We were a bit shocked here at DPRP HQ when we realised that we’d never interviewed Anathema. So, with the release of the much anticipated Weather Systems and a headlining European tour planned, Dries Dokter caught-up with Vincent Cavanagh before the Cologne show in April.
Interview by Dries Dokter, live photos by Dries Dokter & Dave Baird
Dries: So how are you today?
Vincent: It’s been busy days, me joining the day, getting things ready for the evening, although today I am gonna make some time to try and get some exercise, which is a valuable commodity when you are on the road. To remember to do that… You barely do any walking throughout the day, you go from the bus to the venue and back again and that’s it, really hope might go running today.
I am not drinking and I am watching what I eat, and try to get some exercise.
Dries: The last two albums seem to be very spiritual in nature, dealing with death and afterlife (Presence, Internal Landscapes) Love (Hindsight) and acceptance of the world around us (Lighting Song) As this is quite a break from earlier albums, where desolation and despair seemed to be the main themes. What is the source of this?
Vincent: I would say Danny himself has been through a certain amount of transformation, self realization, he is just expressing a certain period of his life, really. The darker moments that we have been through, that he has been through, are still there. Because you put it into music does not necessarily mean it has gone away. There is a certain element of catharsis in it, but it does not really change anything. So I would say the songs like Lightning Song are connected to We’re Here Because We’re here. And that was a period of time. I think the next thing that we’ll do will be removed from that. So it is not like a new direction or anything. It is just a period of time, it is like anything in life, you have to go through. The things he has written since then: The Beginning And The End or The Lost Child are completely different.
Dries: When I heard The Beginning and The End for the first time I thought “this is going back to the feel of earlier albums”.
Vincent: It does not go away, people can misinterpret the fact, like, what is this. We are still deep multi-dimensional people who have real lives, and real experiences and real things they go through. Life is of course multifaceted it is never all light, it is never all dark, quite often it is both at the same time, quite often it is nothing and quite often it is something else. It is like in anybody’s life. There is a danger, because we are doing very honest music, we are writing about ourselves. that people can misconstrue that is exactly what is going on in your head, it is just part of it, it is just one song, it is just a song.
Dries: It took 7 years to release We’re Here Because We’re Here (WHBWH), but almost out of the blue Weather Systems (WS) was released. Even Falling Deeper was released in between. This leads me to believe that a lot of WS had already been written. In fact WHBWH was supposed to be called Horizons, and WHBWH is one of the lyrical lines in Gathering of the Clouds. So these are very well connected, it is seems they were ready almost at the same time.
Vincent: Four songs came up at the same time as: track 3 till 6, so yes they are op umbilically connected in that way. I have always liked that, that there is certain clues with some favourite bands, they do little hints to previous work, like the beatles always did. On the white album John Lennon starts talking about The Walrus, in Glass Onion, “The Walrus is Paul”. I like that, that bands can use their history to tie links between them.
Dries: But it was the first time for Anathema that it was this clear…
Vincent: Yeah exactly, we might do that again you know, because we have a deep emotional and otherwise connection with everything that we have done. And I guess that is a very cool thing when all of our albums are that close to each other in a way, because it is real and it is us. We could very well be talking about Crestfallen and it would be just as relevant today. I mean your childhood for example you carry that around with you whether you like it or not.
Dries: I have a a number of important moments in my life and there is a Anathema song connected to every single moment. It’s not just the last album, it’s like: I am listening and all of a sudden, “hey this is about.. this or that”.
Vincent: Well it is an often asked question: if you imagine the most difficult period in your childhood, and if knowing what you know now, you could go back to that person and you could take what ever you’d like, what would you say? What would YOU say?
Dries: I would say: it will work out right…
Vincent: Yes, exactly, don’t worry so much.
