INTERVIEW: Vincent Cavanagh (ANATHEMA)
Levi: You guys, you're coming to Australia in October, It's going to be a bit different this time around. Are you going to be doing an acoustic unplugged set? I'm just wondering how different is this going to be from a normal Anathema show and how the crowds overseas taken to the new show style so far?
Vincent: It's very different to a normal show. To start it's not your standard unplugged show by any one stretch. We found our own way of doing it really which fits our songs. A lot of it revolves around what Danny does on the guitar. He's got … On his acoustic guitar he'll hit the rhythm within to a looper and bass lines over the top of that, play some riffs, play some little added flavors. It sounds pretty full. The arpeggios are going, there's a lot of improvisation going on. I come over the top of that with more of an ambient sound, keyboard, wirly synth sounds on guitar. We've got piano it can sound pretty full on, it sounds like a big ambient band when it's all kicking off. There's a lot of energy on stage, there's a lot of energy in what we do, energy in the music, and energy from us. I think it can be just as intense as a full on rock show.
Vincent: In a different way. There's an unspoken sizable thing going on between us and the audience as well. It's more in tune when there's an acoustic thing going on. You're more in tune with the audience. I think it's basically because there's less of that big, huge fucking noise and the big show mentality. It's more intimate. That spark that gets both of you into it is more in tune. It's more acute, it's more on the surface, it's more easy to perceive. In other words, it's fucking fun.
Levi: I think it's going to be a great show actually. One of my favourite albums I'm listening to right now is the new one from Katatonia which is called, "Sanctitude," which is an unplugged acoustic thing as well. I was just wondering …
Vincent: Yeah, it's a totally different thing to that.
Vincent: Totally different thing to that. There's no drum, there's no full band, it's going to be three of us making all of these sounds.
Levi: Yeah, it will be awesome. Is there any plans to make this into a live album? I'd love to see this as an album on vinyl or something
Vincent: There will be a live DVD coming out. A live DVD coming out which we recorded in an enormous cathedral in Liverpool where we're originally from. That's coming out later in the year.
Levi: Okay, will there be a CD to go along with the DVD as well or a vinyl?
Vincent: Yeah, there will be a live record or something. You'll have to speak to the record company about that to be honest with you.
Levi: Yeah, sounds awesome. Anyway, you've been out playing for over 24 years now, and the change of Anathema, just if you listen to the early days, is quite dark and heavy. It's changed so much over the years. Do you find your music taste has evolved a lot and you ever see yourself going back to the heavier days of Anathema? Is this a new direction that you plan on taking the band?
Vincent: We always went in … We never go backwards, we never repeat ourselves. That's been our mantra since day one. No. Why would we do that? As far as what we're into, when I was 17, I was working in a recording studio. My favourite records at that time were Nirvana's "Nevermind" and Aphex Twin's "Digeridoo,". Now I still listen to techno and electronic music, and I still listen to punk. Yeah, my music tastes have changed a bit. I've evolved, there's more exciting crossover artists out these days that I'm really into. I like individuals that make music. I like people like Johan Johansson, Max Richter, Clint Mansell, that kind of thing.
I like people who are just crossing over between the worlds of electronica meets the post-rock to contemporary classical and all of those kind of things. A lot of the stuff I listen to doesn't even have any vocals on, which is fine by me, it doesn't need any. As far as our own music is concerned, that progression has been there since the beginning. We always wanted to change. It was readily expected from the very beginning by everybody that we would never repeat ourselves and we didn't and we're never going to. That's just the way it is. That's what people expect from us now.
Levi: Yeah, that's cool. I love all your albums. I'm happy whatever direction you go in.
Vincent: Levi, that's a perfect example. We just did this retrospective tour where we played stuff from all of our records. There was people there right at the front who knew every word to all albums. There's such a massive, drastic shift in sound, it shows how open-minded they are. I love that.
