Still Young At Heart
On 21st March, I had a face-to-face video interview scheduled with Nick Holmes, singer of Paradise Lost, to talk about the upcoming studio release `Obsidian’ and to present him the famous HeadBangers LifeStyle Black Box. But because of the worldwide outbreak of the Corona virus [COVID-19] and the imposed restrictions, the English doom death metal band had to cancel their promotion trip to Germany at the last minute and needless to say this was a wise decision considering the current, deteriorating situation. A couple of days later the interview was rescheduled and I was able to talk with Nick on the phone about the ins and outs of the new album, future plans, getting older and of course the current situation in the world. But first I want to know how life is at the moment for Nick, who is active in the music business for 32 years now.
,,I’m okay. At home, yeah [gluckles]. Yeah it’s weird. My two daughters have to work from home now. Everyone is trying to get a place at the kitchen table with their laptops and things now, so it’s gone really chaotic in my house. I am going to use every service area I’ve got to put a computer on it, so yeah [gluckles]. It is definitely a strange one. Hopefully in a month or two, I don’t know, who knows….?”
,,With it being a global thing it is just like a pause button is pressed.’’-Nick Holmes
How are you handling the situation right now, lockdown at home?
,,We haven’t got any kind of immediate tours and we haven’t had to cancel any tour but a lot of future dates have already been pulled. So we have already lost about six concerts, we may have lost an American tour I was going do with Bloodbath but I’m not sure yet. We’re getting cancellations all the time but we figure with the album launch it makes no difference because people can listen to music any time so there is no point delaying that. I mean as far as life goes, yeah it is up in the air. I think everyone is just kind of thinking let’s stay in for three months and it will be okay in three months. But I don’t know, it’s a weird one…’’
It is going to be really devastating for the entertainment and music industry in general. How do you feel about the future?
,,With it being a global thing it is just like a pause button is pressed. It is not like it is just one area that’s going to suffer, everybody is suffering. I think once the start button is pressed again then it eventually will get back to normal. But short term it is going to, obviously hit bands big time, but it is the people that work for bands behind the scenes, the crew guys, they are going to feel it. I got friends who work for bands all year around and now they all of the sudden have nothing. So I know a lot of my friends who are guitar technicians etc., they are been hit very hard with it. But I mean there’s always someone worse, it is just “ugh”, you got to try to be positive because it is a pretty grim scenario.’’
Are you looking for temporary solutions as a band right now?
,,Like I said we just hope and we just think like okay nothing over three months is cancelled, that is still on, so a lot of the festivals, I mean so far Summer Breeze festival for example that is still on so far. There’s a few other ones that have kind of been pulled or rather postponed. But I mean the way it is going it is kind of like 2020 is just written off. It is almost like it is a year that didn’t exist almost [laughing]. I don’t know, we just got to stay home and see what happens. There is nothing else we can do.’’
The new album `Obsidian’ will be released on May 15th. How was the road to make and finish the album?
,,We started writing probably about this time last year. Our management usually tells us when they want a new album to be out and then we usually work towards that date. We are not particular fast at writing, we don’t rush, if we could write an album in two months it would be amazing but it doesn’t work like that. It usually takes us the best part of the year to write an album. Once it was all done, we recorded it. It is our sixteenth album, so it is pretty much business as usual. We know exactly what to expect from the studio and know exactly all key slots of how long people going to do need their bits and pieces. We are quite used to it now, you know.’’
,,When we start writing songs I still get very excited about it.’’-Nick Holmes
Is `Obsidian’ as spontaneous as the former album `Medusa’ ?
,,Yeah, everyone is. I mean the only thing that we had as a reference is the last album, so we thought let’s not repeat that. The first song we write is usually in the similar vein of the previous album. So the first song we wrote for this one was actually ,,Fall From Grace’’, which would kind of fit on the last album quite easily. But then we just said okay let’s explore different kind of ideas a bit more. When I do the vocals I usually do about four or five different versions of melody lines or different styles of singing over perhaps the same riffs that I get send. And then Greg usually takes the vocal lines and chops it all up and creates a song, so it is almost like there is a jigsaw with the vocals really. It is kind of strange because when I hear it, it is a song I don’t recognize even though I sang on it. But I mean that works incredibly well for the heavier songs but if it is more of a soul song, perhaps more acoustic base, it is nicer to write the song in the traditional sense that you write the melody line over the music and you keep it like that. But for the heavier songs I know Greg really likes to write like that because he can go away in his studio for two weeks and concentrate on that and he comes out with the finished result later on. But yeah, we experimented with ways of writing, because we obviously have been around for so long, we have done everything, we have explored every single aspect of writing songs. But the last maybe four or five albums we have kind of done this approach and it seems to work pretty well.’’
