Interview: Blackguard-Defenders Of The North

Posted by Morgan Ywain Evans on Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 10:46 PM (PST)

Paul “Ablaze” Zinay, lead vocalist of Blackguard, wants to make something very clear. “Ok, first of all we’re not Pagans and we’re not Pirates, and the next writer or reviewer to call us either of those things I’m going to drop kick off a building.” That may be the case, but this writer did ingest a more than fair amount of Captain Morgan Black with the group during a first failed attempt at interviewing the best new metal force to charge forth from Canada. I ended up getting so sloshed I don’t remember what happened and had to reschedule! It was worth it, though.

Paul talked with Metal Riot about the dedicated, hard touring acts’ latest exciting melodic death metal scorcher FIREFIGHT (Victory Records) and also touched on subjects as diverse as hockey babes, good advice, Judas Priest and the bands current killer tour with Otep, Sister Sin and Destrophy! Blackguard really distill the essence of the modern heavy metal band and deserve much support and major hails!

Click HERE for the interview!

MYE: How did you all get interested in playing the type of metal that you create? You are often lumped into folk-metal which I see influences of but I feel more like you are an angrier, speed metal influenced band with a soaring “epic” feel. There is a sense of surviving challenge and rising above the fray and also of course a Finnish influence and the emotional keyboards. What is it that makes this sound represent you as people?

PAUL: The music that we play is a combination of all the styles that we love.  We all have fairly similar tastes in music so bringing our influences together the way that we do is very natural.  I would say the music represents us because it’s a very natural expression.  Everything from Power metal to death metal and of course the symphonic and classical elements that go into our music are styles we’re passionate about.

MYE: FIREFIGHT takes the epic and fun but gritty nature of your earlier material and ups the ante with more speed, a bit slicker production and an infectious feel. Again, it is angry but also sweeping and very hard-charging. What was it like going into the studio and knowing you had an important release on your hands?

PAUL: It was very nerve racking going into it. My dad would always tell me “You’re only as good as your last deal”, which is just as true in the music industry as a band.  We still have a lot to prove and with this being our second record out on an international label the pressure was certainly on to make a strong statement.  We treat every record like it’s “make or break” but it really felt like that was the case for this one. A lot of bands don’t get the kind of second chances and opportunities we have so we’re giving it all we got.

MYE: What do you feel are some of the misconceptions about the band that you might want to shatter? Do you feel pigeonholed into any scene? You share the stage with many different types of bands from Ex-Deo to Threat Signal, which is something I always find admirable. What have been some of the tours or shows you are proudest of having taken part of? I would love to see you tour with my beloved Darkane.

PAUL: Ok, first of all we’re not Pagans and we’re not Pirates, and the next writer or reviewer to call us either of those things I’m going to drop kick off a building. We never call ourselves Pagans. The Pirate tag is just ridiculous though.  I’m proud of every tour we’ve done, but there were some that I’m amazed we got out of alive.  Summer Slaughter in ’09 and the recent Deicide tour were rough but we slugged it out every day and made the best of what weren’t exactly ideal tours for us.

MYE: I only got into you guys because I thought you were Pagan Pirates! I want a refund! Paul, you recently missed a few shows, correct? What happened and how did the fill-in shows go without him?

PAUL: I heard they went alright, or at least as good as they could have gone considering the circumstances.  Obviously it was a little rough, I mean not many people can step in and do songs with a band they’ve never rehearsed with. But Nick (Powerglove) and Chris Smith (a friend of the band) did a great job and kept the show going so I can’t thank them enough for helping me out. (For those who don’t know I had to skip two shows to fly back home for personal reasons)

MYE: Your tour with Otep, Sister Sin and the boys in Destrophy has begun! You’re probably the heaviest band on that tour but all the acts work well together as a line-up in my mind, regardless of all being Victory Metal bands. What are you most looking forward to about this sure to be rowdy jaunt? I love the latest Sister Sin record.

PAUL: We came into this tour with zero expectations.  In fact, I took a very similar attitude towards this tour as I did the Deicide run. So basically I was expecting the worst but I’m very happy to say it’s been far from that.  We’re about 4 shows in and each one of them has been amazing.  The crowds are great and the bands we’re out with are fantastic; there’s nothing more you can ask for from a tour. I’ve started to see the line up in the same light as you in the sense that even though all the bands are quite different, they complement each other well and make for an interesting and diverse show.

MYE: You are a very committed band and have logged a lot of miles and shows under your belts. How has the time spent together added to the way the band works or writes? How much do you think the personalities of the band members has added to the experience?

PAUL: The biggest change has been adjusting to writing on the road instead of at home in comfortable surroundings and conditions. A lot of the last record was composed on the road in order to make everything happen on schedule. Working under those kinds of conditions is either going to break you or inspire you, and I’m happy it was the latter for us.

MYE: Real metal is still being made with impact on people’s lives across sub-genre lines. Machinehead’s THE BLACKENING, for example, came out just a few years ago and floored people. When you are writing more “epic” leaning material, is there an intention to try and create something “big” or adventurous or do you let the music find its’ own crescendo as the excitement of writing builds?

PAUL: I’d say it’s a bit of both. There’s definitely an intention because we have a vision for the music and we know what we want to write, but of course there’s the inspiration that comes in the moment that takes hold every now and again and it’s always important to go with the flow and the feel of that moment.

MYE: The staff of the bar I work at has been fond of blasting Wuthering Heights’ “The Mad Sailor” to inspire us to great deeds. I think that FIREFIGHT is going to also find a heavy rotation in the place! How do you manage to stay fan friendly and party with the people and still not be exhausted? I feel like a lot of fans want to drink beer with you, as I certainly wanted to, haha.

PAUL: We party with the people AND are exhausted; there’s really no way around it.

MYE: So, the farewell Judas Priest tour is coming up without K.K. I still am thinking of going but am sad about his absence. I like the pick of Lauren Harris’ guitarist, though to “fill in”. I was thinking of Blackguard the other day and wondered if you’d ever cover a classic song by a band like Priest? I could see you updating something in a really bitchin’ way.

PAUL: We actually recorded a cover of “Leather Rebel.” But I have no idea when that will see the light of day. We’ve recorded a few covers and we’re just waiting to release them.

MYE: What do you think is the hardest challenge of standing out in the current metal climate? Do you have to just not worry about that and make music for its’ own sake. I mean, people will find their niche audience but…there’s a lot of acts to choose from. Still, I like having a random play list that can jump from Burning Airlines to Blackguard to Evan Dando to Tony Martin-era Sabbath and appreciating each band for its’ own cultural moment.

PAUL: Of course you should be making music for its own sake, that should always be your primary motive in my opinion.  If not, then you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. There’s barely any money in metal so you might as well love the music you’re making.
I’m really not sure how to stand out in any kind of formulaic sense. I think if you do something with any kind of honesty and passion it will show through and people will be attracted to that.

MYE:  As ambassadors of Canada, what do you want to tell the world about the power of Canadian metal? Can you hook me up with any cute hockey-loving babes who like metal and drink beer?

PAUL: All you need to know about (aboot?) the Canadian scene is that we do it better than everyone else, ha ha.  No but seriously there have been so many incredibly talented bands that have come out of Canada like Gorguts, Cryptopsy, Despised Icon, Voivod, Protest the Hero, etc., who have made a significant impact and brought innovation to the international metal scene and I hope one day we’ll also be remembered as a band that brought something exciting to the scene.
And yes, I do have an army of cute hockey-loving babes who like metal and drink beer at my disposal.  Just let me know in advance for the next time you swing by the great white north.

MYE: THANKS. Fucking Horns! Ahhhhhh!

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