Anathema interview (10/2009)
|With:||Daniel "Danny" Cavanagh [guitars, vocals]|
|Conducted by:||Ivor, Jeff (in person)|
For reasons known only to us, and reasons mostly beyond our control, 2008 saw us at Metal Storm make quite many video interviews at Hellfest Festival of which eventually few saw the light. Although, I had this one transcribed quite a while ago it remained shelved until there was no hope of video interview being published. A lot of time had passed, and it just sort of didn't matter anymore. However, I'm reluctant to leave it at that and so I give you the chat with Anathema's Danny Cavanagh recorded on June 21st 2008 at Hellfest a couple of hours before the band hit the stage. Some bits are now obviously outdated but the rest still ain't.
Jeff and Momo interviewed you Jamie in November last year . So, what has happened in the last half of a year?
Well, we've recorded an acoustic album of classic songs of Anathema from the past. It's semi-acoustic and has cello and piano and electric guitar and drums and lots of voices. It's very very nice and has one new song, and it's called Hindsight. And it's a chance to go back and just maybe correct a few mistakes or revisit the songs in a new way. And it's finished and it's coming out in August .
In August. Anything special planned for the release?
Well, we're doing many shows but our main priority is the recording of the new album which has already started. And what we have done, our real special plan is that we've built a studio, in England. And we have bought some good equipment and used the equipment we already had and we've built a place. It's in a bungalo, like a small house, near a golf course in the north of England. And we've recorded all of the acoustic album there, and mixed everything, and we're going to now record the full album – which is one hour long. And it's a very very special record, very intense, it's very passionate, very very beautiful and it's kind of, like, awe inspiring. It's very very huge sound, no other band has done a record like this.
Jeff: Will it be on two CDs?
No, one. It's an hour long. We're going to give the songs to finalize to Steven Wilson, the producer of Porcupine Tree and Opeth and many others. And he's like a wonderfully gifted musician and producer. And he's going to mix the songs when he can, overtime. And the plan is then, when the album is finished, to get a record deal based on that record.
Okay, and when you are planning to release that?
Well, we don't know yet because we're going to record it first and then get a record deal.
Ah, okay. Since we're trying to get opinions about festivals and gigs in general, what makes a show special for you?
The audience. It's always the audience, you know. Without an audience there is nothing. There's no performance, there's no records, there's no music. The whole thing is relying on them, they're feeding everybody. They feed the record company, they feed all the money for the festival, and, you know, we have to remember they are the important people, if you like. You know, people can say that your performance is fantastic and, yeah, maybe it was a great performance but without an audience there is no performance.
Yeah, that's right. But in which way does a show for 100 people differ from a festival like this?
Just the intimacy. It's just more intimate in a smaller venue and has a different atmosphere. I like both, you know. I like playing on the stage, I like the open air, I like the wind. I love the wind in your face when you're playing, and seeing trees – that's a very special thing for me –, and the sky, and the people. And usually in a festival you've got really good sound on a stage and that's nice too. And I like that. But I like very much playing acoustic intimate concerts, I like playing rock concerts in a bigger place. You know, it's all good. As long as the audience is good. If audience is great, if we play well, and it sounds good on stage – everybody is happy.
But how are you affected by people who come to concerts and are not really focused on the band?
I don't mind. They can do what they like.
I saw your show in Tallinn when you went acoustic there.
And I remember you sent a couple of guys away because they were...
Yeah! But they were being really rude! That's not the kind of thing...
...they were annoying, right?
No! It was more than annoying. They were being really insulting to me. They said something terrible for nothing! They didn't know who I was. But now it's fine. I try to focus on things that are good about what we do. And I try to focus on the things that are good in people, you know.
You are going on a some sort of tour with Anneke [van Giersbergen in 2008].
Yes! I have! Yeah!
Can you tell more about that?
Yeah, well, we kind of just become friends, kind of recently. Well, the bands The Gathering and Anathema have known each other for a long time. And I've always been a fan of her voice, she's great singer. And the time was never right to get together, we talked about she could guest for Anathema or so. And eventually the time became right, at the beginning of this year . The time was right that we did a gig together. And we didn't really practice, we just had a rehearsal and a sound check. But it worked very very well, you know. She's an experienced musician, and so am I. So, it was quite easy to just balance on the stage like that, listen to each other. And it sounded great and everybody had a great time. She sings a couple of Anathema songs and I play a couple her songs.
Okay, so you are doing it together?
We mix it a bit, you know. Just because we can. We're doing it just because we can and people like to see it. It's a great pleasure.
That's excellent stuff!
