Paradise Lost - Nick Holmes

PARADISE LOST will soon drop “Obsidian”, and trust me, that’s another solid Doom / Death Metal monolith for the Brits who have sprinkled some ‘80s Goth on their songwriting. METAL KAOZ got Nick Holmes on the other side of the Skype connection and spent 30 minutes discussing all things PARADISE LOST among others. It is an absolute delight talking about music with a genuine musician like Nick who does what he does because he likes it. Start reading.

Hi Nick, and welcome back to METAL KAOZ! How are you?
Hi Dimitris - ok, thanks, how are you?

I’m doing pretty good considering the situation, of course. So, how bizarre is to promote a new album under this strange situation with the virus and all the social distancing restrictions?
It’s a bit strange; I mean, we’ve done three weeks of promotion now and it’s being full on – I don’t think I’ve actually done as many interviews during a promotional cycle for any album, ever. You know, usually we do these face-to-face and tend to travel to Europe for a week or whatever (obviously the US interviews are always over the phone or Skype or whatever), but yeah, it’s strange now. But at least we can still do it like this.

Absolutely. How your life as a musician has changed? I mean, do you feel more inspired to write music or you have a blank simple because there is no touring and you’re not getting that feedback and that energy from the fans?
It’s strange in the fact that there is no physical promotion for “Obsidian”; like I said, we’d normally do some shows around this time, and actually go and talk to people about the album – that all helps to get the fans excited for the album launch. As it is, everything is just through social media, which is not quite the same thing. Yeah, it’s pretty weird. And for us, we’ve been playing live all of our lives, so this is the longest I’ve gone without getting on an airplane in about 15 years, you know, which is pretty strange (laughs) but if you’d tell me I was getting on a plane tomorrow, I’d be the happiest man alive, now that I’m thinking about it (laughs).

I understand that, but still, my question was more like now that you have time to spend at home, do you feel that you have things to get out of your system musically, artistically?
Not for me; no, because we’ve done the album and we’ve spent nine or ten months writing the album, and now for me, it’s the case again when we’ll start to do the cycle for the album. Also, there is a kind of uncertainty when things will go back to normal, and for me, uncertainty doesn’t really feel creative. I don’t feel creativity from negativity – I don’t like that. Some people can be creative when they feel down but for me I found that in no negative things. I like to be in a comfortable place to write stuff, you know.

Although, that sounds like an oxymoron in the PARADISE LOST universe, because all the albums, man, you have that heavy emotions, that heavy atmosphere, and by the way, “Obsidian” is exactly like that – it hits all the right spots.
Yeah, it is. We always find dark music uplifting in the same way that happy music makes us feel depressed, you know. Ever since I can remember I’ve always found dark music uplifting and its like real escapist and excited to listen to, so the songs are supposed to be happy are the worst thing ever.

So, after finishing “Obsidian”, do you have some sort of a feeling of burnt-out like you’re emotionally drained after putting your heart and soul to create an album?
We finished recording it in December, so it was pretty much ready in January, so we’ve gone to live with it since then, so I’m very happy with it. And I hope people are gonna like it; like I said, there’s not a physical promotion about it which feels a bit strange.

So, why did you choose to name the album “Obsidian”?
I’ve seen the word quite a few times and I always liked it. And then I thought looking at the description of it being like an earth stone black glass, I kind of liked that aspect of it as well. And the fact that people use it for superstitious reasons or as a lucky charm, I kind of liked that kind of aspect as well. Initially, I just liked the word, you know – often, I can see a word that I just love and I don’t even know what it means, but then it kind of turned out quite nicely with that, I think.

Yeah, I was trying to draw a line between the lyrics, the artwork and the album title and maybe I’m overthinking stuff (laughs).
Possibly (laughs) but I mean the artwork was a play on the word anyway because he’s taking that one step further because he started using it like a symbolism to represent with – you know, folklore, things that people believe in, and he’s kind of went further with that element just from the obsidian thing. But I mean, to put faith in objects, I’ve always found it fascinating anyway. So it kind of tied with that one, I guess. Not everything has to have a vast meaning for it to be interesting.

Although what you just said, that a lot of people start believing in some thing – I dunno how it happens, but immediately gains some sort of energy and it goes downhill.
Or maybe it’s something that our parents did and then you’re like [interrupting himself] I mean, it’s like football; most of my friends like football because their parents did, you know. My parents never did (laughs) so I ‘sort of’ do not like it (laughs).

