(1 December 2017)
Interviewer – Benjamin Smith
After nearly thirty years in the business, Paradise Lost have released their 15th studio album, Medusa, to popular and critical acclaim. The album has been hailed as a return to their pioneering doom metal roots and on the eve of the Australian leg of their world tour we spoke with guitarist Greg Mackintosh about all things Paradise and the future of metal.
BS: Greg thanks for chatting. Good to talk to you. Your shows in Australia are literally about a week away. How are you feeling about being back here?
GM: I’m excited to come back. It’s going to be the third time we’ve ben but it’s been very sporadic how we’ve been there. The first time was 20 years ago with Cathedral and the last time was a couple of years ago at Soundwave. I’m excited about this one because it’s a headline slot in clubs, so we get to play a decent set. Whereas with Soundwave you’d get to play maybe 30 minutes in the blazing heat, so now hopefully it’ll be a god length set. And air conditioning will be a bonus.
BS: I see you have Cruciform supporting you on this tour. They occupy legendary status in the history of Australian metal. Were they a band you were aware of before putting this tour together?
GM: I didn’t, no. Not at all. I just heard about them because of this tour. My finger is not on the pulse you could say.
BS: In terms of your own new record, there has been a lot of talk about your return to the doom roots of Paradise Lost and how very heavy it is. At the same time there has been a lot of talk about the Nihilism and darkness in the lyricism. Does having one mean you naturally have the other? Does writing the bleakest of lyrical content mean that the music has to be super dark to match?
GM: well the lyrics come after the music, but one does beget the other. You couldn’t write this really bleak music and then sing about daisies and sunshine. But the lyrics come second usually.
BS: I read in an interview you gave a little while ago that because you’re making music in the North of England, the culture means it’s very hard to develop an ego because people there are likely slap you down. Thinking about the difference between the British style of doom metal and the American style, the American generally does seem to come with more strut and front and ego. Do you think it’s the culture that creates that?
GM: well that is something that I’ve thought about and I think it’s true, not just with doom or even metal. I think its true overall. Having toured with lots of American bands over the years, I mean my wife’s American for Christ’s sake. I mean I get along with them very well but yeah I definitely think they’re a lot more confident you might say. I don’t really know where that confidence comes from, but in a way they’re a lot more professional than UK metal bands. But because of that they can sometimes lose their charm. A lot of bands from the UK, especially in the extreme metal scene, they weren’t that professional; they didn’t know how to look in photo shoots, they didn’t promote themselves but they had this charm, this honesty about them. I think that still applies today and I don’t know why that is, but I think it probably is just a cultural thing. Maybe you’re pushed more to succeed in America whereas in the UK you get that slap down thing.
BS: You’ve talked about your other band Vallenfyre and about how it occupies a very different part of your psyche and that it is a very different and separate entity. Are there times when you sit down to write something for Paradise Lost and when it comes out you think, that’s maybe more suited to Vallenfyre or vice versa?
GM: Especially on this last record, Medusa, I was writing back-to-back with the last Vallenfyre record I would do like 2 days on one and the two days on the other. So I would specifically sit down to write for Paradise Lost, but it is a very different mood. That might not sound so obvious to someone listening to both bands, but to me it conjures up very different images when you’re listening to it. And that’s the same when you’re writing it. When I write Paradise Lost stuff, you’re looking for that bitter-sweet bleakness. It’s the melancholy. And with Vallenfyre it’s far more in your face kind of apocalyptic stuff. So to me there is a very clear line. I think as we progressed with Paradise Lost over the last couple of years the line has become thinner, you might say. And if I were to continue with Vallenfyre that line might disappear altogether, so I’m not going to do any more recording with Vallenfyre; I’m going to leave it as a trio of records that I’m quite proud of.
BS: I guess with a merging of personnel with Vallenfyre (Waltteri Väyrynen has since 2015, taken up percussion duties for both acts) it gets even harder to maintain that distinction.
GM: that’s right. And Paradise Lost is my main thing; it’s been there for most of my life. I think Vallenfyre has served its purpose and I have no more need to record anymore. We’ll still play live for the time being, but I think the focus has to be on Paradise Lost.
