In The Studio: My Dying Bride

Recording their 12th studio album in the band’s 25th anniversary year, My Dying Bride frontman and lyricist Aaron Stainthorpe has never felt more vulnerable and tormented in the studio – hence the record’s most likely title, Feel The Misery. Hammer must have caught him at a good time, as he brightened our day with his amiable eloquence, and his exclusive revelations about two forthcoming albums…

Where are you at with the new album? “The recording is finished, but we’ve missed our deadline, so it’s now delayed until September. Normally we’re always rushing, but with the gap we’ve got now, we can take our time on it, which is quite unique. If we think ‘an embellishment here or there wouldn’t go amiss,’ we’ve actually got time to do it.”

**Guitarist and founder member Calvin Robertshaw is back after 17 years. How did that pan out? **“He waltzed straight back into the job, didn’t think twice about it. He hasn’t been in any other band while he’s been away, but he’s always been writing his own music. Then when Andy (Craighan, MDB guitarist) asked if he’d be interested in rejoining he said yes immediately. So far we’ve done one gig with him in Norway – for which he was shitting himself! – but it was a great gig and the crowd were chuffed to see him. He looks completely different now, but it’s good to have the old boy back!”

Has he contributed any material to this album? “Not hugely, because Andy had already got most of the work done. It’s rare for one member of the band to create most of the album, and I’m sure Andy was thrilled to be given that opportunity, but he’s not going to get it again! Calvin is keen to stamp his mark upon My Dying Bride again. As I say, he’s been ‘playing with himself’ for years, and I asked him about all that material, would it migrate to My Dying Bride? And Calvin said ‘They’re all doom riffs, of course it will!’ So he’s definitely going to make an impact on whatever we record after this.”

**The last thing Calvin recorded with MDB – 1998’s 34.788% Complete – is the closest the band has ever come to a controversial album. Will he bring back some of that experimental streak?** “Possibly! But I think as we’re settling down in our latter years we find we quite like catchy riffs. I think the album we’ve just done is our most commercial to date! There’s some real foot-tapping stuff, and a few bits where I think ‘Oh, that’s the Iron Maiden riff!’ There are a couple of moments that I’m really keen for the fans to hear, to see what they think – there’s a bit of territory that we haven’t stepped into before. Speaking of which, you won’t know about this: we’re also doing a remixed version of the album. I don’t know where this idea came from, but our drummer Dan is a bit of a whizz in the engineering department. I think he was saying to the label ‘I can do a load of weird and wonderful stuff with these songs. Shall I?’ and they said ‘Go on then!’ and we thought, if it’s shit we can say no, but why not mess around and see what we can come up with? So there’s going to be some weird boxset remix thing. He’s got some ideas for vocals too, so I’ll actually be going in to record some new vocals for these remixes. I’m not sure what he’s got planned, but it might be fun!”

What made you miss your deadline? Did you need lots of retakes? “It’s me that takes the longest. The guitarists are recording and rehearsing all the time, they nailed most of the songs before they went to the studio, so those guys were in and out in quick time. Vocals and lyrics always come last, and it always takes me ages; it’s such a long time just to warm up the vocal chords. I’ve never been the greatest singer in the world, I can’t hit all the notes and I don’t even bother trying to half the time, but you’ve still got to do inventive things with the voice to keep it interesting. I like to do the whispering stuff, and a bit of death metal, try to add a bit of variety. I can’t play an instrument, vocals are all I’ve got, so I’ve got to play around to keep it fresh and interesting.”

How’s the track list looking? “There’s going to be eight songs on the album. I can read some titles for you, in no particular order: Feel The Misery, I Almost Loved You, A Cold New Curse, I Celebrate Your Skin, A Thorn Of Wisdom, To Shiver In Empty Halls, and the final one: And My Father Left Forever. Which, bizarrely, I wrote before my father died in January, which was a real struggle for me. It wasn’t a premonition, it was just a weird thing. Everyone was in the studio and it was my time to write, but my father became ill over Christmas – he lived two hours away so I was to-ing and fro-ing – and then he died at the end of January, which was terrible. So it was odd that when I came back into the studio, that was the first song I started to sing, which was quite difficult. It was a hard time. I could have taken a break, Andy said ‘Do you really want to do this now?’ and I said ‘Yeah, let’s fucking get it over and done with.’”

So recording this album must have been an unusually miserable experience? “Yeah, it was shit. I didn’t enjoy recording this album in any way at all. Everyone else thoroughly enjoyed it, they were all buzzing having Calvin back, but because of what was happening in my personal life, I didn’t enjoy it at all. When the final day in the studio was up, I thought ‘Thank God that’s over.’ We’re normally all quite upbeat at the end of a recording, normally we’d go to the pub and celebrate, but this time we sort of drifted off. Which is a shame, it put a bit of a dampener on it. This is our 25th anniversary year – and we will do some silly stuff to celebrate – but it got off to a shit start for me. Hopefully it will get better.”

All photos by Sabrina Ramdoyal.

Chris Chantler

Chris has been writing about heavy metal since 2000, specialising in true/cult/epic/power/trad/NWOBHM and doom metal at now-defunct extreme music magazine Terrorizer. Since joining the Metal Hammer famileh in 2010 he developed a parallel career in kids' TV, winning a Writer's Guild of Great Britain Award for BBC1 series Little Howard's Big Question as well as writing episodes of Danger Mouse, Horrible Histories, Dennis & Gnasher Unleashed and The Furchester Hotel. His hobbies include drumming (slowly), exploring ancient woodland and watching ancient sitcoms.