Chris Ward was pretty impressed with the new Paradise Lost album, entitled “Tragic Idol”. He caught up with guitarist/main composer Greg Mackintosh in Wolverhampton and they talked at length about the new PL album, Greg’s disdain for certain type of bands and the possible re-recording of the notorious “Host”..
Hi Greg. Nice to meet you. Could you tell me something about your thoughts behind the new album and your intent going in with regards to songwriting?
Well, I started doing it right after I’d just done a side-band called Vallenfyre, that came out and then literally the month later I started writing the new Paradise Lost album. And I think doing the Vallenfyre thing helped me focus more on what the sound of Paradise Lost should be, it actually helped in that way because maybe some of those influences might have slipped into Paradise Lost, and maybe not in as positive a way as they did do on its own. So that was one thing, and another thing was on the previous album “Faith Divides Us” [-Death Unites Us] it was very multi-layered with lots of orchestration on and things like that and I just didn’t really want to take that any further. I just thought we’ve done that now. We can’t take it any further without having a huge 24-piece orchestra or something so what’s the point really.
Well, what’s always been a good thing about Paradise Lost is that you’ve always done something and then the next album is like “We’ve done that, we’re gonna move on and do something else”.
Yeah. I kind of made a conscious decision to just strip it right back to the basic band and try to rediscover what the core sound of the band is, you know?
Back to the essence?
Yeah, yeah, that kind of thing. And also we did that with production as well. We produced it in the way we would have done, just kind of more as a backlash to modern metal. For me really, because I hate all that ultra-compressed, everything-sounds-the-same-as-everything-else stuff.
I read in a recent interview about your opinion on Pantera-type bands with shaved heads and tattoo’s all sounding a bit similar, especially on the recent Soundwave Festival you recently played in Australia.
Well, that’s great for them. They love all being a part of this all-boys club or whatever it is, and all their fans all like all the same group of bands and that, but I’ve just no interest in being part of that. It just all sounds the fucking same to me, you know? You could say ‘Oh, you just don’t understand it because you’re from a different generation’ or something but… I totally understand it, you know? I’m ultra-qualified to comment on this stuff because…
Surely you’re more qualified than most of us…
(Laughs)…because I grew up through most of those scenes and played alongside all the bands that inspired this stuff so… I just think there’s a real lack of identity going on in metal, especially mainstream metal.
That gets me back to a point in the review up on ThisIsNotAScene for your new album “Tragic Idol”. I don’t know if you’ve read it…
I’ve read a lot of reviews. We get them mostly sent through Century Media.
Well, the point in the review was that Paradise Lost have always been quite unique because you don’t sound like the bands that you’re influenced by but…
(Nods) Yeah, I did read that.
Cool. You don’t sound like the bands you’re influenced by but you can hear bits in it, like Celtic Frost and that sort of thing, but also the bands that followed after you that cite you as an influence, you don’t sound like or rather they don’t sound like you. So Paradise Lost are really unique like that.
I don’t know. I think that’s just… if you’re true to the music that you like I think every band would be like that, because you start off right at the beginning and you probably do sound like the people who you’re… you’re just trying to emulate your heroes, I guess. And then as you develop, if you’re given the chance to develop…
You get your own sound?
Yeah, yeah, yeah, and then other things slip in to the mix, and that’s generally what happens with most bands who stick to what they like, you know?
So back to the album. How did touring “Draconian Times” last year influence your songwriting, because there’s a parallel in the songwriting style?
Yeah, I think it did affect it to some degree because we were halfway through writing the album at that point, and then we had to go back and learn all that “Draconian Times” stuff. I didn’t really notice it over the years but the songwriting style has changed slightly and even my playing style has changed slightly, and it was kind of interesting to revisit that. It definitely helped me to try to discover this core sound of Paradise Lost that I was after again, you know?
