Interview with Calvin Robertshaw of My Dying Bride

My Dying Bride, the gothic doomsters from the U.K., have recently seen the release of their latest album, Like Gods of the Sun, in the States. I spoke with guitarist Calvin Robertshaw about their musical transition from the epic The Angel and the Dark River, the prospect of breaking into the American market, and their future plans. Here're some excerpts.

Can you comment a bit on the change in MDB's sound over the years? Particularly the progress from The Angel and the Dark River to Like Gods of the Sun?

The change between The Angel and the Dark River and Like Gods of the Sun is nothing more than a gradual maturity of the band overall. We didn't go out of the way to make an album with distinct differences. We just did what My Dying Bride felt comfortable doing. That's the same with all our albums---the music is based on however My Dying Bride feels at that time. The next album might be a doom epic like The Angel and the Dark River or it might go back to our roots and might be a growly death metal album. It's part of the natural progress of any normal band.

Do you have any comments about the production? I see you had a big hand in producing it.

With the previous albums, we didn't have much time to produce it. But we spent a lot more time in the studio for this album, and a lot of small details were taken care of. I was in the studio every day---it was the first time I was producing. I did have some knowledge about the production of the previous releases, but this time I actually sat down with the engineers trying to get the best sound we possibly could. We record June and July last year [1996] and it took us about 9 weeks. It was released in Europe beginning of October.

Can you comment on the Fierce/Mayhem deal? How do you feel about breaking into the American market?

America is a new market, we plan to break into hopefully when we tour with Dio in April and May. With regards to Fierce, it's not a record deal but a licensing deal. I'm not sure who, but someone at Music for Nations set it up with them.

Who would you cite as musical influences for this particular release?

We had no real musical influences as far the music itself goes. We used some albums for overall production... we listened to Astrocreep: 2000 by White Zombie. It's a good album with great production.

What sorts of music do you listen to?

My Dying Bride has six members and each of us listen to lots of different types of music. Anything from Morbid Angel, Entombed, and Dismembered to Oasis, Manic Street Preachers, and Radiohead.

I'd argue Like Gods of the Sun is one of the most accessible albums you've put out. What is your opinion?

I think it is too. It's a lot more up tempo and I think the production has a lot to do with it. It's a heavy, strong, smooth, clear cut production. It may been due to us touring with Iron Maiden in 1995 and seeing the audience's reaction when we played the long doom songs. We didn't consciously decide to release an album that was accessible---we just wanted to pick up the tempo and do better.

I'm sure you've been asked this a lot, but how has the Iron Maiden tour really helped you personally as musicians and careerwise?

It opened our eyes to their way of touring and understand how it worked on such a large scale. We went to Finland, Spain, and Italy at the same time as openers and we were able to capitalise on that and go back and headline. It helped us mature a lot and when we went back the reception was warm, warmer than it was when were with Iron Maiden. Sales of the new album have been boosted in those countries. So I think the tour helped us a lot.

What do you think of the underground metal scene, and in particular, the mainstream's lack of acceptance of metal music?

In the U.K., for the past two years, the explosion of Britpop has obscured a lot of bands. We still quite get a good response... we just played a few gigs there and we were really surprised by the response.

A lot of it is due to marketing. A vast majority of bands that will appeal to band management companies are the flavour of the week. It has to appeal to the masses.

Metal still has a following. It won't die out, but it won't come back as strong as it has before. It has caused the removal of a lot of barriers. Popular music is becoming heavier, but also a lot more commercial and a lot blander. The distance has become closer and the music styles have fused to a certain extent. There is a wider audience but not a rock audienece.

How big of an influence was Metallica on you, and do you see yourself going in the direction they took with Load?

Metallica was tremendous influence on us. Ride the Lightning was the first thrash metal album I got. Master of Puppets is one of the best albums ever. I still quite like Load. It's a good and diverse album. They've worked themselves to the bone and I think they are playing more for their feelings than rather a general public.

My Dying Bride has always been about what we're going to do. When we were in the studio, someone came up to us and wanted us to write a three-and-a-half minute hit single. We just laughed at that.

What are your views with regard to bootlegs/tape trading?

Bootlegs allow a different market to get hold of the live material. I'm not bothered about the few dollars people make from it as long as it doesn't get excessive. Tape trading is fine with me also. I used to do it myself when I was younger.

Is there anything else you'd like to say?

Thanks a lot for all your support. I hope you enjoy the new album and I looking forward to seeing you all in April and May when we tour with Dio.

For more information about My Dying Bride or the new album, contact

Music ram-blings || Ram Samudrala || || February 10, 1997