Danny Cavanagh (Anathema) interviewed
** Anathema’s on the cusp of a breakthrough. Actually, the Liverpudlians have been on said cusp for the better part of 15 years. But that’s neither here nor there. Music is always about right place and right time. That place and time have come for Anathema on, Distant Satellites. Like previous album, Weather Systems, the group’s new album stretches emotional and musical boundaries. Always from the heart defines Anathema and their music.
Why did you decide to strip down the music this time?
Danny Cavanagh: It seemed to be the right moment to do so. I guess, we had done what we could with the multi-layer approach to recording and decided it would be cleverer to do things differently this time. It was an intuitive decision that the band and the producer made independently of each other and found ourselves in agreement. Good songs do not need lots of layers to make them better.
You’ve always let emotion drive the music and message. I gather life’s enough to continue to power Anathema for a while longer, right?
Danny Cavanagh: It certainly seems to be. I have always written from the heart. I may look for more varied lyrical topics and narratives in future. That remains to be seen.
What does Distant Satellites mean exactly?
Danny Cavanagh: The metaphor of distant satellites is really a humanistic one. One can imagine satellites in orbit as people living their lives together, or apart, with love and strength being the gravity keeps people close to each other. Life is difficult and some people get lost, and some people return to where they belong.
When you’re writing music at this stage how much self-editing are you guys doing? Anathema’s music has a particular flow that feels very natural and comfortable.
Danny Cavanagh: We are constantly analyzing the music until the very moment it is completed and even after that moment. But the way we like to try and edit the music is by an intuitive process of listening to the music and allowing the music to “tell us” where it wants to go. Perhaps that is the reason that the music feels and sounds very natural and organic.
“The Lost Song” is a title theme on Distant Satellites. Is there a red line connecting the pieces? Other than it’s Anathema, of course.
Danny Cavanagh: Yes, these songs are all based on a piece of music that was lost from a recorder in 2008. In my attempt to try to remember that piece of music (which was impossible) these new songs were formed.
“You’re Not Alone”, “Take Shelter”, and the title track are new sounds for Anathema. Where’d that come from? Most fans associate Anathema with this heartfelt organic rock. Or, in your previous life doom metal.
Danny Cavanagh: Well, we the band associate anathema with our own music musical hearts and imagination, and that heart also incorporates elements such as electronica. The perception of the band outside of our musical circle is not our concern.
There’s still heaviness in the music, which I think is cool. You’ve kind of hidden it for the crescendos or transitions. How important is heaviness, relative term that it is, to Anathema these days?
Danny Cavanagh: It depends if you are talking about guitars—if you’re talking about guitars and they are one of the key elements of the music—but they are no more important than the piano, orchestra or the electronics. The music is greater than the sum of its parts.
So, wait, is the album divided into two halves sonically? One, organic, human. The other, digital, human.
Danny Cavanagh: If that is your perception, so be it. It is really up to you how you perceive this record. I might encourage you to look again at the lyrics on the second half of the record. The entire record is human.
Steven Wilson mixed two of the album’s tracks. Which tracks were they and why did you employ Wilson to mix a part of the album and not all of it?
Danny Cavanagh: The question is more realistically put, “Why did Christer not mix the whole album?” As you may or may not be aware, Christer mixed Weather Systems and Universal. The only reason Christer did not mix all of this album was because he was taken ill and time was pressing. In this emergency circumstances, there was one person I wanted to turn to, to mix those few songs, because I can trust his talents very much, and that was Steven Wilson. It is always a great pleasure to work with Steven, but make no mistake, this is Christer’s album. Christer was present on the first note of the first demo until the final day of mixing.
Where do you think Distant Satellites will take Anathema from here? You’ve worked long and hard for the current build of the band and fanbase.
Danny Cavanagh: I have no idea, and I don’t think about it in these terms. What happens to the band outside of my music imagination is not my concern. I pay other people to worry about these things. My duty is to the music, to the integrity of the band and to the love of the project and each other.
** Distant Satellites is out now on Kscope Music. It’s available HERE in a large number of configurations.