While not necessarily a household name here in the States, Paradise Lost have enjoyed a long, stellar career that dates back to 1988. As one of the founders of gothic metal, these English legends have been tinkering with their sound for quite a while and after all this time, who would’ve thought that they’d just now be reaching their peak? Sure, they’ve had amazing albums in the ‘90s such as Gothic, Icon, and One Second, but 2009’s Faith Divides Us–Death Unites Us was absolutely phenomenal. To follow-up that magnificent full-length, Paradise Lost unveiled Tragic Idol in April. Extremely dark and cryptic, Tragic Idol is yet another illustrious album in the band’s vast catalogue.
Consisting of vocalist Nick Holmes, guitarists Greg Mackintosh and Aaron Aedy, bassist Steve Edmondson and relatively new drummer Adrian Erlandsson, Paradise Lost will be coming to Philly’s Theatre Of Living Arts on Sept. 22 and NYC’s Irving Plaza on Sept. 23 as part of the Epic Kings & Idols Tour, which also features the Katatonia and The Devin Townsend Project. It will be their first tour on U.S. soil since they opened for Nightwish in 2007.
In the interview below, Mackintosh discusses the new album, their peculiar music videos, the U.S. tour, and his remarkable side-project, Vallenfyre.
This is the first time the band is touring the U.S. since 2007. What took you guys so long to get back here?
It’s just opportunities, I guess. You have to be up for the right tour and you have to be able to fit it into all of your other [tours] and you have to make it work, I guess. So it’s [not] just one thing, I mean, we heard about this tour six months ago and our manager actually manages all three bands—so it’s just a good opportunity for us to all get over back there, really. So we put the logistics together and made it work. It’s kind of easy because it’s all managed by the same people so it’s less kind of trying to go between a pillar and a post, you know?
Fans in the States really didn’t get to see a tour of Faith Divides Us–Death Unites Us. Is your setlist going to include a number of songs from that release?
We go straight off this U.S. tour and straight into another European tour. So what we’re going to do is change the set around quite a bit every night to kind of keep everything fresh because it’s going to be like an hour and a half set when we hit Europe. I think it’s going to be about a 45-minute set when we’re in America so we have to kind of jig everything around a lot, so it’s gonna be a bit of everything, really. It depends on the night, you know?
Faith Divides Us–Death Unites Us was met with laudatory reviews every which way but Tragic Idol has received stellar reviews as well. Did you feel like you had to do a lot more to try and outdo the previous CD?
No, I don’t think you can. If you go into it with that mindset, you’re kind of setting yourself up for a fail, really. The only way I approach every record is to pretend that we’ve never done anything before and we’re a brand new band and what would we like to do if we made it our first record? I think that’s the only way you can do it with any degree of honesty and any degree of enthusiasm, really. If you’re constantly trying to better yourself, I think it’s just trying to make a run for your own buck, really.
It sounds like Tragic Idol is more melodic than some of your others yet it’s still quite heavy. Do you feel this way as well?
Yeah, it was because, I mean, on Faith Divides Us, we had quite a lot of orchestration. So it’s more about, I guess, the dynamic of that record. On the new one, Tragic Idol, we stripped everything away and decided to go back to basics. No orchestration, no keyboards or anything. To do that and still have kind of that dynamic, that feel to the songs, you’ve got to actually add more melody really to make the songs work. So it was more challenging in a way because you don’t have many factors to play with, but it’s more rewarding when you come to play it live, I think, because it’s a lot easier to pull off live, I guess.
Was the recording of the album much different than any of your others?
(Pauses) No, we’ve always kind of written them the same way, but for this record and Faith Divides Us, we knew exactly how we wanted it to sound before we [went into the studio and] demoed it to death. We knew, we just went in and we could all do it fairly fast. On some of the records in the past—I guess that’s a sign of the music industry as well—but you can’t spend three months in a studio home recording a record anymore so, you know, you have to make sure you’re well prepared, I think (laughs).
What was it like having Adrian playing on a Paradise Lost album for the first time?
Oh it was great because he’s been a friend of mine for quite a few years, you know, before Paradise Lost. He joined just as we went to record Faith Divides Us, so he missed out on that record because we already had the session guys to help. So he’s been playing with us for three years before we went to record this record, so he’s had a lot of time to kind of fit into the role and also, we included him in the songwriting from day one—like somebody had an idea, sent it to him, and he could send me things back. So we were better well prepared and I said to him that it might not be challenging for you because we’re not that technical type of band, but he said it was actually harder to play slower than it was to play fast because he says you’ve got a lot of space to fill to make it interesting, and it’s kind of more demanding, he said, than actually just doing straight-up hard stuff, you know.
