INTERVJU: Greg Mackintosh i Paradise Lost

Mörkrets mästare Paradise Lost har spelat in ett livealbum under pandemin. Vårt samtal med basisten Greg Mackintosh kom dock att handla om en hel del annat. Greg minns bland annat James Hetfields vita tänder, ett partybesök i en favela med Billy Gould, en illaluktande sångerska, Beatleshysteri i Israel och slagsmål som nästan ledde till bandets slut:

We very nearly called it a day at that point and on one particular tour we ended up actually fist fighting. I broke my arm halfway through a tour, or it was actually my wrist or something, but I had to move on to playing keyboards during the tour and my guitar tech played the guitar. During that tour it was nearly full meltdown. We came off that and for a few weeks after that we were like “Do we just call it a day? Is it going to be any fun going out again?”

What have you been up to during the pandemic, besides recording the live album “At the Mill”?

I´ve been working on two records. One, which is my side project called Strigoi, which is like crusty, death metaly stuff. We finished writing the second record and we´re going to record it in a couple of months I think, when the lockdowns go off a little bit more in the UK. So there´s that which all completely finished and ready to record and everything. Then there´s another thing that I´m working on with Nick (Holmes) which I can´t say too much more about, but it´s Nuclear Blast that´s going to do it with us. That´s going to be a little further down the line, probably at the end of 2022 maybe. Strigoi will be early 2022.

Was that Nuclear Blast coming to you and Nick or did you offer it to them?

It´s kind of like shopping around you know. In general these days we try not to do anything for more than one record if we can help it. We find it easier that way. With Strigoi for instance, we´re shopping it around so we still don´t know who´s going to do it. It´s between three labels at the moment. With this other thing with Nick, that was basically we said we were going to offer it out there. Nuclear Blast said “Can we put in the first offer?” and their offer was just so good. We would be kind of stupid not to go with it.

Will it be something that is completely different from Paradise Lost?

From certain elements yes. I can´t say too much, but yeah, the majority of Paradise Lost albums it´s completely different to.

But Paradise Lost hasn´t written anything for a new album?

Absolutely not. We´re very adamant about stuff. Even in a normal year, or a touring year, we would finish the touring cycle of an album before we sit down and think “Right, where do we want to go from here?”, because your ideas change completely over time. If I had been writing something last year for Paradise Lost, when we come to a continuation of it, maybe the live scene´s back to normal next year, and we might completely have to disregard most of it because it´s not what we are about anymore. From my point of view it´s all about catching the moment of what you think about at a certain period of time and that´s what we´ve kind of always done really. We´ve been very piteous in how we write our albums. Sometimes it´s good and sometimes it´s bad. Sometimes we´ve shot ourselves in the foot, but at least it´s been something that we, at that moment in time, we´re one hundred percent behind and still stand by. Whether it was the write thing or the wrong thing to do is up to the people who listen to it really.

So to get back in writing mode would be next year the earliest then?

Yeah, I think so. I just finished writing all this Strigoi album and I moves straight on to doing this other thing, which will carry me through right to the end of this year and then I´ll start fresh. Like a clean sheet and I just brough brand new note pads or something and see where we feel we´re at. That´s when you get the best ideas I think. I do like working on other stuff because it gives you a nice finite point where you finish doing this and you start doing that. It makes all the things seem fresh so when I come around to do a new Paradise Lost album, it will seem like a breath of fresh air, which I guess it wouldn´t be if I´d just not done any gigs for this and gone straight into writing. It would just feel like it would be a continuation of “Obsidian” (2020), which I really don´t like doing. It works obviously, but we did that with “Icon” (1993) and “Draconian times” (1995) and “Draconian times” was basically just a polished version of “Icon” because we just went straight trough the whole process in one go and it´s just not enjoyable. It worked from a commercial point of view, but as a band it starts making you fight, infight and things like that, questioning yourself and stuff.

What´s the worst fight you ever had a s a band? Have you had one of those big ones?

Oh yeah yeah! We did a tour once where me and Nick were at each other’s throats so badly, I think it was around the turn of the millennium. We were going through a lot of troubles at that point because we kind of became rudderless as a band. We didn´t really know what direction we wanted to go in, no one agreed, we weren´t really getting along on a personal level. We very nearly called it a day at that point and on one particular tour we ended up actually fist fighting. I broke my arm halfway through a tour, or it was actually my wrist or something, but I had to move on to playing keyboards during the tour and my guitar tech played the guitar. During that tour it was nearly full meltdown. We came off that and for a few weeks after that we were like “Do we just call it a day? Is it going to be any fun going out again?” I put it down to Rhys Fulber who started recording the album “Symbol of life” (2002) We did that and he was an old fan of the band and was really enthusiastic about giving us a direction again and making it exciting for us to do again. He was really instrumental in keeping the band together and turning it all around for us and seeing it through fresh eyes. We just carried on from strength to strength from there really. It´s one of those things where you sometimes need an outsider to tell you that you´re all stupid and you need to snap out of it.

