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Interview with

Andrew Craighan

"MDB is almost bigger than itself. It is bigger than me.. and bigger than each of the members.”

My Dying Bride is forever the face of doom metal. This British band governs the scene like no one else. With their slow and bombastic songs they create a special atmosphere which is very characteristic for them. They are very well known but the band wants to stay in the underground. Guitarist Andrew Craighan had some time before the gig on Graspop (Belgium, July 2004). The conversation took more than two hours because of the fact that Andrew is a good talker and he took the time. He had to hurry in the end, because he had 5 minutes left before he had to play.
Read here the story about what MDB is, was, and will be!

Doom metal

First of all it has to be clear that we speak about the same feeling, so I asked Andrew to discribe the “feeling” that doom metal transports : “For me it isn´t just doom metal. The actual feeling inside isn’t really something you can touch or actually prove. It is more of an idea or a concept and it is not necessarily a way of life, as black metal can be. It is romantic and sad as well. It can take you away from whatever you might be at that time. For me doom metal is a little bit pretentious but that’s fine, that is what the music is supposed to be, not something from the regular life. Doom metal happens to be our preferred version of heavy metal, but we’re not strictly doom metal either. We have lot of different variations on how we perceive our particular doom. It is somewhat of an open question. It is a way of  expressing how our music must sound like and it just happens to be called doom.”

He also explains whether there is a message in the music: ,, The music doesn’t have the bound for instinct and not necessarily a message. People can drown from it normally, and this is not something we did on purpose. We learned this by talking with people who listen to the music. They see in our music a lot of themselves. And in areas where, normally the sad areas, the broken relationships, missing people and these kind of things are normality, this feeling causes a great resonance. And we all are influenced by those things. We’re all human like everybody else and we get a great feedback saying:Your music in this point of time is the same as my life and helped me through this section.” They understood they’re not alone. Other people have felt this and suffered the same way.  I mean most music does this but some people found it in MDB. So there is no direct message. We are not a political band and we are not telling people how to live their life. We do what is relevant to us. It still goes back to, as much as we tried to be quite missable, on purpose sometimes. We take a real pleasure from that and enjoyed that darkness and other people seem to do too. It is paradoxical because the more miserable it sounds the worse we feel. That shouldn’t make any sense, but is does.”

Most of the time when I listen to MDB I get a sad feeling, Andrew understands this:  ,,Music is like a medium for the soul that sometimes comes out and you have to be careful because we don’t want to be too much for ourselves. We like to be private people. But how can you not show some of yourself when you do this kind of music? You have to give something away or you can’t give anything. For us the basic sort of understanding in the band is: we just enjoy it. The doomier it becomes and the heavier it is. We love heavy metal of all kinds and we enjoy what MDB does: this is who we are.”

When I ask what MDB really is Andrew is silent for a while, than he continues: “We are not different than anyone else, so who am I to say how it should be done? All we tried to do from our perpective is, for some reason, we are drawn to the darkness and misery. We are not particularly miserable but when it comes to music we like the doomy sound. We like Candlemass and God Dethroned: so we become a kind of mix thing. None of the songs have any strict message. Those are tragedies and always end up in tears, it seems. We are emotional but not real. It’s a lifestyle in a way, but not in real life: I don’t think it’s explainable.  I like the fact that I don’t know where the riffs come from. I like the mystery that I don’t understand where I am drawn to. I like the fact that we don’t understand it ourselves. Only when we are together I feel the chemistry and that´s just it. I don’t want to analyse that.”

Andrew is a serious thinker. He’s sitting on the other side of the table in the almost empty canteen of Graspop. With his arms on the table and a glass of beer he seems to feel quite comfortable. Sometimes he bends over to think or to have a look outside.

It is more than 10 years that MDB has success. Andrew never thaught that it would come that far: ,, When we started in June 1990, we just had our 14th birthday on 6th of June. We had no preconceived ideas of how we should do this and that so long. We just wanted to be in a band and we all like Candlemass, Bathory, Kreator, Celtic Frost, Morbid Angel. I think Morbid fucking really mess. They are supporting now on the background, Oh well, Soulfly, that is a bit different. We came to taking all over our influences and put them together and that was MDB at the time. It kind of involved it on his own. We haven´t planned a single thing. To be honest I don't think you really can.“

Commercial Market

There are a lot of commercialised bands at the moment. MDB always chose a position in the underground. Andrew tries to explain why:
,,You have to be strong in those things. There are two ways of looking to these kind of things. To be completely successful you have to sell out.  Unfortunately to be as succesful as Cradle Of Filth  there has to be a certain commercialisation and that isn´t really what we subscribe to. But they do it another way. That’s a personal decision, we could have taken that too, but I am glad we didn’t. We do it because we like it. We are not doing it for the money: we all go back to England and will be working again.”

