By Andrew Bansal
British eclectic rock band Anathema have been exploring a broad range of musical horizons over the nearly 25 years of their existence and have traveled a greatly diverse stylistic journey. While they’re not heavy on a sonically superficial level as they were in their early death/doom metal days, there’s still a large section of fans of rock and metal fans that can appreciate the band’s modern-day approach towards creating and portraying their art. After completing an overwhelmingly successful and long-awaited first ever tour of the United States last fall, they have returned to these shores for another run of dates, this time as main support to Finnish goth rockers HIM. The House Of Blues Sunset Strip in West Hollywood played host to the first show of this tour on Friday March 7th, and about 30 minutes before Anathema took the stage, I sat down with vocalist/guitarist Vincent Cavanagh to discuss the tour, mixing stages of the next album, and more. Enjoy the insightful conversation below, along with live photos from the LA show.
Vincent, you were here in Los Angeles on your first ever US tour a few months ago and today you’re starting another tour. How are you doing?
Feeling good. It’s been a really strange and bizarre day in a good way, I suppose. We’re right in the middle of making our album. We’re in the mixing stage right now and this morning we were given some news that I had to basically finish one of the tracks. That’s what I’ve been doing for the best part of today. In truth, we should really be in the studio right now. But we’ve decided to come on this tour for various reasons, number one I guess was the opportunity to go out with our friends, finally in the US. Ville has asked us to come out with them to the US three times now, so it was like, if we couldn’t do it this time it would almost be rude, you know. So we didn’t want to do that, plus the fact that we have faith in our producer to finish the mixes because he’s been there since the beginning. But at the moment, today basically I’ve been working all day on the mixes. I’ve been mixing tracks and getting them ready for the final push. I have some of the session on the laptop. So, the gig today is actually secondary for me. It’s actually the easy part of the day. But if I appear to be in a somewhat contemplative mood, it’s because I’m somewhere in the middle of the album, mixing down this song, and the gig itself is going to be bizarre for that very reason. But I think it’s good. It’s almost like a distraction from my day. I can get in there and just have fun for 45 minutes.
That’s an interesting situation to be in. The gig is something you don’t even have to think about. I guess it’s almost like muscle memory.
Muscle memory. Exactly, that’s what it is. I remember even when I was 17 years old and doing gigs, I was always happy to do it and I was never nervous. The trick is to not think about it too much and don’t expect anything either. For me, it’s just getting on and letting it happen right there, not thinking about it. Be in the moment as much as you can possibly be and try to enjoy it!
You did the headline tour recently and played at the El Rey with Alcest and Mamiffer. Did you even expect to be back so soon?
I guess not! Had things just flowed normally into the next headline tour, I guess we would have been back in amount a year, so around early next year. But this opportunity came around. We have new management and he’s working us hard. I said to him, ‘Listen, we’re in the middle of mixing, so for me it’s a compromise to break up the mix and come on tour in the middle of it.’ But he told us that we had to do it, and I didn’t really listen to him. I still didn’t want to do it. But then I listened to the producer explain how it was going to be done. We actually got a studio booked in Chicago in a couple of days, so we do the first three gigs in Los Angeles, Anaheim and San Francisco and then Danny and I fly to Chicago where we’re going to work in a studio to finish mixing and we’ve got two more dates after that to do recalls. But it’s almost done as it is anyway, so we’re pretty confident it’s going to be absolutely right. If we weren’t confident enough I don’t think we would be here but at the moment if we can do both, it’s perfect for everybody, I suppose. And it’s cool to be out with our friends. We’ve known HIM for years, they’re really, really nice guys and they treat us really well. Their crew is fantastic and they have no ego about them whatsoever. They’re just a cool rock band who’s here for the right reasons.
So you were confident of being able to do both the touring and mixing at the same time.
Well exactly, yeah. Specially having the studio booked in Chicago is going to help a lot. It’s pretty cool the way it’s going at the moment. There are some very intense things happening behind the scenes. I can’t really talk too much about it because it will all be revealed in a interview/documentary kind of thing which will be coming out on the album and we’ll explain it all on that.
