» Greg Mackintosh - Vallenfyre
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Interview conducted June 18 2017
Interview published June 23 2017

"We're 90 per cent sure now that we'll never record anything else with Vallenfyre."

Greg Mackintosh and Nick Holmes of Paradise Lost came to Stockholm to promote their coming record Medusa [Street date: September 1st] and Metal Covenant therefore took the opportunity to also talk to Greg separately about his side project Vallenfyre's third and new record Fear Those Who Fear Him [Out June 2nd].

A couple of minutes into this interview Greg unexpectedly and kind of out of nowhere dropped the bomb that this record most likely will be the final one from the band and I can assure you that this interview took a little bit of a turn from that moment and on.

"When I was a kid I suffered from depression really badly and I used to have to take these various tablets."

Tobbe: Fear Those Who Fear Him was out on June 2nd and in what way does it take off from where your last record, Splinters [2014], ended?

Greg: Well, Splinters we were totally happy with and I'm still totally happy with the production and I don't think it could have been any better for the type of album it was meant to be. But then we did a bit touring for it and when we were touring America, with At The Gates, Converge and Pallbearer, we just started to really get into the groove of playing it live, but it sounded different to the record. A bit more over the top, if you know what I mean? A bit crazier, and messier, and we kind of liked it.

And I just mentioned to Kurt [Ballou, producer] that if we were to do another record, 'cause I hadn't written anything then, like "What did you think to that idea?" and he said "Yeah, that would be cool.". So then I came back and just started to write stuff and still we weren't convinced we were gonna do it, but then when we thought the material was strong enough and that we had enough, we thought "Yeah. OK." and we basically tried to make a live sounding version off that, you know.

Tobbe: Yeah, the overall sound of the record is pretty rough, I would say. For being kind of an old school death metal album in a sense I think it's quite diverse, so how do you personally look for variation in what could possibly be a narrow genre?

Greg: Well, over the records, from the first record [A Fragile King - 2011] to Splinters to the new one we widened the variety of influences. So the first record: the influences would have only stuff from maybe '88-'91, you know. And the second record: a bit further. And this record: anything from when I was 12 years old in '82 to whatever, you know. So there's a lot of proto crust and grind and hardcore punk, and whatever else, post punk and all kinds of stuff in there. But still the death metal as well, but it's all just mixed together, with a big stick, you know.

Tobbe: So out of all these different types of songs you have on the album, which are the easiest songs to write for you personally?

Greg: For me personally it would probably be the doom stuff, because I'm just so used to it with Paradise Lost, I guess. But also, I find the D-beaty stuff quite easy, because I've been into that so long. I mean, it was the first type of music I ever listened to, really, from being 11, 12 years old, Discharge, English Dogs, stuff like that. That was all I knew 'til I was about 14 years old. So I find that stuff fairly easy.

Tobbe: And quite a few songs are kind of short, so does that decision, to keep the songs short, kind of serve some purpose, if you know what I mean?

Greg: Yeah, it was to cut any of the stuff away that just was not necessary. You know, as soon as I started to get bored with the songs that we do in something like Vallenfyre, then just stop it. Don't even continue with that song. Just end it, you know. There's a few there who are very short. It was just because of, you know "This song doesn't need any…". You know, I tried adding of the parts and it just didn't work, so I just thought "Leave it as it is.".

Tobbe: When you're kind of demoing the songs and come to the vocal parts, do you kind of stand in front of a mirror and, like, shout the lyrics?

Greg: Well, I've just got a studio at home. Just in a room at home, you know. It's taking me years to build up, how it is now and it's quite good now. And I kind of just try out percussive lines first. I'll do that in the day. And on a night I try and write lyrics and then I'll go back to it the next day and try out the lyrics I did to the percussive lines and see how it works. Just do that, you know. There's no mirrors involved. [Laughs]

Tobbe: As you're writing stuff, how do you kind of separate the Paradise Lost stuff and the Vallenfyre stuff, respectively?

Greg: It comes down to how the song makes me feel; how the individual riff makes me feel, 'cause it's all about feeling for me. Paradise Lost is very melancholy, sometimes bittersweet, like, almost reflective, but Vallenfyre is kind of nasty and it's a bit malevolent and not very nice. The feeling I get from it is totally different, so it's as simple as that. That's how I separate it. I was writing both records at the same time at one point and I'd spend two days on Vallenfyre and two days on Paradise Lost. Go backwards and forwards. And it has kind of helped in a way. I wouldn't wanna do it again; it was a lot of work.

Tobbe: Would it be rude if I would suggest that your heart is kind of with Vallenfyre, but your common sense is with Paradise Lost nowadays?

Greg: Um, Vallenfyre is like my Saturday night out. Yeah, I have fun with it. I can't deny that, but I can't say that I take it too seriously. Again, like with Paradise Lost, the music is quite serious, but it's like, you know, having a few drinks and going down to the pub with your mates type of thing. But I wouldn't say the heart, no. Because I don't intend… You know… We're 90 per cent sure now that we'll never record anything else with Vallenfyre. So we'll leave it as a trilogy. So if that's where the heart was I left it behind me.

Tobbe: That comes as a surprise to me, because I haven't heard a word about that.

