On October 31st Vallenfyre released its first full-length album through Century Media. The bands founder, Paradise Lost guitarist, Gregor Mackintosh originally planned for the music to be a way to release after coping with a loss. Recently Greg took the time to talk with me, over the phone, elaborating on the formation of the group and what his plans for the future entail.
Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me today. How has everything been going with the press for Vallenfyre’s first album as well as being in the studio with Paradise Lost? What’s new?
Well as soon as the Vallenfyre album came out I’ve been doing tons of press and at the same time I’ve been in the studio with my other band, Paradise Lost. We’ve been recording a new album through Century Media too and we should be done quite soon.
Right off the bat, why did you choose the name Vallenfye for the band? Is there any meaning to that or that title of the album, A Fragile King?
Well the title does have a meaning, but it’s not something really deep or anything. I was reading a book on the old English dialect and a word that really took to me, that sounded cool was the word “vallen,” which means strong or strength. I just thought that combined with “fyre,” which obviously means fire just sounded good together. The title of the album is kind of inspired by what happened to my dad. He had cancer and died, but it’s more of a general thing as well. You look up to this person all your life, putting them on a pedestal, idolizing them, and thinking that they are invincible. No one’s invincible and A Fragile King is about that.
The conception and formation of Vallenfyre, as you have said previously, “are not particularly happy or pretty ones.” Everything was formed due to a very personal loss. Talk a little bit about how you knew this music, you were writing, could become more than just a way to cope, but something you wanted to share with others.
It was a gradual thing. I was going to grief counseling and they told me to write down my feelings rather than just bottle them up. So I started doing that and gradually I started forming lyrics and passages. At the same time I was reminiscing about the old days, the happier times in life. For instance, when I grew up, the first music I got into, the music that I love, the demos I’ve kept over the years, the vinyl, and things like that. The too just went hand and hand, so I just started generating songs, because after a while it felt like I was just wallowing in everything. So I came up with the idea to ask some of my best friends if they wanted to jam out some songs, turn it into a little bit of a hobby and we could have a laugh with it. One of the guys from Century Media heard we were doing it and asked if we could send a demo over, so I did. Here we are now. A lot of people have a plan, but this wasn’t like that, and we ended up then recording an album.
The loss of your father was the main reason you started to get things down on paper. In what ways did he influence you as a musician?
He wasn’t really into the same music as me, but he did start to become really interested when I stared Paradise Lost in 87 or 88. He was interested in everything I was doing with it. I mean he drove us to our first show, demo, and things like that. Just an inquisitive mind I guess. He was interested in hearing about what bands we were playing with. He was particularly found of Bolt Thrower back in the 80’s, which is kind of odd for an adult at the time. He never took life too seriously at all. He believed you should go out and do whatever you want to do.
What are some of the other inspirations for the album?
About 60% of the lyrics sort of pertain to what happened to my dad. The rest of it is views on various things like society, religion, prejudice, and even relationships. It’s all very nihilistic stuff. At the end of it all there is a song called “The Grim Irony,” I kind of set up the whole album in that song and just say, “yeah life is pretty shit, you just got to deal with it.”
You mentioned bringing your good friends into the band. How did you go about deciding whom to ask to join forces with you, in Vallenfyre?
I literally asked my closest friends, it’s just coincidental that they are all in bands of varying success. I grew up with Scoot, the bassist and Hamish from My Dying Bride. We all come from the same hometown.
Is there a certain track off of A Fragile King that is a favorite, that you respond to the most, or that you think the listener should respond to? Two my favorites are “Cathedrals Of Dread” and “Seeds.”
It depends on the mood that I am in, because some of the songs are angry and some are sadder. I would say the most personal song to me, which really gets to me, is “Seeds.” It’s literally about the last day I was with my dad. I just thought “what the hell,” instead of keep it all inside. Death is no secret, it’s going to happen to all of us eventually.
How did the recording process differ, compared to other bands that you have been apart of?
When we started recording, it was far more of a collaborative thing that we discussed through. It was a lot more DIY than things I’m typically used to doing. We got the budget from Century Media and found this little place to record. It was all very off the cuff and laxed. We just wanted to get it out and if people don’t like it, that’s their problem.
You recently released a video for “Cathedrals Of Dread.” Talk a little bit about the concept of the video for those who haven’t seen it yet.
I think the song itself is mainly about my view on people who follow religion. I don’t like any religion at all really, but I’m quite intrigued as to how people could follow it so blindly and be kind of led like sheep. I also feel like the people behind the scenes use it as a tool for control. The video is more of a literal interpretation of the lyrics, so the people being pushed around in the video are being herded like cattle and then this sister overlord represents the people behind religion. They really are just profiteering and quite arrogant people.
Seeing as you were the guitarist and songwriter for Paradise Lost, what are the similarities between Paradise Lost and Vallenfyre, if there are any?
A lot of people will be able to recognize a similarity in my guitar playing, because that isn’t something I can really change that much. It may be similar to early Paradise Lost playing, but I think that’s where it ends mainly. I tried to incorporate a lot of the things I grew up with musically with Vallenfyre.
I suppose this pertains to any band that you have been in, how do you go about writing music? Which comes first, the music or lyrics? Kind of a which came first the chicken or the egg question.
Well I know the answer to that one too. It’s the egg. Vallenfyre is the first band that I have done vocals for and taken over those type of responsibilities. It’s always been the music first for the most part.
What is next for you, whether it be Vallenfyre, Paradise Lost, or any other projects?
First off it’s getting the Paradise Lost record finished. After that, in early 2012, I plan on doing some Vallenfyre shows. So 2012 will be double duty with the two bands. I would definitely like to get Vallenfyre to the states. My wife is from Pennsylvania, so no disrespect to other parts of the United States, but I really like the east coast. Let your local promoters know if you’d like to see us in your area.