The Gondoliers of Doom
Fresh from winning Metal Hammer’s Best Album of the Year and embarking on their European Tour of that Album “The Plague Within”, HMA talk gothic mystery and new sounds avoiding a mid-life crisis with Aaron Aedy, rhythm guitarist of long-standing doom and metal merchants Paradise Lost.
HMA: Welcome to HMA Aaron, and back to London – the old Camden Palace, and congrats on winning the Metal Hammer award!
Paradise Lost – Aaron Aedy: Thank you, yes very surprised, because we were up against Slayer, Maiden, and Nine Inch Nails – and they’re very popular… But yeah, the new album is being received superbly. We still follow the same ethos when we first sat and write music for ourselves. When we were recording it and finishing it, we were very, very excited, although we sat on it six months before it was released. We were like “c’mon, get out!”… so yes, it was a massive honour really to receive that award.
HMA: After so many different albums, you still get the best album – plus you’re kind of going back to roots as well.
AA: Yeah, we’re kind of excited by that, by what excited us as a teenager, I think that’s part of getting older! You know, you start thinking of everything that made it exciting when you were a kid. I even bought myself a drum kit. That’s cheaper than full sleeves or a sports car…
HMA: Haha, not a midlife crisis?
AA: No, I’ve always wanted to be a drummer. It was my first passion, was drums. But I couldn’t have a drum kit when I was a teenager because I had two young sisters who were like six months old and one and a half. I couldn’t do it really. So I’ve got a ton of respect for drummers.
HMA: Obviously it means something different to everybody… but what exactly would you say “The Plague Within” was?
AA: Its many different things, I think. Because Nick never really writes lyrics about one particular thing. I mean, it could be like ‘Host’ is cancer, or similar. But it’s bound to be miserable! That’s all I can guarantee you. Actually, I’ll ask him what it’s about because he thought of it…
HMA: But you’re expecting another onslaught of misery?
AA: Well, you know, that’s what we are! We’re purveyors of misery and gloom. Or as Malcolm Dome once called us in Kerrang! “gondoliers of gloom”, I like that!
HMA: Speaking of gloom, so the cover is by Zbigniew M. Bielak?
AA: Yes, he did an exhibition in a crypt near King’s Cross and his artwork was phenomenal. Some of it’s almost like architect drawings from the way he does the lines to fill. So much work, he’s done a fantastic job. I was looking at the backdrop and banners yesterday, it’s blown up massive, and I kept seeing things I hadn’t seen before… As a kid, you used to buy an album and then look into it – Iron Maiden were always good at hiding stuff in it, so you’d always try to find everything. But now, you get a picture that big, 64 pixels by 64 pixels, and it’s almost pointless having artwork. It’s a shame because it should be part of the whole experience. That’s why I quite like the fact that vinyl’s coming back – just to make artwork. It’s more worthy.
HMA: The cover’s a bit Albrecht Durer isn’t it?
A: Yeah, like someone else just said, there’s M.C. Escher in there, all sorts. I was pretty impressed with his artwork when I went to his exhibition. I didn’t actually get to meet him though, sadly, but I think he’s going to come to one of the Polish shows.
HMA: So you’re liking the artwork?
AA: Yes, and Valnoir & Metastazis artwork on the last album ‘Tragic’ Idol was brilliant as well, almost flamboyant, with the orbs and chromes and things. He’s a character, a good lad though, he’s coming to the Paris show, so it’ll be nice to see him. We always try with the artwork, I mean the only time we’ve failed ourselves really was ‘Believe In Nothing’. The bees – that was quite the worst. Normally we’re very much involved, and Nick is quite an arty guy so he’s always into that part of it. The one good thing is the reason why the band is still going after 27 and a half years – we’re a democracy. Properly, you know, it’s pretty cool. And friends first, anyway. I’ve known Greg since I was eleven, Nick since I was twelve. The original drummer Tudds sat right behind me from the age of eleven and Greg was in the next classroom. I used to go BMXing with Nick when I was twelve. Yeah, 1982, that sort of period.
HMA: Of old times, you’re performing Gothic in full next year at Roadburn?
AA: Yes, we’ve got a guy working on animation for that, he does it for a lot of people at Roadburn. It’s like projections for the whole show. He’s doing something different for each song, so I’m quite looking forward to that. When we finish this tour that’s when we’ll start learning it again. I can play about four songs off it at the minute but have to re-learn it. Some of those songs we haven’t played live for like 23 years.
HMA: What do you feel when you listen to the album now?
HMA: Everything… for me it’s memories. I remember places we went on that album, things we did, you know. The laugh we had doing things at certain times. It’s like taking a stroll down memory lane really. I enjoy the music. It reminds me of how we felt at the time. Every album we try to make sure we’re excited and doing the best we can. Gothic was quite a pioneer, we’ve had some lovely compliments from other musicians who were inspired to follow the band and stuff like that afterwards. It’s always really humbling to hear that kind of thing.
HMA: How about the production then, maybe not as bombastic as it can be now?
AA: At least it’s pretty much in tune… The first album we didn’t have digital tuners or anything at that time. So not dead on, quite hard to learn, you’re sort of tuning to each other, almost tuning to each song. We’ll just tweak it a bit but at least ‘Gothic’ is pretty much in our standards. It’s in C so at least I can actually tune my guitar to that and we’ll start learning it.
HMA: It must be different from doing the album and playing live anyway?
AA: I’m looking forward to playing it. I mean, we’ve played Gothic and we’re not playing ‘Painless’, we’re doing ‘Eternal’. And they sound great with the more modern guitar sounds. But I mean, not to take anything away from the album because it’s got a really classic sound of its own. On the whole we’re better players than we were back then, so it’s quite interesting to play the old stuff.