Greg: No, but I haven't said it. It was just: I was talking to Hamish [Hamilton Glencross, bass and guitar] about it the other day and we just seemed to think that as a trilogy record it makes sense.

Tobbe: Would there have been a Vallenfyre if it wasn't for your past accomplishments with Paradise Lost?

Greg: Vallenfyre only happened because of the one event that my dad died. I had a thought about it for many, many years, regardless of Paradise Lost. It would have been in my head, like "I really wanna do this thing that has something to do with the music I grew up with.". But I would have never done it and I'd have just gone "Maybe, maybe, maybe.".

And it takes something like that. Everyone will go through something like that. It just makes you more, like, not carefree, but more like "Fuck! What's the worst that can happen? I'll try something. I'll try this and I'll try that.". And even me being the vocalist in Vallenfyre was an accident. I didn't mean to be the vocalist. I just couldn't find a vocalist, so, you know. Yeah, it would have happened anyway, with an event like that, you know.

Tobbe: You've told the story about how you started Vallenfyre, but you haven't so often told people why you kept going with Vallenfyre, really.

Greg: It's a series of events where, you know, just a certain amount of enjoyment came from it and we just thought "Fuck it! Yeah! Let's do another one!". 'Cause we weren't even gonna do a gig and then we got offered a gig in Helsinki [Finland] and it was like "OK. Let's do that. I would quite enjoy that.".

And someone offered us a tour in Spain and then Decibel tour and before you know it we're doing another record and stuff. It was "Never say never. Just see what happens." and just go with the flow. And just because we're enjoying it, like I said. A few drinks, go on stage, enjoy it for what it is and that's that, you know. I mean, we certainly haven't made any money out of it. In fact we've lost a lot of money doing it. But that's not the point, is it? It's something totally different.

Tobbe: But has your involvement with Vallenfyre in any way interfered with your involvement with Paradise Lost?

Greg: No, I think it's helped it in a way. It's invigorated me to what Paradise Lost should be, I think. Because I think it's easy to become complacent and maybe I was becoming complacent, but I think Vallenfyre has made me appreciate it actually; Paradise Lost more, in a way. It's good for Paradise Lost and it's good for me.

And it's not that we can't do what we want in Paradise Lost; we can do whatever we want, but there's a certain amount of freedom to something when you don't have the history, because whatever we do with Paradise Lost will be judged by our history and our legacy and whatever. But with something like Vallenfyre you can do what the hell you want. It doesn't matter. You're not trying to sell records. You don't care. I don't care if I sell one record. You know, it's just what it is.

Tobbe: Must be a good feeling.

Greg: It is a good feeling. Even if it's not Vallenfyre I would probably like to continue something eventually one day, just to keep things fresh for me in Paradise Lost, if you know what I mean?

Tobbe: You've been in this industry for almost 30 years, but you still have a good 20 years to go until you, like, finally retire…

Greg: Or drop of the stage, yeah.

Tobbe: …or if you ever will retire? So is there in a sense a way to possibly predict the future just a little bit?

Greg: Predict the future? No, not at all. Not at all. Not in this life. Recent events in the world can show you that. You never know what's around the corner. I mean, again going back to why Vallenfyre formed, that's a good point of why you can never predict the future. You know, you could walk out here and get hit by a bus and then you didn't try the thing you were gonna try.

When I was a kid I suffered from depression really badly and I used to have to take these various tablets. I used to have to go and see someone and this person said "The most overwhelming thing is to think past tomorrow. Just be comfortable and confident and happy within the 24 hours and if you can do that then you'll never worry.". It's not always easy to think like that and in some ways it affects me badly. I never had a pension and I have no escape plan from this, you know, so. But what the hell, you know.

Tobbe: What do you think people will remember from Vallenfyre in about 5-10 years?

Greg: It's impossible to say. I mean, for me it's nice to have been accepted by my peers. You know, there's a few guys who I really respect who endorsed Vallenfyre shall we say. It's nice to go back to a scene that I came from, that I haven't really been a part of for a long time. So, just that I did it for the right reasons would be good enough for me, regardless of what it was musically.

Tobbe: But would the decision to call it quits be really final? Because a lot of bands tend to do reunions and come back after 5 or even 20 years and…

Greg: Well, on the first Vallenfyre record there were 5 members, on the second there were 4 and on this one there's 3, so it's gonna disappear anyway, you know. [Laughs] When you get to, like, my age, or even 10 years younger than me, finding musicians that can just "OK. I'll come on tour." is not that easy, especially for a band that makes no money. You know, people have jobs and responsibilities and it's not like I can say "Yeah. Give up you day-job and come on tour.".

Tobbe: Did you have a day-job before Paradise Lost?

Greg: Oh yeah. For the first two records [Lost Paradise [1990] and Gothic [1991]]. I didn't give up my job until Shades Of God [1992] and that was purely because we were having so much touring that I couldn't get time off work. I had a two-year old daughter and a good job and I had to make that decision and I just thought "I can't not, because even if it goes wrong I can go back and get another job, but if I don't do it then I'll just resent the fact that I didn't try something.".

And I'm glad I did, because the job I left, it was a good job and everyone on the job said "You'll be back here very soon.", but the place I worked at closed down two years later and everyone lost their job.

See also: review of the album Fear Those Who Fear Him

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