"I've got a very extreme one with my other band called Strigoi, I've just recorded the second album. We just finished doing it with Kurt Ballou and [Paradise Lost producer] Jaime Gomez Arellano - we did a collaboration. And then I've written another thing that's… I can't even talk about yet. It's just been signed by Nuclear Blast."
Our curiosity is piqued but we're here to talk Paradise Lost. And we have a lot to get through; 16 albums and over 30 years of memories. Greg doesn't disappoint, as a driving creative force behind one of the UK's greatest metal bands and their formidable discography, he's got plenty of candid insight to reveal.
Starting at the beginning with Greg is especially apt given the release of new boxset, The Lost And The Painless, a sumptuous and exhaustive seven-disc and book testament of the band's influential 1990-1992 era, forging their death and doom influences into something unique.
It's easy to forget just how unlike Paradise Lost were from other metal bands in the early '90s. A heady brew of slower brutality and gothic atmospheres while thrash was taking off around the world. Now the Yorkshire band's Lost Paradise, Gothic album and Gothic EP have been remastered for the set by trusted collaborator Jaime Gomez Arellano, and packaged alongside early live recordings and a book with Greg and vocalist Nick Holmes looking back on this early era.
"The last person to join was the bass player, Steve [Edmonson]," recalls Greg of the original lineup's first rehearsal as a band in Halifax, West Yorkshire. "He hadn't even played with the band and I was a printer; I'd already printed the first demo covers with his name on. We'd heard a rumour that there's this guy in the local pub that could play bass. And then then he came down to the rehearsal and we were like, 'I thought somebody said he could play bass?" [laughs]"
With the exception of a revolving door of drummers, that same PL lineup has stayed in place ever since, even as the band's sound forged ahead into rockier and electronic-tinged territory on the One Second and Host albums in the late nineties.
One of the secrets of such stability is that these Yorkshiremen have always kept an arid sense of humour and very grounded attitude that's helped them avoid the pitfalls of the industry for the most part.
"I never had any ambition at all at the start and then as it went on, I still didn't," reveals Greg. "We've always been a 'don't believe it until you see it' group of people. So then if something good happens, you're kind of pleasantly surprised. It was only around sort of the mid '90s where we were like, wow, this is there's a lot of stuff happening thick and fast here, that we kind of, not got carried away with it, but thought, Jesus, we didn't really expect to be doing this, you know?"
By the time Paradise Lost released their classic Draconian Times record in 1995 the gigs had got bigger and the touring budgets followed. But back in 1988, Greg's first gigging rig was a strange combination of custom guitar and extremely budget amp.
"It's embarrassing talking about this but the guitar was pretty good. It was a custom guitar because I'm left-handed. It was like a shark fin shape. We called them shark fins then but I guess they're called offset Vs now. It was made by Jaydee [UK luthier John Diggins, who also made guitars for Tony Iommi). And I've still got it upstairs but it's completely unplayable now because it was in a warehouse for a long time. I think it's mainly mould holding it together.
"So the guitar was really good but the amp I had, I couldn't afford an amp," admits Greg. "So I had this 10-watt Ross practice amp with a built-in distortion switch. I didn't even have any pedals. And it was like a tiny little cube.
"I remember the first gig I put it behind the a Marshall stack that the headline band had. And it had a mic on it behind the stack, so it looked like I was playing through the stack. But I wasn't, I was playing through this little cube thing! And that went on for a while until I could afford something. And I think that I got a Laney 2x12 or something like that."
Lost Paradise (1990)
Was the creative dynamic and core of the band with you and Nick cemented on that first album?
"Yeah, it was really. But I think that was more down to the fact that it was use two that were kind of obsessed with the music and into that style of music. Aer [Aaron Aedy, rhythm guitar] at the time was more, of want of a better term, a rock rocker. He had like a poodle perm and fringe. Steve was just Dr Iron Maiden. And Tuds really didn't like anything. I think you liked Sub Pop stuff.
"We were the tape traders. We were the ones that were kind of the driving force, so people would just come down say, 'Right, what wre we playing this Saturday? So I guess it just started out because we were the ones that were obsessed with it."
It's interesting, listening back to that record how you've linked back up with elements of that sound.
"I guess the elements of music that you grew up with, that are most important to you, from the ages of about 15 and 18, are the ones that kind of always stay in your life, sometimes whether you like it or not. It's just what you always gravitate back towards. Sometimes it's even just through nostalgia.
"Some stuff doesn't hold up that well, and some does. But I think I think some of our main influences around that time never really went away; like Candlemass's first album, Trouble's first two albums and some of the early proto death metal stuff. And Dead Can Dance; we were into Dead Can Dance from very early on. So all that stuff never really went away but we just changed how it influenced us I suppose.
What was it like when you first got in the studio? What was the learning curve like?
"It wasn't really a learning curve the first time. The first  demo that we recorded, we did in a place called Lion studios in Leeds, which was just behind the train station. The engineer was called Andy Tillison, and he just couldn't be arsed. You could tell he was like one of these people who just went in for hour sessions and went out again. And most of that was setting up the drums. He just couldn't be bothered.
