Parkway Drive are the latest band to feature on the cover of NME Australia, talking about their seventh album, ‘Darker Still’, their near-breakup, male mental health and much more.
For the story, we caught up with three members of the Aussie metal band – frontman Winston McCall, lead guitarist Jeff Ling and drummer Ben Gordon – to discuss the turbulent creation of the album, how group therapy helped them become their strongest selves, and the band’s uncertain future.
- READ MORE: On The Cover – Parkway Drive: “It felt like a sledgehammer had been taken to all of our worlds”
In unpacking the minutiae of their story, we spent more than five hours with the band, riffing on everything from Metallica’s moment in Stranger Things, to running their own label in Australia (Parkway Records), to their UK tour kicking off at London’s Alexandra Palace today. But with only so many pages in an issue of NME Australia – the new issue of which can be ordered here – there was a lot we simply couldn’t squeeze into our cover story.
Check out the cover story here and read on for five bits we think are too good to stay on the cutting room floor…
‘Darker Still’s grim, real-world inspirations
Winston McCall: “The writing process started when Australia was on fire, and ended when it was underwater – and in the middle of that was the closest we’ve come to a plague in our lifetime. I guess Parkway’s work gets darker because [the world] gets darker – the concept of ‘Darker Still’, even just as a phrase in itself, very much mirrors what is actually happening in the world.
“We’re born into a state of ignorance, and all we know is love and protection. But the more that we’re exposed to the world – the more we’re taught about consequence, pain and loss – the more the darker aspects of reality start to creep in. So the more you go on, the more you start to try and live in a state of denial. You start to throw yourself back to when things were better – back to before you knew the truth, to a time that had less consequence. And that’s not the way that reality works. It grows darker.
“We’re going through a world that continues to get darker, because no-one has a solution to any of this shit. There is no solution to the human nature of greed and selfishness, which is what lies at the core of all of this. When you make a very black-and-white thing of it, it’s a group of people who are obsessed with power, and a group of people who suffer at their hand. The ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ drift further and further apart, to the point where you have people seeking immortality and designing space rockets, while half the world is starving.”
The band’s plans for their own label, Parkway Records
Ben Gordon: “We’ve been DIY from the very start, and we’re still completely self-managed, which is pretty incredible – Luke [Kilpatrick, rhythm guitar] does a really good job with all of that. We parted ways with Resist Records [in Australia; in the rest of the world, the band are still on Epitaph Records] before we started making ‘Darker Still’, and instead of going out and shopping for a major label, because of the technology and the fact that we’re already quite established, we just thought it would suit us better to retain that level of control, and keep our music in our own hands.
“We’ve definitely discussed [releasing other bands’ music through Parkway Records]. But I think the bigger question is what the music industry is going to turn into as a whole – especially with streaming and NFTs and the metaverse and all of that. With technology changing so much, are record labels even going to be necessary? They’re certainly becoming less in-demand than they were, because it’s so easy to self-release your own music nowadays. But it would be cool, for sure. If we got to a point where we could sign bands that we thought had potential and release their records, I’d love that.”
The importance of not overthinking things
Jeff Ling: “I’ve played shows before where I didn’t feel good and I was in a different frame of mind – I’d be thinking about everything I had to do onstage and become really paranoid, and it’s almost driven me to the point of [having a] panic attack. And that’s what happens in sport, too – if you’re a footballer and you start thinking like that, you get the yips, you misjudge your kicks, you second-guess things, and then everything goes pear-shaped. And it’s so relatable to what we’re doing – particularly live, but even in the studio. Every single studio experience we’ve had, there’s some kind of major lesson that someone in the band learns.
“One of the most memorable lessons [came] when we were recording ‘Deep Blue’ with Joe Barresi, and I was tracking the lead parts for ‘Karma’. There’s a middle part in that song where I’m playing this noodly, jingle-y lead thing, and I was stressing so hard over it. I was like, ‘Ah, God, this has got to be perfect! I can really picture this song being something special live!’
“I had this idea in my mind, but I was all tight, I was out of time, and it just sounded like shit. And so [Joe] pressed ‘stop’ and he was like, ‘OK, no. Go over there, put your guitar down, go for a walk.’ He was talking to me after that and he was like, ‘You’re overthinking it, you’re in the wrong part of your brain. Don’t think about it, feel it… And then play it!’ And ever since then, that’s basically been my motto with all of my guitar work, from writing to playing.”
Stranger Things reigniting a mainstream love for metal
Winston McCall: “It takes gateway moments like that to validate how big this shit actually is. Metallica is one of the biggest bands in existence, but Stranger Things is a gateway for everyone that didn’t get onboard with them when they were making it huge to now get into that – and it’s the biggest gateway there is right now. It validates the fact that so many people actually connect with metal, and that it’s a real art form that has so much value. It takes these moments to break those perceptions – the stigmas and psyches – that people have towards metal, and allows people back in just for the enjoyment of it, to reconnect with it.
“And the amazing thing for us is that, right now, I don’t see how [Parkway Drive] can become any bigger without it being straight-up mainstream. But then right before this album comes out, Metallica and Stranger Things had this moment, and I was literally watching it going, ‘Fucking yes!’ Like, ‘Thank you for doing this, Netflix, for every metalhead out there.’ I’m very aware of what that moment means for every single metal band on the planet.”
Why communication is key to keeping a band intact
Jeff Ling: “When we were touring around midway through our career – when we’d just started making traction and getting bigger, no-one was jaded yet and it was still all new and exciting… We’d see all these bigger, older bands – much bigger bands than us, you know, ‘household name’ kind of bands – and we’d see how they would interact with each other. And they’d be completely segregated – no-one was talking to each other, everyone was on their screens, travelling in different buses… All these extreme measures they were taking, and I’d always take note of that and be like, ‘Jeez, that’s strange – it’s a shame they don’t have a great relationship like we do!’
“It’s funny, because when I look up how old they were, and what part of their career they were in when they started falling out with each other, it’s really close to where we’re at now: 20 years into their career, and around the age of 40. We’ve been a band for 20 years, and most of our members are around 40. And yeah, I understand now why these bands grow apart and have all these issues. It all stems from being completely incapable of communicating, and not being able to express their emotions in the way they need to be expressed.”
Read NME Australia’s cover story with Parkway Drive here and get your copy of the September 2022 issue here. Parkway Drive kick off their UK tour today – find more info and remaining tickets here