Interview by Alessandro Narcissus
First it was Danny on the phone, now it’s Vinny : Alessandro, in the second Anathema interview that we publish, took the chance to ask some question about the newcomer milestone “Weather Systems” during the Italian promo day in Milan.
Hello, Danny! Welcome to Femme Metal Webzine
First of all, let’s introduce “Weather Systems”. Looking at the title of both the album and the songs and then reading the lyrics, it’s easy to figure out that the album is not really about weather and landscapes, but those are metaphores for different moments and feelings in life.
Yeah. When you dig a little bit more you can see the metaphor is very clearly connected to the internal landscapes that we have to go through, the storms that we have to wade through as people. You know, everybody has to go through these things, so it’s a matter of how you confront it, if you want to: a lot of people do, a lot of people don’t. Some people go to therapy and some people put it into music.
How did you come up with the idea of writing a whole album with this concept?
It grew out of four songs that came up around the same time as “We’re Here Because We’re Here”. Those song titled “The Gathering of Clouds”, “Lightning Storm”, “Sunlight” and “The Storm Before the Calm”, obviously based upon this theme, they could not really be separeted. They had to stay together but it was too much to go on the last album, so we said “Okay, this is the foundation of the next thing that we do” and we took them into the studio for the next album. The first thing we did after that was “Internal Landscapes”, which is connected with that as well, but more directly confronting mortality and, you know, the effects of one’s own contemplation on one’s own mortality and the realisation of what that means to you. Ultimately it’s about people. And then the rest of the album grew from that: we had those songs that are linked and then the final song in the puzzle, so all we had to do was to put a couple of songs in between and we had the perfect flow on the album. So it actually happened quite easily, quite naturally.
What about the sound? “We’re Here Because We’re Here” is a very atmospheric album, and after the beautiful orchestral moment of “Falling Deeper” one could have expected an even mellower album. However, “Weather Systems” is much more layered, with diverse influences that make it sound generally more rock-driven. How did your sound happen to go into that direction, this time?
It seems to us that especially in this album each song had to reach a certain level of intensity before we would let it out. So it depends on how fast you reach the crescendo and how quickly you get to that build, the way you get to the climax, or in fact if there’s more than one climax in one song. I think with the last album being orchestral and this one being what it is, you should really realise that anything that we do is not really an accurate indication of what we’re gonna do next, but in some ways I do feel that “Weather Systems” and “We’re Here Because We’re Here” are connected, there’s something similar about those two. Well, given the fact that a few songs were born around the same time, so it’s something to be expected. But the next thing could be ranging further forward. “Weather Systems” is not just an album you listen with your ears only: a great deal you listen with your heart. The emotional impact of this album is immense, I literally can’t go past the first two tracks without crying and the rest are no less intense.
Oh, wow! Yeah, there’s a genuine emotion flow. How could you, as songwriters and musicians, bear such an emotional pressure?
Well, people have different ways of dealing with it. There’s no pressure, to begin with. The emotional intensity in our music is a component, it’s something we have to do, we have to go to those levels. Now, whether there’s always some cathartic element, sometimes I don’t think it goes away just because you wrote the song, you’re not necessarily healed of this thing, you’re just kind of addressing it. Now, how do we cope with things. I personally have a very intense relationship with these songs, but at the same time I kind of “keep myself to myself” as well, so I can have the same kind of experience as you might when I listen to our music, but it depends on which song it is of course. Danny, who writes a lof of these lyrics, on the other hand, he would probably tell you that he’s always kind of dealing with this, everyday anyway, and he’s always that kind of open person to talk about that, if you do know him, so his musical side is natural just like having a cup of tea in the morning, it’s just part of who he is, part of what he does. So, the dealing thing: it takes more than just writing a song to deal with some things, but it’s just natural to write songs about that.
Aren’t you afraid of exposure of your feelings so much to the rest of the world?
Me personally, it would depend. I think, for me personally, yeah. I would say I would keep some things private, some things that I wouldn’t want to say. Similarly, Danny, there also got to be something he would not want to say, but he puts a lot of himself into everything he does. It kind of leaves you open, but that’s the way it is. You’ve got to ask him, you know.
If I get the chance!
Yeah! I don’t know, I imagine he would say that sharing things helps him, that’s the way.
