September 21, 2018 Interview – Nick Holmes of Paradise Lost
There are few bands who are daring enough to go all the way from Doom Metal to Electronic Rock, to somewhere in between, and back again. That is the UK outfit known as Paradise Lost in a nutshell – bold and unpredictable. Being just that for over three decades now, Paradise Lost has never been one to stay in one place for long, and not merely to confuse people, but just because they follow creative instinct. Clearly evident over the past few years, Paradise Lost shocked many fans when they began to toy with sounds of their younger days, as heard on 2015’s The Plague Within, and even more prevalently on the straight up within Doom Metal mastery of 2017’s Medusa.
Revisiting the past? Perhaps. Refusing to be boxed in? Most certainly. Such is the world of Paradise Lost as they continue along a journey with no end in sight as they prepare to tour North America again for the first time since 2012. Excited for to return, Vocalist Nick Holmes sat down to recollect the unpredictable tale of the band, rediscovering the harsher side of his voice, staying young at heart, plus much more.
CrypticRock.com – Paradise Lost has been together for three decades now. Accomplishing a great deal as a band, trying different styles along the way, what has this musical journey been like?
Nick Holmes – It’s been great. We never felt the need to comprise or felt the need to change from pressure from outside sources. We have always done whatever we want to do – if it’s worked with the general public, great, if it hasn’t, so be it. We’ve always followed our hearts and we still continue to do so, we don’t really give a fuck what everyone else is doing, we just do what we want to do. (Laughs) Thirty years is a long time.
CrypticRock.com – It is a long time. One can imagine over thirty years, if you did the same thing over and over again, it would get very boring.
Nick Holmes – That’s it! When we started the band we were very much into Death Metal and we didn’t really listen to anything else for many years. From 1984 to 1990, I didn’t listen to anything else but Death and Thrash Metal. When you start a band, you discover other bands and different styles of music, it is kind of a natural thing I think. When you are in a band you are even more susceptible to change and new outside sources and influences.
CrypticRock.com – Right, it is part of growing up. Your tastes change, you grow as a musician and you grow as a person.
Nick Holmes – Yeah, I think being in a band, if you are playing Death Metal day in and day out, nothing else, it does get a bit generic – as much as I do like the style. My teenage years were the best years of my life listening to that stuff. I still like it now. Day in day out, it’s nice to kind of break off from it every now and then.
CrypticRock.com – Absolutely. The band started to shift styles around 1992’s Shades of God. You look at 1995’s Draconian Times, that was perhaps the biggest shift in styles. As a vocalist, you used even clearer vocals on 1997’s One Second. Tell us a little about your vocal progression through the years.
Nick Holmes – Even by the time we had done the first couple of albums, I had been listening to Death Metal a long time. I remember being a school boy getting into Venom. I was into Motörhead, but that is different. By the time we got to Shades of God, I wanted to slightly change the voice; I didn’t want to be just the pure Death voice. You can do different things with your voice then. Icon was a different step completely, Icon (1993) and Draconian Times are very similar albums really. I think Draconian Times is a more polished version of Icon, I think; it was just adding more strings to your bow.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, and you did some wonderfully diverse albums in the later 1990s into the 2000s. Interestingly, around the latter part of the 2000s, you brought back the Death Metal vocal style. What inspired you to bring it back?
Nick Holmes – Probably because I hadn’t done it for so long. Also, Greg went full circle: he started listening to extreme Death Metal stuff; he still does, he is completely obsessed with Death Metal. Maybe it’s reflecting our age: I have a lot of friends in their late forties and they are listening to extreme music again; I guess things come around again. If you take a long enough break from something it’s refreshing to come back to it. Three decades in the band, I had a long break from the Death Metal stuff, there was a long period where I didn’t do that kind of stuff. It’s refreshing to go back to, it’s like putting on a old jacket: it just fits right and feels nice. It’s as simple as that! (Laughs)
CrypticRock.com – Yes, sometimes a break from something and revisiting can be great. Speaking of which, 2017’s Medusa is perhaps the band’s heaviest album to date. What was it like putting that album together?
