Hey John, thanks for taking the time to talk to us, so Baroness have been around for almost 15 years now, has the way your music is received changed over the years?
Yeah of course, our sound has obviously changed and evolved and grown and all that, you know, we’re the sort of band that draws heavily from all of our albums and play a lot of songs from the back catalogue as we tour so the sets have become significantly more diverse as time has gone by and with each record we see a slight shift in the make up and nature of our audiences so things have gone almost completely for the positive over these past 15 years.
It’s great now because there’s a lot more audience participation, people sing along and there’s this overwhelming positivity that we get from the audience. I’m not exactly sure when or how that happened but it has happened in the past few years so for me as a musician it’s been such a great thing to see over the years because we want people to participate with the music. We’ve written these songs so that our audience can connect with them and sing along with them and to see that happen has been really fantastic.
Purple has been really well received and it seems as though it’s a culmination of all your past works, could you tell us a little bit about Purple and what the record is about?
Well without going too far in to it the band itself was involved in a very serious and very definitely life changing Bus accident a number of years ago, in 2012, and that altered reality for me very significantly and for a lot of the other members. Our rhythm section of the band decided to leave after that so we changed the make up of our band by 50 % so I think my tendency when writing this record was to address some of these difficult things that had been going on my life in the months and year after that accident.
I think it was a very intelligent decision on behalf of the rest of the band to make an attempt to ensure that our music was not too much of a downer after that accident, that there was something uplifting and energetic and at times highly electric in the way that we presented the songs that we had written.
So what ended up being very interesting to me was mixing what I considered to be fairly personal, introspective and dark lyrics with songwriting that had a greater tendency towards being uplifting and I think that’s what connected with, it’s what connected with me personally, so I assume that’s what connected with our audience.
It would seem obvious that if you were writing something dark then your music would remain dark and if you were writing something uplifting that the music would have to somehow match that so I think that the fact that we offer that juxtaposition may have been interesting enough to pull people in who haven’t heard us before and hopefully then they stuck around to see us on tour.
For me it’s been a very rewarding album and it felt like the most accurate portrayal of the ideas and experiences that I was going through at the time compared to other records.
So was it an expression of how you were dealing with the crash and how you were working through things afterwards or was it saying ok everything fine and looking forwards rather than looking back at it?
No I don’t think for one moment that I could even have attempted to say that everything was fine and let’s move forward. I was more interested in something that was a realistic portrayal, as in, nothing’s fine and let’s move forward. We as a species experience difficulty. Whether it’s stress or anxiety or heartache, loss, frustration you name it, you know everyone’s familiar with something in those terms and yet we do have this innate desire to push forward regardless.
Sometimes in the periods of the greatest struggle we experience the most profound progress and that’s what I was experiencing so I thought that our music should be as genuine a portrayal of that as possible.
What about now? Have you plans for another record any time soon?
Yeah there’s definitely plans for another record, I don’t think that we ever stop writing. We had a bunch of ideas that we just stopped with in order to focus on touring for a while and now we’re picking up some of those ideas again and we’re seeing that there’s definitely some room for the band to grow.
How is that working then? With so many new members how does the writing dynamic change? Obviously they will know all of the back catalogue but do they have to switch in to the “Baroness” mindset or can they bring their own influences to the music?
Well it’s a bit of both. The first thing that normally happens is that the new member learns all the music and then we’ll go out, like we are now, and tour for a bit and that has the effect of offering a non-verbal explanation of how we play and the nature of our performances and it informs me about what fundamental changes the new member brings.
But more importantly for someone like Gina, (Gina Gleeson,new lead guitarist), who is accomplished as a musician, as everyone who has joined has been, you have to learn the music and you have to learn how to play it. Because a lot of the time it’s not just playing the notes correctly and moving on, you’ve got to put something in to them that’s particular to us so then at the end of a tour she will will know that much more about how we behave as a musical entity so when we write, whatever skills she has now she can bring those in as long as we apply taste and judgement the right things will work their way in to our music.
Are there things in the works? Do you have any idea when a new album might come out?
As far as I’m concerned, the sooner the better. I think we’re all very motivated to get in to the next phase and to write a new record. That said, it’s difficult to write music while on tour. We’ve certainly had to put writing on the back-burner while we prepared for this tour with the new line up but we never stopped the idea of writing. We have tons of ideas that we have catalogued and we’re all excited about, when this tour is over, putting the rubber on the road and just finishing some songs and creating some compositions and then hopefully booking some studio time whenever it feels like we’re at the right point.
So yes we are writing but no I don’t know when it’s going to come out but we want it to be soon, that’s important.
So two years is pretty much the standard cycle for an album these days but given that you are so keen to start work on new material does that mean that you are at a point where you look at the current batch of songs, having played them so much, and you’re thinking, “I need to leave these behind for a while”?
I don’t personally feel that way, I know tons of people do, but that thing doesn’t really happen to me quite as easily. I put a lot of my faith in music and maybe too much sometimes but it’s such a big part of who I am that no matter whether I’ve played a song 5 times or 5,000 times it feels good to play.
I’ve learned how to disconnect from the repetition and the routine of it so that each time you’re going through a specific motion, one that’s being dictated by the song itself you’re trying to find some new energy or new life to it or you’re trying to refine the part itself and play it with a new vigour so that you don’t get bored. If I started to get bored with the songs that would sort of be it, I just wouldn’t want to play them anymore.
Yeah if you were playing them alone in a room then you might get bored but if you have a whole crowd singing your words back to you then that’s got to bring new life to the songs each time you play them.
Yeah and even with all the more recent songs, I still earn a lot about these songs as we play them. When you write songs, record them and take them out on tour, every night they change because you’re learning how you’re going to perform it live and when you’re at the point where we are now you’re just making these incredibly minute refinements on a nightly basis. Some of which we may lose sight of if we’re off tour for a couple of weeks so there’s always something you can learn from every show and you’re constantly learning how to shut off your rational brain so that your creative and emotive and passionate response system works in a better way. It’s a weird thing, in order to get to there you have to do something an thousand times
Cool, so would you consider doing a live record then?
Absolutely. 100%, yes.
Excellent, so we have that and a new record to look forward to. John, thanks for taking the time and good luck with the rest of the tour!