"We still say it to this day; when Tuds [Matthew Archer] our original drummer was playing the drums, he said to him, 'Can you give it a bit more pasty, love?' [laughing] Meaning, can you hit it a little harder.
"All the amps are borrowed from the place everything and was definitely down to us to steer it. Like, 'Can you put a bit more reverb on the vocals? I mean, we'd only just found out what reverb was.
"Then the second time we went in for a demo we were actually a lot more prepared. Because the first time we were kind of like deer in the headlights and didn't know what to expect. And then the second time it was, okay, we know we've got to be in and out. And I still think the second demo stands up. I actually prefer it to the first album in terms of atmosphere.
"I think this happened to a lot of bands at the time. I know Morbid Angel used to say this and and Entombed. They preferred their demo to the album purely because the not knowing; the naivety and the the limitations in gear were actually part of the sound. And when you got in the studio with people who knew what they were doing and better gear, it almost cleaned up the sound a little too much."
What's interesting with you guys is how much you created in a three-year period. Just over a year after Lost Paradise came out, Gothic was released. You made quite a creative leap there too; what do you remember from that time when you were developing the material?
"It's strange. When you're that age, we were 18,19, 20, and at that age it seemed to me like we had an eternity to do it in. It didn't seem like a year between the two. It seemed like forever. You think you're maturing really fast.
"Straight away after we'd done the first album, we thought, right, what next? We were already a bit like that. We also had a bit of a thing for the goth scene, so it was like, oh let's try and incorporate some of that. And completely blindly, not knowing how we were going to do it or whether it would work or not. Just knocked it out at rehearsals now and again.
"I remember there was a guy who used to come down called Justin who was a friend of Nick's. He was more of a spaced out indie kid and he liked it when we rehearsed Eternal. And a lot of the guys in the band were like, 'Er it's a bit weird isn't it?' And this Justin guy was like, 'No it's so cool, I haven't heard anything like it.' We thought, ok we'll trust this guy. We just went with it, let the ball roll and didn't give it too much thought.
"It's always amazing to me when I think that the first our three records were all done year after year from each other, and it's like a completely different band each time. Especially playing-wise, we did mature quite a lot in the space of three years."
Even on Gothic it sounds like your ambition had grown sonically.
"Yes, I think we were only hampered by our own abilities and gear again. Which I guess, again, makes for the sound of the record; it is of a time and a place. Had we had better abilities and better gear, it might not be the album it is and we might not be the band we are now. We were very ambitious about the sound, and we would have probably gone even further if we'd had the time."
Did you reflect at the time that you'd created something unique in the metal world with the sound of Gothic?
"I think even from the demos, we felt slightly outside in the underground tape trading scene, because all our peers were trying to play as fast as possible at the time and we were kind of going in the opposite way. At every gig we did there were people shouting, 'Play faster!' And it kind of made us play slower, to annoy people almost.
"So we always saw ourselves as outsiders. And then when we did Gothic we knew that no one was really doing anything like that, but we didn't think anyone anyone would like it. We just thought, oh, it's something that we like. And that's that's all that matters. And we were right actually because myself and Hammy from Peaceful [record label founder Paul Halmshaw] had to go to Holland to the distributor, The Cartel, and persuade them to release it because they didn't like it. They didn't understand it. They just said, 'It's not really death metal. It's not really this. It's not really that. We're not sure that we know what to do with it.' So we had to go and basically beg them to release it.
"And it was a bit of a slow burner, I think. It didn't it didn't hit immediately as people remember it. Maybe a handful of scene heads did who are now in other bands. Like Katatonia, HIM or Nightwish. When people in those bands say, 'Oh when Gothic came out it blew me away'. I say, 'Yeah, but you were probably the only ones!' It did did take about a good few months before it caught on because we were gigging it at the time and we saw it kind of click in people's heads maybe a little bit, or click within the scene and start to make some headway.
"And when it did, we kind of did our usual thing. When people started to say, 'Oh Gothic's great, we really love it', and it started gaining some traction, we instantly thought, okay, right, well let's do something different then. And we've kind of always done that. Sometimes it works out well and sometimes it doesn't. For labels and for our management, they always said we're our own worst enemies, but I think it's also the reason why we're still here."
When I hear something like Shattered, I hear these traits in your playing where you're coming into your own as a player in terms of your sound. Were you conscious of wanting to do that?
"Not really, I think it comes down to the fact that we had two guitars and I never liked the twin lead thing too much. Trouble did it well, and Slayer, but I wasn't really a fan of that whole New Wave Of British Heavy Metal thing. I didn't grow up with that so it wasn't my thing. So I didn't see the point in having two guitarists unless you were both doing different things to create layers or whatever.
"We decided early on that Aaron would be rhythm and I would be… it wasn't even lead, we weren't even calling it lead, it was it was like harmony guitar. Because Nick was a gruff vocalist for the first few years. I was doing all the melodies. I was creating what a vocal line would do. So a lot of my guitar playing came from trying to craft that.
