On September 7th I interviewed Greg Mackintosh. Greg is best known for his work as the lead guitarist and co-Founder of the British Doom Metal Band Paradise Lost. We met up in the band’s dressing room prior to their concert at San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall.
Greg and I discuss the band’s long history, the state of arrested development around other bands Paradise Lost came up with, Crust punk, Brithish-ness, his musical beginnings, a band’s mystique, Ozzy Osbourne, Alice Cooper, and music more.
This was a really fun interview, and I’m glad I took this opprotunity to talk with him.
Hear and/or read the full interview after the jump…
DC – How’s your stay been so far in our big city?
GM – Haven’t been here long, just long enough to go down the street.
DC – Long enough to see the strip club down the way?
GM – That one there, where it shows the women dress up as animals?
DC – Yeah.
GM – That’s very strange…
DC – Yeah, I guess it’s a thing here.
GM – I thought that last bit was a bit more French. The animal type thing.
DC – I take it, in France that they’re more into the furries over yonder?
GM – I guess, yeah.
DC – I’ll start with one that you’ve probably been getting a lot. Tragic Idol is the 13th album by the band. Does it feel like it’s been 13 albums or 24 years?
GM – Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Depends on how tired you are, I guess, but I guess overall things go faster and faster as time moves on. For some things it just seems like, it can seem like yesterday that you saw someone. Like, for instance, we did a festival the other week and a German death metal band called Morgoth was playing—
DC – Oh! Awesome.
GM – And, I haven’t seen them since their supporters in our home town in 1989, and it’s like we haven’t seen each other. We just talked about the same stuff again. “Oh, you remember this? You remember that?”
DC – It that jarring to kind of just fall in that time again or is it kind of like refreshing?
GM – It’s refreshing.
DC – Does it make you feel young again?
GM – It’s not about young again, because you see these people and you think, “Wow, they look old now.” Not realizing that you’ve aged yourself. It’s comforting in a way that you know that it’s not just you that’s stuck in this time warp or whatever, you know, or this kind of endless cycle of things. It’s still the people that do it, and still appreciate it and still like it, you know?
DC – One thing I was surprised to find while researching you guys, because I’ve known about you for a while, but I didn’t realize that you were English. Because your sound—
GM – Haha. We’re the most English band ever, I think. About from Maiden, maybe.
DC – But, like your sound, is something like a Swedish death metal band, to ME anyway, as far as (the sound) now and towards the beginning. Have you heard that before?
GM – When we first start out, we were part of the, sort of, crust punk slash death metal scene of the UK, which incorporated sort of early Napalm Death, Carcass, Extreme Noise Terror, stuff like Bolt Thrower and we all just used to do gigs together. We all helped each other out, tour with each other. And that eventually spread around Europe and we toured with all the early Swedish bands. Nihilist and stuff like that, who became Entombed and all these other bands. I guess the sounds start to leak into each other when the tear trading thing took off and we start gigging together all over Europe in vans or whatever. One of our first European tours we did, and Autopsy’s first tour, was us and Autopsy together in a van. Like, nine people in the back of a transit van with a bunch of equipment in there going around Europe. And that’s another thing, I hadn’t seen Autopsy since that tour til, I do a side project called Vallenfyre which is real crust old death metal, and we played at Bolt Thrower’s 26th Anniversary in London and Autopsy were on it, and I hadn’t seen them since then, since like ’91. Again, it was like hey, nothing’s happened in between, it’s just—you know? But the sound thing, I think is just a European-ish sound, I guess.
DC – How much control do you have over the band’s Facebook page, or do you do any posting on there?
GM – I’m the wrong person to ask, I’m the least sociable and social media person in the band. I have no Facebook, I have no anything.
DC – I just noticed that on the band page, that there was a negative review of the new album post that was just kind of like, “the first negative review is in!” and it was kind of just posted up there tongue-in-cheek, accepting of negative reviews.
GM – Well no, our singer Nick, he’s very instrumental in all that. He just find’s in funny when things like that, it’s just like you shouldn’t shy away from bad reviews. If you just listen to all the good ones, you wouldn’t be taking anything on board and you wouldn’t progress, I guess. So yeah, sometimes, it’s funny to read bad reviews and take on board somethings and say “F*ck you” to other things.
DC – Have you guys had any desire to go back to the kind of synthy era?
GM – Oh, right ok.
DC – Host, or One Second or anything like that?
GM – Not of late. Not, in the last few years. We did a few years of kind of experimenting in that side of things and that’s why these days that we can do, sort of, the more Doom approach, the Doom Metal Approach with any kind of conviction, because we kind of got all the stuff out of our system. I think if we had carried out with the Doom thing the whole time, it had just been going like a coloring box, you know, just like, music by numbers. Some bands kind of get off on that, but we’re not one of them. It gets too boring. You got to—you may as well work on a production line that’s just churning out the same stuff over and over.
DC – On that note, a band I f*cking LOVE, but totally is stuck in that—(I point to my Motorhead shirt)
GM – Yeah, no, there are certain bands that pull it off. You’re right, Motorhead is fantastic.
DC – I love Motorhead, but pretty much same album.
Gm – There are certain bands that pull it off, and certain bands that enjoy pulling it off, but for me I kind of—there’s one thing that I’ll always stick with. Personally, I grew up in the sort of crust punk/death metal scene and I will always have a part of me that has an affinity to that, that I always go back to check out new bands that are coming along in that scene. I still have friends from that scene. As far as everything else goes, I don’t see harm in finding out what else is out there.
DC – Touching on that scene, it seems that something that was early on, a love of yours. What was your first band called and what did it sound like?
