Interview by Ben Hosking
With ANATHEMA making their long awaited first visit to Australia this August (2014), we were absolutely delighted when Daniel Cavanagh took time out to chat with LifeMusicMedia.com
Your August tour to Australia will be your first to our shores in your 25 year history. Why so long?
I don’t know why so long, it’s just the way it happened. Our career trajectory has had a kind of difficult course and hasn’t always had the backing or focus that it needed to really achieve great things. I think it’s only in the last few years that these things have been in place.
Will you be giving yourselves time to do any sightseeing while you’re here? What are you looking most forward to?
Sightseeing, I honestly don’t know if we’ll have the time. I’ll definitely take in the atmosphere of the place which is what I do wherever I go, I will always take the time to soak up the atmosphere and meet the people. Anyway it’s quite normal in our business not to see much of the cities that we visit (due to time constraints).
Your new album ‘Distant Satellites’ continues a prolific five or six year period for the band in terms of recorded output. What do you believe is behind the relative explosion in activity?
I think just focus and good energy, good songs… good mind energy, good management. Really taking it seriously, pushing forward and finding stability with the musicians. All of these things together.
Anathema began life in the 1990s as a doom band in the vein of early Paradise Lost. Did you feel early on that the future would hold more progressive material or was it something the band only became interested in later on?
I think it was about 1995/96, which is a long time ago now, that the progressive element of the music came into the picture. Really from Eternity onwards. That’s when it became clear to me through Duncan, myself and the guys that the music was going into this territory. It was quite early actually, we were in our early 20’s in 1995-96.
What influences informed Anathema’s more progressive and lighter sound?
Sigur Rós would be one. Just cleaning up the sound, cleaning up the tones of the band and just writing better melodies than before.
Mogwai maybe, that kind of thing, post rock. That and just the spiritual kind of uplifting experiences that I’ve had and the good things they have brought and the musical identity that was partly formed around that.
Was it difficult moving away from your original audience in the beginning? Have you found that some of that same audience has followed the band into its new identity?
Yeah, I think some of them have stayed and some of them haven’t. It’s nice if people like it, if people support it, if it moves people, it’s fine. If music speaks to people it’s fine, but if it doesn’t do that then that’s also fine. What I can say is that the music is totally honest. It’s a bit childish if somebody says that we are selling out or trying to be something that we’re not. Most people don’t say that and I think most people recognise that the modern day songwriting is a good level and they appreciate that… and if somebody doesn’t appreciate it, well that’s fine, that’s their feeling, their opinion.
Anathema has seen a number of musicians come and go over the years, but the nucleus of the group has remained pretty solid. Do you think the fact that you’re all family has been more of a help than a hindrance? Surely there’s been some familial bust ups from time to time?
I think being a family has helped. Yeah, you get bust ups from time to time and I suppose they can be quite intense bust ups because you have an intense relationship with your family but it’s actually pretty good. To be honest with you, I think it matters a lot to all of us and I’m optimistic that it will go well.
Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson mixed 2010’s ‘We’re Here Because We’re Here’ and several tracks on new album ‘Distant Satellites’. Any chance of a collaboration between Wilson and any/all of you in the future?
I don’t know about a collaboration with Steve Wilson. You never say never, you know he’s a great mixer but I think probably mixing is as far as he’d wish to take a collaboration. But he’s very very good at this and I do like his mixes. But the thing with Christer Cederberg (recorded, produced and mixed Anathema’s “Distant Satellites”) is that we really have his service from start to finish, he’s there from beginning to end and this is an essential ingredient in what’s going on with the band and the focus, time management and attention to detail that he brings. Whereas Steven really has his own material to work on on that level and possibly cannot be spending that amount of time on Anathema so Christer is the right person for us to do that with.
Do you have a preference between the studio and performing live?
I probably prefer the studio because it’s a creative home from home, if you understand what I mean. You can be creative but still have a homely feeling. With touring it’s really travel, travel, travel. You can travel in comfort, it’s fine but we don’t get the chance to travel in very much comfort. It can be alright but it’s still move, move, move, travel, travel, travel, fly, fly, train, bus you know and it’s not my favourite part of the job. It can be great but when you do a lot of it, it can be tiring. So, although playing live is a unique experience and a very positive and fun experience and great to interact with the audience, I like the studio.
What will Australian audiences be able to expect from shows on your upcoming tour?
I’ll leave this to surprises. I will wait and let people make their own judgement on what they can expect or see.
What excites you musically right now? Do you listen to a lot of contemporary music?
Actually I don’t listen to a lot of contemporary music but Atoms For Peace really excited me last year because that’s a band that Thom Yorke and Flea,Nigel Godrich really lived in the world between electronics and a live band and I really enjoyed that connection. It was ultimately about good songwriting which is the fundamental point and that’s what I said to the guys… if you want to work on the electronics that’s all fine, but it has to revolve around good song writing, that has to be the directive and they managed it. Vincent and John really managed it with ‘Distant Satellites’.
‘Hindsight’ and ‘Falling Deeper’ saw the band take a look back at its early work, reinterpreting it in the style of today’s Anathema. Do you think you’ll be doing this again in the future and if so, what tracks would you like to tackle this time around?
Actually no plans to do that to be honest with you, no plans for that at all at this point in time but there might be some surprises for 2015 but I don’t know about recording anything.
Thanks for your time and we look forward to seeing you in Australia shortly!
Yes thank you also for your time, it was a pleasant interview and I look forward very much to Australia too. Take care and thank you.
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Presented by www.metropolistouring.com
Interview by Ben Hosking – www.hoskingindustries.com.au – for LifeMusicMedia.com