video for “Your Broken Shore” was something that had a meaning as well, aside from just creating the video, right?

Yes, you’re right. We recorded the album in a very fragmented way, I don’t think I saw any of the band in any real capacity while recording. When we worked on the video, it was actually the first time the entire band was in the same room at the same time, even with the new gal [guest cellist Jo Quail]. The video was a great team building episode, and particularly the nighttime shots out in the countryside. They were tough, great fun, but it was so dark. Sometimes you forget what night looks like in England, because there is light everywhere, even at nighttime.

It was basically in the woods!

Yes! And then you had the river, not just a little trickle, and it was moving. I just loved it. It rained like mad of course, but it was great. A bit of teamwork, and I think that the video is more than just a video to promote the album, it was a genuine team building episode and it was great fun, although it was freezing fucking cold.

This next question is more about your personal career than this specific album. A couple of years ago you collaborated with Novembers Doom on “Waves In The Red Cloth”, on their album Hamarthia. Is this something we might see again? Are you planning any other collaborations with projects outside of My Dying Bride?

Potentially yes, I quite enjoyed that one. I tried to avoid doing that, because when they sent the music, I really struggled getting in as the song sounded finished to me. I really like Novembers Doom, so it was difficult for me to say no. In the end, I wrote a new guitar piece completely, and I didn’t know where this was going. It ended up with three guitar lines, and the whole piece eventually worked as an outro, because it was the only piece it would fit in. I think they won’t ask me again now [laughter], but that was pretty cool.

There was another band, not like Novembers Doom but a local band from England, which recently contacted me to get involved, I would love to but I just didn’t have the time yet. I have lots of music that can’t be used in My Dying Bride, it’s death-doom again, but it’s not MDB, so I keep threatening to release it as a side project or doing something with someone else. My Dying Bride is still my focus anyway.

One question about riffing and composing. I have been growing quite fond of “The Old Earth” on the new album. Is there a specific thing that you personally feel you have given to this album guitar-wise, that you are very proud of?

Yes actually, particularly in “The Old Earth”, which is my favorite song of the album, there is a part where Aaron sings and the riff that sits besides it is fucking brilliant. We didn’t draw it for too long for not making it boring. Apart from that riff which I love very much, I think in places we have given the guitars more air to breathe. It wasn’t necessarily done by design, as when we were writing the album, Aaron was busy taking care of his daughter, so the vocals weren’t there and we overcompensated with harmonies and guitar lines. This has probably made the guitars a little bit more prominent on this album than what they would have probably been. One of the key differences is “The Solace”, because that song was different in the sense that we left just guitars and vocals [sung by Wardruna’s Lindy-Fay Hella]. When we were building it piece by piece, Aaron said he wanted to join in because he really liked it, and I think in the end it was very brave of the band, and particularly of Aaron, to back off this one. There’s no bass, no drums, it is very different. It is one of those songs where some people might think «What have they done? It’s missing lots of things», and then they love it. I personally wanted to try that. The guitars are not over the top but they are prominent, because they are what held the band together in Aaron’s absence.

Let’s talk about where the band is now and where it is going. Of course you and Aaron are the only founding members left, but then again it’s been more than ten years that Lena and Shaun have been in the band, people that quite clearly were your fans before joining. What do you think were the main contributions they brought to the world of My Dying Bride?

They’re important, they are My Dying Bride now as much as I am. The band is bigger than the rest of us. When they first came in we guided them, at this point it’s as if their apprenticeship is over, they know exactly what the band needs and their role can’t be overstated, it’s so important. The beauty is that they know what MDB requires, I don’t need to monitor or ask them. The My Dying Bride they joined is not the one we are all presently in, times change. They both played a major part in keeping this all together when we were losing our minds. They contribute to writing, to everything, they’re part of it, they really are.

I know that generally speaking you and Aaron prefer leaving the “duty” of interpreting the songs to listeners. However, one thing that always struck me about MDB was that your doom metal was not something simply “gloomy and dark” for the sake of it, but it is also rooted in real-world tragedies. Aside from the personal situations, do you think there were any broader issues that might fit into what’s happening in The Ghost Of Orion?

We don’t deliberately try to be gloomy and dark, that’s just how it turns out. There is one song in particular that relates back to Aaron’s situation, “Tired Of Tears”, it’s him exorcising some of the demons and allowing some of that horrible time to spill over into My Dying Bride. This time though, we didn’t try to bring any of that into the album and tried to stay clear of the real life misery, because ultimately — it might be surprising — we are not deliberately always trying to be gloomy. In my world, I prefer if it’s not so real, “Tired Of Tears” is too close to the truth for me, I prefer something like “To Shiver In Empty Halls” with its grandeur and mystery, it is a bit more cryptic, almost fantasy-esque, or like “Symphonaire Infernus…”. That type of My Dying Bride I prefer.

On Feel The Misery, we have a song called “And My Father Left Forever”, I mean, you can’t make this up, Aaron’s father had died while we were working on the album and for fuck’s sake. It is actually a great song where Aaron exorcises his demons and we also played that live a few times. For me anyway, I prefer a more cryptic, mystical sort of vibe to our songs. I’ll tell you what, we needed to break away from reality, as it was breaking us all, we needed the album to get away from that, even for those fifty-something minutes. The album allowed us to escape a little.

At this point, we are waiting for news about tours, shall we expect you to perform in Italy as well? I also remember seeing you live back in 2010 at the Summer Breeze Festival in Germany, and it was amazing. Will we see that again? Will you be at open air festivals this summer?

We haven’t got anything in Italy just yet. At the moment, the dates are slowly creeping in. It can only be a matter of time, we are close friends with quite a few different bands, and we have seen them going back to playing in Italy. For a while, bands haven’t really played there for various reasons related to the gig climate, but now it seems that things are changing, so we hope we can benefit from that too. We all have regular jobs as well, so we can’t just jump on a tour bus and go around Europe unfortunately, we have to be very selective.

As for open air festivals, those were the ones that came in first actually. We have got some very big shows to do, which I’m quite nervous about. It’s almost like I don’t want to curse these things. There’s no reason for there not to be shows in Italy, the shows get organized and we get the offer, but nothing from Italy has come in, that’s on local promoters though, not on us.

Thanks again for your time and for this opportunity, feel free to leave a message to our readers!

We have a very loyal and quite passionate following in Italy, and we do have a soft spot for the country. On our last tour we deliberately forced the promoters to take us into Italy for a while. It is genuinely from the heart that we say that we do want to see you. If the fans put pressure on the promoters, they’ll get the message and hopefully we will see you in Italy soon.