Paradise Lost – Never Underestimate LuckSunday, 24th May 2015
While many veteran acts tend to latch on to one particular aspect of their sound and rely upon their foothold (and name) within the scene to sell album after album, some bands are a bit more adventurous. One such example is Paradise Lost. Despite reaching success with albums like Gothic and Draconian Times, it never stopped the band from exploring different elements and taking experimental risks. All without pandering to the sequence of trends that have surrounded them over the years.
The band’s latest offering, The Plague Within, has continued a more recent shift in Paradise Lost’s sound back towards their early days, with vocalist Nick Holmes even tossing in death metal vocals this time around. A high note for the first half of 2015 for sure. We were lucky enough to grab some phone time with Holmes, who, despite a lost connection towards the end of the interview, was able to discuss some of the cyclic elements of The Plague Within, the band’s lasting appeal, and even the music of today’s youth.
Dead Rhetoric: Paradise Lost has gone through a number of stylistic shifts with every few album cycles, do you get bored with doing the same old thing after a while?
Nick Holmes: We have a bit of time between albums; it’s not like we are doing album after album. We have a certain amount of time to sit back and reflect. You can take stock in that I never felt like “oh god, we have to do another album.” Each one we have done, we have been very much into and this new one we had quite a lot of time to write. We approach it like we are going to paint a picture. We sit down and figure out what we are going to do. The whole creation process is still very exciting.
Dead Rhetoric: The two songs that have been released so far seem to point towards The Plague Within as showing off many facets of Paradise Lost through the years. Is it safe to assume the rest of the album will follow suit?
Holmes: I think the album is quite varied. But it’s harder to pin it down. There’s a lot of different styles in there. The last song, “Beneath Broken Earth,” its doom metal but that’s the only one that’s like that. There’s obviously nods to our past albums, but we keep working forward hopefully and it’s more about thinking about albums that came out when we were teenagers and were excited about death and doom metal in the early days of it. That created “Beneath Broken Earth” to a certain degree.
Dead Rhetoric: Was there anything that caused the shift towards a more death metal direction? It’s my understanding that most of The Plague Within was written before you joined Bloodbath.
Holmes: Yeah, we re-recorded two old tracks (“Gothic” and “Our Saviour”) for some extra songs. I did the death metal vocals on them and we said, “why don’t we try that on the new stuff.” It has more of a texture to it. We had been bouncing around similar ideas for the last few albums without experimenting too much. We were going to take a step back and more acoustic. We thought, where do we go with this? The heavier voice just kind of fit like a glove this time really.
Dead Rhetoric: Does the shift back towards death metal influences bring the band more or less full-circle to its beginnings while still moving forward?
Holmes: We would not have been able to make this album when we started. No one had the skill to make this album. To a certain degree yes, but everything goes in circles. I think the music that you grew up with will stay with you all your life. There’s a time when you can tap into it and you enjoy doing what you were doing when you were teenagers. But I think that growing up in a metal band, it’s always going to be there. I guess the early days were the most important.
Dead Rhetoric: The band has been riding high for the past few albums, particularly Tragic Idol. Does pressure build with each release to ensure that you are continuing to gain on this momentum?
Holmes: There’s always pressure. Every album you are going to do is going to decide what you will be doing for the next three or four years of your life, professional or whatever. But at the same time, you want to make an album and you want to go out on tour. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves, probably more. I put a lot of pressure on myself, I don’t even think about outside pressure because I do it naturally myself. But I don’t think you can ever completely forget about what the people think. But that being said, I think that most of our fans are very like-minded and are much like we are. They like the same music we like. Bearing that in mind, we [the band] are probably our own worst critics or strongest critics I think.
Dead Rhetoric: Along with that, you’ve released 14 albums now. Does it get harder to come up with original thoughts that relate back without pushing things too far from where you’ve gone, but making it fresh and original?
Holmes: I think that if we are actively listening to metal music and are into it, it’s not that difficult. If we were into R&B or country/western, we’d probably struggle to make progress in an album. We kind of went a little bit like that when we did the Host album. We weren’t big on metal music at that time. It was always there, but we slightly drifted away from it a little bit. It’s not difficult if you are into it. Whatever you listen to is going to reflect upon your writing, even if it’s subconsciously.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve done a number of “non-metal” covers over the years. Is there one song laying around, regardless of genre, that you’d like to take a stab at in the future?