The audience from MDB seems to be different than that from Cradle of Filth, for instance. Andrew also has that feeling:
How shall we describe it? Well, it is a little bit more serious, a bit more adult. The music is a little deeper. It is more honest, I think. I mean I don´t blame CoF for what they´re doing. Half of the band are my friends. Before Martin joined the band he was the MDB fanclub manager.”

The diffence is that they have a record company that pushes them that far. “For that kind of mentality it has to be done. Because what happened? It becomes so sweet, so commercialised and soon the shine wears of and than these kind of bands even continue although being revealed badly and then it is difficult to keep them in mental. A band like MDB doesn´t push like that. It kind of stays in the background but always the same level, always in the shadows, always not really in the mainstream.  That is fine for us, that is exactly what we like. No one really knows who we are. I can walk around here and no one gives a fuck. We can still be regular people.

We never had any aspiration, we never wanted anything from it except to do it. We have more than we were ever begging for. We are here on Graspop again, playing on the stage. We have headlined here two times or so. We are more than happy. We are not really after anything, we just play our music and have a good time

After all Andrew has some dreams for the future: ,, As long as there is the interest for another record and the interest for another festival we are happy with that. To be honest the band wouldn’t come so important that I have to rely on it. I don´t want pressure. I like the band, it is perfect how it is. I earn my money in a different way, so in the band there is no pressure: we do what we want and when we want it!  When we don’t like the way anything goes we don’t need to do it, as it is not like we have to do it because of the money. We have a fantastic tour bus with leather seats, so we are not suffering at all. We just continue to do this. MDB is almost bigger than itself. It is bigger than me, and bigger than each of the members.”

Last Record

The last album of MDB called “Songs of Darkness, Words of Light” (2004) didn´t make big changes. It only added some new details. Andrew explains why:
 ,, MDB went to some line-up changes. Just after "34.788%... Complete" (1998) and people thought that it was experimental. The music I think wasn’t very experimental. The music was recorded in a different way and it is delivered in a different way, but the music is still much MDB. It is just that we have never done it in that way before. After that, when various things happened and Martin and Calvin left the band, we - Aaron (singer and frontman -SD) and me - sat down, what the fuck we gonna do now? What do we like? And we decided what we liked and did that.
Again, because there is no real pressure on the band or a sense that we had to sell out. So we recorded “The Light at  the End of the World”(1999) which was a very succesful LP. Than we did “The Dreadful Hours” (2001) which was more succesful than its predecessor. Now we´ve done “Songs of Darkness, Words of Light” what’s even more succesful than the last one. So with each one, by just doing what we like, the popularity of the band is growning again and the record sales are higher than before. We do what we want and people like it. Anyway there is not a real change. The next record will probably be a continuation. We don’t intend to commercialise or do anything drastic to the music. People who like MDB get exactly what they want

You always want to give the people what they expect?
We have to be careful with that, because we have to enjoy ourselves. MDB creates music in a particular way: you can always say it’s MDB. There is no band who does it like that. Sometimes it is a good thing, sometimes it’s bad, depending on who you are.
So for the next record, we have written some stuff already. It sounds exactly where the other one left off. It is miserable already, empty and massive with trashing anything. We´re not trying to be anything else than just us. We´re not trying to be heavier or try to impress.

Most of the time the artwork of the record is done by Aaron, but on the last record Andy Green did the artwork. Andrew tells why:
,,There were some several time problems. We had some trouble with John, he injured his arm. We had to rehearse the LP and that put us back massively. So when we actually got to the studio we weren’t ready like we should have been. It turned out that it wasn’t a problem, but we didn’t know that at the time. And than Aarons lyrics weren’t finished. To be honest it was a fucking mess. We went to the studio with maybe 3 songs and a lots of ideas. What happened was that Aaron didn’t had the time and pushed the artwork to Andy , so that he could concetrate on the lyrics and the vocals, because that had recorded too. The artwork is different: we wanted to do something a little bit straight forward, bold, a little bit controversial.”

Andrew also tells me that Andy had a message in the artwork, but he can’t remember it:
,, I don’t know the full story to be honest, but there is definitely some tale there. He is one of those artists who are quite deep. He doesn’t create a piece of artwork without any meaning. He could explain it and you might think I don’t see it, but than he explains it again and you see the whole picture. There is something and it is relative to the actual band and not completely irrelevant. I am not realy sure if I can explain it properly. It is not a message, but there is something to talk about. It will come out, maybe I need to go back to him and find out again.”