"I didn't really idolise any guitar players. I liked how Billy Duffy wrote guitar stuff in The Cult. I like how a lot of that goth stuff, how they used the guitars as icing – like sprinkles on top. I liked how that worked. Because I was fairly obsessed with Dead Can Dance, I tried to do things that I thought… well, I used to use the word churchy. It's probably a very stupid word…"
No, I know what you mean when you say that about your sound
"Kind of orchestral. Try to do the things that certain instruments would. If I imagined a cello in my head, what would that play? And then I would just do it on guitar. It was all just playing by ear and just seeing what works and what didn't. And that was the result, I suppose."
Shades Of God (1992)
Am I right in saying Shades Of God is one you're particularly fond of?
"Me personally, I think it's our most unsung album, because it fell between Gothic and Icon, which were both very revered, I guess. And Shades Of God, it's more quirky. It's not instant but there's some really interesting parts on it for me. It's fun to play and it's also one I don't think we could recreate. I think we could recreate most of the other records again, but I think we'd have trouble with Shades Of God, because it was definitely a time in our lives where it just summed up something in that year. I don't know what it was."
There some groove coming into the sound too – Daylight Torn is an example of that.
Yeah, I think that record we were probably more into the Trouble and Sabbath side of things than anything else. The goth thing kind of went a bit by the wayside for that record, I think. It was a much more musical record in terms of playing – there's a lot of stuff going on. We really developed as a band I think, playing-wise. But it's weird that the song As I Die doesn't fit into that record, really."
And it's at the end.
"I'll tell you why it's at the end, it's because the rest of the band didn't like the song. I was the only one who liked it and it was left off the first pressing of the vinyl. And then I remember, I think it was a guy on Metal Hammer, Germany, called Robert Mueller who heard the song As I Die and he said, 'That's amazing'. Then the rest of the band said, 'Go on then, you can put it on the album'.
"So they stuck it on the end. And then it became a single and it became the song of the album. And basically, it was like a 'told you so' point for me where I said, 'Okay, well, that's where we're going from here'. That was the that was kind of the bridge into Icon and Draconian Times and where we are now, almost. That song kind of took us forward."
There's also acoustic guitar on that song and elsewhere on the album with No Forgiveness. It's interesting to hear that element coming into the sound.
"I guess that was a combination of experimenting and Aaron had got an acoustic guitar. He had all these acoustic lines that he liked. And I didn't like any of them apart from two. And I said, 'Well, maybe we can stick some of them in somewhere, maybe one in the middle and one on the start of something 'and that's why they're in there. And it works great."
This album saw Nick's vocal move into more of a melodic territory. What some would call 'Hetfieldian'…
"It was it but it was more of a gradual thing than maybe people realise because between Gothic and Icon, in the Shades Of God era, he was already starting to try… well we were already moaning at him, 'We need some melody in the vocal'. And he was saying, 'Well how do I do it?' and that's how Shades Of God came about because it's kind of half gruff and half melodic in a way. And that started actually on the end of Gothic – the second to last song on Gothic has a bit of him trying that out.
"With Icon he developed the melodic side and toned down the gruff side even more so it became this… whatever it was, but yeah, ultimately, I guess it became likened to Hetfield, but it wasn't intentional. I know that much but I can totally see it of course. Icon definitely became his moment when he started doing the melodies. And I guess we became more intertwined, rather than vocals being just a thing we stuck on the top."
It's interesting to hear the melodic tapping you do over the chorus in Joys Of The Emptiness, that's quite different.
"Well, that that again is that's that's part of that churchy, baroque thing that I was talking about. I'm trying to imagine what peeling bells would sound like. I came up with some kind of slow tapping that kind of just went with the tempo of the song and added another dimension. It was it was all just trial and error – it just sounded good."
True Belief is a quintessential Paradise Lost song in many respects, what are your memories of writing it?
"Again, the churchy thing. That was the whole point to a lot of the stuff I did then. It was marrying whatever the bass and rhythm guitar were doing with what I was doing in a way that created harmonies or a feeling you were in a church somewhere. It sounds weird, I know.
"So the chorus of True Belief, that's obviously very churchy. Because Nick even does like a fourth harmony on it, where it's like a monk's chanting. And I'm doing the guitar part that's almost like a peeling of bells thing again. And the pre-chorus is my favourite part of that song because we were just messing around with it and it was originally another four bars. But when we cut those four bars out, and went straight to the chorus from it. And with Nick's vocal over it, what he did with his vocal, it was one of the first times I was aware that it sounded like a really cool bit of songwriting. Which hadn't really occurred to me before and [before] It was always like a 'suck it and see' sort of thing.
"I think the video is the coolest thing about it actually. We played a festival in Estonia early on, I suppose it must have been '91 or '92 or something. The album wasn't out yet. The audience was going crazy and there was a fence up at the front and it was scary. The bouncers were being horrific, hitting people with sticks. It was gruesome, but we had a film crew with us and they just filmed the whole thing. And it just looked really passionate the way they'd done it. That video to me is very, pardon the pun, iconic. Even though it's a triumphant video, it just had a sadness about it and I really liked it."