HMA: That artwork that you had on ‘Gothic’ was quite intriguing. It was kind of vague…
AA: Do you want to know what it is? It’s a small section of Tudd’s shirt turned upside down! We didn’t have an idea what to do that summer, I can’t remember if we were stoned at the time. They said, wow, that looks really weird there. So we blew up and was like, just use that. It’s like a part of Tudd’s shirt pocket.
HMA: Right, so it’s not even like a dominatrix woman sort of like body in there?
AA: It’s amazing what some people see in it because over the years they’re like, “I thought it was something like that” or “I see a devil in there”. You get all sorts… maybe I shouldn’t have spoiled the mystery of it! It’s like, ooh wouldn’t you like to know. Make it even more mysterious. The thing is, we were operating on a very low budget back then. And we spent quite a lot of money on the first album artwork. Duncan Fegredo, he did 2000AD, Judge Dredd and stuff like that. We went to his council house in Sheffield and he showed his artwork, we were all like “Whew!” It was great, I remember that. That cost us 500 quid – a lot of money then. Nowadays, 500 quid doesn’t go far.
HMA: Do you think that art is crucial or insignificant to the whole album?
AA: Well it’s very important for us. Like I was saying, the only time we’ve got it a bit wrong was ‘Believe In Nothing’, because we left it to the art company and we thought the vibe when we met them was very good, but at the last minute they were delaying. We got it at the end and EMI said they were going into production with it before we really said, hang on a minute – why?
HMA: So they kind of rushed you on it at the end?
AA: Well the album was actually delayed because they wanted to remix it. Then they didn’t want to put it out on Christmas because it’s superstar traffic as they call it, so they put it out in February, but unfortunately someone put it on the internet, just when MP3’s were starting, on Torrent or whatever, for about 4 months before it came out, which damaged it as well. It’s not that the people at EMI were bad, because there were some great people there, but it just seemed like that one was a bit calamitous.
HMA: The album ended up so professionally done then – it sounded like something out of a James Bond film?
AA: Well ‘Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us’ does especially, that’s great. I was just listening to it the other day actually, putting a list together of alternative songs and stuff. ‘World Pretending’ is one I wish we could do in the set. Absolutely great song. The B side to ‘Mouth’ is a song called ‘Gone’, one of my favourite songs ever. Dead simple. It’s got one of those classic “meet Greg on melodies” at the end. Which was brilliant, there’s some real good parts in that session.
HMA: You’ve got some iconic covers, excuse me, but do you have a favourite or most expressive one that you particularly like?
AA: There was a limited edition box set version of ‘Tragic Idol’ and I thought that was amazing. As a whole thing, because it’s in vinyl. I keep everything sealed as well, I don’t open it. I wait until after the signing session and then I’ll look at the inside. But yeah, I think Valnoir did great artwork. ‘Draconian Times’ as well.
HMA: What about the sort of more modern ones? ‘Symbol of Life’?
AA: That’s great. The t-shirts of that sold like wildfire, they look really good actually.
HMA: How about that old lady on ‘One Second’?
AA: She was an old woman that lived around the corner from Holly. We took out two projectionists on that tour, and we had a thing where she’s sat with her eyes shut and a picture lit at the back or something where her eyes opened… we took a lot of the artwork out with that on tour. But I think … it’s got to be between ‘Draconian Times’ and ‘Tragic Idol’ for me. Ah Gaz Jennings is doing Trouble for me – I was doing a couple of those for him yesterday. The first ever thing we did, like 1988, we supported Gaz who was the guitar player in Acid Reign, so I’ve known him a long time. He was in Cathedral at the time and playing the guitar now with Lucifer.
HMA: Well there is a kind of Cathedral-y sound to your guitars on some of this album…
AA: When we recorded the album, we wanted to make it like we made records 20 odd years ago where you record it at the tape, the guitar sound just like that and it was done. Whereas in recent years, the real trend, especially with Jens Bogren the producer on the last couple of albums, is you also do what they call a direct line. Like a DI line, so you can re-amp the guitars later. So we got the guitar sound we wanted to be recorded and the DI line, then it goes to the producer in Sweden, and then he’d just make his own guitar sound. It’s like, good sounds but not exactly what we wanted. So this time, it’s exactly what we wanted. Even when it was two amps with floor mics on. We just did them all into one track and went right, that’s it. Mix it. So we couldn’t be fannying about. We wanted it to be more like what we play when we play live – keeping that energy, earthy and organic.
HMA: Definitely is! Do you think you’ll have time to see any art or museums on your European tour – you’re pretty booked up aren’t you?
HMA: Yeah, I know, sometimes you don’t get a chance really. I used to go out for big walks all the time, although a lot of places we’ve been to many times and I haven’t had the chance to see them it’s always good to at least try to experience a little bit of the country you’re in. I love buildings and architecture so it’s always good to go see interesting museums, cathedrals and stuff.
HMA: So after all that time the inspiration is still lurking?
AA: To be honest, I think as a band we’re enjoying it more than we have done for bloody years. It’s quite humbling we can still be doing it. And what’s more important, we still enjoy it. The day we don’t enjoy it, we’ll just quit, because that’s the only reason we do it. Someone said, oh 25th anniversary, I’ll see you on the 50th. It’s like bloody hell, that’s not likely, but you never know. When we started I never thought we’d get to the 25th anniversary, never mind anything else.
HMA: You’ve had people listening to your music for decades so it must mean something pretty deep in their life too.
AA: Well, it’s part of my memories and for other people too I guess. It’s like time stamps on life as well. It’s always quite touching when that’s the case.
HMA: Long keep it going! Thanks Aaron, rock the Palace and have a great European tour!
Interview by Phil Von Griffin – Copyright 2015 © Heavy Music Artwork. All rights reserved.