When you look back at the history of MDB the most important change is when they exchanged the violin by a keybord. The violin had a very dramatic sound. Andrew explains:
,,When Martin (former violin player) left the band, who also played keybord, it was difficult. It was easier to get a keybord player than someone who plays the violin. So what we did was to order an audition for a couple of violin players and they couldn’t play, well they could, but not in a heavy meta lband. So we got to the point that we had to make n decision; we had to go on, so we substituted the violin parts, but rewrote it on the keybord. We did that for the “End of the world tour” It was just some kind of a test, because we didn’t know what the reaction was but we found that it was fine. People were relieved that the band was back. Now we feel that MDB has changed and doesn’t need a violin anymore.

On paper it would be great, it has a beautiful sound, but for us it’s difficult to do it justice. Martin was an exceptional player. We take our hat off for that guy. We talked with him on Waldrockfestival
(one day festival in The Netherlands- SD) and now he doesn’t play the violin anymore but that blows over the wall. So it’s not something we’ll try it in the future. There may come a point where we like the idea again. I know this because we are facing several gigs and wanted to get a violin player, wanted to do it on the old way. We can do it, but it depends on how much effort to do it there would be, because the people who like MDB are very strict to us. We have to be honest to ourselves, we ‘re not able to deliver that.“


,,What normally happens from my point of view:  I don´t plan to write music. Let´s get to rehearsal sometimes and just you feel it. The simple things often start with a couple of accidental sounds.  To get a sound when you hold the strings. We only write in one particularly way,a kind of miserable always. You only have to play a couple of notes and formulate a small guitar line and the rest of the band instinctly picks it up and the next thing you know is you have a song. You haven´t realy done anything, it just happened, just an idea that popped in your head. You don´t know where it came from and the rest of the band picks up the pladge.”

The band must have a strong connection:
 ,,They all know what we want to do. It is obvious to us what should be done. You hear its beats in front the way it should be and than when it gets everything perfect that is exactly how it should be and there is a kind of mental link, something cerebral, you can see it. John knows what kind of drums to put on it and Amy will have a line to fix, and the bass guitar will follow bringing in the elements there. The naturally difficult part for us are the lyrics in the music. You can´t come up with a poem on top of your head. What we normally do is to vocalise, and push some sounds around and those kind of things. I think most kind of bands do this. Just play and when it works it works, and otherwise it doesn´t.”

Record label

With their record company MDB has everything in their own hands. Andrew likes that very much:
,,We like to be in control and we don´t want to be told what to do and when to do it, because than it is pressure. We do it because it is fun and as serious as it is - when we create music we are very serious - we don´t want to be told were to play or when to make an LP. Do we like this sound? Than we do it. Do we want to record some songs? Yes, we want.  Do it in the good way?Yes, of course. We booked the studio when we seemed to be ready. It´s a win win situation. Everybody is happy, has fun and we get what we want. We have to expect what we are and have to deal with that. MDB is maybe big in the world of doom metal but in the music world it is still very small. We accept that. We are happy with what we do: there is no other MDB and we are very unique in that way.”


Because the members of MDB also have a job, it seems that their musical life is separated from the their private life, but it isn’t that black and white:

,,A kind of the same to be honest, everything we do, if we go to work and every decision we make,  is connected with the thought of how it could influence MDB. It is our life and when it stops suddenly I would be lost. It is like loosing an arm. It is a weird family  and a opportunity to meet people and to just have fun. In an hour or so we are on stage, pretending that we´re Slayer or something like that (laughs). It´s absolutely life. Today we are on the other side of the stage doing a signing session with lots of peoplefor  more than one hour. And that´s great. We know we are fortuned, because there are a lot of bands who will never see what we have seen  and never do what we have done. When I had to say anything to the newer bands, my advise would be very simple:  keep going and pratice.  You just don´t know, no idea. No mather how down you get with it, the weirdest things could happened. We toured with Iron Maiden and played in the IM footballteam …I taught I won the worldcup! (laughts) There is luck in life, but when you stop, you´ll never get anywhere. You have to create you own luck and it comes with hard work.

The band is everything for Andrew: ,, It feels like I´ve never been without this band. Since the beginning in 1990 it is my life: it’s everything. Every decision is based on where it fits in for MDB. It has a massive impact on us and the fans: we can’t imagine how much sometimes..
We keep going as long as we feel that we are healthy enough to do it, not flogging into dead. We won´t continue when there is no interest, because it is the interest that keeps usmotivated. It is hard sometimes, has to be a goal, some people to be pleased, but why can´t it be a pleasure hardtime life.. it has been there for 14 years and it has taken over most of our lives to be honest. When it suddenly stops – wheneverthis may be - I don´t know what we do. Suddenly empty space. It can be scary, but we are realistic to know that we can continue for 50 years. I think Iron Maiden are still doing well –I think back to powerslave times- it is just great metal. It has everything Iron Maiden should have, had some weird songs, a song about war and some great guitars. Almost “Number of the Beast” all over again

The doomband likes the Graspop festival: “We love this festival. Biebob, the organiser, is very kind to us. He owns the small venue as well. I remember the first time we played there in 1992. In the middle of the show there was a power failure. Total darkness and then the candles came up. The show had to stop so everyone sat down on the floor with candles and we sat with the people and drank some beer. It was beautiful. Then the power came back and we continued exactly where we had stopped.”