Levi: Yeah, you guys seem to do pretty well. I know bands like Opeth have caught a bit of flack about changing sounds, but I think you're one of the ones that got off the hook with the criticism
Vincent: That's very easy to explain. We never painted ourselves into a corner by making four albums of a certain style. We always changed. Everybody knew from day one that we were going to be one of those bands. Okay, this is one of them bands that just changes all the time. Okay, cool. Let's see where they go. Some people come along and some people don't. The vast majority of people who are listening to us are well into all of our stuff. It's cool. I like it better. I think it just shows a bit of open-mindedness on the behalf of the fans. What Mikael and Opeth and other bands who have tried to do similar things, anyone who's tried to do something different in the past, what they've experienced is that negativity from old fans and that's an ironic thing. I think, for the most part from my perspective, it used to mean open-mindedness. Just being into anything that was extreme just showed how open-minded you were. In any one day, when I was 17, I could listen to a Napalm Death record, a Nirvana record, and a fucking acid trance record on the same day and I'd be into all of it equally. There's fucking nothing wrong with that. That's the best way to be as far as I'm concerned. You find in some corners of genre, people are really into genres, they only want you to do that and that's closed-minded. If Mikael's caught any flack it's just from those kind of people. They're not going to change him. He deserves praise because he's not going to pander to those people, he's going to do whatever he needs to do. That's important. Any artist will tell you it's important to do what you feel is right.
Levi: Yeah, and even if you lose some fans you're going to get new ones on the way hopefully.
Vincent: To be honest with you, us picking up any fans at all is a by-product of what we do. We're not doing it to try and gain fans, we're doing it because we need to do it. We're doing music because this is what we do, this is who we are, this is what we do. Whatever happens afterwards is a bonus as far as we're concerned. Whether you're there or you're not I don't mind, it's cool.
I'm of the opinion that if you're trying to create anything, then the minute you elect anybody else's expectation into what you're doing then you lost it, you've allowed somebody else's thoughts into your creativity. Then it's not pure anymore, then it's not yours. That's fine if that's what you want to do, that's absolutely fine. Music is entertainment, entertain people, it's okay, it's fine. If you're into a genre of music, make that genre. That's cool, it's all right, it's fine.
From our perspective, we don't see it like that. We want to do our own thing and I just think we're just sheer bloody minded about it. We don't want to follow anybody else's path or do what other people want us to do. We just do our own thing and see what happens afterwards.
Levi: Yeah. Last February you played a really awesome festival which is pretty different. I've seen a few of those pop up lately. It was Progressive Nation, which was actually on a big ship, on a big ocean liner. What was it like playing music in the sea?
Vincent: It was … Yeah, I said when we got on that boat, "With the right kind of eyes it could be a real little magical mystery tour, that boat." You are cut off from everything. It depends on your perspective. You'll either have an open mind about it or you'll think it's a prison on water. Some people don't like cruises. I really enjoyed it.
It was hilarious. It was a load of fun. Playing the first … The first show we played was already at night on the seas on our way from Miami to the Bahamas, pitch black, with the moonlight and the stars, on the deck of the boat playing our stuff. It was wonderful. An experience that I've never … You could never really predict. Fortunately we're going to do it again, we're actually doing it again after Australia. We're going to go back in November and do it again.
Levi: I'd love to go to one of those. Once I've saved up enough bucks I'm definitely going to check out one of those festivals.
Vincent: Yeah, man. The one we're doing in November is called Cruise to the Edge. It's the band Yes … Do you know the band Yes?
Vincent: They've invited us along for that. Funny enough when we were playing on that old boat, their old singer, Jon Anderson. He came to watch us because I think he had just had dinner and him and his wife were enjoying just sitting on the balcony. Then our music come wafting across the ship and they were like, "Who is this band? That sounds all right. Let's go and check them out."
Afterwards I met somebody who was like, "Yeah, we just sat there and this music came across and I'm into this. I just discovered your band." He's been in touch since, it's very nice.
Levi: Yeah, that's pretty good getting some praise from a guy that was a god in the early '70s prog rock scene, that's pretty awesome.
Vincent: Yeah. To be honest with you I'm not really up on all that scene. I don't really come from that. I don't know anything about it. He's a lovely guy.
Levi: Yeah, no. Yeah, I haven't listened to a whole lot of their stuff but I know they're fairly legendary within their own field.
Vincent: Yeah, apparently so, yeah. They're massive. I just don't know them. I just don't know their stuff at all. For that matter I don't know Genesis and I don't know Rush and I don't know prog. The genre, the "genre," of prog, I don't really know what that is.
Levi: You guys get called a prog band sometimes...
Vincent: It's fine. I accept the term progressive because we are progressive people. I accept the term progressive because even since the beginning, to move forward and to evolve has been our own ethos. I accept progressive on those terms, but I don't really think that we fit into the genre of "prog rock." I think most prog rock fans would agree.