AARON STAINTHORPE Discusses MY DYING BRIDE's Career In Doom: 'We Often Do Things That Aren't Radio-Friendly'

April 3, 2024

By David E. Gehlke

Save for a brief, originally suspect but now appreciated sojourn into experimental territory via 1998's "34.788%... Complete", venerable U.K. doom lords MY DYING BRIDE have never strayed too far from their miserable, dreary origins. It's an approach that has served them well over 33 years, including a spate of brilliant and heart-wrenching albums in the '90s, highlighted by 1995's "The Angel And The Dark River" (though one would not be at fault for vouching for 1993's "Turn Loose The Swans"). Latter-day MY DYING BRIDE still employs the same penchant for drama and intrigue from frontman Aaron Stainthorpe and careful use of violins and melodic guitar lines, but it's more refined and savvier — just like a fine wine.

The band's newest foray, "A Mortal Binding", comes four years after "The Ghost Of Orion", an album that was beset with turmoil when Stainthorpe's daughter was diagnosed with cancer. (She has since recovered.) While the circumstances were lighter this time out, MY DYING BRIDE can still spin long-form, epic doom tales like no other, which was the main point of discussion when BLABBERMOUTH.NET caught up with Stainthorpe.

Blabbermouth: Considering all that took place prior to the making of "The Ghost Of Orion", was it almost relaxing to do an album like "A Mortal Binding" that had a fraction of the stress?

Aaron: "Yeah, it was a lot easier. There was no coming out of the darkness back into the light. We had plenty of time to relax, do some gigs and get back to some sort of normality, which is always useful. We wrote like we did in the past. We enjoyed it. Everyone came up with their contributions. This was the first album in which Neil [Blanchett, guitar] made contributions. He joined at the end of the recording of 'The Ghost Of Orion', but he's in the thick of it for this one, so that's good. There was so much less pressure. We felt like we were in a better place. I don't know whether the sound of the album reflects that. Obviously, we can't tell if one album is more doomier than the next. We're sort of inside looking out, whereas we need people on the outside looking in. Other people can reference albums better than we can by saying, 'That's more death metal. That's more doomier than that one.' We just don't know. I don't know if you can tell if 'Ghost' was particularly more miserable than 'A Mortal Binding', but that's up to the outsiders."

Blabbermouth: For what it's worth, "The Ghost Of Orion" was a bit more melodic, especially taking into account the harmonies Andrew [Craighan, guitar] was doing. "A Mortal Binding" is more grueling and has that early death metal feeling at times.

Aaron: "That's Neil's influence peeking through. Andrew had to do all of 'Ghost' alone, which was probably not a lot of fun. When you're tasked with doing something on your own, it's not easy. It's daunting. He was up to it. But this time around, Neil put his mark on all sorts of things. I can't tell which riffs are Neil's and Andrew's. It doesn't make any difference because they work in such great harmony anyway. It all seems to work out."

Blabbermouth: Like you, Andrew has been there from the beginning, but the second guitar player role, whether handled by Calvin [Robertshaw], Hamish [Glencross], or now Neil, has always been integral.

Aaron: "Oh yeah, definitely. We've got layers and layers of guitars on some of the songs, like six or seven. Obviously, you can't do those live. You need someone else to help out. It's nice to have someone else there. Nobody wants to do all the work. Again, in a live capacity, it doesn't work. When you stop playing the chuggy riff and you're doing a bit of a harmony, there is no other guitar there to fill it out. You lose a lot of sound and audio. At the very least, it's better with two guitars. Some bands insist on even more! I think two is a good amount. They work really well together. I've known Neil for 30-odd years. There's never been any capacity for him to join MY DYING BRIDE until very recently."

Blabbermouth: Lyrically, it appears you've returned to the storytelling format used before "The Ghost Of Orion". Would you say "A Mortal Binding" is more outward-looking?

Aaron: "Yeah, definitely. There's always been personal touches within the lyrics. Only the diehard fans, by reading between the lines, can suss things out. Sometimes, it's nice to wear your heart on your sleeves and tell them what's on your mind. Other times, if it's a bit personal, you might want to disguise it a little bit, which I've had to do in many songs in the past. Actually, I've gone a little bit more surreal with the storytelling. There are fewer songs with a defined narrative on this album. When you think of songs like 'The Light At The End Of The World', it is a story with a start, middle and end. Now, songs like 'The Apocalyptist', on the new album, it's a similar thing. It's a big, epic tale. But it's not in a standard fashion. There's no beginning, middle or end. It's almost like I've taken the story, chopped it all up and sang whichever words came out first. It's an Armageddon-style song. Sometimes, when I'm trying to express myself, rather than just go A-to-B, 'Look, this is a cup of tea.' I'd rather talk about a vessel infused with nature's leaves. Do you know what that means? I prefer a more poetic approach than just shoving it in your face. It's easy to write a nice, simple narrative. I enjoy it now and again."

Blabbermouth: "The Light At The End Of The World" started as a poem of yours, and once Andrew provided the music, it became a song. Do you still work that way?

Aaron: "It varies. For 'A Mortal Binding', the music was all done first. When it arrives at my house, I put words to it. In the past, it's been a little bit of this and that. Andrew sometimes requests lyrics to help inspire him. Sometimes, they get used and sometimes they don't. They might kickstart the song and get discarded. It's a little bit of both. For the new album, all the music came first and the lyrics were popped on afterward."