So, you follow football, that’s interesting.
No, I don’t follow football (laughs) – I’m one of the few people in England that doesn’t like football but I just said my parents didn’t like it either, so maybe that’s why I don’t like it.

Ok, I was trying to get what team you support…
No, not from me... (laughs)

Ok, so you have a couple of different artworks; I have ordered the mailorder version and that one has a different cover artwork, so did you find those two so good that you had to put both of them as cover artworks?
This is news to me now that you’re telling me now; so, I haven’t been receiving any versions of it yet, so I couldn’t tell you about that. But the artwork was done by a guy named Adrian Baxter who is a Yorkshireman, like we are, and the rose in the center of the artwork – that’s the emblem for Yorkshire, the Yorkshire Rose – that’s what they use in their cricket team. Not that I’m a cricket fan either (laughs). You should have stressed enough that I’m not a fan of sports.

Yeah, no worries, I got that (laughs).
But yeah, that’s the Yorkshire rose and we’ve never used that before in any of our artwork and it’s one of the things we’ve never done before, so when Adrian suggested it, we thought it was a really nice touch to use that.

The press release says that the band produced the album with the help of Jamie ‘Gomez’ Arellano who has been listed a s the producer in the last three albums; did you do something differently this time?
When you say ‘production’ it generally means arranging and rewriting songs, and none of that even happened; it was all in the studio – the studio was all about finding sounds and recording it to the best you can. The songs were already in the bag when we got into the studio really – we didn’t change anything from the demos. So, as far as production goes, Jamie brought a spectrum really and even found the right sounds – Gomez is so good, particularly in the drum sounds – he’s absolutely meticulous with the drums, he records drums, and he knows the band really well. He’s with us for years so it’s great working with him and he did a great job again I think with this one.

Oh yeah! And although, when I was listening to the album a lot of times, I found it to be darker and heavier (almost Doom-ier at times), but then again there are a couple of songs like “Ghosts” and maybe “Hope Dies Young” where I can hear an almost SISTERS OF MERCY vibe, or is it just me?
Yeah, we’ve done a lot of different styles under the PARADISE LOST umbrella over the last I’d say thirty years, I mean, a song like “Ghosts” is something we’ve not done for a very long time – I think the closest to that is probably “Say Just Words” which was years ago and even that isn’t kind of Gothic-esque. It’s the generally ‘80s Gothic guitar sound, you know, and that’s a sound you don’t really hear that much these days, so it’s nice to kind of have that – it almost sounds fresh enough to hear it again, I guess. It’s been so long. A lot of the influences for these songs come from the very early ‘80s in music – that was around when we were kids, you know. It was kind of hardcoded in our minds that all that kind of that, even though we were young Metal guys / Punk guys or whatever, that music was always around.

I guess you’re talking about your experience being in the UK, because where I grew up in Greece, when we’re young metalheads, we didn’t like that Gothic stuff because it’s not Metal.
Yeah, and we didn’t either but it was always there because the only places we could kind of go out and drink in the weekends there were always Goth bars, you know, bars that played THE CULT, SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES, BAUHAUS and THE SISTERS. That’s the places that maybe would play IRON MAIDEN’s “Run To The Hills” or MOTÖRHEAD’s “Ace Of Spades”, and everything else was just kind of Goth music. But in hindsight, some of this stuff is fantastic; it’s really good music, it’s very dark as well, and that’s an element we really liked about it – but yeah, like you said, at that time, we were like “fuck this music”! (laughs)

(laughs) You just used exactly the same words we used, but now, I started to appreciate different kind of styles – we don’t have to be so narrow-minded around music, because we all know that PARADISE LOST have received some criticism when they released for example “Host”, but even then it’s fine; this is music, we shouldn’t be stuck in a specific genre.
Yeah, it’s about creating a dark atmosphere, you know, and the “Host” album was about that; we wanted to do it – just make a very, very dark album without having double bass drums all the way through it. There’s room for subtlety; if you have a song that’s more acoustic based, the song after that will sound even heavier just because you have a softer one before it. For me personally, now as a fan of music after twenty minutes I kind of have enough of that. I remember when I was 14-15 I could listen to Death Metal for like 3-4 hours straight, but now I kind of have enough of that after 15-20 minutes.

I can definitely see what you’re saying. And I like how you started the album with “Darker Thoughts” because there is the clean guitar in the beginning and you start singing… It’s overwhelmingly Doomy, should I say?
Yeah, that song started out to originally an intro; there was no intention for it to be a song because we were gonna start the album with a kind of acoustic intro – very old ‘80s Metal-style album, we thought to kind of go retro. But I came with the melody line for it and it came together really, really quickly as a song which is quite unusual for us. We usually take a lot time to write songs, but this one came together quickly and it was one of the last songs we wrote for the album as well. We just agreed on everything – something else that doesn’t always happen (laughs). So it was really a nice surprise and it’s definitely one of my favorite songs I think.

