Three years ago Savannah-based sludge masters Baroness blew us away with debut The Red Album, receiving rave reviews from the media and gaining legions of fans in what seemed like overnight… Three years later and now with a sophomore under their belt, Baroness are returning to Australia for the second time this year in support of a little band called Metallica… Guitarist John Baizley briefly lets the fan-boy out of the cage…
“Oh it means everything to us to come out with Metallica,” he gushes. “I don’t think you can find a band anywhere in the world that doesn’t at least know of Metallica or is at least a bit influenced by them. Just about everybody is a fan to some extent,” he laughs. “It’s not ridiculous to say that they’re one of the biggest bands on the planet. We all grew up with them some 10-15 years ago and they made a massive impact on us then, so it’s a dream come true for us to have the honour to support them, we feel super-chuffed.” According to Baizley, coming back to Australia in general is something the guitarist doesn’t mind at all, especially seeing how our live scene is one of the most “organised” in the world, apparently. When it comes to live gigs, it seems Australia really has its shit together.
“We had an absolute blast doing Soundwave this year,” recalls Baizley. “That was actually one of the most smoothest-running festivals that we’ve ever done in our career. Like, every day you wake up and you know exactly what’s happening and when and where. We felt very much welcome and the accommodation was great and we got looked after very well. The crowds were just unbelievable. Normally there is a massive head-ache factor that you get with festivals and just gigs in general. Like, usually the stages are messed up and the local crews are disorganized and you don’t get the right PA or the monitors on the stage are completely blown… You show up for an all-day festivals and they’ll give you like a bag of chips to eat or something… Australia kept us well-fed and taken care of!”
Which is improtant indeed, as Baizley explains, especially when you’ve been living the “parking lot lifestyle” for more than a decade now. And while for Baroness it’s something the foursome wouldn’t change for the world, Baizley points out it isn’t for everyone either. “It’s probably fair to say that Brian (Blickle, ex-guitar 2006-2008) left in order to find a better, more secure lifestyle,” offers Baizley. “If you ask most musicians just exactly how glamorous their touring lifestyle really is, you’ll get nine out of 10 people telling you that’s not nearly enough as people would expect it to be. It’s a difficult life that offers very little financial reward, but the music aspect offers some spiritual reward because you get to express yourself.
“But,” he continues, “when you’re not on stage, there’s really not much to do. After an hour or so of playing, there’s still 23 hours in a day to deal with off-stage. Brian just wanted something more balanced, and after spending a year or so with us on the road he realised it’s not a good lifestyle.”
Nevertheless, Baizley doesn’t plan on following his ex-band member’s footsteps anytime soon, he assures, claiming that it’s possible to stay passionate and successful in one of the most fickle of industries. “The ‘ultimate’ is an unidentifiable thing,” he contemplates. “Because you don’t really gage success in this industry – success is probably still being able to say that you’re passionate about music after 10 years! In terms of units and dollars and whatever, the money is not good. If you’re left at the end of it still excited to play music, then you’ve won.
“For me, it’s exciting to know there are still stones left unturned and that there are places that I have yet to see. The trip itself is the reward, not the destination. After 10 years I haven’t got burnt-out even though it’s so easy to and you see it all the time. Just stay in love with what you do and as long as you do that and don’t get the excess and success define who you are, you’ll dictate your own terms.”
Just like on their second album The Blue Record (2009), which even saw mega-producer John Congleton (The Roots, The Polyphonic Spree) step well aside and merely let Baroness do their thing. According to Baizley, it was a flattering recording experience…
“Because John didn’t want to change a single thing about us, he sort of stepped right back. It’s not that John was reserved, he just wasn’t the type of producer that pushes and grabs you and tries to make you recompose your songs. The first thing he said to us was ‘I’m working with you guys because I like your music and I trust what you’re doing, I am a fan’. He wanted us to be happy with the outcome and we told him we wanted to be surprised by the outcome. He figured out our personalities very quickly and identified our strengths and weaknesses then applied his own little sonic pallet to it.” The result was an album Baroness fans are already calling a masterpiece, not to mention a record Baizley describes as “the whole nine yards.” Proof that music can be both intelligent and heavy at the same time, The Blue Record successfully raises the bar for the metal genre.
“The lyrics are pretty analytical, and visually we really went all out,” says Baizley. “It’s such a snapshot of our lives at that time. It’s kind of weird talking about it because the way I see it is a lot different than anybody else would. I spent six months writing it and I spent three grueling weeks in a studio trying to make it function properly so to me it’s not fun and games. It was a very difficult album to put together and it represents a big chunk of my life and a part of my soul.”
BARONESS join Metallica for their run of shows at Rod Laver Arena on November 18, 20 and 21 (tickets are only available for the final show, through ticketek.com.au and 132 849). In the middle, though, they’re also playing their very own headline show at The Espy Gershwin Room on November 19 with Akaname. Tickets from oztix.com.au, ticketek.com.au and 132 849. The Blue Record is out now through Relapse/Riot.