PARADISE LOST Nick Holmes & Greg MacIntosh

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Transcription by Andy Osborn

Pictures by Marko Syrjälä and www.paradiselost.co.uk

The British doom metal band Paradise Lost is one the most successful 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. They released such classic metal albums as ICON, DRACONIAN TIMES, and ONE SECOND during the following years. After a couple of more “experimental” albums, like HOST in 1999, the band returned 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 were living in 2007. Paradise Lost is 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 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 lengthy conversation with Nick and Greg backstage at Club Tavastia in Helsinki. CHEERS !!

ALIVE AND WELL

We haven’t heard anything new from you guys in a while. What have you guys been doing lately?

Nick: Well, as long as I can remember, we’ve just been working on the new album. We’ve been doing some shows on weekends, and we haven’t really done any touring, so yeah, we’ve just been writing. A year goes by fast. I can’t think of what else we’ve been doing?

How long will this current tour last?

Nick: Well, this isn’t really a tour. This is just a couple of gigs.

Greg: Yeah, we did a festival yesterday. We try and do shows on the weekends. We’re 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 you’re ill, you’re ill; that’s life.

It was 2004 when you released your latest album Paradise Lost. When can we expect the new album from you guys?

Nick: We’re looking at recording toward the end of the year. We’re doing a tour with Opeth in November, and we’re looking to do the album around then. It should be out early 2007.

What kind of style will the new album present compare to Paradise Lost?

Nick: It’s more. 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. It’s about songs for us, and we’re real perfectionists when it comes to songwriting. We won’t expect anyone else to like it if we don’t like it.

 

Your latest DVD release is called “Live Death,” 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 we would do it professionally with both a DVD and a live album this time. We were also talking about doing the whole DRACONIAN TIMES album live.

That sounds like a cool idea!

Greg: I don’t like the idea. I think it’s 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 don’t like the idea.

Could it be a very good selling point?

Nick: Well, that’s the thing, isn’t it? Lots of people would pay for it.

Greg: That’s why I don’t like it.

Nick: I think I would enjoy it.

Is that something we can expect to happen soon?

Nick: Well, we’re fighting about it as usual.

Greg: Probably not. I don’t think we have the time right now. We’re 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: It’s 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 THE 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: It’s probably more commercial now than it has ever been, but it’s not the kind of metal we listen to. Trivium and Dragonforce are fucking enormous in England, but that’s not my thing. They do very, very well. Look at what�s happening in America, and you can pretty much see what’s going to be popular in England. I think it’s coming again because bands like them with all the “widdly woo” guitar music are becoming popular again. When were you younger? That’s the kind of stuff that was popular without older brothers and stuff? But it’s definitely coming around again. Obviously, Dragonforce is flying our flag.

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. It’s pretty much a British institution like fish and chips.

How is Paradise Lost doing there these days?

Nick: We�re doing okay. The shows are still always good. But in England, there’s no media coverage.

Greg: It’s funny to see what it’s like in other parts of Europe. Finnish bands are huge in Finland. Everyone loves their own bands. But it’s not the same in England.

Nick: In England, we love 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 where… 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 that’s what’s mostly in the magazines. I was recently surprised; a magazine ran an article about us, a 2-page epitaph piece. It was nice to have that, but it was quite a shock. Hopefully, all this will change now that we’re on Century Media. Once again, they’re really strong in the UK, and I think it will help us a lot in England. We’re not flat-lining in England, it’s just… you know?

RE-MASTERS?

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 don’t think that they will re-master the records or anything?

Greg: But they will re-package them

Nick: Yeah, they are repackaging them. But it’s not like we told them they had to be re-released. We were like, oh, they’re being re-released, that’s cool.

Will there be any bonus material?

Nick: Well, there was talk about that, but it doesn’t sound like it’s 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. It’s a good idea, but we aren’t pushing for it. As I said, it wasn’t our idea to re-release these, so we don’t have much say in it. For the last year, we’ve 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 don’t know if they like us yet. I’ll let you know when the album comes out [laughs]. We only signed with them two weeks ago, and we’re the new band on there. I like that they are a dedicated rock/metal label. I really missed having that. BMG wasn’t that great.

