I have been a massive fan of Paradise Lost ever since the release of their album One Second in 1997.
In June 2020, I had the opportunity to chat with the band’s guitarist Gregor about some of his horror favorites. Here’s our conversation.
Buy the band’s excellent latest album Obsidian here.
What was the process of writing your new album like?
It was a little different from the way we usually write, and the ways most metal bands write their material. I had an idea of doing something a little more random, so what I would do is I would come up with these little musical phrases: could be a guitar line, vocal line, piano line – any small line. I would then pass the lines to our vocalist [Nick Holmes] and ask him to do four or five different vocal lines over the top: a deep vocal line, a gruff vocal line, a melodic vocal line, perhaps even a falsetto.
He would then send his work back to me, and I would strip the music away, and go on working from there. It was like building a jigsaw, where you use these little pieces to build a bigger picture. It makes for faster writing first of all, and the end result is interesting and surprising.
Because of this writing style, the record [Obsidian] is quite eclectic.
The title of the record is Obsidian. Where did this title come from? What does it mean to you?
It’s basically a volcanic rock, this black, shiny rock. But that’s not why we used it as the title. We just thought the word was elegant, so we did some research and found that this type of rock was once used in old mythology and folklore as a talisman for good luck – or the opposite of that. This inspired the artwork on the album.
I also found another interesting connotation for the word: some people once believed that if you look into a mirror made of obsidian rock, you see the past, the present and the future all at the same time. This ties nicely into the music on the record: when we sent the finished record to our label Nuclear Blast, they commented that it sounds like a kind of biography Paradise Lost.
The world is still at a standstill with the coronavirus lockdown, but do you have any idea about potential tours later this year?
We have things coming in all the time, but being realistic, it’s looking like it might be next year for anything in terms of bigger gigs and touring. We talk to our label and promoters every day, waiting for a clearer picture. And we have things in place from September onwards. But to be brutally realistic, it might be next year before anything happens touring wise, and this applies to all bands and all festivals.
How have you spent your time in quarantine?
At first, we spent our time rehearsing the new Paradise Lost album, because we didn’t know how long this quarantine was going to last, and we thought we needed to be ready for a tour. But when that went away, I went into a kind of apathy, which happened to a lot of people during the first days of the quarantine. It was hard just getting up from the bed in the morning and getting out of your pajamas. (laughs) I went through that period of that for a couple of weeks, and then kind of pulled myself together. And after that, I’ve just been going to the studio, tinkering with things, because I just like to keep creative and keep creating new things.
I’ve also been reading a lot and listening to a lot of music. I think that’s what all people should be doing, feeding the brain and using this period to absorb new things.
What have you been reading?
A lot of historical stuff. I just finished reading a book that concentrates on debunking the British Royalty, basically. Because I’m totally anti-royalist: I feel the French had the right idea in the 1700s, which was to just get rid of them all. [the book Greg is referring to is “…And What Do You Do?” by Norman Baker. -admin]
The main topic of our chat is horror. What are your first memories of the genre?
Not too good, actually (laughs) I was probably too young to watch the first Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). Somebody older, like my older brother’s friend or someone, had a bootleg VHS copy of it and put it on, and it kind of traumatized me a bit.
I also remember staying up with my father and watching Salem’s Lot (1979), and that traumatized me as well. It’s kind of drawn-out and boring, but I still have a nostalgia for it from those days.
Those two films were my introduction to the genre. And as I got older, I did some research and got more “retrospective” with it, and sought out films like Night of the Living Dead (1968).
What are your top 3 horror movies?
This is a tough one for me. I get asked this once in a while.
One that I can mention without a doubt is The Others (2001). It’s a film that I go back to again and again. I just love the atmosphere, I love the slow-burn. I also love the kids in the film, excellent performances.
The Wicker Man (1973) is another one that I love, the original with Christopher Lee.
My third one would have to be Don’t Look Now (1973) with Donald Sutherland.
Have you seen The Kill List (2011) ?
Oh yes, that’s a great movie! It’s kind of a mingling of two genres: torture porn meets The Wicker Man type of a scenario. I’ve seen a few of the director’s [Ben Wheatley] other films as well. Some of them are very good, some are a bit too “off the wall” for me.
Have you seen his film A Field in England (2013) ?
No, that one I actually haven’t seen yet! Do you recommend it?
Yes, absolutely! It’s probably his most off-the-wall film, but in a very enjoyable way.
How about horror books. Can you name three favorites?
One that I absolutely love is not really a story but a book of poems: Flowers of Evil by Charles Baudelaire. I wouldn’t normally choose something so “high brow” because I’m normally not “high brow” as a person, but this one is just so good. I was actually given this book by a fan at a record signing in Paris about 25 years ago. It was in the back of a cupboard at my house for years, and then one day I read and just loved it. I still go back to it, again and again.
Another interesting one that I liked years before I had even heard of Anne Rice was a book called Fevre Dream, by George R. R. Martin. It’s basically like one of the early Anne Rice books, but it was written before them. It’s a vampire story set on the bayou. The book is written by the guy who went on to write Game of Thrones. I used to go on about this book in interviews in the early 90s, seeing if I could get a hardcover version of it because I only had the softcover, but no one had even heard of the book or the author back then.
Third one I would list is a graphic novel called Spiral. It’s a Japanese one where people see this spiral and become obsessed with it, and everybody starts drawing spirals everywhere. It made a big impression on me.
Usually when I’m reading books, I read non-fiction, factual stuff.
How about horror movie soundtracks – any particularly memorable ones that stick out for you?
The Exorcist is a classic, as is The Omen. Out of the two, I prefer The Omen, as The Exorcist’s soundtrack is a bit too over-the-top at some points with the keyboards and everything. The Omen’s music is amazing, with this “Carmina Burana” type of orchestration.
Another one that I find soothing but horrifying at the same time is the soundtrack to Schindler’s List. It’s not a horror film really, but then again it sort of is, as it deals with a real-life horror. I love the way the main melody keeps coming back in the various different pieces of music on the album. It’s stuck with me ever since I first heard the soundtrack.
I also love the music in Phantasm II. And Hellraiser, of course! In tape-trading days, that Hellraiser soundtrack was going around and everybody thought “Wow, what is this? Is this some kind of a band?”
Thanks, Greg, for your time! Is there anything you’d like to say to the readers of ForenSeek Blog?
Just that I used to secretly dream of and wish for this kind of post-apocalyptic, zombie-type scenario that we’re in now with the virus quarantine, but now that we’re actually in the midst of it, I just find it incredibly boring! I just hope it all gets much more exciting (laughs)