You’re a support act for HIM on this tour. Do you think their crowd is already familiar with Anathema in terms of the musical style and everything, or do you have to play a show that’s very different from your headline shows in its overall vibe?
I’m not sure what it’s like in America, but in the UK we’ve played with HIM a number of times and their crowd were great to us. I mean, after all we’re a bit of a rock band ourselves, you know. We’ve been known to experiment, of course, and we’ll continue to do so. But we’ve got some rock songs too. I just think if you’ve got good tunes, you sound good and you play well, you’re going to do OK. Doesn’t matter who you’re playing for. If we were playing in front of a Slipknot audience I’m not sure that would go down too well but with HIM it’s fine.
Obviously over the years you’ve traveled quite a journey of musical styles. Where do you see it going with the next album and what path do you see it taking, moving from ‘Weather Systems’ to the next step?
It’s a very difficult thing to put into words in terms of what your music actually is. It’s becoming more diverse, I guess. The way I see it is, our music has grown from a nucleus outwards and it’s continuing to expand. It’s like its own little universe in a way. It’s just expanding in all directions and I think that’s the way it’s going to be. There are lots of things we want to do in our music that we haven’t done yet, but when we write music we don’t really think about that. It’s just a case of it coming out of us in a certain way where we just don’t have to think about it too much and we just do it naturally. It always changes, so you can be the same writer and the same person but you could write two completely different things on the same day. It all depends on what happens. And then what you choose to do for the whole band and for the whole record, you just choose the best stuff you’ve got, really. You make the best possible of collection of songs that you can do, you call it an album, give it away and then it’s not yours anymore (laughs). It’s everybody else’s, and that’s fine because that’s a part of the process. But at the moment the next album is still ours and we’re holding on to it for dear life, clutching onto it like a newborn baby and being very, very careful with it. When it’s done, it’s easy. We never really stopped creating anyway. Even when we’re in the studio doing an album, we’re still writing stuff. It kind of never stops. So in answer to your question, we don’t know where it’s going. It just happens.
Is this musical progression a reflection of your own musical tastes?
I would say it’s a reflection of us as people. But definitely, our musical tastes are very, very diverse, far more diverse than the music we put out. I listen to plenty of stuff that I would never want Anathema to sound like (laughs), but I guess it’s a reflection of who you are as an individual, how you express yourself and how you grow with your music. Every time you’ve done something it really teaches you something about yourself and how you can do things. You learn all the time about your own music. We never want to repeat ourselves, ever. So that also forces the evolution because if we do a song and it sounds like something we’ve done before, we’ll scrap it. Or if we come up with a song that sounds like it could have been written five years ago, we don’t do it. Everything we do has got to be fresh, now and new.
Finally, aside from this tour and the finishing touches on the album, what plans do you have for the rest of the year?
After this tour I’m going to be home for a couple of months and I’m looking forward to a welcome break from everything. I’ll still be busy behind the scenes of course, with interviews and things like that, but as far as actual touring goes, it’s just a couple of gigs in the summer for European festivals and then we start major touring in the autumn in the UK, then we go to the rest of Europe. Then probably early next year we’ll be back in the US. In the meantime I’m looking forward to getting home, being in my new house with my girlfriend and my cat, my new studio which I just finished, writing some more music and doing something completely different to Anathema. I’m looking forward to having my life back for a little while. I have to take those moments whenever I can because I’m a very busy person and I don’t often get a chance to live my life. So I can’t wait to do that just for a little short time.
Check out a photo gallery of Anathema from the LA show (view the photos here if you’re on a non-Flash device):
Remaining HIM/Anathema Tour Dates:
3/14 – New York, NY @ Irving Plaza
3/15 – Philadelphia, PA @ Theatre Of Living Arts
3/16 – New York, NY @ Irving Plaza
3/18 – Atlanta, GA @ Center Stage
3/19 – Orlando, FL @ House Of Blues
3/20 – Fort Lauderdale, FL @ Revolution
3/22 – St. Petersburg, FL @ State Theatre **
3/24 – New Orleans, LA @ House of Blues
3/25 – Houston, TX @ House of Blues