What do you think about the storylines in your recent music videos? “Faith Divides Us–Death Unites Us” was such a powerful video and “Honesty In Death” is so dark as well…
Well, I mean, we just love miserable videos, really (laughs). What can I say? I mean, it’s kind of easier these days in a way to do videos because most of the time, bands like ourselves, the only place a video is going to get shown most times is on YouTube. So it helps that you don’t have to censor yourself as much. I remember back in like, the mid-‘90s, when Headbangers Ball was a lot more prevalent on MTV and it was a lot more mainstream, I guess, for metal at the time, but you had to really censor the videos and it just made them ridiculous, really. So it’s kind of nice to have a free roam on the video end and make it however the hell you want it. The last one that we did, you know, “Honesty In Death,” I actually love it, I think it’s brilliant, but it’s not for everybody. It’s pretty good, you know?
Agreed. And now with YouTube, you don’t necessarily have to stay conservative as you might have been doing with your older videos such as “One Second” and “Say Just Words.”
Yeah, you have to play the game a lot more [now], I think. You know, most things about the internet ruined the music business, but there are certain perks. It has opened up a certain amount of freedom for the artist as well, in certain aspects.
The last time you were in the U.S. I saw you opening for Nightwish and on this tour you’re going to be openers as well. Do you think a Paradise Lost headlining tour could be in the works for sometime in the near future?
It all depends on promoters and funds, really. In the U.S., we’ve had a bit of a hard time with being a little bit too British for own good I think sometimes. I think some people just don’t get it. We don’t kind of fit into this mold of… I know in America, you kind of like a lot of pigeonholes, so you get your Viking metal and you get your American metal with this post-punk terror type stuff and we kind of don’t really fit into any of that. And I think it’s been to our detriment in America, to some degree, but we’ve all got friends with contacts over there that want us to do stuff but it’s just kind of, to get a headlining tour together, I think you’d need to make it maybe a shorter tour or go to key cities where you know you’ll sell.
What do you think of the bands you’re going to be touring with? Do you have a personal relationship with any of them?
Well, we’ve known Katatonia for a lot of years, I think about 10 or 12 years ago they supported us for the first time and they’ve been out with us a lot in Europe, so it’s going to be interesting us opening for them. But they’re really cool guys, we’ve got along with them for a lot of years, we shared a tour bus over there so it’s nice we’re going to be sharing it with people that we know. Devin, we’ve been acquaintances for a long time. He actually sang backing vocals on a B-side of ours years and years ago. We did a cover of Bronski Beat’s [“Smalltown Boy”] and he did all the backing vocals on it because he was a friend of our producer at the time. So we recorded for a long time but I just met him for the first time. We both toured Australia together earlier this year and did the Soundwave Festival and we got along great! So I think it’s going to be a fairly easygoing tour, really. Everyone seems to be fairly easygoing and no egos, you know, and that’s all-important.
You toured earlier this year with one of my favorite bands, Insomnium. They’re coming to the U.S. in October—right after you guys go back to Europe. Was there any talk of you doing an American tour together?
I think it was mentioned. It’s interesting you should mention that, yeah, because when we were doing the European tour, I think they mentioned they were going, we mentioned we might be going, so yeah, I think a lot was up in there at the time that this tour was being put together. It just turned out that because it was easy to do three bands on the same management, I think that’s how it worked out like this.
How have your shows been with Vallenfyre this year?
Really good. Really good, really interesting. It’s kind of like, no expectations on you, really. You can just go for it—you can do anything you want. It’s like, we don’t have to prove anything to anybody, so it’s been a lot of fun, really. I mean, it was kind of tiring a few weekends ago because we did about, I don’t know, about six festivals in one weekend, and, you know, me and Adrian had to do Vallenfyre and Paradise Lost on the same day on two occasions of the same festival, so that was kind of tiring. But it’s really good, it’s kind of nice to see these European death metal bands that we haven’t really come into contact with for a lot of years, it’s kind of nice to catch up with those guys.
Well best of luck to you and the band on your upcoming tours considering you still have quite a packed schedule coming up.
Yeah, we’ve already had a pretty busy year already, I mean, we haven’t been home much at all so, yeah, we’ve got the next two months pretty solidly booked up as well. At the same time I’m kind of toying with the idea of maybe doing a Vallenfyre EP early next year of newer stuff, so we’ll see what happens, I guess (laughs).
Paradise Lost will be at Philly’s Theatre Of Living Arts on Sept. 22 and NYC’s Irving Plaza on Sept. 23. Their new album, Tragic Idol, is available now through Century Media. For more information, go to paradiselost.co.uk.