BS: in terms of performing and recording, you once said that your life is essentially a year of writing, a year of recording and a year of performing. Do you see any reason why that might change in the foreseeable future?
GM: well it has kind of altered over the last few years where the recording process has become much shorter and the touring process has become much longer. I think that is just the nature of how the music business has developed and with how people listen to music these days. It’s just become a necessary thing. When I used to tour 20-someting years ago the touring didn’t make any money at all, it was purely to promote the record, because the record was selling or whatever. But it’s the opposite way around now, you go on the road to pay for the recording of your album and you try and sell records while you’re on the road. It’s just altered to be more of a year of writing, a few months of pre-production and recording and then a good 18 months of touring so it’s still a 3 year cycle in between albums essentially.
BS: Just talking about contracting that recording period, do you think the shorter time frames have had an influence on the kind of music being produced? Does the fact that people aren’t spending 2 years in the studio tweaking and polishing an album mean that the end product is less refined?
GM: I would like to think that that’s the case, but I don’t necessarily think that it is in all cases, because you have bands like U2 or Metallica who spend 2 years in the studio to produce something that sounds like it’s been recorded by two microphones. So how do you figure that into the equation? But for a band like us it probably is true, because the longer we’re given in the studio the longer we have to pontificate and I guess the more elaborate and maybe overthought things become. If we just go in and bang it out then you get an album like Medusa, something that is fairly stripped back, fairly raw-sounding. I mean it really is the sound of a few microphones in a room. We didn’t over think it. The thought process was really in the writing and then when we went in to record, I spent 3 days getting the guitar sound right and two days recording all the guitar parts so it took longer to get the sound than it did to record it, and it’s the same for the drums as well.
BS: I also think that, with metal, especially the doom stuff, because it does have this way of twisting and weaving through longer movements that it is a much more feeling experience, whereas when things become overly complex it becomes a more mathematical exercise, something more cerebral or intellectual than emotional. Do you feel that as the records you make become less involved that they become more feeling and less thinking based works?
GM: ah, no I thinking we’ve always been a band whose music is connected emotionally, but I can’t say what that means for anyone else because one man’s thinking is another man’s feeling but someone could play me some music that I think is robotic horseshit but play it for someone else and it might transcend and take them away somewhere spiritual. I think its very subjective really. But in metal I think a trend over the last few years has meant that the more mainstream metal has become much too safe. Metal was meant to be this rebellious, edgy music and I think now there is starting to be a bit of a backlash. You see with a lot of these year-end lists some very individual sounding records and I think that’s coming back around to how it was in the 80s, you know where records and bands just sounded like themselves, they didn’t sound like the producer. Throughout the late 90s and early 2000s up until now pretty much, all the bands started to sound the same. Even if they didn’t sound the same on stage they sounded the same on the records. I think the underground is coming and dictating the mainstream again. I think metal at the moment is more exciting than it’s been for a very long time.
BS: going back to your new record Medusa, how did you come to have the Gorgon as a theme, was it something you’d been thinking about for a while, did you kind of stumble upon it?
GM: well, me and Nick had to laugh about this and Nick was trying to think of the deepest most philosophical meaning for the concept of the Medusa, but I call songs different things just to use as working titles and I just watched Clash of the Titans that day, so I called this one Medusa and Nick said ‘oh, I really like that, maybe we should use that for the record’ and I said ‘yeah, but you’re going to have to think of something really arty to tell ‘em where we got it from’. So that’s where it came from
BS: Greg, thanks for taking time out to talk with us. We’re all looking forward to the shows, we can’t wait to hear the new songs live and we wish you luck for the tour.
GM: Thanks Benjamin, we’ll see you there.
VIP M&G Ticket includes:
Meet and Greet with the Artist
Photo with the Artist on the fans own phone or camera
2 items signed by the Artist
Limited edition A3 Thick Card Poster
3 x Official commemorative guitar pick
Official commemorative VIP Laminate
Priority Access to the Venue
Follow PARADISE LOST