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Paragon's Jan Bunning: "…the good thing is, we have no pressure to live from the music. So our fans can be 100% sure, that we are 100% true. The music we play is the one we love…"

Interview with Jan Bünning from Paragon
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 12 April 2019, 11:42 PM

For nearly three decades, the German Heavy / Power Metal Paragon have been forging and maintaining a basis of a strong true Metal front. A fact that can't be undone or denied. Coming up with their 12th album, “Controlled Demolition”, and newly signed to Massacre Records, it was time to talk about things. Steinmetal had a chat with the band's veteran bass player, Jan Bunning, about the album, musical dedication and experimentation, and the band's status in the evolving music business

Hello Jan, it has been a while since we last spoke, I believe it was a few years back on Facebook. Thank you for taking the time for this interview for Metal Temple online magazine. How have you been?

Hi Lior, yes it´s been a while I hope you are fine. For me it´s like always in live. Up and downs are on the way. A few bad things happened in my private life last year, but also a few good ones. Paragon is running well, so everything is fine at present!

Like a machine that never tires, Paragon is releasing its twelfth album, “Controlled Demolition”, proving that the Teutonic Metal commandos are roaming free with sheer power at their disposal. How do you perceive this new release? Album no. 12, quite a celebration isn’t it?

What can I say? I was out of the band for a while before “Force Of Destruction” and we had to do some kind of restart. “Controlled Demolition” is album No. 3 after that “restart” and I would say it´s for sure one of our best. We had a good run with our old triple “Law Of The Blade”, “The Dark Legacy” and “Revenge” and today we reached a lot of new fans with our new triple “Force Of Destruction”, “Hell Beyond Hell” and “Controlled Demolition”. In the last few years the chemistry in the band has been better than ever, and to be honest we didn´t think so much about the fact that this is already album No. 12. We just do what we like and keep going.

An important factor that I have always liked about Paragon is that it never looked sideways when it comes to its music. It breaths, feels and spills out the strong approach of German Heavy Metal with pride for nearly three decades. “Controlled Demolition” sounds no different, maintaining your legacy with honor. However, I must ask, does this approach still make you tick? Have you ever thought in your wildest dreams to experiment?

I have to disagree here with you a little bit. We are not really influenced by any German bands except for Accept. When Paragon started it was more about US Metal like early Metal Church, Overkill and also stuff like Mercyful Fate and even Thrash like Slayer and Exodus. I would say over the years we found our own style, and these days we also put a lot of our Speed and Thrash influences into our songs. So we are far away from sounding “German” like Helloween, Gamma Ray, Running Wild and such. All these bands are of course influenced by the “old” gods like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath and so on and so are we also. Maybe as German band you sound “German”, even though your influences are not from Germany ha ha?

Of course we stick to a certain style while writing songs, as we love the kind of style we play and also our fans expect a certain style from us. But we always try to sound “fresh” and not old fashioned and so from time to time try something out. “Devil´s Waitingroom” from “Hell Beyond Hell” is a good example. That song is really different to all we have done before. It´s a mix between ballad, Doom, Epic and even some 70s sounds. And we always try to keep our albums diverse, we not only have fast songs but also ballads, doom stuff and stompers. And furthermore we try to keep our productions contemporary. To be honest I never understand bands which say they want to sound “old school”. In my opinion these bands are just too stingy to pay for a good studio with an experienced producer.

Lyrical wise, like most of your albums, the themes are a pretty scattered. Can you elaborate what were your focuses on this album in terms of lyrics?

When we started we had a lot of fantasy and typical Metal lyrics on the albums. In the past years it changed a little bit. We still have some “cheesy” not to be taken serious Metal lyrics, but on the other hand we have a lot of dystopian and critical lyrics on the last albums. “Reborn” is about the rising of populism in the past years, “Abattoir” deals in a sarcastic way with the problem of overpopulation on our world and the problem that there will not be enough food for everybody anymore, “Blackbell” was inspired by a cymbal of our drummer Sören, which is called “Blackbell”. The song is about the arrogance of humanity and how this arrogance will bring extinction to the world. And “Timeless Souls” is about immortality, the human soul and mind is transferred into some kind of computer so it can live forever in different bodies. The problem is: The mind and soul are not supposed to live in some technical device but in “real” brains and bodies so this leads to ultimate insanity.

I have to add that your album sounds massive, over the top and pierces the ear. What changed from your previous releases in terms of studio work?

Thank you! When we worked with Piet (already on seven albums), we never had a bad sound, but this time the sound is really very good, organic and aggressive. There are several reasons for that. One is, that we were much better prepared for the recordings as e.g. for “Hell Beyond Hell”. We booked the studio for the recordings of “Hell Beyond Hell” and just before we had to start, we had a lineup change, so we were not able to prepare very good for the recordings. Second, our drummer Sören is much longer in the band and knows much better how Paragon drums have to sound. The better the drums are recorded, the easier it is for the “rest” to record everything. We send Sören to Jörg Uken / Soundlodge Studio and he did a fantastic job. Piet loved the drum tracks and I guess that encouraged him to make the best sound he could for us. Third, with the great drums and a lot of rehearsals before the recordings we were much better prepared for the recordings. We never have finished an album recording so fast. I guess it was four days' drums (including editing), one-and-a-half-day bass, four days' rhythm guitars and half a day per song for lead vocals. We recorded lead guitars and backing vocals at our home studios though. Fourth: We are much better musicians these days. When we started to make albums, there was a lot more copy and paste. These days we record most songs from start to finish in one take and only fix some playing mistakes in some parts afterwards. So you got some kind of live feeling. And fifth: Piet! When we started to work with him, he was more into having everything “perfect”. These days it´s more about the song and the feeling, see the previous point! ;-) And of course Piet is also a much better producer these days who always motivates us to do the best performance.

