Spanning a decade of colourful albums and conquering first the hearts of sludge fans then steadily moving on to progressive metal, Baroness are a band whose climb to the top has reached dizzying heights in a seemingly short space of time. A spanner was thrown into the works for them when a near-fatal bus crash in Bath, during their 2012 UK tour, caused founding drummer Allen Blickle and newly recruited bassist Matt Maggioni to leave the band. Fighting fit once more, they’re ready to head back to the UK complete with two new members. Following their ‘Live at Maida Vale’ EP release, Pete chats openly with the Shaman about his feelings on the line up changes as well as what it was like to work with the BBC.
You’re returning to the UK to tour this autumn – it’ll be the first time you’ve been back since the bus crash. Is everyone fighting fit once again? Are you at all apprehensive about being back on British soil and our dodgy roads?
No, I’m not. I mean, personally I’m ready to get back and play all the shows we’ve missed and just start all of this back up again. I’m just excited to get back into it and for it to be like we’ve never really stopped. John may be a little apprehensive, but I’m not trying to get back to the crash site; I don’t want to revisit those memories! I’m looking forward to it.
You’ve taken on a new bassist and a new drummer. How are they settling in? These will be the first European dates they’ve played – are they excited?
So far so good! They’re both really talented musicians so it’s been a good transition on that level. They’re still the new guys so we haven’t really gotten touring underway yet and we haven’t had to live with them in close quarters yet so we’ll find out, only time will tell. They’ve helped us out in a big way and we’re very thankful for that. They’re helping this happen and they’re helping us tour again and that’s very important. They’re doing a damn fine job.
Cream, Led Zeppelin and The Who are just a few of the bands that have recorded BBC sessions albums – how does it feel to have your EP amongst those?
It’s amazing. I remember when we were there just thinking about the endless list of musicians who’ve gone into that room, so it’s an honour really. To put this EP out is a proud moment for us and we want to share it with everybody else.
What was the experience of being featured on Radio 1’s Rock Show like for you?
It was awesome; the whole thing was just so cool. I remember growing up and getting certain records that would say ‘BBC Sessions’ on them and thinking “what does BBC mean?” – I didn’t even know what the BBC was! It’s kind of cool to look back now and think that I still have all of those records.
Any plans for a full length on the horizon?
We will start writing a new album sooner rather than later!
Do you think you’ll continue on with the colour theme? What inspired the choices to name your full lengths after primary colours?
I think we’re done with colour theme; ‘Yellow & Green’ was our last one, so where we go from there, who knows? It’s going to be a surprise to us all. John came up with the idea of colours, because he does all of our artwork, and it was a really loose idea to begin with. We just wanted, at the end of it all, to have beautiful pieces of artwork all lined up next to each other. It’s supposed to be a series and it was also to do with how many albums we’d agreed on with Relapse Records, so we gave a theme to go along with that.
Baroness are as well known for their beautiful artwork as they are their music – does the music inspire the art or is it the other way around?
A lot of it is the music inspiring the art, but it all goes hand in hand. It happens at the same time; whilst the music is being written the artwork comes together, so they inspire one another in a way.
After a decade of existence you guys are pretty much heralded as legends within the progressive metal genre – do you ever feel overwhelmed by the success you’ve achieved?
On a level, yes; it’s pretty incredible that things have gone as far as they have. We never expected any of it, we started out doing what any band knows how to do which is just get in a van and start touring. We’ve taken everything day by day and tour by tour, month by month and year by year. You just keep going back over it and you’re in an incredible spot that’s like a child-type dream. To play music all the time and to play to more and more people and get credit for what you’re doing and have people recognise it is outstanding.
Are you where you wanted/expected to be when you first started out?
No, I never expected it. I started playing in bands when I was 12 years old and I was in band after band after band. I just figured that I’d always play music for fun; I never had any expectations other than to have fun doing what I’m doing. It’s awesome that we’re doing this and I feel very fortunate. I’m thankful every day for what we’re doing and where we are.
What has been a definitive career highlight for you?
Oh shit. Well…we went on tour with Metallica! I figured I could just quit after that and die happy. I mean, who do you tour with after that?! The next highlight was playing in Mastodon when we were on tour with them. I filled in for Bill Keller who had been sick in the hospital on that tour. Mastodon are one of my favourite bands and a band that I respect very much.
Are any of you still in touch with Allen or Matt?
Yeah. Them leaving was a difficult pill to swallow. Matt had just joined the band so it was tough to see him leave but it was also tough to see Allen choose a new path and move on as he was one of the founding members of Baroness. Everything happens for a reason I think and we’ve just got to move on. I don’t think any of our fans mind too much because the new guys are doing such a good job.
Is there anything that, as a band, you’re still striving towards?
What I strive for is that the music we make stands the test of time and write music that simply outlasts us. How awesome would it be, 20 years from now, where trends come and go if your band was still pulling through? What I strive for is staying power. I want my kids to find my records and say “Oh yeah, my dad was in Baroness!” I want us to one day fall into the ‘classic’ category. I don’t care how big we get, I just want Baroness to be a band that stays relevant throughout time.
‘Live At Maida Vale’ is out now on Relapse Records.
Interviewed by: Angela Davey