Yeah, it is.
I remember seeing you introduce Estonian people to Vic Anselmo.
Yeah, Vic! Ah!
Vic! Do you have anything planned with her as well?
Maybe yes, actually. She's the kind of person I would stay in touch with, and work with in the future. There's no plans as yet but I know she's there talking about playing with Antimatter and other things. She's kind of part of our circle and acoustic shows and we like her very much. And she's a very very sweet person.
She did come to Estonia with Antimatter last year .
We all love Vic! She's beautiful person.
Last year  Daniel of Pain of Salvation said that they kind of don't really feel comfortable playing at a big festival and they need tremendous support from people. Do you feel really confident on this stage?
I feel comfortable on stage.
Simply any stage?
You know, a music stage. I'm at home there, really. That's my kind of home territory, and all the bands are the same. We're a natural live band. So, you can put us in any situation and we will adapt.
Does a live performance contribute in any way to your writing process?
Not really, no. What it can do, actually, is often you write a song and record it and then when you play it live after you've done the song a few times, you change the way you play it. And often it's better. But no, it's kind of we write really at home. That's where the most of the writing gets done, at home on acoustic guitar or piano.
Do you give any songs like a test-drive on stage?
Yeah, we have done many times this. But it's not the kind of thing we can do full time. We are the kind of band that is better to record an entire record and then spend a month trying to get live gig to the standard of the record. But we cannot really do all the songs live and then record.
Have you had the experience like to completely rewrite the song after putting it on stage?
Well, we've done that with "Fragile Dreams." If you listen to "Fragile Dreams" on the acoustic album it's like the same song but it's not, you know! (Laughs.) It's very different, it's very chilled out.
Okay, getting a bunch of people travelling on the road is bound to result in humorous situations.
You being Brits...
You've got that right!
...especially so, I mean. What's your best of of touring humour?
Ah, I can't tell you the stories because there are too many. But I could say that I'm in a band with I would say some of the funniest people that I've ever known, you know. They are hilarious! And that includes Duncan Patterson, who's very very close to the band but doesn't play bass for ten years in Anathema but is very very close to our inner circle. And Michael from Antimatter, and John, the singer from Anathema. They are hilarious, fucking hilarious! (Laughs!)
Yeah, I remember Michael told jokes at the concert. Like, straight English humour, four anecdotes in a row.
Yeah, he's a dirty guy. Yeah, yeah, total humour! Michael's stage jokes are pretty base! (Laughs.)
I saw you yesterday in the crowd. So, when did you arrive here?
The day before yesterday, in the evening.
Okay, so, how do you like the festival so far?
It's nice. I've met a lot of people. There's bands here that we know, Porcupine Tree, Opeth, Paradise Lost, we're friendly with, My Dying Bride. There's quite a lot musicians – Carcass – we're very good friends with them. So, there's quite a lot of musicians that we know and I've spent half the time in the crowd meeting beautiful people.
Are you staying for the whole festival?
We've got to go after this gig. We fly.
Okay. I think you did see the metal brass band yesterday [Pastors of Muppets]?
Yes! I saw them three times. The best band on the festival! (Laughs.)
They should be on the main stage!
If there's no Apocalyptica next year, they can do it. Everybody would love it!
Yeah, exactly. Apocalyptica started out as a simple cover band on cellos.
Yeah, and now it's serious business!
Yeah, and these guys are playing on brass. Why not!
To see them all dressed up, like different persons, Slash and Axel!
That was great stuff!
How do you recall your past shows? You're doing many gigs, right?
I would say that 95% of them are good, a few can be difficult, for various reasons, about sound or maybe don't feel in the right frame of mind. But most of them are fine.
How many shows have you performed?
Hundreds... Maybe thousands...
That's a good memory!
I don't know. We've been playing like for the 16 years, 17 years. Well it's over a thousand shows but it could be two or three thousand, I don't know.
I read that you like to perform in Romania.
Yeah, I like to play anywhere but in some countries I think the audience is just that little bit more enthusiastic, or a little more passionate. And the Romanian audience is really kind of special one.
Can you tell why?
