It’s been 10 years since you released “Leaving Eden,” which has now been reissued. How has your approach to your music changed since then? Or has it?
I’m constantly learning and evolving, so without a doubt my approach to music has changed over the last ten years. I always think that with every new album that I make, all of my previous albums have been simply ‘dress rehearsals’ leading up to that one. But I think it’s natural to feel as though your new work is the vital one, as you can literally see your own learning-curve and journey leading up to that point. For me, now when I listen to ‘Leaving Eden’, it feels almost dogmatic in its approach, and it was at the time. I had my really rigid ‘rules’ about what soundscapes I would and would not use, and no songs really appear to step out of line from the rest in terms of their character. On a positive note that does work to create a homogeneous feel to the whole album, which makes it feel like a complete entity. I’ve not really worked that way since. Also my approach to instrumentation and arrangement has matured since then, becoming slightly more complex. The same for my singing.
On the bonus disc of the reissue, you have commentary for each track. This worked well on the deluxe edition for “The Judas Table.” What prompted you to do that again?
Basically because it had worked so well for ‘Judas…’. The ‘Judas…’ commentary track was a total experiment for me, and as I said in that particular commentary, I had no idea why nobody had picked up on the idea yet for albums/bonus CDs as it seemed such an obvious thing to do due to the long history of DVD commentary tracks. And also because, being a rabid music fan myself, I would have loved to hear any of my favourite bands do such a thing, so I knew that it would be something of extreme value for the fans. And after ‘Judas…’ I really expected other bands to catch onto the idea of the bonus commentary and start doing it, and it was a shock to me that in the two years since then, nobody had. So by the time the 10th anniversary of ‘Leaving Eden’ came around, the idea for the commentary track was right in place. And that period of time in Antimatter’s history is so rich with stories, themes, philosophy, that I knew there was endless information to spew back out.
“Leaving Eden” was the first album that you did without your former bandmate Duncan Patterson and I found your honesty about whether you even COULD continue as Antimatter without him. What would you have done had you not continued as Antimatter?
Immediately my instinct was that the name ‘Antimatter’ was now worthless, due to the fact that since day one, everything constructed from the marketing-machine side of things had this sub-text added to it ”Duncan Patterson ex-Anathema”, which I’m sure was fine and dandy for Duncan, and for the businessmen eying up their bottom line. But in the short and long run, any quick and easy attention garnered from that was a poison chalice. That first album had some really strong material on it, and Antimatter could have found its own space as this avant-garde, melodic post rock/electronic hybrid project in its own right, gained respect in whatever quarters, and then grown. Instead the ‘ex-Anathema’ was heavy-handed and relentless, in my opinion. Sure, it gave Antimatter a foot-up but in doing so aimed it at a square demographic. It also limited the projects appeal, giving it a this narrow-range marketing as a ‘spin-off band’ which in itself infers 2nd-gen inferiority to the very fans it is targeting, so immediately that narrow range gets narrower. It also excludes people from the outset who couldn’t care about Anathema or feel antipathy towards the metal scene in general, which is funny because Antimatter was neither Anathema nor metal. And look, when you spend your whole time marketing the reason people should be interested in something to be because of its ‘Ingredient X’ rather than the music itself then you’re walking on thin ice, because by the time Duncan quit, the business machine could no longer could rely on their tagline and ‘Antimatter’ was, in my opinion, about as marketable to them as a used condom. I wholly expected the project to get dropped because, as I mentioned in the commentary, Antimatter had been boxed into a corner by this very specific promotion.
So there I was, my own music had been misrepresented, sold with smoke-and-mirrors but now the mirrors were broken and the smoke machine had run out of juice, and I’m doing this Citizen Kane slow-clap… ”Well-done boys!” So I had a decision to make, and by that point, my half of Antimatter, those songs that I’d written, arranged, birthed through the last decade, was my entire life’s work, and here I was seriously considering somehow spiritually disconnecting myself from them, from my own discography. Or, do I carry on with a name that I’ve earned half of the respect for, yet dance straight into the fire by doing so because the historical promotion of has name has been wholly one-sided? It was a long, hard period of mental processing.
