Interview conducted October 15 2015
Interview published October 25 2015
"I still think Host is
a good record."
Tobbe: The Plague Within was released on
June 1st and you finalized the recordings in the spring, I guess, so if
you look back at it now, at this point, what do you see?
Gregor: I see that we made the right decision
to get Jamie Gomez Arellano involved, because initially we were gonna
produce it ourselves and just have Jamie as an engineer. But as we worked
more and more on it, we'd realize that, he wasn't changing the songs,
but he was definitely going above and beyond an engineer's role, to
make the album sound how we wanted it to sound. It just worked great.
mean, we went to the Metal Hammer Awards in Germany the other week,
me and Nick [Holmes, vocals], and we had loads of people asking us,
you know "Can you give me this guy's contact details?", and
you know. Like the guys from Moonspell and the guys from Kreator and
things. I think it just sounds different to what's out there in metal
at the moment, which is exactly what we wanted. We didn't want the sample
drums and all the rest of it. I know it sounds great on radio and TV
and stuff, but it's not real. So, you know, we wanted something a little
Tobbe: It contains like a little bit of
everything of Paradise Lost. To me it's like taking the 4 first albums,
kind of, and just putting them together into one piece. Was this something
you thought of when you started songwriting?
Gregor: Yeah, before we even started songwriting.
We were actually touring on the previous album, Tragic Idol, and I said
to the rest of the guys that I didn't wanna continue the same thing.
I wanted to try something different and they said "Well, like what?"
and I said "Well, you have to be open to every idea and Nick has
to be willing to try his old styles again and things.". It took
a bit of convincing, but after a while, it was like "Okay, what
we've got to lose?
Apart from a career.".
So yeah, then it became really enjoyable to write
and it was kind of a new way of writing, which I hope we continue with,
because I would send Nick some basic ideas and then I would say "I
want you to sing as many different styles, on as many different ideas,
over this one thing. Send it back to me and then I'll start building
a track.", like a jigsaw puzzle. It gives you a lot more freedom
in the songwriting, I suppose.
Tobbe: Nick's voice is kind of harsh on
quite a few songs on the album. Does this feature somewhat limit the amount
of songs you can play live off it?
Gregor: No, we play hell of a lot off it live,
because it's been going down so well. You know, adding one here and
one there and we were rotating a couple and now we're finding out which
ones work better live. I think we play a good, maybe, two thirds of
the album tonight or something. [They later ended up playing 7 songs
out of 10 off it.] So we're not limited at all. We did an album release
type show where we played the whole thing to see how it worked, and
everything is doable, you know. On a long tour, we have yet to see how
his voice holds it, to changing styles all the time.
Tobbe: That was kind of what I was wondering
Gregor: Yeah, but we've been out for 2 ½
weeks now and he's holding up okay. We have another 5 weeks to go on
this, but we'll see. Ask me in 5 weeks, so.
Tobbe: If you have to say one, and only
one thing. What was in the end the final triggering factor that you, like
10 years ago, returned to a sound more similar to your classic one? One
Gregor: One factor?
Taking it back to the
earlier soundish type there, I would say nostalgia. Possibly, if that's
Tobbe: You know, fans to Paradise Lost can
never predict how a new album of yours is gonna sound like
Gregor: I hope not, because then it gets boring.
because you have changed directions
a couple of times. More than a few times really. So is it exciting to
create, you know, different stuff occasionally, to see the fans' response?
Gregor: Yeah. I mean, Nick is the very straight
one and I'm the one that wants to go off at tangent, so we kind of find
the middle ground sometimes. I love it, because it's more creative.
Yeah, I mean, how far you go, you have to kind of agree that within
the band, you know. But yeah, I love it, 'cause it's a creative process
and if you'd just recovering old ground all the time, I don't see the
point, you know.
Tobbe: Maybe you won't go back to the Host
days though, or?
Gregor: You'd never say never. I still think
Host is a good record. It's just not a metal album, you know.
Well, I also like Believe In Nothing.
Gregor: It's got some good songs on it. It was
the production and the things that were going on within the record label
and the making of the album that stopped it. But we've got the masters
back recently and we're thinking about redoing some guitars and stuff
like that and see how it pans out, because I think there's some good
stuff on there.
Tobbe: Is it hard to always have fans or
people comparing your most recent stuff to your classic days?
Gregor: Nah, it's inevitable, especially in a
long career. You're bound to get it. I mean, even from the first album
that we ever did, the people were saying "You've sold out, because
it's not like the demo.". Second album, same thing. You learn very
quickly that you can't please everybody, so we kind of stopped trying,
you know. [Laughs]
Tobbe: Your new DVD is coming out on November
20th and the first half is performed with an orchestra and even if that
approach is kind of common in metal nowadays, what made you come up with
the idea to record such a show?