Dries: Actually I might have gotten divorced because of the second track of Alternative 4, Fragile Dreams. The line: “Today I introduced myself to my own feelings”, it was the moment I realised it was time to wake up, this is not what I want. At the time WHBWH was released I fell in love…
Vincent: That’s cool, that’s very cool, I have got a few bands that mean the same thing to me, that’s exactly right. That’s one of the brilliant things about music, more so than with books and poetry and movies. Of course the special ones stay with you, but music, you can always revisit it, it is always there and it has got that deep connection with you. I have got so many of those too.
Dries: The thing is I listened to the song for the 200th time and then realised wait a moment, this is about what is happening now.
Vincent: People consider what is the superior form of art, and of course it is a pretty unfair question, it is all very subjective, it depends on what do you want to get out of it. I would say, for me being a musical person, music is the most important form of art (to me) and I think the reason for that is, it makes me feel less alone. It is like, if I can hear something that somebody else has written and I hear it in music and that is exactly how I feel it shows there is somebody out there, I am not alone.
Dries: Somewhere on Facebook I read a comment by someone that said “damn you Anathema for making me cry, again”. It appears many people are touched by your music, and you kind of answered that question already. But what’s the reason behind that, you think?
Vincent: I think it is a very difficult question to answer, for me personally, because I know what it means to me but whatever it means to anybody else is their own connection in their own lives. I guess the fact that it is all absolutely real and honest, and the way the words and music work together to create that emotion. I don’t really like to break it down, because this is something that is beyond the analytical side of the music. It is the emotional connection, which you should not have to break down, it is there.. Just allow it to be, whatever it is.
Dries: I think it is what you said earlier on, that it is real and honest.
Vincent: Maybe that is all you need to say.
Dries: What’s the main difference in themes between WS & WHBWH?
Vincent: I think that WS is more multi-faeceted really. There is more darker moments, and there is more introspective moments. Moments of dreams, they’re quite similar in a way but there is less of this euphoric thing that is present so much on WHBWH. I think it is more deep and introverted.
Dries: In Anathema’s past there have been a number of personnel changes, people leaving and returning. How has that influenced the music?
Vincent: It seems so, but for me it does not really feel like that at all, the people that are in the band, it is like me, Danny, John, Lee, Jaime. I don’t know what all this fuss is about the line-up, like me Danny, John are the creative core of the band. We have been since Judgement, you know. But we started the band as well. We have got a colourful history. One thing I know: this partnership that we have, this marriage, this family that we have, is more precious than the band, it means more to me than the band itself, the bond that we have. If I had to choose between my friends and the band, fuck the band. This is my family, I am much abroad and kind of lost touch a bit, so this is the only family I have, it means a lot to me.
Dries: It took sometime to include Lee as a full band member, why is that?
Vincent: Because it took her some time to join, we always wanted her in. She’s grown into the role and we’ve grown into having her around, and she’s as much part of the sound as I am, which is a very good thing. And also a fantastic thing: she’s part of the family, she’s John’s sister.
Dries: The obvious question: WHBWH was so well received, how did you deal with the pressure that was caused by that?
Vincent: Never do, you don’t, everyone has different expectations, if you let that get into your psyche, you are starting out from the wrong place. If it is sales, or the record company or fans or anybody. It is not just that as well, if you sit down and say “I want to write something for radio” or if you say “I want to get big” or “I want to do this style of music because I am into this style of music at the moment”. You’re fucked, you never ever do that. Never listen to a band and say I want to be like that. All those external things, get in the way of you and the music.
With us music is instinct, it is deep within ourselves, when it happens it happens and you got to let it happen. Sometimes all of those things that are in your head, you have got to block that out. You have got to allow the music to be what it wants to be. Sometimes it will tell you, it will just reveal itself over time, sometimes it can happen instantly, sometimes it can take a longer period of time just into a place where you know: it is right now. It is important that you don’t rush it and that you don’t try to force it. It has got to be what it wants to be.
Dries: Anathema’s music has been changing a lot from the first album until Weather Systems. What type of music will you be making in 5 years?
