British rockers Anathema have recently completed another opus in the form of their 11th studio album, The Optimist. Within it, bears a connection to their 2001 release A Fine Day To Exit. While the fate of the character from AFDTE is up for interpretation, founding guitarist Danny Cavanagh has made it clear that he will not divulge his interpretation, so as to ensure that no one considers it to be the correct one. However, he recently answered some other questions from Alternative Nation pertaining to the new album, as well as his set of guitars, an upcoming tour with Alcest, and his earlier output in Anathema.
In your own words, what is the connection between The Optimist and A Fine Day To Exit?
The connection is in the artwork, the connection is in the theme of the artwork. Musically there is no real connection. It’s the same songwriting team, but it’s many years later, so obviously the music has changed and moved on. Thematically it feels close because we made it that way, and I like it when you can see both albums together. I also like it because it draws attention to A Fine Day To Exit, an album that is a little bit overlooked in our catalogue. I’m quite proud of the reissue done with Music For Nations, because of the running order change and new intro. All good.
This was your first album with Tony Doogan correct? How was it working with him on this album?
It was great working with him, I think he’s a great producer. It was different, it was Scottish, it was fun, it was hard work, it was stressful, it was enjoyable. I loved it. Of course the other guys we’ve worked with were great producers, Steven (Wilson) and Christer (Cederberg). But I’m glad Tony did this one because he has a very hard edge in his mixing and production, and I think that suited this music.
What made the band choose ‘Springfield’ as the promotional single?
I don’t know. But I’m quite proud that even on an album like this there are actually no power chords at all on the guitar. So even with a song like “Springfield” there is quite a part from the meaning and the symbology of a song like that. The way that the guitars are produced is something that we’ve never done before.
Are you still using modded Fender strats?
Yes I am. I also use a Fender Telecaster Deluxe because of Thom Yorke, and I have an Eric Clapton Blackie, a Kurt Cobain Jaguar, various guitars modeled after my guitar heroes.
Do you still use the Sustainiac? When you record solos do you compose, improvise or a bit of both?
I still use my Sustaniac, which you can hear on the solo to “The Optimist”. When I record solos, it’s always improvised and arranged based on the improvisation. It can normally take a little while to get something, and then you kind of construct it. It’s an intuitive process.
Have you toured with Alcest before? Your upcoming European tour is like a dream come true in the progressive music sphere.
Yeah, in America. It was actually, one of my absolute favorite tours that we’ve ever done back in 2013. It was a good tour, life was good. Personally I don’t think us or Alcest are progressive rock. Just my opinion.
What started the concept for ‘We’re Here Because We’re Here’?
There really is no concept. It’s all about the artwork, and maybe the last song or two. It’s certainly not a concept album.
As the band’s sound has drastically evolved over the years, what are your personal favorite songs to revisit?
Currently, just at the moment I’m feeling Judgement and A Fine Day To Exit quite strongly. Partly because they were not included in the setlist a lot recently. Partly because of the connection between The Optimist and A Fine Day To Exit. So I would say those two albums are the ones that I’m currently enjoying to revisit.
Alternative 4 turns 20 years old next year, does Anathema have any plans for this particular anniversary?
There’s no plans as of yet to celebrate twenty years of Alternative 4, and we just did Resonance recently, which was the first four Alternative 4 songs anyway, and Duncan (Patterson) was involved. Really enjoyed Resonance, it was fantastic.
What is your desert island album?
I don’t know because you’d get sick of it after a while, wouldn’t you? Maybe one of ours to remind myself of my family. That would be good. Other than that I can’t think of anything because you’d just get completely sick of it. But trapped on a deserted island, you’d want to be reminded of family and home, so I’d choose an Anathema album. If you were to ask which album it would be, I’d say We’re Here Because We’re Here, because it’s positive and optimistic, even more so than The Optimist.
The Optimist is out now via KScope.
