Paradise Lost är tillbaka med sitt tyngsta album på länge, “Medusa”. Vi bänkade oss framför Nick Holmes och Greg Mackintosh för att prata om detta alster, men kom även att vidröra ämnen som Forrest Gump, kråkor, tråkiga Sverige, en smutsig skilsmässa, munkar och Tinder.
”Medusa” is a very heavy album. There are a couple of tracks that stand out to me. The first one, ”Fearless sky”, is eight minutes long and when I read about that song, I found you Nick, quoting Forrest Gump.
Nick: (laughs) The line, which Sally Field says is… what is it?
”There is only so much fortune a man really needs and the rest is just for showing off.”
Nick: I´m annoyed it came from Forrest Gump. It´s a brilliant quote, but it´s still like one of those Hollywood movies and not some rare arthouse and that´s why I didn´t mention the film and just mentioned the line. ”The richest man in the graveyard” is kinda where it came from, but I like that. It´s more about accumulation and especially at our age when we have the hindsight and can look back. It´s about who´s accumulated certain things in life and about wealth and material things, which… going back to what Sally Field said… it´s nice to have nice things, but it´s just possessions and it doesn´t mean anything. When we were in the studio we met this munk and he just wanted to stay in the garden outside the studio for one night. He knocked on the door and asked the studio boss if he could stay there for a night. We chatted with him and he said that he had had all these material things, but he had given it all up 35 years ago. He could be lying, but…
Greg: No reason for it.
Nick: No. He went to Sri Lanka and just gave it all up and now lives in a tent. He doesn´t have anything and just walks around. He said his daughter had a stable and he goes to visit like a tramp, even though she´s doing really well. I just thought it was quite sweet and he seemed really happy. That munk meeting made me think about those lyrics even more. It´s just by chance that it happened to be in the studio.
That´s something that comes with age, isn´t it? That all the stuff you´ve got doesn´t really mean anything.
Nick: Well, it´s personal and if that makes you happy that´s fine.
Greg: You become more aware of your mortality as well, because of slightly older members of family and such stuff.
Nick: I mean, I´ve got friends on Tinder, divorced men around 50 years old and they have to project this image of constantly travelling and exercising all the time. That seems to be it. All part of this package ”I´m incredibly eligible.” But why has it to be all that shit, you know what I mean? Why can´t you just be somebody that´s nice to talk to?
The track ”Fearless sky” is a really strong opening track.
Nick: It´s probably one of my favorites on the album. It´s slow and sometimes people go for the…
Greg: It wasn´t planned to be super long or anything. It was just as we built the track up it was like ”Well, we can´t miss that part. That´s great. And we can´t miss this part. We´ve got to keep it all in.” and it just flows so well. It doesn´t feel like eight and a half minutes Feels kinda like half to me and that´s just because it flows so well I guess. I think it starts off very hypnotic.
Nick: Initially we were gonna redo the intro and make it a lot more pompous, but it sounds better as it is. It doesn´t sound like you´d spent ages on it.
What was it that made ”Medusa” becoming the title?
Nick: When Greg writes songs he always comes up with a title for whatever piece he´s working on and he´ll just call it what he´s been doing that day, like ”Doom, death, loop, sample” and he must´ve watched ”Clash of the titans” (1981) that day so he just thought ”Medusa”. I wanted an excuse to use it as a title, because I really like the title and the Harryhausen 1970´s film wasn´t a good enough reason so I went online and looked thatough different incantations and what the word meant through the ages and the best one was the nihilist viewpoint, meaning that failing to look Medusa in the eyes is failing to look at what´s horrible in the world and that was totally like something I would probably write. I thought that was justification enough to use the title. It was as simple as that. Someone pointed out on our website that ”I think you´ll find there´s more to Medusa than that.” and I was like ”Well of course.” (laughs) There are some massive feminist things you could go mad with it. Of course there´s more to it, but I didn´t dive that far into the pool personally. It was just a justification for using it. It´s really not a Paradise Lost type title either and even on the cover, we didn´t want the snakes on the head. It was really hard to get the artwork because it´s so specific isn´t it?
Greg: We knew what we had in mind, but it´s so hard to convey it to people and we went through three artists until we got to the finished result.
