Now celebrating their 25th year since the release of their debut album, Paradise Lost finally return to Australia this December for 5 shows only including their first shows in Adelaide and Perth ever! The Yorkshire doom metal act are touring in support of their latest album “Medusa” which comes out on September 1st through Nuclear Blast.
Speaking to guitarist Greg Mackintosh about the new songs at the start of our interview, it becomes apparent where the initial spark came from to return to those early doom elements that created a signature sound that fans all over the world have known Paradise Lost for over the years.
Greg: That really came about because the last doom song on the previous album was a track called “Beneath Broken Earth” and that was a doom metal song and we just really loved how it turned out and we love playing it live and we just thought that’s what we’re 100 percent into right now so let’s just make a whole album of this stuff.
Andrew: Yeah I guess an album is just a representation of what you are feeling and going through at that time.
Greg: Yeah absolutely it’s just a snapshot. I have a hard time relating that to people sometimes because some people really don’t get it, they think that you plan everything to the ‘nth degree. You come to an album and you think, ‘What do I really like? I really like this kind of thing so let’s do it’. It’s that simple.
Andrew: And apart from that one song that inspired this, was there anything else in particular that made you decide to bring back a lot of that doomier elements in the music?
Greg: Yeah I mean as we went on with writing the songs, different things were throwing themselves up. Like for instance this one track on the album “From The Gallows” and the first half of that song was written in 1989, I found it on an old live cassette that we played somewhere in Liverpool in 1989 but the second half of the song was missing so I had to write the second half and gelled them together and then came the song “From The Gallows”. There’s a few quirky ideas on the album that ended up in shaping into what it is now.
Andrew: Oh interesting! Do you keep a lot of the old stuff from the early days like early recordings and things like that?
Greg: I have a box of cassettes of old demos I used to trade with other bands and old live tapes of when we played together with the other bands, so I have all that but I don’t really listen to them. But just when I was writing this record it was actually Karl Willetts from Bolt Thrower who I was reminded that his favorite song from Paradise Lost when we used to play together in the late 80’s was this song and I thought, ‘I wonder if I can find that song’, and I did and like I said I could only find the first half so I kinda had to do an interpretation and that’s what ended up as this song. Sometimes it’s nice to have a bit of a reminisce but you can’t look back all the time, you gotta keep coming up with fresh things. I use bandcamp a lot and try to find new and interesting bands and that’s where the excitement is for me, places like bandcamp where there’s no pressure on the bands to do anything to hook in there and that’s where the trailblazing goes on I think within the metal scene.
Andrew: You guys have been around for such a long time now so what keeps you going? What is inspiring you guys to keep making new music?
Greg: I think it’s that snapshot that we were talking about. When we come to write a new record, we pretend that we’re a brand new band. We get all the baggage out of the way, any history we don’t think about that. We just think what are we 100 percent into now, if we were a brand new band what would we do; regardless of record labels, regardless of fanbase and that keeps it fresh for me and that’s why we fully diversify a lot of times over the years because we’re not think about any one particular element. We’re just thinking, ‘Right, what are we 100 percent into at this moment in time’, and we just go with it and that keeps it fresh. That keeps it from feeling like a production production line which is what it would feel like to be stuck to one idea recreating over and over.
Andrew: Yeah definitely and I love bands who try and do different things all the time. But it’s also cool to see things come back full circle in some ways.
Greg: Yeah and I know it’s a well-trodden path but it’s a very natural thing. The music you got into when you were 15-16-17 always stays with you to some degree through out life anyway and that’s bound to keep popping it’s head up every now and again. So yeah this is perfectly natural for us to revisit some of the elements of what made us form a band in the first place.
Andrew: One of the interesting things about you guys as well is that pretty much since the beginning, you guys have pretty much had the same lineup aside from the drummers obviously. So do you think the way you approach each album is credited to why you have stuck together for so long?
Greg: That keeps the music fresh, it’s not how it keeps all of us together as members and I think that’s more down to having a similar outlook. I think a sense of humour is a very big part of it because being in this game for quite a long time, we take the music very seriously but we don’t take anything else seriously otherwise you become very cynical. And the kind of humour we have in the north of England is very self- deprecating humour, you would find it hard to have an ego because as soon as you have a slight ego, the people from the area completely slap you down to earth. So I think having that outlook and not taking it all too seriously plays a big part in staying together.
Andrew: I have heard that with the English where as soon as someone tends to get an ego or gets to a certain level in their career that they view that as some kind of betrayal kind of thing if you know what I mean.
Greg: Yeah and I mean it can be good or bad in equal measures like with the Swedish or the Fins where if one of their bands does well then everyone gets behind them and really cheers them on whereas it’s the opposite here. I remember when we got our first magazine cover and we walked into our local pub where all our friends and contemporaries hung out and it went quiet and this guy said, ‘Buy us a pint you rock star’. That pretty much sums it up!
Andrew: [laughs] Well the other thing we gotta chat about is the fact that you are returning to Australia in December which is very cool, we are excited about this.
