Nick Holmes and Greg MacIntosh
Interview by Marko Syrjala
The British doom metal band Paradise Lost is one the most succesfull and best known bands from its genre. The band was originally formed in 1988 in Halifax and their debut album "Lost Paradise" was released in early 1990. During the following years they released such classic metal albums as "Icon", "Draconian Times" and "One Second". After a a couple of more "experimental" albums, like "Host" in 1999, the band returned back to their metal roots with "Symbol of Life" which continued from where they left off with "One Second" in 1997. Years have gone by and now we are living in 2007. Paradise Lost are just about to release their brand new album "In Requiem" in May and the first single release "The Enemy" is already out in most European countries. Readers who are willing to find details about the new album would be disappointed because this interview was done some months ago while the band was still in the midst of their recording process for that upcoming album. The band visited Finland last year and here are the results of my lenghty conversation with Nick and Greg backstage at Club Tavastia in Helsinki. CHEERS !!
Transcription by Andy Osborn
Pictures by Marko Syrjï¿½lï¿½ and www.paradiselost.co.uk
ALIVE AND WELL
We havenï¿½t heard anything new from you guys in a while. What you guys have been doing lately?
Nick: Well, as long as I can remember weï¿½ve just been working on the new album. Weï¿½ve been doing some shows on weekends and we havenï¿½t really done any touring so yeah weï¿½ve just been writing. A year goes by fast. I can’t think of what else weï¿½ve been doing?
How long will this current tour last?
Nick: Well, this isnï¿½t really a tour, this is just a couple gigs.
Greg: Yeah we did a festival yesterday. We try and do shows on the weekends. Weï¿½re weekend warriors.
How about you Greg? I heard that you were recently hospitalized. What was the deal with that?
Greg: Well, first my appendix burst, then everything that could have gone wrong did. The wound split open and you could see right inside of me, it was horrible.
How did you other guys react when you heard about that?
Nick: We laughed! No, I mean once you start getting older, these things start happening. All these things are wrong with you and everyone you know dies and you get ill yourself. But, if youï¿½re ill youï¿½re ill; thatï¿½s life.
It was 2004 when you released your latest album Paradise Lost. When can we expect the new album from you guys?
Nick: Weï¿½re looking at recording toward the end of the year. Weï¿½re doing a tour with Opeth in November and weï¿½re looking to do the album around then. It should be out early 2007.
What kind of style will the new album present compared to Paradise Lost?
Nick: Itï¿½s moreï¿½.we made a point of making it more varied; in the speed of the songs and the style. Also, the songwriting formulas have been shaken up a little more. We are our biggest critics without a shadow of a doubt. We tear things apart. Itï¿½s about songs for us and weï¿½re real perfectionists when it comes to songwriting. We wonï¿½t expect anyone else to like it if we donï¿½t like it.
Your latest DVD release is called ï¿½Live Deathï¿½ which includes live footage from the early days. Do you have plans to release some more current live material in the near future?
Nick: Yeah, but this time we would do it professionally with both a DVD and a live album. We were also talking about doing the whole "Draconian Times" album live.
That sounds a cool idea!
Greg: I donï¿½t like the idea, I think itï¿½s stupid.Nick: But, Metallica does it, they play the whole "Master of Puppets" album live and Dream Theatre did that too.
Greg: Yeah, and Dio did "Holy Diver". But, I still donï¿½t like the idea.
It could be a very good selling point?
Nick: Well thatï¿½s the thing isnï¿½t it? Lotï¿½s of people would pay for it.
Greg: Thatï¿½s why I donï¿½t like itï¿½
Nick: I think I would enjoy it.
Is that something we can expect to be happen soon?
Nick: Well, weï¿½re fighting about it as usual.
Greg: Probably not. I donï¿½t think we have the time right now. Weï¿½re working on our new album right now. We might record a live DVD before then, but not the "Draconian Times" idea.
Nick: Maybe next year. We were supposed to do it this year but there are so many problems with fucking things going wrong.
Greg: Itï¿½s tough having being signed to different labels for different albums because we have to ask for permission for each song to record it. Your own song!
STATE OF HEAVY METAL IN U.K?
How is the state of metal in the UK? Some new bands like Bullet For My Valentine, Dragonforce and Trivium seem to be huge there?