GM – I never really had a first band. It was always with just Nick, the singer of Paradise Lost now. It was always just me and him doing stuff since the age of like 17. Just messing around and different people came and went until because Paradise Lost. So, there’s a few weird names along the way, but it was the same couple of guys just pulling other people in.
DC – Why do you think sticking with 80% of your lineup since 1988 has been so successful? Looking over a lineup, it’s just, you know, been drummer switching out.
GM – Well, I mean if, if Tudds (Matthew Archer), our original drummer—if his drumming had been more consistent. He had to go because we were playing big festivals, headlining big festivals, and the nerves start to get to him in front of these huge crowds. If he would have handled that, and his drumming had been more consistent, he’d still be in the band. It would have been 100% lineup, but certain things happen. I think the rest of us just stuck together because we’re friends, before the band, and it was just kind of a hobby. And we still kind of treat it that way. Even though it’s been a career for twenty-odd years, we still treat it like it’s our hobby and we just have fun with it, because the whole point of doing this is fun.
DC – Of course.
GM – More, and more so as the music scene keeps going the way it’s going.
DC – What are your thoughts on, like, your album, in full, right now, can be listened to on YouTube. Easy. And everything you’ve put out. Are you afraid of that because of your paycheck or are kind of into the idea that anyone can get your music, spreading your art.
GM – I think there’s pluses and minuses to it all really. Personally, I preferred it when there was more mystery that surrounded the whole thing. Where you didn’t know what your favorite band had for lunch or something. I used to look at album covers, you know I’m and old-ish guy, but I used to look at album covers and wonder what these people are like. There was something kind of good about not knowing. Same with the music. You have to wait for an album on order, and you didn’t know what it was going to be like. You had no idea, and you had to wait a couple weeks for it to come to you. Then you get it in the post and you’re like, “Whoa!” looking through all the artwork and stuff. I miss all that. That’s all been lost. That’s why vinyl’s coming back a little bit. It’s a collectable and a CD’s not really a collectable. So you get your people who will download your stuff off the digital downloads and that, who don’t really care about packaging, who just want a track from this band and a track from that band. And then you have your collectors and people who like physical products and like to have the whole thing. Because artwork and stuff like that has always been very important to me. When I was growing up all the albums I liked, they thought about the whole thing and how it was all put together with the music, and I still kind of aspire to that.
DC – Looking through my father’s records when I was younger, I kept coming across Black Sabbath album, just in random order. And it was kind of this same thing, where they seemed like this horrifying band, until Sabra Cadabra? No, that’s not it. The one where they’re on the cover mirrored behind themselves. (Sabotage)
GM – Oh yeah!
DC – And I think Ozzy’s wearing a dress and you realize that they really are just a goofy bunch of guys and then I read his autobiography and they really as this goofy bunch of guys. And that’s just kind of an interesting thing…about them. I don’t really know where I was going with that, now that I think about it. I had something but I lost it.
GM – But I remember getting master of reality, the album by Sabbath, and that’s the real sludgy down-tuned one and I was just staring at the cover, just like, “What are these guys like?” That’s the thing I’m talking about that I miss. You probably know deep down, everyone’s a goofy bunch of guys just doing whatever they do but it’s nice to have this. It’s like reading a book as apposed to a movie. You have things that, in your head, preconceptions, which are all about how the individual perceives things, and that’s an important part of music that’s kind of getting lost these days, because there’s too much explained. There’s too much information for you.
DC – Your music is quite somber. It’s doom. But you’re a cheery dude.
GM – Well, I can be,
DC – I feel like, I should hide this interview to keep this mystique behind you.
GM – Nooo no no. A lot of the English magazines call us miserable Northern bastards. It can be very true. You probably caught me on a good day but a lot of it’s sense of humor as well. The English sense of humor, anyway, is very kind of downbeat, but if you’re Northern English, we’re about as far north as you can get in England, it’s just everything’s pessimism, but in a humorous way.
DC – That’s something I noticed about Type O Negative, you know.
GM – Well that’s why had a bit of an affinity with them. I knew Pete pretty well from very early on and that kind of downbeat New York sense of humor was very similar to the Northern English sense of humor at the time.
DC – I’ll end with this. I don’t know if this is a kind of fan-boy question, but how was it playing with Alice Cooper at Bloodstock?
GM – Oh! Well, actually we have played with him before. A few times. The first time was in the mid-90’s with Ozzy and Alice Cooper. We did the first Monsters of Rock Tour of South America. It was Ozzy, Alice Cooper, Megadeth, and us, I think. We just toured around Arenas in South America; we’d never done anything like that before. We were like, star stuck. Ozzy waking into our dressing room, buying me steak, because he thought it was his and things. As soon as he goes out we’re all like, (gasps), like it was Ozzy that just walked in. And Alice Cooper, similar sort of thing, but he’s really down to earth. Incredibly, down to earth. A lovely, lovely guy.
DC – When you first met him and now, is he one of those guys where no time has passed?
GM – I don’t know him as a person really. It’s just, “Hello this is Alice.” I do know friends of his. We have a sound guy who was his sound guy for a long time. We have a lighting guy who was his lighting guy for a long time. We’ve had bus drivers who were friends of his. No one has a bad word to say about him, he just likes playing golf on his days off, and that’s about it these days.
DC – And that’s a cool hobby to have.
GM – Yeah!
DC – And apparently he’s good at it. He wrote a book!
GM – Absolutely.
DC – Alrighty sir. Thank you for talking with me.
GM – You’re welcome. Not a problem.
DC – So I will leave you to your laptop, apologies for interrupting.
GM – No, its fine. I was just working on my other band’s EP. Just writing some lyrics.
DC – Very cool.
Pick up out Tragic Idol by Paradise Lost on Centruy Media records right now
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