Nick Holmes: “What did I do during the lockdowns? I have been buying things on Amazon, I have been sending things back to Amazon (laughs), the same as anyone else I guess.”
In het voorjaar van 2020 bracht Paradise Lost het album ‘Obsidian’ uit, een knaller van jewelste waarvan we echter nog geen enkele song live konden aanschouwen. De releaseshow is weer eens uitgesteld naar later. Uiteindelijk nam ook deze Engelse doom/death metal formatie haar toevlucht tot een surrogaat in de vorm van een live stream. ‘Live At The Mill’ werd op een sobere, welhaast kale manier in beeld gebracht in een in onbruik geraakte molen en werd onlangs fysiek uitgebracht. Dit gaf ons de gelegenheid om bij te praten met zanger Nick Holmes die we treffen in een allerbeste bui.
Vera Matthijssens Ι 26 juli 2021
How are you doing?
I am okay. I am doing promotion the last few days. I am kind of hanging around in my recording studio and messing around with equipment, writing bits and pieces. The usual stuff, you know.
Where was Paradise Lost when the pandemic struck Europe?
We had just finished a concert in Russia, in Moscow. It was the end of February last year. There was a time off when we went back. Then I went to Thailand on vacation for three weeks and it started to get worse when I was in Thailand. I came home and it hasn’t been the same ever since, so we had a bit downtown when it started to develop across the world, but it already started to kick off in February, when we were in Moscow.
Weren’t you afraid to go so far away, to Thailand, still?
At that time we were becoming aware in the end, surely when people started wearing masks more and more. In the east they wear them a lot more anyways. I took it seriously right from the start. I never thought it was a flu and go away in a week. I knew that it would be something quite serious, but it hit some places more than I thought in the UK. I am quite shocked how badly obviously, but we just have to get through it, trying to get back to normal as soon as we can.
Indeed, I followed the news and in the UK it was severe misery. In Belgium as well though, we have had many people who passed away…
I have some friends who had been very ill with it. A couple of close friends, a couple others, but luckily not in my immediate family and I don’t think I have had it myself, but it has been a hard time. Especially for younger people I think it has been a difficult time. My kids are 20 and 24 years old, so for them it was hard to stay home all the time. For us it is difficult, but it is still worse when you are younger I think. I want to stay home anyway, so it is not an issue (laugh).
How long did it take before you decide that you were going to do a live stream? Because at some point in time – pretty fast actually – concerts were forbidden and venues closed…
We released the album ‘Obsidian’ and then we were supposed to do a live concert for the album, which we are still going to do, but then we thought about playing a live stream of the album, playing the album, which we did as well, but we did not like that idea. We preferred to do it properly on a stage in a live situation. Then the months went by and we decided to do at least something. We decided to play new songs as well and do some old classics. Just make it more like a rehearsal. Many bands have done a live concert as stream, but we did not feel like doing that. I won’t say we will never do that, but at that time it just felt much more natural to keep it intimate than making it like a TV Unplugged or something. So yeah, all bands have the same problem. You release an album and there is nothing you can do next. A live stream fills the gap until you can do it for real.
It happened at a special place. How did you come across that mill?
The mill, that’s where the band rehearses. It wasn’t too far to travel, you know. We just had to take the elevator. We have been in that venue for 25 years, we used the same guys we always use with the band. The venue where we played is like a small venue for music concerts in Bradford. We actually never played there, but it is just downstairs from our rehearsal studio. It is a rough place outside, it is not very nice after eight o’clock at night. You don’t want to hang around there (chuckles).
Indeed, those abandoned industrial areas…
Yes, it is a kind of industrial area on the outskirts. The street where the mill is, there are lots of fires. The mills are always on fire. Sometimes we joke: when there is a fire in Bradford, it is always on that street. That is why we used the cover of the mill on fire. There’s nothing in there though.
Was it hard to decide on the set list?
