Interview by: Brian Cross – Photos by: Diana Guay
Following their set opening for Hypocrisy at the Worcester Palladium on May 28, 2010, we spoke with Blackguard vocalist Paul Ablaze about the rigors of constant touring, their numerous gigs at the Palladium, the band’s name changes, the rivalry with Swashbuckle, and the upcoming album. Plus…a cameo appearance by a surprise guest!
MPJ — It’s been one tour after another with you guys; how do you sleep?
PAUL — We don’t! Not at all. Between writing and rehearsing, we don’t sleep. We don’t work, we’re poor. In all seriousness, the schedule’s been rough, but we knew exactly what we were getting into, especially this first year, and this is exactly what we wanted. We wanted to be on the road as much as possible, and just try to make as big of an impact as we could this first year. Because the first year’s always the most important. So, we’re really happy with the way things turned out. We couldn’t be happier with all of our booking agents and everyone who was behind the band and pushing for us to be on these tours, and all of the bands that were gracious enough to take us along. This is great! This is what we’ve always wanted!
MPJ — Blackguard have performed at the Worcester Palladium four times in less than a year, with even more shows on the way. It’s like you live here.
PAUL — I wish I lived here! Seriously, Worcester for us is one of our biggest markets. We love it here. Especially me; I kind of have a personal attachment to this place because for the past six years I’ve been coming to the New England Metal and Hardcore Fest here. Every year, except this past year was the first one I missed. I’ve seen so many bands on this [downstairs] stage and on the [upstairs] side stage that we just played. I’ve seen some of my favorite groups; every time I came here, I said, “Man, I can’t wait to one day play these stages!” It had an impact on me. I was always excited to play here, and first time we came was on the big stage with Paganfest, our first ever tour. I was so freakin’ happy!
MPJ — What’s your “dream tour”?
PAUL — You know what? I kinda gotta cut that into two. My dream tour in front of gigantic, huge crowds would be, I don’t know…I guess it would be something like opening up for Iron Maiden. Or even Children of Bodom, Dimmu Borgir, Cradle of Filth, something like that. You know, really big bands. Being able to play in front of really huge crowds. That’d be fantastic! On a smaller scale, I’d love to do a tour with Municipal Waste, because their fans are insane. I’d like to think that we’re a high energy band with high energy music, and I’d love to play in front of a crowd where all they want to do is circle pit and stage dive. Because that’s what I love to see! That’s all I want from a crowd is to go absolutely nuts!
MPJ — The circle pit Blackguard caused at Summer Slaughter 2009 was ridiculous. You guys had it going all the way across the floor!
PAUL — Yeah, that was awesome! That was so much fun.
MPJ — What caused the slight shift in sound from your early days as Profugus Mortis to modern Blackguard?
PAUL — The way I like to look at it is that a lot of those songs that were on the very first record, “So It Begins…” — which was released independently by Prodisk in Montreal — a lot of those songs were written four, five, or six years prior to that CD even being released! So that CD in and of itself kinda chronicles an evolution of the band. All of the core elements in that record are still prevalent in the [Blackguard] “Profugus Mortis” record that came out a year ago. For me, it’s more about refining the sound and becoming better musicians and better songwriters, and that’s what caused the change. We’re growing as songwriters, we’re growing as musicians, we’re able to do a lot more than we were before. That’s definitely going to cause a shift of some kind.
MPJ — Why the name change from Profugus Mortis to Blackguard?
PAUL — The name change happened because when we started talking with Nuclear Blast [Records] in Europe to release the CD over there, they were telling us — and we already kinda knew this — that a lot of bands had very similar names to Profugus Mortis. They asked us if we’d consider changing the name; it wasn’t forced upon us, at all. Actually, before we released our first record “So It Begins…”, we wanted to change the name then, but we couldn’t come up with something! So we kinda left it as is, we’ll stay as Profugus Mortis, whatever. So when Nuclear Blast kind of opened that door again, we were like okay, let’s give it a shot, let’s think about it and we’ll see what we can come up with. We came up with Blackguard, and we were like “This is a great name!” Everyone was behind it, so we made the change, and that’s the long of short of why we did it. It wasn’t just because the label asked us to; in the end, we all wanted it.
