Mighty Paradise Lost have just released their 13th studio album entitled “Tragic Idol” which sees the band in form as good as ever. Legendary duo Nick Holmes and Greg Mackintosh have given to the media all needed explanations about this new offering.
There have been numerous references by the press linking Tragic Idol to the dark, doom- oriented Draconian Times/Icon era of Paradise Lost. In fact, people have been calling it a back- to-the-roots album. How do you feel about that considering it has been over a decade since the experimental Host and One Second albums, and you’ve been releasing gothic/doom-flavoured metal albums since then?
Nick Holmes:“We haven’t said even once that we’re trying to consciously go back to a sound we’ve had in the past. As far as I’m concerned our sound is constantly moving forward. At least people are comparing us to our own music rather than another band. We’ve never stopped so we’ve never really had any retrospect. I think maybe there’s an influence on Tragic Idol from the same kind of stuff on our early albums that we perhaps put away in a drawer for a few years, like the doom elements. We haven’t used those in quite a while, guitar-wise anyway. There’s definitely more of that, so maybe that’s what people are reacting to.”
Greg Mackintosh:“The core of the sound on Tragic Idol has an essence of Draconian Times and Icon, and I think that’s what people are picking up on. For the past five or six years we’ve been hearing people say that Paradise Lost has gone back to the roots, which is an absolutely horrible term in my opinion. I do think that you can draw lines between a few of the tracks on the new record and Draconian Times or Icon, but when we were writing the music for Tragic Idol, I deliberately made a choice to strip everything back down to the bare bones. It’s a very simplistic record in a lot of ways, really.”
The initial buzz surrounding Tragic Idol suggests that Paradise Lost fans have been waiting a very long time for an album of this caliber from you. It’s almost as if they’re throwing up their hands and saying “Finally! It’s about time!”
Nick Holmes:“We couldn’t have done this right after Draconian Times. The whole One Second and Host era was kind of about learning the craft of songwriting, and it was just a case of bringing that into metal. Every album you make, you learn from and carry on. If we’d split up, reformed, and made an album, maybe we would have looked at our back catalogue and tried to repeat what we’d done before, but we really don’t work that way.”
Greg, you’ve been quoted as saying that the foundation of Tragic Idol’s sound is traditional heavy metal rather than gothic or doom metal. How did you end up choosing that direction, or was it an unconscious decision?
Greg Mackintosh: “You never really lose touch with the things that got you into music when you were a teenager. They tend to stick with you your entire life whether you like it or not (laughs). When it came to making this record there was definitely some reminiscing involved, which is why it sounds the way it does. I think some of this new album is a backlash against the modern metal scene, because a lot of it these days all sounds the same, which is really quite annoying. The production on a lot of modern day albums have the same vocals, the same drum sounds, the same everything. When we started making Tragic Idol, Nick and I were talking about how you need to go back 30 years to find something refreshing in metal these days. It’s frustrating in a way, so I guess this new record is sort of like taking some of that nostalgia and putting it in a modern context.”
A lot of the new songs sound as if they were written and arranged with the stage in mind. Was that the case?
Greg Mackintosh: “When we started writing the music for Tragic Idol, it was definitely with the view of which guitar was playing which part and not putting any extra overdubs on them. We wanted the songs to sound like they do when we play them in the rehearsal room. I think one of the key things of the sound that people associate with Paradise Lost is that Aaron (Aedy/guitars) and I don’t really play the same things. We do the same thing The Cult used to do in the early days, which is something I was influenced by. That’s how we did things on this new record, and we tried to take it as far as we could.”
Tragic Idol is Paradise Lost’s 13th album; was it easy or hard to write and assemble the material? With so much history, the natural assumption is that it would get harder and harder to reinvent yourselves and keep things interesting the longer you carry on.
Nick Holmes: “With every album we do, I just don’t think there’s another one in us. You can come up with ideas, but coming up with good ideas is difficult. The number of ideas we had for this album was insane – we had so many – and the majority of them were crap, but eventually you find one that works. From my experience, I think I came up with one song idea that I ended up sticking with all the way through, but you really have to live with things for a couple of days to figure out if they’re any good or not. I usually do a three day test; if I write a song I won’t listen to it for three days, then I’ll play it back as if I’m listening to a new band or a new song for the first time. I’ll know instantly if it’s good or not. That’s pretty much how we work, really.” “We’re professional musicians, we’re not week-enders, and being full time with this I think we work harder to make things as good as they can possibly be, because it’s going to be dictating what we do for the next couple of years. If we were a garage band with only the odd gig here and there, I honestly don’t think we’d put much effort into it.”
Greg Mackintosh: “I think it might have been difficult for Nick lyrically because they were written from a personal perspective, but for me the music just fell into place. Part of that had to do with the fact I had a very clear idea of what I wanted to do. I did a side project last year, and that kind of helped me concentrate on what I saw as Paradise Lost’s core sound when we went in to make this record. It made me realize what should and should not be a part of Paradise Lost’s music. Some songs seemed to write themselves and others were harder to pull together, but as a record this is one of the most focused ones we’ve done.”
Nick Holmes: “I wrote all the lyrics for Tragic Idol after I’d written all the melody lines. Usually I’ll patch them together as I go along, then go back and fix what needs fixing, so it was a lot harder working like that. I tended to analyze things more than I normally would have. As far as lyrical subjects, I wrote about the same stuff I’ve been writing about for 20 years. I just write them from a different age perspective, because when I was 21 I looked at things much differently than I do now at 41. It’s not drastically different, but a little bit here and there.”
Paradise Lost is credited for coining the term “gothic metal” and people still refer to you as a gothic metal band, but you sound nothing like what passes for the genre in the 21st century. What’s your opinion of more or less being forced by the press to wear that label at this stage of your career?
Greg Mackintosh: “We had a certain style when we coined the term, but it’s been taken out of our hands and turned into something else. I don’t know what it is now, really (laughs). If you ask a kid on the street what gothic metal is, he’d probably tell you it was Marilyn Manson or Nightwish or something in between.”
Nick Holmes: “We had that gothic metal banner so long ago that the new generation of fans of what they think is gothic rock or gothic metal is a completely different thing. It’s very much like Venom coining the term black metal versus what’s considered black metal nowadays; the new generation has no concept of that. I got over the whole tag thing about 18 years ago, actually (laughs). If we go to America or somewhere we’re not well known, the gothic label gets mentioned more than anywhere else. I don’t have a strong opinion about it either way. From my point of view you either like the music or you don’t. If someone did ask me to describe Paradise Lost I’d call us gothic metal, though, because we came up with the term anyway (laughs).”
Answers by Nick Holmes and Greg Mackintosh