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Baroness (Tuska 2017)

It was the first time since the big accident that almost ended the band that they’ve come to Finland. But now Baroness is finally back in the country! And this time supported with a brand new guitarist as replacement for Pete: Gina Gleason. Their show proved yet again what a massive sound they have, the passion and energy they put into their music and the obvious potential to become one of those really big bands. I definitely felt very lucky to be able to have a short chat with the driving force behind the band, the man himself: John Baizley. It ended up being quite an interesting and kind of personal talk…

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Hi, nice to meet you! How are you?

Yeah, nice to meet you too! I’m doing really well, it was a really good show. I had fun!

I really enjoyed it as well, it was the first time seeing you guys and it was great! How does it feel to finally be back in Finland?

It’s great! I’ve been wanting to come back a lot. The first time we played Tuska Fest and Ruisrock… maybe 2 years apart or something like that. And it seemed like this was a great country to come to. You know, it seems like every time we put a record out, there’s some issue that prevents us from coming to do more select club shows or something here. I think after today, it’s obvious we have to come back for some club shows.

Well, that’s great news. You’re always welcome to come back for sure! And a few weeks ago you played at Graspop Metal Meeting in Belgium, how was that show?

Graspop was great, yeah! Graspop, Hellfest… some really great metal festivals. And Belgium has been really good for us, there are a lot of legitimate music fans over there. You know, in Finland you play mostly to a metal audience, while in Belgium you play to a more diverse audience, which I like.

You also regularly play at Roadburn and festivals like that. If you compare those kind of more “artsy” and underground festivals to the big festivals like Tuska and Graspop, which has your preference?

My preference isn’t one or the other, it’s that we don’t play the same sort of festival every time. My preference is that we play different festivals, for different audiences and then sometimes it’s a big audience that is familiar with our stuff and is there to see us and that we crush it. And then sometimes it’s an audience that is unfamiliar with us and we have to work a little bit harder, you know. Because we have to prove to people who never heard us that we’re worth listening to. I like the variety, I like small club show, arena shows, stadiums, festivals,… whatever. As long as everything is changing all the time it’s really fun.

So you have a bit of a challenge still then…

Yeah! And it’s just exciting! You know, we do the same thing every day… we got into this because we want, or well at least I got into this because I didn’t want anyone telling me what to do. I want to be able to choose my own adventure and that’s what has been happening for 15 years, so that’s great.

Quite recently your buddy Pete left the band. Even though it’s been a friendly exit, I’m guessing it was quite a hard one to take?

Yeah, everyone who has been in the band has been a friend of mine so it’s never easy. But I feel very lucky because everyone left for a good reason, there’s never been any big dramatic things like “Fuck you! I can’t fucking stand you!” It’s always been that someone needed to move on with their life, needed to do something different and I get that. I mean, in a way it makes more sense to leave this business than stay in it because it’s really hard (laughs). You have to love traveling all the time, being tired all the time and you kind of have to like things changing and being really chaotic all the time. I do, but I don’t assume anybody else will.

It’s not something that works for everyone for their whole life. And in a way good that it always seems to go like that, because it’s always sad when you see lawsuits and shit like that happen with a really good band…

Yeah! Oh my god, I’m so glad that we don’t… Well, there’s not enough money in the band, so they can’t really sue us for anything… (laughs) No, it’s really good!

So you have a new guitarist (Gina Gleason) now, how did you find her?

I don’t know, you know, just like musicians meet each other… I make fuzz pedals for guitar players to make their guitars sound fucked up and she bought one. And I noticed that her address was really close to where I live, I mean REALLY close to where I live, just a couple of blocks away. And that’s like, bizarre, because I don’t live in a neighborhood full of musicians, just a normal neighborhood. So one of the guys that runs the company with me said “you should look at her Instagram pictures and such, she’s like a totally great guitar player!”. So basically because of that we met each other and Pete was just on his way out. And I was just like: she’s cool, she’s a great player, she works really hard, she’s ambitious,… so why look elsewhere?

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And now that you have her in the band, I feel like it complements the band in some way because now you have that “female voice” as an addition to the music…

Yeah. You know, we’ve gone through quite a few of line-up changes and I’m not proud of that, that’s not what anyone wants. But every time it happens you have to see it as an opportunity, it’s not the end of the music kind of thing. So even though Pete was a great friend of mine, I understood why he left and I had to take that as an opportunity for the band to, you know, move forward.

I read somewhere that the band is basically a family and your family is part of the band and so on. So I was wondering: has she’s been taken up in that little family already?

Absolutely yeah, she’s the first member in the band in a long time that has lived in the same town as me. So we can get together easily and my studios are at my house. We get to my house, we all hang out, we eat dinner together… Honestly, I don’t know how else you would do it because everything else feels like some bullshit job to me, like you’d have to “clock in” and shit, you know.

Talking about your music: it’s been quite a while since your last release Purple came out. So I have to ask, is there anything in the nearby future coming?

Yeah, it’s not our new record anymore. But yeah, of course there is. It’s been a while and we have a solid line-up now, so let’s write a record!

