Am 1. August traten Baroness im restlos ausverkauften und dementsprechend überfüllten heißen 59:1 in München auf. Kurz vor der Show trafen wir uns mit Sänger, Gitarrist, Songwriter und Mastermind der Band John Baizley und sprachen mit ihm über ihre neue Platte Yellow & Green, über ihre ewige Suche nach neuen Herausforderungen, das ewige Touren und über das Herausbrechen aus standardisierten Denkweisen. “We will always be a working progress and hopefully we’ll never reach the end” – John Baizley.
Alles Was Rockt Are you nervous before playing a show or not at all?
John Baizley No, not at all. I think it’s because I’m doing this for so long. But that doesn’t make me nervous anymore. It used to.
Alles Was Rockt Do you know how many shows you have played so far?
John Baizley I think we are getting close to 1700 or 1800 shows.
Alles Was Rockt Wow!
John Baizley Yeah, it’s been quite a few.
Alles Was Rockt Within which time span?
John Baizley Within 9 years.
Alles Was Rockt So you kind of got addicted to touring, huh?
John Baizley Yeah, yeah, yeah! It’s really on of the big reasons why we started playing music to begin with. Even when we are not making money, we are at least paying for the travel that we do and I have gotten to see the world for the past ten years. That’s a great experience, it’s been eye-opening. And I’m a different person because of it. That’s awesome for me.
Alles Was Rockt What’s kind of the bad side of touring? Not seeing your family and your daughter?
John Baizley That’s the big one for me, missing family and stuff. Tomorrow it’s my daughter’s third birthday and I have to miss that. And it’s actually very difficult, that part. But this has become what I do and my daughter has never known me to do other than playing music and neither has my wife.
Alles Was Rockt Your family isn’t coming with you on tour?
John Baizley No, they would hate it because it’s late night every night. There’s a lot of obligations and it would be more difficult for them to be on tour than to be off of it.
Alles Was Rockt You’re on a permanent search for new musical challenges. I think some people might hate it and some love it. Thrice for example are permanently doing other music from record to record. What do you think about people who hate such changes?
John Baizley I don’t tend to judge large groups of people. For me it’s not a good thing and it`s not a bad thing. It’s just the way some people enjoy their music and enjoy their art through consistency and repitition and that’s not what we do and that has never been a goal of ours. So for people who want to listen to this band just stay inside of a very small box with what they do. We’re not a good band for those people and that’s fine because there’s plenty of bands that never do anything different. So you’ve got plenty of choices besides our band. For us it’s about that challenge and moving forward.
Alles Was Rockt With Baroness they say it’s sludge, progressive or post-metal and other genres. What do you think about putting music or bands into categories?
John Baizley I disagree with those tags as accurate descriptions. And for a lot of bands I don’t think there’s a good way to sum up anybody’s band. But it’s sort of an necessary evil. That’s how people discover music. If you’re in the heavy metal and somebody say’s we are a heavy metal band and somebody will check it out. I don’t think we are a heavy metal band. I don’t think we are a sludge band and all these things. I think we play music but I think that’s too vague for most people.
Alles Was Rockt Regarding Yellow & Green you once stated that it’s pretetious as all the texts, songtitles and art work is enough for the people. But couldn’t you say that two records is also pretentious?
John Baizley Absolutely. So our job, our obligation is to try to remove some of the pretense from that. Because the reason that we put out two CDs is because we wrote sooo much music last year. We couldn’t let it rest. We had to release this music and it didn’t seem a 70 minute-record would be good so we decided to break it up into two – make it easy to digest and hopefully try to keep people from calling it other than a double record. That’s it, just a bunch of songs.
Alles Was Rockt But it is a double record.
John Baizley It is, it is. So we are fundamentally at odds with our own pretentiousness i guess (laughing).
Alles Was Rockt (Laughing) That’s your statement.
John Baizley (Laughing) … but not that I laugh at it.
