MY DYING BRIDE (Hamish Glencross) INTERVIEW
When you have been a fan of a band for mere twenty one years, you are excused in believing that you know exactly what the band in question is all about and also what it is that you can expect from it, right? Wrong! Yorkshire legends My Dying Bride do not fall into the category of bands that choose to play things safe and that is exactly why the opted for a release as unique and spell bounding as “Evinta”. On the night of the very first date of a short UK tour I met with guitarist Hamish Glencross for a very pleasant chat and I got the opportunity to find out exactly how this little gem came to life.
By Yiannis (John) Stefanis.
• Hi Hamish; thank you for taking the time to do this interview. Let me begin by congratulating you for the band’s twentieth anniversary!
Hamish: Yeah; it’s been quite a milestone with the band being going on for as long as that – it’s quite remarkable. We have always been creating music by being brutally honest to our original intentions and, though having experienced many variations throughout the years, the one thing that always remained true was that what we released each time has always been the absolute representation of where the band was at that moment in time, with us retaining the integrity of the music that we were playing. We never chased after commercial success, sales or anything like that, so yeah – it is a great body of music to look back at and it is great to be proud of everything that has been accomplished. We have great memories of touring and creating this music so this is indeed a great celebration – a very positive vibe to quite negative music (laughs).
• Now, I cannot agree with you describing your music as negative, even though I detect elements of self-sarcasm in your statement. You see, I perceive your music as a form of catharsis – a process one goes through and which cleanses his negativity, enabling him to emerge victorious!
Hamish: I am very pleased that you said that because we are indeed pretty adjustable human being that have this outlet through which we release our anger, aggression and frustrations. It is great for us as we don’t hang around being miserable all the time. We are always in hope that somebody will pick on this and that we will end up getting some form of higher connection…yeah, I am very pleased with that!
• You know; as I was waiting for you outside the venue, there was a couple standing next to me. At some point, one guy asked them “what are My Dying Bride like” to which they responded “it’s the kind of music you will want to hear when you feel like committing suicide” – a description which I found to be strange. Why? Simply because I cannot understand how someone can experience your music in such a different way than I do. I am not sure whether it is because I am Greek but what I get from your music is what I believe my ancestors got through drama; the process of cleansing one’s soul by emotionally draining yourself. Now, being around for so many years mean that you must have heard different people describing your music in so many different ways, right? Is it possible that, after so many years, there are still people out there who don’t know what your band is all about?
Hamish: Oh, well…one thing that we certainly see is because we can cross over into all those sub divisions of Metal, some people pick up more on the gothic or romantic angle and some people pick up more on the grim and ugly elements of our Death Metal side. We play music festivals in front of so many different, at times, audiences and we do not particularly tailor our set. We do not perform more of romantic stuff when we play a Gothic festival and we also don’t have a similar approach when we perform at an extreme music festival. We simply stick to what it is that makes this band and that is the whole package – all encompassing. I do find it quite fascinating how people take our music in so many different ways. What is very nice, and which we are told every now and then, is that we can be the band that a couple have in common. So, if the lady is more into the gothic side of music and her boyfriend is into more straight metal then the one band that they can agree on is My Dying Bride. Now, I like that (laughs) – I like this sense of unity that we create. But yeah; people’s interpretations of our songs and our lyrics can be quite fascinating at times. I have read a few stuff on line as we have some really creative-thinking fans who put forward their theories of what certain songs mean and, even when they are off wide from their original intention, they can come up with some great, well supported theories which, at times, make us think “actually, this is a better story from the one we had in mind” (laughs). I love that; as soon as you put music out into the public sphere it becomes susceptible to people’s reactions and interpretations. Some people will love what you do, some people will hate it and it can be either of those two things for some really different reasons!
• And that is exactly what one is ought to expect from real art as it is indeed supposed to generate differences of opinion as people grow up in different ways and also the messages they get from their outside environment also tend to differ and thus forces them to translate things in various ways.
