Greg Mackintosh of Paradise Lost: The Hellbound Interview

By Raymond Westland

Paradise Lost is a band with a very long and rich history. Albums like Icon (1993) and Draconian Times (1995) are landmark records in the doom metal field. The band went through a wringer a couple of times with Host (1999) and Believe In Nothing (2001), due to the experimental nature of both albums and the general absence of anything heavy. With the release of the self-titled record in 2010 Paradise Lost found their metal roots again and with each successive release after that the band became rose to prominence once again. Tragic Idol, the band’s upcoming release, is arguably their finest to date. Hellbound caught up with guitarist and main songwriter Greg Mackintosh to talk about the new album, life on the road and Greg’s fondness for strong spirits…

Greg, thank you for doing this interview.You’ve been busy lately with both the Vallenfyre and the new Paradise Lost. How did you manage to pull it all together from a songwriter’s point of view?

There was no conflict, time-wise. I finished recording the Vallenfyre album in March 2011 and began writing the new Paradise lost album in April 2011. I think that doing the Vallenfyre record really helped me sort out in my mind what the core sound of PL should be and what not to include in the music. Vallenfyre is the chaotic side and PL is the focused side.

The material on Tragic Idol has this particular Icon and Draconian Times vibe to it, albeit seen from a 2012 context. Did the series of gigs in support of Draconian Times MMXI have something to do with this?

They probably did have some effect. I was halfway through writing material for the album when I had to go back and learn those songs. It was quite an eye opener in terms of how my style of writing and playing changed over the years, and it convinced me that I was on the right track by stripping PL back to its essence.

What I really like about Tragic Idol is that it sounds fresh and powerful. Besides more melodies, there wasn’t any major overhaul in terms of style, or massive experimentation going on. What is your method to stay inspired?

When I begin to write a new album, I forget all that has gone before and behave like I have never done this before. This way I can just decide what I am wanting to do at this particular moment in time with no pressure.

How was it like to work with a drummer again who’s an actual member of the band, instead of a session drummer like you did on the previous album?

It was better from my perspective because he was there throughout the writing process, and I was used to his drumming style and capabilities as he has been playing live with us for a few years.

The previous album was mostly recorded in the wintery depths of Sweden in almost complete isolation. “Tragic Idol” was recorded for the most part in your own country. What kind of impact did this have on the band and how the album came together?

A certain amount of isolation is good to keep you focused, but the last recording in Sweden was a little too much like ‘The Shining’ for my liking. I felt like I was losing it. The Chapel studio where we recorded this one is still quite isolated, but at least you can get out from time to time to clear your head and try to recollect your thoughts.

You and Nick Holmes are the creative backbone of Paradise Lost. What do the others bring to the table and what’s their role in the band?

Nick and I write the stuff, and all of us as a unit comprise the sound of PL. I am not a bass player or drummer, and the parts I write often need expression and flare adding.

Nick Holmes really dislikes grunting, but you did a very convincing job in Vallenfyre in the grunting/growling department. Wouldn’t it be an interesting idea to reintroduce that element to PL again? The combination of Holmes’ clean vocals and your growls would be interesting avenue to explore. What are your thoughts on this?

I believe that PL has left this behind. I am the only one who likes that sort of stuff and PL is a democracy. I wouldn’t like the guys in the band to have to play stuff they didn’t like. I guess that’s where Vallenfyre came in.

Paradise Lost will tour with Swallow The Sun next month. What are your expectations?

I never have expectations. In fact I pretty much never look beyond the immediate future as it’s too daunting and often quite depressing.

Touring isn’t the healthiest lifestyle around. How do you keep yourself in shape, both physically and mentally?

You are right. Drinking every night. Chips and cheese all day and pizza before bed. It’s not healthy, but you’ve got to die of something, and pizza and beer is the way I wanna go.

Mentally, I obsess on music and film usually. I guess physically and mentally I’m not the healthiest guy, but I do ok for a 41-year old guy.

What are the biggest differences between tours in the Icon/Draconian Times-era and nowadays?

I was fucked in the head back then, and I’m slightly less fucked in the head now. I never enjoyed touring around Icon/Drac Times. I was always beating myself up for being away from home and responsibility. Now I’ve accepted it as part of my life. The stress’ll get ya before the booze does.

Paradise Lost has seen the full circle of success (Shades Of God to Draconian Times/One Second), low points (Host, Believe In Nothing) to rejuvenation (Paradise Lost to now). What is the secret of PL’s relevance and longevity and what keeps you going as a musician and person?

I think the parts you refer to as low points were essential for our development and happiness as human beings and musicians. If everything is constantly on one level, how do you separate the good from the bad? And wouldn’t it be boring?

Time for the final question. Which releases are you particularly looking forward to this year and why?

Black Sabbath because they invented doom. Saint Vitus because they are good at doom. Autopsy because I’m still holding out for something as good as the first two albums.

Thank you for your time. Any final thoughts or remarks?

I got drunk at an Antisect gig the other night and threw up a load of blood. Looking on the net, it looks like I tore a hole in my throat from retching. Still gonna go to the doctor I think though. Anyone else had this?

 

Tragic Idol will be released on Century Media on April 23rd in Europe and April 25th in North America

Sean Palmerston

Sean is the founder/publisher of Hellbound.ca; he has also written about metal for Exclaim!, Metal Maniacs, Roadburn, Unrestrained! and Vice.

  • Lax

    HOST is NOT a low point as you say. It is their best album. Greg himself went on record in the Over the Madness documentary that his 3 favorite PL albums are Host, One Second and Icon. BIN was just not well produced, it is nevertheless a very fine album, not that different from their better produced self titled tenth album.

  • Raymond Westland

    Artistically speaking you may be right, however at the time almost every Paradise Lost fan, especially the metal component of their fanbase, totally loathed the album. The sales were lackluster and it didn’t took long before the band got dropped from EMI, their label at the time. Doesn’t look like a high water to me…

    Cheers,

    Ray (the author of the interview)