Nick: The artwork… and I´m probably subjective, but you actually do grow into it. At first when you see it, it´s like anything and then after a while you get used to it.
Are you really specific when you want someone to do the artwork?
Nick: No, we´re not that specific, but the artwork is tricky. We used to have meetings face to face with the artist and even just looking sombody in the eye or waving your arms around a bit, they know more what you mean than when you just send an e-mail. It´s so subjective and so difficult you might only mean a slight tweak, but then they take things super literally and it´s just ”Arrghhhhh!” The last album (The plague within, 2015) was hard to get to as well. Unbelievable. There´s so much to be said just from eye contact. With our early albums, I don´t remember having like 300 e-mails… From an artwork point of view it´s always about some sort of identity. I always think about that album ”Born again” by Black Sabbath. That´s kinda crap, but it´s still good in a way.
Greg: That was one of the refrences we gave.
Nick: You always remember that and that´s also a cover I kinda grew into. When I looked at it I was like ”This is kinda shit really.”, but it´s still brilliant. It´s like when you´re driving out of town and see it on a poster, you´re gonna remember it. It works in that sense I guess.
Another song I really like is ”The longest winter” That crow in the beginning…
Nick: Someone said it should´ve been a wolf, but the song isn´t about wolves.
Greg: Or crows…
Is that something you just picked from a bunch of sound samples?
Greg: I´ll tell you. It was a last minute thing and I said ”Can we put a wintery thing on it?” and we had already recorded the whole album. It sounds a bit geeky, but I´m a member of a group of people and we exchange field recorded sounds and things like that. You can upload your own sounds and get theirs. It was a couple of field recording guys that had made crows and winds and stuff and we blended it all together and put reverbs on it.
Nick: It´s a classic frosty scene and you can hear a crow in it. I think Kreator did it on the ”Pleasure to kill” (1986) album. That was the first time I heard a crow and I thought it was fantastic. It´s fucking great. It´s not their crow. It´s probably dead now. (laughs)
Greg: When I suggested it I thought it sounded really cheesy, but ”Please let´s get a crow on the song!” (laughs)
Another gret track is ”No passage from the dead”
Nick: It´s kinda sleazy isn´t it?
Greg: It´s a bit sleazy, but it´s got some kind of a really downbeat Thin Lizzy vibe to it. Probably because of the pitch harmony on the guitar and stuff like that. It´s a Sabbath meets Lizzy sort of thing. We had two parts and we were trying to blend them together and it took a while to get it to go together and when it did, it just clicked like that. It´s pretty much the same tune all the way through I think, apart from the mid section.
What is it Jamie Gomez brings to Paradise Lost? You´ve worked with him before. Since he worked on Ghosts first album, did he tell you any funny Ghost stories?
Nick: No, but I´m a big fan of that first album. I love it, but as they kinda went on I got kinda less interested. That first album is great. He just likes very organic sounds and he doesn´t like samples and he doesn´t like to work with artificial stuff. He wants to get us on tape and use a tape machine.
Greg: He´s a hoarder. He hoards drums, amps, pedals. Old stuff from high end companies. The snare drum on the album is Dave Grohl´s old snare drum from when he played the ”Nevermind” tour of Europe and it was in some storage place and he bought it. This big, deep one. It wasn´t that expensive.
Nick: Yeah, but that´s his version of not expensive. It was probably ten grand. (laughs)
Greg: The drumkit on the album was kind of a hotch potch thing, but he collects all this stuff. Every band he works with, he just tries to make sound unique which is great, because usually a lot of the time in a lot of mainstream metal these days, people are buying into the producer´s sound, like ”We want to sound like the last band you produced.” I think that is one of Gomez´ stand out qualities to me, he´s totally not interested in that kind of thing.
Next year will be your 30th anniversary, right? How do you look back on your career? It´s a long time.
Nick: It is. When you started the recording, write, write and recording, release, tour, repeat… once you do that it goes incredibly fast. I couldn´t speak what it´s like if we worked in an office job and we were doing the same thing for 30 years… I just don´t know how that would work, but doing what we´re doing, it seems to go fast.
Greg: It´s hard to explain how fast it goes when you do it in these three or four year cycles. Before you know it, ten years have gone by.
