Interview with Taylor Washington of Paladin on New Album Release 'Ascension'
PALADIN will soon announce their upcoming new album, 'Ascension' which is set for official release on May 17th. You can check out PALADIN tonight in Atlanta at the Earl with Bit Brigade, or better yet PALADIN will be doing their album release party in Atlanta, May 11th at 529 in East Atlanta alongside friends Theocracy, Double Ferrari, and Moonshield.
Frontman of Paladin, Taylor Washington, took some time out of his epic guitar shredding time to answer some questions regarding the band and the new release. Check it out below. And support local music!
1. Although I am pretty certain I know the answer to this question, here goes. Iron Maiden or Judas Priest? If you could only have one for the rest of eternity.
Maiden, easy. I prefer them as a band and obviously Bruce is an inspiration. I'm honestly not really a Priest fan. Put away the pitchforks!
2. Paladin has been together for some time now and playing shows. How long did it take to finally create and record your Freshman record, 'Ascension' which is being released May 17th?
Before Paladin formed in early 2015, I played with a band called Sybaritic for maybe 2-3 years. Six of the songs that would end up being on this Paladin record were originally written for Sybaritic. After that band sort of imploded I immediately formed Paladin with two of the other members and brought those six songs with me. The idea of putting out an EP had been thrown around, but that would mean cutting some songs, which I didn't want to do. Plus, personally, I'm an LP guy. I prefer to put out something more substantial. We had some small setbacks, mostly from lineup changes, but by the Summer of 2017 we had 11 songs written, rehearsed, and ready to record.
We entered the studio with Matt Smith (Theocracy) around June or July of that year to start tracking drums and vocals. I had already recorded most of the guitars myself. Drums were knocked out in a single weekend, but we didn't finish vocals until early 2018 because we all had pretty crazy schedules and it was hard to sync them up at times. I think we got the final master from Matt around September, but we had started shopping around for labels around July or August. It took a while but it was totally worth it. Working with Matt was a blast and he did a fantastic job not only engineering everything but also as sort of a producer, giving advice and ideas for vocal takes, harmonies, etc.
3. I know you guys are video game nerds, and your album cover has a bit of a nod to that animated style. Who designed the album art and what was the mood you were going for?
The artist's name is Nen Chang (https://www.retromortis.com) and the piece is called "Hoarfrost." It was actually commissioned from her by someone else. Our guitarist Alex Parra came across it somehow. She was too busy to do something original for us, but we were able to work out an agreement so that we could use Hoarfrost for the album cover, which was fine with us since we both thought it looked really cool. We wanted something bright and colorful, something that would stand out without looking too cheesy or stereotypical. It has a bit of that early Final Fantasy/Yoshitaka Amano style going on, which was also something we were kinda looking for.
4. Paladin has had some minor line up changes since its' beginning. Do you think you have finally settled on a solid crew for now?
We've gone through a couple drummers and bass players. We're still friends with all of them, though, which is cool. Our current lineup feels solid. Everyone is pulling their own weight. Alex and Laurie, our manager, have been taking on a lot of the business related tasks, which is tremendously helpful to me because I seem to always have a hundred other things on my plate. And, like most people, I loathe the business side of things.
5. There is some serious guitar riffage in this album (which is no surprise to anyone that knows you and the style of the band) but what bands, in particular, would you say influenced you the most on this album? There is a mixture of old school power metal vocals and guitar along with some death metal thrown in. How much from each sub-genre would you say influenced you to mix these things?
As far as bands, I'd say Children of Bodom were the single biggest influence. There are definite nods to Angra, Nevermore, and Galneryus in places as well. I'm mostly a prog/power guy, with a sprinkling of melodeath. Also 80s stuff, like Whitesnake or Racer X or whatever. I just really love fast, harmonized guitars, and catchy riffs and melodies. I like some death and black metal but I'm not hugely into either. I usually prefer when bands incorporate elements of death/black into more melodic or dynamic contexts. Vocally I'm very much into the prog/power "operatic" style. High register, big vibrato, lots of power, some grit. Fabio Lione, Russell Allen, Daniel Heiman, and all kinds of other people no one reading this will have ever heard of! Also Bruce Dickinson and Dio. But mostly I want to sound like Vince Neil when he's 300 lbs. and perpetually out of breath.
