I think most people can agree that Parkway Drive is one of the most consistent bands in the metalcore scene today, even to those who are casual fans of the genre. The band's fourth full-length album, Atlas is one of the year's finest offerings. I was able to speak with vocalist Winston McCall about the band's travels, new album, and more.
First off, let's talk about your 4th full length album, Atlas. When you went to go write and record for this album, what was your mentality and attitude like, especially compared to previous writing/recording sessions.
Winston McCall: It took a long time to write for starters, mainly because we knew we wanted to incorporate some new sounds, but didn't want to sacrifice the bands identity in doing so which took us into uncharted territories. The goal was to create a record that worked well as a cohesive collection of music, sounded like the Parkway Drive people know, but also offered some genuine surprises. It was a great experience and it really made us step up, but also made us place a lot of faith in Matt's production skill. Its one thing to have a plans for trumpets and strings in songs, its another to actually make them happen. We were lucky Matt was a legend and knocked it all out of the park.
The album had brought some really bold instrumental choices to the table. What inspired everyone to branch out on this record? "Old Ghosts/New Regrets" maintains that classic Parkway grit, but I was surprised with tracks like "Dark Days".
Winston McCall: We just like the idea of working with instruments and sounds that we had never tried writing before, basically bringing a new element and vibe to the sound we have been working on for 10 years. We didn't want it to be a complete departure from the sounds we have established but we still think there is places this band can go without losing sight or dropping the heaviness out.
Let's look through a few of the tracks that really grabbed my attention right off the bat:
In "Sleight Of Hand", you boldly proclaim that "there is no God that could love this world". Was there a particular moment in time that inspired you to write this song, or was it just a general statement?
Winston McCall: No not one, more like a lifetime of experience. The song is not written out of spite, or even anger. I have spent my life travelling the world, I do it with open eyes and an open mind. I am content that no human on earth will EVER know or comprehend every facet of our existence. I have however seen the results of human fear, human ignorance and human guilt. I have seen the results of blind faith, the void it leaves when faith can no longer sustain a persons existence, the judgement placed on people for the way they were born and the justification of bloodshed and hatred. How many lives have been lost, how much blood has been spilled and how much wealth has been power has been placed in the hands of so few in exchange for a human construct designed to control and provide justification for human existence. This song was not written with any specific religion in mind. It is not meant to be a an insult, just a point of view. When you step back and look at the we have placed our beliefs, our faith and the hands in which we place the power, is this really anything like a world that a god would wish his children to live in?
"Dark Days" is about the environment, and how we often abuse it. When did you write this song? Was it after finishing up the world tour and seeing all of the beauty throughout places like Europe and Asia?
Winston McCall: I can't remember the exact time, but it was written on tour. All these songs were written during the period of time captured in the Home Is For The Heartless DVD. This is a blunt song. I wrote it just as a wake up call. It does seem very hypocritical for a band that tour and consumes in the way this band does, but i am of the belief that even a little song can hopefully make people think twice about the way we are living and the path this whole plant is heading down, because believe me, it is not good, and the evidence is there in front of us.
"The Slow Surrender" is not only one of my favorites because you can bang your head to it, but because of the idea of grabbing life by the throat and living like there's no tomorrow. I particularly liked the line "The Devil dances in idle minds". Throughout your travels, do you ever get a sense of complacency from our youth? If it's not widespread, is it particularly common in a particular part of the world?
Winston McCall: It's not just the youth, it people in general. People seem so intent on living their fantasy life, but they it is so much easier to achieve via a screen without any the risk of loss. We live in an amazing world, and its nothing a screen will ever be able to duplicate. Time is constant and from the day you are born, you begin to die, so why waste what you are given?
Tough question, what song would you personally consider your favorite off the record and why?
Winston McCall: "Atlas". That music itself is my favourite because it is so different from anything we have tried before, and the lyrics are just a snapshot of my life away from home.
You just recently released a DVD, "Home Is For The Heartless", which followed Parkway Drive on a recent world tour, and detailed all the various places you have been and the people you've met. Which places absolutely floored you the most? Can you give us any significant stories from that tour that might not have made the DVD?