Catch them on tour:
June 8 – Moscow, Russia – Yotaspace
June 9 – St. Petersburg, Russia – Clubzal
June 11 – Derby, United Kingdom – Download Festival
June 18 – Dessel, Belgium – Graspop Metal Meeting
June 23 – Nijmegen, Netherlands – Doornroosje
June 24 – Valkenburg, Netherlands – Midsummer Prog Festival
July 1 – Barcelona, Spain – Be Prog! My Friend
July 2 – Athens, Greece – Rockwave Festival
Aug. 3 – Monterrey, Mexico – Café Iguana
Aug. 4 – Guadalajara, Mexico – C3 Stage
Aug. 5 – Mexico City, Mexico – El Plaza Condesa
Aug. 7 – Bogota, Colombia – Teatro Ecci
Aug. 9 – Santiago, Chile – Teatro Capriola
Aug. 11 – Buenos Aires, Argentina – Groove
Aug. 12 – Sao Paulo, Brazil – Carioca Club
Aug. 13 – Belo Horizonte, Brazil – Granfinos
Aug. 16 – Baltimore, Md. – Soundstage
Aug. 17 – New York, N.Y. – Gramercy Theatre
Aug. 18 – Boston, Mass. – Brighton Music Hall
Aug. 19 – Quebec, QC – Saile Multi
Aug. 20 – Montreal, QC – Astral
Aug. 21 – Toronto, ON – Opera House
Aug. 23 – Chicago, Ill. – Bottom Lounge
Aug. 24 – Cleveland, Ohio – House of Blues
Aug. 25 – Philadelphia, Pa. – Theatre of Living Arts
Sept. 23 – Belfast, Ireland – Limelight 2
Sept. 24 – Dublin, Ireland – Academy
Oct. 2 – Reims, France – La Cartonnerie
Oct. 3 – Rennes, France – L’Etage
Oct. 4 – Paris, France – Le Bataclan
Oct. 5 – Lille, France – L’Aéronef
Oct. 6 – Tilburg, Netherlands – 013
Oct. 8 – La Rochelle, France – La Sirène
Oct. 10 – Bordeaux, France – Rock School Barbey
Oct. 11 – Toulouse, France – Le Metronum
Oct. 14 – Nimes, France – Paloma
Oct. 15 – Lyon, France – Le Radiant
Oct. 16 – Milan, Italy – Alcatraz
Oct. 18 – Pratteln, Switzerland – Z7 Konzertfabrik
Oct. 19 – Stuttgart, Germany – LKA Longhorn
Oct. 20 – Munich, Germany – Backstage Werk
Oct. 21 – Vienna, Austria – Simm City
Oct. 22 – Ljubljana, Slovenia – Kino Šiška
Oct. 24 – Bucharest, Romania – Arenele Romane
Oct. 25 – Sofia, Bulgaria – Orpheus Studio
Oct. 27 – Budapest, Hungary – Dürer Kert
Oct. 28 – Prague, Czech Republic – Lucerna Music Bar
Oct. 29 – Frankfurt, Germany – Batschkapp
Oct. 31 – Berlin, Germany – Astra
Nov. 1 – Hamburg, Germany – Uebel & Gefährlich
Nov. 3 – Malmö, Sweden – Kulturbolaget
Nov. 5 – Oslo, Norway – Rockefeller
Nov. 6 – Stockholm, Sweden – Kagelbanan
Nov. 8 – Tampere, Finland – Klubi
Nov. 9 – Helsinki, Finland – The Circus
Nov. 10 – Tallinn, Estonia – Rock Café
Nov. 12 – Warsaw, Poland – Progresja Music Zone
Nov. 13 – Gdańsk, Poland – Stary Maneż
Nov. 14 – Poznań, Poland – MTP2
Nov. 15 – Erfurt, Germany – HSD
Nov. 16 – Cologne, Germany – Live Music Hall
Nov. 17 – Antwerp, Belgium – Trix
Nov. 18 – Luxembourg, Luxembourg – Kulturfabrik
Sept. 23 – Nov. 18 = w/Alcest