Did Iron Maiden do any private shows
March 23, 2020
"Rock Stars Are Dead"Interview conducted by Manuel Berger
Yes, it is possible to fill in the footsteps of bands like Metallica and Iron Maiden! As headliners at Wacken Open Air 2019, Parkway Drive underpinned their position as the spearhead of the generation change in metal. In an interview, Shouter Winston McCall explains why this is accompanied by a paradigm shift in understanding the 'rock star' principle.
Berlin, January 22nd, 2020: Winston McCall will present the documentary "Viva The Underdogs" in the large IMAX room, which will be launched in cinemas worldwide today. Parkway Drive, the five wave-riding metalcore kids from Byron Bay, bring people not only to crowd surfing en masse, but also to sit still in plush armchairs. You can see how the band conceives their "Reverence" tour, plans the stage show, shares anecdotes from their own history and inexorably rolls towards the biggest concert of their career so far - the headlining gig at the 30th Wacken Open Air.
Parkway Drive are now releasing a recording of this performance as a live album "Viva The Underdogs" - and they have another surprise up their sleeves: German versions of three of their songs. Casper helped them with the implementation. Winston McCall explained to us the day after the cinema premiere how the collaboration with the rapper went and looks back on 15 years of Parkway Drive.
An interesting chain dangled around your neck yesterday. What's up with her?
Ah, that was Nick Cave's "Red Right Hand". I bought one on his tour - one for me, one for my wife. And since I was so far away from my wife, I figured I'd wear this for her at the premiere. Maybe a little sentimental, haha.
Nick Cave is one of your idols right?
Number 1! I wouldn't say "Idol" but as someone I look up to as an artist, he's definitely number 1. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds as a band. It's phenomenal to watch them. This quality of performance and art! As someone who does something like that, to feel the effect of what you are doing is like magic. It is incredible to see and feel that. It just hits you. And: incredible lyrics!
During the "Skeleton Tree" tour he set up a walkway right in front of the audience and so came very close to the fans throughout the show. There is a similar element in your show: Instead of going on stage normally, you start every concert behind the audience and walk across the venue in a torchlight procession - or across the infield at festivals. Actually totally simple, but with an enormous impact - hardly anyone does that anyway. Whose idea was that?
My! We heard people say about our shows: "It was crazy. What will happen next time? Will they burn it all away"We didn't want to be a band that started an arms race and just dropped bigger and bigger bombs. We like reinterpretation, stimulation and unpredictability. The idea was to start the show with something you would never expect. And that was: The band stands behind me. (laughs) And not only that. We knew once people got it, the show would start with face-to-face human interaction. It's all well and good that all that crazy blasting takes place afterwards, but you establish a connection right away. The rock star is dead before anything happens. The concept seems simple, but imagine if I had to walk past every visitor in a 10,000-person arena or at the Wacken Open Air and come to the stage without people knowing that I was coming. Every night I sincerely hope that we can make it forward! When I introduced the idea to the rest of the band, the answer came: "Impossible. People will stop us. We won't get to the stage. It's going to be a nightmare."No, have confidence. Have confidence that people will get that. We have cool fans. That's what it should be about. And it's the same every evening: you can look people in the face!
When did you try this for the first time?
At the start of the "Reverence" tour. I think the first concert of the tour took place in Hamburg and that's where we did it for the first time. When we ran out, torches in hand, all I saw at first was a sea of telephones pointing in the other direction. We started walking and the people were annoyed: "What the fuck, stop it, I'm trying ... OH SHIT!" (laughs) That was a cool concept. The hardest part is always figuring out the best way to get on stage, when and how to start the show. The beginning and the end are the most important parts of the evening, because these are the first and last impressions.
The highlight of this tour was your appearance as the headliner at Wacken Open Air 2019, where you recorded the new live album. There you can be heard saying it would be the best show of your life so far. What made this gig so special for you?
It was all! Wacken was the most important booking of our career because I think we were the first band of a much younger generation that was given the opportunity to headline this festival. Take a look at the legends who were already listed as headliners at this prestigious event ... Wacken has a reputation, a history, a culture! And then the name Parkway Drive comes up and we knew we were just five guys from a small town in Australia who now have to follow legends. As a new band in this role, you have pressure. What if something goes wrong? Always in the back of your mind that more is at stake than ever before.
We were scared until five minutes before the start of the concert. And then we looked outside and saw: Everyone is there! Everyone would watch this! No clouds, no rain, no wind. We were sure: "Okay, this is going to be awesome!"From that point on it got better and better and better. It was just the perfect show. It was the biggest show, the most prestigious show, the most fun show. Our families were there! Everything about it was great. And luckily we got it too a very good recording.