But yeah, long answer. I had three options didn’t I – Continue Antimatter; Start Spin-Off Band; Quit music Business. Option 3 crossed my mind for about 5 seconds and then discarded because that was just defeatist nonsense, so I was left to choose between 1 & 2. And as I mentioned in the commentary, there was one album left on the Antimatter contract with Prophecy Productions, and I had one Antimatter album (‘Leaving Eden’) already written. That came to me as a cosmic sign, and I am a spiritual person and I do pay attention to signs. So I made the decision to do that, continue Antimatter, under the illusion that once ‘Eden…’ was handed in, the label would not opt for any further albums, nobody would be interested in an Antimatter that didn’t contain a ”Duncan Patterson ex-Anathema”, the album would get shit-on in the press, and that would be the end of Antimatter. How wrong I was. And really, thank you to the fans for taking music as music and not as a product, thank you to the press who have been wonderful throughout, and thank you to Prophecy Productions who genuinely wanted to work with me for ‘Leaving Eden’ and beyond, as I’m not going to lie, Antimatter saved my sanity and to this day I genuinely love it.
You discuss a lot of things in the commentary, including the topics of the songs. One topic that I think is very important is mental illness. It’s something many people either struggle with or know someone who does. With such a stigma still remaining with getting treatment for things like depression and anxiety, tell me about your inspiration for these lyrics (without giving too much away from the commentary).
You know, one of the reasons I wanted to do this re-release was to highlight this topic, because I really do feel that we need to break some ground here with what’s happening across the board with mental illness, and also what’s happening with suicide rates. And mental health is something that affects every demographic, every gender, every walk of life, nobody is safe from it, so I’m including everybody here when I talk about this. But more worryingly, what I would also like to bring attention to is that fact that male suicide rates are particularly abominable. Here in the UK, three quarters of the suicides are by men, and its the biggest killer of men under 40, yet little attention is given to the demographic in terms of support or awareness.
‘Leaving Eden’ is the Antimatter album that speaks the most about poor mental health, and the music and artwork are inextricably linked, having both come from the same place, albeit from different people.. the music from myself and that artwork from Adrian Owen. There was nothing contrived there. The music and the image were both spewed, exorcist-style, from inside people who were occupying the same internal landscape, that of utter depression, and then paired up with each other in the real world. Its a perfect pairing. The music was written at a time when I was in such a black place, and, as I say in the liner notes, depression has a funny way about it of filtering out all positivity, all light, and you literally feel as though there is nothing but that state, that seemingly endless state.
I want to remind people that there is an end to it, it might be soon, it might not, but there is an end to it. Positivity and light are still there, waiting for you patiently. I came out of my depression, and I have spoken to many people who came out of theirs. Dig in deep, have faith and hold on, and whatever you do, don’t try to take matters into your own hands, because better days are ahead. And I just wish that Adrian had held on, because there’s a hole in the world where he used to be. He was such a great character, a genuinely caring soul.
You also discuss the music and musicians involved in the project, one being Anathema guitarist Daniel Cavanagh. Tell me a little about his involvement and some of the other key contributors.
Danny came quite late into things. I had already decided to make the album and got the line-up together, which was the line-up from my ‘Planetary Confinement’ sessions – Ste Hughes, bass, Chris Phillips, drums, and Rachel Brewster, violin. Sometime later I was spending quite a bit of time with Danny, as he lived locally and we were talking about doing some local gigs together for some pocket money, Beatles songs and the like. One day I was at his place and he asked me what I would be doing next, and I told him I would be continuing Antimatter with an album, ‘Leaving Eden’, and he asked right there and then if he could play guitar on it. That was actually great by me, as I knew it would be a more guitar orientated album, and some of the lead guitar parts in my head were of the classic blues-rock style, so he was perfect, and I knew very few lead guitar players at that time. I recorded the album and then brought Danny into the studio for two sessions, to layer over the lead guitar parts that I had already written, and to also improvise some stuff, which he did to great effect on the closing lead breaks of ‘The Immaculate Misconception’ and ‘Leaving Eden.
Rachel, Ste and Chris had previously played with me on the last album, as I mentioned. Chris I went to school with, and was in fact a member of every single band that I had leading up to Antimatter. Ste I met in my late teens and we have been close friends for years. His bass playing really impressed me when we met. We were 17 and he seemed very advanced for that age. Rachel I met much later on when I put a night on in Liverpool. She was a member of one of the bands. A few years later when I was doing ‘Planetary…’ I remembered her violin playing and made the effort to track her down. Ironically, seeing as its her who I met the latest, its Rachel who I have worked with the most.
