We are actually not miserable people, we just like miserable music.
Paradise Lost - Gregor Mackintosh
Thank you for taking the time to talk to us! How are things in your world?
Very busy. I haven’t been at home much. I am home today but I haven’t spend a lot of time at home this year. But that’s a good thing, it means that people want to hear you. So it’s good to be busy.
I bet. But that also means you have less time for relaxation and stuff. But we get more good stuff.
Well yeah, not a lot of time to relax. But we’ll get a tour bus in September, that will be good. Then you can get some sleep whenever you want. It’s the flying gigs that are the killers. Where you have to get up at 4 every morning to grab a flight to a gig.
What is your favourite kind of tour?
My favourite kind of tour is with a tour bus, in the autumn. A nice club tour in the autumn. Then it’s not too hot and it’s not too cold and you can sleep and eat whenever you want.
And the smaller venues as well then?
Yeah, I do prefer clubs to festivals personally. I know some people in the band may think the opposite but for me personally I like to be able to play the set the way I want to play it. If you know what I mean.
I get that. Also the connection to the audience is a lot closer i think in the smaller venues.
Yeah, there’s that. And you get to… You know, some festivals you play, I was in Athens a couple weeks ago and it was like 45 degrees and the sun was straight on stage and that is not a good place to try to put on a show. Especially a doom metal show.
You’ve finished your 15th studio album “Medusa”, what can you tell something about the album?
Well I would say it’s very much a doom metal record really. It’s very slow, very heavy, it’s very organic sounding. It’s only 8 tracks long, but there are some quite long songs on them. The first track “Fearless Sky” is 8,5 minutes long.
Absolutely, it is a long one. I was listening to it in the beginning and i thought i was at the second song already but it was still the same one.
Yeah, the record label thought it was a little strange that we’d made an 8,5 minute songs for the first track but when we played it to them they kinda understood.
It’s a special track, isn’t it? It has real slow build up and it sets the tone for the record.
Yeah, I think so. I am very proud of it because usually when we do a track over 5 or 6 minutes I start to get bored. But i am really proud at this one because it feels like it is half that length to me. It flows really well, the dynamics are good. It’s like the whole of Paradise Lost’s musical career in one track almost.
I have to be honest, I kind of lost track of you guys after “Draconian Times” . I was a huge fan if the Icon album and “Shades of God” before that, and somehow the new stuff didn’t do it for me.
I can understand that. We knew what we were doing and we had to satisfy ourselves. If you want to do this as a career you have to have to be happy in your own skin first.
Absolutely, I get that. What did the new style bring for you personally, what you didn’t find back then in the old style?
Do you mean the electronic period or the…
Yeah, everything from “Draconian Times” onwards.
I can tell you exactly what happened. I almost even remember to the day what happened. Because we wrote the Icon album and then straight away we got asked to do a lot of tours. Sepultura asked us to do Chaos tour, we got asked to go to America to do an American tour, we got asked to this and asked to do that. So we were just touring all the time, we were away from home for a long long time. While we were on tour we had to write the “Draconian Times” album and we got back from tour and we went straight into the studio to record the album and we went straight on tour again. So I think for four years with only a few days break here and there we were away from home. I think that’s a little bit crazy, we were just tired. We played every single day for four years and I just got tired of that style and we wanted to try something else to keep ourselves interested, you know. If you’re doing the same thing day in and they out it becomes like a factory.
It is interesting that as I aged I learned to appreciate the later albums as well. But back in the day it was a strange switch for me.
Well, you’re not the only one. A lot of people thought the same way. I totally get it, if I was a fan I would probably react the same way. It is just that after time passes you start to understand people’s reasons for doing things, you know. But it does take time for that to happen.
For me the wake up call came with the previous album “The plague within”. The single “No hope inside” sounds like icon-ish track.
Well, kinda. It’s a fairly heavy track but it is quit immediat. I has that catchy hook to it. I can understand what you mean by that, totally.
It really drew me back in. And I have to say that the new album “Medusa” is a continuation of that new sound, and I absolutely love it.
Great. i think it is not as instant as the previous record but that was intentional. We kinda want to do a record more in the like of “Shapes of God”. Where it is more riff oriented and less instant, something that grew on you more. So it is a little bit less commercial and more, i guess diverse in a way, this record as opposed to the last one. The production is more raw sounding as well.