Your album “Gothic” turned 30 earlier this year. 30 years is like a lifetime.

I know. It never doesn´t become kind of like a double take where you think “Wow, that´s 30 years gone by…” and it feels like it was yesterday you were in the back of a transit van with Autopsy going around Europe. It´s something like you blink and it´s gone. It really is like that. We never went out of it. All of our peers went out, like Carcass and a lot of the other bands did normal jobs for a while and we continued. We´ve been doing this cycle for many years where we write an album, record an album, tour an album and it just goes by so fast because you´re on these three year cycles and those three years feels like one year or less because how fast everything moves. It never doesn´t seem like yesterday to me.

1991 was a different time music wise. You had Nirvana and the whole grunge era taking over the world. Were you a fan of Nirvana and those bands?

I liked the first album and the second album and a couple of the third album. We actually saw them in Leeds in a small pub, touring the first album supporting Tad. There was like… I don´t know, maybe 20 people there. And then I saw them on the next tour when they´d got a bit bigger and there were still only about 500 there. I preferred Soundgarden I have to say. I wasn´t a huge lover of the whole thing. I don´t know if you remember how many bands there were at that time, kind of jumping on that train, but there were a lot. Kind of being in the game, going to festivals every year, you see things like that come and go quite a lot. Every country had their own glut of grunge type bands that got popular for a moment and they were headlining all the bills that year. We were kind of halfway up and we´ve kind of hovered around that halfway mark for our entire career. I don´t think that´s necessarily a bad thing. I think that´s what´s kept our fanbase how it is. If you have this hit single or this moment in the sun that´s a bit too bright, you burn out fast and become yesterday´s news. It´s happened with a lot and it happened with the grunge thing. There was funk metal for a while. The industrial metal thing became huge one summer and everyone was industrial. It just happens and you see these bands at the top of the bill and the next year they´re at the bottom of the bill. It´s just one of them things and it´s nobody´s fault. It´s just like, you either jump on the gravy train or you don´t. All the American bands call us, or not all the American bands, but bands like Machine Head and stuff, they say “Paradise Lost isn´t that that miserable English band who all stand around in a circle talking to each other backstage at festivals?” Because we don´t really socialize. You know how all the American bands all love to “whoop” and “high five” each other. We´re just the opposite of that. I guess we´ve always had this insular thing where we just never became part of a broader scene.

What do you remember from recording “Gothic”?

Well, I remember we all still had jobs then, so we had a lot of time to record, but still could only do it in like two-day stints. I think we recorded between November and January. It was like all weekend. We´d do it for like four hours on Saturday and four hours on Sunday. It wasn´t as grand as it sounds and it was in a terrace house in Yorkshire. It was converted into a studio and it was the same place where we did the first record. All the bands around there did it there. After we´d done “Gothic” a lot of new bands sprung up and started treating this place like that´s the place you´ve got to go if you want that kind of doomy gloomy sound. It just happened to be the place we could afford at the time.

Do you get nostalgic about those days?

Of course! It´s a weird thing, but I wouldn´t want to be that age again. Some people say “Oh, I wish I was 20 again!” I don´t at all. There was a lot of shit that came with it and I was a dickhead as well. I was a complete dickhead when I was 20. I should´ve told myself “Stop taking everything so seriously!” There´s a lot of things to reminisce about. There´s a lot of good times and a lot of fun times and a lot of horrible times. It´s all good stuff because it all lead us to where we are now. I mentioned earlier about being in a transit van with Autopsy. It was an absolute nightmare, but when we think back about it now, we only kind of laugh about it. Our fond memories were at times gross. I mean, all the gear was in there, there was nowhere to sit, we slept in the van. It was the driver, the tour manager, the owner of Peaceville and another guy, so it was like 15 people in a normal transit van with all the gear in. It was just terrible. You didn´t get any sleep and you would drink too much because you didn´t know what else to do and that´s how we got paid. A tray of beer as payment. When you think back it´s fond memories. At least you lived to make those mistakes and see those things. I have friends now who are in their 30´s and even in their late 20´s and they say “You´re so lucky to be around the time when the scene was emerging and be a part of it.” and it´s like “Yeah, I guess I was, but it wasn´t as rose tinted as it appears.” It was nowhere near as big as people think it was. It was a handful of people in each country.

Throughout the years, being at festivals, travelling the world, have you ever had the chance to meet some major stars? Doesn´t have to be in metal, just whatever?

