Nick Holmes (vocals) from Paradise Lost
After my recent and very positive review of PARADISE LOST’s latest release, ‘Obsidian’, I wanted to know a bit more about the album that really excited me and some nice guys at Nuclear Blast gave me the chance to ask Nick Holmes a few questions about the album, the writing process and how it feels to promote and release an album during a lockdown the world had never faced before.
Reflections of Darkness [RoD]: Thank you for finding the time for this interview with us. You had to cancel your promotion trip for ‘Obsidian’, so how is life at the moment for you?
Nick: I’m just doing promotion nonstop for the last two weeks.
RoD: Is promoting a new album during a lockdown a challenge?
Nick: I’m doing a lot of phone interviews anyway but I’d rather do it face to face than on the phone because I don’t like talking on the phone, even to my family. But if I have to do it, I’ll do it, I guess.
RoD: How do you feel about the future of the music business after the lockdown? Some bands are already asking for support or doing special merch to give the money to their crews.
Nick: It depends on when things get going again. When it all began, they said August, now they say September. I mean it will change but nobody can say when it all gets started again. About crew people: I’ve got friends that work all year round as crew-workers and now they haven’t got anything. Coming from totally busy to nothing. I mean for us in the band it’s kind of seasonal. You have the concerts, a tour then the festival season and then you have time off for writing et cetera, but for people behind the scenes it’s totally different, I suppose.
RoD: Let’s talk about your new album ‘Obsidian’. When did you start writing the songs?
Nick: We recorded them in December, so we probably started writing them at the beginning of the last year, I think. So, it takes about nine to ten months at an album. It depends on each time we write.
RoD: ‘Fall From Grace’ sounds a bit like a song that could have been found on ‘Medusa’ but the other songs cover a wide spectrum. Is it a challenge to write lyrics for so different types of music?
Nick: Everything is a challenge, without life would be going. But ‘Fall From Grace’ was the first song we wrote after our last album, so it’s reminiscent of the last album for sure. But once you write a few songs, you kind of get a vibe of how things are going and experiment more or a little bit, I think. It’s always a challenge but a fun challenge.
RoD: ‘Ghosts’ has a very cool SISTERS OF MERCY kind of touch. You supported THE SISTSERS OF MERCY on tour during the early 2000s. Are you still in touch with bands you toured with in the past?
Nick: I mean we are big fans of Gothic music from the very first years of the 80s and the late 70s. When we grew up with that kind of music was always there and we see kids and grownups walking around dressed in the Goth clothes. It’s always been there but we’ve always been Metal kids. The venues and clubs we were going to, when we were old enough to go out drinking, were Goth clubs. There were not Metal clubs, not really. There were only kind of Gothic places. So yeah, we grew up with that and there are fun memories of that music and THE SISTERS are very much into that... and maybe reminiscent of stuff we did with PARADISE LOST probably a few years ago like ‘Say Just Words’ is a very close thing. It’s a kind of song style we haven’t approached quite some time.
RoD: Did the audiences change since you started PARADISE LOST?
Nick: Some time it was very much only Metal fans and a time after that it was more people that were into Gothic and Industrial style as well. We toured with DIE KRUPPS and that brought a kind of new audiences as well. It’s a real mixture actually. Obviously over the years changing your style, some people drop out, some people come along for a little bit then drop out and somebody new comes in. So, as long as you can keep the music interesting, it’s a good situation. But in a modern concert of the band there are pretty much Metal fans and some others but mainly Metal fans.
RoD: What kind of music did you listen to while writing the lyrics ‘Obsidian’?
Nick: I didn’t listen to any music. I rarely listen to music anyway. If I do, then I tend to listen to music that I’m completely detached. I listen to stuff from the time when I was younger or film-soundtracks. Hans Zimmer is great. Nothing influences me to do lyrics what’s-o-ever. There’s plenty of going on in the world, in my life with people, that I can write about. There are very few lyricists in music, that is inspiring me particularly.