In “Storm Before the Calm” you can clearly hear massive electronic influences. I have noticed that many rock and even metal artists, lately, are drawing from electronica to add a flavour to their work, much more than in the past decade when such experiments were carried out only by the most pioneering bands. What’s your opinion about this massive blend of electronica into rock and metal? And how did it work for Anathema‘s sound?
I’m not concerned with the scene. I don’t really listen to metal music, or whatever makes the connection with that, Linkin Park or this kind of things. But I do listen to electronic music. I’ve done that all my life, expecially since I discovered Aphex Twin when I was seventeen. Anyway, sometimes it’s just right for a given song. I mean, that song particularly, it’s kind of like building a psychosis, that’s how it feels. And certain things get across these feelings better than normal things would do, you know what I mean? So that kind of psychedelic-drawn, hypnotic part in the middle is there to illustrate this building of madness, a second wave building and eventually crashing on you, and what you’re left with after that is yourself on the shore, and that first breath that you take aftermaths is that first chord. That’s all you have left at that point. After all, anything that we do has got to be meant. It’s the same for the orchestra too, we only have use for it if the song is calling for it.
So basically it must just suit it.
Yeah, I do think it’s important to remember the fact that you can get across a lot more emotion with a single note played in the right way. It could be on the guitar, it could be from the human voice, it could be on the piano, it could be on the violin, anything, but those kind of emotions are right there in the expression. You don’t need all of this trickery to get across that.
That’s perhaps why the record sounds so genuine. Actually Anathema is one of those bands that managed to stay true to themselves the best. You always sound like yourself, but each release is fresh and unique. You keep your identity while going further in your experimentation journey, each album being a new step forward.
Yeah, I think it’s a step forward down our own evolution, but at the same time I think, musically, if we analyse how it sounds, it seems like being expanding.
It’s not getting different, it’s just getting weird.
And what do you feel you have achieved with “Weather Systems” on your evolution path?
I think we’ve made probably the most cohesive record that we’ve done. It’s one of those reords that passes quicker than you think. It’s fifty-five minute long, but if you listen to it in one go, it doesn’t feel like fifty-five minutes. Just kind of, “wow, what happened?”. So… that’s interesting! That’s true! Okay, it’s enough of a positive step in our own direction. I’d call it the successor of “We’re Here Because We’re Here” and something that sets up things for the next time, the next thing we’ll do. Something that we’re very happy with.
Is there some nice anecdote that occourred while recording or mixing “Weather Systems” that you would like to share?
Oh, all kinds of stuff happened, you know! The entire fact sounds like a funny anecdote. On the third session we were booked on this place that was converted from a nuclear bunker. It’s a building that’s built to withstand bomb blasts. It has six-feet concrete walls, no daylight, no windows, no concept of time. We just worked in the middle of the night, constantly. I had a studio set up in my own bedroom, which was bizarre because I could get up not knowing what time it was and just get to work. Sometimes I woke up and it was before four in the morning, and then was like, “Okay, why am I tired now? I thought it was about twelve o’ clock but no, it’s actually eight!”.
Yeah. There was another time during “We’re Here Because We’re Here”. Danny actually woke up in the middle of the night. He just had this dream and he said: “Fuck, I’ve got to tell you about this dream. This tune was being sung to me and… I need to remember this tune, I need to remember this dream!”. So I was half asleep, I was like, “Ok, well, I get up”, then we switched on the studio to record the music, to record right down this dream, and that became “The Lost Child”.
So that’s the reason why it’s so dream-like, it’s very evocative and onyric!
Yeah! Another story is Joe Geraci, who does the narration before “Internal Landscapes”. He’s still alive. That interview was conducted in 1991. Danny got in touh with the documentary film-maker [Dr. Kenneth Ring ed.], who got in touch with Joe. Joe got in touch with us and we exchanged some correspondance, and the next thing, you know, when we finished the song he was on the phone and I could not believe I had the chanche to say thank you to this guy for this amazing story that he went through, which inspired the song and in time became one of the catalists for making a full record. So, that’s a beautiful thing, it’s almost like it was meant to be, like a collaboration.
“Weather Systems” is going to be released on the 16th April. What are the plans about its promotion? Will you embark a tour, release singles or videos?