Gregor: It's something that definitely always
intrigued me, because I've always been interested in a little bit of
classical music. Even from the second album onwards, there were bits
and pieces here and there. But it's never really been done right by
a metal band. I'm not sure it ever will be, but it's worth a try. I
think, with a band like us, it's a lot easier than some other bands,
because especially the tracks we picked to do with the orchestra were
tracks that I'd already done some kind of scoring for beforehand. I
think it was written with a view to having an orchestra involved. It
wasn't as much of a stretch as, say, having a thrash metal song.
So I think we had a bit of head start on that
one, but it wasn't something that I initially was keen on, 'cause it's,
like you say, it's been done. But when I saw the feedback from the fans,
saying "Yes. We really wanna see this." and when I played
it, the vibe was really great. Everyone really loved it. And you saw
how many people had put their own time and effort and finances into
making this thing happen, that kind of makes you feel humble, you think.
And sometimes it's not all about what I want. [Laughs]
Tobbe: Just like you said, the songs on
the album are originally fit to the concept
Gregor: Yeah, we picked it that way, but I mean,
it was also from the fans' point of view.
All right, but I wouldn't say
that it's like your most famous ones overall. If you look at the hard
core fans; sure, they know the songs, but I don't know if the everyday
fan knows all the songs.
Gregor: No, maybe not, but it was a poll that
we ran, and then we broke it down in percentages and like "Which
?". It's pretty much what we would have chosen anyway.
You know, there was a little bit of variation, but overall, it was pretty
much what we'd have chosen, because I guess our fans knew which ones
that they thought would work best. And I think they're right. I mean,
the best one for me is a song called Last Regret, which is very low
key on the album version and it's very overblown and pompous on the
orchestra version. And that's one of the ones that worked best for me,
I think. So it was a good choice by the fans.
Tobbe: Since I haven't heard or seen one
single note of it, what does it bring to the table for a band like Paradise
Gregor: It's just a different side of it. Just
a different viewpoint. I've worked with a few orchestra type people,
but never a full orchestra, and they're kind of weird people. It's like
a different world, and their idea of how things come together musically
is very different to mine. It's very structured. You know, everything
is written down, everything is in its place, but I guess with that many
people having to have parts
It's a different viewpoint. It's just
a different view of the band, you know.
Tobbe: So why recording it down there [in
Bulgaria] and not in Britain?
Gregor: Because there's no Roman theaters, amphitheaters,
and also Danny [Cavanagh] from Anathema was the guy who contacted us
and saying we should do it, 'cause they had just done it. He contacted
Nick and said, you know "You should do this. The people there have
been asking and saying that Paradise Lost would be one of the best ones
for them to do it.". So that's how it came about. Kind of through
Anathema really, you know.
Tobbe: The 4 core members of the band have
been together since 1988, 27 years, so do you clash heads a lot of times?
Gregor: We used to. Not really anymore. We only
clash heads over stupid things like politics and religion these days.
I mean, we know each other so inside out, you know. It's like, we know
how far you can push someone's buttons and when to hold back. The most
things we argue about is things that everyone argues about at Southside
Cafes every day, you know. So it's nothing serious, but over the years
we have had our differences. Like the Believe In Nothing period was
very rocky. We nearly didn't make it through that.
So how much of a democracy is Paradise Lost, or is it you and Nick?
Gregor: It is me and Nick doing all the writing,
but as far as what gets released and what songs make it onto an album
and whether it's good enough, it's all democratic. So we might write
something and say "What do you think?" and they'd say "Hmm,
hmm." or "Yeah, that's good.", you know.
Tobbe: So besides the songwriting, how much
of an input do the other guys have with like arrangements and recordings
Gregor: It's mainly drums that kind of alter
more than anything else. And dynamics. Sometimes you get in the rehearsal
room and it won't work as well dynamically as you envision it in your
head and then you have to shift things around a little, so it's kind
of like a common sense thing.
Tobbe: You know, Nick is doing things with
Bloodbath and you're doing Vallenfyre, with Adrian [Erlandsson] on drums,
so why can't the work with Paradise Lost, like satisfy your musical needs
to a full extent?
Gregor: Well, Bloodbath, they kind of just asked
him quite a few times to do it and then he gave in. He doesn't really
write anything for that. It's like, kind of gone in and done it, so
it's not about satisfying his musical needs. It's about he's just having
a laugh with some people that we know. With me, with Vallenfyre, it
was a totally different story why I started to do that and the only
reason I continued it was because it was fun to do. So it wasn't about
satisfying a need for me. It was a process I had to get through at the
time, in 2010, and then it just continued from there because it became
something fun. Like a hobby, you know.