Is there any challenge still for you when you write material?
,,Yeah, every song is a brand new challenge. When we start writing songs I still get very excited about it. It’s like banging your head against the wall sometimes. You really struggle sometimes, but it’s like anything if you are creating any kind of art or… you know…. anything. You have days were nothing is happening and there are days where you get super excited. Sometimes you do stuff you think is brilliant and then the next day you think it is rubbish. But I still, and I am pretty sure Greg is the same, we are still incredibly passionate about it. We take it incredibly serious when we are writing songs. I think if you do anything with passion people are able to tell. If something is done half half, you can tell immediately, especially with music.’’
What do you like the most about this album from a creative point of view?
,,Probably the variation in it for me because each song is pretty different to the last one but they are all unmistakable Paradise Lost songs. They are very much, even if these songs remind you of bands in the past, this is all kind of done on purpose, as kind of a nostalgic thing. In particular a song like ,,Ghosts’’ it is very reminiscing of the early Sisters Of Mercy, but that’s kind of the vibe, that’s the sort of thing we were going for. I have heard people say it captures everything we have ever done, which is great, but you could have done the albums previous to the last one, a few people said about those as well. But, the variation in its songs is what I like personally.’’
When the songs are really finished and nailed down you kind of have to rehearse the songs with this new melody vocal lines that you didn’t sing like that but is created from different versions?
,,No, by the time the song is written I relearn the song and then I write the lyrics. By the time I finished the lyrics I know the song incredibly well. If you are writing lyrics to a song you may listen to the same piece of music like 500 times or more so you know the song inside out by the time you have done the lyrics.’’
Was there something specific that you wanted to display in the lyrics on this album?
,,Lyrics for me, they are just alongside the music, they complement the music. When I listen to the music it creates a landscape in my mind’s eye and I just gonna go thinking about what it makes me feel like so there is nothing that stands out. But I mean obviously people read the lyrics, they pick out things, bla bla and that’s the nature of what we do but for me they are all parcel packages. It is not like I am gonna message through the lyrics necessarily, it is just my thoughts. Basically they are my thoughts in different ages throughout my life [chuckles]. Every time we do a new album it is just different thoughts from certain perspectives of my age, that’s all it is you know.’’
,,Well I am getting old you know, I won’t deny it and I need a prompt.’’-Nick Holmes
How is it to have you life divided over 16 albums?
,,Yeah, they are like bookmarks, they are very much like soundtracks. I have to think of certain albums or tours we were doing and then I can remember other things. They are like a prompt, a certain anecdotes or stories that have happened, which of a tour it was. It is kind of nice to have that I suppose. But my memory is so bad, I need bookmarks.’’
How do you remember lyrics on a big tour?
,,I just have the vocal prompt [laughing], I have everything written down in front of me. It is weird though actually. I think about ten years ago I just started forgetting the simplest song and I thought what’s going on in my mind you know? It is a bit like when I was a kid I always knew the Lord’s prayer, I could resay it and now I just don’t know it, but if someone says the first line I can do the whole thing. Well I am getting old you know, I won’t deny it and I need a prompt. As long as you sing all right that is the main thing [laughing]. But there are people saying oh I saw you had an iPad on stage… It’s like so what? I am nearly fifty you know [laughing].’’
Does it suck to become older now?
,,[sigh…] I quite like it actually. It’s all right. Yeah I don’t mind it. I mean you wake more, you get tired quicker but I am relatively fit and I like to keep fit. I think what we do, doing this for so long, it keeps your spirit very youthful. We are like big kids, I mean we really are. Some of my friends are in very high pressured jobs. To me they are like really old men even they are my age, they seem like old men. So we are still very infantile and we are like big kids. It is the same for all our friends in other bands that have been doing this at the same time. Everyone is like a big kid. It’s nice, it’s good, it is nice to stay as young as you can.’’
How are you planning to celebrate the new release?
