THE LOST INTERVIEW
Back around November 2017 Paradise Lost were triumphantly parading their brand of Gothic Doom / Doom Death Metal one venue after another in celebration of the band’s “Medusa” album. And as the band touched down in the English capital, I had sat with longstanding guitarist Greg Mackintosh for a tete-a-tete.
Due to conspiring forces of evil and other less mystical factors over which the interviewer had no control, the interview could not see the light of day until now. This is ironic as the ambience seems to have become gloomier…..
How has the Medusa tour been going until now?
Greg: Now is probably a good time to catch us on this tour because it’s about 5½ weeks into it so it’s not too long into the tour and not too little either. All the dates have been very positive. The venues have been packed. So I can’t complain really. There have been a few illnesses on the tour bus, which happens every time, and everyone keeps spreading it.
The most susceptible to illnesses tend to be the band’s singer…..
Greg: In fact Nick [Holmes – Paradise Lost vocalist] has that. This morning he was worried that he might have to have some steroid injection in the neck…but he seems to be not too bad now.
Early in the tour I believe you played in the United Arab Emirates. I’m curious…how did that gig go?
Greg: Yeah, it was a weird one. Anathema had played there before so we asked them how it was and they said it was fine. It was a bit strange at the airport because we were singled out. Personally I had all my stuff taken apart and I’ve never had that in 20 years. But apart from that… the promoters, the people, the venue, the crowd…it was all great really. That was an interesting one, for sure.
Let’s talk about the recently released “Medusa” album, for which the ‘back to the roots’ epithet strikes me as appropriate. How much of the album was intuitive and how much of it was organic?
Greg: It materialised from the last song we had written for the previous album [“The Plague Within” of 2015], which is a song called ‘Beneath Broken Earth’. That song was a last-minute thing for that album. I had said: “I really want to do a Doom Metal song for the album.” So we wrote it and it turned out to be one of our favourite songs to play live. We had even done a video for it.
The whole “Medusa” album kind of came off the back of that song. We thought “Why don’t we do a full album in the vein of ‘Beneath Broken Earth’?” So it was all pretty intuitive. We just really wanted to go with it and it snowballed on, track after track. Even with the artwork, we followed the whole thing through in a similar vein.
I’d like to talk about some specific songs from “Medusa”…songs that struck me for some reason or another. ‘Until The Grave’ is perhaps one of the album’s most sonically abrasive songs. What feelings were you trying to evocate with that song?
Greg: Well, with a lot of the album we were trying to get across a wintery feeling…an autumnal and wintery feeling. So there’s a lot of Doom Metal on there. You say it was one of the most abrasive songs…actually I think it’s one of the most catchy ones. When you hit the chorus it’s quite a catchy chorus really. Some of the others…such as the opening song ‘Fearless Sky’ and the title-track ‘Medusa’…I think they’re very very Doomy, downbeat and miserable songs. ‘Until The Grave’ has a few lighter elements wrought into it to some degree. You know, you could see the album as one bereft of all hope, very very miserable, very nihilistic but I think that at some point there’s a little bit of hope in there. And it’s got to be like that. Otherwise, the musical darkness wouldn’t sound so dark.
I see what you’re saying…you need to compare negativity with something positive for it to feel negative. There is no dark without light.
Greg: Yes. I know it sounds odd but I think it’s definitely something you have to have. It’s the same with the dynamics of songs…for something to be heavy, you have to contrast it with something else. Otherwise it would feel all the same.
You’re mentioning heavy songs….one of them is probably ‘No Passage For The Dead’ which has that huge riff that dominates the composition. Did you have any trouble finding the appropriate guitar tone for that one?
Greg: The guitar tones of the album was something we had discussed within the band. Before we went into the studio, I was toying about with different pedals and things. I wanted to use two different guitar sounds and blend them together. And that’s exactly what we did. Basically we got a very old-school Doom guitar sound, which is an old Boss Superfuzz [guitar pedal] into a Sunn amp. The other was just a 5150 with a tubescreen in front. So we mixed those two sounds together to get this kind of fuzzy, messy guitar sound but that has some definition to it because sometimes with the real fuzzed out Doom sound you can’t tell what’s going on and we wanted to have the best of both worlds. It took a bit of messing about but I had spent more time actually searching for the guitar sound than recording it. It took me 2 ½ days to record all my guitar parts for the album and, before that, slightly longer to find the sound I wanted.
My next question might already have been unwittingly answered when you were discussing the matter of contrasts but I’ll ask the question anyway. Songs such as ‘Blood and Chaos’ could musically fit into a wide range of Paradise Lost albums. Don’t you think this weakens the identity of “Medusa”?
Greg: Contrasts…that’s exactly what it is. At first I had really wanted to do a full-on downbeat record with no light and then when we recorded it and were discussing the track listing and the track order, it just made sense to put in something like ‘Blood and Chaos’ in there because it gave you contrast that you needed to balance the album out.
