» G. Mackintosh - Paradise Lost
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Interview conducted October 15 2015
Interview published October 25 2015

"I still think Host is a good record."

Tobbe: The Plague Within was released on June 1st and you finalized the recordings in the spring, I guess, so if you look back at it now, at this point, what do you see?

Gregor: I see that we made the right decision to get Jamie Gomez Arellano involved, because initially we were gonna produce it ourselves and just have Jamie as an engineer. But as we worked more and more on it, we'd realize that, he wasn't changing the songs, but he was definitely going above and beyond an engineer's role, to make the album sound how we wanted it to sound. It just worked great.

I mean, we went to the Metal Hammer Awards in Germany the other week, me and Nick [Holmes, vocals], and we had loads of people asking us, you know "Can you give me this guy's contact details?", and you know. Like the guys from Moonspell and the guys from Kreator and things. I think it just sounds different to what's out there in metal at the moment, which is exactly what we wanted. We didn't want the sample drums and all the rest of it. I know it sounds great on radio and TV and stuff, but it's not real. So, you know, we wanted something a little bit different.

Tobbe: It contains like a little bit of everything of Paradise Lost. To me it's like taking the 4 first albums, kind of, and just putting them together into one piece. Was this something you thought of when you started songwriting?

Gregor: Yeah, before we even started songwriting. We were actually touring on the previous album, Tragic Idol, and I said to the rest of the guys that I didn't wanna continue the same thing. I wanted to try something different and they said "Well, like what?" and I said "Well, you have to be open to every idea and Nick has to be willing to try his old styles again and things.". It took a bit of convincing, but after a while, it was like "Okay, what we've got to lose? …Apart from a career.".

So yeah, then it became really enjoyable to write and it was kind of a new way of writing, which I hope we continue with, because I would send Nick some basic ideas and then I would say "I want you to sing as many different styles, on as many different ideas, over this one thing. Send it back to me and then I'll start building a track.", like a jigsaw puzzle. It gives you a lot more freedom in the songwriting, I suppose.

Tobbe: Nick's voice is kind of harsh on quite a few songs on the album. Does this feature somewhat limit the amount of songs you can play live off it?

Gregor: No, we play hell of a lot off it live, because it's been going down so well. You know, adding one here and one there and we were rotating a couple and now we're finding out which ones work better live. I think we play a good, maybe, two thirds of the album tonight or something. [They later ended up playing 7 songs out of 10 off it.] So we're not limited at all. We did an album release type show where we played the whole thing to see how it worked, and everything is doable, you know. On a long tour, we have yet to see how his voice holds it, to changing styles all the time.

Tobbe: That was kind of what I was wondering about.

Gregor: Yeah, but we've been out for 2 ½ weeks now and he's holding up okay. We have another 5 weeks to go on this, but we'll see. Ask me in 5 weeks, so.

Tobbe: If you have to say one, and only one thing. What was in the end the final triggering factor that you, like 10 years ago, returned to a sound more similar to your classic one? One factor.

Gregor: One factor? …Taking it back to the earlier soundish type there, I would say nostalgia. Possibly, if that's one factor.

Tobbe: You know, fans to Paradise Lost can never predict how a new album of yours is gonna sound like…

Gregor: I hope not, because then it gets boring.

Tobbe: …because you have changed directions a couple of times. More than a few times really. So is it exciting to create, you know, different stuff occasionally, to see the fans' response?

Gregor: Yeah. I mean, Nick is the very straight one and I'm the one that wants to go off at tangent, so we kind of find the middle ground sometimes. I love it, because it's more creative. Yeah, I mean, how far you go, you have to kind of agree that within the band, you know. But yeah, I love it, 'cause it's a creative process and if you'd just recovering old ground all the time, I don't see the point, you know.

Tobbe: Maybe you won't go back to the Host days though, or?

Gregor: You'd never say never. I still think Host is a good record. It's just not a metal album, you know.

Tobbe: Well, I also like Believe In Nothing.

Gregor: It's got some good songs on it. It was the production and the things that were going on within the record label and the making of the album that stopped it. But we've got the masters back recently and we're thinking about redoing some guitars and stuff like that and see how it pans out, because I think there's some good stuff on there.

Tobbe: Is it hard to always have fans or people comparing your most recent stuff to your classic days?