Stylistically, “Leaving Eden” seemed larger sounding than previous Antimatter albums. Was that intentional or more natural?
A bit of both, and I’m interpreting your use of the word ‘larger’ as meaning the increased use of distorted guitars here… It was intentional because the album was coming off the back of the previous release ‘Planetary Confinement’, which was an entirely acoustic affair, so there was always gonna be some intentional backlash by myself in the form of stomping on the distortion pedals. And natural, because my natural range of songs is from acoustic to heavy anyway. Just take a look at my songs from the debut album, you go from ‘The Last Laugh’/’Saviour’ (heavy) to ‘Angelic’ (acoustic) and with ‘Over Your Shoulder’/’Psalms’ in the middle ground. Back in the day, while he was working on his Antimatter tracks, Duncan was never into that distorted guitar sound for his own songs, so with him gone there was always gonna be more of that as I was now in charge of the whole album rather than half.
I love remixes and they are getting to be more and more common. Did you ever consider remixing the whole album or even asking other people (no names) to remix it?
The sleepless perfectionist in me would have loved to get the whole album remixed, but sadly no multi-tracks exist of ‘Leaving Eden’, or any Antimatter album prior to it. That said, I’m happy with the mix it has from a historical point of view. To compare, I think its always weird when classic movies get tampered with, it takes away the historic authenticity. For remixing classic albums, the jury is still out with me, as a listener. Contrary to what I expected, the recent Yes remixes were pleasant, and from what I heard of the Jethro Tull stuff, they were also cool, because the remixes were faithful to the original shape yet being cleaner and holding their own more in contrast to modern productions. If I was getting ‘Leaving Eden’ remixed I’m not sure I could use the same restraint, and I’d be in danger of starting meddling a little too much… maybe…. who knows, the odd cowbell here, a little maracas there …
There are also two remixes of tracks from the album on the bonus disc, “Ghosts” and “The Immaculate Misconception.” Why did you decide to remix those 2 tracks?
Way back in 2007 I kept hold of some limited pre-mix fragments, instrumental stems, just disjointed isolated parts, as even ten years ago I had a feeling I would want to do some remixes later on, and I was dead right. I didn’t have much to choose from in the present day, I originally wanted to do something with the electric piano motif from ‘Another Face In A Window’, but that didn’t pan out. In the end I was really happy with what I did with the ‘Ghosts’ remix, I really turned that piece on its head, inverted the arrangement and made it almost unrecognisable. ‘The Immaculate Misconception’ is more faithful to the original track.
Since you did revisit the album for the purpose of the commentary, did you notice things you would have changed? Did you find yourself liking certain tracks more than others?
I didn’t really notice the album because I was talking over the whole lot of it… the album just played in the background whilst I was more focussed on the commentary, hitting all the beats and making sure I didn’t lapse into my native Liverpool accent too much, because if I did people would have been asking for refunds and wondering where the English version was. I actually noticed the lyrics more as, afterwards, I ran a special offer for the fans on the Antimatter store where they could buy the re-release plus a handwritten lyric sheet, limited to 100. So, in writing the lyrics out, I actually did notice some lines in there that I was still kinda proud of, even after all this time. Those lines in ‘Conspire’ ”Restless seas will murder me tonight, as you appease effortlessly the open mouths of hungry thieves” that really turned me on. Also on the title track ”The cost of innocence is the loss of innocence, some may pass away but some die screaming”, I’m giving the 20-something year old me a pat on the back for writing that stuff.
So what’s next for Antimatter? New music? More reissues? I am sure you are touring!
God, no touring … I’m finished mentally and physically for the time being with touring. Antimatter has been on the road for the last 5 years and I’m just burnt out. I have to stop now in order to be able to carry on an some point in the future. I’m reconnecting with home and family, getting back into a calm state of mind. I sat down recently and made a list of what I have coming up, and I pretty much have a full slate for releases for the next ten years across a number of different projects, which is fucking terrifying. Not to mention the various guest spots that I also have coming up on other peoples albums. As a workload, and being only one guy, that is just like shovelling snow in a blizzard, so mentally I just have to adopt a kind of ‘one step at a time’ mentality or I’m just going to crumble. That said, I’d rather be in this position than having nothing to work on…