By Andrew Bansal
Having experimented with plenty of different musical styles throughout their 12-album career thus far, British goth/epic doom metal masters Paradise Lost have once again given us something that’s slightly different from their previous work, and one that pays tribute to classic doom metal more than anything else. Their 13th studio album “Tragic Idol” is exactly what I’m talking about. After the album released on April 23rd via Century Media Records, the band has done quite a few shows across the UK and Europe, and are currently on a North American tour with Devin Townsend, Katatonia and Stolen Babies. Just a few days before the band departed for North American shores, I managed to have a telephonic conversation with guitarist Greg Mackintosh, to talk about various things including the new album, this tour, his side project, etc. Read the conversation below, watch the powerfully intense music video of the song “Honesty In Death” using the YouTube player, and visit the band’s facebook page for info on tour dates.
Oh yeah. I think the last one was with Nightwish in 2007, so it’s been five years now. That’s quite a while, but I think this one’s going to be quite good because it’s a cohesive bill but with enough diversity in there as well. I think all the bands are different enough, but still have enough things in common to be able to come across well to the same audience.
I agree. So, because it’s been more than five years since you last toured there, what are you doing with the set list? I know you have to promote the new album, but would you also throw in some older stuff for people who’ve been waiting to see you guys?
Yeah, because straight after we finish the US tour we have a few days off and then we do a European headline tour, which is a 90-minute set every night. I think in the US we’ll probably have 45-50 minutes every night, so we’re going to have to rotate the set every single night to kind of keep up to speed with all the stuff that we have to play when we get back to Europe anyway. So we’re going to be playing lots of different tracks from night to night, I think. It’s going to be quite diverse.
That sounds great. As you said, it’s an interesting lineup. Do you think you’ll do anything in your set list to kind of suit the Devin Townsend and Katatonia fans, or will you just do your thing?
No, I think we’re just going to do our own thing and see how it goes, really. That’s what we can do, I guess. We’re not trying to alter our style to appeal to a certain section of the public. We just kind of do our own thing and play out there, and hope for the best. We have our own style of playing, and we don’t want to change that.
After the album came out, you toured the UK and Europe. How’s the response to the new songs been so far among the fans?
It was cool! When we did the first leg of the European tour, it was kind of straight after the album came out. So during the first part of the tour, people weren’t familiar with the newer songs. But we had to cut that tour short to do summer festivals, because you can’t really tour while there are summer festivals going on in Europe. So we played a lot of festivals around Europe over the summer. We also played in Australia, and we did the touring Soundwave festival over there. The stuff’s going down great. A couple of the slower songs that we thought wouldn’t be good for the festivals are actually kind of going down as the best! They are becoming anthem-type songs. It’s always really good when you hear people singing along to the chorus of the new songs.
Coming to the album, I personally think it’s more influenced by old school doom metal, as compared to your other albums and that’s what makes it a little different. Would you agree with that?
I agree with that, and that’s definitely the case. Whether we’ll go on with the same thing for future albums, I’m not so sure. I think albums are snapshots of just whatever you’re into at the time. We’ve been going for a long time now, and every time I come to write a new record, I forget all about the past. I just think of it as a new band doing what’s here right now. That’s the most honest and best way of getting new elements into your music every time, you know.
In terms of your gear or setup, did you change anything this time?
It was pretty much a new setup. We started using these pickups by a company called Bare Knuckle pickups out in the UK. They’re like hand-wound pickups which is becoming quite popular in metal at the moment. We also switched to Blackstar Amplification, which again is kind of picking up a little bit from the guys in the US. They gave us some really fantastic amps. So yeah, we changed the sound a little bit, and I’m pleased with the results. I think the guitar sounds really earthy and organic, and that’s the kind of thing we were going for.
I think in doom metal and slow music in general, the tone is very important. You’ve certainly achieved a tone that has stayed constantly solid throughout all Paradise Lost albums. In the early years, did you have to work hard on that or did it just come to you?
I think it was something that came over the first couple of records, you know. We were kind of messing around with the sound. It’s like any band. When you do your first record, you are trying to find your own path. I think over the first two records we were finding our way, and the same could be said about the tone as well. We messed around with how we played, what style we played, and the sound of what we played. Once we got into the third record we were a lot more comfortable with it. We’ve stuck with it, not all of it, but we’ve definitely with my lead guitar sounds I have a certain style of playing that I’m comfortable with, and I don’t particularly want to change.
Yeah, but probably not in the sense most people would think of. When I did the Vallenfyre album, it was never planned. I had something in my head for a long time, but I would have never really pursued it. I did the Vallenfyre album, and straight after that I had to write the new Paradise Lost record. And having done the Vallenfyre album, it gave me a very clear view of what should and shouldn’t be in the new Paradise Lost music. Some of the little aspects that were on the Vallenfyre record could have leaked in to the Paradise Lost record, and I don’t think it would have necessarily been a good thing. So yeah, it helped me draw a line in the sand as to which of my influences should go into Paradise Lost and which of them should go into Vallenfyre. So it helps me kind of compartmentalize and help me focus on the true sound of Paradise Lost.
I think you said about Vallenfyre that it’s not really a one-off thing and it’s a band you will be going forward with. Will you keep the same kind of writing process going as you just described?
Yeah, but with Vallenfyre nothing is set in stone. We’re doing it kind of old school where we don’t really plan anything, and we’ll just see what happens. So with that I’m just going to go with the flow. With Paradise Lost I have a very clear focus. I think about it as two different things. I think of Vallenfyre as my chaotic, youthful side, and Paradise Lost is the more mature, refined side of me. So it’s kind of easy to keep them in two separate parts of my brain.
“Tragic Idol” came out almost five months ago. After that have you had a chance to write any more new material, or have you switched off completely because of touring?
Well, for Paradise Lost there hasn’t been anything written because I’ve been touring constantly since Tragic Idol was released, and will be touring for the rest of the year. But with Vallenfyre, about a few weeks ago I started to come up with an idea for different things, like a 10-inch or 12-inch EP may be early next year. I’ll just have to see how that goes because it’s kind of hard to write while you’re on the road.
After the US and Europe tours, what plans do you have?
After the US tour and the second leg of the European tour, we’ll take a month off in November to may be try and finish or get together all the ideas for this Vallenfyre EP. And then in December we’ll do the “Barge To Hell”, which is this huge metal cruise on a ship. We’ll then go to Mexico and South America from there, may be. But I can’t really think about all that right now, because it’s quite daunting when you think too far ahead about these things, you know.
During the tours that you’ve done for this album, or for any of the previous albums, have you visited any places where you were surprised and got a better response that you expected?
Oh yeah, over the years we’ve had that many times. I remember we were one of the first, if not the first metal band that went to Israel, in the very early 90s. We just thought that we would turn up and it’s just going to be some little club. But it was a decent sized show with lots of fans. A lot of things like that have happened over the years in different places. We went to Serbia, Bosnia and all these places. It’s kind of interesting to do all that! All the South American tours we’ve done have been great too. So it’s always interesting to see what these places are like.
I think even here in India, you have more fans than you probably know of. I think if you do a show here, there would be a lot of people turning up.
This is actually something we want to try and do next year. Well, we have no time this year, but early next year we’re talking about coming to India. Mikael from Opeth was telling us that he’d been there, I think. He said it was great and there are a lot more metal fans that you would think, and yeah we definitely want to make it there early next year if we can.