Well, for example we did an acoustic show, a year ago, in a church, near Sibiu. And it was on top of the mountain. And it was one of the best concerts we've ever played. And the audience was very very quiet and then very loud in between the songs, very enthusiastic. And then thunderstorms started to come over the church as we're playing, towards the end of the set. It's 12th century. And there's lightning coming in through the windows and we're playing the final notes of the songs, the final notes of the whole night. And it's what we're calling a crescendo, the final dum-dum, and we were just about to play the final note, and the thunder went khhhhhh, and everybody went waaa! And it was like, it was a very special moment. And that crowd was wonderful. And I'm sure if we do a rock show in Bucharest it's going to be a wonderful, amazing crowd. I'm sure it will be! But I like the Romanian people. There's something about them that's a bit more, like, beautiful. No, I mean, people generally are beautiful, I love them all. But some people have more like an ego or something like that, you know. There's a bit more ego, or a bit more insecurity, or whatever, or crime, or poverty in different places. But there's something about the Romanians which is just a very gentle thing. And I like it. They're very nice.
But how do crowds differ all over the world? Americas, Europe, Asia?
They usually just differ in how many there is and how enthusiastic they are. That's the only two things.
Okay, I remember The Gathering were talking about South-America and like they had to go around with bodyguards because the crowds would simply run them down. Is it in any way similar there for you, or not?
Yeah, in Chile maybe it's difficult. You know, it's not a big deal. This is like, all of that rock star stuff is illusion. I'd like to go official on record now and say "There is no such thing as rock star! It doesn't exist!" It's an illusion created by peoples opinions.
Yeah, of course!
And it's all like that stuff really does, it's nice to be recognized and play the music that you love, but you know, is in no way superior or inferior to anybody.
But do you have an opinion why some bands are famous in one country and not really known in another?
No, I don't. I can't explain it. We're huge in Chile.
I think people just generally... it's word of mouth, and cultures, and friends. The things spread that way.
How does your music spread?
Internet, word of mouth, passion. A lot of people are very passionate, people that love our music they really love it. I think it means a lot to them because it talks to them on a deeper level. It talks about inner feelings and it's answering questions that only you can answer. And there's a lot of personal stuff in the songs. And they relate to that. It's more personal for them somehow and they're taking it closer to their heart.
So, you think basically that people that listen to your music actually discover the music for themselves by themselves?
I think they discover themselves through the music.
That may be true as well.
And there's a level of that going on. I think you can do that with some music. It speaks to you on such a level that you learn about yourself. You learn about life and you learn about love, and the people that you feel. And our music has that effect on people. It's a deeper thing.
Jeff: I have some questions about the festivals in general. What do you hate, maybe don't like to see not from the bands but in the crowd.
I don't want to talk about those things.
Jeff: Yeah? Okay!
Because the important thing is to talk about positive things. Because that's where the energy goes. Whatever you focus on and give your energy towards, that's going to create more of that.
Jeff: So, what do you like to see?
What do I like! There's the question! (Laughs.) Ah, I like people, colourful people, and I usually like trees, you know. I like stall that they sell pizza in, and brass bands playing. (Laughs.) The general thing. Festivals have been... I drink no alcohol for three years and so festivals are not like ideal place to be if you don't drink anything. But if we're playing a show it's always good. I always go around and walk and see. And it's nice that people come up and say "Ah, I'm looking forward to the show!" I see fans and I just get off. I think the energy of people, I just enjoy the energy of people, you know. And that's it. And it's also nice way to introduce the music to people who don't really know you. You know, they could just be walking around and getting a hot dog and they hear something and they go "Who's this band? That's good, you know!" And that's an idea. You play to people who don't know you. And that's a nice plus of this. But to me it's just like a community of people together and everybody working for the same goal which is to have a beautiful time. It's as simple as that.
Do you have like some hardcore fans that go for every gig?
No, not ones that travel to every gig. But we do have some very dedicated fans and I'm very grateful to them.
And they visit the shows probably in England or something?
There's nobody who comes to every show or anything like that. But you'll always see some familiar faces in the crowds in Holland and Belgium. I've made a lot of friends there, you know. I've made a lot of good friends because of the band. And they're the fans of the band but it doesn't matter. You know, it's like, it's just okay and friendly. I've met a lot of people like that.
So, you're always trying to find a familiar face in the crowd?
Often, yeah! Or the most beautiful girl! (Laughs.)
What are you feeling when you find someone?
I usually give them a smile, you know. And say hello. (Laughs.)
And they are happy?
Yeah, yeah, yeah! Bit embarrassed or something. (Laughs.) That's great.
Jeff: I have a final question.
Jeff: Oh, it's simple question. Can you, in one word...
In one word! I like this.
Jeff: ...talk about the Hellfest this year.
In one word?
Jeff: Or two if you want. (Laughs.)
He cut you some slack here!
I feel peaceful here. Is it good?
Nice talking to you!
Yeah, it was lovely!
Posted on 25.10.2009 by
I shoot people.
Sometimes, I also write about it.
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