Greg: Yeah we are too! I guess there’s a little bit of trepidation there because club show wise, we haven’t done that many club shows in Australia. We did the Soundwave Festival in 2012 and prior to that, we’re going back a long time, maybe mid-90’s where we did a tour where we took Cathedral out with us. So obviously scenes move on and genres move on so we’re very excited to come back and do a club tour but it is a little bit daunting as well because we don’t know what to expect. But we’re very proud of the material we’ve done on this new record and it’s going to translate very well live and we obviously have a pretty rich back catalogue to draw upon as well so we should be putting on a bloody good show so surely it should fill the places out.
Andrew: Yeah definitely and do you know how many songs you will be playing from the new album?
Greg: That depends, we do a test before the Australian tour because we’re doing a big European tour right before it that last 8 weeks so we’ll have a good chance to try out the material from that tour and what we prefer playing live and what works and what doesn’t. So by the time we get to the Australian tour, we should have it honed pretty well to what works best.
Andrew: And that must be quite difficult because of the fact you have so much material to choose from in picking out a setlist for each tour cycle I guess.
Greg: Yeah and if you’re promoting an album, obviously you play a handful of songs from that record and then you tailor the set usually around those songs. But you can add diversity there to give it a bit of light and shade so the set isn’t too depressing if you know what I mean. And then you have festival sets which are completely different, like when we played the Soundwave Festival it was more of a best of set because that’s what you have to do at festivals because you play to a lot of uninitiated people who don’t know who you are. So club shows and festival sets are very different things, so by the time it comes to do the Australian tour in December, like I said there will be a bit of diversity in there but we will be promoting “Medusa” as well so there will be a good amount of light and shade. It will be heavy but it will be eclectic.
Andrew: OK cool! I’ve also been reading that you have a new drummer in the band right?
Greg: Yeah it’s like a classic Spinal Tap! The four of us are together the whole time and if we haven’t lost the first drummer, he would probably still be in the band then we just keep changing drummers. But it’s all for natural reasons, it’s all over a long period of time, it’s not overnight. The first drummer left because the gigs were getting bigger and he wasn’t handling the pressure too well and the second drummer left because he went insane and turned to God, and then the next drummer left because he didn’t have a family when he joined the band then he had loads of kids all close together and needed to go and be a family man. It’s all very natural reasons, none of it is contemptuous or anything like that or anything klandestine, it’s just life gets in the way. You get to a certain age and you’re a touring band, it’s hard for people to just switch off life while on tour, so that’s why we got a young guy (Waltteri Väyrynen) in because they can do that.
Andrew: How is he fitting in? I don’t know much about the guy so where did you find him?
Greg: I have a side band that I do called Vallenfyre that’s more kind of like a crust/punk/death metal type thing and I auditioned online for a drummer for that and he fit the bill for that. I did a bit of touring wth him which really worked out well so when the position came up in Paradise Lost, I put him forward for that as well and he got the job so everyone is really happy with him. He’s a young guy but he’s kind of better at life than I am really, we’ve been in this game so long that we’ve never really grown up. So if we’re lost in a foreign country and a foreign city, all the rest of us are just kind of bumping into each other and he’s the one looking at the map even though he’s half our age.
Andrew: So he would be the one that’s more tech savvy than you guys probably because of his age!
Greg: Yeah probably! I mean that’s something interesting about the drumming style as well because a lot of the old guard of the metal drummers are very good as one particular style but can’t really diversify from that but these new breed of drummers that are coming through who have grown up with things like Youtube where you can access many different styles of music instantly, they are very good at improvising and switching on and off different styles quickly. And that’s kind of refreshing when you’re in a band, especially with this album that we just done “Medusa”. It’s very apparent on say the second song which is called “Gods Of Ancient”, I would say 60 percent of that song was improvised in the studio and it was probably on the first take as well because we only had 3 takes and we ended up taking the first take that we ever did. So most of it was improvised and you can really hear that I think and it’s very tasteful because improvising can sometimes be very wankey. I’m not a big fan of jamming but I think he’s done a really good job of bringing out the dynamics in a natural, improvisational way. So if you listen to that song again, just think about how much improvising went into it. That’s what I think that’s his main strong suit is actually.
Andrew: I guess you’re going for an organic sound, something more natural and it’s funny you say that as one of the songs that stood out for me was one of the less doomier songs “Blood And Chaos” which has a real nice groove to that song.
Greg: Yeah we knew how we wanted the song to have the feel and the sound and the groove to be but we didn’t have any hard and fast drum parts planned out for that song. So it was kind of like do a drum through 2 or 3 or 4 times and take the best take, so yeah none of us knew going in what the fills are going to be like, we just knew the tempo of it. It keeps it fresh for the band as well, you hear it back and it invigorates you within the recording.
Andrew: Well congratulations on the new album and we look forward to how everyone will react to it when it comes out in September. And we look forward to seeing you in Australia as well so thanks for your time today, really appreciate it
Greg: Cheers Andrew! Enjoy the rest of your day, my pleasure.
Paradise Lost Australia Tour
Thursday December 14 – Triffid, Brisbane
Friday December 15 – Metro Theatre, Sydney
Saturday December 16 – The Corner, Melbourne
Sunday December 17 – The Gov, Adelaide
Monday December 18 – Capitol, Perth
Tickets from: http://davidroywilliams.com/tours/paradise-lost/