If there were to be a sagely wizard of death and gothic doom in the metal space, it would be Nick Holmes.
The British master of the melancholic face-melt (can we coin that?), balances time between his trend-setting faction Paradise Lost and frontman duties for death metal super-group Bloodbath, the latter of which are set to release their latest studio album Survival Of The Sickest on September 9!
Holmes sat down with Metal Injection for a deep dive into the new record, thoughts on whether or not the guys are still pro-party on the road, a reflection on his recording-heavy years in the 90s, his appreciation (or lack thereof) of viral parodies, and much more!
Our conversation with Old Nick, as he is affectionately known, picks up with a discussion on Paradise Lost‘s recent trek through Europe’s killer summer festival circuit.
Do you enjoy the European Festival circuit as opposed to a tour where you’re on a bus, playing with the same bands every night, having the same type of routine.
Yeah I’d much rather do festivals, because then I can come home on Sunday night and then fly out on a Wednesday or whatever. Touring’s kind of good if you’re doing sort of three week stints. We’ve been touring for decades now. So I mean, we kind of appreciate maybe a few weeks at home now and again in between.
It’s just a case of people wanting to see their kids, or their grand kids as the case is now. So yeah, the festivals are perfect because you can play to a lot of people and you get home on a Monday morning, which is great.
I guess it’s all situational with families. I’ve talked to a lot of artists that love the grind of the road and being in the same place, not having to get up and do the different things. And again, it all depends on the type of stretch of touring you have. Like you say, if you can get home after two or three days, that’s gravy.
Yeah, it is. The worst thing about touring is probably just the inconvenience of things. There’s just little things people take for granted, and they are little things like so much as even going to the toilet. Just little things. That’s the worst thing. But I mean when you kind of add them on top of each other over many, many weeks, it starts to grind a little bit, you know? I mean, especially when we were younger, touring was great. It’s funny, it was just like a party every night. We’re usually in bed about an hour after the gig anyway. Those days are kind of gone really. But we’ve enjoyed many tours.
I was going to ask that, whether it be with Bloodbath or Paradise Lost, do you enjoy the occasional drink or party anymore? Or is it more like we’ve done this for 30 years or more and after the show you just want to chill?
Yeah, we still do it. If you’ve got a string of shows then it’s not advisable until the last one perhaps. But no we still do it, but it’s more sort of friends in a pub kind of thing. It’s more like that. We rarely kind of wander out to some huge outdoor party type thing. It’s funny, I just watched Woodstock ’99 last night. It’s not like that kind of thing. We just stay in the backstage area and just chat with some friends and other bands, you know? But yeah, it never gets too crazy and there’s never a camera too far away as well. So you have to be careful with that as well.
I can’t imagine what Woodstock ’99 would have been like if it happened in 2022 with the social media presence now.
It’s fascinating because I don’t think it would have been like that. Even though it’s quite a long time ago, to me it’s not actually. I was nearly thirty-years-old when that happened. It’s strange watching it, and now there’s guys now in their thirties talking like it was kind of like the fifties or something, like it was so long ago. And to me it’s like Jesus, that’s not that long ago. I guess the Internet hadn’t really reached mainstream adoption at that point. It’s a good documentary though, I enjoyed it.
And now looking at Bloodbath we have this record, Survival of the Sickest, which to me is just pure gross, raw, in-your-face death metal. And it’s the type of stuff I really need right now. How much of a palate cleanser is that for you being able to bounce between kind of goth metal with Paradise Lost to be able to go to this really wretched type of death metal where there are kind of no rules and it’s no holds barred. Lyrically, you can kind of do whatever you want. It’s quite the juxtaposition.
Yeah, I mean it’s good because it’s just all the stuff we liked when we were growing up anyway. It’s not too much of a stretch to kind of get into it. I always maintained that everything you listen to musically between 14 and 21, and if you’ve got any passion about it, that’s going to stay with you your whole life. Even if you show it for a certain amount of time, you can get back into it very quickly.
When I joined Bloodbath, I put the jacket on very quickly. I got really back into it and I remembered why I loved it all the first time around in the eighties and the early nineties. While it’s musically different to Paradise Lost, it’s under the same umbrella of things I always loved anyway as well. If I’d come into this from a different style of music, it would be maybe a lot different. It’s just like I said, it’s just like putting on an old shirt or something.
Paradise Lost has a lot of heavier moments as well. But I’m curious, when you think back to the eighties, were there some death metal bands or albums you were really absorbing? Talking about that 14 to 21 window, is there something that sticks out to you?
I was thinking about it, probably Venom was a kind of catalyst for everything. Even though they’re not technically death metal as we know it. I guess the first thing that was death metal as we know it was probably the Possessed‘s Seven Churches album. Also Sepultura released an album, but I think that was an independent Brazilian label. You couldn’t even get it in the UK anyway. Possessed‘s Seven Churches was kind of the benchmark real death metal album on record at that point. But I mean, prior, I think Venom‘s the standard. Bathory as well.
The pentagrams and crucifixes and all that stuff, the imagery with Venom, the craziness. I mean, they were terrifying when I was a kid, but I loved it at the same time. So I think it was the Black Metal album first, I think, then I went back to Welcome to Hell. I think they kind of started it all really. I can’t think of anything before. I mean obviously Metallica kind of completely reeled it in with the thrash metal thing and the rest is history. But Venom, as far as death metal goes, I think it kind of really started with them.