Yes, we had to play new songs we hadn’t played before. So we had to practise a few days before, so we could get them sounding as convincing as it could be. That was quite stressful to do on a live stream instead of playing live on a stage. Yes, we worked hard on the event and Waltteri came over from Finland to do drums. We really had to concentrate and record it, a usual concert is more relaxed.
Oh yes? In despite of being in front of an audience there?
Yes, it is different. On a concert people are usually in a good mood, they are relaxed and happy. The atmosphere is more relaxed in general, but in the rehearsal room you knew it was streamed to so many people. The atmosphere is kind of strange and it was really a matter of doing our best to make no mistakes. Mistakes are normally quite fun, you can usually laugh about it on stage, but this was different and that was quite an intense situation. At the end it was a relief we got through it, so it was quite fun towards the end.
And then came ‘Darker Thoughts’, a very nice video from it…
Yes, that was right at the beginning of the lockdown as well. We did not really know what the situation with the lockdown was. So we went out very early in the morning and we did it when it was about 5 a.m; or something when there was no one around. It is near where I live, so I got there a lot anyways. We used some earlier filming from the band. We just did some filming, we did what we could really. Obviously we could not go on location, no crew, no walking around.
In that covid-19 situation, a lot of spare time came free for every musician. Are there old or new hobbies you discovered during the lockdown?
Not long after that, I have been working on a new Bloodbath album, so I have been quite busy with that. Over and now I have been changing studio equipment, I have been buying things on Amazon, I have been sending things back to Amazon (laughs), the same as anyone else I guess. Buying things I don’t need and all those things… The postman has always been busy.
It is a lucky strike for the post, because nobody sends letters anymore and now they live from the parcels delivery…
Yes, it is non stop. If I look at my daughters, they don’t go to shops anymore. It is all on line now. I have never been someone who wants to go out anyway. I go to the pub occasionally, not so much, sometimes. I am quite solitary anyways, so I don’t really missed socializing, because I don’t really do it. I have some friends I saw last week, but I haven’t seen them for a year. It is almost like there has been a gap between it. We just go on where we left off. It is nice that it still matches though.
In the beginning I did not miss anything, but in the long run I miss concerts and face to face interviews…
I think the interviews would have become more and more on line anyway. The promotional campaign for the last two albums was mostly on line and it was more than ever before. That kept me busy a few weeks before the album release. If this lockdowns would have happened without the internet, it would be strange.
There should have been another definition of isolation then I guess…
I think there are going to be a lot of people with problems after this anywhere. Mental issues that people did not realize they had it, until they go back to normal. The longer it goes on, the worse it gets. I guess it is the uncertainty. You never know where you are with it. You cannot plan things, there is always a risk you cannot do things, over times that starts to have an impact on you. So indeed, I think it will cause quite a lot mental problems.
Boris Johnson is planning to return to normal on 19th of July…
Yesterday was the first day without deaths in the UK for a long time. When they interview the scientists obviously they always have their doubts, the politicians want to open up the country. It is always the same. Obviously nobody wants to go down in a lockdown again. It is still going on. In Melbourne, there is a lockdown again. Again, that goes back to uncertainty, things are changing all the time. It is a headache indeed. I think it is all about the vaccines. If everybody is vaccinated, there will be some chances to go back to normality I think, but before that it remain a huge risk. It is going to carry on for a few years I think, unless when it just vanishes and everybody is okay, which is another question
Are you working on new material or that’s maybe too early…
We will go out and do some shows first. The album is still very hot, because we haven’t played live. It feels like a fresh thing and nobody has seen it live, so when we do play live, it should be like a new event. We are not in a place where we feel like writing new material yet. Maybe towards the end of next year we might be start thinking about it. We got so many albums anyways, it is not like we need to add something to the collection in a rush (laughs).
First take the benefits from the mighty ‘Obsidian’, because that was really an amazing album!
Thank you for that! Some people are always writing, some bands never stop, but we have never been like that. We write at our own pace and when it feels right. We rather take our time and just keep doing it this way. We will definitely write another album, but not at the moment.