Despite the fact, that most of the heavy-metal fans knows Gregor Mackintosh as a guitarist of Paradise Lost – he’s all-rounded-kind-of-musician. Over the years Mackintosh has been exploring very different musical vanues. And the recent one – which STRIGOI became, is probably one of the most authentic. After the breakup of Vallenfyre, Gregor united with former Valenfyre bandmate – soon, the band presented their debut “Abandon All Faith” – incredible combination of black-metallic atmosphere enhanced by industrialized, extreme sounding of a STRIGOI. We spoke to Gregor Mackintosh on the years of his creativity, songwriitng, the upcoming STRIGOI releases, and the years with Paradise Lost.
Since the very beginning of your career you’ve been exploring very different musical paths all through the years. Why with your recent project which STRIGOI became, you decided to explore black-metallic sounding ?
I’m just a sucker for sad, grim, evil, downbeat music. It just so happens you can approach this in many different ways. I like to explore all these styles and sometimes mix them. With Strigoi I was just experimenting with post Vallenfyre material and decided that a bit more dissonance and a certain amount of cinematic mood went well with some of the songs I was making so I just went with it. Everything I do is a work in progress and a learning curve and I think that’s what keeps it fun and exciting to do.
Once you said that as artist “you might have a totally different overlook” on something you did before. It seems to me that your project – Vallenfyre was the start of these tendencies you’re exploring now within STRIGOI. It what way your approach is different ? Within these two projects.
With Vallenfyre I did pretty much everything and that was cool and all but it becomes a little insular and can get overbearing. With Strigoi it was always my idea for it to be more inclusive and a good way of doing that was getting Chris to write the lyrics and then see what that inspired musically. I’ve never really done it that way around and you can get interesting results.
You said once that at the very beginning, Chris and you were looking for a certain theme to explore within the project itself. But it also seems that you decided to keep on exploring what you’ve been doing with Vallenfyre in a more extreme way.What it had to deal with, actually ?
In some ways of course it carries on from Vallenfyre because we all thought that was cool but we also wanted to try to give it it’s own identity somehow. With it being a first album I think we were feeling our way a little bit but the drama and the dissonance I guess are the defining characteristics.
Your first songs and riffs are quite unique on their own. And partially, you got back to this sounding right now. Is it easier to look back at the beginning of your creativity and things you’ve already passed as artist ?
I think its more to do with the music that first inspired you as a teenager. That never really goes away and becomes the soundtrack to your life. I’ve diversified many times musically but those old influences will never leave me.
It’s silly to categorize anyone. But I guess songwriters are usually or natural- born-kind-of-songwriters – like Iggy Pop, who’ve been writing and playing since the very young age. Others – have a certain life-learning experience. When you started writing songs and what gave you the understanding about the processes and how you should approach what you’ve been doing at that point ?
I’m not sure there is such a thing as a natural born songwriter. Just some people have a better ear than others and also I think songwriters who can manipulate emotions and moods have an edge. There is no right and wrong when it comes to writing heavy music. There’s only what feels right at that moment in time because your ideas can change over time.
One of the key features of your songwriting is your ability to unite very different elements. Within “Abandon All Faith” you united different elements within general tonalities – industrialized, crust-punk-inspired, death-metal, doom-metal, black- metal chords. What helps you to unite these different things – within one song or the record itself so they won’t contradict each other ?
I love very dark music in most of its forms and I like to include many elements of each different form in anything I do. I guess sometimes I do it more successfully than other times. Tying all these elements together can be a challenge but I think that’s part of what makes it so much fun and interesting to do.
And what helps you to avoid the same line in terms of creating sounds and always make it interesting ?
With a career as long as mine I guess it’s inevitable that certain themes get repeated from time to time. Having said that I genuinely try to approach every new song or record I do as if it’s the first thing I’ve ever done. I never think about what I did in the past so I can keep it fresh from my perspective.
Within any recording of yours one of the things that always defined who you are– is your way of writing and focus on each compositional aspect. Is it all due to your involvement in production or as composer you’re always focused on all the parts creating the whole picture and not only on yours individual ?
Yes, I think that would be true to say. I have never been interested in being just a guitarist and I don’t really have any guitar heroes. I always thought right from the start that the song as a whole is the most important thing and all the components that make it up need to work together so I try to look at the bigger picture and not get too precious about my own parts.
When you really started getting into production side of things ?
About 1997. Before that it was very difficult to have much of an involvement unless you owned a big studio and live room. As soon as the technology came about so that I could try things out and learn producing at home than I did it. It started with an Amiga, an Ensoniq ASR10 and an Akai sampler. I love to nerd out on production things but really I think it’s all about having a good ear and knowing what you like and sticking to it no matter what criticism comes your way.
You were talking that the lyrics for this record was written first. Which is different than most of the writers do. How different was your process of writing in this particular case ?
It’s the opposite of every other thing I’ve been involved in. I just decided with Strigoi that it would be interesting to try to be inspired by what a song was about and try to convey that through the music the words inspire.
How can you characterize your approach to writing songs ?
I think I’m a bit obsessive about it. I don’t write 50 songs and then choose the best ones. I come up with the basic parts for a handful of songs and then tweak them over months until I’m happy. I think of it like writing stories. You would never publish the first draft of a story. You would develop it over time.
Is it important for you to create not just a collection of the songs under one title, per se, but a certain feeling on though the record ?
The flow of a record from song to song is very important to me. Once I have the rough drafts for each song on an album then I work on the album like one big song that has to ebb and flow, hitting crescendos when you need it to.
Compositionally, “Abandon All Faith” is a very well-build. You have a very
good sense of harmony and different changes between parts of the songs
and styles you united within the record. While writing, do you always have a clear idea about general sounding ? Is it important factor for you ?
I wouldn’t say I have a clear idea all along. I have a rough idea of what I think an album should be but sometimes when you get deep into writing it, it can take you down all sorts of different paths and over the course of a year or so it can develop into something slightly different from the initial idea.
How do you see the next release of STRIGOI ? Any ideas about the direction
you’re going to explore ?
Well I’m loosely songwriting for it at the moment. I have a few ideas of how I would like it to be but that could change. Right now, I am thinking about giving it a more cinematic feel. Still incorporating the feel of the first record but pushing everything in different directions. I’ll see how it goes.
Could you please tell me a little but about things you’re working on now – what’s on your mind right now ?
Well along with writing new Strigoi stuff I’ve been promoting the 25th anniversary edition of the Paradise Lost album Draconian Times and also working on a streaming gig for Paradise Lost incorporating some songs from the latest release Obsidian. Apart from that just going crazy from not doing shows.