Winston McCall: Everywhere was insane, I think the biggest thing that floored me was the vastness of this planet, its people and landscapes. Being able to travel and being constantly amazed and surprised by your surroundings is an incredible feeling. We have seen the best an the worst in this world, and the fact that the spectrum of existence is so varied and so vast is just amazing. If there was any one moment that stuck out it was playing in Calcutta. I can't even put that experience into words but that was the epitome of life changing.
You all love surfing quite a bit - in fact, I've never met someone from Australia that didn't have a love for the waves. Joel Birch of The Amity Affliction recently showed me some of the sights of the beach in Queensland, and it was absolutely breathtaking. What goes through your mind when you're about to hit the beach and surf for the day? What makes the beach such a cherished place?
Winston McCall: It is home for me. I have spent so much of my life in the ocean it is part of me. Its too hard to sum up, surfice to say that it really is a part of you. If you have lived by the coast and been a part of a coastal community, it is something that you will find almost impossible to leave behind. The ocean for me is calm, fear, excitement and meditation.
When can we expect Parkway Drive back in United States, particularly the Northwest? We've been itching for a show since Warped Tour 2010. I know you would've loved to play the first few shows, but VISA's got held up.
Winston McCall: Man, that situation sucked so much. It sucked that kids thought we bailed on those shows as well, they should know better by now haha. We're working on it, trust me, and its not that far off, we're just slowing down a little. When you have a whole planet to tour it takes time to get back to places.
Talking with JJ Peters of Deez Nuts, it seems like a large majority of Americans don't realize how much of a financial strain it is to be able to have the opportunity to travel to the States to play for us. While I'm definitely appreciative, can you explain what goes into being able to come here?
Winston McCall: Man, it takes SO much time, effort and cash to tour America, especially since your dollar is now worth pretty much nothing. you ever been on holiday to Australia? pretty damn expensive. Think of that, times at least nine people, and switch the pay you would be getting for work at home with half that because of the exchange rate. Parkway is lucky that we have such great fans that give us such amazing support, but we are the exception in Australia, and besides that we have spent so much time and so much money in the past touring America. The first tour we ever did I couldn't afford to eat for 4 days, I had to survive off 10 cobs of uncooked corn. tour life haha
When you couldn't play the first few dates of the Bring Me The Horizon U.S. headliner, I recall Suicide Silence stepping up and taking your place in California. What can you tell us about your memories about Mitch Lucker? It's really too bad he's not with us anymore.
Its a tragedy, especially for the family he left behind. Mitch was a great guy, a good friend and an amazing front man. I don't really know what else to say, it so strange just seeing text on a screen telling you you will never see a persons face or hear his voice again. I hope the rest of the guys are ok, death is never easy and i've seen enough of it in the last two years, but it never gets easier.
What newer bands from Australia can you recommend? I still don't think a lot of people know about Miles Away, but that's just me.
Winston McCall: Northlane, Survival, In Hearts Wake, No Apologies, Hand Of Mercy, Miles Away, Blkout, Eaten By Dogs.
What's the most interesting thing about Parkway Drive that has never been revealed in an interview before?
Winston McCall: Ben is scared to death of roller coasters and it REALLY funny. Six Flags is hell on earth for him.
At this point in your career, is there any uncharted territory that you haven't been able to get to yet?
Winston McCall: The whole continent of Africa for sure, the Middle East we would like to see more of, Antarctica if we can make it happen, and Space or the Moon if Richard Branson or Red Bull will help us out and get us there. Seriously.
If you had the opportunity to spend an entire day with any currently living musician, who would it be and why? What things would you want to know?
Winston McCall: Tom Waits, and I wouldn't even want to say a thing, I just want to hear him talk and hear some stories, what a life.
I posted this on the thread, but I thought I'd say it here too -
this was a great interview, and though he is a great guy I like that you touched on some of the nihilism in his lyrics. That can be a real barrier for me when it comes to just letting go and enjoying some of their songs.
what a fucking cool guy. I watch the parkway drive dvd documentaries whenever im feeling down or lazy. dudes are an inspiration. and this was a rad interview really solid questions, no bullshit involved.