And I feel your singing style has changed a bit, like you have pulled all the stops – if you were putting any in your voice – but you have more colours in your voice if you may, if that’s the right word to use.
I try to sing melody lines I can sing. In certain times you write singing lines that Geoff Tate would had trouble to do (laughs), so there is no point putting the stuff you can’t sing, which incredibly high stuff is not in my range. And even if I could get over there, I probably wouldn’t be able to do it every time.

Please don’t (laughs).
You don’t have to dread sections of songs because you don’t know for sure you will be able to knock every night (laughs). And I’ve been silly; I’ve done a lot of songs like that, seriously high stuff which is “well...”. And if you’re having a bad day (laughs). So, it’s not a good idea – I don’t do a thing like that anymore. I just kind of sing everything that’s doable.

I have seen that the digipak and maybe some special editions have “Hear The Night” and “Defiler” labeled as bonus tracks, so, is this a label thing or did you actually labeled them as such?
No, I mean, we wrote eleven songs or whatever it was and we picked each song for the album. Then, it was down to what will go into the album and which songs work to each other. I mean, each song is quite varied on the album and we like that; “Hear The Night” in particular could easily have gone to “Ravenghast” has gone. I think “Hear The Night” is a great song but the final tracklist was what works with everyone. If you start writing songs thinking they are going to b-sides you are already on a negative thing so write a bunch of songs and then pick the ones for the album and see with what you are left with.

Got it. In 2011, you released “Draconian Times” as it was recorded live in its entirety; have you considered of redoing something like this for another PARADISE LOST album?
Nothing is out of the question, you know; everything we’ve said that we were not going to do, we’ve already done it (laughs).

Maybe this is why you said those things…
(laughs) Honestly, everything we were really against, we did it. So, there is no point of saying ‘never’. It’s something like Ozzy who has said that he is going to retire and he has been ‘retiring’ for 30 years…

Well, he said that he will retire but he did not say when.
Good point. Anyways, who knows? I mean, “Draconian Times” is the most prolific album we have done and I think everyone kind of knows that. It would be interesting – I am just thinking aloud – to do something with the “Host” album. I think this is a great record. To be honest, I would love to see that. This would have been a bold move and there have been two decades since the release of that album. It would be nice to see this under a new light. For me, “Host” is one of my favorite albums and is probably the only one I do listen for pleasure. Whereas the other ones have great songs and parts etc. but I mean, “Host” is closer to me musically.

Good to know, Nick. Moving forward, seeing BLOODBATH releasing a new album in 2018 and then scheduling a tour for this year, do you think the BLOODBATH train has gained more momentum?
First of all, I have to say that we were gutted that we could not do the US tour that was supposed to be around now. This is the third time the tour has been cancelled for various reasons. It sucks and we are really pissed off about it. The moments the borders closed, we knew this would happen. Obviously, we would love to come as soon as we can.

In BLOODBATH, you are listed as “Old Nick”; so my question is; is it because you are singing like old Nick or just because you are old…(laughs)
I think the nick name for Satan was “Old Nick”

Ah, I did not go that deep…
...and because I am also old... (laughs)

Joke aside, do you think there are two eras of your singing-style?
Absolutely, I mean your voice changes. I remember Bruce Dickinson saying that about 20-25 years ago in an interview, and back then I did not understand what he meant. But he was right; my voice has changed. My growling voice is different than what it was when I was a teenager. When I listen to the early albums, I can tell that I am a young guy doing that; I have that teenage voice, even though it is Death Metal.

Although I have to say that now your growling sounds more ‘natural’, and because of this, carries more desperation that fits the music.
I find it a lot easier to do it now. Maybe I just had a bad technique for the first 5 years and this may be why it put me off Death Metal for a few years. I had a lot of throat problems in the early days but I used to smoke too but I haven’t smoked for years. I guess that did not help either.

These were my questions, Nick, thank you for your time. The new album is amazing.
Thank you very much, I am glad you like it.

I hope at some point in the not so distant future, we will you onstage.
For sure. Sometimes people ask us when do we think we will be touring, like September? And the truth is that we do not know. As soon as we can, we will get out there and do what we do.

Yeah, this is the best way to end this interview; thank you again.
Thank you too, mate, cheers!