Draconian Times (1995)
Do you see this album as the sister to Icon?
"I see it as the follow on, I see it as like the the posh version of Icon maybe. Because this is where we started into a cycle that we hadn't encountered before. This is where managements and labels became much more serious and involved. And we were getting offered lots of tours and doing lots of touring cycles and had very little time for writing. So this is probably the one of the only times in our career where we did a lot of the writing on the road, which we'd never done and I still don't like doing because you end up sounding the same as the album that you're promoting at the time. Which I guess is why Draconian Times like is like an extension of Icon.
"We did it in at Jacob Studios in Surrey. That in itself has its own stories. Like Morten Harket was in there from A-ha. He was in the b studio doing some stuff - really nice guy. Then the Charlatans came into the B studio doing something. Then we had to move in the B studio because the Cure came into studio A. And we're all kind of hanging out in a lounge all the time. It was a really cool time.
"We had gone straight from recording Icon, straight on tour in America with Morbid Angel and Kreator promoting Shades Of God even though we'd just recorded Icon. And that was absolutely abominable. Thinking back, we don't talk about any tour more than that one. Because so many weird things happened; horrible things and good things.
"It was an eight-week tour and we'd never done that kind of length on the road. We'd never played America before and we'd never come up against audiences that just wanted to hear Morbid Angel or Kreator. It was a real eye opener and we all kind of came back from it beaten.
"So we did that, came straight back onto Sepultura's Chaos AD tour of Europe, promoting Icon, which was another eight weeks. Then we went straight into our own tour, which was another eight weeks. Then festival circuits had started getting big so we were doing Dynamo festival we were doing Rock am Ring. We went to South America on the Ozzfest. Lots of things were happening.
"We were basically away for three years, almost non stop and it kind of sent us all a bit nutty. And Draconian turned out extremely polished because of that. And yeah, it's the polished version of Icon to me. Some people would say Icon to the primitive version of Draconian Times, but either way around, it is what it is.
"That touring cycle of Draconian Times really sent us off track. We didn't want to carry on that thing, even though management and label and fans probably wanted us to continue that, but we we were totally burned out with it."
It feels like the album was less dense on the guitar side that what came before and the music was making more space for Nick's vocals. Is that fair to say?
"Yes and I think that's down to the producer Simon Efemey, who also did Icon but it was clear that the vocals were becoming more of a prominent thing. Weirdly the two albums that we kept A/B'ing the when we when we were recording it and mixing it were Rush's Counterparts and Queensrÿche's Empire. I quite liked Rush's Counterparts. I wasn't particularly a Queensrÿche fan but I think it was it that type of fairly compressed sound, leaving space for the vocals thing that the Simon Efemey was going for.
"It's a far more serious approach to that record than anything we'd done before. There was was more time working than drinking, which was unusual for recordings up to that point."
One Second (1997)
One Second was a significant change in sound, and ruffled a few feathers. How do you feel looking back on it?
"I've mentioned that part of the reason that we did that shift was because we were just so burned out and tired with the twin guitar thing, and we had a magazine cover that called us 'hair metal'. It had picture with Nick and I on the front with really long hair. We had another magazine cover that said, 'The new Metallica?'. And it was just all too cliche for words. We just didn't like it. It didn't feel like what we were about.
"So half the reason was, we didn't want to be part of that anymore. And another reason was we did actually want to start experimenting a lot. I got this Ensoniq ASR-10 sampling keyboard and a Kurzweil K2500 keyboard. And we started just playing around with things and I think the first computers with the first Cubase had just come out – big old clunky things. And Akai samplers and stuff.
"We were still using guitars a lot. Most of the album is is still very quite guitar-driven. But we did things like putting keyboard lines through guitar pedals and through amps. We were sampling guitar parts and putting them through. So we were kind of just mixing it up a little bit so he didn't know what was what.
"Songwriting was the most important thing at that time; let's make a really good song. It doesn't matter what achieves it, doesn't matter who plays on it. And that would that was the main goal. And when we got Sank [Ulf Sandqvist] involved as the producer, he took took it to a whole new level. He was like, 'Yeah, you're doing the right thing. Don't look back, look forward and do whatever you want. The song is the most important thing. Above everything. Not anyone's ego.' And that was the result of it all."
Do you think writing on keyboard may have had a positive effect on you as a guitar player – where you're writing with the bigger picture of the song in mind?
"It definitely shaped it. It was another string to the bow. I class our whole career as a learning curve. It still is, otherwise there's no point doing it for me. It's all about expanding my knowledge of what I do and every every day is a learning curve for me. And that was no different.
"A song like One Second, for instance. I don't think we could ever recreate that song. I think it's one of the best songs we've ever written. And it's what? A five-note song? It that repeats over and over. And it's on that loop because that was the limitation of the Ensoniq keyboard – it was on floppy disks so you couldn't do a loop longer than that part in the song. So everything I added to it had to be within that space of time.
