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Chatting with Anathema's Vincent Cavanagh

English progressive rock band Anathema just started a short U.S. tour run opening for HIM.

Anathema's Vincent Cavanagh at the House of Blues in Chicago 3-12-14
Tracy Heck

The band is currently working on a new album and are still out promoting their recent live album/DVD release, Universal.

The tour made a stop at the House of Blues in Chicago Wednesday night and after the show I got a chance to sit down with Anathema frontman Vincent Cavanagh.

Q: How's it going tonight?

Vincent: Alright. I just had an interesting experience downstairs. Well I just met one or two of the locals and you know, they're enjoying themselves. That's all I'll say! There's a good blues band down there. It's the House of Blues after all so why not, you know?

Q: Are you guys leaving right away or are you sticking around for a bit?

Vincent: I think we're leaving pretty soon. Yeah.

Q: Where are you playing tomorrow night?

Vincent: Cleveland.

Q: So not too far. I'm outside of Detroit.

Vincent: Yeah, we played Flint last year.

Q: Was it at the Machine Shop?

Vincent: Yeah, yeah.

Q: That's actually my favorite venue. I love that place.

Vincent: Yeah, it was great. A really great place.

Q: How did you think the set went tonight?

Vincent: Well a gig like this was probably sold out before we even turned up, you know? It's a very different experience playing for somebody else's crowd. It's quite a cool thing because the HIM audience particularly seem really enthusiastic towards our band so I guess we're doing something right for them. It's pretty cool. I don't know why that is but they seem to enjoy the music. You can tell they don't know the songs and it's one of the things when you go into a gig and you see the band for the first time and you don't know the music and you're wondering what's going on but you can see them checking it over and processing it and thinking you know, it's very good.

Q: Sometimes that's the best way to expand the fanbase.

Vincent: Exactly. Yeah I suppose but to be honest with you it's not where I would prefer to be at the moment. Although this is a fantastic tour and I think it's their third time asking so by rights we should be here, but the timing sucks because we're just about to finish our album and it's being mixed at the moment. Danny and I had to book a studio for a couple of days here in Chicago. We've been doing like a live stream mix with our guy in Norway and it's not ideal but it looks like it's gotten done. We've got a few more things to do tomorrow. Tomorrow's the final day when we're in Cleveland and then the day after that when we're in New York it's getting mastered so it's not how we usually work. We usually see things through right to the end and don't just go on tour in the middle of an album but we've done it this time around. We still think it's right but it's a lot of hard work. It's the time difference as well you see and it's kind of awkward. It's just so much easier if you're right next to the producer in the studio and you can isolate different tracks and tell them what you want. It's just a lot easier but I guess in two days time it will all be done and then we'll feel very differently about it than I think we do now. I'm really looking forward to that.

Q: What can you tell us about the direction on this one?

Vincent: Well I don't know, I really don't like doing that. What does it matter what I say? Does it really matter if I said okay there's some more energy in some of the music than we usually do? Would that really mean anything? How do you figure that, you know? Our music is quite a broad palette anyway so it's the same as that. It's the broad palette of sounds and not a different kind of music so it's not gone in any kind of single direction. Notice I avoided the use of the phrase "one direction" for a very good reason! [smirking]

Q: Do you guys try to do something a little different every time you go into the studio?

Vincent: Well you know when we go into the studio we've already gotten the songs chosen so more often than not that kind of process is in the writing. So it just depends on the day and what you're into that day. What wants to happen that day. I say what wants to happen because sometimes you don't really have an idea when you sit down at a piano or you try to find a sound from something or a guitar or whatever or with a pen, anything, sometimes you don't have a clear idea what you're gonna do. You just sit down and just do it and it surprises you and then if you have enough foresight you record it. So then you've got it and it works out.

Q: You have had a lot of success with the live album. What did that mean to you to be able to do that?

Vincent: It was another kind of thing fulfilled really of that kind of epic scene. I remember watching Pink Floyd's video or film Live at Pompeii and I always thought that was the coolest concert film I ever saw in my life. So to do something that was kind of, well it's not as cool as Pompeii, you know I'll say that now, but it was, in our own way with the orchestra and with the setting in this ancient theater, it was a little dock of the cap to that kind of epic sort of scene, which is cool.

Q: Do you think you'll be back in the U.S. headlining anytime soon?

Vincent: I hope so, yeah. We're gonna finish the album and then we're going to be touring Europe and then we should be back in America by early next year so not too long.

Q: Are you playing any of the Summer festivals?

Vincent: In Europe. Yeah, no American festivals yet although we are open to offers. Absolutely! We'd love that.