I love that about this album. I was surprised that you kinda returned to your roots with the new album. I saw you in Tolmin in Slovenia in 2010 and I heard Nick start the song “As I die” and he said I am so sick of this song I am not gonna sing it.
Oh, really? Wow, I don’t remember that. When I see him I will remind him of this.
And I was like, what? And you just played the song and he didn’t sing it.
Jesus, I don’t remember. I am definitely gonna talk to him about that.
Why did you return to the old style, what triggered that?
I guess maybe because I started a side project called VallenFyre in 2010. That’s much heavier than Paradise Lost, it’s a different kind of thing. And I think it just reinvigorated my love of the old scene, if you know what I mean. Because VallenFyre is just a under the ground band. And I was starting to interact with all the people in that scene again that I haven’t been part of for a long time. It gave me back the excitement for that scene and I guess I just started to listen to a lot of new bands and also listen to my original influences as well. And eventually that found its way back to Paradise Lost too.
I can see that. If you start listening to the old stuff it starts creeping in again. The older stuff, I always shared a lot of it and always got good reactions from the people that I shared it with.
That’s good to know.
The first single was “The Longest Winter”, why did you chose that track?
We didn’t, the record label did. Because we have no idea about what people are going to like, we’re terrible at judging what’s going to be, commercially successful. I have no idea. So we just made an album where we were proud of every song and we said to the label, you just do whatever you want and choose whatever song you want. So maybe they chose that one because it’s one of the less heavy song, I don’t know.
That is exactly what I thought, the most commercial of the bunch.
Yeah, so I can understand the label choosing that song. But personally I would have chosen something like the track “Medusa” probably. But I understand that might alienate some people, I don’t know.
I also really love the last track “Until the Grave”.
Yeah yeah yeah. You’re actually the first person to mention that song. Most people mention “Fearless Sky” or “ Gods of Ancient” or “Medusa” but I think”Until the Grave” has a lot of good parts in it.
For whatever reason, when you’re listening to the album the last song just keeps ringing in your head, and that’s a good thing.
Yeah, that’s great. Some people said to us why just 8 the songs? And we say when we grew up a lot of great albums only had 8 songs on them. 4 tracks on the A side, 4 tracks on the B side, and no one complained. The journalist said to us, yeah but when I finished I wanted to hear some more and we said, but that’s a great thing, right. It’s better than wanting to hear less.
Why did you chose Medusa as a subject matter this time?
Well it wasn’t really the subject matter, it was the title. Although it does tie to some of the tracks on the album. When I write the songs I just come up with a one word title, like a working title, and that’s whatever pops into my head. And Medusa came into my head for some unknown reason so I called the song Medusa. And then Nick said to me that’s a great album title. And I said yeah it’s not a typical Paradise Lost album title but it would work with some of the song titles we have and some of the lyrics. So it just worked. And then we had to come up with a backstory to make it more mysterious I guess. But it ties in well with stuff like “Gods of Ancient”, about the old pagan religions and how modern religions laugh at these ancient religions even though the ancient religions had way more substance to them. They were worshipping things that were actually there, the sun and the trees, things that give them life. And modern religions is just this smoke, money making power trip that’s based on a very flimsy Idea. So you know, Medusa kinda fit in with all that kind of ideas.
I can see what you’re saying there. I also love the depiction of Medusa on the cover. It is not a typical Medusa you used as a picture.
Oh no. Because when you hear the name Medusa the image in your head is the literal picture of Medusa from some kind of stone carving. And we wanted to avoid the literal interpretation and wanted something that was more symbolic or more of a metaphor. So we talked to the design studio and going backwards and forwards and we came up with this idea with like the crown of snakes, you know the circle of snakes. And the huntress woman at the front. I really like the cover, we wanted something more colorful and something classic Paradise Lost but also something that looked a little bit retro. And something that would stand out on a poster or something like that. One of the examples we gave was the “Born Again” album by Black Sabbath. It’s not a great cover but it is very eye catching and it’s something that has become very iconic over time.
Now that you say it I can indeed see how it influenced this cover. The circle has something that looks like something you used earlier on.
Yeah, it has to do with the crown of thorns logo that we still incorporate every now and then. We tried to make it look like something that you instantly associate with Paradise Lost but also something that is from another time. Hopefully it will also make a good t-shirts, which is always good as well.
What would you say are the core paradise Lost sounds that are here and that have always been there?
Sounds or songs?
Sounds. What makes you you?