Nick: Itï¿½s probably more commercial now that it has ever been but itï¿½s not the kind of metal that we listen to. Trivium and Dragonforce are fucking enormous in England but thatï¿½s not my thing. They do very, very well. Look at whatï¿½s happening in America and you can pretty much see whatï¿½s going to be popular in England. I think itï¿½s coming around again because of bands like them with all the "widdly woo" guitar music is getting popular again. When were younger thatï¿½s the kind of stuff that was popular with out older brothers and stuff. But itï¿½s definitely come around again. Obviously Dragonforce is flying our flag butï¿½
Also some older U.K bands like Iron Maiden seem now to be more popular than ever?
Nick: Well I think Bruce Dickinson leaving and coming back really helped them a lot. Itï¿½s pretty much a British institution like fish and chipsï¿½
How is Paradise Lost doing there on these days?
Nick: Weï¿½re doing okay. The shows are still always good. But in England thereï¿½s no media coverage.
Greg: Itï¿½s funny to see what itï¿½s like in other parts of Europe. Finnish bands are huge in Finland, everyone loves their own band. But itï¿½s not the same in England.
Nick: In England we love the Finnish bands! [laughs] Yeah, most bands in the UK get about 5 minutes of fame, I think we got about 15 minutes. We were pretty big for a while. But you get to a point whereï¿½..I think the state of magazines is sad because so many people rely on the internet for information. But people are always trying to find the next big thing and thatï¿½s whatï¿½s mostly in the magazines. Recently, I was surprised; a magazine ran an article about us which was a 2 page epitaph piece. It was nice to have that but it was quite a shock. Hopefully all this will change now that weï¿½re on Century Media. Once again, theyï¿½re really strong in the UK and I think it will help us a lot in England. Weï¿½re not flat lining in England itï¿½s justï¿½..you know?
I heard that BMG wants to re-release some of your older albums. Is that still going to happen?
Nick: Yeah, we actually had a meeting about that the other day. I donï¿½t think that they will re-master the records or anythingï¿½
Greg: But they will re-package them
Nick: Yeah they are repackaging them. But itï¿½s not like we told them they had to be released again. We were like oh, theyï¿½re being re-released that’s cool.
Will there be any bonus material?
Nick: Well, there was talk about that but it doesnï¿½t sound like itï¿½s going to happen. One suggestion was that all the B-sides from the singles should be included in the new versions. So, all the hard to find versions will be released on the records. Itï¿½s a good idea but we arenï¿½t really pushing for it. Like I said, it wasnï¿½t our idea to re-release these so we donï¿½t have much say in it. For the last year weï¿½ve just been focusing on new material.
HOST AND RECORD COMPANIES
Like you already mentioned you are now signed with Century Media Records. Tell the readers some more about that?
Nick: Yeah, well I donï¿½t know if they like us yet, Iï¿½ll let you know when the album comes out [laughs] we only signed with them two weeks ago and weï¿½re the new band on there. I like that they are a dedicated rock/metal label, I really missed having that. BMG wasnï¿½t that great.
Greg: When we went to America last, people from BMG didnï¿½t even come to see us but the people from Century Media did so thatï¿½s saying something.
Nick: I know we shouldnï¿½t be talking bad about our former business partners but itï¿½s just so nice to be on a labelï¿½the boss at Century Media is an old guy like us with the same background, but heï¿½s a millionaire. So, he has some money to spend on us. No, itï¿½s just so nice to be on this label.
When the "Host" album was released you came to Finland to promote it and you made a TV show called Jyrki. Do you have any memories from that?
Nick: Well, we went out and got hammered and then we had to go on TV! Now, itï¿½s weird because on a major label you have to be a complete professional. Now, I would never do that.
Greg: We were sick and it was bad.
Nick: We were not a handpicked group of guys. I mean even now, half the time the metal bands are just hand-selected. Itï¿½s weird, that we did these top of the pop type things. We sort of stepped into an area that we knew nothing about. We knew about metal, and thatï¿½s cool but then for things like promotion and marketing at EMI we didnï¿½t have a say in that. So, we felt really uncomfortable at times because weï¿½re not a fucking boy band. I felt really uncomfortable some times. It was hard to market that album. It was a bit of a weird time. There are those metal bands when they get huge and they just love it. But, we were like a square peg in a round hole. The "Host" album is a great record and Iï¿½m glad it was good because it could have been a shit album and everything could have changed.
Paradise Lost in Jyrki (Finnish MuchMusic) !!!
What would you like to say to the fans that got alienated during the EMI years? There are still some pissed off former fans of yours in Finland who refuse to listen to you guys after that periodï¿½
Nick: It was a long time ago and all I can say is….in hindsight, that album was different and with our new image people just didnï¿½t like it. I mean if we had long hair, we probably would have gotten away with it.
