Throughout the years I did plenty of interviews at Czech festival Brutal Assault, but rarely I had a feeling I want that musician for an uncle. British doom metal icons Paradise Lost are on the market for more than thirty years and enjoy well deserved popularity after a series of well-balanced latest albums. Interviews are usually handled in the band by main songwriters Greg Mackintosh and Nick Holmes. As I spoke to each couple of times already, I wanted to meet someone less “busy” from the interviews, but still extremely crucial for the band. Rhythm guitarist Aaron Aedy proved himself to be very balanced personality, incredibly funny and a crucial part of the structure which stays together for decades. In our one-hour interview, which was supposed to last originally fifteen minutes we spoke about his guitars, British humor, literature and went also in some philosophical talks, where thirty-year-old meets fifty-year-old, sharing life experiences and advices.
Photo credit for the front cover picture: Adrian Erlandsson
Full audio here:
One of the headliners of Brutal Assault 2018 are Danzig with whom you played last two nights in Great Britain. What are your relationships?
I love that band. Especially their first two albums. Therefore I was a little bit pissed we didn’t get a chance to talk. I was watching both shows from the crowd and had a great time. Especially because the last time I saw them, was in 1988, when they were supporting Metallica.
I never quite managed to fall in love with Danzig, but I am still obsessed with a track Mother. It was all over VH1 when I was a teenager. I am Czech but I lived in Serbia as a teenager shortly after NATO bombing and I got my share of feedback. But it was legal there to buy copied CD’s, mp3 albums, so I bought the whole Danzig discography just because of that one song. When was the last time, you heard one song and went to buy everything from a band?
The last time I did that was probably with the folky band called Midlake, which have an album called Courage of Others. It was recommended to me by Nick who actually got it from Ricky Gervais. He sent me the video and it was such a beautiful song I literally bought all of their records right away based on that video. (Laugh)
I am glad you mentioned Ricky Gervais, as I am also a big fan of stand-up comedy and a British humor. When I spoke couple of times to Greg he recommended me a series called Saxondale, which you guys apparently watch all the time on a tourbus. I must say I tried the first episode and it didn’t fully work with me, probably because of the really rough accents. But I believe it really fits into your type of humor, right?
Yeah, the guy Steve Coogan is amazing and he has another show called Alan Partridge. We are completely obsesses with him but Saxondale is still good.
British comedy is quite unique. Personally, when I get sick I watch Come Fly with Me. It’s from the guys from Little Britain, which can be sometimes quite disgusting.
Yeah, that one is great! We all watch that. Within British comedy, we kind of watch them all actually.
Including Black Books?
To be honest, I watched it a bit, but I am not sure about the others. I think Stephen might have watched it. But I really like Bill Bailey, he is hilarious. It’s a nice guy as well. Big Opeth fan.
Within British comedy, we kind of watch them all actually.
Have you ever watched Dylan Moran’s stand-up show?
You mean the guy from crazy guy from Black Books?
Yeah, the “Where is my wine?!” dude…
Yeah, the neurological guy. He is a bit psychopath. (Laugh) I have seen a little bit of him in something else. I cannot remember what it was. He sort of always plays the same character. But I have never seen any of his stand-ups. Is it good?
Absolutely. And he is insanely popular in Czech Republic. Black Books is one of the top five TV shows among Friends and Simpsons I would say. Whenever I go by a train between Prague and my hometown Ostrava, I always see a bunch of people watching Black Books on their laptops. Dylan Moran was one of the first stand-up comedians to come to Czech Republic. His first night was sold out within minutes and he ended up selling out two more evenings.
That’s amazing. He probably had no idea, he was that popular and had such a power to sell out three nights. (Laugh) It must have been bizarre for him.
Let’s go now to the gear department as Muzikus is a gear oriented magazine. So please tell us about pieces from your gear you rely on the tour.