Good question, uhm. It is probably partly the songwriting, partly a mixed way of using ambiguous lyrics and song titles within that. Possible to some degree my guitar style. Uhm… But as one thing i don’t know, it’s just about the sound. We can’t play any other way. This is just the way we sound. We have this kind of melocolic, bittersweet melodies in our songs and that has always been there. Even in the electronic period, you could still tell it was the same band.
I have heard people describe your music as depressing. When you hear that, how would you react to that?
I think that’s the highest for of flattery. If i hear depressing music it makes me really happy so that’s a good compliment for me.
Let’s put it this way. I have shared it with a nice blond girl from Sweden and in 2 years time she was a dark gothic *laughs*. “Draconian Times”, your 1995 album, your international breakthrough. How do you look back at that specific time in the band’s existence?
Well it was exciting and exhausting at the same time. It was really great and we were like “wow”. We’re getting asked to do all this stuff, being on MTV all the time and lots of different things happening. But there was no internet then so you couldn’t call home all the time. Every country had his own currency so you had to go and change money all the time and find somewhere to change money. You had to to find a phone card, had to find a phone box, hope that the phone card worked in the phone box, and then make a phone call and hope that the other person was actually home. So you felt very detached from home. And when you’re away for a long time, months and months, it can take a toll on your wellbeing. We started to lose a bit, well not our sanity but we had a hard time relating to normal life again. It kinda threw us of course a little bit. I can understand how people that get real massive success can go crazy. You know because it’s a strange double edged sword i think.
You get stuck in a very different reality that is very different from normal life.
Yeah, and you get things that you didn’t ask for as well. Because we were just a bunch of friends playing songs on a Saturday to have something to do and then all of a sudden we are playing stadiums for lots of people and flights all over the world. Having to do video interviews and videos that we weren’t quite cut out for. I am still uncomfortable giving an autograph. It doesn’t feel real to me, why does someone wants to have my name on a piece of paper? I was never like that, I never wanted anyones autograph and even today after nearly 30 years i find it very strange.
Back in 1995 it was a really different world if you look at the music industry. You’ve mentioned MTV, the high times of the video clips, stuff like that. How do you compare that time to this time when it comes to having to promote your music and yourself. And how the industry has changed over the years.
I have an interesting insight about this actually because i did a gig 2 weeks ago with my other band VallenFyre a festival with Memoriam. Do you know them? The drummer is Bolt Thrower’s original drummer. And I haven’t seen him for 25 year and the last time I saw him he was drumming in Bolt Thrower. And I asked him what do you think it is different, the music scene? And I think that is fairly self evident. People remember the early metal scene and they remember it as being a big scene. And it wasn’t. It was only a handful, 5 bands in the UK, 5 bands in Sweden, a few bands in Holland and Belgium, a few bands in Germany, a couple of bands in the states. And we all knew each other, we used to trade tapes, it’s so big now, so many bands. In one way it is good to not have these record labels in play, you have bandcamp and that’s a great tool. But in another way you have to swift to a lot of shit to find something good.
You should see my inbox [laughing]. That’s true, there are a lot more bands than there were in the old days. It is harder now to rise above the middlefield.
Yeah, you have to be of a certain quality and there are a lot of bands that are rising above it. I think the trail blazing is coming from bandcamp and the more underground band places and the mainstream band metals are a bit stagnating it’s all sounds a bit the same. And i think a lot of the interesting stuff is coming from the underground.
I absolutely agree with you there. I said it before, i really love to hear you rediscover the more heavy sounds, i do hope you stay on this track for a bit.
Well, only time can tell, even i can’t decide on that one.
You had a long run already. You were founded in 1988. That means your 30th anniversary is coming up, do you have anything special planned?
Well, with the band we’re probably gonna go to a bar somewhere and get pissed. And that’s it. Maybe go for a curry or something. But if the record label or marketing department get involved it will be something that tortures us. Something like 3 hour long show. But that’s not us celebrating, that’s other people celebrating. And i am sure that something like that will happen. But don’t quote me on that.
When I was doing my preparations for the interview I ran into an EP with the title 3 tracks for free. Can you tell me about that?
I have never even heard of of it.
It had the single on it and 2 other tracks and it was called 3 tracks for free
Was it on a magazine recently?
I don’t know.
I think it’s from the front of a magazine and i think it’s the single Longest Winter. It’s a track from the newly mixed version of Believe in Nothing album that we did. And I am not sure what the 3rd track is.