Greg: I can pinpoint the time when I didnï¿½t want to do this anymore. We were recording "Draconian Times" and this magazine came out with a headline that said: ï¿½Paradise Lost: The Kings of Hair Metal.ï¿½ I just thought that had fucking to do with us. That was an immediate decision for me to start changing things.
Nick: We toured for like two and a half years, we did so much touring. Gigs and gigs and gigs and we were just so tired of the whole thing and at the timeï¿½.you canï¿½t have two years off so. I still donï¿½t regret doing that album and anyone who hates us for doing that record should just realize it was only the production that was really different.
Greg: If I were them, I would just respect the honesty that the band is doing something different for a change.
Now afterwards do you think that it was a mistake to leave you old record company and move to EMI and why you actually did that?
Nick: Because we did what all young bands do? You get some success and then you take a bigger step into a bigger pool. But nine times out of ten the pool is too big and you get washed away with everything else. It happens to all bands but they still do it. Everybody does it. I mean everyone was saying yeah letï¿½s move on and major labels just want to throw shit at the wall and see if it will stick.
How much record labels have told and defined you what to do?
Greg: Hardly anything. Weï¿½ve never been told what to do, never. "Believe In Nothing" is the only time that I ever felt like someone was pulling the strings a bit. They tried to tell us what to do.
Nick: You just have to follow your virtues which we did. They introduced us to these professional stylists who tried to give us some clothing and we were just like, what the fuck is this? You end up getting wrapped up in everything and before you know it you find yourself holding a baseball smiling for a photo and you just kind of go along with it. I remember they had a rack full of clothes and fancy shirts. It was just expensive stuff and itï¿½s like, what are you doing? Itï¿½s like the boy band sort of thing and you have to follow a schedule.
DRACONIAN TIMES AND SYMBOL OF LIFE
Which album has been your most successful to date?
Nick: I think overall itï¿½s been "One Second" but "Draconian Times" is pretty close too. "Draconian Times" was an album that really introduced people to us and people really identify with the album that gets you into a certain genre. For me, "Ride the Lightning" is my favorite Metallica album because itï¿½s whatï¿½s got me into Metallica. I know "Master of Puppets" is a better album but I will still always love "Ride the Lightning".
I remember that some magazine called you guys ï¿½the next Metallicaï¿½ after "Draconian Times" was released..?
Nick: Yeah, I think Kerrang said that. We were on the cover. I like to think that we still make good albums.
"Symbol of Life" was a kind of ï¿½back to the rootsï¿½ album after some more experimental albums. Was that an obvious choice, to go back, or was it something you guys had to do to keep the band alive?
Greg: I think that "Believe in Nothing" was such a compromise and it just wanted to do a record that we didnï¿½t have to compromise on so I think that it comes across like that; thatï¿½s itï¿½s something that we were eager to do.
Nick: Thatï¿½s the thing about bands; you canï¿½t just take a break and try to re-evaluate what you want to do. You have to keep doing the albums and thatï¿½s whyï¿½..plus when I was a teenager bands would do really experimental albums, like Rush for example. But now, if you donï¿½t keep it in this box, people get upset. From an artistic point of view itï¿½s not good. Itï¿½s gradually getting worse. Itï¿½s like I said earlier, we still have our hearts in music and we still love making records.
Do you think that because you have such different albums in your catalogue that youï¿½ve been gaining fans from other musical genres who usully dislike metal bands?
Nick: Oh definitely. Yeah we gained a lot of new fans for sure. We really did get a lot more, but thatï¿½s good.
"Symbol of Life" truly was a great album. It was a kind of combination of "One Second" and "Draconian Times" with some modern and new elements. Do you agree with that?
Greg: Well, I really think that has more to do with the production of the album.
Nick: I would write some parts to the songs that are just looped three times and thatï¿½s different than a verse-chorus-verse style but if the drums are produced to sound more industrialï¿½a lot of it done in production.
Greg: We were just trying to vary things. Make a more varied album than whatï¿½s been done before.Nick: Well, bands have done that before. But, as far as being aware of other bands, weï¿½re very aware of other bands and whatï¿½s popular. I think you have to know that stuff when youï¿½re making music. We really found a style of writing that was working well so we started sticking to that. We were comfortable with "Draconian Times" as well so I definitely think that those albums were benchmarks. A lot of the new material has the same feel to it. Itï¿½s a lot heavier and it goes back to a style that we havenï¿½t approached in a long time.