Hamish: Absolutely, cause the alternative would be very superficial quick-fix. If that thing was to be mono-dimensional and simply black or white, that would be a quick and easy thing at first, but there would not necessarily involve quality and substance whereas things that tend to operate in a greyer environments are more open to interpretation and people tend to spend more time with them as art forms. Some of the albums we created in the past, on the first listen may come across as quite dense records and thus you will need to spend some time with them before someone can say whether they like it or not and how they rate with some of the other albums that we’ve done. I believe that this is a very important thing to have. If our music was more direct and simple, very quick to understand and interpret, then people might not spend so much time with it and make as much out of it as thy do now.
• One of the few ‘problems’ one has when being a fan of a band for as long as I have been a fan of My Dying Bride is that you sometimes tend to loose your objectivity. Before I came here to do this interview tonight, I looked back on all the albums that you guys have recorded so far, trying to think outside the box, and one of the main things that I reminded myself of is that you guys have never recorded the same kind of album twice! You are one of the few twenty year old bands who have always managed to take one step forward with every new release and that in itself is quite an achievement. When you look back at the amount of work that you have created as a member of this band, are you feeling happy with the way things have progressed over this period of time? Would you have done something differently or even not have attempted anything specific?
Hamish: I am very happy with it, because there’s such a large volume out now and I can look back and see how some albums were also created in quite different circumstances to others, so as much as we’ve always wanted to kind of develop and progress within…the music you want to create, that’s very much a creative decision of the time in question. There have also been other factors as much as circumstance. At the time of writing the album “Songs of Darkness, Words of Light” (2004) our drummer had sustained some quite significant injuries that were keeping his away from playing, so a lot of that album is just written by myself and Andrew (Craighan:guitars) away from the whole band unit and that created slightly different kinds of textures and moods to it. There were more sections where the guitar could ring out longer on their own and then come back on the band unit with sounds already developed and complete really, to which the rest of the members added their parts in. Now, the album that came out after that one, “A Line of Deathless Kings” (2006), we had a slightly different line up at that point and a new drummer that came and brought his enthusiasm in the proceedings. It was great writing and recording songs as more of a solid band so that album sounds more cohesive piece of work, all the way through. Those are some circumstantial things that affected our past work and it is nice to look back at them now as they bring back some good memories. I have some really good memories from recording “A Line of Deathless Kings” and of the tour that followed as this was a very strong and positive time for us as a band. That is not to detract from “Songs of Darkness, Words of Light” which is an album that I also love but which was simply different.
• Now, that I find very interesting as “Songs of Darkness, Words of Light” is indeed one of my personal favourites. I always felt that it was quite a harsh album but now I really understand why it came out the way it did.
• Well, let’s talk about this little beauty here which is called “Evinta”. Last time I did an interview with Aaron (Stainthorpe: vocals), he described you as the ‘Metal Kid’ of the band. When I realised that this little symphonic ‘beast’ that I hold in my hands features no guitars whatsoever, the first person that came to mind was you – what you would say about an album like that.
Hamish: (laughs). I love the idea behind this album and I think that in a few years time we may see this and out subsequent album as perhaps a companion piece. This is, obviously retrospectively looking, music that has already been created, with us taking sections and themes and working them in this rather more beautiful and dominating ambience kind of way and thus bringing out more the more romantic nature of our band. The music that we are writing at the moment is really moving in a much different direction; it’s very stark, funeral, grim kind of music, so I think that…yeah, I am curious to see in a small handful years from now how these two extremes will sit next to each other – I think that they are quite complementary.
• You know what is the main thing I like about “Evinta”? When you hear the word ‘symphonic’ these days, your mind goes in different already tried formulae. I knew that your album would be different than the norm simply because I really know how this band operates and so I am both happy and proud to say that you did this really in your own way. “Evinta” is not the happy symphonic album that most bands do; you seem to have taken the finest elements that this music can offer and you adopted them into your own style to the point that it only really takes five seconds to realise that this is a My Dying Bride album, even though guitars and other conventional Rock instruments are absent. I have only been listening to it for a couple of days so far and I already think that I know it by heart.
Hamish: Grand! I am glad that you find that ours is a different version from what can be accepted as symphonic now because, as you are quite aware, symphonic can mean big and bombastic brass sections and maybe more of what epic and battle Metal bands are doing by simply adding a few orchestrations in their music. Ours is indeed a different beast entirely as our approach is more reflective in terms of mood.