Which moment of the Wacken performance do you remember particularly well?
The moment when people moved on Bottom Feeder. A L L E jumped. It went so far back that it sometimes happened with a time delay because of the relay towers. It wasn't just going up and down - it was like a wave lapping all the way back. I had never seen anything like it in my entire life. We looked at each other and just thought: "Oh. My. God!"You don't forget that.
"I have friends who think we're billionaires"
Wacken is also the anchor point of your documentary "Viva The Underdogs", which was shown in cinemas worldwide in January. Do you really still feel like an underdog as the headliner of some of the biggest festivals in the world?
It's difficult to see us like this now. But to be honest, yes: we still have this attitude! Nothing has changed for us. Success came and that's really, really great. But it's still part of our identity. It's part of our work ethic. Even with all that success, at the core it still comes down to us. Nobody else will carry the burden with us. It's still a hell of a lot of work. We are definitely a success story - no question about it. And we are in a fantastic position without a doubt. But the underdog part is still in us. That's what matters.
We've always had this underdog mentality. When we started making the film, we hoped it would turn out to be a success, but the central idea was just to show what it's like to be part of this band and how much work goes into it. I don't think anyone could have predicted that Parkway Drive would get to where we are today. This band's trip was a surprise to everyone. All the way we felt like we had to fight for every single step - because nobody saw us coming. We had to trust ourselves. With this attitude you will feel like the underdog - from day 1.
We were really lucky that this turned out to be a success. The film could also have been a documentary about trying and failing. Sometimes it also shows failure. It’s never easy. You watch some of our worst nightmares happen on stage. And when we fail, we not only miss ourselves, but also all the people behind the scenes. If we screw something up, we might never get another show. People might think the band sucked or the booking agent might say, "They screwed up, we don't work with them anymore."You feel that as the person in charge. But we want people in this film to see that you can fail from time to time and that it's okay. Ultimately, we're all human.
The documentary isn't just about Parkway Drive, it's also about the future of rock and metal. How do you react to the famous phrase 'rock is dead'?
Is not he. I think rock stars are dead. The concept of rock stars and rock startum that you see when you watch movies like "Rocketman" and "Bohemian Rhapsody", this mythology of rock and roll as excess, with millions of dollars, Jets, gold records and drug problems everywhere - this is a thing of the past. It may still exist in a very small version these days, but it is no longer the same.
However, that doesn't mean the music is dead. That doesn't mean the ghost is dead. It just means that there is a new evolution in the sound. That's one of the reasons why we wanted to bring the film out. I still have friends who don't understand what I'm doing. They think Parkway Drive is huge and we are billionaires. "Huh, you fly economy class with just one tiny seat on the plane? Don't you have a private jet?"Fuck no! People actually still believe that this is a reality in rock. And then there are those from that era who claim:"Rock and roll is dead."No, you just don't care anymore. You don't care what's new. What you do may be dead - but what I do matters.
Where do you personally see the future of metal? Are you a part of it?
I would love to be part of it. I also believe that we are part of it. You can't deny that this band continues to grow. The growth is already considerable. The crowd that stands behind us, that comes to our shows and listens to our music - nobody can take that away from us. You can't fake human interaction. That's great. Where do I see the future? I think there's a lot of great new music coming up. The future always lies in authenticity. We are in an exciting time where, thanks to technology, changing attitudes and the willingness to experiment, bands are starting to develop things that sound like nothing else before, and there are bands that are snapping up old concepts and renewing them. We're at a point where people are open to new sounds. It was difficult a few years ago. The biggest bands that came up did something old. They said: "Oh, you sound like Led Zeppelin. Great."But is this really the future? Should it really be a band that does the same thing as someone else? I think new sound is the future. But what exactly that will be, we will only know when it works for everyone. Then magic happens, then progress happens.
The journey from local clubs to the top of international festival stages took you 15 years - quite fast for a metal band these days. What do you think was the key to that?
Is that fast? I'm not sure. If you live it, 15 years sounds like a long time. At the same time, I don't see any point where everything could have been accelerated. But what has always fascinated me about metal: If we got to this point quickly and it took 15 years, then it was 15 years entirely dedicated to our art form. And if it took other bands that long in the past, it will have been the same. After such a period of time, you must have passion. You can't have trusted a hype, a viral hit, or a pop blast. It's hard work and dedication and a real connection with the fans. I always celebrate when I see bands that have that sort of thing. Take Metallica and Iron Maiden: they are still active, they still produce great art, they are very good at what they do and they are obviously passionate about it. As Metallica grew up, there were pop stars who grew up for a year and then disappeared. They no longer exist and their art form is totally irrelevant. Then you look at the metal and the people's dedication to quality - they will always hold on to it. That culture makes us so strong in metal I think.
