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Interview: Baroness

Interview: Baroness

Wednesday 30th November, 2016 11:07AM

Progressive metal outfit Baroness are returning to these shores for a one-off show at the Kings Arms on Monday evening on the heels of unleashing their fourth studio album, Purple. Released late last year, the 10-song album sees the Georgian four-piece push through an extremely difficult period following a devastating bus crash that occured while they were on tour in England in 2012 - to emerge on the otherside with an album that has been heralded as containing some of their "biggest, strongest songs" to date. In anticipation of their impending visit Fluffy spoke with founding member John Baizley about the band's past, present and future...

UTR: First off, how did you guys settle on your band’s name? Are any of your family members in fact barons or baronesses? Do you own some counties back in ye olde country?

JB: No, no, no. That’s actually one of those questions. I hate to start an interview like this but that’s one of those questions I just don’t answer. It’s been asked a lot. It’s a decision we made nearly 15 years ago and we’ve stuck to our guns.

That’s cool. I understand you guys formed in the wake of your old punk band Johnny Welfare and The Paychecks.

Oh wow. You did some digging to find that. I don’t hear that mentioned very often.

Really? Cool!

Yeah, really. When I was living in the southwest of Virginia, in the mountains where the original two or three line-ups from Baroness were all from this one little town and that was kind of the kick-off band that we had. We didn’t really take it as seriously. It was where Pete and Summer and Allen and I got our initial ideas out of the way. So that years later when we were playing, the things we had come up with then were the foundations that we would build on in later years.

Cool, cool. Did you record any material with that group or is it lost to the aether?

We did but it has never been released and as far as I know there’s probably less than 20 people worldwide that have ever heard it.

Wow, ok. You don’t want to send me a cheeky copy?

It is good though! No I don’t.


I’m thinking at this point, it’ll make it’s way out. But trust me, you don’t know how to find it, coz we only made tapes. It may come out. It actually is really good, it did hold up pretty well over the years.

Well I hope that it does eventually surface and I do get to hear it one day.

Keep in mind, it’s music that we recorded on a four-track tape recorder in barns and in our basements. The recordings we did are kind of scrappy but I love listening to them whenever I remember to; maybe once every five years.

So, back to Baroness. In recent years all your albums have been colours. Is that part of a wider concept?

It’s part of a very simple concept. When we began the band, we’d tour to save up enough money to go into a studio and make a recording then we’d tour more - and with the money we’d made from that we’d do the next recording. So we initially started out by writing what we wanted to release as an album, but when it came time we didn’t have enough money to record the entire piece so we recorded an EP instead and called it First. Then we went out and toured and when we had enough money to record the second EP we called it Second. So, when we upgraded and Relapse Records signed us, of course we had a bigger budget and we could do a full-length. When we had recorded the full-length and we were sitting there thinking about how we’d release it and what we’d call it, all sorts of things that we’d never really had the luxury of dealing with before, we all sort of made the decision not to go overboard with our album titles. We kind of liked the simplicity, the easiness of the titles of our EPs. I knew I was going to be making the album covers for a long time. The colour thing was kind of the way that we chose to continue a very simple way of naming our albums that didn’t really give you, as a listener, any hints on what was inside the record. It gave me a good starting point visually for me to work from. Then of course we would always find ways to justify the colours; try to find a deeper meaning for the symbolism but they started off as an easy idea. We wanted to be open arms towards our audience and for them to come in clueless as to what the record is about and that seemed to do a pretty good job of that.

So, it’s to allow people to find meaning in themselves, rather than telling them what the meaning is?

Yeah, it always seems to me that the more you explain something and pick apart the details, the less that works - if it’s musical, if it’s lyrical, the less chance that work has of reaching the ears of people and finding a nice home. If I outline all the particulars of my life then it doesn’t give you as a listener any chance to find something reflective of your own within that music. Or it makes it much more difficult. So we’ve always chosen for a more broad, open-ended way of presenting things that really puts some of the work on our audience. If they’re going to get into it, they have to make some conclusions of their own, which was something that was present in a lot of the records that influenced me when I was younger.

Is the next release going to be called Orange? You’ve used up all the primary colours already.

Aww, I hope not. The only reason the last one wasn’t ‘orange’ is because that is just an awful colour. That’s why emergency traffic cones are orange. It’s a pretty loud, awful looking colour for an album. But stranger things have happened. I thought we were gonna stop naming our albums after colours with the last record - but we did not.

You mentioned before that you’re the visual artist for all of the albums as well. Do you find that’s a helpful addition to the creative process or do you find it just adds more stress after a lengthy recording process?

Well, I’m working on both all the time. Seven days a week, 24-hours a day. I don’t really make a distinction between the two. They’re just different sides of the same coin.

There’s some notable stylistic differences between the Red album, the Blue album and the Yellow & Green. Was that a conscious progression or did it naturally happen?

Well, it’s probably a bit of both. The whole philosophy of the band is that you’re always changing, you’re always adapting, you’re always growing. If we ever become comfortable with something, chances are that that’s become a stale idea. As soon as we feel that, we have a tendency to just move forward to something that’s different - just for the sake of getting outside of our comfort zone a little bit. So sometimes those changes are intentional, sometimes they’re more natural but it is always our intent and our purpose to have things changing and evolving. Otherwise I’d play a different style of music and I’d figure out a formula and I’d just write hits all the time.

Of course. The radio bangers aye?

Yeah, yeah exactly. Not that I’d know how to do that.

So, could you tell us a little about your label Abraxan Hymns?

Well we started the label really at the beginning of the last record just so we’d have an outlet to release our own records without any artistic oversight and without anybody sticking their hand in the pot or exerting some sort of control over us that we didn’t need. We’ve been doing this for a while so over time you figure out what sorts of things you as a member of the band are equipped to do - and when somebody else’s input or help is a better thing. When it comes to releasing records and writing records, we trust what we do. It’s unnecessary to have the traditional support of a label behind us in certain realms where we can represent ourselves more accurately. As a label we’re able to do what we want on our own terms. We’re able to present the band in a way that’s suited for us, not for the label who tends to go for the ‘one size fits all’ mentality.

On that note, do you think the traditional artist-label relationship is dying out with things like digital distribution?

Yeah, in many areas of the music industry it’s becoming highly irrelevant. That’s not to say that there aren’t some bands out there that benefit from it, and use it to their own advantage. We’re just not one of them. So I think for any artist that’s willing to get their hands dirty and put in a little extra work, you’re gonna feel those rewards come back to you.

For sure. Do you have other bands on your label as well or is it purely a vehicle for your own music?

Yeah, it’s just a vehicle for us to release our music. We really have no intentions of taking on the work of managing other bands and their records. It’s just so that we can experience the-ups and-downs of running a label ourselves but not be in charge of somebody else’s career. It’s our own careers that we’re worried about.

Fair enough. Do you have another record in the pipeline at the moment?

No. Not formally. I think, come the new year, it’s time to buckle down and get something done but for now we’re really just touring. We’re touring a lot on this record and seeing how far we can go with it. I think the tour we do in Australia and New Zealand will essentially be the final tour we do in 2016, potentially the final tour we do formally on this record.



Monday 5th December, The Kings Arms, Auckland


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