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. Second album Gothic is still considered ground zero for gothic metal. Paradise Lost are now celebrating their twenty fifth anniversary since the release of their debut album. Paradise Lost finally return to Australia for five shows only including shows in Adelaide and Perth. Hi Fi Way: The Pop Chronicles spoke to Nick Holmes about the tour.
Must be getting exciting with the Australian tour starting next week?
We’re looking forward to it. Yeah, it’s going to be great!
It must be an added bonus to be touring with a brand new album as well. That must help keep the tour fresh, exciting, and interesting for the band?
Each album the tour that follows is always about that album. So yeah, we just finished a big European tour spending two months there. It has been great and once again you’re kind of getting on the bike and then taking it around for another year and a half.
Have you been happy with how the new songs have worked into the live set and how the fans have got into them as well?
Yeah! I think we always try and write the songs with playing them live in mind. Particularly the last few years, I think it’s important, I don’t see the point in making, writing songs that you can’t play live. We’re always think about that when we’re writing. It’s a very important part of it. The songs go down as well as the old songs and you know that’s when you’re on to a winner. In that respect, it’s been fine!
So even on the Australian tour you’re looking to play like a good majority of the new album?
I don’t know if we’re going to do exactly the same set list as on the European tour. We played quite a lot of it, maybe four or five songs from the new album. I’m not sure if we’ll do that many in Australia purely because we don’t go there every year. We might do a few more different songs and mix it up a little bit. Perhaps more of a longer festival set kind of vibe. We haven’t even looked at the set list yet so we’ll have to wait and see what we’ll do with that.
Even after twenty five years is still exciting when you start playing places for the first time such as Adelaide and Perth?
We toured with Cathedral I think in 1994 or was it 1995? I remember playing Perth for sure. It was the last show I think we did of that short tour. We have played Perth before but I’m not sure about Adelaide, I think we did it with Soundwave. It’s always nice to play at places we’ve never played before. The planet’s a big place, you can’t play everywhere but as along as they’ve got electricity we’re up for going.
Was Medusa a difficult album to make or did it all go to plan?
It was pretty was easy and things went smoothly. Mainly because it’s short and very guitar driven album. It was bringing us back to basics and the type of thing we would do on the first few albums. We wrote the album quickly and it felt very natural to do it that way. It was going back to how we sounded when we were teenagers to a degree. It’s probably the fastest album we’ve written in about ten years. It was quite impulsive I guess in that respect.
Did you have a lot of the ideas and the guitar riffs pretty well bedded down before you started recording or does a lot of that start evolving during the actual recording process?
By the time we go in to the studio it’s all completely nailed down. Particularly with this album it was exactly the same as it was when we did the demos. We knew exactly what we were going to do with it and the song structures. If anything changed it some of the sounds changed here and there or may have been experimented on a little bit. I guess it’s more about sounds in the studio rather than the arrangements. We’ve been writing songs for so long we pretty much know what we want and by the time we get in the studio, we don’t really need a producer in the sense of helping with the song writing or anything like that. We know exactly what we want to do by that time we get in the studio that it’s more about recording it and the sounds.
Where does the name Medusa come from?
It was basically a title that Greg came up with. A working title for a song and I really liked it because it’s not the kind of title I would personally come up with. I wouldn’t come up with that type of title. Anything that is outside my limited dictionary is welcomed basically! After that I was very intrigued by Medusa and what it means over the years. There’s lots of different perspectives of the word. There’s one sentence about it, about avoiding looking in the eyes of Medusa was like avoiding and accepting that the universe is meaningless. I really liked that sentence. I thought that’s really a very powerful type of sentence. That’s pretty much why we thought that’s a pretty good route to go down with that.
It must lend itself to some really cool merchandising ideas and even sort of theming with your shows?
There’s lots of different aspects of it and there’s so much depth behind the actual Medusa as a figure. The mind boggles at the amount of methods and the things that I understood that it’s meant. I kind of merely skimmed the surface when I was looking into the meanings behind it but it’s like yeah, it’s surprising. For us it was basically a scary woman with a snake on her head when we were kids so that was pretty much it, that’s all it was, you know. There’s certainly a lot more to it than I initially thought.
Did you have that feeling that once the album was done that the band really nailed it or was it more like thank god that’s done?