I was bombed by the Accept styled “Mean Machine”, which sounded so right and to the point. Straight up Heavy Metal without nonsense. I wonder which of the tunes do you find as your top? Please explain your choice.

“Mean Machine” is for sure some kind of key song on the album. To be honest it was the first time we really wanted to do some kind of “hit single”. When Martin played the riff for the demo on my hard-disk I was at first not so excited about it. But after I listened to it for a few times, I knew this will be a hit.

Another highlight for me is for sure “Reborn”. I guess that´s the most aggressive and fastest song we ever did, but it´s still melodic and an awesome lead section. It almost has an Exodus feeling to it. As bass player I have to like “Deathlines” of course, because this doom groove is a lot of fun to play and much more challenging for me as the faster stuff. It also shows that we don´t always make straight songs, but also can be very epic and Buschi can show how much he has grown as a singer.
Last I would name “Timeless Souls” as it shows our US Metal roots a lot. It´s very dark and I love the instrumental part before the lead parts.

Speaking of "Deathlines", the song surely is an oddity on this album, unlike the destructive speeders I have been accustomed to. What can you tell about it?

As I mentioned earlier, it´s one of my favorites. Since “Law Of The Blade” we often had epic songs like “Across The Wastelands”, “Masters Of The Seas”, “Agony”, “Blood & Iron” and on “Hell Beyond Hell” even two with “Devil´s Waitingroom” and “Heart Of The Black”. When we gathered ideas and I had a listen to the demos, it was really like “fuck, this is a pure Speed Metal album!”. So I thought we need at least some slower stuff. And so I told the others and Martin came up with the main riff for the song. Then we worked on it a lot and then found out it turned into this almost nine-minute monster. When we played it in the rehearsal room it really blew us away because it sounds so heavy.

Recently you signed with Massacre Records, which I believe it is an important step to get back in the level up league. Did you reach out to the label or was it the other way around? Do you believe that this signing will take you further in recognition than previously?

Remedy always did a good job for us but as it is only a small company, their promotion and distribution power is limited. Remedy is run by two people and they also have to handle a shop, mailorder, festival and recently bought a Metal Pub on the Reeperbahn. So when Thomas of Massacre told us what kind of promotion plans he had for us, we didn´t had to think about it too much. He offered us a fair contract which even got better after we told him what we want to be changed ha ha. We have a real lyric video and even two actual videos for promotion this time. Something we never had before. In the past we never have been too much into streaming, but it´s very important these days, even though bands will not make too much money with it, it´s a mighty tool, Massacre will use to promote us.

There are not too much reviews released yet, but we already have a lot of interviews and Massacre´s promotion and marketing machine is already running very good. The album will also be licensed to Russia, South America and maybe even Japan. And Massacre is also interested in releasing our back catalog digitally, on CD and vinyl. So yes, I guess they will take us some steps further than before.

You guys have been around, as I mentioned, for nearly three decades, however, and even though you are more than worthy, sadly Paragon isn’t at the top of German Metal. Do you think that you have been overlooked by your local Metal scene? Not given enough chances to show your worth all these years?

When we started out goal was of course to become rock stars, but to be honest that´s not really easy. Until “Revenge” we had a very good run even though we could have been bigger if we would have been on a bigger label. After that we had some arguments, so the two albums after that have not been very good and when I rejoined for “Force Of Destruction” we had to restart more or less. The business is even harder these days. With less sales for all bands, especially the ones which have to make a living from music, have to play shows and they are all signed to good booking agencies. We are independent, so it´s almost impossible for us to get well paid shows.

So these days we do the band as some kind of hobby but do it 100% professional. As three of us have kids, we can´t do a long tour run, but we are happy to play festivals and maybe small tours or weekend shows. The good thing is, we have no pressure to live from the music. So our fans can be 100% sure, that we are 100% true. The music we play is the one we love. I see a lot of “old” bands only playing stuff from their classic albums, but for us it seems there are even new fans who don´t know our old stuff! We gained a lot of new fans the last years. There have been shows were there were fans in the front row who only have been about 20 years old and sometimes their parents introduced them tour music. That´s just great. And it seems with age we get better and our friendship is better than ever before.

Without a doubt this is the digital age in the music business. Though the main advantage is that you folks can get to know you through streams or downloads, but on the other hand damage the sales. What is your input on the matter?

To be honest in the past I have not been very fond of streaming. Today I think it´s one of the best weapons to make a band popular. Of course you don´t make a lot of money from streaming, but you will make more money in the end because if a lot of people know you from Spotify etc., they will come to the shows and if they like what they hear, they will buy your CDs, Vinyls or merch. My only complaint would be, there could be better payment form the streaming platforms. It would be cool if the streaming platforms and record companies would make fairer deals for the artists.

What are your plans to support the new album?

We have three videos on the way this time. We also would love to play more shows for the new album, but as mentioned before booking is the absolute hardest part these days. I hope that we get some fair offers for shows when the album is finally out. I have done all the booking for the band in recent years, but had some personal issues the last years and didn´t had the power to book more shows. And it became more and more exhausting to book shows the last years. So I will try to get a booking company in the future for the band. If anybody is interested in booking us in the future, don´t hesitate to contact me!

Jan, I can’t thank you enough for this interview. Your input as one of the lions of the German Metal scene is heavily important. Best of luck with the new release, my neck is already sore I can tell you that.

Thank you Lior for the kind words! “Controlled Demolition” is easy one of the best and heaviest releases we have ever done and with the help of Massacre I hope we can step up a little bit and kick some more asses on stages all over the world!
 



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