Greg: When we went to America last, people from BMG didn’t even come to see us but the people from Century Media did, so that’s saying something.

Nick: I know we shouldn’t be talking bad about our former business partners, but it’s just so nice to be on a label. The boss at Century Media is an old guy like us with the same background, but he’s a millionaire. So, he has some money to spend on us. No, it’s 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 of that?

Nick: Well, we went out and got hammered and then we had to go on TV! Now, it’s 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. Weirdly, 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 that’s cool, but then for things like promotion and marketing at EMI, we didn’t have a say in that. So, we felt uncomfortable at times because we’re not a fucking boy band. I felt really uncomfortable sometimes. 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 I’m 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 period?

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 didn’t 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 didn’t want to do this anymore. We were recording DRACONIAN TIMES, and this magazine came out with a headline that said: “Paradise Lost: The Kings of Hair Metal.” 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 time. You can’t have two years off so. I still don’t 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 afterward, do you think it was a mistake to leave your old record company and move to EMI. Why did you do 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, let’s move on, and major labels just want to throw shit at the wall and see if it will stick.

 

How many record labels have been telling you what to do?

Greg: Hardly anything. We’ve never been told what to do, never. BELIEVE IN NOTHING is the only time that I ever felt like someone was pulling 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 it’s like, what are you doing? It’s 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, it’s been ONE SECOND but DRACONIAN TIMES is pretty close too. DRACONIAN TIMES was an album that introduced people to us, and people identify with the album that gets you into a certain genre. For me, RIDE THE LIGHTNING is my favorite Metallica album because it’s what’s got me into Metallica. I know MASTER OF PUPPETS is a better album, but I will always love RIDE THE LIGHTNING.

I remember that some magazine called you guys are “the next Metallica” 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.

 

AFTER SOME MORE EXPERIMENTAL ALBUMS, SYMBOL OF LIFE was a kind of “back to the roots” album. 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 didn’t have to compromise on, so I think that it comes across like that; that’s something that we were eager to do.

Nick: That’s the thing about bands; you can’t just take a break and try to re-evaluate what you want to do. You have to keep doing the albums, and that’s why… plus, when I was a teenager, the band would do really experimental albums, like Rush, for example. But now, if you don’t keep it in this box, people get upset. From an artistic point of view, it’s not good. It’s gradually getting worse. 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 catalog, you’ve been gaining fans from other musical genres that usually dislike metal bands?

Nick: Oh definitely. Yeah, we gained a lot of new fans for sure. We did get a lot more, but that’s 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 that’s different than a verse-chorus-verse style, but if the drums are produced to sound more industrial, there was a lot of it done in production.

Greg: We were just trying to vary things. Make a more varied album than what’s been done before.

Nick: Well, bands have done that before. As far as being aware of other bands, we’re very aware of other bands and what’s popular. I think you have to know that stuff when you’re making music. We 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. It’s a lot heavier, and it goes back to a style that we haven’t approached in a long time.

THE COVER ART

Speaking of your albums, it also must be mentioned that your cover art has always been great and somewhat unique. Where do you get ideas for them?

Nick: Do you know that the album cover just represents what’s in our brains at the time. Like BELIEVE IN NOTHING, it showed the bees in our heads, and we didn’t really know what was going. I don’t know who came up with that concept. As I said, it was a hard period, and we liked things that we shouldn’t have liked. We had mini nervous breakdowns, and it was kind of bizarre. I mean, the artwork is very important. To be honest, we put out what we like, and it’s 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 of 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 it’s shit, then we don’t 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 that big, beautiful colorful picture. 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 at some of the boxes, you’ll see some pictures that look like the album cover. Usually, metal guys don’t buy duvets, so? But now I buy duvets!

 

TRACK BY TRACK

I would like to hear some comments about certain songs from your career. Let’s start with “Lost Paradise,” which is a song from the very first album?

Nick: Well, we would just sound it out and put it into my mind’s eye. Well, I haven’t 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 don’t think I could do that voice anymore. Well, I could, but I wouldn’t be able to do anything else after that.

 

What about “Eternal” from the GOTHIC album?

Nick: Yeah, we still do that one. That’s 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 “Alice” by Sisters of Mercy.

How about “Mortals Watch the Day” from SHADES OF GOD?