I’ve noticed that Paradise Lost has quite a few songs about language and communication. I’m here thinking about songs such as ‘Weeping Words’, ‘Beneath Black Sky’, ‘Just Say Words’ and others. Do you think communication breakdown in mankind accounts for most of the world’s ills?
Greg: I think communication is key to a lot of things. From single relationships to the international relationships of countries. Many different factors fuel conflict…money, religion, power struggles….but ultimately the crux of all those elements is communication. If you don’t communicate, you’re never going to get anywhere.
Let’s speak about the band’s line-up. Finnish drummer Waltteri Väyrynen (Abhorrence, Tyr, The Wargasm) joined both Paradise Lost and your other band Vallenfyre after Adrian Erlandsson had left both bands. How did you get to know Waltteri?
Greg: It was through an online audition I had done for Vallenfyre. Initially Adrian had to bow out of doing live shows with Vallenfyre and was still with Paradise Lost since back then he was starting to get too busy with At The Gates. So, as I was saying, we did this audition through Facebook – potential candidates had to learn 2 Vallenfyre songs and film themselves playing the drums to those songs. And it’s amazing how many drummers didn’t even manage to do that properly. For example some guys would record the wrong songs or send their own songs. That’s not what they were asked so that immediately got rid of about 80% of candidates.
Waltteri was one of those who did some specific things and I really liked his drumming style. I liked his attitude too, which was something I got familiar with via our correspondence. Then when we got him to England to rehearse with Vallenfyre, we knew straight away that he was just the right guy. Humour is very important as well and the Finnish sense of humour is very similar to the northern English sense of humour, which is a very self-deprecating, dry and caustic humour.
Then, when the same thing happened to Adrian with Paradise Lost I immediately suggested Waltteri. And my mates in Paradise Lost knew that I wouldn’t have put him in Vallenfyre if he wasn’t able to get along with people. So it has all worked out very well. He gets along great with the guys…for a successful band relationship, I’d say 50% of it is the ability as a player and 50% of it is getting along with people.
Considering the fact that Waltteri lives in Finland, how does the band manage to sound like a solid, compact unit?
Greg: To be honest a lot of it is done online these days. Even when Adrian was still with the band, he was living in London and I was living in the north of England and all the songwriting for the previous record was done online, such as through e-mails or specific software. So we just continued with that same system with Waltteri. I mean even if he lived just 15 miles away, I’d probably still do it the same way.
[In the early 1990s Paradise Lost emerged as pioneers of the Doom Death genre but after a handful of albums, the band’s music embraced the electronic sonorities of Gothic Rock. Along this path, Paradise Lost recorded several other albums.]
Without the hugely successful “One Second” album of 1997, do you think Paradise Lost would have done albums such as “Faith Divides Us” (2009) or “Believe In Nothing” (2001)?
Greg: I think every album led very honestly onto the next one. So without any one of them it probably wouldn’t have been exactly the same. There’s also the “Host” album which you didn’t mention. You know, people thought it was an organised change [of sound]…nothing really was an organised change. The biggest change in our music came between “Draconian Times” and “One Second” and that was purely because we had worked so hard doing “Draconian Times” and “Icon” back-to-back that we didn’t have any time off for 4 years and we simply got absolutely bored of playing that kind of stuff. It was like working in a factory, doing the same stuff over and over again without pause. We just wanted something different – and that was the whole reason behind the music change.
Is that the same reason why you recorded the album that is “Medusa”…that you got bored of playing electronic-sounding Gothic Rock?
Greg: Kind of. I mean we couldn’t be passionate if we kept doing the same kind of stuff now, doing the same music we’ve been doing for these last 15 years. Now we’ve got passion for this kind of thing again.
Greg Mackintosh, do you think you’re a nihilistic person?
Greg: Unfortunately, in a way, yeah. I don’t tend to like people so much [laughs]. I think we live in a population of dicks. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to destroy anybody, but I just tend to keep myself to myself.
If that attitude means you keep creating music then we’re all happy!
Greg: That’s the right way to get the angst out. If more terrorists made songs instead of hurting people, the world would be a better place.
[The interview over, we shook hands and Greg expressed interest in The Power Of Metal Webzine…]
Greg: So the webzine is Danish?
Well it started out in Denmark but it’s in English and its writers are spread around the world.
Greg: I see…because we played in Denmark before we came to London.
In fact our editor, Thomas Nielsen, was there to see you play in Aarhus (Denmark) and he even reviewed that gig.
Greg: I must remember to check that out. I hope he gave us a good review.
I honestly don’t remember but he probably did because he’s a big Paradise Lost fan.
Greg: Ah, that’s all right then.
“Medusa” is available through Nuclear Blast or leading retailers. Do check it out!
Interview and live photography: Chris Galea (© 2018)
Paradise Lost online:
The Plague Within (2015)
Tragic Idol (2012)
Faith Divides Us - Death Unites Us (2009)
In Requiem (2007)
Paradise Lost (2005)
Symbol of Life (2002)
Believe in Nothing (2001)
One Second (1997)
Draconian Times (1995)
Shades of God (1992)
Lost Paradise (1990)
Gregor Mackintosh-guitars, keyboards