RoD: Will there be a release party for ‘Obsidian’ later this year?
Nick: No, there is nothing, silence (Laughs) […] It’s kind of a shame. The promotional trip, the release party, I kind of enjoy that time. It’s nice if the people like the album, it’s great if journalists do. Have a drink and a good time. I kind of miss it this time. But it is what it is. We’re gonna do a launch gig on the 17th of September in Leeds, we’re just gonna play the full album. It’s kind of gonna be the launch night, although it’s after the 15th of May.
RoD: I see. I had a ticket for Vienna Metal Meeting in May and hoped that you will perform a few of the new songs and I was pretty upset the day it was cancelled.
Nick: Yeah, it happens kind of all the times now. It’s like a tide creeping up on the gigs. Since doing these interviews it’s gone from it’ll be all fine in August, now it’s September. So somehow this year is written off, you just start again in 2021.
RoD: Well, I still hope, that there will be some live gigs in 2020 somehow.
Nick: Yeah, I’ve seen some of the live shows on the internet. We don’t have the logistics to do that, because we don’t live near to each other. It just wouldn’t work for us.
RoD: Do you have a favourite song on ‘Obsidian’ and why?
Nick: I tend to listen to the album as a full thing because I was very closely involved into it. But I think ‘Darker Thoughts’ is probably my favourite one because it came together the easiest. The quickest song to come together because Greg and myself agreed on everything we did. which is, when you are writing songs it’s like playing tennis, you knock it forwards and backwards and there is plenty of mishaps from my perspective. But with this song we were kind of on the same page all the way through it. It was originally just meant to be an intro. It was not even meant to be a song, just an intro but then I came up with the melody line for it. I wish every song was as quick to write as that, but they are not. That’s the reason, why it’s my favourite.
RoD: Many bands are on their final tour now, other bands came back but only play their old songs, what drives Paradise Lost as a band to release new music for more than 30 years now?
Nick: We still tour and enjoy the feeling of writing albums and releasing albums. It’s exactly the same feeling as when we were teenagers. Exactly. It’s not different at all. I mean we come from a more experienced perspective now. We know a bit more about what to expect and how to deal with things better. Obviously, we are a lot older but the actual excitement and the release and seeing the comments, good or bad. It’s still very exciting. I mean if you love doing something and people support you why stop doing it.
RoD: For me ‘Obsidian’ finds the perfect balance of your Goth-side and the Doom and Metal side. Who decided which songs would make it on the album?
Nick: When we write an album, we just tend to writing speciated kind of things. We just write the kind of songs that we know that will be on the album. we just write an album with about an hour length or material perhaps. And we just decide the order of songs and which songs are not gonna be on the album. […] The running order is one of the things I’m most interested to hear about from third party perspective. What the record label thinks about the running order of the songs. But the actual songs that are going to be on the album, that’s done by us.
RoD: There is also a new book about PARADISE LOST?
Nick: He approached us and he interviewed each of us for what must have been 20 hours each or more and he also interviewed people from the past we worked with. So, he had really a huge amount of information. I mean, he knows more about the band than we know about the band. By the later interviews he corrected me, when I was making mistakes while telling a story from about 10 years ago or so. I mean if there is a someone like a fan of the band, he’s got everything in it. Like a life story, just go through it, there is a chapter on anything that has happened. It’s more factual stuff. We’re not making up stuff about driving fast Ferraris and smashing them into lampposts or so.
RoD: So, no MÖTLEY CRÜE style stuff?
Nick: No. I mean it does happen, but we just talk about music.
RoD: Any Message for the fans?
Nick: Just enjoy listening to music at home, while you can. The 15th of May our album comes out, buy it, even if you are at home. Look out for some tour, hopefully in September. But we’ll see. Who knows? We just hope you like the album and feel free to leave a comment on our Facebook page. I’m sure you will (laughs).
RoD: Thank you for the interview. I hope I’ll make it too Leeds the 17th of September.
Pictures by Anne C. Swallow