Wednesday 6 March 2024

An Interview With Psych Doom/Stoner Rockers THE PALADIN

Heavy Psychedelic Stoner Rockers The Paladin impressed me recently with their excellent debut album Cockroach Crusade. An album that feels inspired by bands such as ELDER, King Buffalo, Mars Red Sky, Soundgarden and DOWN. A rich tapestry of heavy DOOMED OUT and STONER based grooves which tell a fascinating story within the album.

I caught up with the band to discuss their formation, the making of the album and what influences their music.  And follow their advice from the last question held within the interview. Great words of wisdom for everyone to follow.

Hi guys. Thanks for doing the interview. How are things with you all today. For people not in the know, can you give a brief history of how the band came together and where it is today.

We had played together before, in 2008-2011. Years passed in between, but then Lord and Count felt that time would be ripe to resurrect the old fellowship, and contacted Jean the Baron. After the first weird (drunken) connection was re-established in late 2019, things started slowly moving and finally in mid-2020, we found ourselves in a new rehearsal place, picked up our instruments, and started jamming. Later, we would record our playing, and from the recorded jams, we’d pick up the best (or weirdest) riffs and start sculpting songs from them. We use the same technique even still; there’s very little composing involved in the conventional sense. Currently, we have five new, jam-based songs waiting to be rehearsed and recorded for the second album.

Why did you call yourselves The Paladin.

Probably for most people “The Paladin” sounds more or less like a name for some power metal group, which we obviously very much are not, so it emphasises the quirky nature of this band. And chivalry aside, in our vision this particular paladin is a somewhat dispirited and crestfallen character who's had enough of everything already, has dropped his rusty shield and knight’s armour somewhere without much care and in general is not quite interested in being a hero or a loyal crusader any longer. So in summary it fits us that the name might throw you off at first, but there’s also more than meets the eye. Also, most importantly, “The Paladin” sounds pretty bad-ass.

How would you describe your overall sound. Some parts are inspired by bands such as Elder, Mars Red Sky and King Buffalo. Then you change sounds that feel inspired by bands such as DOWN, Soundgarden and Alice In Chains whilst still being quite original.

Our sound has evolved quite naturally, given our jam-based principle, which allows the individual visions of each band member to fuse into something new and unique. All the bands you mentioned have definitely been on our playlists, although we haven’t intentionally drawn inspiration directly from any single band, or genre. Slightly different inspirational backgrounds and musical tastes, but a sufficiently similar understanding of the common sound perhaps create a somewhat unique end result.

We're here to talk about your new album Cockroach Crusade. What can people expect from the album and what is the creative outline or story for the album.

People can expect to become part of a diverse and surprising crusade, where each song on the album tells its own unique story, forming together a bewildering dramatic arc. Not all songs are siblings, but they're definitely related. The creation refuses to acknowledge a single truth, god, or even a clear world, and a definite direction for our journey may not have been actively sought so far. This album-making and its result have explicitly been a crusade, a journey into something that wasn't known to be sought but was recognized as our own once found.

Where did the name Cockroach Crusade for the album come from.

We felt that Cockroach Crusade encapsulates the explorative nature of the album; it is a collection of weird, otherworldly tales about personal crusades and pilgrimages, seeking truth and meaning, and admiring both the beautiful and horrid aspects of life, and world.

Was this an easy or hard album to record for.

Not really difficult, but the process was kinda long because the first tracks were recorded back in early 2022, and the post-production phase with some overdubs/synths/backing vocals etc. took some more time as the process wasn’t rushed.

Figuring out how we actually wanted the album to sound happened along the way, so the recording process included a bit of a creative phase. It's not really a matter of right or wrong, but that's how the creative process just went this time, and we might approach some things differently for the next album recording sessions.

Recording itself went rather smoothly even if the main sessions were pretty raw and intense with long hours of working. The recording took place in our rehearsal place, which basically consists of cargo containers in the middle of a Mad Max style village of similar facilities (i.e., the Hakkila Art Village in Vantaa, Finland). The place also houses a professional recording studio (Saarni studio). However, the conditions were rather harsh in the middle of Finnish winter… And the place sometimes got pretty crowded with intoxicated band members.

What is the creative process or setup within the band? Do you write the music together or do certain people within the band do that.

As described in the previous answer, most of the music comes together through jamming, so everyone contributes to the creation of the songs. Sometimes complete worlds are born where everyone is on the same orbit, while other times a certain instrument finds a groove, and then the rest just have to follow the current spiritual leader of the moment.

You're from Helsinki, Finland, What is the local live scene there. Do you have a live scene to perform gigs on a regular basis or do you have to travel further afield.

The live scene in Helsinki is quite active, although after the pandemic, many smaller places have shut down and there is still a lot of competition for underground gigs.

What future gigs have you coming up and will you be promoting the album more this year.

At the moment we haven’t secured any future gigs, but we are actively seeking opportunities to play in clubs, or festivals.

The artwork for the new album is excellent. Who designed the album cover and how much involvement did you have with the final design.

Thanks! We did it ourselves. The cover is self-produced as we were pretty adamant with our ideas for the design, but we got help and guidance from the gods of artificial intelligence, who were sometimes gracious and sometimes real fuckfaces. That's why achieving the end result required repeated creative processes and tender, and sometimes tougher, manual fixing of our dear creation using digital painting. 

After the vision of the cockroach crusade in the universe and within ourselves had emerged, we just kept searching until a suitable image for further processing appeared from the digital universe. Then we also wanted little touches of something else here and there like the desert scenery, weird space-animals and the certain kind of surreal and psychedelic space aura connecting the themes. So once we had the front cover done, we continued the same ideas further, evolving them into the art for the back cover, booklet, et cetera. The CD-version is out just now fresh from the oven and we've gotta admit the artwork looks really nice printed too, so spending so much time and effort on it was worth the while!

What bands or artists influenced you to pick up an instrument and to become a musician.

Count: I guess it's been a bit different for everyone, but at least for Count, you can say that the giants of Finnish metal from the '90s and 2000s, like Children of Bodom and Sentenced, had a hand in getting him hooked on the electric guitar. The switch to bass happened with this band, as I couldn't play the guitar anymore and only the bass was left.

Baron: I think my “big three” around the time I picked up guitar were Metallica, Aerosmith and Red Hot Chili Peppers. A bit later John Petrucci of Dream Theater became a crucial influence and made me take practicing more seriously.

Lord: I got excited about heavy metal around 11 years old, big names like Dio, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden... My first drum set was self-made out of boxes and paint cans. I have played drums in many bands since then, and I think this hobby just keeps on giving, the more engaged you become in it.

Btw, Baron took the mic in this band because none of us was really up for it, but we did not want any extra wankers in the band.

Do you have any side projects that folks can check out.

Lord beats his mushroom also with Astral Sleep!

Before you go, do you have any words of wisdom for your fans currently out there.

Wake me up before you go-go, don’t leave me hanging on like a yo-yo, wake me up before you go-go, I don’t wanna miss it when you hit that high!

Words by Steve Howe and The Paladin