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Paradise Lost (Part 1): One of the Last of a Dying Breed

I had always wanted to interview Paradise Lost, and this time I grabbed the chance and sat down with guitarist Greg Mackintosh. Before we could finally talk, I had to endure many delays and troubles – but in the end, festivals always offer surprises of any kinds – including this interview.

How has your day been so far? I heard you were just coming from the hotel...
Yeah, me and our sound guy went to a bar in town last night and stayed very late, I feel like dead today, so...

But was it at least worth it?
Yeah, yeah, definitely. It was a nice little bar, called something like “66” or so. Yeah, it was okay. Kinda weird that you smoke in bars over here, again.

Yeah, in Holland you can smoke in bars again, for me itīs pretty strange because we havenīt been allowed to do that in England for a long time already.

So do you like that or...?
No! I hate that, Iīve never smoked, so...

Finish the following three sentences:
1) If I could be an animal for a day...
I would want to be a lobster because I have just found out that they are immortal. Lobsters are immortal - found it out on the flight over here. [Lobsters do get very old because of the enzyme, telomerase, but they still have to die sooner or later, the editors]

They really are?
Yes, they are biologically immortal, they cannot die – I mean if you kill them or they get killed by natural predators, then yes. But they canīt die because they have cellular… they have this enzyme that rebuilds their DNA so they can live forever if no one kills them.

So would you want to live forever?
I just think itīs a cool fact...

Wouldnīt it be creepy if everyone around you disappears at some point...
Yeah, yeah, but wouldnīt it be crap as well to be a lobster, getting boiled or something!?

2) Letīs continue with the three sentences. Hereīs the next one. One day I will be able to...
One day I will be able to...let me think...One day I will hopefully be able to enjoy holidays when I donīt fly as much for a living as I do now, because I just canīt enjoy holidays. I just came back from Egypt and stayed inside the whole time, it was too hot and I donīt like travelling...

So how does that work, being in a band like Paradise Lost and not liking travelling?
No, thatīs WHY I donīt like travelling – I spend every weekend at an airport… I mean, I love the gigs, I love to go to places but it just takes up so much of your time. Weīre playing like an hour and a half or an hour and fifteen tonight, and itīs three days. We flew in yesterday, took god knows how long. And tomorrow is the same thing. I donīt get back home till 10 oīclock tomorrow night or something. So yeah, (smirks) it is quite annoying. The gigs are good, itīs just – if they could invent teleport machines that would be pretty cool!

So did you like travelling before you joined the band?
Probably, because you do it so rarely. You know itīs like people going on airplanes for their holidays, they cheer when the plane lands and stuff like this, they get all excited and weīre just being there, miserable, sitting amongst them all since itīs the fifth flight for us that day or so...

And the last one of the sentences is: What makes me thoughtful, is...
I donīt know if this is coming with age but what makes me thoughtful is looking at birds in the garden. It wouldīve never even crossed my mind to look at birds, and then I started looking at them recently and I can sit there and watch them for an hour or so – it is relaxing, it is cool. But Iīve never done that before, it sounds like I am getting old. I said that to my son, “Donīt you enjoy looking at birds?” – “No, what are you talking about?”. Itīs like youīre getting told youīre an old man.

So how old is your son?
He just turned 16.

What does he think about you being on stage, playing music?
Hm, he likes it. I mean, heīs a really great guitar player but Iīve never made him start playing. He just started it when he was 11 years old. Last summer he came out to some of the gigs, he came to Graspop, and his hero is Slash, and he stood next to Slash. So I guess, I was cool for a day or two. Obviously, youīre getting home and youīre not cool anymore.

When you have a family, isnīt it hard to be away from home so much? Have you ever gotten used to it?
Yeah, well, I am used to it, been doing it for a long time already but yes, it is tough. But I used to think about it like this: I had a next-door neighbour once, that man was a plumber, saying, “I donīt know how you can go and travel the world at the same time as having kids and such”. And you know, I used to see him go to work before the kids got out of bed and getting back late when they were going to bed and he was just shouting at them because he had a bad day at work or something, so...At least when I go home, itīs quality time, you just get to see the plus points of it all...

Often, popularity comes with certain expectations from the fans and people around you – fans want to be like you, they see you as a role model. Do you perceive the situation like this and/or how do you feel about it?
Why? Why would anyone wanna be like...? (laughing) No, I donīt perceive it like this at all. We were there at the beginning, when there still werenīt that many bands in this scene and that makes you being perceived as forerunner of the scene - so I guess you influence people in some way. But I donīt see a reason why anyone would like to be like us, I mean, everybody starts out sounding like their heroes, and then goes into their own direction – thatīs the way it should be. Itīs good to be an influence to someone on the first record but after that, do your own thing. We did that, we sounded exactly the way as the bands we liked on our first record and after that we did our own thing.

This goes into a similar direction - interviewers often dig into private lives of their interview partners, how do you handle such situations? Are you totally open about it or do you prefer to keep quiet about it?
No, I am open about it. Itīs normal, I am doing what everyone else knows, having a family and such. You know, I did a side project a couple of years ago, a death metal band called Vallenfyre and itīs all about me coping with my dad dying.