Gregor: Nah, it's inevitable, especially in a long career. You're bound to get it. I mean, even from the first album that we ever did, the people were saying "You've sold out, because it's not like the demo.". Second album, same thing. You learn very quickly that you can't please everybody, so we kind of stopped trying, you know. [Laughs]

Tobbe: Your new DVD is coming out on November 20th and the first half is performed with an orchestra and even if that approach is kind of common in metal nowadays, what made you come up with the idea to record such a show?

Gregor: It's something that definitely always intrigued me, because I've always been interested in a little bit of classical music. Even from the second album onwards, there were bits and pieces here and there. But it's never really been done right by a metal band. I'm not sure it ever will be, but it's worth a try. I think, with a band like us, it's a lot easier than some other bands, because especially the tracks we picked to do with the orchestra were tracks that I'd already done some kind of scoring for beforehand. I think it was written with a view to having an orchestra involved. It wasn't as much of a stretch as, say, having a thrash metal song.

So I think we had a bit of head start on that one, but it wasn't something that I initially was keen on, 'cause it's, like you say, it's been done. But when I saw the feedback from the fans, saying "Yes. We really wanna see this." and when I played it, the vibe was really great. Everyone really loved it. And you saw how many people had put their own time and effort and finances into making this thing happen, that kind of makes you feel humble, you think. And sometimes it's not all about what I want. [Laughs]

Tobbe: Just like you said, the songs on the album are originally fit to the concept…

Gregor: Yeah, we picked it that way, but I mean, it was also from the fans' point of view.

Tobbe: …All right, but I wouldn't say that it's like your most famous ones overall. If you look at the hard core fans; sure, they know the songs, but I don't know if the everyday fan knows all the songs.

Gregor: No, maybe not, but it was a poll that we ran, and then we broke it down in percentages and like "Which one is…?". It's pretty much what we would have chosen anyway. You know, there was a little bit of variation, but overall, it was pretty much what we'd have chosen, because I guess our fans knew which ones that they thought would work best. And I think they're right. I mean, the best one for me is a song called Last Regret, which is very low key on the album version and it's very overblown and pompous on the orchestra version. And that's one of the ones that worked best for me, I think. So it was a good choice by the fans.

Tobbe: Since I haven't heard or seen one single note of it, what does it bring to the table for a band like Paradise Lost actually?

Gregor: It's just a different side of it. Just a different viewpoint. I've worked with a few orchestra type people, but never a full orchestra, and they're kind of weird people. It's like a different world, and their idea of how things come together musically is very different to mine. It's very structured. You know, everything is written down, everything is in its place, but I guess with that many people having to have parts… It's a different viewpoint. It's just a different view of the band, you know.

Tobbe: So why recording it down there [in Bulgaria] and not in Britain?

Gregor: Because there's no Roman theaters, amphitheaters, and also Danny [Cavanagh] from Anathema was the guy who contacted us and saying we should do it, 'cause they had just done it. He contacted Nick and said, you know "You should do this. The people there have been asking and saying that Paradise Lost would be one of the best ones for them to do it.". So that's how it came about. Kind of through Anathema really, you know.

Tobbe: The 4 core members of the band have been together since 1988, 27 years, so do you clash heads a lot of times?

Gregor: We used to. Not really anymore. We only clash heads over stupid things like politics and religion these days. I mean, we know each other so inside out, you know. It's like, we know how far you can push someone's buttons and when to hold back. The most things we argue about is things that everyone argues about at Southside Cafes every day, you know. So it's nothing serious, but over the years we have had our differences. Like the Believe In Nothing period was very rocky. We nearly didn't make it through that.

Tobbe: So how much of a democracy is Paradise Lost, or is it you and Nick?

Gregor: It is me and Nick doing all the writing, but as far as what gets released and what songs make it onto an album and whether it's good enough, it's all democratic. So we might write something and say "What do you think?" and they'd say "Hmm, hmm." or "Yeah, that's good.", you know.

Tobbe: So besides the songwriting, how much of an input do the other guys have with like arrangements and recordings and stuff?

Gregor: It's mainly drums that kind of alter more than anything else. And dynamics. Sometimes you get in the rehearsal room and it won't work as well dynamically as you envision it in your head and then you have to shift things around a little, so it's kind of like a common sense thing.

Tobbe: You know, Nick is doing things with Bloodbath and you're doing Vallenfyre, with Adrian [Erlandsson] on drums, so why can't the work with Paradise Lost, like satisfy your musical needs to a full extent?

