Latest release: Tragic Idol (Century Media)
Band site: www.paradiselost.co.uk
Given their contemporaries Cathedral are calling it a day after their upcoming visit as part of the Soundwave Festival, it’s only fitting they’re be joined on the bill, as well as on a few special side shows by a band they shared the stage with on these shores in 1996 – Paradise Lost. Said jaunt was Paradise Lost’s last trip Down Under, touring in support of the classic Draconian Times record. “I rarely get excited about anything, but I cannot wait for Australia,” vocalist Nick Holmes reveals as we wrap up our conversation.
The English quintet’s two decade-plus career has bridged gothic metal, death/doom and synth-rock, but according to Holmes forthcoming record Tragic Idol will feature a more metallic bent. The frontman spoke to Loud about the creation of the new material, the current state of the music industry, Soundwave and the most under-rated album in the Paradise Lost catalogue.
Q: It’s been 16 years since the band was last in Australia, which really is quite amazing.
A: Yeah, it’s been a long time. We’ve been meaning to come over many times, but for whatever reason it fell through. It was almost trying to get to another planet, you know? (laughs). Finally things are working out and it’s really great that we get the chance to come over there now.
Q: That was in support of Draconian Times too. Obviously there are plenty of long-time fans excited to see you again, but also a whole new generation that have discovered the band but never had the opportunity to see you live.
A: Yeah, it’s been a long time. We’re going to be playing a number of songs from Draconian Times; I know that’s like a key album for many people. But I mean, we’ve done quite a few albums since then; I can’t really count how many (laughs) now, but I think this is our 13th album, the new album. So yeah, we’ve got a lot of songs to choose from. We’ll probably do a lot of the Draconian stuff; we’ve done a lot of albums since we last played there and I don’t know which albums went down better than the other ones, you know what I mean? So we’ll just kind of do a bit of a “best of”, as we see it, based on what people like when we play in Europe. But we’ll see how it goes; it depends, like I said we’ve got a lot of songs to choose from. You can never please everybody; you’ve just got to do what you think’s going to work best.
Q: You performed Draconian Times in its entirety for the album’s 15-year anniversary. Has that encouraged you to do more of those kinds of celebrations for future anniversaries, or was it likely a one-off?
A: It was pretty much a one-off. We’re not against doing anything if you do it right. I mean, you sort of see other bands doing it and you think, “okay, would that be a good idea?” and then, “okay, let’s do it”. Everyone’s kind of changing how they do promotional work now, because the music industry’s completely changed you have to do things that you might not have done 20 years ago. So, I mean, doing album tours is quite interesting, it’s sort of a newish concept. It certainly wouldn’t be out of the question, it depends if it felt right.
Q: The next album is due for release in April. Will you be playing any new material in Australia?
A: We might be doing two, although we may just do one track. I mean, it’s not about playing it live; it’s just that when you do play it, you’re effectively releasing it. Because it’ll be on YouTube the next day (laughs), which means you have to make a decision if you want to release it then or not, because once it’s out there, it’s out there. Obviously people want to hear the studio version, but there’s kind of no mystery at all now because of the Internet. But yeah, we’ll do one song, but we’ve got like a shitload of songs people haven’t heard anywhere live, at least not in the flesh anyway.
Q: What can you tell us about the new material you’re planning to premiere in Australia?
A: Well, we have ten songs on the album. I think the first single; when I say single, the first song we’ve done a video for, is a song called “Honest Being Dead”, which we’ll probably play in Australia. It looks like we’ll play it. But that’s about basically death being the only true honesty; it’s the only thing that is guaranteed to be honest, you know? There’s no messing around with that, so it’s pretty much about that.
Q: What can you reveal about the themes explored within the new album?
