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Paradise Lost

Het nieuwe Paradise Lost album ‘Medusa’ zal op 1 september verschijnen via Nuclear Blast. Ter promotie van het vijftiende studioalbum van de band uit Halifax, Yorkshire organiseerde het label een promotie weekend in Düsseldorf waarbij zanger Nick Holmes en gitarist Greg Mackintosh ook present waren voor interviews. Een uitnodiging om deze heren te interviewen slaan wij natuurlijk niet af en zo reisden wij zaterdag middag 28 mei af naar vliegveld Düsseldorf, alwaar Holmes en Mackintosh residentie hielden. Na een gezellige avond uit eten in het veganistische Radisson Blu Restaurant met band en label en waar het eten volgens Greg vooral lekker warm was en hij toch niet zo’n die-hard vegan bleek te zijn als gedacht, stonden onze interviews met Greg en Nick de volgende ochtend vroeg na het ontbijt ingepland. De beide heren beroepsdepressionisten bleken enthousiaste gesprekspartners te zijn met een goed gevoel voor humor en met veel te vertellen over de nieuw plaat.

Door: Elisabeth | Archiveer onder doom metal

You just did three shows in Russia. How did it go and how is the fanbase over there?
Greg: All of the three shows have been very good. We have been playing there for years and we always had about 400-500 people, but this time we did Moscow, St Petersburg and Yekaterinburg, which is Siberia, and everything was double. All the shirts were sold and the shows were sold-out as well. Everything was bigger for some reason. Maybe it could be any band in that area. We don’t know why and we can only guess, but yes, it was really good. Siberia was weird.

I did see the setlist you were playing on those shows and you haven’t included any new songs yet.
Greg: No, we can’t. If we would it would be on YouTube straight away. It spoils the surprise and I like to keep the things a little bit a mystery. It’s not like the days before where you can try things out live, because only the people at the gig would see it. Now it’s just releasing it. Otherwise the whole album would be out before September. Every geeky dude is on YouTube.

And how do you like that?
Greg: I don’t. It spoils things a little bit, because everyone knows what to expect when they come to a gig. Everybody know the setlists from the night before. You can’t do the ‘one-night-only’- thing that you used to do back in the days and where you got a bit more lose at a show, if you know what I mean. Every band is on its best behaviour these days. They have to make sure that everything is just right, because now it will be on YouTube immediately. And before that, you were used to crazy gigs, and some gigs were crazier than others and that doesn’t really happen anymore.

It takes a bit of the…. ‘
Greg: Spontaneity ! Yeah !

I have been listening to the new album and it is only a few weeks back that it was recorded, could you tell us a bit about the recording process?
Greg: Yes, we only had it one week before you had it. We did it with Jaime Gomez Arellano again like the last record. But he has built a whole new studio. It’s in the north of London, but it’s really in the middle of nowhere. There are just fields around, but it’s really nice. You don’t have any distractions and things like that. It’s really good. He collects a lot of stuff like old instruments. He buys them from rental companies. The snare, that you hear on the record, as an example is Dave Grohl’s old snare that he used to play in Nirvana. It’s kind of a mix-match drumkit. We wanted to make a unique sounding album. So the opposite of the most metal albums today. Back in the day all of the albums sounded different, unique. There was no right or wrong then, but kids that grow up now think the whole compressed radio metal sound is the sound of metal. But way back every band sounded different. One guy we met these days and we had an interview with thought that the album wasn’t finished. He heard it and he thought it was still the rough mix. And we said ‘No it’s really finished.’ He reacted that he really hears some hissing and clicking. ‘Yes, you were used to hear it, because we didn’t wanted to edit and edit and we wanted it to sound like how it would have been sounded. ‘ Just recorded, and not perfect. Bands aren’t perfect. When they play live you can tell if they are perfect, but albums shouldn’t be completely perfect too, in my opinion

But back in the days Paradise Lost sounded more perfect on the albums.
Oh, not really. There are also some bits, but you have to listen really good. But the technology was evolving. Recording bands on computers, rather than tapes. So you cannot not going with that, because that’s what studios are doing. But along the way you learn that you don’t necessarily have to use a lot of technology. You can just use it as a help. It’s a learning process, even if you are doing it quite a while. You still learn, every time you go in.