Nick Holmes – Great. I think it is the heaviest album we have done. We wanted to do a pure Doom album, “Blood & Chaos” is an exception to the rule, but everyone liked it, so we just put it on the album. We just wanted to see if we could do that stuff. I think it was the song “Beneath Broken Earth” from 2015’s The Plague Within, and it came together by accident. It was really well-received, so we thought let’s do more of this, that spawned the Medusa album. Doing the old style of how we used to sound as we were kids, it is effortless; it just makes complete sense, it’s natural. We are actually not even that different to how we were when we were kids, it is exactly the same as being teenagers again.
CrypticRock.com – Medusa came out wonderful. Excitingly enough, Paradise Lost are returning to the USA for the first time in a while. The band has had some issues in the past touring the USA. What lead to the decision to return?
Nick Holmes – I love America – I vacation there as much as I can. We toured with Morbid Angel in 1993, we didn’t have a particularly great time for whatever reason. We were pretty young and hadn’t spent that much time away from home at that point. It was a strange kind of thing for us, and we thought, “We don’t want to go through that again.” (Laughs) We kind of fucked it up for years and years, which I truly, deeply regret, because we never got a face to get a foothold here which a lot of our peers have done.
Obviously there was no internet then, imagine that. (Laughs) Since the internet, I think things have changed a lot. In America it was all about radio play: if you didn’t get radio play, you were nothing. That has totally changed: the online presence has completely changed how things work all around the world. I think the last time we were there was in 2012 with Devin Townsend. We love the States! Now it’s a financial thing: it’s expensive to tour the States; the base reason most bands don’t come there is financial, because it’s expensive to tour there.
CrypticRock.com – It is exciting to see you return. The band concentrated on the European market back in the day, but it will be wonderful to see you back.
Nick Holmes – We are looking forward to it – I can’t wait to come back! If I don’t go to America once a year, it’s a shame. I really want to come back, it’s great.
CrypticRock.com – Absolutely. Speaking of the band’s history, let’s look back to 2001’s Believe in Nothing for a minute. In our previous interview with Greg, he had said he loves the songs, but was not happy with how the recording came out. What are your thoughts on that record?
Nick Holmes – Same as Greg, really. I remember listening back to it at his house once, we were slightly underwhelmed with it. We never really felt that way with any album we had done. We couldn’t quite put our finger on it. Maybe you have too many samples or loops, and that album may be a little proof of that.
The songs are good, and it was remixed before we even released it, and it still has not as good as we would have hoped. I think Jaime Gomez has done a really good job with the new remix. Also, as a band, we were in a strange place around that time; it wasn’t a great time for us on a personal level. A lot of things compacted how it is, really.
CrypticRock.com – Very interesting to hear your thoughts. Yourself, Greg, Aaron, and Steven have been a part of this since the start. What is like growing up with your friends in a band for thirty years?
Nick Holmes – It doesn’t really change. The dynamic between us hasn’t really changed; people’s personalities are exactly the same as we were kids. It’s like a school boy’s day out really; it’s like a weekend stag party. We still get drunk, we still do the same stuff; people don’t really change, we are still big kids.
That is one thing I like about the band – it has kept us young at heart. It certainly has kept us young physically, but at heart we are still very young. We meet people the same age as us, and they seem like old men to us – their outlook on life, the things they say. I say that for the music business, if you are involved, it really keeps you young at heart. Although, with that said, it’s fucking killing me at the same time. (Laughs)
CrypticRock.com – (Laughs) Paradise Lost has done so much and it is fascinating to see how it all has developed. Releasing Medusa last year, has there been any new music in the works amidst Bloodbath, etc.?
Nick Holmes – Greg is doing another project, he has been busy with that. I am not sure what he’s doing, he never tells me. We will finish the North American tour and then the Bloodbath album is coming out. We are pretty busy. I guess we will start working on a new album next year I would imagine. We will see what happens.
CrypticRock.com – Excellent and the Bloodbath record, The Arrow Of Satan Is Drawn, comes out October 26th. That will be great to hear as well.