"And then I recorded onto a cassette recorder. So I was playing that these keyboard loops into the cassette recorder, while playing the guitar through a little practice amp. And that became the song, basically. And it's little things like that I love about songwriting. Because you can't recreate that moment in time, as much as you try. It's a pure one-off and I love that kind of stuff.
"I hate to say it but I did enjoy recording albums like Host and One Second more than I did recording Icon or something like that. Because it was like complete experimentation; doing things that we didn't know what was going to happen, what the outcome would be. With something like Icon or Draconian Times we were in very familiar territory. And there's nothing wrong with that, it makes you confident, I suppose, but it's not as exciting."
That electronic experimentation continued on Host - the music is quite cinematic in places on it.
"Yeah, we went the whole hog. We really did spend EMI's money without a thought for EMI. They were just throwing it at us, it was ridiculous. It was probably the last time that ever happened to us, where a label would just give us blank cheques. And it was crazy. We hired out Jane Seymour's stately home in near Tonbridge in Kent. Huge stately home, no studio in it. So then we bought a studio and put it in it. And lived in there for about three or four months.
"We had a chef come in and cook us meals. It's crazy when I think about, it was absolutely crazy. And we just stayed in there experimenting for three or four months. And it's up to the listener whether some of it's a bit too self indulgent, whether the album would have turned out differently if we would have had less time and more constraints or whatever. But it is what it is.
"Again, it's a product of what happened at the time. And yeah, I still stand by it as much as I do with most records that we've done. It's got some excellent hooks, and I'm pretty proud of some of the arrangements. Not all, but some of them are very nice arrangements. Some of the string arrangements are first time I'd done proper string arranging. It was really cool to work with a string section. I had actually programmed the string sections before and then that was transcribed and played by a string section. So it was it was really exciting to do that.
"Then we went on a press trip, which was the most indulgent thing that's ever happened to me. We were flown first class all over the world, myself and Nick, just doing interviews people from EMI. Ate in the best restaurants… it was crazy. I remember Aaron in the band, he started drinking really expensive brandy and he didn't even like it! I smoked a cigar once and I've never smoked in my life. Just because it was at this place that we were at.
"But weirdly, we were talking about Host with our manager the other day. And he said, 'Do you realise it's a really big selling album now?' And I said, 'No, I had no idea. I thought it sold big and then loads of people took it back'. And he said, 'Well, maybe that's what happened at the time. But now it's like up there as one of your biggest selling.'"
Even the detractors have reflected on it now and come back around.
"Yes and I never thought that would happen in a million years because the first time I heard about it happening was we played a black metal festival. I think it was called Blast Fest in Bergen, Norway. Pretty much every band on it was black metal apart from Paradise Lost. And this was about six or seven years ago and some of these real hardcore black metal dudes came up. They grew up on Gothic and danced around the woods to it.
"They came up to us and said Host was one of their favourite albums now. I thought they were taking the piss and they weren't – it turns out that kind of synth pop thing and had come back around in the black metal community. I guess it's it took 20 years, but it's cool to like Host now!"
Believe In Nothing (2001)
Believe in Nothing is the only Paradise Lost album that has been remixed for a reissue. What did you want to address with it?
"Unfortunately it was unaddressable. We could do it as much as we tried. Believe In Nothing was still on EMI but this was the fallout of EMI seeing that we owed them a million quid. They were they were at everything. They followed our every move - they were like shadows.
"We recorded it in in Islington in that studio at Angus Young's brother's studio - George Young. He was in there at the time and he was shorter than Angus Young, actually. I remember the first time we walked down the hallway we heard this clicking and it sound like high heels, and we thought this hot lady was going to come through the door and it was this wizened old man in Cuban heels.
"So we recorded in there and EMI were there watching every move, making us do things in certain ways that we wouldn't usually have done in a million years. Then they took the stems off to Germany, and mixed it three times in studios without asking us along, or even asking our opinion. And the result was that I think there's some good stuff on the album. I think the opening track's great [I Am Nothing]. I think World Pretending is great. I think there's some good ideas. But it's compromised heavily and it was lifeless to me. They'd taken the soul out of it.
"When we got to remix it many years later, which is only a couple of years ago, we heard what they've done and clipped everything so tightly that it was hard to even do anything with it. You had to play around with reverbs and EQ to do anything, you couldn't really change much to do with the sounds because they'd processed it all too much.
"It is what it is. It was compromised at the time. Plus, I can't blame blame EMI for it at all. I mean they were 50% of the problem and we were the other 50%. We were rudderless at the time. We were definitely having problems within the band. We were having problems personally. It was just a big fallout. People were coming down… there were a lot of drugs involved in Host and the touring; prescription and non prescription. Believe In Nothing was trying to come off that right. So was a messed up time."
World Pretending is a song that could fit alongside your doomier material
"I love World Pretending. There's a bit on the verses when I used the Ensoniq. There's a bit on the verses that I use the Ensoniq from One Second on. It's a fairly bad sample of a harp but I absolutely love it. To this day I think it sounds great."