You recorded this one with Jaime Gomez Arellano and the last one was recorded with him as well . Why did you choose to go back to him. Because before that you already had other producers.
Greg: Yes, but the last record we decided that we don’t want to go on with a producer, we wanted a engineer. We are sick of paying producers and all we are doing is telling them what they have to do. So we choose for an engineer, because we know what we want. But in the process of doing the last record he was kind of so much working and he was there the whole time. We decided that we want to do it the same way with this record, because we had a really good time and it all turned out like it had to turn out.

band imageI have some questions about the lyrics, they are all very mysterious. I heard them and after that I read your explanations that Nuclear Blast send with the promo copy and by some lyrics I really had a way different idea than what they are about.
Nick: That’s good. I like that, because I think it’s better. When I read lyrics I like when I have to think about it. Even if they are about nothing in specific. I think there is a real trend with the metal lyrics nowadays, because they have to be specific. Because when I write a song about the Titanic I wouldn’t mention the word Titanic. But a lot of bands would have ‘Titanic, Titanic!’ in the chorus. I avoid that. A lot of times it’s just that some words just have to be there and I have to use it. So I build a whole sentence around that word, just to keep the word. So it’s not just about lyrics, it’s about the song as a complete thing. Like the song ‘Blood & Chaos’. The chorus on that just has to be those two words otherwise it just doesn’t work.

And where do you draw your inspiration from?
Nick: There are always things that trigger my inspiration. I mean like ‘The Longest Winter’ is about wildlife in Chernobyl. There was a 30 mile exclusion zone where there was no human being. So the place became a natural habitat for the wolf population again, without any humans. Humans caused the problem in the first place and now they come back to kill the animals again and to destroy them again. The human being just messes everything up all the time. And that song only has about 8 lines, it’s not particular deep into the whole thing, but I just let spark the inspiration. I couldn’t just read a book and then write about the book. But then again, Iron Maiden have written songs about books and it’s great.

But you named the band after a book.
Nick: Oh yes, that’s right. The name sounds actually like something light, but it’s really dark. That’s why we choose it originally.

Something about the sound you have nowadays. It is raw, doomier and darker than ever before. Is that like a natural development? How did it come from being raw, to polished and going back from where you started?
Greg: We just got bored and we wanted to do something else. Just keeping it fresh for yourself. If every record sounds the same it would be very, very boring. Every record you try something a little different. So that’s what we do.

Yes, with Paradise Lost it’s always like ‘What can I expect this time?’
Greg: Yes, and there are people that like traditional things. They like that Slayers next album will sound like the last album, but that’s fine. There is nothing wrong with it. I just don’t think I could do this. I wouldn’t be satisfied when I only do this. It’s just like working in a factory. And I don’t say that this way is wright and that way is wrong but I couldn’t do it.

The first track on the new record is the longest Paradise Lost song ever, I think. How did that come?
Greg: It really wasn’t the plan to record a really long song like ‘we have to make it longer, and to make it longer’. I was working on two-three songs and it wasn’t working out and then all started working into one thing. And then we were thinking that it was really working and flowing. It has three or four different parts and for a moment we were thinking about editing it down, but there was nothing we wanted to lose. And it doesn’t really feel like 8,5 minutes for me. It feels shorter, because it flows well.

It opens really slow, with a really doomy riff and I think it sets the centre theme of the whole album.
Greg: And it was the first time we didn’t argue about which song comes first on the album. Because usually we have argues about that. I seems like the perfect opener to me.

And what’s about the album title? Medusa?
Nick: When Greg and I were writing songs Greg just called a song Medusa. He is doing that so we know which song is which. So he sent me this bit of music that he wrote, but earlier that day he was watching that movie from 1970s and he just called it like that. We love that film, but Medusa would be a title I would never ever use. I would not use it anywhere. But I liked the word. So I was thinking about Medusa and I looked it up at the Wikipage and it said from the view of a nihilist ‘Do not look the Medusa in her face, do not look in the sadness of the world’. And that’s something I would write. So I liked that. And then I said to Greg that we can use it now, that’s something I can hang up to. So that’s why we called it Medusa.