Nick: Especially the last five years, life has started accellerating. The last five years… oh my God! When the children started secondary school it just flew and when they were little it seemed to last a lot longer. It doesn´t seem like 30. The only thing that´s different is that our bodies are starting to fail us. That´s the only thing that´s different.
Could you pin point a high point and a low point in your career?
Nick: Dynamo Festival (1995) was a high point.
Greg: Dynamo was a pinnacle. Not just in our career but a lot of bands careers. Biohazard, Type O Negative. Anyone who was anyone in the scene at the moment were all there and there was a really great vibe about the whole thing. It was like you were part of something special. You hear bands talk about things in the 60´s or whatever… it felt like our version of that, so that was really special to us. Ozzy in South America was great.
Nick: Only bad times is when we´ve had to deal with personal stuff like deaths in the family and we´ve been away having to do gigs when we should be at home. That kinda sucks.
Greg: I had a messy divorce and I was about to go on tour. I had two kids and a wife and I went on tour for eight weeks and when I got back the house was empty… all the carpets gone and no lightbulbs and I had to sleep on the floor with my head on my suitcase. That was brutal. That was extremely brutal. (laughs) Fortunately I can laugh about it now.
And ”One second” (1997) turns 20 this year?
Nick: A lot of anniversaries isn´t it? We tried something else…
Greg: I remember that as a really, really kind of happy time and exciting time. We had done five years of touring and writing and recording two records that were very similar, so it was just like new territory and ”Let´s just do what the hell we want!” We were really trying stuff out for the first time in probably ever. We were just like ”Let´s try this song and let´s try that!” We would come to rehearsals and go ”Let´s change this song to half the tempo.” It was just really cool and we had never tried anything like that before. And of course we ended up doing half of it in Stockholm, which was surprisingly boring. (laughs) Everything was always closed. We used to go down to Café Opera and drink ridiculously expensive drinks. Poncing around in fucking Café Opera and get chased out of Daily News by bikers.
Nick: Yeah, we did actually. I was pretty drunk and had a big mouth I guess. A girl came over to talk to us, but we didn´t do anything wrong.
Greg: We saw some great bands. There was a KISS cover band (KYSS) that was brilliant and the singer was the original singer on Candlemass´ first album (This is incorrect. The singer was Thomas Vikström, the band´s third singer and not Johan Längqvist who sang on Candlemass´ first album.)). He was Gene Simmons. That album is probably in my top three so when I found out I was like ”Fucking éll!”
Nick: The Gene Simmons impression was based on the 1976 Cobo Hall KISS gig. I absolutely love that gig and I was in hysterics because I totally knew all his moves. I remember it was fucking classic. (laughs)
I love ”Draconian times” (1995). Do you see it as one of your finest efforts?
Greg: I think it´s something we perfected, because we started it with ”Icon” (1993). We were touring a lot and we just became really good at that style and by the time we did ”Draconian times” we just completely nailed it. I think for that style of music at that time, we just hit it at the right time. I think it´s still a pretty solid work.
And the artwork is just beautiful.
Nick: Yeah, that´s where we had meetings, you see. (laughs) When we did the ”Icon” cover, that was a staged photograph and the company that did it, we had quite good relationship with them, but I remember when I first got ”Icon” I was like ”What the fuck is this?” and then I grew to love it. (laughs) You identify with it. It becomes like a corporate logo.
Greg: One I never liked and I still don´t like is ”Believe in nothing” (2001). That´s the worst of the worst. I don´t underdstand the photo of bees.
Was there ever an album where you after some time felt that you wanted to go back and change things?
Greg: Only at the time and it was our first record (Lost Paradise, 1990). Didn´t we? The demo ”Frozen illusion” sounds way better than the first album and we just wanted it to be like the demo. Hammy (producer) made us record without distortion on the guitars and then put distortion on afterwards and we were just like ”What the fuck?” I don´t regret anything because it´s all funny and it´s all stories and it has led to where you are now, but if I had known a bit more then…
Nick: We´ve actually rerecorded it now and it sounds alright actually. ”Frozen illusion 2” so that´s gonna be like a bonus track. It´s one of the first songs we ever did so we might as well see how it sits along the new tunes.
Text: Niclas Müller-Hansen
Foto: Josefin Wahlstedt