Holmes: The natural choices are the ‘80s songs but we have kind of done all the ‘80s songs now. There are some good ‘80s pop songs that you can turn into metal songs, but we’ve done at least 2 or 3 now so we’ve worn that down. I’d probably be more inclined to use a more modern song that’s been in the charts in the last year or something just to make it more interesting. At the moment, we’ve run our fill of covers. It’s almost a dirty word at this point [laughs]. We’ve done so many of them.
Dead Rhetoric: At least when you do it, you are making it your own. It’s not like you are covering other metal songs and just playing it verbatim like some bands do.
Holmes: It’s cool, but the thing is that, from my experience, when you play a song that you really love – after you have recorded and sang it, you kind of don’t like it anymore. It kind of kills the songs, it’s better to leave them alone [laughs].
Dead Rhetoric: Is it humbling to be cited by so many bands over the years as influences to their sound?
Holmes: I guess so. Particularly our Gothic album was the biggest. A lot of bands that are maybe 4-5 years younger than us, which nowadays is nothing, but when you are a teenager, 4 years is quite a lot. But yeah, there was a cluster of bands that really picked up on the Gothic sound and yeah, it was really flattering. We were just kids who were into the gothic sound and we were also into death and doom metal so we literally just combined the two. I guess we started creating a mixed off-shoot of metal I suppose. It’s always flattering that people regard us in high regard.
Dead Rhetoric: With the amount of material that’s out there nowadays, do you ever hear something that you listen to it and say, “That sounds exactly like us?”
Holmes: Sometimes, yeah. Sometimes there are bands that are copying bands that are copying bands that perhaps copied us twenty-five years ago. It’s like the 4-5th generation of the style. Greg [Mackintosh], our guitar player, has a real style of how he plays guitar. I can tell if someone is trying to copy his style. But it’s all good, it’s not a problem. It’s inspiring.
Dead Rhetoric: If the band were to just pack it in tomorrow, what do you hope is the legacy that Paradise Lost leaves behind?
Holmes: It would be nice to think we made a mark and had some kind of impact on the metal scene. It’s just cool that we have been able to be a professional band for so long. We are actually very lucky to have this opportunity. We take each day as it comes and we don’t expect anything from anyone. We are very honored and lucky to be able to do this. If it all ends tomorrow, we can’t say that we haven’t had a good crack at the whip you know. It’s been nearly 27 years; we’ve been in it a fucking long time.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you feel that there has been any key to Paradise Lost that has allowed to you to be successful for so long?
Holmes: I think you have to work hard. Nothing comes easy, especially today. You have to work even harder to be successful. We were lucky in that we came along at a time when a band could have a career without tour most of the year. We were in a good place at a good time, and we managed to get a foothold. The music changed, and then it changed even more. We have been very lucky and got a lot of good breaks. We care a lot about what we do as well. We are very meticulous about it, but you can’t underestimate luck. There’s a lot of that involved.
Dead Rhetoric: I saw an interview where you were a bit frustrated with the music your children currently listen to. Do you feel that today’s youth have a bit of a disconnect with the music that they listen to?
Holmes: It’s a funny thing. I don’t really care what they listen to as long as their happy. But music to my children, particularly my oldest child, it’s completely disposable. She listens to it while she is traveling to A to B, but she doesn’t think about the people that make the music or the lyrics. It’s literally like having a McDonalds burger. She wants a binge and it’s gone. Then she wants the next thing and the next thing. It’s so disposable, it’s kind of sad. But maybe it’s the type of person. Obviously, growing up around people, all we cared about was music. It’s been such a passion of mine and my friends. Maybe I just never experienced anyone like that before.
Dead Rhetoric: As a middle and high school teacher, there’s always a few that break out of that mold, but with a lot of them, they listen to one song 15 times and they just want something new.
Holmes: Exactly. I’ve been surrounded by all these people that are passionate about music. It was new for me, and with it being my daughter I was seeing it firsthand. It was kind of strange. Its like, can you listen to something more than like 15 times? I still listen to what I listened to 30 years ago. It’s a different world, and I risk sounding like an old git, but I guess I am now [laughs].
Dead Rhetoric: In speaking with a number of high-profile bands (mostly from Europe), it seems that as the band ages, their “party days” of touring are over, really focusing instead on being totally professional and being more choose-y about when/what tours to join. Does Paradise Lost fit into this grouping?
Holmes: Yeah, definitely. You are being filmed nearly every night now. You have to at least try to be good. The partying aspect of touring is still nice, but it’s very, very rare. Your body just doesn’t let you do that. Touring when we were kids, the fun part was getting hammered every night but now that’s out the window. We just have to listen to audiobooks and go to bed early. But now we have realized why we are there, and that’s to do the concert – so we’ve grown up finally.