Interview date

29 Octobre 2012


Didier et Christian


Interview Vincent Cavanagh (face to face)

Hello Vincent, thanks for your time, we are the French webzine


Daniel and Vincent sound like French first names, do you have a special connexion with France?

Oh yes, I have but nothing to do with the names. Our mother named me after Vincent Van Gogh, indirectly, because it's after a song written about Vincent Van Gogh by Don McLean. And my mother was a big music fan. And also there was a song called Daniel, and she always liked the name Daniel, so... But they are universal names you know. Vincent is Italian by origin, from the latin Vincere, which means to conquer so Vincent is the Conquerant. Daniel, I'm not sure where this comes from but I know a Daniel from Portugal.

You are doing a fair amount of dates in France, we thank you for this because many bands, booking company don’t do this. They go to Paris and that's it.

Over the years we have done major tours in France. We have always been accepted here, it's a very good place for us to come and we love it. We love the people, we love the food, and I live in France, in Paris.

Talking about touring, you received a prog award for best live event. How do you feel about this? How was that big day?

Yes, that's right, that's fantastic. And we had very strong competition, you know: Steven Wilson, Marillion, Opeth. We are very happy with that. It was nice to receive that award. We were also nominated for best album for Weather Systems, but we came as close second to Rush [I was wearing my new Rush - Clockwork Angels tour shirt]. Yes right exactly! Clockwork Angels, that's the latest album isn'it? Is it good? Apparently so because they won the fucking thing [laughs]. Awards are very nice. We are a bit philosophical about the whole concept of an award for art or for music as well. But at the same time you've just got to like it, as it's a lot of fun.

Did you meet any artists there that you were a big fan of?

I enjoyed the evening, I met some very nice people, but none that I was really a fan of. I was never a really big fan of prog music. I was brought up on the Beatles, and if there had been any members of Pink Floyd there, then yes, or any members of Radiohead, then yes. They are all legendary kind of people but they are just not my kind of music. I never grew up with that kind of music and I still don't listen to it. Having said that, they are all cool. I met Nick Beggs, he is playing bass with Steven Wilson and Chapman Sticks, I met Fish, then we met him again a few weeks later in Bulgaria, where we were playing a show, we met a few others like Rick Wakeman, those that I'm aware of and I know a bit of their music. It was a really nice evening.

Is it more important for you to be recognized as a live band than a studio band?

Both are important really. Ultimately we like making records, and writing music and create things. But then when it comes to the live thing, you have to improve on the record, and that's always a challenge, and that's good. We always like to sound better live than on the record. We are very experienced in playing live, you know, we started off as a live band so it's incredibly important to us. And these days, we analyse everything about the sound, we are extremely professional and proud of what we do, and our crew as well, works very hard and everybody is here for the right reason. We would like to expand the visual aspects of our show in the future. But that's something we would need a bigger budget for. But for now, it's really a lot of fun for us to play live.

Ok, talking about albums, let’s talk a bit about your latest one, "Weather System". It was a long time if we don’t count the two previous ones which were more or less covers of your own songs. What happened during those seven years?

It depends how you look at it. It was just a series of setbacks really. There was also a lot of touring going on. We also produced a couple of DVDs. I don't know, there were all kinds of reasons, and it was an incredibly frustrating period of my life. I don't ever want to go through that again and I'm glad it's over. Because if you include "Hindsight", "We're Here Because We're Here", "Falling Deeper" and "Weather Systems", that's one album every year since 2009. So we have to bring something out for 2013, which we are doing, we are bringing out a DVD, Bluray, concept film which we are putting a lot of energy into. It's been recorded at the very first show of this tour, in Bulgaria, in an ancient Roman amphitheatre, a beautiful setting, at night with the lights in the Roman ruins. It features a 36 piece string orchestra. A big show! And of course there will also be some footage from the rest of this tour in a huge deluxe package, photo book and everything. And of course we are always writing music, so we've got a lot of new music coming up, that we are talking about every day. We don't always get time, while on tour, to write, at least not together, but we always got our mind on the next record. I think that creating music is not something you ever switch off, you don't follow a schedule. What happens with us is that we always write music, all the time, and then eventually we bring it together. So, in January, we plan to meet up and bring everybody's ideas to the table and see if we have it. Is the album ready? Do we at least know what is going to be from start to finish? And if we know that then we can decide, how, when, where, how much, etc...

Is this what happened for "Weather Systems"?

Actually, no. Things happened exponentially. We started off making just an EP. But it was going so well, and we had so much music that we decided to make an album. We recorded it in 3 stages. First, studio in Liverpool, second, studio in Oslo in Norway with our producer in his place, and third, studio in North Wales. We recorded some extra material that we didn't use, which may or may not be used on the next release, not sure yet. 

It looks like Daniel is taking the lead on the composing side.

More of less, yes. What happens is, it was me Daniel and John in the studio the whole time, and especially myself and Daniel. Whoever comes up with the initial idea usually gets credit for the song but there is a lot more that goes into completing the song than that. Otherwise what was I doing for 20 hours a day? So, yes most of the initial composition were done by Dany, I would say. And we will see. But what we do is never the direction, never the barometer for what we're going to do in the future. it's just now. We are always changing, to surprise ourselves.

What are your typical sources of inspiration when writing music?