MPJ — And you still named the most recent album after your old band name, anyway.
PAUL — That was done on purpose to help people with the change. Testament did the same thing; they used to be called The Legacy, but changed their name and then named a record after their old name.
MPJ — What can you tell us about the upcoming album?
PAUL — We’re working really freakin’ hard on it!
(At this point, Swashbuckle guitarist Commodore RedRum walked by and “crashed” the interview.)
REDRUM — Are you really, Paul Ablaze?
PAUL — No, no, we’re not, actually. When I go home I masturbate constantly. I don’t have time to write lyrics.
REDRUM — That’s cool.
PAUL — How about you?
REDRUM — I write lyrics all the time.
PAUL — Pirate lyrics?
REDRUM — About you. About sexy you are.
PAUL — “Raw Doggin’ at the Raw Bar!”
REDRUM — It’s about you.
PAUL — Fuckin’ bitches and eatin’ oysters.
REDRUM — It’s about you having sex with me.
PAUL — Get out of here! Get out of my interview!
(RedRum walks away laughing.)
PAUL — God damn it. (everyone laughs) Yeah, we’re working really hard on the CD, we started writing songs for this as early as Summer Slaughter. On our tour with Epica [this past winter], we brought recording equipment with us backstage, wherever we could find a quiet room. I actually demoed vocals in that little hallway we walked by, just around the corner! It turned out terrible. (laughs) We were working really hard; we wanted to have the CD about by the Kamelot tour [this fall], but we were under a lot of pressure and we felt that the material we had was not up to scratch. We actually have a full record’s worth of material, but we’re going to go back and rework a lot of it. We’re going to take all the time we need to put out the best record we can. We’re not willing to just throw this out. We need to make this the absolute best thing. This has to top “Profugus Mortis,” this has to top everything that’s out in the market right now.
MPJ — Does it have a title yet?
PAUL — Not even close! (everyone laughs) Actually, there was a working title: “Dynamis,” which is an ancient Greek word that means “the will to fight.” It also means “power” and a bunch of other things. That was just a working title; whether that actually stays the name, I have no idea. We’re going to keep working on it. We’re ending this tour in a couple of days, and we have three months off, and we’re just going to work our butts off to get more songs done, and hopefully the record will take shape from there.
MPJ — What started your “rivalry” with Swashbuckle?
PAUL — They’re dicks. (laughs)
MPJ — This sounds so familiar…
PAUL — They’re dicks, and they’re prejudiced against French people. Which doesn’t affect me, because I’m not all that French, even though I live in Québec, and I’ve lived in Québec my whole life. I don’t speak with an accent. So I don’t take offense to their French slurs. Yeah, Admiral NoBeard’s a dick. There’s really nothing more than that. I mean, I love the guy, but he’s a dick.
MPJ — What pranks have you pulled on them while touring?
PAUL — I call them “Alestorm” all the time on stage. “Give it up for Alestorm, for opening the show!”
MPJ — Ouch. That’s cutting deep.
PAUL — Even better: when we were in Milwaukee, I turned to the Admiral at the merch table and said, “Johnny Depp called, and he said you guys are finally gay enough to be in the next ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ movie.” He calls us “faggots” all the time, it’s pretty funny. Whatever! I just try to hit him back, but nothing works.
MPJ — He’s too quick?
PAUL — He’s an immovable object. He’s an oak.
MPJ — Any final words for your fans?
PAUL — Stay tuned for some awesome, epic tunes that are bound to come out of us at some point or another. (laughs) Get ready for the Kamelot tour; we’re trying to have two new songs aside from “Farewell” to start showing people what we’re doing. Because frankly, I’m tired of playing the same setlist! You can only do so much with thirty minutes! Or twenty minutes! We can’t wait for the Kamelot tour; that takes place from mid-September to mid-October. It’s Kamelot, Leaves’ Eyes, and us. And after that, in mid-November, we have us, Mutiny Within, Scar Symmetry, and our good buddies in Epica. Can’t wait to hit the road with them! It’s gonna be killer, I can’t wait for that. Thanks for all of the support!