Talking about Nirvana. We were once in a hotel, like a fancy hotel in London in the West end around the “Icon” time. I got in a lift and this woman got in the lift with a pram and she absolutely stonk. She smelled really bad of BO. It was disgusting and when we got out of the lift I realized it was Courtney Love with Frances Bean in the pram. I´m not sure I should be saying those types of things, but my mouth does tend to run away. Another time we were in another hotel somewhere, myself and Nick, and we were in the bar and we got talking to two fellas who seemed like polar opposites of each other and they sat there drunk and it turned out to be Jimmy Page and Flavor Flav (Public Enemy). It´s like, how random is that? It´s kind of interesting, because you travel so much so you do end up in this situation. You might be in an airport lounge or just in a bar in the back of beyond somewhere and you just accidently bump into somebody that has nothing to do with the music industry.

Have you ever met any of the Metallica guys?

Yeah! The first time we did it was quite a while ago. It was at a festival called Sonisphere and we were all just in the same backstage area and then a bout five or six years ago, we were playing at the Bataclan in Paris. I think the year before the attack and we were told “You´ve got to postpone the gig!” and we said “What do you mean postpone?” and they said “Just hold it back for like 10 minutes.”. It ended up being half an hour and the audience was getting a little bit grumpy. We asked “Why are we holding it?” and then this fleet of black cars came down the road and it was James Hefield and he´d asked to hold the gig because he wanted to come and see us. He came in and shook hands with us all. Then he went up to the balcony and he had it cornered off for himself where he just stood. It was kind of nerve wrecking because then we on stage and you could just see him there with his big white teeth up on the balcony on his own in the middle, looking down kind of judging you. Your fingers kind of turn to rubber when you try to hit notes. I don´t even know if he made it to the end of the show, because we didn´t see him afterwards. It was kind of nice that he´d made the effort to come down from wherever he was in Paris. It was nice and he was a lovely guy. A lot of these people are, the older guard like Sabbath, AC/DC and people like that. They´re always really lovely guys with no edge to them. It´s usually the people who come up faster, I guess… Who didn´t have to fight for it maybe? I don´t know. I can´t name names, but bands that got big in the space of two or three years. You´ll see them at festivals and there´s this one band in particular that I remember. They were the only band on the bill that wouldn´t wear passes because all the security should know what they look like. Security can be like a 60 year old guy who´s into blues or something. It´s a very arrogant thing to do. You see it from time to time, but thankfully not often.

You´re now releasing the live album “At the Mill” Throughout the years, do you remember a gig that stands out as being one where everything clicked and the crowd was into it and it was the greatest gig ever?

Yeah and there´s not just one. It´s quite a few. When we started playing in Greece, the people in Athens were just crazy for it and Israel as well. First time we went to Poland. A lot of the Russian territories and Mexico and a lot of the South American territories. It´s just insane. One particular example was the first time in Israel. It was kind of special because I don´t think a lot of bands had been there at that point and we took magazine with us as well who were doing stories on it as we played around Israel. We did Jerusalem, we did Tel Aviv and Haifa. In Haifa we weren´t far from trouble. We could hear guns going off. It was just absolutely electric. We did a record signing and we got chased like The Beatles. It was crazy.

You mentioned hearing guns go off. You must´ve ended up in places out on tour where you´ve felt like it wasn´t the safest place in eh world?

Oh Christ, yes! Really bad sometimes. If you hadn´t had a few drinks, you probably would get into trouble because you would probably be wondering around like an idiot. When you´re drunk no one seems to bother you. We´ve been stranded in favelas in Colombia and stuff. One I really remember is that I went to a party in Santiago in Chile. We were playing on the Monsters of Rock thing there and I think on our night it was Ozzy, Faith No More and us. We were in this hotel and we had a day off and there was still some military regime, so it wasn´t the safest place anyway. It was me and Billy Gould (bass, Faith No More), Aaron (Aedy, guitar) from our band and a couple of other guys and somebody just said “Do you want to come to this party? We´ve got like a minibus and we´ll take you there.” and we said “Yeah, ok!” It was like the early hours in the morning. We were driving for what seemed like ages and we pull up at a really dodgy house with many floors in a very strange area. There were people shooting up, there was a guy with a shotgun over his shoulder and they just kept leading us up these stairwells up and up and as we got up it just seemed to get dodgier and dodgier. Lots of guns, lots of drugs, lots of scary looking people. Anyway, we stayed for a couple of beers and got out of there quite safely and went back to the hotel. I remember thinking about it the day after like “Christ, that was incredibly dangerous!” Nobody knew where we were or anything. That´s one that stands out because it was with Billy Gould.

Text: Niclas Müller-Hansen

Foto: Josefin Wahlstedt