It starts with a guitar. I have been touring for the last few years with a pair of ESP E-II Eclipse. The best thing is, nothing ever goes wrong with them. I even have at home, what you would call, a “budget ESP” LTD Eclipse 40, which was actually the first one they sent me. Once I needed a guitar for a video and this was the only one they had in stock. I ended up playing it all the time, as it is great. Even for a lower pricing, it sounds great. But the E-IIs have been fantastic. I am a Bare Knuckle endorser for a long time, so I have a pair of Black Hawks in both of them. Both guitars are exactly the same, so if one goes down, I can plug in the other one right away. If you are doing a different sound, then fair enough to change guitar type, but I am not the case. Bare Knuckle have been absolutely brilliant with me over the years. I have been using them for seven years already. And the move to seven string was slightly weird when we first did it for an album Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us. I have a collection of guitars I bought myself over the years and let say one Gibson from fifties I have, has a really chunky neck. And I always preferred thinner necks, until I played the seven string. Now it feels small. (Laugh) So I can play that guitar all the time. The neck profile on E-IIs is perfect for me, because I have played some seven strings in the past. They were beautifully made guitars but the neck profile was not quite ideal. I have sort of small hands for playing the seven string. Next to it I use Elixir strings because we tune down one tone. Plus I have to use them as I am allergic to nickel and few other metals. That’s why I don’t even wear any jewelry and even my wedding ring. I would love to, but I will get an allergic reaction. It’s a shame because there is so much lovely rock jewelry. Especially from people like Great Frog. Elixir strings are also great at keeping the tone longer. It’s especially useful when I sweat a lot. Next to it there is guy Lars Richter who does our straps. “There are the finest straps you can buy.” (Said in a deep teleshopping voice) (Laugh) It’s also great, he is a metal fan. He always gets excited when you want a new strap from him. He comes to gigs and we are always happy to see him.
What about amps?
We sort of vary between Kemper and Line 6. If we are on a tour with a bus or generally not flying we take Kempers. We sometimes even take them on the plane, but generally because of the space and size, we take Line 6 POD HD500X. The trouble with musicians is, you have to pay for all the gear. As we have plenty of flying gigs, we take these. In general, I like to keep things simple. Greg uses in-ears and a wireless pack, but I don’t move a lot, so I am fine with cables and non-active pick-ups. Nice and simple.
I use Elixir strings as I am allergic to nickel and few other metals
So, how would you say you cooperate with Greg? I was eager to hear your version, as I spoke to Greg number of times. With all the respect, it feels Greg wants his space in the front, while you are keeping his back and the back of the others.
That’s why it works, because I have no interest in being a lead guitarist, at all. Actually I wanted to be a drummer to be honest.
You had so many options to be a drummer in Paradise Lost, since you changed …how many drummers? Five?
(Laugh) I know. My mom wouldn’t let me to have a drum kit when I was a kid and I thought it was mean, but it wasn’t. When I think about it, I had two little sisters and my mom was not getting much sleep. So me playing drums would not help it much. (Laugh) So I ended up playing a guitar. I am naturally left handed, like Greg. One my friends in school was selling his guitar for ten pounds in 1984, so I started playing then. My main inspirations were Rudy Schenker, James Hetfield and Malcom Young. These were the people who made me realize you can be a rhythm guitarist and that’s ok! I just want to play riffs. Honestly, I love playing riffs.
I have no interest in being a lead guitarist, at all. Actually, I wanted to be a drummer.
I heard the same thing from Max Cavalera couple of years ago. He told me he just loves to sit down in his living room, enjoying the evening and coming up with riffs. Do you do the same?
I do, especially with an acoustic guitar. So I will sit quite happily with it or a strat, I guess anything with a clean sound and coming up with stuff. Depends on the mood. That’s the beautiful thing about music. And then there are days, when you want to go really heavy.
When we were talking about Greg and the roles in the band, I am just wondering, how many interviews Greg & Nick do, compared to the rest of the band?
We all have always done the interviews. Nick and Greg do obviously more as people want to talk to the main songwriters but I have always done a lot of interviews. I like chatting and meeting new people. And if somebody is willing to give us time, I am more than happy. But Greg and Nick do a lot of them when they do a press trip, when the album comes out. They don’t really want to do them on the road. But I don’t mind.
