ANATHEMA Frontman: ‘There’s Nothing Fake About What We Do’

Radio Metal recently conducted an interview with vocalist Vincent Cavanagh of the U.K. atmospheric rock band ANATHEMA. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.

Radio Metal: Were some of the songs of “Weather Systems” composed while you were working on “We’re Here Because We’re Here” or while you were waiting for the release of it?

Vincent: A couple of them were, yeah. One or two of them perhaps came just as an idea. One song particularly, “The Lost Child”, came to Danny in a dream, towards the end of the “We’re Here Because We’re Here” sessions, when we were all living together. I remember, in the middle of the night, he came to my room and woke me up and said, “Hey, I just had this dream. I have this tune and this whole scenario from this dream. We should make a song, and we should make a video for it.” I said, OK, and I got out of bed and recorded the song. We wrote down the idea, and then we said, “OK, let’s go back to sleep, we’ll think about it tomorrow!” (laughs) And eventually, that song became “The Lost Child”. It’s happening all the time, that’s natural. Anytime we’re all together, or at least the main creators — me, Danny and John — we’re really having a spark. Things happen quickly, you know. It’s cool.

Radio Metal: Even if it’s released only two years after the previous one, “Weather Systems” is very different from its predecessor. How did you manage to change the atmosphere between those two records?

Vincent: We always do that. That’s how we write, we’re always progressing forward. The next one’s going to be different again. We’re one of those bands, you know. We do this because we have to. We make music and art for the art. We don’t really have a choice as far as progression in concerned: that’s how the music wants to be. It wants to progress, it changes all the time. I use the word “it” because sometimes, it’s almost like we’re not completely in control. It’s something that’s more subconscious; you don’t make a conscious decision to say, “Let’s make an album that’s different from the last one.” It just happens naturally. Do you understand? That can happen in any song. I may wake up tomorrow and have an idea for a song that sounds completely different than anything else I’ve ever done. And I follow it, and it’s almost as if the song, the idea, leads you where it needs to go. Part of the songwriting process is actually knowing when to get out of the way and let the song take the lead, you know? The song dictates what it wants to be eventually. That’s one of the secrets about progressive music, and about how you can progress with music: don’t think too much. If you do think, then just try not to repeat yourself. We never really want to repeat ourselves, that would be too boring. Music is infinite, and what we can do with music is whatever we like. There’s no end to it, you know?

Radio Metal: About this new record, Danny said, “This is not background music for parties. The music is written to deeply move the listener, to uplift or take the listener to the coldest depths of the soul.” In other words, you wanted to avoid elevator music or background music. Do you think that’s the risk when you are writing such emotional music?

Vincent: When you write music that’s completely direct and honest, you have to sit up and listen to it. Trent Reznor wrote that song, “Hurt”. The original version is amazing, but when Johnny Cash sang it, with just him, a piano and an acoustic guitar, it changed. It’s one of those things where it’s like listening to somebody speak the truth. You have to listen, you know. And if it’s really important, you have to listen to it. Now, I’m not for one minute saying that’s what we do. It’s up to you to decide what we do, I don’t mind. One thing I’m saying is that there’s nothing fake about what we do. All of it is real. That goes right down to the lyrics, right down to every part of how we feel this music. For us, it’s more about the feeling behind the music. It’s about the intuition, it’s about going through it. It’s an experience that changes every time. One of the reasons I love doing what I do, now that I’m a singer, is that each time I experience a song, it’s different every single time. When you listen to a record, it’s the same every time, and that’s great. If you’re happy with it, it’s great. But then comes a certain point where you stop listening to the record, because it’s always the same. It usually takes me a couple of weeks! (laughs) I’m at that position now where I stop listening to the record and I just sing. The only time I get to hear our music is when I sing it. That’s when I know it’s real for me, because I mean it, I mean everything I’m doing, 100%. That’s cool for us, you know? I also don’t mind music that is meant to be just entertainment, that’s meant to sound the same all the time. That’s cool, too. But that’s not what I do.

Radio Metal: Do you think the only way to write good music is to be honest?

Vincent: No, no, that’s not true at all! There’s no secret formula right across the board that you can say, “This is how you write good music”. In fact, the question is false. What you have to ask any person is what do they bring to music. How do you live it? What can you bring to your music? What you have to remember is that each individual has their own voice. Each individual has their own mind, their own heart and soul, that they can put into something. And it’s unique, in and of itself. Even if you try and sound like somebody else, it’s still you, you know? It depends how much you want to give. A lot of people don’t want to be honest in music, because it’s giving too much away. They like to hide a little bit, and maybe to create something else. That’s cool, too. A lot of people write about the world, or about external things. They try to be honest in that way, and that’s cool, too. There’s an infinite set of ways to do music, write lyrics and write poetry. But being honest, it’s… I don’t know, it’s up to you. I’m not so bothered about people knowing my life. I don’t want to explain the meaning and the experience behind these songs, what it all means. I don’t want to explain that, because that is personal. It is in the lyrics, it is in the songs, and you can feel it anyway. The difference is, someone on the other side of the world can listen to this music and relate that is some way to their own life, because the experiences we talk about are quite universal: the themes of love, death, loss, madness, euphoria, all the deep emotions that we go through in our lives every single day. I much prefer to hear somebody else’s story and their experiences, how they relate to our music. Maybe one of our songs reminds them of a relative, or a loved one, or something that they went through. I think that’s beautiful. So in that way, it could be universal. But like I said, there’s no formula. You have to be yourself.

Read the entire interview from Radio Metal.

“Untouchable, Part 1” audio stream: