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I’m sure American heavy rockers Baroness look forward to the day when they aren’t constantly reminded of the devastating bus crash in 2012 which caused severe injuries to a number of band members and crew. However, the current album Purple is the first since the event, there have been two lineup changes to the band and people are naturally curious to know how the episode has effected them on so many levels. Daniel Corran spoke to lead vocalist and guitarist John Baizley about the album, the upcoming Australian tour and of course, the accident.

Red album, Blue record, Yellow & Green and now Purple, which is arguably your finest and best received of your career. It’s been 12 months since the release of the new record, how’s the reception to the record and the tour been?
Both have been incredible, the tour’s in particular has never waned in its excitement and nor have we waned in our excitement of these tours. They continue to be really uplifting and over the top experiences for us. There’s no denying that they’ve been a blast and we can’t wait to get back to Australia, it’s been too long.

Purple sounds huge … very expansive. How did you start to work with Dave Fridmann?
Well every time we’ve ever been at the point with any of our records when I’m asked, or we’re asked who we want to work with as a producer, I’ve always said Dave Fridmann. It’s definitely elicited a few laughs out of people in the past when our budgets in the early days were next to nothing. I thought he may be out of our range and he chooses who he works with. But you know, you don’t ask you don’t get. After a couple of phone calls I knew Dave was in to it. I could tell he was the right guy for the record and I guess we were lucky.

A couple of line-up changes for the new record and tour… what do Seb and Nick bring to Baroness from your perspective?
They’ve brought in an incredible amount of energy to the stage but not least a pretty incredible technical proficiency, depth and understanding of music from a much wider perspective. Not just keeping it guitar based, our band is full of musicians that really understand what we’re doing and night after night I feel we’re getting better and better. We hold each other to a high standard and have pushed our own capabilities.

With yourself and Pete, it seems he’s strictly a Les Paul guy, whereas your guitar selections change over time. What are you using at the moment?
Absolutely Pete prefers Les Paul’s, that’s the shoe that fits him. In the past few years I’ve been favouring and having an incredible time playing G & L Guitars and you know, that’s Leo Fender’s company that he started when he couldn’t call his company Fender any longer. Just fantastic instruments, and the very cool thing that happens between Pete and I when we’re playing is that our sounds are so different tonally, but our styles are so similar. It’s almost like each of our guitars occupy a different space in the sonic register. It’s not like having two guitars, it’s like having one fuller more robust guitar and then one that’s a little higher and maybe a little more expressive. It’s hard to articulate, but after playing so many years together playing similar set ups, it’s important to have differences and contrast. At the end of the day why not really highlight that there’s different personalities playing.

Your guitar rigs are constantly evolving too…
Yeah I’m never happy! I’m always looking for something new!

What’s the one pedal, the one piece of gear that you can’t live without when playing live?
All of it! (laughs) I love gear! Since we’ve recorded the record, I’ve discovered a thing called the Gig Rig G2, it’s like a fancy switching system and what it allows me to do is play with an incredible variety and palette of different stomp-boxes, sounds and textures. It allows me to organise my own chaos onstage, and since I’ve implemented it there’s fewer moments on stage where everything goes wrong.

Given the layers on your records, how do you make arrangements for live performance?
The arrangements to me feel pretty obvious, because of the way we structure our songs there’s always going to be a third guitar or a piano or something like that which we can’t replicate live. But when we rehearse and we’re playing as a four piece, we play the key parts that are going to be the most relevant live. We just embellish as much as four people can, and play those parts that our minds hear, that we feel, but that don’t overshadow the songs themselves.

Speaking of playing live, my personal favourites from Purple are ‘Try to Disappear’ and ‘If I have to Wake Up.’ Which song or songs off the new record really hit the spot for you when playing live?
Well those are the two songs for me (laughs). They were the two songs that during the process of writing, felt like a foot forward for the band. An entrance into slightly uncharted music direction for us but something we can continue to develop. From a conceptual standpoint and a lyrical standpoint those songs are very personal songs for me. Explaining very personal moments and deep feelings I had at certain moments when we were writing.
Back in 2005 aged 23, a guy ran a very red light and put me in hospital, it freaked me out. I quit my job and travelled overseas for 6 months. My point being, I think I can relate a little to what happened to Baroness with the bus crash in England several years back. Having put out what I think is a modern classic record, how does it feel to be touring the world and playing the music you love?
From my perspective this is just another step in our development and in our evolution. That said I agree with you that I feel fortunate. This is by far the best record we’ve done and we do expect that from each record. It’s just that this one came after something particularly difficult. The fact that the record was made, the songs are of the quality that they are, that we could push our sound forward so much, it’s something we’re proud of. It wasn’t easy to get to a point to be able to release the record at all.

Any advice for Australian musicians?
The same advice I’d give any musician. Write good songs. At the end of the day, isn’t that what we want? As the listener… simple. Write quality songs. The methodology that we use is that, we write the music that we’d want to hear and if you can honestly say to yourself that you’ve written a song that you want to hear, then you’re moving in the right direction.







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