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Martin Christian (Paragon)

Interview with Martin Christian from Paragon
by Grigoris Chronis at 24 November 2008, 9:46 AM

PARAGON have been around for more than ten years and I really hope, now that they've switched into a big label, their honest pure Heavy Metal blend will reach a wider metallic audience. Martin Christian (guitars) shared his aspects for the German Metal quintet's future plans (and I now edit this text to the repetitive sound of their impressive BACKSTREET BOYS cover).

Hi Martin, greetings from! I'm delighted to finally see a brand new PARAGON release out in the streets. We recall the Larger Than Life CD single 'teaser' and, thankfully, Screenslaves is now out and you really should give us some info for the timeline after Forgotten Prophecies and up to today. Most of us only know 'bout the new record label.

Thank you very much, we are happy about it too, it took longer than we planned actually, we started recording in May(!) basically. Since the last album we did a few small concerts in Summer/Autumn 2007 and  then we got started on writing songs for Screenslaves…the most important change was the change of record label from Remedy to Massacre. Thomas from Massacre had contacted us a few years ago at the Keep It True festival and said we should let him know when the deal with Remedy runs out and that he was very interested in working with PARAGON in the future. So after Forgotten Prophecies our contract was completed and Remedy let us know that they wanted to cut down their engagement with Heavy Metal bands in favour of  the Rude Records program and were quite happy to let us go. We immediately phoned Massacre Records and had a meeting here in Hamburg whre we signed the new contract over 3 albums.

Good news, then! So, Screenslaves is released not long after Forgotten Prophecies (2007) was out. Do you consider PARAGON to be a real hard working band? Nine full-length studio albums since 1995? Wow! What's the motive for writing music non-stop?

I never really think about it that way, for us it's normal to make a CD an after a short break of a few months to start writing new material…I guess it hass become an automatism for us! Apart from that, we do really enjoy making new songs and are always excited to hear the finished product after a while. It usually starts with someone having an idea and some riffs and then it's great fun to put it together in the rehearsal room. I cannot understand that some bands take such a long time for new CDs , especially as we all have regular jobs and meet once a week for a couple of hours to write new stuff!

I see…To be more specific, we need some info on the motive regarding the Screenslaves CD. The album's title, the cover artwork: is it a concept album? Sorry for we don't have the lyrics available yet.

There is no fixed concept to Screenslaves, apart from the idea to get away from our usual swords and battle lyrics a bit and to present another side of our interests, this also meets with the cover artwork which is a move away from the usual battle art. We were very motivated to get going as we have a new guy on bass guitar and also we are not so happy with the sound of F.P., so we wanted to get going fast on a follow-up for the new label.

Did you have all songs ready when starting to write the album's lyrics themes? Do you usually work this way?

Yes we do, we come up with the riffs and a song structure and Andreas gets a copy of the music to write lyrics to at home…we do change certain things to make the vocals fit better on the song or change the chords of a chorus part etc.

The cover artwork - really enigmatic - is not a typical PARAGON one. How come? Honestly, it was the first thing I noticed and said wow, this is something new for PARAGON's likes!. Jowita Kaminska (known from her Metal On Metal Records label) designed it, right? Did you have other artworks in mind, too that were rejected?

We also met Jowita at Keep It True, where she did some cool photos, and talked about future cover artwork. As we had chosen the song Screenslaves as the title we had to work out an idea to visualize the whole thing. We talked it through with her and were soon fixed on the Sci-Fi type artwork.

To tell the truth, I feared a change of style in PARAGON's music looking at the promo CD for the first time. Thankfully, Screenslaves carries the familiar PARAGON tradition of passionate Metal music. Would you like to point out the similarities and differences between the new album and your past work(s)?

Well, that is always difficult for a musician, we have a very fixed opinion on our Metal in the PARAGON camp, basically it's about writing riffs that transport an amount of metallic aggression, at the same time they should be catchy and carry a positive energy. Our aim was to create a good spectrum of our past work, fast headbanging songs, slow and atmospheric etc, which we always do to make an album interesting. This time we tried to focus our style and to make the songs compact and direct to the point, which I think worked out quite well.

Did you focus more on some specifying wants (e.g. aggression, melodies in leads, variety in grooves) prior to begin the songwriting or you let things roll on their own and just had to choose the most suitable stuff?

We tend to start with a handful of songs, and then ask ourselves OK, we got a midtempo, we got a fast one what do wee need more of?. Then we start collecting parts for further songs.

A word or two for Larger Than Life? Whose ideas was it to come up with this BACKSTREET BOYS cover? In addition, was it your idea to release it as the preceding CD single?

Hmmm, we all were a bit drunk and heard it on the radio, someone said that it would be a funny idea to cover something like that to show that we do have a sense of humour! The idea with the single was from the label as they wanted a sign of life form us as pre-promotion for the new start. A single is just an article for collectors and there were not so many copies made. I am not that happy with the cover tune at the moment!

Have you cleared out your aims with Screenslaves? The market is very demanding in our days, fans do tend to download many many CDs and leaves space for not so much of album sales. Was it your option for the band in the years to come?

Our expectations are not too high, we have always sold quite well and are happy to keep our level, we do have fans that still collect CDs and like to have original at home. Long term it will be problematic as the CD has to at least cover studio recording costs and cover etc. we never make any money from the sales but we have always recouped the advances. If this is not possible then bands have to reduce recording costs, we would have to do live tapes in the rehearsal room again. Seriously, it will get difficult if CD sales dwindle further down, also as a Metal band we do not have much advantage from pay downloads.

When you were first beginning to play with PARAGON, did you fantasize you'd be releasing albums fifteen (and more) years later? What do you think is the main motive behind playing Heavy Metal music?

No I did not, I thought I would do it a few years and then take it easy on the couch at my age… It is such a great feeling playing with a band and to see people getting off on the music that it keeps you wanting more!

To present tense again: have you started planning live dates yet? Is there something fixed?

We are working on some German dates for January and are hoping for some European festivals in the summer.

You've shared the stage with many many Metal acts all these years. Which band(s) would you consider the most thunderous onstage and which one(s) would you describe as giving great 'lessons' on how to play live?

Well I am always impressed by our US competition, EXODUS for example rule extremely live, I am a great fan of Gary Holt and his nasty riffing. Last week we played with VICIOUS RUMOURS and they were also quite impressive!

Germany is the center of the Metal world in our days. Leading labels are German, most summer fest are held in Germany, every singe band will tour Germany extensively, even the most well-known mail orders are from Germany. I can recall the same thing happening with Great Britain in the 70s/80s (and a little bit in the early 90s), with the NWOBHM, Metal fests etc. Why do you think England has lost the scepters and why is Germany the leading force in metal music?

Well, I actually lived in England during the 80s and saw most of the great Metal bands of that time. Basically, England is more dependent on the Press and trends, at some point Metal was just out and the media support dropped way back. In Germany the fans did not die away so fast and kept the whole thing going, even though we are far away from the level of the late 80s!

Your opinion on the American continent? Have you ever been there with PARAGON? Do you support the opinion that music is so depending on trends over there? We must admit mainly the USA and Canada produced some of the finest Hard rock/heavy Metal figures of all time.

I am a great friend of US Metal and share your opinion to 100%! PARAGON have always been influenced by US bands to a great degree. Sadly the scene is very small and we have never gotten over there to play, we do have some contacts but it's difficult to fly over with everyone having regular jobs and no money.

Andreas, thanks a lot for your precious time. Really hope a PARAGON tour will start really soon and Screenslaves will achieve the desired recognition.

Thank you ! Greetz, Martin + PARAGON.


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