Symbol Of Life (2002)
The blend of heavy guitars and electronics here is quite industrial in places on songs like Perfect Mask, Isolate and Erased.
"I think that was heavily influenced by Rhys Fulber coming in as producer. We were really fucked at that point. I mean, I was a basket case. Completely. I mean, if you look at the photos from Symbol Of Life me and Nick are both about eight stone wet through; we were totally out of it.
"And the reason Rhys Fulber did the album is he was an old fan of ours, he'd see us at Dynamo in 1995. He was part of Fear Factory, and I think and a couple other bands. He just said, 'I can make you the Paradise Lost you need to be again. I can find your rudder again, sort of thing. So he came in and he did exactly that, really. He steered us and helped us see what was important again. He helped me enjoy playing guitar again."
Paradise Lost (2005)
"The era with this and Symbol Of Life all roll into one for me. Rhys Fulber did this one too and it was an ongoing cathartic process where we all regained our love of each other and the band, and playing.
"The song Over The Madness was this kind of where there was no solo on it originally, it was just an outro playing. That became a big midsection with a big solo on it. And it was all improvised. It was because Rhys said, 'Just do what you used to do'. And it's like it sounds cheesy but that's what came out of it.
"That period kind of helped us reassemble. We still had this thing in us from One Second where the song is first regardless of what plays it. We were coming together more as a band again, as a live outfit."
In Requiem (2007)
In Requiem feels like the album where the doom is coming back. There's a shift in your guitar tone. What changed with the rig?
"I'd started playing Mayones guitars and think I might have come back round to Mesa stuff. Not the old ones that we had but some newer Mesa stuff that we'd got. I think we just played around with overdrive pedals in front of them and it was a fairly simplistic setup, really.
"On In Requiem I'd got back into death metal at that point and doom metal, like the early days. I'd got back into all that stuff. I was really wanting to steer it back that way but it didn't sit well with the rest of the band. They weren't into that at all, and Nick wasn't especially at the time. He came around to it a few years later but at the time he saw it as a bit childish. And he didn't want to go back into the gruff vocals at all. He said, "I've done that, I don't think I could do it anymore.
"I think you can hear it on some of the songs on In Requiem. There's riffs that are a bit Celtic Frosty or a bit doomy, but they've got the cleaner vocal over the top; the melodic vocal. That's what shaped the record really, it was those two things blended together that made it sound the way it does. Which is interesting I think. In retrospect it's far more interesting than it would have been if he had done the gruff vocals, which is what I was gearing towards.
"It was a trade-off but it was a decent trade-off, and you get used to that over the years. It gets better with time if you've got a couple of songwriters. You start to realise what each other's strong points are and whose decisions make sense at the right time. So for instance, I'm a lot more flighty and I'll try things out a lot more and Nick toes the line a bit more. Both have positives and negatives. That record is something that definitely took note of that. Nick was reigning me in but I was still playing around within the parameters and it kind of works."
Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us (2009)
I'm going to use the term 'heavily majestic' to describe this album. How do you feel about it now?
"I think it's one of the most atmospheric records we did. It's got huge swathing melodies coming in and out, here and there. The song Last Regret is a good example of that, and the title track too. I dusted off my string arrangement hat for that one, tried to do things a little more… pompous is the wrong word but it's walking that line.
"I hate symphonic metal, I detest symphonic metal, but in dribs and drabs if it's done right, it can sound amazing. And some some bands have done that and a lot of bands have failed at it. And that was my attempt at walking that line. Trying not to walk into cheese territory, but getting the storybook pictures in your mind type of thing.
"That album in particular, the way the album flows, it's definitely trying to paint a picture like the way you would tell a story. As Horizons End, the start of that song, I'm thinking of a storm coming from the distance over the ocean towards you. And that comes closer and closer and starts rumbling and then it ebbs away, and then something else comes in. It's all about that light and shade. You can be as heavy as you want but if everything is heavy surrounding it, it's not heavy at all. Nothing's heavy. So that the album particular taught me a lot about dynamics."
You used a session drummer, Peter Damin, on that album. How have the drummer changes over the years affected you? Have the changes been positive in some ways?
"In some ways, and in some ways no. If our original drummer could have progressed better with his instrument and got better, at the time that we needed him to, he'd still be in the band. Because he's still one of our best mates. It just so happens that we were expected to grow up fast, stylistically and individually, on our instruments at a time when he just wasn't able to.
"I remember one big moment when I knew that it was the end for him [in the band]. We played Sweden Rock Festival, a big festival in Sweden with a number of stages, and we were headlining the tent there. And we had sideline, but Oasis were playing underneath us. They were they were just breaking big. They just been on and obviously caused a storm in this tent. We went on and we were playing… it could have been As I Die, which is ultra simple, and he just went blank and stopped playing in front of this huge crowd. The nerves got to him, and all the stuff that had gone on. And when we came offstage, everyone knew. Everyone knew that we couldn't go on like that.