• Plus the fact that this is not the case of you picking up a classic My Dying Bride song and trying to rework it; you took certain melodies and then you built a whole new musical structure around them. That is why I am proud to say that, twenty years later, My Dying Bride are still looking ahead! There are no appropriate words in my vocabulary to describe how proud I am of you guys as a fan.
Hamish: I have to say that I am very pleased from your reaction – it is excellent.
• One good question to ask, as conventional instruments are absent, is who is the main person responsible behind this release. How much did every single member of the band got involved in the creative process?
Hamish: This is very much Andrew’s idea. He has been harbouring this idea for quite a while. The idea itself has been through a couple of changes over the years but we always wanted to hear the reworking of our music in such a away, so he is very much the one who led this project. Yeah, a lot of time went into it and there were a couple of delays in the release but that was just in order to ensure that everything was absolutely correct because it is such a radical departure from the canon of the My Dying Bride releases and so it had to be completely right. The next album will represent the more Metal side of things so I am really looking forward to see where it is that we will go next now that we have done this. I think that it will be a return onto the bleaker, funeral, crushing Doom – that is what is coming next.
• So, now that I hold this little gem in my hands and I am thinking where it is that should place it in my CD collection, is that spot going to be right after “For Lies I Sire”? Is this considered to be a proper studio album and not a special project of sorts?
Hamish: This is not a different kind of project; it is a release that came under the My Dying Bride moniker just like any other. It could have been presented in a different way like the music of My Dying Bride or something like that but no – it has the band’s name on it and so should be listed as one of our releases. I would be quite inclined to put this one next to a Dead Can Dance album (laughs).
• I was thinking about similarities with Dead Can Dance but didn’t want to mention it as, to me, it is quite an obvious reference.
Hamish: They have been a massive, massive influence to us and I quite like how it turned on its head, how we found a lot of that music very inspiring to us even though we never specifically set out to sound like these artists who we so much respect. We tried to recreate a similar feeling and so now we turn things upside down b y taking the music that we have created and by interpreting it in that way.
• This digipack version of the album that I now hold in m my hands looks quite beautiful and pleasing but there is a three disc version with a sixty four page booklet coming out soon of which I will be a proud owner. How much more is there on offer, purely in terms of music, in that very limited version of “Evinta”?
Hamish: It’s a big, lavish book to which we have put a lot of work into and for which we have prepared quite extensive liner notes, myself, Andrews and Aaron, and of course there is an extra disc of music as well. I would say, get it now while they are available; I know that it sounds like a bad advert but I really mean that because it is limited to 3,000 copies and, now that I mentioned it, I need to make sure that I have got a couple for myself cause once they’re gone than that’s it (laughs). We like to have our own keepsakes and we all got a couple of gaps here and there in our collection like Aaron is missing the double vinyl version of “The Dreadful Hours” which was also a very limited run.
• I’ve got one but I do not plan on giving it to you, I’m sorry (I laugh).
Hamish: It’s Ok – I understand (laughs).
• So, today is the first day of a short UK tour and not quite a promotional tour for “Evinta” as today’s show will be more ‘conventional’ if I am allowed to use such a word. After that short trek is over, are there any plans for performing in any of the summer festivals perhaps?
Hamish: We are only going to do a couple of festivals which we will have on our website www.mydyingbride.org but the big focus is on writing this new music and I can say that we already got more than an album’s worth of material that we’ve recorded these last two years. Anyhow, we keep on writing, we are replacing a lot of stuff already and the end result will just be the absolute creativeness risen to the top. We probably already dismissed more riffs that have been on any album so yes – there is a lot of work that’s been going on and we are really concentrating on that whereas over the last couple of years we’ve been doing songs whilst we’ve been writing and recording which is good. With respect to “For Lies I Sire” we had played a lot of festival shows during the recording process which gave a little bit of character into that album – particularly with the return of the violin. This time round, we are really getting our heads down and kid of locked ourselves away from the world at large and just concentrate on creating this next dark piece of music.
• Well Hamish, thank you very much for your time and good luck with everything.
Hamish: Thank you very much – great interview.
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