THE COVER ART
Speaking of your albums it also must be mentioned that your cover art is always been great and somewhat unique. Where do you get ideas for them?
Nick: Do you know that the album cover just represents whatï¿½s in our brains at the time. Like "Believe in Nothing" showed the bees in our heads, we didnï¿½t really know what was going. I donï¿½t know who came up with that concept. Like I said, it was a hard period and we liked things that we shouldnï¿½t have liked. We were having mini nervous breakdowns, it was kind of bizarre. I mean the artwork is very important. To be honest, we put out what we like and itï¿½s not hard to get what we really want. The original picture for the new album was very elegant and we kept sending pictures to the artist through email telling him to try different things. Eventually we told him to make it evil but very iconic at well.
How do you decide what kind art you are going to use. Is that a democratic decision process made by all band members?
Nick: We just show it to each other and if any of us thinks its shit then we donï¿½t use it. We just try again until everyone is on the same page. We also have to think about what will look good on a t-shirt, you know?
On "Draconian Times" you used big, beautiful colorful pictures. Who did the design for that album?
Nick: Yeah, that was hell to print! The woman that does the pictures, Holly Warburton, she also designs boxes for duvets. If you look on some of the boxes youï¿½ll see some pictures that actually look like the album over. Usually metal guys donï¿½t buy duvets soï¿½.but now I buy duvets!
TRACK BY TRACK
I would like to hear some comments about certain songs from your career. Letï¿½s start with ï¿½Lost Paradiseï¿½ which is a song from the very first album?
Nick: Well, we would just sound it out and put it into my mindï¿½s eye. Well, I havenï¿½t listened to that album for like 15 years. Out of all the songs that we do, I like slow, doomy ones. I also enjoy doing it live.
Would you even think about adding stuff like that in your live set again?
Nick: Well, it depends. I donï¿½t think I could do that voice anymore. Well, I could but I wouldnï¿½t be able to do anything else after that.
What about ï¿½Eternalï¿½ from Gothic album?
Nick: Yeah, we still do that one. Thatï¿½s a good song.
Greg: Yeah, that was one of the first songs that we thought yeah, we should call this gothic metal. Because it was influenced equally by gothic music as it was by metal music.
Nick: It was like ï¿½Aliceï¿½ by Sisters of Mercy.
How about ï¿½Mortals Watch the Dayï¿½ from "Shades Of God"?
Nick: Thatï¿½s a great song, thatï¿½s one of my favorites actually. It was like a hundred and fifty riffs mixed together. It could have drifted off and ended any time. It was like putting as many riffs into a song as you could. If I remember right you played your first show in Finland after the release of "Shades of God", right?
Nick: Yeah, I was going through my drawer the other day and found the pass for that.
How about ï¿½Widowï¿½ from Icon?
Nick: Yeah, thatï¿½s a great song, it had a great video. I remember the video was great because they had water cannon and they were firing the water at me while I was trying to sing, and it was fucking impossible. Then, thereï¿½s a scene where everyone was hanging upside down and we were literally hanging by ropes like they did in medieval times.
Greg: The water was going up our noses, like we were drowning!
Nick: But then no one was playing, we were just hanging there. It was really something.
Nick: Great song. Thatï¿½s the song that has voice clips from Charles Manson in it. The problem is, every time we play that live we have to pay royalties to the Manson family. I think itï¿½s about $1,000 and in time that adds up. I love the video for that song, thatï¿½s my favorite of our video. That was the only time a record label let us choose a single so we chose ï¿½Forever Failure.ï¿½ We spent all this money on this video. It didnï¿½t do so well, so that was the first and last time a record label let us choose a single.
How do you now like the video for ï¿½Forever Failureï¿½?
Nick: Iï¿½m not going to lie, itï¿½s a good video. Sometimes what youï¿½re doing in the video feels good but after you see it, itï¿½s not that great. And if you work with a director who doesnï¿½t normally do music videos, he doesnï¿½t really understand where you come from. It can be a fucking joke. Sometimes it can be scary. We were with those kinds of people for the ï¿½So Much Is Lostï¿½ video and it became the most expensive video we have ever done.
How do you like that one then…?
Nick: We used Marcus Nispel, who directed the remake of the "Texas Chainsaw Massacre". He wanted too much. That was like a pop video, and we worked on it for so long we didnï¿½t know if it was good anymore.