Despite Parkway Drives' enormous growth, you still manage yourself. Is that one of the secrets of your success?
It's definitely part of it. Maybe it stopped us a bit, but overall it probably didn't. That's just how we work as a band. Much of what we do we can do simply because we have the financial means to do it. And the only way we can do that is by doing jobs ourselves that would otherwise cost us money. We don't hire a set design company to produce our show. There's no show production team - that's just the band. There's no management team - that's the band. The production team is our people, our engineers and the band. That means we invest in what we believe we can do. We then put what we've saved into a bigger realization, spend more time in the studio, and create a crazier stage show. Let your imagination run wild.
So yes, it could very well be part of the secret of success. But at the same time it is of course not easy. If the secret is: "Work your ass off every single day of your life"It takes passion. This is work every day of the year. I live Parkway Drive and I do something for it. I don't wake up thinking,"Oh my god, work again"But the reality is this: You can't let go, you have to be wide awake all the time. The passion keeps you wide awake. When you wake up with passion and answer it, it doesn't feel like work.
You have a very clear distribution of roles within the band. You are the speaker, not only on stage, but generally in the center of public awareness. What is the biggest challenge for you?
It is much work. For example, I'm flying to Europe alone for a week, just for interviews. I'm practically alone on tour. That is hard. Leaving your family is always the toughest thing. But I think the biggest challenge is: when I'm the face of the band, people come to me first - also to talk shit. (laughs) And the bigger you are, the more people have shit to say. I've completely disconnected myself from social media because it's just too difficult to deal with. You always say like this: "Just ignore it. Don't look at the comments."It touches you anyway. And it's mentally heavy on you. You can't make things unseen and unheard. But the reality is: We are on stage and the love of this connection there is indescribable. That supports you and is your reality check. You notice: there is something special. But always being the face and the first point of identification is tough. You have to keep your shield up all the time.
Does it sometimes get difficult to maintain the sense of community in the band when you are constantly in the center of attention in public?
Partly partly. What was really tough was figuring out what sacrifices it takes as a band when you are in control of everything and 15 years of your life go by. Everyone in the band works so hard and we always thought: don't stop, don't show any weakness - if you break and one part stops, the whole thing is fucked. But if you're not talking to each other while you're just focused on survival, it's easy to forget to check that everyone is okay. I do what I do because none of the others really want to do it. (laughs) The others used to be rather shy during interviews. And when there are interviews now, I'm just good at talking. I write all the texts, I like to talk and I think I've gotten pretty good at interviews by now. That can be a challenge. If you're in the spotlight and someone asks you a question, you can't go with "uh, hm, yep"stutter to you ...
And you have to be able to keep it up all day.
That too. And when the five of us sit in an interview, I'm still just babbling. Then when someone asks the others: "And what do you think?", come back: "What Winston said ..." (laughs) We are still a very strong unit. With everything that happens, you learn how you can still be human, friend and family at the same time. It's not always the same, but you have to be smart enough to grow. We all in the band had to grow.
Has your idea of what it means to be an artist and a musician changed over time?
One hundred percent! That is also the reason why the music is changing. Every role we play means personal growth in some way. And that carries over to art. Jeff (Ling; A.d.R.) became the primary guitar songwriter and took on production duties. He has expanded his knowledge of how music works, what he can do on a guitar and everything to do with it. The same goes for me as a primary copywriter. My lyrics have changed completely. My vocal performance changes. What I want people to understand about music in interviews is changing. What we put into these roles directly affects what we want to create. If we weren't happy with it, we wouldn't have done it, we would have done something differently. But all of this allows so much growth and enjoyment.
We didn't start this band to do something that was uninspiring and boring, but because it was fun and new. If you play a song a thousand times, it's no longer new or fun - it becomes routine. Developing and constantly learning is at the core of this band. It just goes on and on and on because we still burn for it. We're still looking for a new sound, new roles, new meaning. The day we lack inspiration will be the day we stop playing. I often refer to it as a job, but it's just as much a passion. It's a passion that has turned into a career. But this would be nothing without passion.
As the reach grows, so does the responsibility. This became very clear in the wake of the bush fires in Australia recently, when you actively used your reach to encourage people to help. Do you feel comfortable in this role?
