British doom metal legend will be soon celebrating their thirty years anniversary and the reason, why they stayed relevant is a fact, they can naturally connect to their roots. Paradise Lost have experienced number of experimental phases, but probes into early days and a desire to grow in their age, helps them to stay on top. One of the proves is a also a fresh contract with Nuclear Blast, where new album Medusa, had to be prepared with the fastest approach till date. Let us give space to always friendly Greg Mackintosh.
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I guess it’s pretty busy schedule for you these days promoting both new Paradise Lost album, same as Vallenfyre, right?
Yeah, it’s quite busy. Today, for instance I am doing five interviews for Paradise Lost and four for Vallenfyre. (Laugh)
Is it a first time, you are releasing two new products at the same time?
Absolutely. Because usually I do Vallenfyre, when I have some time off from Paradise Lost. I thought I have some free time, so I started writing a Vallenfyre album but them Paradise Lost signed to Nuclear Blast and they said: “We want an album!” (Laugh) So I started writing Paradise Lost album very fast and the time collision was just by accident.
How are you satisfied so far, under the wings of Nuclear Blast?
It’s very early days, but it seems good. The only people we met so far were Italian and German teams. That’s it. I mean, I met earlier Nuclear Blast staff many years ago, because they started around the same time as Paradise Lost. It was quite small within our scene at that time. But they seem to know what they are doing and they are metal music fans, which is always good. Let say one of the best things about Century Media was, they were essentially bunch of metal fans. It’s valuable not being under big corporate label.
I must say, I received your new album Medusa in early June, which was quite a time distance before its release. As it is still fresh for you too, what are your current thoughts? Is there a big amount of proudness or do you still need a break to fully appreciate it, as you practically lived with those songs for weeks?
(Laugh) I didn’t listen to the album until I received the masters back, which was around middle of May. It’s still very fresh to me, but I had enough time from it. And yeah, I think it sounds great. It’s exactly what we wanted. I realize that it’s maybe not as instant as the previous record, but that was all in the plan really.
I guess the writing had to go pretty fast as well. We cannot talk about any sort of the pressure, when a band is on such a level, but I guess you had to use all the qualities and advantages you developed to finish it fast…
Yes and in order to do that, we followed the new writing process we introduced for our previous album The Plague Within. We wanted to streamline the way we write. Usually I would write all the music and just give it to Nick to sing over the tracks. That’s fine, but it’s kind of time consuming and in a way, you are precious about it. You are not really open for changes. On the last record and even more on this album we changed it into a scheme, where I would send Nick couple of riffs and say: “Can you try out as many vocal styles as possible?” So, he will try growl singing, deep singing or clean harmonies. Then he would send it back to me and I will completely build the track from scratch like a jigsaw. It makes it really intuitive, fast way of writing. You can try lots of different versions somehow in a space of couple of days, rather than wait couple of weeks to do it. So yeah, I think this was the fastest we have ever written an album. It took maybe six months to write, where usually it takes us over a year.
As you are saying, I can feel there was more intensive communication between you and Nick. I must say, I had the peak of interest for Paradise Lost around Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us, which I really love and I feel the interactions are getting tighter every year. Do you agree?
Yeah, we worked very closely. Every day from morning till night, we were in constant contact going backwards and forwards with it. We were discussing every bit and thinking, if we could do anything better. What you say it’s very true and it’s good you are getting that vibe from it, because it was the closest we have ever worked. Partly because of the time period and partly because of the new writing.
This was the fastest we have ever written an album
Probe into early days
Understood, but at the same time, I believe the main impulse still came from your riff. Let’s say the track From the Gallows, starts with massive guitar intro.
I am glad you are mentioning this track because it’s unique and it didn’t follow our usual procedure. Intro part and actually the whole first half of the song was written in 1989. I found it on an old cassette, but unfortunately the second half was missing. So I had to write the second part of it in 2017. Nearly thirty years have passed between each parts and we were kind of amazed we made it gel so well together. (Laugh)
How do you store your collection of ideas over time and how do you keep it safe?