Q: What is your favorite venue to play over here?

Vincent: I love the House of Blues actually; just the chain. Every one of them has been unique and different in its own way and very beautiful like this one particularly with its old theater balconies and things like this. It's really, really something special. What I love about the House of Blues is the unity and diversity attitude. They encourage the diversity of individuals and say that individuals together make a stronger society. It's all about freedom and freedom of expression and that's what we need as human beings really: tolerance and understanding. I really applaud the House of Blues for that because they're really got a great ethos.

Q: Yeah it's a different vibe when you walk in here.

Vincent: Absolutely. It just feels complete. I love it. I've been walking around looking at all the pictures everywhere. Yeah it's been really, really cool.

Q: Moving forward, is there something that you haven't gotten to do as a band that you really want to do?

Vincent: Oh god, yeah! Where do you start with that one? For the moment I guess we just take things day by day. Making albums is the most important thing that we do. Writing songs and making albums is what this band is all about so if we get that right then everything else falls into place. That's what we'd like to just continue to do.

Q: Do you find it harder now to get people to go out and buy the albums instead of just downloading tracks?

Vincent: Yes and no. On one hand it's a good thing because some people on the other side of the world who absolutely don't have access to your albums have a chance to get it and that's cool but I think there's plenty of fans who do have access to your albums and who do want to buy them. Especially with the amount of work that we put into our albums in making the package and everything else. The art work is so important and it's something that you want to own and actually have because then it exists in physical space. There's something special about that and it always has been.

Q: Yeah and I do think there are still a lot of people who feel that way.

Vincent: Yeah they do and even so after the consequence of mp3's and ipods and everything, vinyl has started to sell better. It's making a big comeback and has been the last few years. You know why? Because people want the art work. They've realized the art work and the package itself is really, really cool and really, really important. Also it's just kind of like a middle finger to that whole generation and people who don't know what that is. [laughing] I don't mind. You know, I have my own way of doing things and everybody should have their own but I like to own albums.

Q: What's the last album you bought?

Vincent: It was Curtis Mayfield.

Q: What are you listening to right now? Any new bands that maybe people haven't heard of yet?

Vincent: Well I'm listening to a lot of abstact sort of electronica from Europe. Kind of really underground stuff but I like the atmosphere about it. I like the feel of it. It's quite dark but it sounds, umm, well there's no cheese involved. It's just, it's cool. It's got its own thing about it and it sounds new to me. Even people from like Greece and Turkey and places like that. There are some really cool guys just really mixing some great stuff and producing some fantastic music. I don't really listen to many bands these days. I mean I've got my favorite bands that I've always listened to but I don't often listen to bands. It's more kind of individuals who make music, whether that's a singer/songwriter or a composer from films or whatever, in various genres or even instrumental music in whatever guise it may be. Whether it's electronica, classical or post rock or whatever which is kind of ironic, me being a singer, but yeah it's funny because that's the kind of stuff I like. I like really atmospheric, moody music. Max Richter is really good. Clint Mansell. Jóhann Jóhannsson. I love those guys and the stuff they do.

Q: Do you have an idea on when you want to release the new album?

Vincent: Yeah it's not up to us but we'd like to get it out at least by the Summer. Maybe June.

Q: Do you have any final words for your fans?

Vincent: Yeah it's just a pleasure to finally be out here for all sorts of reasons. It's like really, really inspiring for us on a personal level as well as what it means for the band of course which is great but I love this place just on a personal level. I love being here. I love touring it. I love meeting people. I'm pleasantly surprised by the people I meet because it reminds me a little bit of home. Where I'm from in Liverpool it's easy to meet and talk to strangers. It's just normal. It's not a big deal. It's funny and here it's a similar thing. Not everywhere but most places I've noticed and I live in Paris now and it's not quite like that in Paris and not quite like that in London but it is over here in quite a lot of the country which is great. It's very good.

Q: Is there somewhere you want to visit here that you haven't yet?

Vincent: Yeah there's a few that we're doing on this tour. I haven't been to New Orleans. We're going there and we're going to Texas. Just the one city; we're going to Houston. There's so many and so much I'd like to see. I'd like to see the Nevada desert. I'd like to see the Grand Canyon and I would like to see Memphis. I'd like to see Nashville and all those kind of places. I'd like to see more of Colorado. I'd like to spend more time in the Pacific Northwest. The landscape is really beautiful. It was an interesting place. I'd like to see everything. Absolutely. It's really great to be given the chance to do it and also all the people you meet.

Q: Well we look forward to hopefully seeing you guys come back and headline next time.

Vincent: Thanks a lot.

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