I always had a feeling Greg was trying to be very friendly. Nick mostly as well, but in his case I had a feeling he is doing SO many interviews, it is not in human capabilities to be excited for every bloody interview. I guess one has to find a balance in the quantity of interviews to enjoy it. Especially, if they are doing them three to four days in a row and everybody is asking the same bloody questions. I guess it must be tiring.
Well, I don’t know. I think if they give them beer, they might survive. (Laugh) Cold beer helps. But to be honest, I don’t drink before the show. I mean, Greg has a few. But that’s just his thing. I used to do it years ago and then about seventeen years ago I decided one day: “I won’t have a drink before the show today.” I used to have half a pint of Jack Daniel’s, half a pint a coke in a pint glass, one hour before I will go on. Then I would usually take half of a pint of Jack on the stage with me. There was a point, even the smell of Jack made me realize: “Good grief not again.” So now I like the reward system. You come off the stage after the gig and open the cold beer. That’s what I like. Plus when we move on stage, it keeps me well balanced. It’s easier when I am sober. (Laugh)
I heard it some time ago, in a Foo Fighters documentary, there were looking during those endless tours for some excitement. So they started with one shot before the show, until there were too many. I guess there must have been one night, where you said: “Ok, this is taking too much influence on me. Ok, I will keep it as a reward.” Was it sth like that?
It became a routine rather than a pleasure, if you know what I mean. Sometimes Stephen will come with a shot of Jägermeister just before the show. (Laugh) But I like to keep it special and not follow any strict rules. I will also have a glass of wine during a dinner and few more after the show whether it’s a wine or a Guinness.
Seventeen years ago I decided one day: “I won’t have a drink before the show today anymore.”
You should definitely try Czech dark beer Kozel.
Yeah, you can get that one in the UK sometimes, even on a draft once in a while.
Football & metal
Are you a football fan?
Which team are you supporting? I will be going to see Liverpool x Manchester City in the early October, so I am really looking forward to that.
That sounds great. I am a Leeds United supporter. But when I was a kid, I remember Liverpool team from the seventies. On a Saturday night, when they were showing the highlights of games, Liverpool team was great. I always had soft spot for them. I also have a respect for Manchester City, especially these days because of Pep Guardiola. But Klopp is doing some great work with Liverpool as well, so it will be a great game to go to. It could actually end up 5:0 for any team. (Laugh) I have plenty of German friends within journalists and number of them are Dortmund fans. I sort of knew about him through them. When he came to UK I knew it would great. I think he brought a nice character to the game. Plus he is coaching James Milner who is an ex-Leeds player. Manchester City actually has couple of ex-Leeds players as well, like my favorite Fabian Delph. I do also play Fantasy Premier League with my friends in London and I spent nearly all my money on two players: Harry Kane and Sergio Aguero. From the 60M budget I spent 40M just on them. (Laugh) So I nearly spent all my money in the first two rounds. (Laugh) I am really hoping Leeds can go back in there. Just last week we had in Championship game thirty-five thousand people. We are on the good way. We even beat Stoke City 3:1.
Is Peter Crouch still playing for Stoke?
Yeah, he came on in about seventieth minute. They were just launching balls at Peter Crouch. (Laugh) But to be honest, he is a really nice fellow. Within the band, Stephen is a Bradford City supporter, as it is his hometown. But the other guys don’t give a shit about football. They hate it in fact. Although, they watched World cup games while we were at festivals during the summer. World cup is a great chance for people who don’t usually watch it, support their national team.
I am glad you came up with a great team and a massive quality.
This is a first England team in years I wanted to do well. For the last fifteen years, they’ve looked like bunch of millionaires. This year it looked like there are some young hungry players who wanted to fight for the shirt, so they were worth my support.
I am glad you mentioned during our interview your specific moves on the stage. Does it help you to keep the balance and the rhythm?
One of the sound guys said: “You are like the metronome.” (Laugh) It is also a tool to keep the drummer in time, but it is not needed much as our new drummer Waltteri is great. Actually all of our drummers were always fantastic. We say Adrian last night. He came to see us and it was nice to see him.