You guys have some pretty interesting guests on Survival of the Sickest. Obviously Barney [Greenway, Napalm Death] really sticks out and Luc Lemay from Gorguts. Talk about icons in metal. Very cool to be able to incorporate some of these different guys.
When we finish the song, it’s just a case of we listen back and think okay, well whose voice would sound good in this part? In the case of “To Die”, Marc from Morgoth, he’s got a very similar kind of tone in his voice to Chuck Schuldiner from Death. The chorus of that song really lends itself nicely to that vocal tone, so we asked him if he wanted to do that. He’s done a great job with it. I mean, we always just think what kind of vocalist from yesteryear that we always loved or our friends, etc, can we kind of get on board just to add an extra sort of level to it, really, you know?
Between Paradise Lost, Katatonia and everything else you all are involved with, is it a bit of a juggling match to try to carve out time to record or tour? There are a lot of moving pieces and a lot of different bands you guys kind of have to coordinate.
We all have the same management, so that certainly helps. It would be a logistical nightmare if we didn’t. I think it would be really difficult. I mean, it still is. There’s a lot of messing around looking at when you put slots into certain things. It’s a juggling match, especially for the people working in our management office. There’s a lot of work behind the scenes for sure. But like I said, I honestly think it would be ten times worse if we were on separate managers, or if we had individual managers like some big bands do. I don’t know what would happen, to be honest.
Was Thomas [Åkvik, new guitarist] involved in the actual recording process for this record?
He did the guitar and he also wrote the song “Zombie Inferno”. That’s his song. It was a great sort of a debut, I guess. But I mean he’s been on guitar with us live since about 2017. But he also plays in the Swedish band Lik as well, the Stockholm death metal, which isn’t too far away from what we do in Bloodbath really, musically. He’s quite a bit younger than we are, but he loves the old stuff as much as we all do. We’ve got good friends over the last few years. So it kind of just worked out really well, you know?
I was going through some stuff in relation to Bloodbath. And I stumbled across a cover that I saw about a month ago, and it was “Eaten”, but it was about petting cats. Have you seen that? And are you aware of parodies that might pop up for any of your bands?
Yeah, somebody sent it to me on Twitter, actually. Yeah, I saw that. I mean, it’s alright. Raised a smile. I smiled. I didn’t get to the end of it, but I got the gist very early on (laughs).
I always get a kick out of some of these parodies and stuff people do. It’s like A, they have a lot of time on their hands, and B, there’s some creative bastards out there.
Oh yeah. Some of the stuff I see, like you say, must take forever to make. And sometimes they’re very short clips,and it’s like you say how much time have they got? But no, the cats one is pretty good. I think I got to the chorus and I thought okay, I get it. I know where this is going.
Talking Paradise Lost for a minute, and looking back through the discography and just the amount of content you guys were putting out in the early nineties was somewhat staggering. I think you had an album every year up until ’93, and then if you go from ’90 to ’99, you had like seven or eight records. Thinking of that time of your career, did it feel like it went by in the blink of an eye?
Yeah. It was when we signed with our management, he just had us working nonstop. I think probably the end of ’93 to like ’98 was just absolutely crazy, you know? From Icon to One Second was just crazy. I mean we did so many tours. And then if you do a support tour and you support a bigger band and then you come back and do your own tour, you’re talking a fourteen week straight away.
We never really did the States at all much in those days. But I mean, if we had done it probably would have been longer between albums I think, because that would have been the period we would have gone and toured the States, but we never really did. So I think we did one tour in ’93 in the States and apart from that we didn’t kind of go back for quite a long time, unfortunately. I kind of regret that. But yeah I guess when you tour Europe and then it’s like okay, let’s do another album. I guess that’s what it was like back in those days.
You have some of these records that have milestone anniversaries. You’ve got 30 years of Shades of God, 25 of One Second, 20 of Symbol of Life. Is that the type of thing that you would notice or think on now and then?
No, I don’t even think about it. Our guitarist Aaron, he’s very good with dates and he would remember it before anybody else would. I don’t really think so. You know, it’s 30 years soon since we signed our management contract actually. That’s coming up soon. But I only know that because Mikael from Opeth is on the same management team and he put up a video and said it was 20 years with the management, so I thought ours is ten more than that. But that’s the only reason. I’m not a date guy. I guess if you stick around long enough, you’re going to hit a date at some point.
What would you like to see happen next? You can tour the shit out of this Bloodbath record if you want. We’re two years removed from Obsidian, so I’d guess you could have some Paradise Lost in the future? Are you trying to have a fine mix between touring and the creative process now, or because there was a lot of downtime, you’d like to spend more time on the road?
I mean, we’ve got a big tour coming up for the Obsidian album anyway because we never toured it obviously because of the lockdown. So once we’ve done that I guess then we’ll look at maybe doing another Paradise Lost album. But you do the album and then you tour and that’s the natural process of things, but we haven’t done that. We’ve done quite a few gigs and we’ve done a lot of songs off it. I mean, when we’re done then we can put it to bed and then we can look at doing another album.
As far as Bloodbath, next year we’re looking at hopefully a ton of summer festivals hopefully all over the world. When we started doing those gigs we always thought we’d be concentrating on festivals and touring? Probably not. And if we do it might be a small affair, not really a big sort of tour. But I mean Katatonia is busy as well. They’ve got another album soon and are touring as well. It’s just about getting all the other things done and fitting it in between.
Survival of the Sickest is available September 9 through Napalm Records.