England’s legendary masters of gothic doom, Paradise Lost, will release their 15th studio album Medusa on 1 September 2017, to be followed by a more than six weeks’ European tour later in autumn. On a brief visit to Helsinki, vocalist Nick Holmes, guitarist Greg Mackintosh and drummer Waltteri Väyrynen sat down with us over a beer or two to answer a few questions about the current incarnation of Paradise Lost, the new album and upcoming tour as well as housekeeping on the bus.
We had the chance to hear your new album Medusa already and noticed that unlike some bands like Opeth, who are getting mellower with time, you are actually getting heavier. Some people mellow with age, but obviously you don’t. How did this happen?
Greg: No, we get grumpier and less patient. That’s what it is. I just think it’s what you’re into and what your preference is. For us, when we start to write an album, it’s just what we’re into right now and what excites us. Right now, if it’s the heavier stuff, then this is what it’s gonna be.
Because I remember when you all of a sudden turned to the Depeche Mode sound and it was something of a shock to everyone, although I absolutely love those albums.
Greg: It’s been 30 years, people go through different periods. For a band like us, and this is going to be our 15th album, it’s good to have diversity in your albums. And you get people who really love this album and really hate that album. But that’s fine by us. It’s good to have some variety. If it’s always the same, it’s just going to be so boring. It’s gonna be like working on a production line or something.
I have the impression that in real life you’re pretty jolly, but in your music you come off as rather miserable…
Nick: We’ve had a drink now, but it’s not just that. We like miserable music and miserable films and miserable literature and all that, but we really like to enjoy our lives and have good fun and all. That’s what it’s about.
Would you consider that your music is an outlet for your grumpiness and that it helps you to function better in real life?
Nick: Not for me personally, because sometimes I can be really grumpy. Life has got its peaks and drops, not everything is even all the time. For me music is escapism. I really enjoy music, but it’s separate from real life. It’s always fun to do music and it keeps you young at heart, if not in the face.
You have never commented on religion openly, but you have done it through your music. Has your take on religion changed over the years?
Greg: No, I’ve been hating it since I was a kid.
Nick: No, not at all. It’s quite boring really. I know people who are born again Christians, which to me is insane. I know a girl who did that and she shunned all her friends and changed everything about her life.
Greg: It is a fom of insanity. If just one person believed in all this, he’d be locked up. But because everybody is doing it, it’s fine.
You guys seem to change your drummers quite frequently. What are you doing to them?
Nick: We’ve had five. Waltteri is the fifth. But it’s been 30 years.
Greg: If the first one had been good enough, then probably he’d still be the drummer. He’s still a good friend, you know. The second one went insane. He actually turned to God. The third one, Jeff, had three kids in a very short span of time. He didn’t have kids when he joined the band, but then he got three. That’s a good reason for leaving.
Nick: It was a busy summer for him. And then came along Adrian.
Greg: Adrian is a jobbing drummer. That’s his main job. A band takes time off to write an album and he has to go out and find work. And that’s why he’s got a million unborn bands.
So how did you find Waltteri?
Greg: On the internet.
Nick: No, on Grindr, haha!
Waltteri, so how was your experience working with Paradise Lost so far?
Waltteri: It’s been great. It’s like a dream come true to get to play with my idols.
Nick: Ah, Christ!
Waltteri: No, seriously, though. I’ve been a fan since I was five years old, because my mom listens to heavy metal.
Nick: She’s younger than us. That’s pretty amazing.
So I take it you’re getting along pretty fine with your adopted son Waltteri?
Nick: Yeah, he’s great. A sense of humour is really important for us and not everyone gets ours. But he really does. And that’s really important. Aside from his playing, which is stellar.
He’s a keeper, then?
Nick: Oh, yes, hopefully!
If you were 20 years old now, and if you were to start a band, would you still do it?
