For those of you who have yet to sample the delights of Anathema (and in particular their terrific last album ) the band currently consist of not one but two sets of siblings the Cavanagh’s (that would be Daniel, Vincent and Jamie) and the Douglas’s (John and sister Lee) – leaving just one odd card, keyboard player Daniel Carduso who became a fully paid up member in 2012. Hailing from Liverpool the band have seen numerous line-up configurations and several dramatically different musical styles since they started life as death/doom metallers Pagan Angel in 1990 (with singer Darren White), but for many they really hit their stride with We're Here Because We're Here in 2010 (having hinted at what was to come on A Natural Disaster in 2003) a vision that was then fully realised on 2012’s Weather Systems. With a new concert film (Universal) and a solo album (The Passage) to promote we persuaded Daniel Cavanagh to have a look at a list of questions and answer those he felt happy to deal with, beginning with growing up in Liverpool...
Daniel: “Well, it was a long time ago but we all lived in the same area growing up, an area called Anfield near the Liverpool football ground, but I went to a different school to John, Darren, Vinne and Jamie, and had I gone to University this band wouldn’t be together. The fact is when I left school at 16 I guess I was a bit lost and I started hanging around with Darren (‘Daz’ White, original singer), John, Vinnie and Jamie and I didn’t feel lost anymore, and within six months we had decided to form a band, we were all into metal and I could play guitar so we formed a band out of the friendship of school and family."
Total Music: Siblings in bands have a history of being pretty fractious, and you have two sets, how do you avoid throttling each other?
Daniel: "For us it works well. We can sometimes get a bit tired of each other and need a bit of space but we know how to stop pushing each other’s buttons these days and there’s a great strength there, they do say blood is thicker than water. The fact is we’re good at what we do and Vinnie produces and sings so well, it’s fine working with him. It’s the same with Lee and John, Lee sings but john writes great songs so... If there was a lack of ability I think that would create a difficulty because the music has to come first but it works because everyone is great at what they do.”
The next couple of questions, about starting out as a death metal band and why the name change from Pagen Angel to Anathema are, perhaps understandably, given a polite but firm body swerve, “That was a very long time ago.” However bands seldom change direction in such a dramatic style and we're still keen to understand why, but Daniel remains politely evasive.
“All of the stylistic shifts have been very natural and organic, uncontrived movements as we’ve never tried to be anything but ourselves, that’s all we’ve ever done. It’s just being ourselves that has prompted the shifts over the years.”
Having slowly but steadily built an increasingly strong fanbase the band then hit a brick wall when their record label Music For Nations ceased trading in 2004 (due in part to the Zomba Group being swallowed up by Sony/BMG) and whilst quitting was never an option the web did become an important part of continuing to move forward.
Daniel: “The web was good, it opened up things as I started looking at forums and getting online, making demo’s and giving them to people, so yes it was good. The early days of the internet, the early 2000’s and our first forays were really good. I had my first email address in 2001 and a few years later we were putting up free songs for the fans.”
Total Music: How did you get involved with Kscope (a label that seems pretty much tailor made for you)?
Daniel: “Kscope had been chasing us for a while through our manager and he reassured us that they were good and capable, which they have proven to be. I think for an independent label they have done really well, they’re a small label but they are not only surviving but growing, and I like the people, the communication is good, they work hard which is good for us and we’re happy with them.”
Total Music: It could be argued that you finally really found you own unique style on We’re Here Because We’re Here [via the orchestral reinvention of some of their back catalogue on 2011's Falling Deep] which was then fully realised on your 2012 album of the year Weather Systems, would you agree with this?
Daniel: “I would certainly say that it was a step up in the song writing level, the quality went up a level then, but I wouldn’t say that was our finished style because we are about to do other things now and move into other areas. Our style is great songs, that’s what we try to always maintain, the best possible songs we can write the best chords the best melodies, the best lyrics whatever it is, the style can always shift, but the song writing has to be a high quality and that’s the bottom line.”
Total Music: Can you tell us a little more about The Passage and how you came to work with Joseph Geraci?
Daniel: “I met Jo through the internet when I saw his video on of him speaking about a near death experience (featured on the song ‘Internal Landscape’ from Weather Systems), I liked the way he spoke and the way he told the story and though it would work well with that song, but obviously I needed to get permission for that so… In finding him to get permission it was really beautiful because it confirmed a few things for me on a personal level, I opened up again on a personal level to spirituality and felt a little more sure about that stuff and it was great talking to him, we connected, and when he told me about his poetry I thought it would work as the sound of his voice worked so well on ‘Internal Landscape’ it seemed a natural progression to do a small limited release of spoken word stuff and I really enjoyed making it, enjoyed putting that together.”
Total Music: On the new concert film Universal there’s clearly a big difference between recording string parts in the studio and actually playing with a full orchestra live, can you tell us how that worked (was there a lot of rehearsal needed) and what made you pick the Roman Theatre of Philippopolis in Bulgaria, aside from the fact it looks great of course?
Daniel: “Yeah, there was a lot of rehearsal needed, a lot of preparation, and it’s much more difficult for them because in the studio everyone gets, perfect monitoring and headphones so… It was a challenge for them to play with a rock band, probably more so than it was for us, but we pulled it off and it worked and we’re very happy with the final product.
The venue was picked long before the DVD idea was put together as the venue and the orchestra do this feature every year in the summer and after that was presented to us the idea for the DVD came about.”
Total Music: You’ve been at this for some time now, does it feel like Anathema are finally getting real recognition?
Daniel: “Well you can’t get too confident about these things because you don’t know when people will start saying they don’t like what you’re doing. But people seem to be appreciating the song writing and that is something I would like very much to expand on. You can’t really write songs for fans, it has to be a collective process in the band, obviously when it's given to the record label and then onto the fans I am happy when they like it, it feels gratifying and satisfying, but I have to be brave enough to take decisions that might lose fans. Basically I’m not going to be too confident that it will grow and grow but we’ll see.”
Universal is out now on Kscope records and The Passage is also out now on Burning Shed, you can keep up to date with live shows all things Anathema-ian by toddling along to