And it took a while to find an album cover, right?
Nick: Yes, and I was getting worried. It’s subjected. I mean, music is subjected, art is subjected and everybody has a different idea what they like. So me and Greg don’t like the same artwork at all. We like the same music, but not the same art. We just have to make a compromise. But this time it was really hard and we couldn’t decide. There were like 200 e-mails about that one thing. And every time I saw the e-mail from that place I was like ‘Ahhh….!’ And then I clicked it to look at it and it was like ‘Oh, no no no !’ And Greg was like ‘Yes! I like it!’. Or the other way around. I liked it and then he didn’t. But we got there!

And this is now the first record with Nuclear Blast. What made you leave Century Media and to start working with Nuclear Blast?
Greg: The contract with Century Media was over and we had to sign again. We were really happy with them, but Sony was going to buy Century Media at the same time our deal was up and even the people of Century didn’t knew what kind of impact Sony would have. So it was kind of an insecure time. And then we got an offer from Nuclear Blast and we can’t really hang around. My band Vallenfyre is still on Century Media and it turned out that it’s still with the same people, so it’s still good. But it was just too insecure at the time. We just didn’t knew what was going on and they also didn’t knew. They were really honest. So we had to make the move. A change in times can be good.

Probably didn’t wanted to go to a major label again?
Greg: No, but I mean it was fun. I never smoked a cigarette in my whole life and we were sitting somewhere in a hotel lobby. A 5 star hotel, and we have been flown in first class and we hadn’t even sold records. And we sat there and they asked ‘You want a cognac?’. And I don’t really like cognac, but they had one for about 80 Deutsche Mark for just one. So I just said ‘Yeah, sure!’ and we got cigars and we ended up owing them around 3 million Deutsche Mark, when we left them. But it was a good ride. I can’t complain about that. We just milked it as much as we could.

Is there a big difference between working with the different labels? I think Nuclear Blast are really good in marketing bands.
Greg: It’s too early to tell, but yes. They are really into it. They have a lot of ideas which is always good for us. If they are good ideas. I only worried about that we become more like a small fish in a big sea, because they have so many bands. But they gave us priority. I heard that after we signed and we get the same treatment like maybe Slayer or Nightwish.

band image

They have a lot of bigger names signed, but especially recently.
Greg: They could get everyone. I just said to Jaap that they have every band in metal now. And he just answered ‘Not every band’. (laughs) I don’t know where it all came from, but a couple of years ago they started getting every band.

When you have one big fish the next one will follow. Let’s go to the next topic: Your drummer Adrian Erlandsson just left the band. Came that like a surprise or shock for you?
Greg: No, he didn’t leave for like bad reasons. He is a jobbing drummer. His job is drumming. He drums for The Haunted, At The Gates and lots of other bands and he is constantly busy. So we have to take time to write music, and he has to go on tour with someone else to bring the money in. So it was going to clash with what we were doing and we had to get a fill-in drummer to play for him. It wasn’t ideal. And he said he can’t keep it up. That’s why drummers attempt to be the musician that drops out in most bands. It’s true, because their instrument is not really the musically instrument. So they become more the session guy, if you know what I mean. Not really a fault of their own, because that’s the nature of their instrument.

And you got Waltteri Väyrynen in the band now. He is also playing in Vallenfyre.
Greg: That’s how we found him, because I did an online audition. We just asked them to send a video, play a couple of tracks and we got lots and lots of videos from people. But it’s amazing how people don’t do what you ask. We just asked them to play these two songs. And people just sent in their own songs, Slayer songs and whatever. That’s not what we asked. But then you can eliminate down immediately, because most of them didn’t even understand the question. And then I worked first with Waltteri when he was maybe 19 when we get him in Vallenfyre and I was really worried, because he is less than half my age. But he is better in in life then me. That kid behaves older than me and Nick. He got a really old head on his shoulders. I mean, he is a Finnish guy and he don’t really drink and he is quite opinionated, which I was surprised by. And he has ideas. On the second track on the record we wanted to let him loose, and there is a lot of improvisation on that track. He is just messing around and we recorded it. It’s great to have that, because not a lot of metal drummers can improvise, no matter how technically good they are. But they are not really good in different styles or improvising. Waltteri is kind of a new breed drummer that grows up with the internet.