I just keep it all on my cassettes in a sealed plastic box. Every time I moved, that was one thing I made sure, I am brining with me. I don’t really listen to them to be honest. I was just in the middle of preparing of the new album, when I suddenly had a thought to go through some old demo tracks. There were some really early rehearsal demos and I was trying to suck the vibe of it all. I didn’t even know there was a track we haven’t used yet. But then I found this track and I was talking about it to Karl Willetts from Bolt Thrower. We used to tour with them back in the 1989 and we played this song live. It was not called From the Gallows, but at that time it was Hallowed Ground. Apparently it was Karl’s most favorite song. It’s kind of interesting story really.
It might sound as a hard core journalist cliché, but going to the roots doesn’t hurt at all. I can really feel on your latest record, you went pretty deep into your early days and talking about Bolt Thrower, that’s some really heavy area. That’s exactly how I feel about your new album and your promises in press release about slow, almost sludgy sound were very true.
(Laugh) Oh, I am glad you like it. The record label didn’t really know what to think, when we shared our vision with them. We wanted the first track to be eight and half minutes long. The first riff is almost funeral doom, super slow! (Laugh) But as soon they heard it, they said: “Yeah, we get it. You can’t really put this song anywhere else on the album. It fits really well.” And it doesn’t really feel as eight and half minute to me, because we managed to make it flow quite well. The plan for this record came actually from the song Beneath Broken Earth from the last record. That was the last song we wrote for The Plague Within. We just really liked how it turned out and we love playing it live. So we just thought: “Maybe we should do a full album kind of along these lines.” That’s really where the idea came from.
I am glad to hear that, because I was hoping it was that song. Next to that, do you believe you activities with Vallenfyre and Nick’s with Bloodbath, had an effect on the direction you are taking with your home band?
I think the music that you love as a teenager stays with you on & off all your life. Even when we were doing the Host album, really experimental stuff, there were days where we would listen to something from our teenage years. It’s something you cannot get away from. It’s engraved in you nostalgically. Inevitably all this stuff had to come to a surface again and indeed it has done on this record.
Music that you love as a teenager stays with you on & off all your life
Another change, which happened recently in Paradise Lost is a classic one and that’s a replacement of a drummer. Tell us please how did you discover Waltteri Väyrynen?
It actually happened because Adrian Erlandsson was drumming in Paradise Lost and Vallenfyre. Just after we recorded the Splinters album for Vallenfyre which was in 2014 Adrian said: “I’m getting really busy with At The Gates and I cannot commit any time to Vallenfyre.” So I decided to do an online audition and asked fans on Vallenfyre’s Facebook to send videos of themselves drumming to couple of bands’ songs. I just narrowed it down and eventually settled on Waltteri. Then we did quite a bit touring. We toured America, Europe and some festivals with him and he is just fantastic. He is very improvisational drummer and he never quite plays the same song twice, if you know what I mean. That’s what I really like! Then the same thing happened at Paradise Lost, where Adrian realized he has just too many projects. We are still good friends with him, but his main job is a drummer and if a band is having time off writing an album, he needs to go where the work is and play life. So, it’s understandable. So I suggested Waltteri for Paradise Lost as well, we tried him out and everyone’s happy with him.
So I believe his schedule is not that busy as Adrian’s and he can dedicate his time to both bands fully? Or, is he active in other bands as well?
Well, what we said to Waltteri was: “You have to prioritize Paradise Lost and Vallenfyre.” But, if there is nothing in the schedule, he can do whatever he wants. I know he has been doing some stuff with Abhorrence, which is a death metal band from Finland and playing live for couple other bands. But it’s understandable as that’s a drummer’s life unfortunately.
Inspiration & lyrics
Regarding the new album, I would also like to ask you if there were some literature sources, which might have influenced you?