It's a tough role, but yeah - I do. I am honored to be able to do this. But it's hard to figure out how to make the best use of that responsibility. I was really happy how people reacted to it. To everyone who gave or simply paid attention to it, know that your gestures to Australia have given us hope in a very difficult time. We have never had anything like it before. To see that the people who follow and support us were there not only for us but also for everyone else in this country when it was hurt is the most powerful thing we can achieve with this band. I can't describe how it felt when people started donating and shaking hands with us - if only with a few words of encouragement. That was incredible.
"Casper understands the music"
For "Viva The Underdogs" you recorded three of your songs with German lyrics as a bonus. How did that come about?
It was more of an accident. The majority of our road crew are Germans. Our tour manager Oise (Ronsberger; A.d.R.) is German. Oise likes to sing Parkway Drive songs when he's walking around backstage and working. One day he sang "Vice Grip" and sprinkled a German line. We thought that was pretty cool and wanted to know how the next line goes. He sang that too and it worked. So the idea was born. We were curious to hear a full song in the style. Oise said: "Okay, if you guys think about it, I can give Casper a hit. He can translate the lyrics for you."Because of course I still don't speak German. We're still ignorant Australians.
The idea was to further strengthen the connection to our fans. We have been touring Germany for 13 years. Nowhere do we play bigger. I have great respect for the people and the language - and while I still haven't learned that language, people still sing with us in English. So maybe we can give this back as a gift now. Now you have your own versions of these songs. As cheap as it may sound, we chose the songs because of their existing connection to the audience. People already sing along to these songs - but in English, of course. Now we want to express the following: "When you sing, you can build an even deeper connection when you sing in your language.“The songs also had to be translatable. We have tried a few others where it simply did not work to maintain the original concept due to the number of syllables and sound.
How was it for you to sing and shout in German?
I gave everything to make sure it wasn't just an Australian bastard version of German. My approach was to get the pronunciation as correct as possible. The project began for us with a "stranglehold". I had to put my ignorant English tongue over German and learn the nuances of the language. There are some sounds and certain pronunciations that just don't exist in English. That was a real challenge, especially for the memory. It's hard to remember song lyrics anyway, but remembering and singing lines in a language you don't know, that you haven't been familiar with for a lifetime and that you have no pictures of the words in your head is really difficult . I sang just one line a day for an hour for three days. After three days I knew it by heart, then it went to the second line and so on. You can imagine how long the entire song took. But when it all slowly came together, that was pretty cool. We realized that this can work. When the memory got used to it, it was okay to really learn German. Memory was the hardest part.
You mentioned that Casper translated the lyrics for you. In "shadow boxing" he also works as a guest rapper. How did you actually get to know him?
We have known Casper for a couple of years. Our tour manager Oise was also his tour manager once. Plus he was a hardcore kid himself, so he understands the music. We always had a little contact with him. He liked the idea so we tried demos with him. It started with "Vice Grip". But then he came to a show and started singing "The Void" in German and said: "That reminds me of Metallica!"Okay, maybe we can do two songs. And then we thought - even on this tour:"Why don't we get Casper as a guest on 'Shadow Boxing' and do a full collaboration?"
"Shadow boxing" was the most ambitious but also the most interesting part of the project - the first Parkway Drive collaboration ever! It wasn't just about having a guest singer sing something that we had written. We mixed the English original with some German lines from me and then we gave the song concept to Casper and said: "Spin freely! You don't have to sing what was in the original text. Give us what the song means to you. Do what you do best."And what he does, he does very, very well. We had no idea what would come of it. It was a very dynamic song anyway, but now there are more shifts - a total roller coaster ride!
This is how three songs came about. If ever there was a right time for it, it was now, after we shot a documentary that was mainly set in Germany. We didn't even see that at first, but that's the way it is now. Now you get your own songs too!
Where do you see yourself and Parkway Drive in another 15 years?
How old will I be in 15 years? Jesus, 53 or 52! I'll tell you something crazy: I think we'll still be doing this in 15 years. And I wonder what my voice will sound like then ... The great thing is that right now I'm feeling a huge desire and hunger to keep going and being creative. It feels like we're just getting started. After 15 years in the middle of it all, that's a sick feeling! I hope I can feed this hunger, this drive. It feels great to have a passion and create art with these people. As a group, we are so much stronger. I can't do this alone. I can't write music, I can't play anything. With all of these things, I build my imagination on the people I trust and with whom I enjoy working so much. Together we all do the same: We collect our ideas and concepts, combine them and create something special out of them. I hope we can continue this as long as we are physically able. This is what fulfills me. It's part of me. I don't know if we will be a bigger or a smaller band, if we will tour more or less. I just hope we can move on - because right now that's all I want to do.
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