6. So yes you were trained in guitar, but seriously how long have you been playing guitar and how many hours a week would you say you devote to practicing and writing music?
I got my first guitar in January 2003, so I guess I've been playing for a little over 16 years at the time of this interview. I attended the Atlanta Institute of Music from 2006-2007, but other than that I'm self taught. I honestly don't practice that often because I spend so much time gigging or learning songs. I typically play 2-4 nights a week for Metalsome Live Band Karaoke, which is exactly what it sounds like. Karaoke with a live band providing the music. I have to stay on top of an evergrowing list of 400+ songs, and each night I'm on stage for 3-4 hours straight. It's a lot of work.
I've also been super busy lately learning Theocracy songs on bass since I'm filling in for a few shows. Those songs have a lot of backing vocals too, many of which are not easy to sing, so I have to dedicate time to getting that down as well. Not to mention memorizing all the lyrics. It's hard for me to find time to write music or even get into the right mindset to write music when I'm swamped with so much other stuff. Occasionally I'll noodle around and come up with some cool ideas. Typically when I'm ready to write I'll have to sit down and pluck around for hours until things start coming together. Once I've laid some kind of solid foundation the rest will sometimes fall into place pretty quickly if I'm lucky.
7. You have some good shows and the Legions of Metal Festival coming up. How stoked are you and the guys to have these opportunities? What are your biggest hopes for the band down the road?
We're beyond excited for Legions! It's our first festival gig so I don't know how that couldn't be exciting. It will also be cool playing with bands who are stylistically similar to us, since there isn't a whole lot of that in Atlanta. We've also got a couple shows coming up with Bit Brigade, and they're just one of my favorite things ever. A guy speedruns a video game on stage and the band provides all the music. We managed to get Theocracy on board for our Atlanta album release show (May 11th at 529), a band that Alex and I both have been big fans of for years. I jump at any opportunity to catch one of their shows, but to actually share a bill with them is always an honor. We're also planning a Midwest/East Coast run for October that should be pretty rad.
8. I know you have guest toured with a few bands including Necromancing the Stone, Arsis and Theocracy. What has this experience been like for you being on the road on a much broader scale? What is your favorite memory from one of these tours?
They've all been great experiences for the most part and I'm super thankful for the opportunity to play with such high profile names. Of course with touring there will sometimes be drama, heated arguments, shitty situations, bad shows, etc., but the positives always outweigh everything else. I've met some great people and made some valuable connections. Being able to peek behind the curtain and see what keeps the gears turning from a more logistical and financial standpoint has been very insightful as well. I've certainly learned a lot.
It's hard to think of a favorite memory. Or ones that I could talk about publicly anyway, haha. The last Arsis tour I did, we shared a bus with Ensiferum and their crew. I'll just say Finns are definitely not shy about getting naked on a crowded bus. Nor was the merch guy from Detroit.
9. If you weren't playing music what do you think you would be doing with your life?
Probably something with computer science.
10. Any dirty secrets you want to share about your bandmates? Nooooooo, just kidding. But anything extra you would like to add that we should know about Paladin or you or your bandmates?
It's not uncommon for me and Andy (our bassist) to sing Savage Garden songs after band practice. Truly. Madly. Deeply. And that's no lie ♫
11. Last but not least, this question might be brutal. You have 5 things: and you have to erase 4 of them completely from your life forever and ever. Which 4 would you let go and which 1 would you be motivated to hold onto and why?
1- Ability to play guitar/music
2- Ability to drive over 50 mph
3- Ability to eat pizza, or anything resembling pizza
4- Ability to play video games or anything resembling a video game (ex. computer, phone, arcade games)
5- Ability to walk
Jeez, well, I'd have to pick guitar. It's almost my entire life at this point. No more video games would SUCK but at least I can still watch other people play them, right? It only says ability to PLAY video games. If I can't drive over 50mph maybe I won't yell at people as much. Silver lining.
PALADIN are already confirmed for the LEGIONS OF METAL FEST in Chicago May 17-18th, with Liege Lord, Cirith Ungol, Eternal Champion on May 17th. More dates across North America throughout the year.
Taylor Washington - Guitar/Vocals Alex Parra - Guitar Andy McGraw - Bass/Vocals Nathan McKinney - Drums