Nick: That’s a great song. That’s one of my favorites, actually. It was like a hundred and fifty riffs mixed. 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 SHADES OF GOD release, right?

Nick: Yeah, I was going through my drawer the other day and found the pass for that.

How about “Widow” from ICON?

Nick: Yeah, that’s 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, there’s a scene where everyone was hanging upside down, and we were literally hanging by ropes as they did in medieval times.

Greg: The water was going up to our noses like we were drowning!

Nick: But then no one was playing. We were just hanging there. It was really something.

 

“Forever Failure”

Nick: Great song. That’s 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 it’s about $1,000, and in time, that adds up. I love the video for that song. That’s my favorite of our videos. That was the only time a record label let us choose a single, so we chose “Forever Failure.” We spent all this money on this video. It didn’t 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 “Forever Failure.”

Nick: I’m not going to lie; it’s a good video. Sometimes, what you’re doing in the video feels good, but it’s not that great after seeing it. And if you work with a director who doesn’t normally do music videos, he doesn’t 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 “So Much Is Lost” 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 didn’t know if it was good anymore.

Greg: The thing about “Forever After” for me was that I didn’t even really like it. I don’t want to have to put a story to a song. It’s just a good video, and there doesn’t have to be a story. The director tried to put a story to it, and we were like, who are these thickheads?

Greg: The video was going to be all right, but then it turned out to be like some 80’s rock video.

In my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with that?

Greg: Yeah, but you watch those for the wrong reasons. You watch them laugh. The 80’s rock videos are fucking hilarious.

Nick: It’s like Kiss. I find them fucking hilarious.

Ha-ha, careful what you say about KISS. I’m a member of the KISS ARMY “laughs.”

Nick: I think they’re hysterically funny, and I know all the songs too. Hey, isn’t the lead singer of Lordi, the president of Kiss Army Finland?

He’s too busy now, but he’s a huge fan, that’s true!

Nick: We once were on tour in Finland with Candlemass, and we would hang out with Leif Edling [Candlemass bassist]. He’s a huge fan of 80’s 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.

 

“Say Just Words”

Nick: I like it!

You seem to like all of your stuff “laughs.”

Nick: Well, I remember writing every song in my career, and I’m proud of it. “Say Just Words” is our nightclub song. Every band has one. You go somewhere, and you’ll hear it at a club.

How do you like the promo video of that song?

Nick: I’m not that keen on that video. I didn’t like it that much. The thing is, you have a budget, so you know how much the video will 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 didn’t spend that much money on the “As I Die” video?

Nick: Yeah, I think we spent about $3,000 on that video. That was a cool one and one of the first doom/gothic videos that got some MTV airplay back in the day?

Nick: I remember the first time I saw it; we were laughing at the girl’s head going around like that. The girl who was supposed to be beautiful, but now, well, she’s looking mad [laughs] At the time, we were all still young so, she was a Finnish girl.

The next song on my list is “Permanent Solution.”

Nick: I like that song, but I think it’s just, it goes into the bridge and it.

Greg: I really like playing it live.

Nick: On the record, it doesn’t sound that great. If we could re-record it, that would be great.

 

Next on my list is “Mouth.”

Nick: There are a couple of songs that I liked; it wasn’t all bad. The production of songs like “Mouth” 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 don’t really like it because I’m starting to like a lot heavier stuff again. I wish there was more distortion.

Nick: I wish I could record that album again.

“Perfect Mask”

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 because, you know, that humming sound that song has? I had to do it into the microphone because we couldn’t find that sound effect. That was how we recorded it. We just couldn’t emulate it for some reason. That song flows well with that record. It’s a smooth transition.

I think it’s the best song on “Symbol of Life”?

Greg: Well, I also like some Eastern music and that whole horn thing, that’s 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 I’m going to ask you about is “Grey.”

Nick: I like it. [laughs] You’re asking us about all these great songs. No, we do have some songs that if you asked me about them, I would tell you that those are complete rubbish. But you didn’t mention any of those. I think “Grey” 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 “Poison” by Alice Cooper. That pissed me off. I listened to the song, and I guess it sounds a little bit like it, but?

Wow, it’s been over an hour already. Thanks for your time, guys.

Nick & Greg: Cheers.

 

 

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