Paradise Lost – Greg Mackintosh (Guitar)

When considering the origins of blending the fury of death metal with the atmosphere of doom, Paradise Lost is one of the first bands to do it right. Their first two albums, Lost Paradise and Gothic, are classics in death/doom. Though they pulled away from death metal and embraced more of a gothic touch to their doom sound in later years, Paradise Lost didn?t lose one ounce of intensity or credibility by doing so. With a new album, Tragic Idol, released earlier this year, the band also proved they could hang with bands half their age. Gearing up for a U.S. tour with Katatonia and Devin Townsend, guitarist Greg Mackintosh spoke to me about the upcoming tour and his Vallenfyre side-project.

The band is gearing up for a U.S. tour with Devin Townsend and Katatonia. How did the band find their way onto that tour package?

We?ve been friends with the guys from Katatonia for quite a few years. We took them out on one of our tours of Europe maybe 10 or 11 years ago. We?ve played many times together since. We know them very well. Devin, he?s been an acquaintance for a long time. He did backing vocals on a B-side of a single of ours probably about eight or nine years ago. We met for the first time earlier this year in Australia. We both did the Soundwave festival, which is a Lollapalooza-like touring festival around Australia. We were all booked for separate tours of America, and rather than do that – we?re all managed by the same company – we all went on as a package and that?s basically how it all came about.

With the economy how it is, and money being tight for many people, do you think having a tour with three relatively big bands is more of a sweet deal for people wanting to come see you guys?

It all depends on people?s musical tastes, doesn?t it? There?s a lot of diversity in the bill, but I think there?s enough common interest there to make it interesting enough. People who maybe haven?t heard one or two of the bands on the bill are going for one of the other bands. I think it?s as good as any other package put together out there. It?s cohesive, but it?s got its diversity to it.

With another new album, Tragic Idol, recently released, how much harder does that make it for the band to work on a set list, especially in a supporting slot?

It?s going to be fairly easy for us. On the U.S. tour, we?re maybe going to have a 45 minute set. Literally a week after we get back from the U.S. tour, we are doing a European tour with about an hour-and-a-half set. While we?re playing in the U.S., we?re going to change the set around every night to keep it fresh on the longer set. It?s going to be different every night, so we won?t have to make a tough decision on the set each night. We?ll just have to think about, ?Oh, put this out this night, and leave this out this night.?

Do you prefer having the opportunity to switch the set around every night?

It?s kind of easier when you?re on a long headlining tour, when you play an hour and a half a night or whatever, to have a fairly similar set every night, switching maybe one or two songs. In a supporting tour, when you?re given 45 minutes, you can really go for it more and you can really experiment with the set list more. We have a lot of songs rehearsed already for it. It?s really depends on the night. It?s good to be able to go on stage and someone shouts in the audience a song they want to hear, and you actually have it in your arsenal.

Are there any songs from the band?s extensive catalog that you wish the band would play live more often?

Personally, I would like to play something more from the first two records, or possibly the third record, Shades Of God. I know that Nick, our vocalist, is not into that kind of vocal style anymore. He doesn?t like to mix the two; the modern style of singing with the very old death metal style. He says it?s too difficult to do live. He?s not against the idea of doing a tour of just doing those songs. I think he finds it too demanding trying to do a full set switching between the two different styles.

Has the band actually ever thought about going out on the road and playing select pieces from the first two or three albums?

Not seriously. We?ve talked about it, but not serious though. Sometimes it?s better to let sleeping dogs lie. That?s half the reason why I decided to do a side project, Vallenfyre, which is death metal. It?s kind of gets my mid-life crisis out of the way.

Speaking of that project, how long have you wanted to do a death metal project?

I?ve probably thought about it on and off for 5-7 years. I don?t think I would have done anything about it, but I don?t know if you know the story behind it, but my father died and that kind of spurred me onto it. I don?t think I would have done it if it wasn?t for that. Sometimes it takes things in life that are not so nice to spur you on to, ?What the hell? What?s the worst that can happen??

Going through a personal tragedy like that, did this project act as a tool for you to release some of those frustration and emotions that you were feeling due to that tragedy?

Yeah. The whole record, A Fragile King, I did with Vallenfyre, is completely just going through the grief process on the record. The anger, the loneliness; it?s all together on one record. It?s wearing your heart on your sleeve with that record. I did have trepidations of whether that would be a good idea to release something like that. It came down to a friend of mine who said, ?You should just put it out. It?s a good record. You should do it.? I?m glad I did it, because it?s given me a new lease on life for Paradise Lost as well. It helped me sort out in my head the division of what should be Paradise Lost and what shouldn?t be. When I came to Tragic Idol, I was more or less straight off of doing the Vallenfyre record. I already knew where I was going to go with the Paradise Lost record because I?d already put a lot of the anger and a lot of the other emotions into the Vallenfyre project. The way I think about is that the Vallenfyre is more the child in me, the devil-may-cry side. Paradise Lost is the grown-up, adult, refined side. It?s easier to draw a line in the sand now of what?s what.