And he is from Finland. Does he lives there?
Greg: Yes, he lives in Helsinki. But he is from way north, but now he lives in Helsinki.

And how does that work out for the band?
Greg: Any of us doesn’t actually live near each other. Not for years. I think it’s like that like about 10 years. We don’t even like rehearsing anyway. We have had a rehearsal room, but it just became a storage room. We do thing’s over the internet. That’s the good thing about the internet. It’s bad for a lot of things in the music industry, but it’s good for the song writing, it’s good for filesharing, and it’s also good for rehearsal.

Is playing live one of the things you mostly like?
Nick: No, writing songs. We started the band to write songs. We never thought we would play live. We were just messing around in the rehearsal place writing songs. And the somebody just asked us if we want to play concerts and first we didn’t even knew if we wanted that.

Back in 1993 you Nick said in an interview that death metal is dead for you and that it even made you sick when you heard it.
Nick: It probably was then. I mean I was always listening to it from 1984 maybe. I was listening to Venom and those kind of things and it was a fantastic time and until 1989 I was massively into tapetrading. And then we started with the band and there were even more death metal. Years and years and years. And after a while it felt like every band was kind of sounding the same, all vocalists sounded the same which was something I really loved about the old bands. You could tell which band is which. The voices were different even if it was growling. You could tell John Tardy, you could tell David Vincent, but then you had lots of these copy bands of the third generation and it all sounded the same. So probably I said that out of a result. Maybe I should print t-shirts and sell them ‘Death Metal is death’.*laughs*

What you listen to at that time?
Nick: I think I listened more to Sisters Of Mercy, goth stuff and I still liked the classics. I got into Aerosmith for a while, strange. I really, really got into it. When we have been to Japan I was playing the song ‘Pink’ on loop.

And black metal?
Nick: I was into Bathory, that’s probably all the black metal I needed. And now I find black metal quite… I like it ! I like the attitude of bands. The drama. That’s good. It’s way more interesting than death metal. But it’s still more the old bands for me. It’s weird that black metal kind of got adopted by hipsters. It’s really strange. They are standing there and zipping their coffee. But I kind of like that, it’s way different. That something so extreme cross over to such a regular thing. And I’m still massively into Bathory.

Ok, let’s get back to Paradise Lost. This is a question that I made up after the stories of last night. (Greg told about his meeting with Vanessa Warwick about a special she wanted to do with them and when she opened the door she was just wearing a thong and acting like everything is normal and he had some difficulties to keep focused on the conversation) What role did Headbangers Ballroom play for your career?
Nick: Oh, massive! I mean we wouldn’t be as big if we weren’t on that show. We had those specials and they had a huge, huge impact. The specials made us special.

Yes, you were very different than other bands and still are.
Nick: Yeah, I hope so. But yes, Vanessa Warwick was really into it.. She wanted to come over to Portugal for a special, of course. It was brilliant. She had a security guy with her all the time and we get really familiar with him. She didn’t really needed it, but yeah. He got killed. He got stabbed at a nightclub and we were really, really shocked. It’s horrible, because we knew him really well. She came over and we asked where he is and she told that he was killed. Actually he was a bit of a gangster. He was scary, but nice.

And what are the plans for the coming time? You release the album in September.
Nick: We will do a big European show and then probably a big American tour, but I don’t know when and how long. We will see. We are also going to Dubai and China. I think I have to bring my own food…

And next year it will be 30 years of Paradise Lost.
Nick: Yes, that’s right. On a personal level I don’t really care, because we still keep going. But I think our manager expects that we will do something like a small venue and like three three hours as a treat. We will probably do something, but I wouldn’t like to do a concert. I would prefer to go to a nice place and have a good meal and get really drunk *laughs*. But I think we have to do a concert or a t-shirt with a big 30 on the back. When we reached ten years we went out and had a limousine and we got champagne ‘ten years, yeah!’. And then 20 years it was more like ‘mmmh, ok’ and now it’s like ‘……’.

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