A: The title Tragic Idol is about pretty much about all that glitters is not gold; it’s just become like everyone is obsessed with celebrity. People think people’s lives are instantly better than yours are, (because of) the money or wealth or whatever, but it’s just not the case. I mean, we’re all human beings at the end of the day. I just find people’s fascination with other human beings to the point of being obsessive, I find it quite unusual. I’ve never actually been like that with anybody in my life. It’s just about how fame is like a mask that people… People actually believe that they are actually God-like at times, which is of course bollocks. Yeah, human psychological suffering is a constant source of lyrical material for me, I just love writing about the negative things, and that’s a big deal. The sad things – betrayal, hurt, loss, etc – they’re always high on the list of topics (laughs). But they’re always there you know, they never go away and when you get older they’re still there because nothing’s changed. You maybe get used to it, but it’s still there, you know?
Q: What do you make of a phenomenon like Twitter then, which encourages many of the celebrity behaviours that you referred to? Are you not a fan of it?
A: No, I don’t know, I just find people can become obsessed with people. We’re all human beings, like I never forget that, but just how people can become sort of obsessed with other people. They also have to bring them down as well; especially in England, people, once someone gets so famous everyone wants to see them fail and just enjoy their failure. Which I find weird; human nature’s bizarre. I just find it, like when someone’s on the top it’s about trying to bring them down. It’s like, well, you put them there in the first place and now you want to see them fail. It’s kind of a weird thing; maybe it’s more of an English thing. It’s just the whole celebrity thing; the way our media is now, you’re just constantly bombarded with celebrity, that’s all I ever see.
Q: The tall poppy syndrome is very much prevalent in Australia too.
A: Yeah, I can imagine that actually. I’ve got some Australian friends (laughs), I can imagine that, yeah (laughs).
Q: How long has Tragic Idol been in the works for?
A: It’s been like nine months’ gestation; we usually write literally around nine months. The hardest part of writing any new album is just getting started, getting the ball rolling. Then when you start writing a couple of songs, then you start getting into a little bit of a groove. It was tough writing this album; listening to it you wouldn’t be able to tell that, but it’s about songs for us now. I’m not particularly bothered about ticking boxes or niches, like you’ve got to have, “where’s the gothic element? Where’s the doom song? Where’s this or that?” It’s a real mixed bag, but it’s predominantly a metal album, it’s a very metal album. We haven’t used synths, we haven’t used keyboards, no female choirs or anything like that – it’s a real rock album.
Q: Is it still the same kinds of bands that inspire Paradise Lost today, or are there newer influences that impact on you as well?
A: We don’t think about that anymore, it’s just about the songs we would like to listen to. There’s no great mystery, it’s just what sounds cool. Ultimately, our favourite bands are the bands we grew up as kids with. We see bands now coming through that I can appreciate, but it’s maybe one in ten, or one in 100 that I hear where I’m particularly interested. But the end of the day, it gets back to the Sabbaths; they’re still the ultimate metal band, you know? You can listen to a thousand bands, but they still will not be as good as Sabbath, it’s just as simple as that really.
Q: Has the band’s writing process changed at all throughout your career?
A: We haven’t changed at all, it’s no different really – the way we do it, it’s more convenient. We don’t actually write together, we don’t sit in a room and then jam, I don’t find that particularly productive at all. Because if you spend a long time on something, it doesn’t mean it’s going to be any good. That’s the thing, you could spend days, it doesn’t mean it’s good. That’s just something we found out very early on when we tried writing together. It’s better to just go away to your own little space and then come up with something you think is good, and then if I think it’s good I’ll e-mail it to Greg (Mackintosh, guitars) and vice-versa. So that’s a far more productive way for us to write than sitting in a room jamming. I’m just not into the jamming thing at all; I don’t think it’s productive.
Q: The Internet obviously makes that process far easier as well.
A: Yeah, I think I went through a phase where I didn’t have to speak to Greg for three months; I didn’t physically speak to him (laughs). We literally just e-mailed each other stuff and would say yes or no. Sometimes you can do some work that you think’s really good and then wonder if he doesn’t like it, so it’s almost like you’re waiting for an exam result sometimes (laughs). It works for us; that’s how we work. It’s not for everyone, that’s for sure – I know some bands that find that way of writing quite weird, but that’s just how we work.
