Before the concert in Dom Omladine in Belgrade, we had opportunity to talk with Jamie Cavanagh, from bend Anathema. We had a great time and conversation, and we talked about the album that won Album of the Year at the 2017 Progressive Music Awards, The Optimist. We talked about mystery stuff that make this album such a great peace of art, but also we chatted about important things in life that ever human being have to cherish.
BR: Hello! This is our first interview with you, but I promise we won’t talk about regular band stuff. We would like to chat about some deeper meanings that came from your songs and music. About stuff behind your work. Firstly, tell us about your feelings when you start to create some work of art that becomes your song.
Jamie: It’s intuition. Everything we do starts with an initial moment of intuition and we follow it from there. It’s almost like meditation, really composition music. So you can start from a sound or a sound tape or text or start of a single code or single melody that pops in your head. You can dream something, you can wake up the next day and record it. It could be something on the guitar, it could be on the piano, it could be anything, really. It’s really a lot like meditation. Music generally always comes first, it’s always melodies, chord progressions and quite often all song itself like such arrives fully full in your head, so you can picture how it’s all gonna finish, you know a drums, the guitars, you hear the piano part, you can hear the string melodies, you can hear the vocal melodies, the bass lines…
BR: Anathema is one of the bands that have that experimental lines and different kind of melodies that you put together. After some songs, the listener have strong feelings and a bit of emotions that you wanted to cause. How do you know when the final version of the song is, and how you get that possibility to make it that strong?
Jamie: Well, music is one of the easiest and most direct ways to convey the emotion from one person to another. We express it for ourselves so there is a very deep personal meanings behind each one of our songs and if it’s whatever kind of emotions, it’s always very, very intense. That’s the emotion we want to express inside ourselves. Many people can relate to, so what happens then, is other people when they listen to it, they can easily identify something in their own lives in our songs. They are the same way that I would identify something in a song by Pink Floyd or The Beatles, or something that applies to my life.
BR: Your music is a bit emotional and as we already said, it causes certain feelings in people. What is the thing you want to share with people through it and what do you expect to get in return?
People appropriate our song for their own lives and that’s very rewarding and nobly thing. But it’s not be original attention, we’re expressing ourselves and creating emotions in music with the attention of experience in those for ourselves and then, after it we see what everybody else makes of it. But it’s very interesting experience to see how people can change your song to fit them. You know, like, usually it’s people, so we write a song about somebody in our life. And then, somebody else will come along and say, okay, well, that’s exactly like somebody in my life, you know… It helps you to connect with people. If you’re a type of person that you feel alone quite a lot, you can find a companion in it, feel that somebody else understands what you’re going through and you may never meet that person and you probably never will, but for some reason you feel connected through a song.
BR: Does music help you to be a better person, to understand life, to walk through it?
Jamie: I think it possibly can, yeah. I mean, imagine world without music, imagine life without music, I think it will be extremely dope, but I think it allows, I’m talking about band here, to connect with our own emotion in certain way that are sometimes easier to explain through music than to explain through words, you know. Because, if you anything like, I don’t know how it is in Serbia, but in society, like where we come from, working class, showing your emotions, dressing your emotions or understanding your emotions, it’s not something that guys do. You know, because it’s quite often a sign of weakness. If you choose to talk about it, you know, they tell, just be a man, deal with it, you know… And it’s bullshit! (laugh) Because every human being, unless you are completely psycho, goes to very intense emotions and emotional experience in life. And, it’s important to have an understanding of all of that. A music does help, it can help to understand ourselves. I mean it in a most basic sense. This is not some university level of psychology or anything like that. This is just basic human need.
BR: You made great progress through years. As a bend, tell us is it because you work developed through years and years? Explain what genre are you, like metal, alternative, gothic, progressive rock?
Jamie: Yeah, we don’t know where that gothic came from. I don’t have idea, but there you go. It’s one of those things that just goes on in the media, so we do not pay any attention to whatever genre it is. We never have, even at the beginning, we never really wanted to play any genre specific of music. At the beginning we played more often some genre specific music, but these days is far too wide. I think what you have to do is, you have to call us rock band or at least, maybe alternative rock band. You say alternative rock band, then you say okay, yeah they got guitars, but they also use electronic, they got a synthesizer, they got orchestra, they got piano and all that kind of stuff. I mean it’s alternative rock band really.
BR: Your new album The Optimist won the Album of the Year at the 2017 Progressive Music Awards. Describe to us that feelings you have when you get that award.
Jamie: We were extremely grateful. It’s huge part of your life and it’s basically takes over your life, you’re obsessed over it and obsessed over it and obsessed over it. You eat, sleep, drink and make everything that have to do with an album, the most tiny detail that you can’t imagine, write down to the last second. So every couple of years you get obsessed with it, it takes over the everything and the greatest award is to listen back, and to know that is finished, to know that you got it right. If you get to that stage, it’s all award you needed. But after it, if all the people feel it, that’s fantastic, because, like I said, you put your heart and soul into it for so long, so you feel like somebody else recognized it, so it’s very cool.
BR: That new album is great. Tell us where did you get all that inspiration about meaning of the songs, about all that beautiful, strong and interesting melodies and rhythms that describe this project?
Jamie: The melodies, they all seems like they exist already, that you are some sort of device. You put it on the page, but they are already there. There‘s ultimately nothing much like it in life, when I sit down, at the moment, the very first moment when something pops up, in your head and you get it out, there’s nothing like that. It’s difficult to describe where it comes out. It’s very difficult to describe from where it comes from. What’s the point of trying to embrace down something like that because you destroying the magic and second, it sounds fucking more pretension when you trying to break something down. So, the thing to do is to let it be, to let it be what it is, to do it, to listen to it, and say yeah, that’s exactly it.
