Last last year, Canadian death metallers Blackguard were on their first major tour of Europe, opening up for power metal veterans Kamelot all across the continent. At their show at London’s Kentish Town Forum, Rocksins was able to catch up with Blackguard’s frontman Paul “Ablaze” Vinay for an in-depth chat. Read on for the full story…
Rocksins: Thanks for sparing some time for us, how’s it going?
Paul: It’s good! We had a long list of press to do today but we have no way of being in contact with them so I don’t even know if they’re here! *laughs* I’m just relying on them going to the merch table to find us!
Rocksins: Did you enjoy your performance earlier? Do you think it went well?
Paul: I think it went pretty well. Honestly the way this tour has been going, I think we’re about six days into the tour, the crowd reactions so far have been very civil. People aren’t losing their shit listening to us. But, we’re getting some decent some decent reactions considering I don’t think many people who know we are or might not even know we’re playing on the bill tonight or what style of music we play. We’re also considerably heavier than the other bands on the bill tonight. So, I would imagine that a lot of Kamelot fans don’t find us to be their cup of tea, we’re not exactly their style of music. These are the reactions that I expected. We are here to get our foot in the door and basically to introduce ourselves to the European markets. That’s what this tour is for us.
Rocksins: Is this the first time you’ve come to Europe?
Paul: This is actually our second time in London, we were here two years ago and we did a small solo tour, I’m not gonna say headlining bwecause I don’t like that word *laughs*. We just came by ourselves and we did maybe six or seven shows in the UK and then seven or eight shows in Germany. So we played the small O2 when we were here (in London) two years ago. It was actually a really good show, one of the best ones on the whole tour. I don’t know how many people may have come back or how many of “our fans” we may have out there but I think we got a fairly good reaction tonight, people seemed into it and I know right away that we’re not a lot of people’s first choice of the bands just because of how aggressive we are we’re not appealing to an awful lot of people but at the same time we still go on out there and we want to perform as best we can to put on the best show that we possibly can. So hopefully even for the people who don’t necessarily like the screaming or the aggressive music will think “well they’re still entertaining and still give it their all”. I want people’s respect, I don’t need them to love me. I will take respect if they don’t like me.
Rocksins: And who knows, it only takes the right person to see your performance and you may get booked on another tour..
Paul: Exactly! That’s what this is all about. This is our first proper tour of Europe. We took this opportunity when it was presented to us because we knew we needed this. We haven’t properly promoted ourselves in Europe. So when Kamelot approached us about this tour we were like “let’s do it, let’s make the best of this, even if touring with Kamelot might not be the most ideal band for us to be opening for”. We know we’re going to be playing in front of a good amount of people every night and we love those guys to death, we have such a good time with Kamelot.
Rocksins: You guys have toured with Kamelot in the US before right?
Paul: Yes, we’ve done a full US tour with them and also played in Mexico with them a couple months ago so we’ve gotten to be pretty good friends with those guys over the last couple of years. We were supposed to tour with them two years prior but that was when Roy (Khan, ex Kamelot singer) quit. We were driving from Montreal all way down to Florida which was like a fourteen….god knows how many hour drive and we found out halfway down that Roy quit and that the tour was basically cancelled.
Paul: Yeah, so that was funny. And by funny, I mean that was fucking terrible! So then a couple of years later we got the opportunity to go out with them again and we had a spectacular time. It was a great tour, Kamelot, Alestorm, us and The Agonist and we had a great time and developed a really great friendship and we’re very grateful that they’ve invited us out across Europe.
Rocksins: Is doing a tour like this quite financially difficult, do you view it more as an investment in yourselves?
Paul: Yes, financially it is extremely difficult to be doing this. We’re hoping that merch sales are gonna be ok like tonight, and that will carry us through but like you said it is an investment, this is what this is. We knew coming into it that the odds of us coming into this and making an extraordinary amount of money were not high, it just wasn’t gonna happen. If we break even it’s great, and if we lose a bit of money then that’s what we’re expecting.
Rocksins: So anything more than that is bonus.
Paul: Exactly. If by miracles we end up making some cash i’ll buy a six pack of beer and we’ll celebrate in my apartment. But it’s an investment, we’re here to make a statement and here we are!
Rocksins: Your last album came out about eighteen months ago, is this coming towards the end of the cycle for touring the album?
Paul: This is the last tour of the cycle, officially the last tour of the cycle. I mean we’ve done, Jesus Christ, in the last two years, we’ve done twelve or thirteen tours, a hell of a lot of shows. Actually I think we started the cycle officially on our little European tour two years ago, the album came out while we were in Europe.
Rocksins: So it’s all come full circle.
Paul: Exactly, it’s very ironic that we end it back here again.
Rocksins: Have you worked out when you’re going into the studio to record another one?
Paul: We’re well into the writing and the recording process right now. We’re hoping for a Spring release. We’ve been taking our time with it and we’re confident in the material we have right now. The record is almost done but we’re not going to be rushing this record, we want to make sure it’s as perfect as we can get it and that we’re all extremely happy with it. We cannot afford to put out anything less than the best album. This is going to be our fourth album released internationally…third? Our fourth record anyway, third internationally. We need to do everything we can to get ourselves to the next level. That’s also why we want to put a lot more emphasis on coming over and playing to the European market. You know we’ve done North America a lot and we’ve developed a good fanbase there. So it’s time to take a break from that and focus on Europe. That’s really what we would love to do.
