Name: My Dying Bride
Members: Aaron Stainthorpe, Calvin Robertshaw, Andrew Craighan, Lena Abé, Shaun MacGowan
Current Album: Feel the Misery
Musical Recommendations: Monolith Cult & Iron Rat.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences?
I started during my first bands back in 1985/86. I can’t claim any of it was of any use but I was busy learning and was also enjoying being in a band although none seemed to last more than a week or too. My very early influences used to be Kiss, Ozzy, Maiden, Scorpions, and then when thrash came out Slayer, Bloodfeast, Obituary, Kreator those types of bands. It sounded easy to play but it turned out it wasn’t.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
For me it was and still is as you described in the question, I’m still learning and still emulating those I enjoy listening to. It’s difficult to see your own development when it happens across 25 or so years, it also hasn’t stopped so I guess I am still very much becoming me as opposed to being me, I’m my own worst critic and strive to better myself with each song and album I’m involved in.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
In the beginning we were like any other band, we just recorded our rehearsals on tape. We had no access to even a four track back then so all was memory and then a very basic recording of the practice room sessions. Now we all have top notch computers or Macs and use Pro Tools and Cubase, so quite a change from the writing and rehearsing of the early 1990s. As for studio production challenges I can’t claim I knew much of what was going on, we just did our bit and got excited about releasing and album and bombing off on tour. We now have a far keener eye and are closer to the engineering side that ever but I can’t claim I’m ready to take over and if truth be known don’t want to.
Tell us about your studio, please. What were criteria when setting it up and how does this environment influence the creative process? How important, relatively speaking, are factors like mood, ergonomics, haptics and technology for you?
I wouldn’t really call my home recording setup a studio. It’s an iMac and Pro Tools 11.3 and EZ Drummer 2 and a couple of Mics. Its focus is song arrangement and recording of ideas. Not full music production. It’s pretty powerful none the less but I don’t record the full band at home. The environment is important but due to limited space and the tendency to be loud I have converted my cellar to accommodate this. I’ve since learnt that I’m most at home when left to play in total solitude.
What are currently some of the most important tools and instruments you're using?
Apart from the obvious electric and bass guitars I’d say Pro Tools and EZ Drummer. Pro Tools has made recording tiny ideas very easy and also allows for the expansion into multi track compositions with very little fuss. EZ Drummer 2 allows me to make the song feel a little more like a real band until we get to live rehearsals. I’m not overly precious about how the drums sound particularly, but EZ Drummer is a very cool piece of software that allows you to just get cracking on the bits you do care for then let the real drummer sort it out later on. Or not depending on how you want to play the game.
Many contemporary production tools already take over significant parts of what would formerly have constituted compositional work. In which way do certain production tools suggest certain approaches, in which way do they limit and/or expand your own creativity?
None of the stuff I use limits or has taken over from composing in anyway, in fact just the opposite. Bearing in mind what I am trying to achieve is not the full finished song in many ways just 90% of it. The toys I have allow for arrangements –re-arrangements and so on. It’s a basic setup however I rarely use anything more electronic than EZ Drummer and don’t use any synths or keys when I’m writing, just guitars and bass. I have more freedom using this electronic version of recording than ever before as time is the only limiting factor for us as not being full time band we have to be efficient with what we have.
Are there any promising solutions or set-ups capable of triggering new ideas inside of you as a composer?
If there are I’m missing out, so not for me, I normally have the ideas (not always in full) before I switch anything on then go from there. I wouldn’t normally set it all up and expect the machine to inspire me into writing anything. Shame however as sometimes it can be a struggle, but at those times I just close it down and wait for the right vibe to turn up. In the past I would sit and thrash it out but I’ve learnt that’s no longer the way. Like most things in life being in the right mood is the start of some great things.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece or album that's particularly dear to you, please? Where do ideas come from, what do you start with and how do you go about shaping these ideas?
The easiest one and thankfully relevant right now is what became the song “Feel The Misery”. This one however is a total anomaly and not how it normally happens at all. I had the main riff for the songs and I was trying to write around it and couldn’t get anything to gel with it at all. Consequently it kept getting shelved, then I’d revive it and try again and once again nothing would work. Then when I was not in writing mode (mood) at all, I was actually at work on the phone, the lyrics started to come in, they just started appearing in my head, and to add insult to injury the melody for them was there too. I was desperate to get this person off of the phone, so while trying to be polite and attentive to the caller I was frantically scribbling down the lyrics and trying to remember the melody they came with which by sheer god knows what fit the riff I had been struggling to find a home for. Not at all what you might expect but there I was minutes later in our car park singing the melody into my mobile phone of all things with the new lyrics I had just received. It hasn’t ever happened like that before and to be fair I’ve stepped of the pedal since we finished this album so it’s not happened since. I’ll take it though as it’s not always as easy as that. Most of the time it’s hours and hours of writing and re-writing to get it to be something we consider usable for us.