When you were talking about moving to seven string guitars you mentioned album Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us. To be fully honest, it was a time I felt in love with your band. I knew about you earlier, but that was a changing moment. Plus it was my first front cover interview ever, for the first magazine I worked for called HardRocker. It is an incredible album and I feel it was a changing point in your career, where you were sure about the direction and fully aware of your past.
Title track is one of my most favorite tracks to play live. I love that song. We played it last night, but I am not sure if we will play it tonight. That’s the thing with Paradise Lost. We write songs for our own pleasure. We are all fans of what we do.
I believe another breaking point came with a track Beneath Broken Earth from an album The Plague Within. Honestly, I couldn’t believe when I heard it for the first time, how heavy and slow it is. I feel it does influence you till these days.
It was very unique last moment thing. Greg sent me this idea two or three weeks before we went into the studio. We both love some doom harmonies. He sent it to me and said: “Tell me, what you think of this?” I was like: “F****ck! Brilliant!” (Laugh) When we were recording it, we were like thirteen again.
Inspiration and free time
We spoke shortly about how you spent your time on a tour with TV series and stand-up comedy. But are there any other activities you do on tour to spend that free time well, as let say literature?
I read a lot. I am the only one who lives in London so I fly on my own all the time. So pack my Kindle with loads of stuff and read a lot. I do also watch some Netflix but I would rather read a book, to be honest as I can literally lose myself in reading. I like factual books but also a lot of historical fiction. The ones I am reading right now are Bernard Cornwell’s The Warrior Chronicles. I am currently reading The Last Kingdom and it’s about Danish and the Saxons fighting in the ninth century. There are some fictional characters. BBC actually did a series from the first book The Last Kingdom. Stephen is obsessed by it, but I would rather read a book. That was about four weeks ago and I am nearly finishing a fourth book. It’s the same guy who did Sharpe series with Sean Bean. I also like scientific nerdy books as well. Good example is A Short History of Nearly Everything from Bill Bryson.
Daniel Gildenlöw from Pain of Salvation was telling me about this book, so I bought it and borrowed it to a friend. You are saying I should get it back fast?
It’s an amazing book. He also has another one called At Home: A short history of private life. It’s smaller and it’s about a history of items in the house. There are also certain sayings whose origin people don’t know much about. “Sleep tight” goes to the times where people used to have ropes holding up the straw of the bed, so they were not bitten by ticks and insects.
30 x 50
If I can be slightly philosophical, what would be a book, you would recommend to yourself, at the age of thirty?
That is a tough one…
I will help you out little bit. About a month ago on a festival Colours of Ostrava I spoke to Ziggy Marley and I asked him the same question. I feel I did experience and plenty of friends around me whether it’s an architect, actor, journalist or a business man something which I heard described as “Crisis of Christ years”. We are asking ourselves: “Are we going the right direction?”, as we are all tired, often without a vision and I started to do meditation among many other things to try to cope with that. You are turning fifty soon. What would you tell to us to calm us down?
I actually talk about thirties quite a lot. I truly believe people, when they are in their thirties, they make the best friendships and partnerships. Because I guess during your twenties you are still trying to be what you think other people want you to be. You are trying to be cool for them. I think when you get into your thirties you learn who you are yourself. Then it’s easier for other people to deal with your real you, as you are yourself. Then they are honest with themselves with you. I think the thirties are the best period for that as you realize you don’t need any bullshit as you are all right. You don’t care about the surroundings and it’s easier to meet like-minded people around you. It’s a f*cking great decade. Enjoy your thirties! I absolutely loved my thirties! When I realized, I am turning fifty I thought: “Getting older is better than the alternative.” (Laugh) What do you want me to be dead or get old? “Get older please,” that’s my answer. So, grasp life with both hands and enjoy it.
I truly believe people, when they are in their thirties, they make the best friendships and partnerships
Cheers mate! I guess getting older also means being totally ok with your past. And this year Nuclear Blast is putting out a re-release of the album Host. I am not going to ask the typical questions. I believe you did, what you truly wanted to do. Personally, I am obsessed with the eighties synth pop project of The Dillinger Escape Plan singer Greg Puciato, The Black Queen. I just wanted to say, I had a great talk with a producer Steve Lyon about the album Host.