Each album is very much a bench mark. It’s like a chapter of the band and we never, without saying, we don’t regret anything we’ve done in the past. I don’t think we’ve ever said, “Oh man I had this or I had that.” We don’t really think like that. Each album represents where we are now and this album is where PL is in 2017. This is where we are now. It’s also, each record is a vehicle for what we’re going to do for the next couple years. We got to make it as best as we possibly can. If we could have did an album we thought was a bit lack lustre or a little bit shoddy then it would definitely reflect in what happened afterwards. There probably wouldn’t be as many people at concerts, there would be negative reviews.
We’ve been through ups and downs in our career and enough to know that you can never become complacent. If you want kick, if you want to do this for a career you’ve got to be on your game all the time. You cannot just expect people to like things, you can’t expect anything and especially now. With social media you really got to be on your game all the time if you want to do this as a job.
Is it even more challenging with the current climate of releasing that if you’re not on your game it’s really quite easy to fall of the perch quickly?
I think the record is the vehicle for playing live. It’s changed how you would make publishing money for your living. That’s changed now and its about, the record is very much a vehicle for the live show. Then the live show is the career, it’s your meat and vegetables so to speak. The music industry has changed completely in our life span of being in the band, it’s completely changed. You got to change with it, you know? You got to adapt to it or you’ll finish. There’s no other way around it. You can say “oh, well the good old days.” At the end of the day you got to move forward I mean you can’t kind of go on about what happened in 1995. It’s not going to help anything, you can say it to your friends but that’s about it.
How do you think the Paradise Lost sound has evolved, particularly over the last few albums?
Greg has got a very specific way of playing guitar, so whatever he does it always sounds like Greg anyway. That’s very much the Paradise Lost sound I think. As soon as he plays that’s the band, it’s the sound! I think when I started doing the kind of old fashioned growling over what Greg plays it just seems it took us back to being teenagers again. We just instantly felt like, wow, this is like 1988 again. It did revitalize something in us, which I think that has been dormant for many, many years.
Doing this as a career tends to keep you very youthful anyway. You never really change from being seventeen years old anyway, you just get older, your body deteriorates but your mind is pretty much the same. We’re still like kids inside anyway. I just think we’ve been full circle about five times I think. Many bands don’t get the opportunity to go full circle, they don’t stick around that long. We’ve been doing it about three times now so. We’ve still got the same passion for it we had when we were kids and I really mean that. We still argue about riffs, the same as we did as teenagers, it’s still the same kind of thing.
Do you still enjoy it as much now as what you did when you first started off?
We take it a lot more seriously as a career. We never thought about doing that as a career but it became a career and you got to think about that aspect as well. Also, to have fun with it as well. We started the band for fun really and keeping the fun involved in it is not always easy when there’s other things to think about. When you get all the red-eye flights it’s not much fun either but yeah it’s basically you got to remember why you did it in the first place. If you can keep that in sight, then you know you can keep going forward. None of us have ever felt like we didn’t want to do this. Personally I’ve never had any moments where I think, “Ah I’ve had enough of this.” I’ve never felt like that. I’m very comfortable doing it and I don’t want to stop doing it.
What does 2018 look like for Paradise Lost?
Well obviously we’re doing Australia which takes us up till Christmas. Then we’ll be doing festivals over the summer season and we’ll be looking at maybe doing an American tour as well. America is somewhere we don’t really often go. That will take us towards the end of next year and we’ll see what happens. There’s many places that we haven’t played for this album yet. Each album has an eighteen month touring cycle so we’ll see what happens but we’ve been pretty busy so far.
Is there a secret to longevity considering how long Paradise Lost have been going?
If you’re just doing it as some kind of safe bet, there is no safe bet, you got to be passionate about it. It’s like anything in life if you love what you do then you got a good chance at doing something with it. Also, particularly in the music business we’ve been very lucky, we’ve been very, very lucky. We were around at a time before the internet, before people downloaded. We managed to establish a career and now it’s very difficult. It’s almost like you need to be a game show host nowadays. You didn’t need to be like that when we started, you could be really mysterious but now it’s like your life’s online now.
It’s a lot harder now for younger bands to even have a career or even a long career. Lemmy says you got to be the right place, right time and there’s so much truth in that. There’s a lot of great bands that are falling by the wayside purely because they’ve been unlucky or trouble with labels or whatever. We’ve been lucky and also we are still very passionate about it so you’ve got a combination of a few things I guess.
Interview by Rob Lyon
Catch Paradise Lost on the following dates…
Tickets from http://davidroywilliams.com/tours/paradise-lost/