Greg: The thing about ï¿½Forever Afterï¿½ for me was that I didnï¿½t even really like it. I donï¿½t want to have to put a story to a song. Itï¿½s just a good video, there doesnï¿½t have to be a story. The director tried to put a story to it and we were like who are this thickheads?
Greg: The video was going to be all right, but then it turned out to be like some 80ï¿½s rock video.
In my opinion thereï¿½s nothing wrong with that?
Greg: Yeah but you watch those for the wrong reasons, you watch them to laugh. The 80ï¿½s rock videos, theyï¿½re fucking hilarious.
Nick: Itï¿½s like Kiss, I find them fucking hilarious.
Ha-ha, careful what you say about KISS, Iï¿½m a member of KISS ARMY ï¿½laughsï¿½!
Nick: I think theyï¿½re hysterically funny and I know all the songs too. Hey, isnï¿½t the lead singer of Lordi the president of Kiss Army Finland?
Heï¿½s too busy now but heï¿½s a huge fan, thatï¿½s true!
Nick: We once were on tour in Finland with Candlemass and we would hang out with Leif Edling [Candlemass bassist]. Heï¿½s a huge fan of 80ï¿½s metal and we would watch all these videos with him. Some of these videos were hilarious. The old Kiss videos are just fucking great. I love watching those things.
ï¿½Say Just Wordsï¿½
Nick: I like it!
You seem to like all of your stuff ï¿½laughsï¿½ï¿½
Nick: Well, I remember writing every song in my career and Iï¿½m proud of it. ï¿½Say Just Wordsï¿½ is our night club song. Every band has one. You go somewhere, and youï¿½ll hear it at a club.
How do you like the promo video of that song?
Nick: Iï¿½m not that keen on that video, I didnï¿½t like it that much. The thing is you have a budget so you know how much the video is going to cost. A very good video could get away with $15,000 and sometimes people get away with spending a lot more. But, with that video I could tell how much it cost. It was an amateur director, but still, we could have done worse.
You didnï¿½t spend that much money on the ï¿½As I Dieï¿½ videoï¿½
Nick: Yeah, I think we spent about $3,000 on that video.That was a cool one and on of the first doom/gothic videos which got some airplay in MTV back in the day?
Nick: I remember the first time I saw it; we were laughing at the girlï¿½s head going around like that. The girl who was supposed to be beautiful, but nowï¿½..well, sheï¿½s looking mad [laughs] At the time, we were all still young soï¿½.she was a Finnish girl.
The next song in my list is ï¿½Permanent Solutionï¿½ï¿½
Nick: I like that song but I think itï¿½s justï¿½.it goes into the bridge and itï¿½
Greg: I really like playing it live.
Nick: On the record it doesnï¿½t sound that great, if we could re-record it that would be great.
and then I have ï¿½Mouthï¿½ï¿½
Nick: There are a couple of songs that I liked, it wasnï¿½t all bad. The production on songs like ï¿½Mouthï¿½ was a really good, basic rock song. And the video for it was good too.
Greg: When I hear a lot of that stuff now, I donï¿½t really like it because Iï¿½m starting to like a lot heavier stuff again. I wish there was more distortion.
Nick: I wish I could record that album again.
Nick: That has a Killing Joke sort of sound to it. I had a bunch of riffs and then we just put them all together.
Greg: I like it becauseï¿½you know that humming sound that song has? I had to do it into the microphone because we couldnï¿½t find that sound effect. That was how we recorded it. We just couldnï¿½t emulate it for some reason. That song flows well with that record, itï¿½s a smooth transition.
I think itï¿½s the best song on "Symbol of Life"?
Greg: Well, I also like some Eastern music and that whole horn thing, thatï¿½s right up my street. Again, I like Killing Joke and they had this album with all this ethnic stuff like that and I really loved that.
And the last song Iï¿½m going to ask you about is ï¿½Greyï¿½
Nick: I like it. [laughs] Youï¿½re asking us about all these great songs. But no, we do have some songs that if you asked me about them, I would tell you they are complete rubbish. But, you didnï¿½t mention any of those. I think ï¿½Greyï¿½ is a solid rock song.
Greg: The only thing that pissed me off about that song, not really the song, it was the guitar tech. He said the style of guitar sounds like ï¿½Poisonï¿½ by Alice Cooper. That really pissed me off. I listened to the song, and I guess it sounds a little bit like it butï¿½
Wow, itï¿½s been over an hour already. Thanks for you time guys.
Nick & Greg: Cheers.
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