Is the band actually still around?
Weīve only done one record and we were doing a lot of festivals last year, not a lot, a couple of festivals. And it went down so well and we became really popular… so we decided to record a new album in January in America and then try and gig a lot more next year. You know, itīs a fun project, itīs like a lot of old friends, Iīve known all the guys in the band for twenty-something years, theyīre all also in other bands...

I know many musicians who donīt like to talk about their family and private lives, so youīre an exception here...
Well fair enough, if they donīt wanna talk about it, I donīt see a problem in it. To be honest I am the only person I know who doesnīt have a Facebook account, even my mother has one. I donīt do Social Media, itīs not interesting for me at all. And I think thatīs more invasive, thatīs why I donīt do it. There is a reason why I donīt talk to certain people for a year or a week or whatever – it is because I donīt want to. So why would I want to constantly know what they are doing every day? I also donīt want them to know what I am doing all the time. So thatīs why I think this is more invasive than doing a little interview.

So youīre basically anti Social Media?
I am anti-social (laughing). In general. I mean – why would I want to be virtually social if I canīt be social in real life?

Sounds interesting: being an anti-social member of a band...
It doesnīt work very well...no no... (grinning) I mean, I am always on my own somewhere because I never really hang out with anybody, but thatīs just what keeps my head together if Iīm touring a lot...The thing you donīt get when touring is space for yourself, so every time I can I like solitude for a while because itīs crazy when youīre touring all the time.

So how do you spend your “solitude times” when on tour?
Just reading, or anything that doesnīt have anything to do with hanging out with a lot of people all the time. I mean, it can be fun but also be a bit of a drag at times, and stressful, too. Then little things get on your nerves easily, so you have to remove yourself from the situation.

What kind of books and literature are you into?
All kinds, really. I didnīt use to like factual books, I used to always be into novels and novellas and this stuff but now I kinda like factual things as well. Like one book, “The Year 1000”. Itīs just about how a normal personīs life wouldīve been – from their perspective – in the year 1000 and itīs kind of interesting, itīs cool. And then I read one on the history of the home and everything that is in the home, like why do we use knives and forks, why do we have tables and why our bedrooms are upstairs and such things. So, anything, really. Even graphic novels.

Is there any book that you think people really should read?
Actually, I have to do some nepotism here because my younger brother wrote a graphic novel at the same time as I was writing the Vallenfyre album. And I didnīt know that he was writing the book – he didnīt know I was writing the album. And both things are about my dad dying. And I got a song called “Seeds” on the Vallenfyre album and his book is called “Seeds”. And itīs because when we went to the doctor they showed us an x-ray and said the cancer is spreading like seeds. So he wrote this graphic novel, he did the drawings and everything and itīs getting turned into a movie in America, but heīs never written a book before. And itīs really cool, itīs sad but also really funny – so itīs an interesting book, I told a few of my friends about it. There is a band called Bolt Thrower, and the bassistīs mother died not long after and I suggested her to read it and she loved it, so...

So wouldnīt it be something youīd like to do, writing the music for your brotherīs book/movie?
No, not at all. Itīs a tragic but comedic book as well, a lot of it is funny, and the movie is going to be that type of “When the wind blows” movie, not an anime type of it. I can only write miserable tunes, so it wouldnīt really fit to it.

How can people buy your brotherīs book?
Itīs on Amazon, itīs in book stores. Ross Mackintosh. The book is called “Seeds”. I mean he gave me a copy but I still bought a few on Amazon since I gave away my copy, so...Check it out!

Letīs get back to touring again – the 25th anniversary tour is coming up...
Yes, but before that – in a couple of weeks – we got a nearly three weeks tour of Scandinavia and Russia and places like that, so thatīs gonna be pretty interesting because weīve played Moscow and St. Petersburg a couple of times before but you have to take the train between the two so thatīs making it more extensive. And weīre flying far to the east, seeing the Siberia area and such, that will be pretty cool, yeah. And then the 25th anniversary tour after that – I donīt know what to expect. I know weīre going to be playing a different setlist to what weīd normally do, songs we havenīt played for a long time or never before...

I saw on Facebook that you asked your fans what songs theyī would like to hear – how much are you actually looking into their wishes?
Oh yeah, we had a meeting about it. All the songs suggested were shown on a graph, all done by someone from our management office – she kinda takes care of all that stuff, collected the information to turn it into a graph. Then we looked at it and were like “oh, really? Oh, you wanna hear that one?”.

Many fans wonder whether there will be a DVD...
No. Iīve been asked that by a couple of people but I just think that weīve done a couple of live DVDs in our career and I donīt think timeīs right to do another one yet, really. It would be interesting but only to a few people I think. Thereīs already live DVDs out there so...everyone stands there with a phone anyways...

And DVD recordings wouldnīt stop people from doing that...?
No, it wouldnīt. Last time we filmed a live DVD, itīs on there, a lot of people holding their phones up whilst we were playing...

Check back soon to read the second part of the interview.

Author: Carina Ullmann (+ photos)
Date: 2013-08-28

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