There are different formats the record is coming out. There’s a 5.1, there’s a different huge digibook with a 24-page full colour booklet with all the lyris and everything else, and there’s a double vinyl. Of course we’re doing a tour, in which we’ll be performing at the Alcatraz on the 30th of April.
And I’ll be there!
Cool! I think that this time it makes more sense to make a mix of songs from all the album. The tour is coming up about a week or two after the album, so it seems more natural to give people more time to absorb it, to get used to it. And then in the autumn we’re going to come back with a full European tour, probably we’ll get to play in more places in Italy at that point, and I think we can do something more conceptual, like playing the whole album start to finish.
That would be a priceless experience!
I think so, yeah. But I think it makes more sense to do it then. Now of course we gotta go to the rehearsal studio and we’ll have two weeks from now, so if we choose to do it quickly, then right, but I don’t know, it kind of makes more sense to do it at the end of the year
Is there any interesting bonus material that would make up good b-sides?
Yes, there’s a couple of things knocking around, but at this point we’ll see. We’ll put that out.
What about the front cover of the album? Of course, it’s really connected to the weather metaphore.
Yes, but it’s a little bit more surreal and a little bit more like a dream or something. ‘Cause for instance it does look like a seed.
Actually I thought more of a planet…
Also like a planet, but then it’s within a different atmosphere, so is that just hovering, or is it moving, or what? There’s something interesting about this image. And I think that sometimes you have to see the image and the title together, because we may have called this album “Internal Landscapes”, which would have worked just as well, but when I saw the cover with this title, with “Weather Systems”, it made it. It’s more cryptic and I prefere things to be less on the surface, so people have to think about it.
Were you involved with the creation of the cover?
Yeah! It’s myself with my girlfriend Sarah. And the rest of the artwork too.
Can you spoil us something about the booklet, the interior of the album.
Yeah, it’s more directly connected to the metaphore, and it’s based more upon aesthetics and feelings behind it rather than someting kind of conceptual. A lot of the aesthetics in our music is kind of emotional, specifically talking about the story, having a picture describing it. It’s something that feels the same way as the music, as the lyrics. It’s a bit more, you know…
Part of the same artistic experience?
Yes, it’s a bit synaesthetic, in a way.
Actually, one thing I really love about this album is how it gives vivid images in your head. You can relate to with also depending on what you see, like, I was listening to it yesterday on the train on the coast at sunset, and with that music and those colours and hues I kind of got goosebumps all over, I was like, “Oh my God, this is bliss”.
Ah, that’s amazing, yeah! There’s this imagery that is right all through the album in a way, I can say there’s something just in the feeling that evokes these images. Specifically the song “The Lost Child” because it’s written about that dream and it all kind of goes hand in hand, like the imagery is right there in the lyrics, like it’s painting a picture.
Yet, the first time I listened to it without the lyrics, I initially thought of a forest rather than the sea. So it’s kind open to different interpretations as well…
Yeah, similarly if you think of the cover for “We’re Here Because We’re Here”, I’d see that the guy isn’t really there, this is kind of a visual representation of how he is or where he’s at, so the horizon represents the completely open mind, and the colours similarly, and then… yeah, he’s not really there, it’s not a snapshot.
Changing subject, I know this may sound a bit early, but what are your future plans in terms of songwriting and composing new music? Is there any clue about the musical directions you are going to take?
I would say there’s less of a clue in this album, really. The last two albums feel connected, but the next one will be disconneted. Sometimes you have to do things in pairs, but the next thing is going to be different.
Last question: With the benefit of hindsight, would you change anything in your career?
Oh, all kinds of things, yeah! But you learn from these things. One thing about mistakes is that they’re there to teach you something. Or regrets: you’re there to learn from them, just don’t make them twice.
Do you regret anything in particular?
All kind of things, yep. But I have no real time for it, because more importantly it’s a lesson, I think. In my personal life I don’t make mistakes anymore. It’s something that we have to go through in our youth, and sometimes it can be useful. There’s always something to learn, we’re always progressing in some way. But I think I find some kind of contentment now with who I am in my place, in my life, in the world, what I have done. I can be positive and live it the best I can… I can try!
Band photo by Rod Maurice (Le Hiboo)