Nick Holmes – We just released the first song from it the other day. There are some pretty positive comments coming it. I am really happy with the album, I think people are going to like it – it’s fucking heavy. It’s good to keep busy.
CrypticRock.com – You actually officially became the lead vocalist of Bloodbath around four years ago. What is it like being a part of two bands?
Nick Holmes – It’s way more work than I thought it would be! The gigging, there is so much more flying than I could ever have imagined. I like to keep busy; the older I get, the busier I like to be. I don’t like sitting around, I don’t think it’s productive for anything. We are fortunate people want to see us live – it’s great that people want to see both bands. It’s all good!
CrypticRock.com – It is also nice to have two different outlets.
Nick Holmes – Absolutely. I think doing both things is great from my point of view. It is productive, but it also makes me appreciate Paradise Lost even more, because it’s completely different to Bloodbath. I am really glad it has worked out with the guys in Bloodbath.
CrypticRock.com – As a songwriter/lyricist, you have done a lot through the years. Have you ever considered doing a solo album or another project?
Nick Holmes – I have written about ten songs on my own, messing around. I have been saying this for about ten years, nothing really happens with it. Who knows? If I hit a point where there is nothing going on, maybe I would consider it. Even writing, I would like to write a book as well, but I probably won’t do it. I like the thought of it, but actually doing it is different. The last five years have been full on, so I haven’t had a chance to think about it.
CrypticRock.com – We will see what happens. You never know what the future holds.
Nick Holmes – Yeah, that’s it. I am going to be 50 in a year and a half, you have to take each day as it comes really.
CrypticRock.com – Wait, aren’t you only 47 years old?
Nick Holmes – That’s a good point, I thought I was 48 – I am only 47. (Laughs) I am still a kid, I forgot. I was thinking I was 48 for some reason, I am forgetting my own fucking age. Fucking dementia is already setting it! (Laughs)
CrypticRock.com – (Laughs) Don’t rush it, you have 3 more years. Paradise Lost is credited for coining the term Gothic Metal. What is interesting is what is considered Gothic Metal in popular music today is so far from what Paradise Lost ever was or ever will be. What are your thoughts on that?
Nick Holmes – It’s the same as Venom with Black Metal. They were always the Black Metal band, but Black Metal is very different than what Venom was. I guess Bathory changed that angle with it. I think it’s the same as that. Gothic Metal is now like Hot Topic and Evanescence or whatever.
We definitely did coin the phrase. It was a time where you had to pin down what your style was; there was no ambiguity, you had to say what kind of style it was. So we said, it’s kind of Gothic Metal, so we went with that. It’s the same as with Black Metal, what Venom called it is not the same as what it is today. It not a big deal.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, it is really not important. It is just interesting to see what the mainstream has made it.
Nick Holmes – It’s one of those things. It’s been around so long, it’s going to change. Like I said, Venom is a classic example of it.
CrypticRock.com – Very true. Last question. If you are a fan of Horror films, what are some of your favorites?
Nick Holmes – Both Greg and I are fans, most of our conversations are pretty much about Horror films. My tolerance level is really down when it comes to Horror films: I can handle really shit films because I love Horror. There hasn’t been that many over the last few years that have blown me away. There was a period where there were a lot of French films that were really great. I tend to like the real Horror stuff, the stuff that makes you feel uneasy. To me, if you are going to watch a Horror film, it’s gotta be a Horror film – I don’t like these teenie wishy-washy fucking things. (Laughs)
I watched one recently called Hereditary. That was uneasy to watch, I liked that. I like films that stay with you. Considering it is a commercial release, it is pretty dark. It has a kind The Omen (1976) feel to it – if you watch it, you know what I mean. Monster movies don’t really do it for me, but the real-life horror stuff. Greg and I, pretty much all our conversations about films, we watch hundreds of films a year. I kind of forget what I have seen to be honest. (Laughs) Like I said, my tolerance level, I can handle shit Horror movies a lot more because I just like the genre. It kind of goes hand-in-hand with Heavy Metal. I always liked Horror films when I was a kid.