It’s The Longest Winter, Sell It To The World, and Symbolic virtue.
Symbolic Virtue is an extra track that we recorder for the medusa album but it ended up as an extra track. So it’s as good as anything on Medusa I think. And Sell It To The World is the Believe In Nothing album and we recently got the rights back from that album and we always hated it at the time. Because EMI mixed it and made it sound like shit. So we got the tapes back and we got the producer that just produced Medusa to remix the whole thing, and that’s a track from that.
Can we expect more remixed tracks in the future?
We are only remixing the album because EMI did such a apoling job in 2001. Some of the songs on that record are pretty great. But it’s like listening to it through a pillow, it’s just so blend and lackluster and we had it remixed a couple months ago and the whole remixed album hasn’t come out yet. But i have heard it a few days ago and it sounds like it should have sounded, like a pretty descent metal album.
I am really looking forward to that.
I don’t know when that’s out though, I have no idea. I am very uninformed.
On your own website you have a quote from Aristotle. It’s “During our darkest moments we must focus to see the light”. Why did you open with that specific quote, what does it mean to you?
Because a lot of times our music is seen as completely miserable and dark with no chunk of light at all. And we agree with that a little bit because we think Paradise Lost music, there is a glimmer of light in there. We’re just saying that there is a complete apathy and lack of hope in the world. But it is all we have and we should make the most of it. So you know, we are actually not miserable people, it’s a common misconception, we just like miserable music.
There is a big difference.
You are right, there’s a big big difference.
Do you get a lot of inspiration from the old ones like Aristotle and poetry and stuff like that?
It can be inspirational. I am not sure it influences us too much. Certain poets are great and some of the old philosophers are great, there’s lots of stuff that we like. But i think it’s more in a philosophical inspirational way, you know. It doesn’t directly influences the content that we write, especially on the new album Medusa, it’s more current affairs really. There’s a lot of stuff on there. The longest winter is about nature taking back the land that was destroyed by Chernobyl.
Could you say that you are mainly interested in things that make you look at the world differently?
Everyone is trying to make sense of their own life, their own existence and we are no difference. We have a way of letting off steam, we have a way of venting our frustrations. Talking about things that we find confusing or frustrating. We have that outlet so we don’t have to stand on the street corner and scream about it. We can put it on a record.
The new album, are there going to be some nice digi-packs?
Yeah, something that we found out about Nuclear Blast, because this is our first album with them. They love many different versions of things but they also have some really good ideas. For instance on of the limited editions of Medusa will have a snake skin cover. That’s an interesting touch.
It’s a great record and they are really working with their artists i think.
Yeah, I was a little curious when we signed with them because we didn’t know anybody at the label really. I didn’t really know much about the people that worked there. But working with them over the last few months, they are really collaborative, they have lots of ideas and they’re open to discussion. It’s not like they have an idea and you have to use it. They have lots of ideas and it helps you plan what you are going to do with your material.
Where can we see you on tour this year and can we hear some of the new stuff live?
Let me think, is this specifically for Belgium?
No, I am from the Netherland myself but we have a very international audience. Alls over the place, also in the US and everywhere really.
Well, okay. We have to finish off the summer festivals first, a few to go still. September first we get to do a release show where we place Medusa in it’s entirety in Stuttgart, Germany. It’s in a venue where we have been playing since 1991 and we also recorder our first real life video there, which was around the time of Icon. And the end of September we start a European tour for 2 months. Wego to Australia in December and i don’t know anything beyond that because that’s enough to think about right now.
It’s a shame I live too far from the release show or else I would’ve come for sure.
We had to choose a venue. We were offered from Nuclear Blast to pick a venue that we wanted to do the show at. And it’s hard when you’ve played so many venues but Stuttgart Longholm was just one that stuck in our heads because we played it so many times, we did our first live video there. It’s just a place that stuck in our head.
A special place in your hearts.
I guess, well it’s not the best venue but it’s just something that we remember well.
That leaves me with one last question. Do you have any last words for our readers?
Just that september first is the date that Medus comes out and we hope that you like it. Because it’s, like you said, The Longest Winter the first track is probably the lightest track on the album and it gets a lot heavier from there on. So I just hope everybody likes it.
Well, I did! Absolutely. Thank you very much for your time.
It was my pleasure, my last interview of the day. I’m going for a meal with the wife and children now.
Very nice, enjoy!
Transcription by Melissa Heesakkers