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Anathema's Vincent Cavanagh Talks Music For Nation Reissues and Rock'n'Roll Rebellion

Listen to an exclusive stream of British death/doom-turned-heavy prog rockers Anathema's remastered album, 'A Fine Day to Die.'
February 19, 2015, 7:00pm

Photos by Scarlet Page

In the same narrative arc of bands like Opeth or Enslaved, the ever-changing soundscapes of British death/doom-turned-heavy prog rock band Anathema have earned the band a reputation for creative risk taking that, missteps aside, has ultimately rewarded those dedicated fans who’ve remained loyal to the band whose beginnings go back to 1990. Twenty-five years later, the band is gearing up for their Resonance tour, a concert experience that will see the band perform songs from their entire discography and include performances from original members Darren White (vocals) and Duncan Patterson (bass).

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Music For Nations is also poised to reissue a treasure trove of classic Anathema material—including Judgement, A Natural Disaster, a box set titled Fine Days 1999-2004, and 2001’s gloomy A Fine Day to Exit, which we’re streaming in all its remastered, bonus-track-having glory below:

Originally a member of “The Peaceville Three” alongside My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost, Anathema is by far the most changed since those very early days. Noisey chatted with guitarist and vocalist Vincent Cavanagh about that progression, as well as the band’s future and his own passionate stance on compromise in heavy metal.

Noisey: You guys have the A Fine Day to Exit reissue coming up. How does it feel when you look back at those early days to where you are now as a group?
Vincent Cavanagh: There’s one major motivational factor with A Fine Day to Exit, actually. That record particularly we wanted to change the tracklisting and include an intro to the record that was dropped at the time for whatever reason. Doing the reissue gave us the chance to do that and say “Why don’t we just do the record we should’ve made?” That’s a great motivation right there. It gives you a chance to reflect on the evolution and personally for us, we’re very, very close to it. We’ve had an inside eye on all of our evolution since then and in even more detail from album to album, and for some it’s like song to song. You know, when you write a certain song, it can change you. All of a sudden your outlook changes, and you think, “I’ve opened up a new door—okay, I can do this.” For example, on the new album Distant Satellites where we did the electronic stuff, that’s opened up a door for future music just by the sheer process of what we had to do to get that song with equipment involved like the drum machines and everything else. That’s a point of distinction with Anathema; you guys have never shied away from transition in your sound and allowing yourselves to grow as artists.
Yeah, you’re absolutely right. I think it’s very rewarding on a personal level that I can look back across all ten of our records and say: you know what, we never fuckin’ compromised, and we never gave people what they wanted. What people want when you make a successful record is more of the same things, and all of our records have been successful in one way or another, but to make the same record twice or three times would be like selling out to us. What you said about taking risks is really, really important.

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The whole point of it is that if you’re gonna be any kind of writer or any kind of artist, and you’re willing to push yourself to change and to evolve as an artist rather than to pander to your fanbase or pander to your publisher or record company or whoever it might be, then that can be an enormous kind of responsibility. What happens is you have to learn that you’re gonna lose some fans. That’s gonna happen, and you’ve gotta learn to be okay with that. There’s two ways you can look at being a musician or a songwriter. One is you’re making music as entertainment, and if you do that that’s fine. That’s fucking cool. AC/DC are a perfect example, right? You don’t want them to start doing a jazz fusion record because they fuckin’ felt like it. You want them to be fuckin’ AC/DC, and what Anathema means is that you don’t know what to expect next time.

Do you see that challenge to experiment as being easier to market now in the social media age as opposed to when you guys first started?
If you’re talking about people’s external attitudes toward artists who change and evolve, I think it’s way more open now than it used to be. As far as a personal challenge to make that thing and to do it, that comes internally. You don’t actually have to push yourself to do anything. Like Björk isn’t sitting at home going, “Okay, I’ve just made that record. What do I want to do next time? Hm. What could I change?” You don’t think of it like that. It just happens naturally. Go back twenty years or so, music was very genreified. It was very closeted. You had this there, and you had that there, these over here, and I think the doors have opened up more a little bit. I think the lines are a little more blurry these days.

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Metal should be rebellion. It should be that you don’t compromise, and you always follow your own path, regardless of whatever fucking people think of you. I think people who are closed-minded in metal have fuckin’ missed the point entirely about what it was supposed to be in the first place. it’s that jock mentality sweeping in. They do have the loudest voices, but we have the choice of whether to listen to them or not. Rock and roll is about self-expression. It’s about being different and not being afraid to stand out from the crowd. When I was a kid, everybody around where I lived were skinheads and had tracksuits. I had long hair and a leather jacket, and I knew that if my mother sent me to the shop for a pint of milk that I would have a fight with these fuckin’ lads here because every single day you had to win the gauntlet just to go in the fuckin’ shops. I was proud of that, though. I wasn’t gonna cut my hair. I didn’t want to be anyone else.

What lies ahead for Anathema in 2015?
First of all I’m writing a lot of stuff at home. Danny’s writing a lot of stuff at his place, and whenever we get together we’ve got a lot of stuff to start playing together. We’ve got the cathedral shows where we’re playing acoustically in a bunch of cathedrals in the UK, and we’ll expand that towards the end of the year as well. the final show is in Liverpool where we first grew up. It’s already sold out, and it’s a massive cathedral, and it’s a bit of a homecoming show. It’s really fuckin’ special, and we’re gonna be filming that one, so we’ll see how that all comes out later in the year. We’ve also got more festivals in the summer coming up. We’ve got a tour called “Resonance” coming up in Europe including Roadburn in Holland. Some festivals, and then after that we’re going on the Cruise to the Edge which is the Yes cruise from Miami to the Bahamas. We’re gonna be doing a lot more US touring as well. We’ve got two US tours in the pipeline. One in September and one in November. In between that possibly going to Australia and New Zealand to do some more acoustic gigs. It’s all in the pipeline, we’re just waiting for confirmation.

'A Fine Day to Exit' will be available from Music For Nations on April 13.

Jonathan Dick is resonating on Twitter.