This interview is from Issue #6 (1996) with Aaron Stainthorpe, conducted by Bill Zebub
Thy video is said to be very controversial.
Only to really sort of sad people. I mean, we’re not a controversial band. We don’t go out to shock people. When we did the video for “The Cry of Mankind” it’s basically got me dressed as Christ, covered in all this false blood and stuff. Now for some people, that alone is enough to cause controversy. In fact, when we presented the video to MTV in Europe, the “Headbangers Ball,’ they said “No” straight away.
But they play a Nirvana video with a crucified elderly man!
Well, this is it. couple of scenes cut out. I think of them was when I was fondling my crotch with a hand covered in false blood. We knew that was the high point and that would have to be cut out. That did go. Then we presented it again, and they said, ‘O.K. I any backlash, you’re taking the You know! This really isn’t that bad, is it? But obviously, to some people it really is. I’m actually just there with the rest of the guys playing the stuff behind me. There is an image of a cross. . . in fact, we actually blew it up! We had to blow the thing up. MTV really argued about that as well. But we’ve kind of thrashed it out with them. They really did not want to show it. If you see it, you’ll look at it and you’ll think, ‘What the hell were these censorship people talking about?’ There’s nothing there. It’s just the fact that a rock singer is dressed up as Christ. There’s no content in there that justifies censorship.
Dost thou think that Jesus spoke In an obnoxious Jewish accent?
(laughs) I have no idea. (laughs) I’ve never even thought about it like that, to be honest.
Maybe they crucified him just to shut him up.
I Just wanted to create some real controversy for thee.
When we refer to ourselves, we say that we are Americans. Dost thou say, “I am a Brit?”
I say that I am British. But Andrew, one of our guitarists, says he’s English, not British. We haven’t got anything against the Irish, the Scottish, and the Welsh. But he says he’s English. I don’t think he’s ever left Yorkshire before we toured. Andy’s kind of English, and that’s the way it’s gonna stay.
The reason I ask is, we have a term called, “African American.”
Is there a like term over there? Dost thou say “”African Brit?”
Well yeah. Of course.
Is that what they say, really?
They’re all . . . gosh, saying that sounding like they’re some kind of foreign species. Over here it’s “Jamaican.
If I vacationed in Africa and then decided to live there, would I be an “American African”?
(laughs) That’s a good thought. Yeah.
People are afraid to speak the truth. Certain things cannot be coated with sugar. A person who is retarded is called “mentally challenged.’
Yeah, all that PC stuff.
As if these ridiculous alternative terms diffuse the harshness . . . There are facts of life that remain brutal even after the word for the condition is altered. But the truth is, a retarded child is happier than an average child because a retarded person will never doubt love, nor will a retarded person ever hide love from another person. It is only an average person who views the condition as cruel.
There was a thing in England a few years ago. The conservative government are in at the moment. But the Looney Left, the Labor. . . they were on about banning the word ‘blackboard.’ Now it’s just called “board.’ Can you believe that? It’s absolutely insane. That’s the way it goes, I suppose. Some people out there think that some things are breathtakingly offensive, when in reality the majority of the public think there’s nothing there whatsoever.
It just might be an event for a social club. They probably ask themselves, “What will we attack this week?”
I hate people like that. I really do. They really get on my tits. People like that are almost trying to start an argument for no reason. These people probably spent a couple hundred pounds researching that fact, that things should no longer be called ‘blackboard.’ They just throw money away left, right, and center, arguing about things that don’t need arguing.
What is it about Americans that the English despise?
Um… uh, what don’t they?
Ha, ha, ha.
No. No. No. No. I don’t know how they dare. But the British like to kick the Mickey out of everybody. . . the Irish, the French obviously. . . even I say it. We hate the French, the Australians, the Americans. I mean, don’t think you’re special. By no means. We have a go at everyone, as If we’re perfect. We classify the French as being obnoxious. We classify the Irish as being completely thick. The Americans… I don’t know. In British comedy the Americans as looked at as being “over the top.”
Like in Monty Pythons, “Meaning of Life’ when Death comes to the table of doomed people who ate the bad salmon?
Oh yes. That is so typical.
I know that we have cliques, most of which are despised by me. I do not feel a brotherhood to other Americans, especially the more ridiculous subcultures. Is it a certain subculture that is generalized to all Americans, or does thy hatred stem from the Revolutionary War when thou wert defeated?
I have no idea. I can’t really comment on that. When we say “American,” we don’t really have a picture in our heads. We see a family… a man, wife, kids … a girl and a boy in the back of a huge car on a sunny day with a huge house and a pool, and not very many brain cells. We don’t see black. We don’t see Puerto Rican. We don’t see skyscrapers. We see that sort of nuclear family thing. It’s a white middle income with a car and all that crap.
Hast thou avidly followed the orwegian events?
I was really into the black metal stuff in the middle-to-late-80’s. I loved stuff like Bathory who were, for me, the purveyors, and Celtic Frost of course. It’s become a joke now, I think. These kids, no matter how much they mutilate themselves and each other, I don’t think they have an ounce of evil in them. I think they’ve read some good stories, seen some good bands, found some rather good wristbands with some six-inch nails in them, and have decided that that’s what they want to do. Yet to me, the real evil people are the ones who have the high-level jobs and major incomes. To me, these kids in Norway who throw dead cats at their worst enemy’s door, they’re just so unbelievably childish. Someone said to us before we went to Norway, ‘Have you ever heard death threats from Norwegian black metallers?’ We’ve got the I.R.A. to worry about. You think we’re going to worry about some dickhead throwing a dead cat? These are kids who are out just for a good time. Half of them are not going to last for more than two or three years. They’re going to go and get a proper job, and they’re going to look back at these times and go, “Christ! What a prick!”
But dost thou not think it to be a great marketing tool?
Oh yeah! They know that as well. Half these tales about… who got killed? It was ‘Dead,” wasn’t it?
Dead, and then Euronymous.
I half believe those people are still alive. It’s wonderful publicity. It’s easily done. You can ting a fanzine up, or a major magazine in fact, and say, ‘Hi. My friend. . . ‘and then invent some crazy demonic name, “has just been slaughtered by,” and then invent another crazy demonic name, and they’ll print it in the press before checking it out. It is wonderful publicity. You cover yourself in blood and then you go and set fire to a church. It’s gonna make news. You just mention your record label and your new album, and you’ve sold another few thousand copies. It is good marketing. But I think now people are getting pretty much sick to death of it.
I used to ridicule the black metal bands. But now I just ridicule the people who buy the merchandise. That scene has its own idiotic terminology, describing various no-talent bands as “war-metal” and et cetera. It’s just marketing.
Yeah. It’s good business.
How can “My Dying Bride’ be marketed?
I’m not really sure. It’s not really for us to say either. It’s up to the record labels and journalists to place us where they feel we need placing. We can’t jump up and say, ‘We’re the new Celtic Frost. Everybody buy our stuff because we’re avant garde and no one can understand what we’re doing.’ We’re not going to do anything like that. We play what we enjoy. We’re six guys who enjoy writing an unusual style of music. It makes us feel good to write the stuff we do.
Are Anathema still around?
That’s who we’re going to Poland with. Yeah. I think England reigns in that sense. It’s doing O.K. But I think there are some more inventive bands from outside of England who somehow are marketed in the same sort of magazines as My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost. And yet, the music they do. . . I’m thinking of a band called ‘Elend’ from France. Their album is advertised in the same sort of ‘zines. Yet the music is just female vocals and violins all the way through, with the odd bit of screaming and shouting. This isn’t even metal. And yet, it’s there. I think doom metal is great In England. But the real avant garde stuff is springing up in mainland Europe. There are bands where half the album is drums and half the album is some crazy wailing stuff. You don’t get that from an English band.
I know that thou art modest. But canst thou admit to seeing an influence of My Dying Bride in some bands?
Well yeah, we can, especially in bands like Anathema. We know that they really screwed us for a song a few years ago that we laugh about all the time now. I was talking to one of the guys in Anathema in ‘92. We were writing this song called ‘Comfort Me,” which we never got around to completing. But I told him everything about it and how we were planning on this and that and the other. And it appeared on their first album, not under the name of “Comfort Me.” I can’t remember what it’s called now. The rest of the band couldn’t believe it. We got their album free, being on the same record label, and we were listening to it at Peaceville Records. We thought, “Well, we can’t do anything about it now.” We kind of just smiled to ourselves. We knew that it was our idea. I’ve never actually told anyone this before. It’s not to make bad publicity. But I couldn’t really give a toff now. They took that peace of music off us!
I am glad to be the first to whom that secret was revealed.
There are these six-piece bands out now with female vocals. We got a tape from a band a while ago, and all the song titles, including the name of the band, were from ‘Turn Loose the Swans.” It was really, really bizarre. I think the band was called something like “Vast Swans,’ and all the songs were words from our song titles just rearranged. It’s kind of nice, I suppose. The music was utter bullocks. But the imagery looked quite good.
The Last song on “Turn Loose the Swans…”
I heard that there’s an unusual version floating around that features thee saying, “I want to fuck you baby.”