Rocksins: Will you guys look to try and get booked for the festival season?
Paul: Absolutely! We were trying for that last year and we actually did get offers from certain festivals but unfortunately financially we needed a little bit more support in order to make it work so hopefully for next year after doing this tour. I just want to make a good name for ourselves as a band that performs well and that has a lot of energy and to try to develop a really good reputation.
Rocksins: Do you think you’ll carry on your relationship with Victory Records?
Paul: My god I hope so *laughs*. I hope they’re not going to drop us anytime soon! We love Victory and they treat us very well. They did a great job promoting our last CD, I see no reason why we’d want to leave them anytime soon. That would be their call *laughs*.
Rocksins: So this is the call, you guys would very much like to stay with Victory…
Paul: Yeah *laughs*. We have a great relationship with them and that can sometimes be a rarity in this business with bands and labels and managers and booking agents and whatnot so you stick with the people that want to work with you and that you have that mutual trust with.
Rocksins: You said earlier that maybe Kamelot are not the ideal band for you to be touring with musically, if you could pick a support tour for yourselves for next time you come over who would like to tour with?
Paul: I would LOVE to do it with Children Of Bodom I think that would be amazing, or Arch Enemy or Dimmu Borgir or Amon Amarth, Cradle Of Filth. We’re good mates with Ensiferum and I would kill to tour with them here because we get along so well and they have a good crowd. Our music isn’t as folky as theirs but we still have a very similar energy. I think it would just be such a fucking blast to tour with those guys. So god willing, it’ll happen.
Rocksins: Obviously you guys are from north of the border so it doesn’t affect you directly but what did you make of the Presidential election?
Paul: Oh yeah, I was reading about that earlier today that Obama won. I don’t know enough about U.S politics in order to have any real opinion on it, except for that I’ve asked US friends what they’ve thought of the candidates, Mitt Romney and Obama. They seem so divided. There are people that are not necessarily so pro-Obama but very anti-Romney. My friend Deanna in New York, we sat down and she told me about a lot of the policies Mitt wanted to bring in and it was far too conservative and religiously driven that I can’t imagine him passing some of those laws, like making abortion illegal. That kind of bullshit. Just some of the shit that’s been said during debates and press conferences and whatnot, some of the stuff that comes out of that man’s mouth is unbelievable.
You also have people who shit talk Obama saying “well what did he really do?” the last four years. It’s like OK, having Mitt Romney in office isn’t necessarily going to make things better you know? He may just as well make things far far worse. People look at what Obama didn’t do and think that Mitt Romney is going to walk in and fix everything, and it’s bullshit! And that was the mentality when Obama came into office with Bush, everyone hated Bush so much that here you have a charismatic African-American who said hope and change and all this other stuff. If I was in the States I would’ve voted for Obama too! I think what he stood for was not against what I believe at least, I’m far more liberal than I am conservative, I’m not very conservative at all *laughs*. The idea that if you can change your leadership things will automatically become better just like that is just so ass backwards and so delusional. There’s the devil you know and the devil you don’t know. Frankly both candidates have an equal opportunity of fucking things up even worse or to make things better. But you have to stick with the fundamentals. I don’t think abortion should even be an use when it comes to politics and I hate the fact that people are sometimes forced to vote in a certain way just because of issues like that. It’s the same with gun control, gun control, birth control, abortion, all the hot button issues. It all distracts from the real issues. I don’t think abortion is an actual issue, it is a personal choice. There should never be a law telling a woman she cannot get an abortion, that’s so much bullshit. So, ignore the hot button issues and get down to what really matters, running your country, that people have jobs and a roof over their head. That people can provide for themselves, the economy. Fix the economy, make sure your people are well. The rest of it? Let people figure it out by themselves. Actually I had a conversation on the ferry over with some of the guys from Kamelot about gun control and all that. It got a little heated but it was kinda interesting too. So anyways, there are real issues that are getting ignored and instead there are bullshit issues that are taking the focus, which I hate.
Rocksins: One last question, if things go as well as you’d like them to go, in twelve months time where would you like the band to be?
Paul: Well, the record will be out by then so I would hope that we would sell, what’s realistic? 5,000 units our first week and then maybe 5,000 our second week and it keeps picking up from there and maybe Alexi Laiho calls me up, he doesn’t have my number but he’ll find it and he says “Paul we need a support band, you wanna do our world tour and come to Japan with us?”. And I’ll say yes *laughs*. Then he says “good, we’re gonna pay you a lot of money”. I’d love to tour with all my favourite bands. In all seriousness in twelve months from now, if everything were to be ideal I’d like to be able to live off my music 100% and not have to worry about paying my rent when I get home and to have more opportunities to come over here again and play Europe more and more places we have seldom played before. That would be ideal.
Blackguard’s upcoming album will be titled “Storm” and is due for a release sometime in 2013, though no confirmation of a release date is currently available. Blackguard will be headlining the MS Metal Therapy charity concert tomorrow in Ottawa, Canada (2nd March 2013), which is an annual benefit dedicated to raising funds for the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada. A link to buy tickets is available here:
For more interviews with the great and the good of the metal world please keep checking back with us on a regular basis. Rocksins.com will keep readers up-to-date with any further news from the Blackguard camp, including news on the forthcoming new album.