Alles Was Rockt What were your inspirations for the record in general?
John Baizley This is a really simple concept but it’s very difficult to achieve. But what we did was we tried to strip away all the artifice and we just tried to write about what was happening to us. 2011 was a difficult year for me personally. I had plenty of shit happening to me that I needed to write about.
Alles Was Rockt Could you tell an example?
John Baizley No, not really. Because I think if I explained my experience with it then in some way I’m telling you what you have to think about my music in a way and sort of giving away the story. And I think one of the things we alway try to do is present pieces of the story but give our audience kind of their own… a blank page if you want… to have their own experience with the music.
Alles Was Rockt So that everyone who listenes to your music could interpret it in his or her own way.
John Baizley Exactly. So if it’s for fun, it’s just for fun. And if you want to get serious and deep on it, there’s certain material there to investigate.
Alles Was Rockt But you wrote a lot of songs in the first person narrative.
John Baizley Yeah. So obviously it has become more personally, it has become more exposed and part of that process has been allowing myself being more comfortable writing like that. Because I’m learning now that it can be a real challenge to give that much away every night. You know I can drain things from you. But on the same hand part of the reason I’m doing that is to get that negativity out of me. But you just have to be careful the way that it goes out and how much of it you give.
Alles Was Rockt Have you been afraid of writing lyrics in the first person narrative?
John Baizley For this record, yeah. I think it was uncomfortable doing it. So I shied away from it and I sort of basically said “Fuck it, I’m too old not to say how I feel about things.” I still think I can be pretty vague through the lyrics. I’m working to something that’s genuine and straightforward and everything like that. And we are not there yet. We will always be a working progress and hopefully we’ll never reach the end, you know what I mean?
Alles Was Rockt Sure!
John Baizley Yeah, it slightly goes off a little bit. But that’s how you have to portray.
Alles Was Rockt But there’s no superior thematic concept of the record?
John Baizley No, it’s not a concept record. It’s not a theme record. It’s more in that classic tradition of human experience through the eyes of the musicians.
Alles Was Rockt You said that you had problems last year and so on. Could you say that writing the lyrics is kind of an occupational therapy for yourself?
John Baizley Absolutely. In writing the music, writing the lyrics, making art-work, it’s the receptacle that I dump all of my frustrations, angers, dispairs and emotions into. Because of the way that that vessel accepts what I be put into it I would never take away any nonpositive from all these things. I see that as the unique thing about making our music or whatever it is, is you can channel the negative stuff into something positive.
Alles Was Rockt Into energy.
John Baizley Yeah, literally. That’s what it feels to me in a sense. That’s what it has become.
Alles Was Rockt There was this story with Summer Welch. Before he left the band you have already written the whole bass lines. Are you writing all the drum lines, bass lines and so on…?
John Baizley No no no (laughing).
Alles Was Rockt I thought: What is he doing all the time?
John Baizley (Laughing) I did write all the bass lines. And I normally have. But it wasn’t a big challenge to record them all. It was kind of fun actually.
Alles Was Rockt Do you also do that with your new bass player?
John Baizley Oh, we haven’t written new songs since we recorded. So I don’t know, I’m not quite sure. I like writing bass lines, that’s fun!
Alles Was Rockt There was one thought I had, because you had the colors blue, red, yellow and green: I though before releasing Yellow & Green – why not saying it is the Black Album from Metallica as Metallica made with that record a break with thrash metal and you also made a break with metal.
John Baizley I don’t know, I don’t think you can say that. We were just writing music. We had no idea what it was going to sound like until it was done. To me it’s not that super different – all the core fundamentals were there. It’s more melodic, for sure. But it’s not like a break. We are the same band, we’re still doing the same thing.
Alles Was Rockt How do you choose the colors? Is there something behind that?