We are inspired by life, by the biggest events in life, by the most profound experiences, by the biggest question you can ask yourself, like any human being. These themes are personal but universal. It's one of the reasons why people connect so much to our music because they recognise that our lyrics are real, that the experiences are actually real. You've lived through thus stuff. But at the same time you can connect it to your own life. You just have to apply somebody else's name into the picture. We are not political. We stay away from world issues. We are not trying to tell everybody how to think. Our music is very deep and personal to us but it's also soulful. I like that as well. It's a double edged sword, because you are exposing yourself. You are exposing how you feel to the world, which a lot of people aren't comfortable with. Especially men. The cliché is that men from the north of England, never talk about their feelings, ever. And my father was like that. And loads of people are like that. I don't know what it's like in France, but it's like a sign of weakness, to talk about your feelings and your emotions. But we understand it through our music, there is a certain element of catharsis in what we do. All the darkest stuff doesn't really go away.

How did the arrival of Lee in the band change this process?

She has been in and around the band for quite a few years, but with this album she was more present. She quit her job and joined us in the studio, full time. So we could do things like: I've sang this song already, do you want to try it as well, just to see what it sounds like? So she says ok, and she sings it and I'm like "fuck it you can have it". And then the producer says "No, no, do it as a duet". This was for "Untouchable Part 2". He said: "Vincent, you start the song, Lee, you take over.". We had the luxury to do that kind of things this time around because Lee was there.

We can notice a trend to keep things simple, a minimalist approach to music. No unnecessary artifact. Do you agree with this?

Absolutely! I'm not really into show-off music. People who need to play really really fast to show their technique just to show how good they can play. It's all about the melody, it's all about the feeling within the music. That is not for show. We are not that kind of band. Dany can play the guitar very well but he doesn't need to.

For example there doesn’t seem to be a place for guitar solos like there is on "The Beginning and the End".

There is a couple. But that's interesting you mention this song because it's four and a half minute long, but it's one riff, just one riff. But it's how you structure that build, with one riff. The vocal has been lifting the song to a peak, and when the vocal reaches a peak there is nowhere else for the vocal to go, then the guitar takes over and takes it even higher. And then it's ready to come down. A lot of our music is like that. We find something, we repeat it until it becomes hypnotic, and intense, then we build up the intensity and then we come down. Some of the best songs ever, were very very simple. "Imagine", how simple is that song? But how beautiful! "With or Without You" by U2: one riff, baseline, that's it. Some of the best songs in history, that will always be remembered are simple stuff. Probably with the exceptions of "Bohemian Rhapsody" or "Stairway to Heaven" because these are quite long and complicated. 

You worked with Steven Wilson on "We're Here Because We're Here", and worked with Christer-André Cederberg this time, can you explain?

Steven only came at mixing time on the previous album, and he did a good job, but we handle the producing ourselves. There is a big difference when you have your producer since day one of the record. We've never had that relationship with anybody in the studio before. But this time we knew immediately, I mean within a couple of days that this was going to be special. It's actually one of the reasons why we made an album, because we knew we could do it with Christer. And now we want him to do every record. He is our fifth Beatle if you like [laughs].

Are you happy about the feedback you've received on this album? From the press, from fans?

It's been very positive, people really liked it. It's been universal. "Natural Disaster" was not quite finished, I don't think it was ready. "A Fine Day To Exit" had its moments, but it lacks a bit of direction, "Judgement" is pretty solid. "Alternative 4" is pretty focused. We always had fiercest critics on anything that we have done. Every time. But I don't really read reviews, because I know personally when I'm happy with something and it doesn't really matter what everybody thinks after that. "We're Here Because We're Here", I was very happy with that one, for the first time ever, I was really happy with a record. And I'm also very happy with "Weather Systems". We are definitely onto a good path with this, and when you set a standard like this, you know you cannot drop below that line. You cannot live with yourself and you cannot put it out. 

Some metal fans regret the days where Anathema's music was more metal than prog. What can we tell them?

There is a lot of people that listen to all of it, you know. The only people that don't like our new stuff, that liked our first album, are people that were so much into death metal, that they can't listen to anything else. When we were making our first album we were listening to The Beatles and Pink Floyd all the time. And also Hardfloor and Aphex Twin, that was my music. We were just adolescents going like grrrrrr, because that's what you do when you are fifteen. Now we are more honest, music is more accurate. I don't think it really matters anyway. I'm very proud of everything we've done. It's a little bit upseting if people think that we have abandoned something because we are ashamed of it, that's absolutely not true. In fact it's one of the reason why we made the record "Falling Deeper". To show people that melody was always at the core of what we did. Even back in those days. Ok, we might have dressed it up with a big fucking fat distorsion pedal, and a singer who did growling vocals but it was all about melody and harmony, and feeling. That's the way it's always been with us.

I’m not complaining myself, and today a title like "The Storm Before The Calm" describes very well the music you make, it’s all about contrast, isn't it?

I think so as well. There is a number of things we want to do in the future with these contrasts. The electronic element is really interesting. I think we are going to do a few songs in that area. Not 100% electronic, as there will be real intruments as well. The classical thing is also something we are interested in, because we love string orchestra. We also love things like vocal choirs, we love sound textures, sound placement, and tridimensional spaces, but at the core of it is the melody, and harmony and the feeling of it all. That's really what it's all about for us. But it's interesting to have different facets of music in the things that you do. We don't have a genre that we want to stick to.

Many of us would like to know how the collaboration with Anneke came up and if there will be more in the future?

The door is always open, you know. Anneke is part of our extended family. She is very close to the band. We simply asked her. Dany and her had done shows together in the past. She has been on tour with us. We love her very much.

You mentionned the plan to release a new DVD, right?

Yes a concert film, probably around spring time on K-Scope. Lasse Hoile is doing the direction. We will put up a nice deluxe package for it.

We thank you very much and wish you a great concert here in Lyon.

Thanks, yes it's going to be a great night.

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