Before their headlining slot for the second and last night of prog label Kscope's fifth birthday at London's Relentless Garage, Anathema frontman Vincent Cavanagh kindly gives eGigs the opportunity to gaze into the non-stop future of the English emotive act.
How are you?
I'm alright. I'm having one of the busiest days of my life.
Why has it been so busy?
I don't know. I guess I'm just hands on. We've got a new crew today so I'm helping everybody else. This event anyway is more of everybody's in for each other, making sure everything's well and we all get through it. I've got organisational skills. I can make things happen. It's one of those things where you have to know something's done and I can't rest until I know something's right. At least if I'm doing it then it's ok. I think I'm just about finished.
This is Kscope's fifth birthday bash. For a young label, they've got established names. How do you feel to be headlining the second day of this?
Privileged, absolutely. Also to be part of the Kscope family. For years, they've been getting better and better. One thing I really love about this label is they've got great taste in music and not only that, they place so much importance on the package itself - the artwork - which is important to me. Everything they release looks beautiful. It's really well done. They've got great taste. I guess in the past, I was always into labels that had a cool roster of bands that had something interesting about them like Constellation Records, Fat Cat Records. Something about the little roster of bands where you thought that's cool and they've got something going on like Kscope. We've been there since 2009 and we've seen the evolution and the band has been evolving the same time the label has been evolving and everything makes a lot of sense.
How did Kscope approach Anathema?
We had connections through Snapper who distributed the first albums. They had Peaceville of course, so when Kscope were starting up, that was an interesting option. I have to say, they're really supportive of anything we want to do. A lot of our projects are ambitious; our albums don't come cheap and neither did that DVD the Blueray, I should say. It cost a hell of a lot of money and you put so much time and effort and work into it and they're right there backing us all the way. They've got a great attitude. They let their artists be artists. They know and understand how important creativity is and when not to get in the way and when to encourage to get the best result. A lot of labels care about money; of course they care about money - you'd be stupid not to - but they've got an eye on the quality of the product and of the band.
It sounds like you're actually a fan of Kscope and you check out all the bands.
I am. I got into so many bands. After I got into Godspeed You Black Emperor!, I was checking out what else was on that label. It was probably around 2000 the first time I heard Godspeed and they were on Constellation Records and since then I've been following them. I remember in 2003, they put out one of my favourite albums of all time, which is Frankie Sparo 'Welcome Crummy Mystics'. That record is 38 minutes long, it's got eight songs on it and it's perfect. There's nothing I would change on that record. There's nothing that's out of place. It's got this beautiful atmosphere. It's just melancholic and it creates a really special mood. I've got a really special relationship with certain albums and I loop them for a long time. I'm that one. I wouldn't have discovered that had I not had the curiosity to discover what else they had on their roster and there are a few other labels I follow. To be on a label with a roster... North Atlantic Oscillation, Engineers - this is some of the UK's best music.
On to 'Universal', your forthcoming live release, this was filmed in an ancient Roman theatre. Why did you choose this location? How did you find out about it?
We were offered the location and the orchestra by a guy over there who we knew. The first time we went to Bulgaria, it was only a couple of years before and it was amazing. We played the Philharmonic Hall in Sophia and we had this amazing response from the crowd for our first time there. We always had it in the back of our minds that if we ever did another DVD, it would be there. Two years later, it comes together. This promoter gets in touch and says "Guys, check it. You can have a full orchestra and you can play in this amazing Roman amphitheatre." Such a stunning location. You rarely have to see it. I don't know if you've seen any of that on any of your trips but those kind of things are steeped in history. There's magic in the air. It's very different when you get a stage on there and loads of lights and all that and some poncy rock band [laughs]. It looked amazing. Everything fell into place. A few hiccups but you get that. It's live music. Especially because it was the first [gig] of the tour and we hadn't played together in a long time. We did loads of preparation.
How does it differ from playing other venues?
Playing in front of the orchestra was the main part. You've got a 26-piece string orchestra playing behind you. The title track 'Universal' is basically just me singing for a minute and a half the intro of the song with the orchestra behind me. That I'll never forget in my life and I didn't really think of it beforehand. It only occurred to me as I was singing. I was like "That's just me and them." I'll remember that forever. So on to something else; we've done that now. That's an ambition fulfilled. We'll see what happens next.
Just to touch on last year's 'Weather Systems', how would you say it differed to previous Anathema recordings?
It's connected to 'We're Here Because We're Here' but it's a step forward. There's a few songs that came up along the same time as 'We're Here Because We're Here', intrinsically connected but they're also connected to each other. There were five songs in a row that were connected and we definitely couldn't split up. The next four songs that were written for the album: 'Untouchable, Part 1', 'Untouchable, Part 2', 'The Beginning and the End' and 'The Lost Child' they were unconnected to those others so they were the newer songs that we wrote. In a way, it's of two halves because those songs were a step forward for the band. The next thing that we do will be a disconnect even from that. It's going to be another progression even from that.
So Anathema will never release the same album twice.
I doubt it. I can't see why we'd we do that.
On to 'Untouchables', why is it split in two?
It's two songs. The first song is going through it and the second half is how you feel afterwards. It's two very different songs. You should really listen to them back to back. That's why it's called part one and part two. I guess it would have been the prog thing to do to give it one title.
Yeah, jump into the prog cliché.
Yeah, we don't like clichés.
You're touring the states with Alcest. I understand this is the first extensive tour of America Anathema has done. When you have play there, how were the reactions?
We went there with Blackfield actually. There were some visa problems. It was late in the day and we went over as an acoustic duo, just me and Danny [Cavanagh] and two guitars. We had no ideas what to expect. We arrived at the first gig and I remember the crowds were amazing. We were setting up, plugging our guitars in and checking the mics and that as the crowd were coming in. We started a conversation with a couple of people in the front who know our stuff. They were like "Guys, we've come here to support you and we know your stuff. Have a good one." We had no idea what to expect. We came out and played and everybody seemed to know the stuff. Some nice big venues... I think it's going to go really well.
You're touring with Alcest. What are your thoughts on them?
I don't know too much about them musically. I know the singer. I've gotten to know him a little bit more now because he's actually a neighbour of mine. He lives in Paris where I live so we met up socially and we will do again. He's a really interesting guy and he's a very sensitive man. It's interesting; I'll get to know his music after getting to know him. He's very happy with the new [album]. He's done some collaboration with one of his heroes of all time, which is Neil Halstead from Slowdive. Slowdive are his all-time favourite band. To do that is a dream come true for him. Also, they recorded in Sundlaugin Studios in Iceland, which is Sigur Ros' place. He hasn't played me any of it but he says he's very happy with it.
I understand you're doing work on a new album.
Yeah, we've already started that. We never really stop. We're always writing music all the time but specifically we've got some demo time in the autumn and we'll actually start recording it in December.
When do you think it would be released?
All being well, it will probably be May next year. All going well.
What kind of ideas are you throwing around it?
You'll have to wait.
Not giving anything away. Have you got any other future plans besides the US tour and the album?
Yeah, we've just found out that South America is probably going to go ahead. That's right after the American tour and that's going to be with Katatonia. That should be cool. Then in the beginning of December, there might be a week in somewhere very far afield that I can't confirm yet because it's not confirmed, but if that can come off, that would be great. Of course, writing, writing, writing and getting the next album together. I'm also doing my own project on the side but we're up for everything at the moment. It's going really well.
That's the end of my questions. Do you have any final words?
None whatsoever [laughs]!
Nice! Thank you for the interview.
Thanks very much.