The musical influences of the guitar player are very much the old bands like KISS.  ,, When I was a kid KISS was my favourite band and I searched for years to collect all their records. Then I discovered Iron Maiden, Saxon and Meat Loaf. It is Iron Maiden for me, because they´re British as well. They inspired me so much. Worldwide succesfull and an attractive record system. They are just great people. When we met them, we honestly met very nice people. That froze me completely : they don´t act like rock stars and that really stays with you and we learned a lot of lessons from them as we talked with them and learned to be professional, because we formerly were idiots. We still have that capability, but we learned to act professional and to play and make it vital. It inspires you, even more than that, because they are great people, great musicians, and the new record is just brilliant Seems like MDB is almost a vehicle to meet nice people.”


Most of the time when you listen to MDB you get a sad feeling. I can imagine that the band members also have that when they are on stage.
 “No, no we like that…I just … I don´t know. I can´t explain why. We enjoyed that misery. When I write the miserable sounds at home, then the rest of the band says:  that is doom! We have a joke in the band:  I am welling well up is to have tears in your eyes. The more miserable the song becomes the happier we get. So when we are writing something particularly miserable than someone in the band will say it. Than we know it is the right point.

It is a complete paradox and we love it. I actually don´t smile a bit on stage. Inside we are not feeling particularly down, but we are definitely not happy. We feel no joy, we try to be professional because there are people who know the songs very well. We make grown up men cry. We have to do it in justice to the feeling we want to create. There are songs who take you to several times in life, in good and bad times, and that is was MDB is. Most people who come to MDB are looking for a refuge, for a dark place to find solace in.  What happens if I am so pissed off at the moment? And who can sit with me and offer solace? MDB it is a kind of link with the negative feelings, but when you talk with someone about a problem you´ll feel better. We are not able to fix it but you´re not alone with your problem. I mean the miserable company, that´s true, but I like that. We are not miserable people

Andrew is very serious now. I can’t see his eyes because his long hair covers most of his face. Then he looks up and continues:
,,We are old enough to understand that the world is quite bad. We could really be depressed and we could dwell on it. We don´t want to be a real depression. Our real feelings in those areas we don´t bring in, because it is an ecape for us. We have to be careful. Doom metal doesn´t reflect life, there are starving people all over the planet and horrible things we do to each other. We tried as much as it is a part of everybody´s life, or should be, because we should fix it in a flash if we can. It is like a video game, we are not real life. We do it because we love it but when we could trade it for world peace we´d all stop it immediately.

People just get on with their own lifes. It is very selfish, because when we all stop doing this, and did something to stop some monstrosity it wouldn´t make a difference, but we´re going to play a gig and have another beer. We are no different than anybody else. It´s no real life, people should be careful. For us it is still music to enjoy, it is not to be lived and that is a big scary difference. You can be drawn into it in ways you can´t imagine. Even when it brings you down it should bring you up. If you feel depressed than you have to listening to something miserable. Well, at least I do that.  At home I don´t listen to MDB, I try to listen to different bands. It is an escape but it should be fun.  When the misery is going on even MDB must make you feel a little bit better
. “

Andrew warns the young bands that come up: “We are here because we´re not inspired to be anything else. A lot of bands who turned up expect some tours and lps given. It will become a disillusion and a change of style so people don´t know who they are anymore. They loose focus and faith.”

What’s doom metal for you?

When you listen to doom metal it is massive. To describe doom metal it depends on who you´re talking to. Talking to some people they said something like; that is not doom metal and then there are some people who said: Well, MDB seem te be doommetal, or Trouble and Candlemass. When you look at that it is very different. The umbrella of doom, if you were asking for some category, is quite ok for us. Beneath that it has an entire scene of its own. It is all different from the other ones. It is an impossible game but you must say something.  You said doom and that’s fine.  I mean it would quite miserable if that kind sits under the doom umbrella.”

At last Andrew has a good conclusion for this interview. With a big smile and in his sense of humour he says: “Whatever you do try to be happy, even when it’s miserable doom, that’s the trick!

Copyright pictures:
- Stephan Mehrer
- Edwin van der Ende
- Linda Aarts:
- Picture of the album, official website of My Dying Bride

I want to thank Andrew for all of his time and the rest of the band as well as tour manager Calvin and Lisa from Peaceville Records.

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