Ok! Well, I’ll be looking forward to that!

Yeah, me too! (laughs)

Now, you had that bad accident a while ago and if I understood right, you’re basically living with chronic pain. Since my wife also has a lot of issues with pain herself, she requested me to ask about how you deal with that while being on the road, touring and playing your music everywhere. So how do you manage it, living this quite active lifestyle?

It definitely got more difficult, you know. But it’s not so difficult that we have to change much. So for me, one of the purposes, one of the things I have the opportunity to do by playing my music, is showing people by example that these things can carry a huge potential to stop your life and force you to do something else, don’t necessarily have to do that. You just have to work, you have to have the work ethic, you have to suck it up. Everybody in their life gets to a point where what they do becomes less easy or the reasons they do it become less focused, less direct. But I never lost my enthusiasm for playing or my willingness to push through it and make it something positive for me. It’s always been like that, there’s been fucked up things happening in my life as long as I’ve been playing music and music has always been the place where I can forget about that for a minute. Regardless, I basically have 2 hours a day sometimes… 1 hour, 2 hours a day where for the rest I just don’t feel good… and we’re a physical band. You get bumps and bruises and it hurts, you know. It’s not the easiest to play. But anything really, like the type of injury that I got… nothing is easy! So I’m not gonna stop doing the thing that I love because now nothing is easy, I’m just going to do that more. That is a rehabilitative activity for me, you know, something that I take really seriously and is very precious to me and I don’t wanna give up.

Uhu, something worth fighting for. Chronic pain is also something that isn’t really visible, is that something that you encounter problems with? Like people who don’t get it or don’t understand it?

Yeah, of course. You know, it’s really difficult. If you haven’t felt it or haven’t lived in close proximity to somebody who’s in pain all day, everyday and all night, every night, it’s impossible to understand it. And my purpose isn’t to explain my aches and pains everywhere. One of the purposes of this music is that we recognize that everybody feels their own sort of pain. Everybody in the world has a chronic pain of some sort… is it a physical pain, a mental pain, maybe a little bit of everything. The music that we play and the music that I a lot of times listen to, is the music that offers the alternative to suffering, you know. It gives you a break from that, it gives you a release and a few moments away from it. And because of that, it’s even more important to me, you know. Of course there are people who want to know more and I’m not shy to talk about it, really. Unfortunately for me, it’s something that is always there. I can’t ignore it, the pain is too grave, too sharp for me to ignore. But on the same side of it I don’t want it to dictate some new level of misery for me, I need to try to push through that. And it’s gonna take the rest of my life, so fuck it, might as well make something good out of it. I’ve been dealt a pretty awful hand there and I just wanna do the best I can.

Yeah, I get that. I see it every day with my wife. Normally going to a festival in her condition for instance is not easy with the heat, cold, bumps of drunk people… But she loves music and loves photography, so she’s still going for it!

Yeah, it’s so fucking shitty. Like I love meeting crowds now, but before… But yeah, good for her, it must be worth it for her!

You mentioned music that can get you a “pick me up”, is there any music or band you recently discovered you’d want to give a shout out to?

That’s a tough question! Nothing really jumps to my mind right now. Recently I’ve been listening to so much new stuff that it’s almost getting difficult for me to pick things out and recommend. But also, I think that the heavy music community is ready for a big, bold, new record. It feels like last year there weren’t as many releases as there were a couple of years ago that came out. That’s not to say there weren’t any good ones, let’s just say that a few years back there was a lot. I guess it kind of comes in waves and I’m very excited to see what the next wave brings and who’s the new young band on the block that’ll force us to play harder, you know.

Something that I still would like to ask you that I’ve been talking about with mostly musicians from the States: do you think interesting things might happen in the (heavy) music scene now with the whole Trump situation that you have to deal with over there? Because if you look at the whole hardcore scene during the Reagan period…

Yeah, it was great. But information traveled in a very different way, at that point people weren’t given as much information. And also didn’t seem to move as quickly through it. I think now, at least in America, it moves too fast. There’s that culture of “what’s next, what’s next, what’s next?” and everyone admits there’s a problem, but no one wants to do anything about it, just “what’s next?”. Somebody needs to come along and change things… but that puts more of an obligation on musicians to address the issue and do something with it. Whether it’s really directly involved or something more subtle, I don’t know. But something is going to happen…

I’m really curious to see what could possibly happen… if there would be a brand new scene exploding or a scene making a comeback, to be consciously there when a scene develops and grows.

Yeah, it would be cool to see for sure.

Ok, I guess we can wrap up our talk. Anything you want to add still to your fans, our readers,…?

I don’t know, I’m just excited that it feels to me that we’re moving into the next step of the band and really looking forward to working out that next records. And hope to be coming back to whatever country you are reading this.

And we’ll be there to support you! Thanks for the great talk!



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Vaim

Music addict - DJ - Editor-in-chief/Journalist/Photographer/Gatekeeper @ GRIMM Gent - Suomi lover - Geek - Science nut - Nature worshiper/Pagan