Gregor: Well, Bloodbath, they kind of just asked him quite a few times to do it and then he gave in. He doesn't really write anything for that. It's like, kind of gone in and done it, so it's not about satisfying his musical needs. It's about he's just having a laugh with some people that we know. With me, with Vallenfyre, it was a totally different story why I started to do that and the only reason I continued it was because it was fun to do. So it wasn't about satisfying a need for me. It was a process I had to get through at the time, in 2010, and then it just continued from there because it became something fun. Like a hobby, you know.

Tobbe: So how much material will you release with Vallenfyre in the future?

Gregor: I don't know if we'll release anything else. I have no plans to release anything else, but if, in a year's time, 2 years, 3 years, whatever, I get the urge and there's enough good stuff, then maybe. You never know. It's not a career band. I wanna keep it as a thing where we can do what we want. We don't have to listen to record company people. We don't have to listen to anybody. We just do what we want, you know.

Tobbe: You've done a couple of shows.

Gregor: Yeah, we've done a few. We've done a couple of tours here and there. We've done an American tour, a little German tour, Spanish tour. Things like that. Some festivals. I think we'll do a few festivals next year. But maybe we won't tour again, unless we got offered something really good that we really want to do.

Tobbe: Your characteristic guitar playing, you know like playing note by note, is a very big part of Paradise Lost's overall sound, I think. And you have used it kind of frequently on the most recently released albums, like you did on Draconian Times, so is it important for you to have your kind of own playing style and come out original?

Gregor: I would like to say yes, but it's just the way I play and I don't actually decide to do it in a certain way. It's like, just meandering over the top of a riff and like "This sounds good. Okay, I'll have to keep that part.". Then try another thing and then put it all together and it just ends up sounding like that. So it's not something like "I have to sound like myself.", 'cause then you'd just sound like probably a crap parody, you know.

Tobbe: I believe it really adds an extra dimension to the music.

Gregor: That's really great if someone says that, you know. It's just something that happened over years and years.

Tobbe: So what is the most important thing in the band at this point in your career?

Gregor: To be happy in what we're doing, 'cause success to me is happiness in life, especially when you get to an age, like we're mid 40's now. It's not about pleasing all the people. It's not about financial aspect. It's about "Are you happy in your life?". Same as anyone when they get to a certain age. In the band, if we're happy and we feel relevant and we're appreciated for what we're doing. Yeah, it's all good.

Tobbe: About relevancy. Do you feel like a veteran band today?

Gregor: Sometimes, sometimes.

Tobbe: You never feel like younger than ever?

Gregor: No. No one says so. Sometimes, like we did the Soundwave tour in Australia. You know, this huge festival with, I don't know, 17 stages, and every 2 days you move to another part of Australia. And there's so many bands on, and you're all in this big, huge backstage area, and I was just looking around and it was guys with like pork pie hats, short hair and just a neck top of a flag or something and I just thought "I feel old now. This is not what I signed up for when I thought I'm gonna be in a metal band.". Times like that, I can feel old.

But we're kind of lucky in a way, because we do get to play lots of different types of festivals. We're kind of unique in that way, that we can jump from a black metal festival in Norway, to a goth festival in Germany, to something else, to a mainstream festival somewhere else and still kind of get appreciated. To me, that's quite interesting, you know.

Tobbe: Do you believe that Paradise Lost will continue until you drop or do you see a coming end to the band in some day?

Gregor: I don't know. I mean, as long as we're happy and fulfilled.

Tobbe: You're still not old, but you've been around for a very long time.

Gregor: Yeah, we just started young. It's about being fulfilled, isn't it? It's like any hobby or anything. You do it as long as it feels good. I mean, if ever I thought or if any of us thought, you know "I've had enough of this.", it's easy if you just stop and do it. It's not like we're multimillionaires or anything. It's just something that we do and we've done for a long time.

Tobbe: Can you do something else if you decide to quit with music?

Gregor: Oh no, we're completely unemployable. What! You go down to the job center and it's -"What've you been doing for the last 27 years?". -"You wouldn't believe me if I told you", you know. The career I trained in doesn't even exist anymore. Technology has taken it away.

Tobbe: You were kind of the inventors of your type of music. Do you think that you get the credit that you deserve for like bringing an own type of music to life?

Gregor: Yeah, because it's a lot of bands out there that have given us the nod. I mean, that's enough for me. Most of those bands don't sound anything like us anymore, but everyone starts somewhere. Everyone tries to emulate their heroes, to some degree, at some point. We just happened, down to a number of factors, a certain place, a certain time, to come up with the same type of music. And then, if we had done that 2 years earlier or 2 years later, it might not have had the same effect. Yeah, I'm very kind of philosophical about it, you know.

See also: review of the album The Plague Within

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