BR: Make and explain the parallel between The Optimist and A Fine Day to Exit…
Jamie: Yeah, it’s a story, we invented this character, who is going trough all of these music experiences on the album. We came up with the concept after the music we finished. We put all that in character, we wrote a movie or at least like a synapses for a movie, and we could not get it made cause we didn’t know any filmmaker and we didn’t have any money, we didn’t have record company show. So, after that we put that concept away and than years later, for this one now, Danny had the idea to tide all in. It’s not a concept album because there’s no written narrative. This is series of scenes, like scenes in a movie, on The Optimist. So, it’s a same character, but it’s more abstract in several ways, because it looks like to you it’s happened after A Fine Day To Exit or before A Fine Day To Exit, or it’s all a flashback, or it’s all happening in a single moment. Maybe he’s imagine a whole thing. But, the character is called the Optimist, and it’s easy way and very cool way to present the song without necessarily to talk directly about yourself, when you explain your music so it’s kind clever.
BR: As you already said something similar, that album describe faith, mystery, new life, trough one guy from the cover. Tell us something more about it. What are your beliefs, do you think about life as a part of something bigger? What do you think about mystery, is there something behind every human?
Jamie: Yeah, there is mystery in life. You need to look forward, you need to be open to it, you know. I think it’s like, it’s quite often that you find people who are so down by general life, and it’s just the dogma, they are attached to whole life. And also just a general need to find money every day, to paid a rent, to get a job, the generally drive of every day life, it’s all just kills people’s creativity. Quite a lot, you know, it kills people’s ideas to live an open life. There’s a lot of cynical and skeptical people out there. But, I don’t know, I think it’s important to retain some form of creativity in life. I don’t have children, but if i ever had children, that’s one of the biggest lessons I would ever teach them. To do something creative every single day, because you just need it, you know.
BR: So you think that there is also a mystery in a creativity? But where it also lays?
Jamie: There is a mystery in creativity, there is a mystery in your own mind, in all eternal universe, there is mystery about everything in life. It’s about what you discovered, all the knowledge is out there, and you don’t have excuse, in this age, to find, cause you standing in the biggest library of all humanity. And it’s all in your fingertips, every single day. All you have to do is one single click and you will find anything you want. Thomas Edison said we know the one millionth of the one percent of nothing. So for ninety four percent of universe we don’t have idea what it is, not yet.
BR: That song, Ghosts, have that beautiful vocal that takes us all to another dimension. Tell us, do you have some fears, do you sometimes say to yourself that you have to slow down?
Jamie: Oh, right, exactly. This is a sort of kind of modern life, the things that drives people crazy. But at the same time is quite figurative. In the scene, the story itself, so this is the ghost of his past, that tells him to slow down, you know. Whatever he’s imagine it or not, whatever he hallucinate or not, to him is real.
BR: What can’t he let go?
Jamie: His past. Large part of the Optimist story, is him trying to flee his problems. He thinks if he drives long enough, far enough, and fast enough, that he may put everything behind, but the ghost is still there.
BR: Let’s get back on stuff about band. With who would you like to play with?
Jamie: We would like to play with Radiohead probably, with U2, Muse, the biggest bands in the world, stuffs like that, and on the biggest stages. That’s what we like. We would like to play festivals, like to playing mainstream rock festivals. So what’s the biggest festival in Serbia?
BR: The Exit Festival.
Jamie: We want to play the Exit.
BR: Great! We would like that too.
Jamie: There you go! (laugh)
BR: Do you have some bands or people that are the reason because you are in this type of music?
Jamie: I think probably The Beatles, Pink Floyd and Radiohead. This are three bands that have a biggest impact on us, but equally I can say that about Bob Dylan, I can say that possibly about Jeff Buckley, I can say that about some electronic music, about fucking so many things, but, you know, to be honest with you really, we are bunch of guys who never really wanted to sound like anybody else. So, we are doing this so long enough that we found our own sound, our own voice. We don’t really sound like anybody else, at least we don’t think so. So, we use Pink Floyd and Radiohead as an inspiration more than some direct influence. We could say like, those bands make some revolution during career and they never repeated themselves. That’s what we wanted to do. We never repeat ourselves, we constantly evolved, we constantly be nobody else but ourselves, and we’re trying to be just the best we could be.
BR: People of Serbia listened to you in a small club in Belgrade named Gun Club in an acoustic version. It was crowded and overwhelming, if you remember. Are you excited before the concert in Belgrade?
Jamie: Yeah, absolutely! This is gonna be the first time to do a full show like this. I don’t know much about hall, or about what to expect. I usually let this kind of thing to be surprise. So, I’ll find on the day what it’s like, we’ll get on stage and give everything we got, you know, as we always do. Great things about music is also the honesty, so you have to be honest on stage. We don’t wear any masks, we don’t wear any rockstar masks, we don’t wear any actual masks. (laugh) We’re just ourselves on stage, We’ll give the best.
BR: Would you like to share something with your fans in Serbia?
Jamie: We’re looking forward to see you all, for the first time. We know it’s gonna be great, this is a long show, it looks amazing, it sounds amazing. We got a great crew with us. Alcest, band from France are really, really cool. It’s gonna be something that you had never really experienced, I think. So, we’ll just see you there! Cheers!