(laughs) There is an unusual version floating around. It’s not as coarse as that. I know who released this. It’s Martin, the violin player. We’d been slugging it out for like 16-hour days on ‘Turn Loose the Swans.” ‘Black God’ was a real problem. The girl who did the vocals, she couldn’t get it right at all, and it took like the whole day and the next day just to get this small part tight. When she left I went down to put my vocals. I was warming up because I had to get rather close to the microphone and they turned the recording level really high, so you could get every breath I took. Obviously, I needed to practice. I’ve got a good sense of humor. While we were there, this is like 4 o’ clock in the morning and I’ve had some beers, I was talking about some odd things. It’s very unusual… stuff about a local sort of fish ‘n chips shop next door. It’s good fun. They recorded it upstairs. When I listened to it I laughed like mad. I said, ‘That’s funny. Now get rid of it.” We know this now, but Martin took the tape and he just copied it for anyone and everyone. Now it’s floating around all over the place. If people are really big fans, it will dash their hopes and make them think, ‘Well, what a fucking shit band!” We are entitled to do things llike this now and again. It’s not gonna kill us. It Is a novelty.
The song, “Sexuality of Bereavement,” was part of the collector’s club. How many other tracks are there that are no longer available?
None. That song was recorded in the ‘Tum Loose the Swans’ session. Normally, we record an album’s worth of music, 50 or 60 minutes. Hammy from Peaceville told us that he wanted an extra track. So when we’re at this situation for “Tum Loose the Swans’ we did 60 minutes worth. Then we did the “Sexuality..’ in the same session. The next thing we released was the “I am the Bloody Earth.’ We were told that the American version had to be longer than the European version for some strange reason, and they wanted an extra song. Now, as I’ve said, we have no songs on tape that have never been released. So Hammy thought, “The Collector’s Club is for people who have joined.” He shouldn’t really take songs out of it and put somewhere else. But seeing how this is going to America, and there were only about two members in the club from America . . . it really was a white elephant, I’m afraid. The Collector’s Club was a flop. Well, it didn’t make it on that E.P. So the next thing we were doing was “The Angel and the Dark River.’ We presented all the songs for Music for Nations. Then they said, ‘We need a bonus track.”They didn’t think of telling this before we went into the studio. They tell us after we’ve done everything. We said, “We have no bonus track. There’s nothing.’ They said, ‘Have you got anything unusual, done a B-side or anything?” And again, “Sexuality…’ being the song it was, has been released on the digi-pack version. It sticks out like a sore thumb because it has “Tum Loose the Swans” production. It really shouldn’t have been put on there. We would’ve loved to have written a brand new track for it. Have you heard It at all?
Actually yes. It is truly a great song.
I like it very much as well. It’s kind of unusual.
At the time of the Collectors Club I didn’t have a turntable. When I saw flyers for it I was really mad. I was going to order it and have a friend record it for me. When thou had thy licensing deal with Fierce and they put out “Trinity” I was very happy. “Trinity.”
Is that what it’s calied there?
We weren’t to sure about that. I don’t know if you know about the boxed set called “The Stories.’
I already had each E.P.
‘The Stories’ were three E.P.’s that were really difficult to get a hold of outside of Europe. So we were going to box them all up and send them all over the world and say to people, “All right, these records will never be available again. If you couldn’t find them before, now’s your chance.” Somebody had the idea of “Trinity” as well. We thought, ‘Well hang on a minute. Surely we’re ripping people off with this. That-s what people are gonna think.” The record label, In their wisdom decided to go for it straightaway. There really wasn’t a great deal we could do about it. So we kind of went along with it. The English version is better than the American version, by the’way. It is humorous how thou art a victim. When we do venues we do not like ripping people off. We’re really into the underground scene. Every fanzine said, “Guaranteed no tip-off’ in it somewhere. It’s sort of how we’ve always done our thing. Some of the first gigs we did we were virtually giving our t-shirts away. Even still now, we charge the minimum we possibly can when we play live. We do not like ripping people off because we do not like getting ripped off. But the record labels love it! They can’t get enough!
The violin wasn’t as dominant on the first e.p. Was the violinist iin the band, or just hired for accompaniment?
He was a guest musician. He joined just after ‘Turn Loose the Swans’ was recorded.
How was it playing out before he became fully fledged?
We were nobodies back then. The first time we ever left England was in 1992. He could easily come with us. He was in a university. He didn’t want to give up his education to become a member of the band. IIt was very important to him, psychology or some weird shit. With bands, you know, they’re here one minute and gone the next. If he gave’up his education, he’d have to start again. So he wasn’t prepared to do that. It was early in “Tum Loose…’ when he decided, “I’m going to give up my education for you lot.’
Hast thou heard “Celestial Season?’
Somebody mentioned that last night.
The first album was said to have completely copied thy style. The second album, “Solar Lovers” has two exceptional violinists. I couldn’t help but to think that they followed thy example in regard to instrumentation. But I am glad that they did.
We didn’t invent all that. You know yourself that Celtic Frost had their opera’ singers and stuff. That’s who we were mainly influenced by. We thought that the first thing people were going to say about us was, “Celtic Frost rip-off.’ But they didn’t. So we kind of got away with it.