Well, it’s just mainly topics of interest, when you are sitting and talking to each other. Certain topics come up and you say: “I have read this and I have read that.” For instance The Longest Winter was influenced by Nick’s readings about Chernobyl and nature taking back that area of land. There were also other topics, including historical and social topics coming from all members. I would say the lyrical content on this album is broader than on the previous albums. It’s usually more personal. However, on this record, it’s little bit more global, something that affect everybody. I guess that’s just a sign of the times. There’s lot going in the world at a moment, so there is a lot to write about.
I agree, as if we take The Longest Winter and feeling alive in hopelessness, I believe everybody can relate to that feeling of loss, whether personal or within a relationship. We might fall into the deepest depression, but by feeling that way, we can find hope and new goals for future. Do you agree with that?
Yeah, absolutely. These lyrics might seem dark and depressive, but there is usually a ray of hope in them. Something like: “This is the only life we get, so let’s make the best of it!”
If we take a track Gods of Ancient, it was mentioning not following any sort of the religion, but worshiping sun, as it gives us heat, future and possibly more dominant source of energy. But it also reminded me of my most favorite stand-up comedian George Carlin who was a “sun worshiper”. So, what about you and stand-up comedy?
Oh yeah, he is great. I love him. I am a big fan of English comedy and like Alan Partridge and the series Saxondale. I am also a big fan of Louis C.K. on Netflix. But I must say a stand-up comedy is sometimes a weird thing. Some people mind find something really funny and some might not. I think it’s quite subjective. In general, me and Nick we tend to watch just comedy shows, you know. When we were in the studio recording this record, we just watched Saxondale all the time. I don’t know, if you have ever seen it?
No, I haven’t heard about that yet. I will definitely check it out. Within the English comedy, I must say Little Britain is sometimes too much, but I honestly love Come Fly With Me from these guys. I guess you might know it, not only because it takes place on the airport, which is an area you know very well.
Yeah, I have. I like that as well. But you should really check Saxondale. It’s about a guy, who is an ex-roadie and living suburban life. It’s just great. It also reminds me of how we might end up, if we ever finish being musicians.
I spoke about that recently with Roger Glover, who was saying they might finish in two or three years, but didn’t really know what to do afterwards. I guess most of you guys would like to play until you can hold instrument’s, right?
I think we will have to go the way of Lemmy, to play until we drop. We are completely unemployable now. (Laugh) Thirty of years of doing this next year. What if we went to a job center, what will we say on a question: “What have you been doing for the past thirty years, sir?” (Laugh)
(Laugh) Any plans already for the upcoming celebrations, next to releasing something special for your long term fans?
At the moment, we are just concentrating on this record. I’m sure our manager and our record label will have some great things in mind like playing a ten-hour show in some little sweaty club to say “Happy Birthday” to ourselves. (Laugh) But personally, I’m not thinking about it right now. Next year is next year.
I think we will have to go the way of Lemmy, to play until we drop. We are completely unemployable now.
For the last question, I would like to go back and ask you how do you believe your and Nick’s side activities influence you? I have a feeling, if an artist has more than one project, creativity has to split. Let say the wilder side shows itself fully in one project and let’s be true to ourselves, the source of ideas is not bottomless…
I am and I’m splitting myself. Because I’m trying to keep ideas for Paradise Lost and Vallenfyre very separate. That’s half the reason, why I am the vocalist in Vallenfyre, rather than guitarist. It gives me a clear line where one band starts and another band starts. Also I believe, the feeling you get from each band is totally different. Feeling you get from Paradise Lost is very melancholic, but with Vallenfyre is chaotic, angry and messy. The way I look at it, Paradise Lost is grown up me and Vallenfyre is teenage me.
Could you say, if you didn’t have Vallenfyre, you would express your wildest death metal ideas in Paradise Lost?
No, it couldn’t happen. With Paradise Lost it’s all about the vibe and the feeling. And those type of feelings you get from Vallenfyre, don’t fit into what I think is Paradise Lost. I guess Vallenfyre was something I thought of doing for many years, but I never bothered trying and it was purely the death of my father that drove me to think: “Why not to do this?” Life is too short!