Blabbermouth: Can you discuss (producer) Mark Mynett's role on the album? After 33 years, do you need much "producing"?

Aaron: "I don't see why not. When someone comes up with an idea, they might say, 'This song might sound better if you put the first riff second and the second riff first.' We're not going to say, 'That's a terrible idea.' We'll look at it. If it doesn't work for us, we won't do it. It's nice to have someone like Mark who is confident enough to open up dialogue. Whether or not we choose to take his ideas is entirely up to us. Sometimes we do, sometimes we don't. I certainly did a bit more on 'Ghost' because I needed help. On this album, I told Mark, 'We're doing it my way. That's the way it's going to be.' We pretty much did. There were a couple of moments where he said, 'Why don't you go down a note here instead of going up? It will help with the harmony of the guitars.' I'll have a go and say, 'Yes. That works very well.' It's nice to have someone who is confident enough to come up with ideas. Whether or not we choose to take them onboard is a different story."

Blabbermouth: What led you to allow him to sequence the album? That's a big chore. If we want to go back a bit, it's impossible to imagine a song like "The Cry Of Mankind" being anywhere but first in the running order.

Aaron: "I know what you're saying. Normally, we'll sit down and discuss which song goes where. But for this one, I don't know why; it seemed that no one was that bothered. It was like, 'They're all great songs! We all want this one to go first.' Or, 'We want that one to go first!' All that happens is you get into a massive argument. [Laughs] Then it starts getting bitter and people start slagging you off because you haven't picked their favorite song as number one. We said, 'Mark. You use your outsider's ears. From a commercial point of view, what do you think would be the best layout for the album?' We left it up to him."

Blabbermouth: You had a period where the violin was left off a few albums. What's your relationship with it now? Is there ever a discussion on how much it's getting used?

Aaron: "That's a good question because I don't know whether or not we use it enough. It's a lovely sound. When it's going with the harmony guitars, it's really special. I don't know how long we went without a violin, which proves we can survive without it, but it's nice to have it with us. When it comes, it swells and it's gorgeous and beautiful. It really adds something to the song. Because I try not to get too involved in the songwriting—I'm not a musician. I don't wander in saying, 'Oh, the guitars are too this. There's not enough keyboards.' I leave it up to those guys because they know what they're doing. At no point have I thought, 'Damn. There's too much violin on that.' It doesn't work that way. It's like, are there two peas on your plate? Who cares. It's lovely. Strangely, when it's not there, you don't miss it, but when it arrives, you really feel it. It's a beautiful thing. If you have it all the time, it won't have as much impact because you'll be used to it. It's got to come in and out, so when it's out, you're enjoying the music for what it is, and when it comes in, it adds a lovely little highlight that makes you realize what you'd missed.

"We're a very emotive band. We often do things that might not be 'radio-friendly,' shall we say. Some of the songs are really long. We don't think, 'They're never going to play this on the radio.' It doesn't matter. We have to tell the stories in our particular fashion and emotion. It does mean that sometimes the songs can be quite lengthy, but that's never bothered us in the slightest, and it's never bothered Peaceville or Nuclear Blast. They never said to us, 'We need a radio-friendly edit. You have to cut some of this bullshit away and give us something commercial.' We've had full artistic license, which is brilliant and means we can be as emotive and creative as we want. Sometimes, that can make for challenging listening, which is fair enough. If you want easy listening, there are a million bands out there who can give you what you want."

Blabbermouth: The band emerged from the recent rough patch with your daughter, but there were other times, like when you lost several members after opening for DIO in North America, that put MY DYING BRIDE in peril. Were you ever that close to calling it quits?

Aaron: "A lot of bands go through rocky periods. We've been around 33 years. You don't throw the towel in. You think, 'We've had things like this before. We'll see what happens.' To be honest, if my daughter hadn't survived cancer, I'd probably have thrown in the towel. That's an extreme thing. There are hurdles. For the most part, you try and get over them. There are moments when you drop your shoulders and go, 'Why is this so hard? I'm supposed to be in a band writing music and enjoying ourselves. Why is it so hard?' We get it more than many bands because we don't have a manager. Me and Andrew manage the band. We have to deal with the taxman, lawyers, record label, merchandise—every tiny aspect we have to deal with, which takes the shine off creativity. When you see how much the taxman is taking off of you and how much bullshit you have to go through to make certain gigs happen, it really makes it difficult. Then you think, 'Fuck it. We're not going to bother.' You have to knuckle down and say, 'Is the band stronger than this? Let's just carry on.' But it does get tough at times. It really does."

Blabbermouth: Does this carry over to your approach to North America? You primarily do select festival appearances now. Will there ever be a full-bore MY DYING BRIDE tour over here?

Aaron: "We hoped when we moved to Nuclear Blast that we might be able to get to the U.S. by piggybacking off another band like PARADISE LOST. We've been on our promoter for years to do a U.S. tour. It's just the case, 'Okay. The fans want you, but the venues don't. They don't think they can fill the venues with your style of music. It's not commercial enough.' We hoped the move to Nuclear Blast would help us get on with PARADISE LOST or someone similar and support someone on a U.S. tour. That hasn't materialized as of yet, but we still live in hope."

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