"Every drummer that we've been through since then, it's kind of all changed for very honest reasons. Lee Morris came in and he auditioned then stayed in the band a long time. And he left because we just weren't getting on anymore. That was it. He wanted to go down a different path and so we just didn't get on.
"And Jeff [Singer] came in, he auditioned at the same time Lee Morris did. But didn't get the job. It was down to the two. So we pulled him back in. And he brought a lot to the band as well. I mean, Lee Morris did too. if you listen to Draconian Times, his style is all over it. He was into Simon Phillips and Rush - you can hear little touches on that here and there.
"Then Jeff came and he's much more of a rock drummer; a solid rock drummer with this groove. And he brought that to it. By Faith Divides Us… we'd just asked Adrian [Erlandson] to join, but like a week before the recording so he wasn't prepared for it. We had to get a session drummer.
"The guy that did session drumming on it, Peter Damin, couldn't have been more uninterested. It's so weird. He's was a really nice guy but he was reading it all off paper. Unbelievable drummer, but couldn't wait to get out of there. It was like the engineer on the demos, Andy Tillison, he was like the drumming version of him and just really had no interest at all. But he did the job fantastically. I guess that's what a session guy is; someone who can walk in and pull it off, like they've been in the band 20 years. And it's quite a challenging record, for drummers that have come in since to recreate.
"I think that's what the drummers over the years have helped with; our stylistic changes. It all shapes certain aspects out of it. We wouldn't sound like we do if it wasn't for Tuds our original drummer. Because if he could have done blast beats we might have been a Napalm Death-style band, who knows?
"Lee Morris definitely gave that technical aspect to it, more of a groove came into it with Jeff and it became more metal with Adrian. It's all worked out, in a way."
Tragic Idol (2012)
This record is a bit of a dark horse in the discography.
"I kind of always forget about it in a way so it's a bit of a Shades Of God. It did carry on the rise. Faith Divides Us… did well and Tragic Idol carried on that kind of groove which was going bigger. My thinking was I couldn't really go any further with the orchestral dynamic thing that I was doing on Faith Divides Us… without getting into the territory I didn't want to – the symphonic thing which is a no no. So, for me, the only thing that I could do with Tragic Idol was to make it more succinct. Take the orchestration away to a degree, then the guitars had to do the talking.
"So it had to be out to become very to-the-point guitar-wise. To me, it's very ordered, very compartmentalised. But that's because I know how it was put together. I suppose in that way it's a bit like Symbol Of Life – there's no flab on it. We cut away a lot more than we normally do the songs to get it to-the-point."
The Plague Within (2015)
This marked the return of Nick's growling vocals, and they're straight in on the opener No Hope In Sight.
"With The Plague Within there's quite a few different styles on it. To me No Hope In Sight to me is basically an AC/DC song with gruff vocals. That's what it sounds to me. But it's a great opener for festivals. It just kind of sets the mood really well. It's a good song for that.
"Him agreeing to do gruff vocals again was because he'd agreed to join Bloodbath. And I said, 'Well, you can't say you're not going to do gruff vocals for me now'. So he said, 'All right, I'll do some but is has to be appropriate for the song and fit in with an album.' Fair enough. So yes, so it came back in degrees on that record. Little bits here and there.
"I loved doing that record. It was the first time working with Gomez as well, who became kind of a bit of a modern day Simon Efemey for us. We like the way he works, we like his sound and the way he captures the band and the way it wants to be at any given time. He doesn't make the same record twice. Not that there's anything wrong with it, but it's not the Andy Sneap approach. It's not the Jens Bogren approach where you kind of you get the sound of the producer, almost.
"With Gomez you're capturing the sound of the band, and it can be very different every time. That's why that's why we've stuck with them. And we learnt on The Plague Within that's he's just capturing the sounds, honestly. There's no changing of stuff. It's not a producer in the way of, 'let's make you sound like this, let's make you do that.' We don't need anyone to tell us that anymore. We're definitely on our own path again now. We know what we're doing and he's great at capturing that.
"Beneath Broken Earth was the last song we wrote for this record. I wrote it in about two hours on one of the last few days of recording, because we needed another track. I really wanted to do an ultra depressing slow doom death song, and the band were for it because we thought it was just going to be an extra b-side or something like that.
So I went all out and created this miserable track, wrote it very quickly and banged out in the studio on the same day that we wrote it. And I love it. It's my favourite track on the album and it made us write Medusa. It let led directly to Medusa because everyone loved that track so much.
"We played it on the 70,000 Tonnes Of Metal [festival cruise] where everyone's playing the feelgood hits of the summer. I think we opened with that one, and no one moved while we're doing it, obviously because you can't. And we finished and it was like rapturous applause. When we were coming offstage even the bouncer was saying, 'I love that you played that because no one else is doing stuff like that'. It could have been it could have gone either way, but that really gave us a passion for the doom. So that led directly on to Medusa, which is my segue."
That song uses a fixed wah pedal tone that's kind of become a signature for you. Is that multiple wahs in the studio?