Excellent. In a recent interview Nick Holmes (Paradise Lost singer) said that he would like to re-record “Host” but with guitars…
(Rolls eyes) Oh, right. (Laughs)
Oh… It’s not something that I’d be particularly that interested in doing. You do things for a reason at a certain time. Albums to me are snapshots [of] whatever you’re into at that time, and that’s what it’s supposed to be all about. I understand where Nick’s coming from because in his opinion, and to some degree my opinion, some of the songs on “Host” are some of the best songwriting we ever did but it just wasn’t a metal album. And if you did re-record it with guitars, which is probably his point, all the nay-sayers would probably say ‘Oh, it just sounds like a Paradise Lost album’. But I don’t really see the point myself in re-recording something and…
As an alternative you could take something like “Gothic”, strip the guitars out and do it as an electric album?
Well yeah, I’ve seen a couple of bands doing that kind of thing recently …
Godflesh did it many years back…
Yeah, but I mean Anathema just done something where they made something sound ‘sweet’ that wasn’t so sweet, and I think My Dying Bride just did something as well where they…
Oh yeah, they did orchestral versions of some of their stuff…
Something like that, yeah. I mean, that’s fair enough if people want to hear that stuff but for me things are of a time and supposed to be that way for a reason, because that’s what was around at that time.
You play “So Much Is Lost” in the set still…
(Greg shakes his head)
No? Have you dropped that?
For this tour. What we’ve done on this tour… we’re promoting “Tragic Idol” obviously, so there’s going to be four, maybe five songs dependant on the night, swapping them round off the new album, and then we chose one or two tracks from each record that we thought blended with that style best, so “So Much is Lost” kind of left and then a couple – like a song called “Soul Courageous” from “One Second” – came back in the set. So there’s different things that we changed around.
Will there be anything from “Believe In Nothing”, your (air quotes) ‘compromise album’?
Er, no. (Laughs) Exactly, that’s why there’s no compromise.
Ha!I watched the Over the Madness DVD for the umpteenth time the other day.
Oh, right. Well, I think there’s a couple of great tracks on that record but the way it was done and the whole vibe surrounding it at the time kind of…
To get out of a recording contract, was it?
They were trying to control us too much. They even came down and remixed the album three times. They tried to tell us how to do it and everything else. But then there’s a song like “World Pretending” on there which is up there in my top ten Paradise Lost tracks of all time, but it just didn’t make it because of the whole compromise situation.
So how’s the tour been going so far then? I think we’re on day ten right now, aren’t we?
Yeah, it’s good. It’s interesting now that the album’s out. It only came out a couple of days ago so the initial gigs were all playing to…we were playing these new songs that most people hadn’t heard yet so there was lot of what we call nodding dogs (nods head). Like ‘We’re just taking it in, you know? Do I like this? Do I not like this?’ But it’s pretty good. It’s a strange tour for us because we’ve never really done this many shows in England before but we spoke to our agent on one of the shows and he explained it to us. He said he did the same thing with Lacuna Coil six months ago, and he said that what it is because of the recession and the music business being how it is, it’s playing all the places where maybe it isn’t just major cities, where people aren’t able to travel anymore. So they’ll go ‘Oh right, I will go down to this one because it’s nearer to where I am’ and then if you go back in about six months’ time and do a major cities circuit then those people who wouldn’t have normally travelled to see you, if they liked you, will come and see you. I understood the logic after that. Before it was like ‘Why are we doing two weeks in England and we’re only doing one week in Germany, which is four times the size?’
You’ve got quite a few festival shows coming up over the summer. You’re doing Bloodstock, I believe. I think you’re sandwiched in between Anvil and Dimmu Borgir.
Yeah, sounds like a good place to be sandwiched.
You should be headlining…
Well, I don’t know. I don’t think we’ve done Bloodstock Open Air since the second ever one or something like that. We’ve played the indoor one a couple of times since then. I don’t know, it’s something interesting to do. I like the whole ethos of Bloodstock, the family-run thing. I just hope they don’t become too big for themselves and have it turn into a situation that a lot of these festivals do where they actually become bigger than the bands they’re putting on and then become quite arrogant. Then they’re getting bands to pay to play and things like that.
And then you get the drum-n-bass bands playing as well…
Exactly. And all the ones I was on about in Australia.
This was it basically, thank you for your time.