Before you started the Vallenfyre project, did you struggle trying to contain those two sides when it came to writing material for Paradise Lost?

Yeah, a little bit. On the previous record Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us, there?s one or two tracks on there that I think you can see is me trying to squeeze in some of that side of me. Fortunately, it was not to the determent of Paradise Lost, but if I had taken it further, it would maybe sound like something it wasn?t supposed to.

Paradise Lost is known for having a particular sound. If you started to bring in more of those influences that are on Vallenfyre, do you think that would dilute the music that Paradise Lost would make?

Yeah, because Paradise Lost music is less about the anger. It?s less ferocious, and it?s less chaotic. It?s more structured and more about the mood. It?s more somber music. It?s more doom metal; it?s not really death metal. With Vallenfyre, it can be kind of chaotic at times, but that?s the idea.

Since the first album from Vallenfyre was so personal to you, do you think that will make it harder if you decide to start writing for a second album?

The whole thing from when I started the project, things have happened that I didn?t expect to happen. I didn?t expect to put out a record; it was something I was initially doing with just friends. I didn?t expect to be doing any shows; we?ve been doing some festivals. I said I wouldn?t record anything else, but at the moment, I?m looking at doing an EP within the next year. I just have to really think how I approach it. I don?t think it has to be anything like the first album. I think I can maybe broaden the stroke of what influences the material. The album, A Fragile King, is more specific. I want to leave that there and move on to something else in the future.

When you guys are in the studio writing material for Paradise Lost, especially in the case of Tragic Idol, do you personally ever think to yourself, ?This song is perfect for a live setting??

Oh yeah. For me, it?s kind of the slower songs. Usually, you would think the up-tempo songs would be the ones that would make you think, ?Oh, that?s going to be a great live song.? On the new record, there?s a song called ?Fear Of Impending Hell,? and it?s one of the slower songs on the record. I thought, ?The song is going to be great live because of the dynamics, the way it builds to the chorus, the way it breaks down, and the hooks.? We?ve been playing it at festivals over the summer, and it goes down as one of the best songs on the set.

Do you think it?s important to have dynamics in a set, so that the momentum has a wave type of motion?

Yeah, especially if you play for any length of time. For instance, if you?re in an ultra blast beat death metal band, if you play 40 minutes or something, that?s fine. If you were doing an hour-and-a-half set, I think people would start to switch off. No matter how die-hard you are into that style of music, any type of music gets a bit boring after an hour and a half unless there is some kind of dynamic to it. It depends on the length of the set you play. Over 40, 45 minutes, I would say you need to start thinking about your set and how you?re going to bring it up and down.

Is there any possibility the band will come back to the U.S. and do a headlining tour in the near future?

It?s something we would absolutely love to do, but it?s all down to logistics really. It depends on the areas where our record sells good, and the promoter that are in the area and the fans themselves. We?re hoping off the back of doing this tour with Devin and Katatonia that maybe we?ll be offered an opportunity to come back within six months or so and do a headlining tour.

The band is getting close to its 25th anniversary. Do those types of milestones register with you at all?

Yeah, I mean sometimes it?s in a positive way. You think, ?Yeah, this is great that we?ve lasted this long and we?re still doing okay, and people think we?re still relevant in this industry.? In other ways, for instance, you heard of the band Ghost? They were supporters in the UK just before they broke through. Their guitarist came up to me and said, ?I?m a big fan.? I said, ?Oh thanks man.? He said, ?Yeah, my mother won a competition in the early ?90s to come and meet you.? That?s kind of freaky, when you realize you?ve been going so long that the mother of someone out of Ghost won a competition to meet you.

With an anniversary like that coming up, there are expectations from people that you guys would do something bigger than you usually do. Does the band think about that kind of stuff at all? Do you go, ?Okay, we got this big milestone coming up. We better do something the fans will be excited about??

No, we?re more of a spur of the moment type band, I think. In Paradise Lost, we?re big pessimists. We don?t look too far ahead, because you could get hit by a bus. It?s hard enough thinking ahead the next two months, never mind what?s going to happen next year. For me, it?s just getting through each week at a time, and seeing where it goes from there. When it comes up next year, and we have a little bit of time time to think about it, then maybe we?ll come up with something.

If you could tour with one band, past or present, who would it be?

As Paradise Lost, I would have to say the original Sabbath lineup. As Vallenfyre, I would have to say the original Celtic Frost lineup.

By Dan Marsicano

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