Vincent: It is impossible to say, it is expanding. From the core, from the seed, growing, fractalizing of itself, so it could go anywhere, probably will, in all directions. There is nothing we won’t try if we want to.
Dries: Without losing it’s identity the music is becoming more and more accessible
Vincent: Fair enough, but we have got our own way of doing things, like I said before, we certainly won’t try to write something that is Anathema, that is people’s expectations of what Anathema should be, we don’t care about that, we do what ever we want to do. And that could be something brand new if we want to. Storm Before The Calm for example.
Dries: As it appears K-scope did a pretty good job in removing videos from Youtube, there was some initial confusion on Spotify, on the moment of availability. What is your stance on downloading, mp3 etc.
Vincent: I don’t want to talk about that…
Dries: Ok fair enough
Vincent: I am a musician, I have got my own thoughts and opinions about it the whole thing and most of them are open minded. But you know, I am a musician.
Dries: Let me just say that at DPRP our stance is: if you want people to actually make music, they need to have an income. They need to be able to continue doing that. If you like a band there is only one way to make sure there will be another album: buy the albums.
Vincent: Exactly, and I think people are multi-faeceted, I don’t think people will either buy or either download. They will mix it up. Packaging is more important than it has ever been, to have a beautiful esthetic to your music as well, which I think is important. I love the fact that jewel cases have gone out of the window, that people are putting time in to make these books. Vinyl packages are beautiful, the blu-ray, lossless audio format. There is so many new ways of challenging an artist to create something more beautiful in a way that they can connect directly with their audience. In some ways there is a lot of possible things that can be taken out of this download culture. There are. It just depends on whether the glass is half full or not. For me the glass is half full.
Dries: Well we might be purists anyway…
Vincent: Yeah exactly, I am a huge music fan, I love the ritual of owning something that exists in physical space, of supporting a band that I love and absorbing every single part of the package. Waiting for that package to come in the mail or having to go somewhere to find it. And then on my way home, say “oh my god I can’t wait to put this record on”. Try not to listen to it until it eventually comes on your doorstep. I think it is beautiful it is an amazing thing. If anything it brought more of that kind of ritual, the tension.
I looked at our vinyl, the other day (for Weather Systems), because I kind of did all the layout, I saw it for the first time, when I got it in my hands, I was just in love with it, it is perfect, I love the vinyl, I really can’t wait to get one. It is really beautiful and you can’t download that, you can’t download the feeling.
But like I said, I am optimistic about some of the challenges that artists face. There is ways and means to adapt.
Dries: So are there any closing comments you would like to make to our readers?
Vincent: Just blown away by the response, would like to thank everybody who is currently listening to us and supporting us in every way. And coming out to the shows. I really think this is the most exciting time for the band so far. We are gonna build on this and gonna continue to not let anybody down. It really feels like a great time to be in this band. So thank you very much to everybody who is supporting us.
Official Anathema Website: http://www.anathema.ws
07-07-2012 GETAWAY ROCK FESTIVAL, SWEDEN
14-07-2012 DEVILSTONE OPEN AIR FESTIVAL, LITHUANIA
19-07-2012 BURG HERZBERG FESTIVAL, GERMANY
20-07-2012 Posthalle, Wurzburg, GERMANY
21-07-2012 Leipzig, Geyserhaus, GERMANY
22-09-2012 Roman Ampitheater, Plovdiv, BULGARIA
23-09-2012 Jukebox, Bucharest, ROMANIA
26-09-2012 Pakkahuone, Tampere, FINLAND
27-09-2012 Circus, Helsinki, FINLAND
30-09-2012 Rockefeller, Oslo, NORWAY
03-10-2012 Hala Astoria, Bydgoszcz, POLAND
04-10-2012 Ucho Club, Gdynia, POLAND
05-10-2012 Progresja Club, Warszawa, POLAND
06-10-2012 Mega Club, Katowice, POLAND