John Baizley Not much. The idea was to have that it’s kind of giving our audience a very open-ended concept of what the record is so that as I have mentioned it before you can take from it what you want. The colors aren’t meant to push you in any one direction or the other. They’re just sort of the starting points for us. Because everything else on the record is so heavy and so dense. Here’s the one part of it that’s kind of it like, you know.
Alles Was Rockt Is it difficult for you to pick out songs for the live shows?
John Baizley No, we just pick them out random. We pick the ones out we like playing the most.
Alles Was Rockt In prior shows to Munich you played a lot of Blue Record songs..
John Baizley Yeah, we’re still playing a lot of them. We’re just introducing the new stuff. It’s a slow process cause we have to figure out how to let the songs live on stage. It’s different than in the studio.
Alles Was Rockt Do you have similar live shows or is it always the set list?
John Baizley No, we change it as much as we can. We’ve been on tour for a couple of months now and Matt is very new to the band. A lot of it is about getting him familiar with a lot of our material and all the new material. And that’s to 30 or 40 songs with this staff he’s got to learn. So we play the stuff that we are most familiar with at this point.
Alles Was Rockt You reached the 20th position on the Billboard Charts with Relapse Records. What do you think about that?
John Baizley (Laughing) Yeah! I think it’s cool. It is what it is – the Billboard Charts (laughing).
Alles Was Rockt What did the label say?
John Baizley I think the label was quite released with it. Clearly. It’s not the sort of thing that gets me going too hard but if it’s an indicator of some growth for the band then that’s great.
Alles Was Rockt There’s a German musician called Thomas Meinecke. He’s from an avantgarde band…
John Baizley Called what?
Alles Was Rockt F.S.K. He said rock is the real thing and pop is more kind of a theater. Pop tries to seduce people and lead them into a false direction. Why I say that – with your band: You don’t play metal anymore.
John Baizley Is it pop? I don’t think it’s pop. Pop music to me I think is just defined very simply as music which is meant for consumption. And I think in that definition of pop when differenciating between rock music and pop music. I don’t think we’re pop. I think there are more accessible elements of our music but I don’t think that in any way shape or form makes it pop music.
Alles Was Rockt But I think that people could say that you’re selling out or something like that.
John Baizley Many people who listen to brutal or more avantgarde types of music might say this is more pop than the stuff I typically listen to. But we would sound like Morbid Angel next to Madonna. And we sound like Madonna next to Morbid Angel. So it’s really your perspective and advantage point. I have chosen not to plant my feet in any one genre so I can just look at it and call it just music. I think the subject matters too weighty for pop music and I think that rock sometimes can imply high spirited fun music and I think what we do is something different than that. So it’s hard for me to really agree with anything you know… I don’t know it’s just the band I play with and I think that’s something different from all other bands. It’s a special thing for me.
Alles Was Rockt You don’t do so many music videos. Don’t you want to?
John Baizley I just don’t care that much. I’m doing it if it’s fun if it’s a cool project we get involved. But like so many things, there are much better uses for our time than making music videos.
Alles Was Rockt Like art-work.
John Baizley Yeah, doing art-work and writing new music and tour.
Alles Was Rockt One last question. You know the band The Mars Volta? That’s also a band I want to compare to Baroness as Cedric, the mastermind of the band. When he finishes one record, then he’s one or two years ahead with the next records which is really crazy. Is it with you the same?
John Baizley Whenever I finish one record I make it a point to start writing a new one. Just so that there’s is no break in the continuing. So I’ve already sort of pre-thinking ideas and actually last night I was laying in the bus and I wrote most of the song so I have to remember it now so at home I can actually write it down.
Alles Was Rockt So you don’t have software or papers to write it down?
John Baizley It was just in my head last night.
Alles Was Rockt So you do songwriting on tour?
John Baizley Yeah, it happenes. But it’s hard on tour though.
Alles Was Rockt Thank you very much!
John Baizley Thank you! Thank you for taking the time. It was nice to meet you.