Interview: Greg Mackintosh of Paradise Lost
Rare is it for a band to have had such a long lasting effect on the musical landscape they exist within. Since their formation in Halifax, West Yorkshire, Paradise Lost have thrived in perpetual darkness: a place where rays of light seldom threaten to break the black clouds, where nightmares last an eternity. While the course of their sonic evolution has spawned countless others sworn to the dark, all pale in comparison to the original Gothic metal pioneers. Whilst their fifth album ‘Draconian Times’ provided the band’s international breakthrough, it would be fair to say without Paradise Lost, many of today’s doom-gloom bands would never have existed – 2nd album ‘Gothic’ still being considered ground zero for Gothic metal.
Now celebrating their 25th year since the release of their debut album, Paradise Lost finally return to Australia for 5 shows only including their first shows in Adelaide and Perth ever! If you’re searching for cheap thrills, look elsewhere. Paradise Lost is a band that sacrifice themselves through music, bleeding and suffering for their art in a way that puts many of today’s so-called artists to shame. Ahead of their next venture to Australia, we caught up with founding member and lead guitarist, Greg Mackintosh to speak about the success of Medusa, touring, doom metal and more.
How's everything going in preparation for the Australian tour?
Everything is going fine. We finished a very long European tour about a week and a half ago, so I've been home for a while now which feels great after 7 weeks of touring. The tour went really well in Europe, and that has prepared us really well for the Australian tour really, I mean it's practically 7 weeks of rehearsals. So if we're not super tight then there's something wrong.
Was that sort of like your first chance to play some of the new material from Medusa?
Yeah, in fact it's interesting when you do the first few shows from a new album cycle, because songs that you think may have worked well live sometimes don't, and visa versa. That has definitely made it so that we know which songs work best live for our Australian tour now. For instance, the first song on the new record ("Fearless Sky") I thought would have worked fantastically live, I know it's a very long song, but I thought because it's so varied and there's so much light and shade to it that people would take a liking to it and it would work really well. As it happens, it wasn't, and songs that long sometimes don't go over that well, and that was one of those circumstances. Then by the same token I didn't think "Blood And Chaos" would be that good live, I thought it would be too 'pop' and I was wrong, that went down great. It just shows how you kind of percieve things and when you get out on the road things are different. But we're going to change it up anyway, when we come to Australia we're going each night change a couple of songs around and see what people are liking.
Is there anything about touring here in Australia that you're especially looking forward to re-living, or something that you've perhaps missed since the last time you were here?
Well I actually do love the place, the people are great. You probably get this all the time but it's kind of the best bits of the UK and America combined. You get the convenience of America, and you get the nice weather as well, but you get the sense of humour and the comradery or outlook that you might get from the UK, you know, that dry sense of humour. So you do kind of get the best of both worlds I suppose, but unfortunately I'm not great in the sun so I'll be looking forward to some air-conditioning. I'm looking out of the window right now and it's thick snow here in England, so it's going to be quite strange acclimatising from thick snow to extreme heat. But it'll be nice, it'll be like a little tiny Summer in the middle of Winter for us I guess.
Your latest album Medusa has received some incredibly positive reviews from both critics and fans, are you very pleased with the response so far?
Yeah definitely, because whenever you do any album I don't think you can second guess an audience, fans or journalists on it. I think even if you try to then you're already on a losing path and you're compromising your songwriting. So, I never really take anything for granted at all, and on Medusa we did take a couple of risks with the production, we tried out some things that we've never tried before. It's quite a raw sound I guess you could say, very unprocessed, it's basically just microphones in a room. There's been a couple of complaints, people aren't used to hearing real drum kits anymore, they're used to hearing samples, so when they hear a real drum kit it sounds a bit weird to them I guess. But I mean overall it's been a fantastic response, we're quite fortunate that at the time we decided to do another full on doom metal record, it seems that the hipsters have taken quite a liking to doom metal now as well. It looks like doom is back in fashion.
Yeah I've noticed, and I just saw the recent Decibel list for Best Albums of 2017 and Paradise Lost were ranked at No.1 which is fantastic, plus there were a lot of other doom metal bands featured on that list as well. That must be a good feeling to rank so high?
Well it's always nice to be vindicated for your choices and also it's just nice to feel relevant in a modern scene, because we are a band that's been going for quite a long time now. To still be doing records that make people feel something positive is very pleasant.
Do you think that the resurgence of doom metal in the last couple of years has to do with people wanting to hear something new and different compared to most mainstream metal?
Probably, yeah I mean things come around in circles and everyone knows that but I think Bandcamp and the underground metal scene has had a lot to do with it. The underground tends to sometimes just dictate what will be commercially successful a couple of years down the line. When something gets big, usually it's a flash in the pan for a couple of years and then the thing that wasn't big a couple of years before then becomes big. I think it's just the underground dictating to the commercial side of things, and I think people are getting sick of generic production and 'safe' music. Metal was never meant to be safe, it was meant to be something rebellious. I think there's a bit of a backlash to the safeness and that's being brought out in doom metal making a comeback I guess.
A lot of your albums have been very strong and nothing short of quality music, so after 15 albums and almost 30 years of the band do you see this going for as long as humanly possible?
I have no idea, again I'll go back to saying that I never take anything for granted. We take it year by year and day by day, because you just never know really. You're only as good as your last record and fortunately our last record got received very well so we'll concentrate on that for now and then move on to the next record in a couple of years, there's no point in even trying to guess how long we're going to continue on for. But yeah, we're totally unemployable in every other field so there is that you know? (laughs).
If you're a Paradise Lost fans and you've yet to experience the band live, how would you describe the general vibe and mood for those wondering what it's going to be like?
It's somewhere between moody and exciting, because we have quite a varied catalogue I guess you could say, so we can kind of tailor a set-list so that things can flow along nicely with lots of light and shade. That's the only problem with some doom metal is that it can get a little bit boring live sometimes, but if you have enough peaks and drops and light and shade and all the rest of it then it can be quite moody and an exciting experience, hopefully that's what we get across when we're there in Australia. That, and cold beers along with air-conditioning and I'll be a happy man.
Written by Steve Jenkins
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