INTERVIEW: Nick Holmes and Gregor Mackintosh – Paradise Lost

PARADISE LOST are one of the biggest names in worldwide metal. For nearly three decades, the British metallers have gone from strength to strength through a evolving soundscape which has inspired countless bands across a variety of sub-genres within heavy music. As album number 15, Medusa, looms on the horizon, PARADISE LOST are now experiencing some of their landmark albums celebrating landmark anniversaries. This year sees the 20 year anniversary of the influential One Second record and we caught up with vocalist Nick Holmes and guitarist Gregor Mackintosh to reflect on One Second‘s influence and impact, what fans can expect from the upcoming re-issue of the record and looking ahead to the band’s upcoming performance at this year’s Damnation Festival!

How’s it going guys?

Greg: Very well thank you.

Nick: Good. Hello. How you doing?

I’m good, man. How does it feel to have another album hit the 20 year mark?

Greg: “Another album”? [Nick laughs] You make it sound so special… Yeah, it’s kind of weird because it just feels like, really, a short time since you do things because we have a, since we’ve been eighteen or whatever, we’ve done a writing year, recording year, touring year, so that’s how our lives have been planned out and it just makes time go really fast! So when someone says “Oh, it’s 20 years since One Second” it really doesn’t seem like it at all.

What are your feelings on One Second 20 years on?

Nick: I mean, it’s the album that we sort of decided to go down a different route. It was a big departure from the one before it. I still think there’s some really great material on that album, so, that whole period, from that album and then on and on to Host, I think there’s some really good material from that time. But I mean, you know, obviously that was a day when it was a big deal for you to cut your hair off, you know? But as soon as we got the green light from METALLICA it was like “Oh let’s do it then.” [We all laugh] I remember actually thinking that, exactly the same thoughts as that. But yeah, as much as anything the hair was such a- I can’t believe it now, but it was such a big deal. I mean now no one really cares anymore.

It’s the whole image thing, I guess.

Nick: Yeah, but particularly I remember because it was such a terrifying prospect to lose the hair around that time and for a few months you were like a fish out of water. In that way it was kind of strange.

First whiff of mainstream…

Nick: Yeah, it seems weird now to think anyone would even care, but it was a deal at the time.

So, One Second saw you guys stretch out your sonic template to include synth and electronica, and clean vocals from you, Nick. What inspired you to try out those elements?

Nick: I think, we’d done the Icon album, and we did a lot of touring for that, and then we did Draconian Times and even more touring. We just didn’t stop touring and writing those kind of songs: those up-tempo, heavy, thrashy sort of songs. We’d done it for so long and we just wanted to try something else really. And I think we kind of overkilled it with it maybe.

Greg: For Icon and Draconian Times we were just away for five years solid. And it was just kind of the same thing over and over again every night. It’s like working on a production line, almost, when you do it like that. And you just want to do something that feels better for yourselves.

Don’t want to just end up pumping the same album over and over again.

Greg: Exactly. Because to me Draconian Times is kind of a polished version of Icon anyway. It kind of all blended together for me. So then after that, we just needed a change just to keep it fresh.

Nick: I can’t even remember writing Draconian Times after Icon because we were touring so much. I can’t really remember it! I can remember writing Icon but I can’t Draconian Times. Any band that’s creative, they’re gonna veer off at some point. Many bands stay the same for their entire lives, which I don’t really understand how you can even do that if you’ve got any kind of, you know, artistic mind or anything. But, yeah, we just wanted to try something else.

One Second was the album that saw PARADISE LOST really break away from your original sound, and stylistic shifts like that are quite risky for any band. Apart from, like, PARADISE LOST and KATATONIA, there aren’t really a lot of examples of it going right, and fans can get very passionate about that. Did this occur to you guys when you were recording it at all?

Greg: Not at all. Not at all, because we were already kind of tired of doing a certain style. It would have been more draining for us to continue down the same path. We just needed that shift. Something to change, you know? Rightly or wrongly, we didn’t think about any kind of commerciality or anything like that.

Nick: Also, you weren’t really exposed to it that much. You only saw how things were when you played it live or heard about album sales. There was no Internet, so you wouldn’t be able to nip online and see what people were saying. Which you can do now. You start a band for yourselves, you know? After thirty years you still want to please yourselves first and foremost and then hopefully fans will come to you. You don’t go to them. It was purely a decision we did for ourselves and then, like I said, you don’t know how people react until you read it in a magazine or you play live. Media-wise it was completely different to what it is now.

What made you guys choose the title One Second for that album?