Oh nice. I haven’t seen him in years. How is he?
Great. I spoke him in his studio on the periphery of London. He is working a lot with the band Amplifier, but he was also working with one the most popular Czech singers David Koller. He was telling me about the beautiful days working with you guys on Host. What are your memories?
Well, there are few ways how to look at that period. First of all, people think that when we signed to EMI, they demanded more commercial sounding. They didn’t. When we gave them Host they were like: “Oh, we expected something heavier.” (Laugh) They were surprised. Another problem back then was us cutting out hair. Well, everybody around was cutting their hair. Mine was gone already. (Laugh)
Metallica went through the cutting hair phase around the same time, right?
Yeah, similar sort of vibe. I guess with moving to EMI, cutting our hair and going electronic; My guess is it was too much even for those, who might be ok with one of the three changes. I spent next ten years doing interviews and the first question was: “Why did you cut your hair?” As I answered that question hundreds of times, I made a tagline on my MySpace profile: “It’s called headbanging. Not hairbanging.” (Laugh) In fact, when you have a shaved head, you need to headbang more. If you have a long hair and you do that, it looks like you are going crazy. But I don’t mind. It’s a nice workout. (Laugh) When we did that album with Steve, we were kind of tired of giving all of our money to studio. So we decided to buy the gear and record it ourselves. We actually rented a manor house that belonged to Jane Seymour (Note: Dr. Quinn). We lived there for a month. We set up mixing desk in the library and drums in the massive entrance hall. It was pretty good experience. It was quite different from any other album recordings in that respect. When we were doing Host, Greg was not as interested in playing a guitar. He was more into the keyboards. The good thing he did was, when I said: “If I can get my guitar sound similar to the keyboard sound, can I record it on a guitar?” he was ok with that and I did all my stuff on a guitar. It made it more interesting for me, because it was the only one I had a chance to try so many effects. Plus Steve was a lovely fellow as well. It was great to work with him and I wouldn’t mind seeing him again and catch up.
When you were talking about giant mansion, I remember Nick telling about the early days, where you were stuck in some place for weeks writing and recording and the only think you could do was playing Ouija board. It took me at least two hours back then to look it up while I was rewriting the audio interview. Plus I cannot even imagine how it words. Are you led by some magical formula and step by step you spell out loud: “Kill Greg!” (Laugh)
(Laugh) The studio was in manor house owned by the royal family. The guy who was sort of renting it, living there and using as a studio was Robert John Godfrey. He had a band called The Enid, which was quite big in its days. We went to live with him. That was also the first time we met Simon Efemey. There was not a television in the house. We didn’t get a cassette player until like the second week or so. We were bored and playing tricks on each other. It was actually a lot of fun, because we ended up making our own entertainment. We were doing a lot of stupid tricks and jokes on each other. Ouija board works quite easily. I remember I came down for breakfast one morning around eight o’clock and Stephen and Greg were still playing it. There were playing it the whole night, trying to speak to the spirits. (Laugh) Shades of God was a first album we did with a proper budget, first one with a proper producer Simon Efemey. He was amazing. He is proper fellow and often working with bands as Napalm Death. It was bizarre, because he would have couple of beers on the mixing desk and headbanging while you were recording. It kind of vibes you up and puts in a great mood. I generally love it when we go to the studio and we are stuck there for a month. We have done most of our albums like that. Then you concentrate just on the music and watch comedy on the evenings. The thing with Paradise Lost is we were friends first and we still enjoy talking to each other. I know Greg since we were eleven years old. He was in the next classroom. Our original drummer “Toots” was sitting behind me. I met Nick through a guy in my class when I was thirteen. We were all into BMX back then. I met Stephen through our mutual love for metal in a pub. We were friends first and it helps to stay together. Because you know when somebody needs a space and you leave them alone and you know when somebody needs a support, good laugh or a lot of beer. (Laugh) We are there for each other, which is why thirty years later we are still talking and having a laugh. It’s still fun.
I appreciate you invested forty minutes of your time. It was supposed to be fifteen minutes. Thank you very much.
Thank you as well. It was a great chat.