Interview Archive: Danny Cavanagh (Anathema)

English: Daniel Cavanagh (Anathema guitarist) ...
Daniel Cavanagh in concert in Barcelona, Spain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I didn’t actually do this interview, but I did organise it. The talent behind the microphone was the lovely Lauren Grindrod, a friend from my uni days who is, I believe, now living in the wilds of Canada. It’s from the 25th October, 1996.

So, how did you guys get together and what efforts did you make to sort out the process of getting songs together and so on?

Well, the band started out with three brothers: me, Vincent and Jamie, they’re both over there [points to pool players]. And there was two other guys who we were friends with anyway, we went to school with them, and we just used to play football and listen to Metallica or whatever. This was about 1988, I used to play a bit of guitar and the lads did as well. We were just messing about, you know, we didn’t really taking it seriously. Then we eventually decided to get a band name and get some gear.

How did you come up with your band name, then?

Read it in a book one day.

Just thought, “that sounds good!”?

Yeah, basically that was it.

Did you find there was any friction with having brothers in the band?

Yeah, course. Jamie left not long after, he left in 1991. Then we got a new guy in called Duncan on the bass. By this time we’d done three demos in a local studio in Liverpool, it didn’t cost us that much to do, you know, only about twenty quid each or whatever.

That came out of your own pockets, of course?

Yeah, yeah, course.

Did you send those off to record companies straight away?

Just one company. It was the first demo. We didn’t actually send it, he got a copy. Said he didn’t like it much, but could we send him the next one. We were doing the next one, like within a month of this letter anyway, so when we did it we sent it to him and he said, “yeah, that’s nice”. But this was only one of the employees, the record company boss was still to be convinced. After a few months of these employees saying “you should sign this band”, eventually he came down to one of our gigs. We always used to put our efforts onto play, even though we weren’t much good, you know? We had all the gear and no rehearsals, but we still got up and had a go, and that rubbed off on him. So when he came down to see us in Wrexham, at the end of ’91, November, he offered us a deal. So that was the first company we ever dealt with. It was only a small one, its grown bigger since, but it was small at the time.

So it wasn’t too much of a problem for you lot…

Getting a deal? No, we just sort of fell into it.

So, what was the name of that first company again?

Peaceville, that’s the label that we’re still on. They’ve been bought out by Music for Nations now. That’s the same label as Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride as well, you know, it’s just like…

All in together?


So did you have to send off any publicity shots or band photos or anything?

Darren, our old singer, we had a previous singer, he was well into photography, so he used to like take some photos, you know. We always used to do that, but it was a while before we got a professional one.

Had any of you been in bands before?

I’ve been in a covers band, wrote one or two songs. And Duncan’s been in a few bands before.

Did you find you were all pretty like-minded when it came to musical tastes?

It’s developed that way. I’m not so sure if it started out that way. Everyone’s got their own opinions, I suppose.

So when you first started rehearsing and playing your first gigs, were the venues you started out in small or did word get around about you or what?

They were all dead little, but we got a couple of lucky support slots. Paradise Lost in 1990, our first album had just come out and that was our third or forth gig, so we were quite lucky in that respect. We got Bolthrower and Pitchshifter not long after that. Just lucky.

And that helped you along quite a lot getting those sort of slots?

Yeah, it did, yeah. They were always little gigs and they were always in Liverpool, but eventually we said, “we’re dying to play out of Liverpool”. And things have developed to the point where we played in Liverpool last week for the first time in years.

Anybody recognise you in Liverpool at all?

Yeah, well we still go out every Saturday night in the club that we played in, so yeah, we still know a lot of people there. There isn’t much of a scene left for the kind of…for real music. There’s not much going on there. Or there’s a lot going on, but not much of it is dead good.

Any interesting stories from when you were starting out, any funny things that happened at gigs?

Loads and loads! It’s hard to remember them now.

Anything gone wrong at gigs?

Loads of things, yeah. The first gig we ever did, a friend of ours, it was her birthday and she was having a little do, a party, like a little family do. She asked us to play and the fucking music that we did was sound! It was just a total mess! God knows what her parents and relatives must have thought of us! This gang of kids just making an absolute racket! And that’s how it started, that was the first one. We just got up and did it, you know what I mean? It was like, “fuck it”, we had a dead good laugh that night. It’s developed so much since then.

Did you find it at all difficult getting gigs in the local area when you were first starting out?

They were always there, every now and then. It was just book your own in the Wilson, this local rock bar, or there’d be something coming up. It was never that difficult really, there was a decent scene and just as we were starting, it died out. There was a few good bands, like heavy metal bands. Just used to do covers and a few of their own songs. People would go down to this venue and just head bang. It’s not really like that anymore. We were sort of the last people to come from Liverpool, there’s only a few of us left.

So do you find there’s less competition now and has that affected the number people who are into you? Is there more or less attention or..?

Well there’s plenty of bands, but there’s just none like us, you know? But there’s no real competition as such. There has been elements of it on Peaceville with various bands who’ve criticised and whatever, but who gives a fuck?!

Does it affect you when you get a bad review or does it just sort of wash over you?

I suppose it might affect some people, but I don’t really care that much, ’cause I know the album’s dead good. We’ve just done this new album and it’s turned out really well.

So, when did you realise that this had become more of a job and less of a hobby?

I always thought that I was going to do it anyway, but I didn’t actually think that I’d be doing it with these lads. This was the early days, then it started getting a bit more serious, we started writing serious songs and when we did the first demo, I think was like the turning point. Or possibly the Paradise Lost gig was the turning point. It was around that time, early 1990s or the middle of 1990, we just started saying “let’s try and do it properly, fuck it!”.

Then on you went..

And we never looked back. The songs have just got better and better.

And you’re enjoying it immensely or is it a bit of a chore?

No, its not a chore, I wouldn’t be doing anything else, I’m enjoying it. Obviously there’s downsides to it.

Best job in the world?

I can’t think of anything else I’d rather be doing….I can’t think of anything else I can do!

Well yeah! I’d rather be doing this than studying!

Yeah, so would I! I’m very lucky in that respect.

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