Nick: The cover artwork, the concept. Ross Halfin came up with it. It was like, on the front she’s awake, and on the back her eyes are closed. So it’s like, one second you’re alive, one second you’re dead. But, how that tied in with the actual title I have no idea, but I just liked the idea that she was awake then she was dead. I presume she is dead now, because she was quite old then.

Greg: [Laughs] She was in her nineties twenty years ago!

Nick: Somebody said “who was the old man on the One Second album?” I said “It’s a woman.” But, yeah.

I understand PARADISE LOST also wrote two more songs during the One Second sessions, called Slave and The Hour, which have been left out of every reissue of this album since. Is there a particular reason for that?

Greg: They were recorded later, actually. We went to a different studio to do them. Somewhere up north. And there was really only us two involved in it, so that’s why it was all left off. We were told two more songs were needed, really short space of time to do it in, so it was basically just me and him. [gestures to Nick]

Nick: I can’t remember them. I can remember the titles, but… meh.

Why did PARADISE LOST choose to remaster the album instead of just, say, a reissuing with bonus content? What about the album lent itself to a remastering?

Greg: It’s usually the spectrum of sound. Sometimes you don’t get the low end and the high end and certain frequencies and certain frequencies are missing when you record things at a certain time. This whole album was recorded onto ADAT originally.

On to what, sorry?

Greg: ADAT, it was basically like a VHS cassette but eight tracks.

Oh right.

Greg: And we just had a few of those on a rack. Sorry, I forget how old people are!

Nick: [laughs] I know…

Greg: I instantly assume people know what ADATs are. It was a format that came in and went out very quickly in the late 90s, mid-to-late 90s. So, yeah, something like that would probably benefit, definitely, from a remaster because it was kind of an antiquated system which didn’t bring out the full spectrum of frequencies.

The whole sonic picture.

Greg: Yeah. Exactly, yeah.

Care to hint at what kind of changes fans can expect from the remastering?

Greg: Well it just sounds a lot better.

Nick: Yeah but louder for a start. If you play older albums, like albums I was into, like Master of Puppets for example. A remastered version of that’s going to be so much better. Like, the sonics are going to be louder, a lot more punchy. If you play albums that are redone it’s got a real bite to it, and a lot of the old stuff it doesn’t you know. Purely about how it was done. It just lifts the music a lot more.

I understand you guys were also involved in the remastering of the album. What was that process like and how long did it take?

Greg: Well, Jaime Gomez Arellano did it, who’s our producer now. He did the last PARADISE LOST record, and he’s just done the new one, which will be out in September. But he’s our go-to guy now, sort of thing. He started out doing some mastering for another band that I know and we just loved the master so much. Because he was originally a master engineer and then he moved to production, so he was our go-to guy for it and he did it in, I don’t know, about a week or so? And just sending it through to us as he was doing it.

The album is also going to include linear notes from renowned Kerrang! journalist Nick Ruskell. How did he come to be involved?

Greg: I don’t even know who you’re talking about.

Nick: Is it Ruskell? Or, I thought Russell? Ruskell? I mean, I know who he is but I thought- Well, I guess he’s a decent writer so I guess that’s why he was asked to do it. I think it was as simple as that. He’s a good writer, so…

The re-release will also include a live CD of your 1998 show at Shepheard’s Bush Empire. This was previously only available on DVD. How did it end up becoming part of this re-release?

Greg: Well, it was the One Second show that we did at the time that we released the album. It was a big promotional thing that we did at the time, and it just made sense, it made sense to package it with that if we had the rights to it and stuff. Makes it a nice package then doesn’t it?

PARADISE LOST are going to be touring your new album later this year, appearing in London on November 3rd and Damnation Festival in Leeds on November 4th. How did you guys end up choosing PALLBEARER and SINISTRO as support?

Greg: Well, PALLBEARER I already toured with in America. I’ve got another band called VALLENFYRE and we did the Decibel Magazine Tour in America and PALLBEARER were on that. Just got on with them great, thought they were a great band. I hadn’t really heard of them before that tour and so I put them forward for the PARADISE LOST tour and everyone seemed to think it was a great idea. And SINISTRO he saw (gesturing to Nick) at last year’s Damnation and just thought they’d make a good addition as well. Usually we do get hands on as regards support bands, you know? We usually do choose people that we want to spend time on the road with and want to hear every night, you know?

Finally, is there anything you would like to say to the readers at Distorted Sound Magazine?

Nick: Check out our extensive back catalogue! As well as One Second.

Greg: But especially One Second.

Nick: And our new album, which is out on September 1st and it’s called Medusa!

One Second: 20th Anniversary Edition is set for release on July 14th via Music For Nations.

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