Tobbe: So how much material will you release
with Vallenfyre in the future?
Gregor: I don't know if we'll release anything
else. I have no plans to release anything else, but if, in a year's
time, 2 years, 3 years, whatever, I get the urge and there's enough
good stuff, then maybe. You never know. It's not a career band. I wanna
keep it as a thing where we can do what we want. We don't have to listen
to record company people. We don't have to listen to anybody. We just
do what we want, you know.
Tobbe: You've done a couple of shows.
Gregor: Yeah, we've done a few. We've done a
couple of tours here and there. We've done an American tour, a little
German tour, Spanish tour. Things like that. Some festivals. I think
we'll do a few festivals next year. But maybe we won't tour again, unless
we got offered something really good that we really want to do.
Tobbe: Your characteristic guitar playing,
you know like playing note by note, is a very big part of Paradise Lost's
overall sound, I think. And you have used it kind of frequently on the
most recently released albums, like you did on Draconian Times, so is
it important for you to have your kind of own playing style and come out
Gregor: I would like to say yes, but it's just
the way I play and I don't actually decide to do it in a certain way.
It's like, just meandering over the top of a riff and like "This
sounds good. Okay, I'll have to keep that part.". Then try another
thing and then put it all together and it just ends up sounding like
that. So it's not something like "I have to sound like myself.",
'cause then you'd just sound like probably a crap parody, you know.
Tobbe: I believe it really adds an extra
dimension to the music.
Gregor: That's really great if someone says
that, you know. It's just something that happened over years and years.
Tobbe: So what is the most important thing
in the band at this point in your career?
Gregor: To be happy in what we're doing, 'cause
success to me is happiness in life, especially when you get to an age,
like we're mid 40's now. It's not about pleasing all the people. It's
not about financial aspect. It's about "Are you happy in your life?".
Same as anyone when they get to a certain age. In the band, if we're
happy and we feel relevant and we're appreciated for what we're doing.
Yeah, it's all good.
Tobbe: About relevancy. Do you feel like
a veteran band today?
Gregor: Sometimes, sometimes.
You never feel like younger than ever?
Gregor: No. No one says so. Sometimes, like
we did the Soundwave tour in Australia. You know, this huge festival
with, I don't know, 17 stages, and every 2 days you move to another
part of Australia. And there's so many bands on, and you're all in this
big, huge backstage area, and I was just looking around and it was guys
with like pork pie hats, short hair and just a neck top of a flag or
something and I just thought "I feel old now. This is not what
I signed up for when I thought I'm gonna be in a metal band.".
Times like that, I can feel old.
But we're kind of lucky in a way, because we
do get to play lots of different types of festivals. We're kind of unique
in that way, that we can jump from a black metal festival in Norway,
to a goth festival in Germany, to something else, to a mainstream festival
somewhere else and still kind of get appreciated. To me, that's quite
interesting, you know.
Tobbe: Do you believe that Paradise Lost
will continue until you drop or do you see a coming end to the band in
Gregor: I don't know. I mean, as long as we're
happy and fulfilled.
Tobbe: You're still not old, but you've
been around for a very long time.
Gregor: Yeah, we just started young. It's about
being fulfilled, isn't it? It's like any hobby or anything. You do it
as long as it feels good. I mean, if ever I thought or if any of us
thought, you know "I've had enough of this.", it's easy if
you just stop and do it. It's not like we're multimillionaires or anything.
It's just something that we do and we've done for a long time.
Tobbe: Can you do something else if you
decide to quit with music?
Gregor: Oh no, we're completely unemployable.
What! You go down to the job center and it's -"What've you been
doing for the last 27 years?". -"You wouldn't believe me if
I told you", you know. The career I trained in doesn't even exist
anymore. Technology has taken it away.
Tobbe: You were kind of the inventors of
your type of music. Do you think that you get the credit that you deserve
for like bringing an own type of music to life?
Gregor: Yeah, because it's a lot of bands out
there that have given us the nod. I mean, that's enough for me. Most
of those bands don't sound anything like us anymore, but everyone starts
somewhere. Everyone tries to emulate their heroes, to some degree, at
some point. We just happened, down to a number of factors, a certain
place, a certain time, to come up with the same type of music. And then,
if we had done that 2 years earlier or 2 years later, it might not have
had the same effect. Yeah, I'm very kind of philosophical about it,
of the album The Plague Within