Q: Interesting. Now, back to Soundwave – obviously you’ve got some side shows as well with Cathedral, but who are you excited to see at the festival?
A: I haven’t had a look at the list (laughs); I know there’s a fucking lot of bands on there, that’s for sure. There’s not many bands we haven’t played with at some point in 25 years, so it’s kind of, for me, festivals is about hanging out with old friends, having a beer backstage and having a laugh. That’s what festivals for me are about. Then if there’s some cool bands, well then you’ll go have a little peak at that as well. It’s just nice to be there, you know? Just hanging out, being there, that’s cool enough for me.
Q: Speaking of friends, there’s obviously a slice of history there too, with it being Cathedral’s last ever tour.
A: Yeah, it’s brilliant. I mean, obviously it’s great because we did the first tour with them. They’re really good friends, I can be around Cathedral forever, they’re just great guys. I’m really pleased that we’re going to have a real good laugh with those guys, can’t wait to see them. I wanted to go down and see them in London; I thought that was the actual last date, but doing it in Australia’s great. I can see the band, hang out with them, it’s perfect.
Q: A lot of folks in these parts can’t wait either. Shifting topics, is there one album in the Paradise Lost catalogue that you think is particularly under-rated?
A: I would definitely say the Host album (from 1999). I think that’s one of our best albums, but I mean, it isn’t a metal album, so therefore it’s going to get instantly criticised. I think as far as songwriting goes, I think some of the best songs we’ve ever written are on that album. But it’s just not a metal album, that’s the problem I think with it.
Q: The band has been rather outspoken in the past about the various aspects of the music industry, especially the downsides, and how you were treated. What do you think about the current state of the business?
A: It’s really tough being a band. It’s weird; I mean the Internet is a complete double-edged sword. It’s made the availability much greater for people; you can go to countries and tour where you probably wouldn’t have been able to go before. But at the same time, the downloading thing has completely changed the dynamic of how a band can make a living from being a professional musician. It’s incredibly difficult to be a professional musician now. The new bands, I just don’t know how they do it. It’s so difficult. But I mean, it’s down to touring and it’s working hard. Being a musician now has become like a hard job (laughs); 20 years ago, it was sort of easy, but now you’ve got to work fucking hard if you want to be successful, there’s no easy route. You can’t be getting drunk and missing flights and shit – you’ve got to be on that flight (laughs).
Q: The era of million-dollar advances and lavish video shoots is largely gone as well.
A: Yeah, but at least we saw a little bit of that. Not the full amount, but we saw a tiny bit of it. We dipped our toes in the water of that life.
Q: Twenty-five years into your career – what’s left for Paradise Lost to achieve?
A: I just think being able to stay around this long is an achievement in itself. Our manager says we’re like cockroaches, which I presume is a compliment; I don’t know (laughs). I don’t know really – can I say world domination? Will that make any sense at this point of our careers? (laughs)
Q: (Laughs) Any famous last words?
A: We’re just really, really looking forward to coming to Australia. I rarely get excited about anything, but I cannot wait for Australia. It’s just going to be such a good time, so yeah, really, really looking forward to it. I hope everyone enjoys the shows and we’ll see you at the gigs.
Paradise Lost will be touring with Soundwave 2012 on the following dates-
25/2: Brisbane Showgrounds, Brisbane QLD (SOLD OUT)
26/2: Sydney Showground, Sydney NSW (SOLD OUT)
2/3: Melbourne Showground, Melbourne VIC (SOLD OUT)
3/3: Bonython Park, Adelaide SA
5/3: Claremont Showgrounds, Perth WA
They’ll also be performing with Cathedral and Turisas on the following dates-
29/2: The Factory, Sydney
1/3: Esplanade Hotel, Melbourne
Tix from Oztix