"Yes, a couple of wah pedals. Sometimes it's cocked wah. I'm looking for a replacement, actually, because there's so many different new things on the market, but I'm looking for a good one. I've been using the [Ibanez] Weeping Demon for a long time now for the cocked wah. Because there's a a mix knob and a Q knob, plus a low and a high frequency knob. So you can really pick out the exact amount and the exact frequency you're wanting to peak to make whatever note you want sing.
"I'd generally cock it somewhere on the Weeping Demon and dial it in somewhere on that. And then I'd just use a Vox for normal wah after it.. And that's been my standard thing in the studio for a while now, generally. I still do that. I love the Weeping Demon but I've just heard about so many things now that can do so much more but I haven't actually tried them.
"There are lockable wahs, but I always thought there was a gap in the market for one with a mix knob on. One where you can wah it as normal and you can lock it off at a certain point for the cocked note, and you can have a mix knob and Q knob. It's screaming out for it, I can't believe nobody has done it."
This is your heaviest album to date.
"Without a doubt. you can go right to the start there's nothing as heavy as Medusa. But that was the intention. We set out to do an album that was the benchmark for the heaviness of this band. If we go beyond this heaviness, it's not heavy anymore, because there's nothing to judge it by. Which is what I was saying earlier about dynamics.
"It's the first time we've actually used fuzz pedals on a recording which, I'm surprised we never used before. We used Rats a lot in the early days, but on this it was a [Boss] FZ-2 into a Sunn amp. That was half the sound; that brought the crumbliness to it. Then you'd have a more traditional Mesa tone as the other half, which kind of kept the definition.
"We split the signal, had both amps at one and mic'd them both together, as well as a room mic, so it became very cohesive, rather than sounding like two parts. And it worked great, I think. I read the reviews, and I take them all with a pinch of salt, but I also listen to them. Some of the negative things I read about Medusa is they didn't like the guitar sound and they didn't like the snare sound. But that's what I think makes the record. Personally I like that for that record. It's not for every record or everyone. But that's what makes individual albums what they are within someone's career."
Everything is distinct in your catalogue.
"Yes and that's kind of the whole point. We have 16 albums now, each one is different. Some people love that album and some people hate it. You're not meant to be loved for every album. That's exceptional if you do that; amazing, but that can't be the intention because if you do that, you're compromising your own sound to appeal to a certain section of the public. Which never ends well, in my opinion."
What amps are you using now?
"Well, it's funny, but it's a bit full circle but we're back to Marshall. So Obsidian is all just Marshall. It's the JTM. Just driving the amp and then a Tube Screamer in front; the classic late '80s metal guitar sound but then obviously each player's playing determines what the tone is.
"It was a very, very simple straightforward Marshall sound. Because I'm probably very similar to many people in that in the last 15/20 years, I think metal has become that too safe in its guitar sounds and its productions, and it's now ultra boring. Especially mainstream metal. In underground metal it's still very interesting. I'm obsessed with Bandcamp and where it takes me. You have to sift through a lot of shit, but when you find the stuff it's like, wow, I've never thought of that before.
"But mainstream metal, the guitar sounds are just so interchangeable. The drum sounds are so interchangeable. So ultimately, you can have the most interesting song in the world, but it still sounds like the same glut of bands. So I've kind of gone back to that thing where guitar sounds should be more… I'm not going to use the word organic because that word is ultra shit, but it's where you can hear the speaker driving and you can feel the weight of it and the shift in playing making tonal differences. I think that's been important to the last two or three Paradise Lost records.
"And we went through a period like anyone else where you start to get into the digital realm a bit more. You're getting great sounds obviously, sounds brilliant in the mix and you can't tell the difference etc. But you just want something a bit warmer and playable. And that's something we've come back to on the last couple of records."
Obsidian has the heaviness but there's also some of the more atmospheric melodic elements from further back in your sound - the influence of goth music.
"Absolutely. And that made a big comeback in the music I was listening to. We've rehearsed next door for 20 years to New Model Army and they're a pretty inspiring band in a lot of ways. They've never been a big favourite of mine but I've always found them quite inspiring and quite unique, in a way. And I don't know, maybe hearing them at rehearsals and going away, listening to some of that early goth music again, that I used to love.
"And another thing as well is I went back to some of the early Siouxsie And The Banshees stuff, and just the drumming on it is crazy. It's like they never settle into a beat but you don't feel like you've been thrown off guard like you would with Mathcore or something like that. You still feel like you're in a 4/4 groove.
"So there's lots of different elements I threw back into this one. I thought, why not? We've done the heaviest one, we've done the most atmospheric one. We've done this one, we've done that one. Let's throw a bit of whatever we fancy in. So it is a bit of a mixtape, I guess. But yeah, why not? It's not like we're delving into territories unknown. We're delving into things that we love, know well, but we can push those boundaries further than ever before, because we've done that, and we've come through it. There's nothing too far leftfield on this, but it might completely change down the line. I love that aspect of us. We're a band that can do that."
The Lost & The Painless CD, DVD and book boxset is out now via Peaceville Records. Paradise Lost tour the UK in February before dates in mainland Europe. More info at paradiselost.co.uk