,,Well we won’t because we can’t go anywhere [laughing]. We do love the promotional trip, which we can’t do. I quite like to do the promotional trip, because I mean obviously doing interviews all day and it’s tiring but it still gets me excited, and I like to see people’s reactions to the album and it is nice everyone likes it. It is a very positive way to go into the new album. And then you have to do the playback party, it’s always good fun, everybody gets pissed, it’s great. None of that is going to happen, I don’t think so. Well it won’t happen. Yeah it’s going to be kind of strange. I suppose the first kind of celebration we will be able to have is when we do the special one off show in Leeds UK, were we just going play the full album, it’s like 6 months away or something. It is so far away but yeah I guess that’s the first time we get to celebrate. It’s weird but you just got to adapt.’’
Well, there are quite some artists going to do online activities, doing a mini show, something live through Internet.
,,Well I mean we just figured to even do it, the logistics is pretty much impossible because we would need to rehearse for a start and we don’t live at least a hundred miles away from each other. You know we don’t live close, I mean our drummer lives in Helsinki. Logistically it’s not going to be working.’’
There has been the book release: `No Celebration: the official story of Paradise Lost’ written by David E Gehlke. Were you or anyone else of the band involved?
,,David spoke to each of us for at least 20 hours on separate occasions and then he must have spoken to at least another 60 other people who were involved in the band right from when we started. If anyone knows the band he does, he knows more than I do. He was correcting me when I was getting things wrong when I was telling anecdotes. He is incredibly concise, very accurate account on the band’s career. Reading it is like reading your life story. For anyone who’s never been in the band it is an incredibly well written documentation about our career. It is not any of these books like `The Dirt’, it is not that kind of thing. It is about a band that makes music and I can rather recommend it to anyone who’s ever been in a band. It is a great read.’’
,,We are not driving in the swimming pool and having to do lots of cocaine and stuff like that.’’-Nick Holmes
What is the focus in the book?
,,It is basically from the birth to where we are now and it documents every album, every shoot we went in, every tour, everyone we met on tour, everyone who has working with us on the tour. He speaks to absolutely everyone. He has really done his research for it and in 32 years we’ve worked with a lot of people and we’ve had a lot of crew guys come and go. It is a very positive book, there’s a few dark days but who hasn’t dark days. Generally speaking it’s a very positive book, we are not looking together sensationalizing anything or lie, it is all truthfully.’’
Is there behind the scene stuff to be read in the book as well or is it very fact full?
,,It is very fact full but yeah there’s lots of stories because you could be the most boring band in the world you still have scenarios happen where which are kind of strange, like when your bus blows up or something [laughing], this stuff happens to the most meek people. But we are not driving in the swimming pool and having to do lots of cocaine and stuff like that [laughing]. We just let other people talk. Half of those things I read in these books I don’t believe anyway. But it sells books you know [laughing].”
Do you think that people get another perspective of the band after reading the book?
,,I think anyone who’s been to the band a long time, no, I think that we are very honest as we are as individuals. There’s a few sort of dark days around certain albums where you might think ‘oh I didn’t realize it was that bad’. There’s some personal stuff in there, not too personal, I was kind of hmmm should this go in? I though ah okay it’s fine. They are just kind of life things that most people go trough but not really talk about much. But beyond that it’s all very factual.’’
30 years ago the self-titled debut album was released. How would you sum up the years of Paradise Lost until now?
,,It is been with me all my life really, something I just couldn’t imagine not being there. It would be terrible if it wasn’t there, it would feel like some part of my limb is removed. The older I get, I try my best never take it for granted, any aspect of it. These times when it’s tough, on tour it can be tough sometimes, any band who tours regularly will tell you this, but at the end of the day it’s great fun and it keeps you very young at heart which is priceless in my opinion.’’
,,As long as you got your health and people want to see you there is no reason to stop.’’-Nick Holmes
Of course you don’t want to think about quitting but what would be for you the reason to stop with the band?
,,I think if you are kind of playing to just one man and his dog in a bar, in a small pub or ill health there would be no other reason. As long as people want to hear the band and they want to hear what we are doing and as long as we are healthy then we will always doing it. These guys who are nearly 80 years old that are still doing it because then there is a reason why they are doing it; they enjoy it and people still want to hear them doing it. As long as you got your health and people want to see you there is no reason to stop.’’
What do you want to say to the fans?
,,Take care, check out our new album, it is out soon and obviously wash your hands and stand 6 feet away from other people [laughing]. That’s all I’m hearing at the moment anyway so I might as well join in [laughing].’’
Band photo credit: Anne C. Swallow
Pre-order `Obsidian’ here
Paradise Lost Website here
Paradise Lost Facebook here
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