Greg: Absolutely. It is still my main passion, it’s still my hobby. It’s fun. It’s just great that you can make a living out of your hobby. So why would you not do it? It’s a no-brainer. There are good days and bad days. There are days when you don’t want to sit in an airport for five hours, or wake up in a smelly bus. But for the most part, it’s really good.
Nick, how has your occasional work with Bloodbath, even though you have only done live shows with them, affected your latest work with Paradise Lost?
That’s been back into the old death metal scene. Those guys are a bit obsessed with it. When you’re with them, all they play is death metal, non-stop. And you can’t help getting into it again. So obviously this has affected the singing on the new album. But this is how we started and this brings all the good memories and the good times back. And it’s always natural. It’s like putting on an old jacket and it fits. So I guess it’s been positive to play with new people and it’s all been good and fun. But Paradise Lost is my livelihood and will be. This was just a nice little thing on the side.
Greg, if it weren’t for Vallenfyre, would Paradise Lost have been heavier?
No, Vallenfyre is like harking back to the days and music that I was into before I started Paradise Lost. It’s going really back into the early and mid-80’s and the music I was into then, but you can’t include every influence in one thing. It’d be too confusing maybe. Vallenfyre was something that I’d thought about doing for years and years but hadn’t done. Then it was a spark that hit me and I did it. I think it’s been really good for me with Paradise Lost, because it’s helped me see clearly what Paradise Lost should be for me, like, the core of it. And it helped me focus on it, so I think it’s a good thing.
Do you still enjoy being on tour – on a bus, with a bunch of smelly blokes, day in day out, for months?
Greg: It’s not that smelly actually…
Nick: It depends on the people on the bus, if I’m honest.
Greg: I prefer the tour bus to flying gigs. On flying gigs, you don’t know when your next meal is gonna be and when you’re gonna sleep. On a tour bus you can sleep all day if you want. The only bad thing is privacy. I am quite a solitary person and the only solitude you get on the bus is when you close the curtain on your bunk.
Nick: It’s the little things. If everything on the bus works, and the AC works, and it’s not overcrowded, you’re not subjected to everyone’s hygiene issues and it’s fine. But in the lounge downstairs everyone is drinking constantly and it is a mess. And I can’t stand the mess. My house is spotless, so I tidy up the bus all the time. It’s obviously a thankless task because no one cares. But I just have to do it and I do it every day, because I feel that I have to get rid of all the cans to get the booze out of the system. And it never happens. But I tidy up nevertheless.
Greg: There is this guy in one band that can never piss in the toilet. You go after him and everything is covered in piss – the floor and everything else except the toilet. I don’t know why. He must have a sprinkler!
Nick: He’s not in our band, he’s a friend of ours. We must establish that.
Would you add more dates to the European tour?
Nick: This is just the initial announcement. I am sure there will be more.
Greg: We’ve only finished the album recently and we went into promotion quickly. When you start promotion, you have to release some tour dates, so that’s what we did. There are still gaps that will be filled.
Could you please tell us which is your favourite track from the new album?
Greg: I would say it is the first song, “Fearless Sky”. It’s a bit of a triumph for me, because we never really planned to make such a long song. The fact that it is 8:30 minutes long but doesn’t feel like that when I listen to it makes me feel really pleased that we managed to pack so much into one song. It’s as if we managed to pack the entire back catalogue of Paradise Lost into one song. But it works. This is how you do long songs without them getting boring. There is nothing we could take out of this song. It just worked and flowed so well and I am really proud and pleased.
Nick: For me probably “Medusa”, because I can’t choose “Fearless Sky” anymore. So I choose “Medusa”, as well as this, because it is very epic and very melancholic. I think it is a very sad song. You can listen to it and look into a candle and reflect on how shitty things are.
Waltteri: It’s the opening track – “Fearless Sky” – for me as well. It sums up the band’s history so well. It has everything, clean vocals and Greg’s melodies and some really heavy riffs.
Interview: Christina Dimitrova, photo: Tina Solda