Interview: Gareth Millsted (Lord Vicar)

This band needs no introduction: Lord Vicar is undoubtedly one of the best classic doom metal bands on our planet. That’s why we’re very glad to present to you an interview with its founding member and drummer Gareth Millsted. Enjoy reading – and open a bottle of the best red wine you can find.

Hi Gareth, thanks a lot for your time. How are you doing? 

Gareth Millsted: Could be better I guess. We are in a bit of a frustrating and uncertain time.

How are you dealing with the current situation? I suppose the pandemic destroyed a lot of your plans with Lord Vicar. 

It is weird, in many ways I have had it quite easy. I live in Switzerland and we have not exactly had draconian restrictions, however the overall economic impacts have not been good for me (and many others too) and there is a lot of uncertainty ahead so I am feeling pretty insecure right now. I try and get out into the hills and forests when I can, being in nature keeps me grounded and helps me cope with the other bullshit that life throws. And as you say, our plans with Lord Vicar were basically destroyed for 2020 and it isn’t looking good for 2021 either. It really brought home to me how important making music with those guys is to keeping me sane! I have a lot of friends who work in live music production or running venues and of course they have been hit even harder. They basically lost their livelihoods. A really sad time.

I try and get out into the hills and forests when I can, being in nature keeps me grounded and helps me cope with the other bullshit that life throws.

Gareth Millsted

Are you already working on your next studio album with Lord Vicar

We have already talked about concepts and structures of the next album. Just very basic ideas at this stage. I know Kimi has a stock pile of riffs and ideas, and I have a few so we know we have the building blocks there. It just needs us to take the time and start arranging the riffs and writing lyrics. At the beginning of Lord Vicar, demos were emailed to the other members and we just had to learn the songs, rather than jamming in the rehearsal room, so to get the process started we will need to do that again I think. Then maybe later in 2021 we will get together to rehearse and get a feel for the new material. Realistically, I don’t think we will start recording until 2022, but let’s see…

What was the last record you listened to before answering my questions?

These days I don’t really have time to listen to whole albums end to end very often. However I think the last one I listened to in its entirety was Eye For An Eye by my esteemed friend and colleague Kimi Kärki.

Do you often listen to your own music? If so: Can you enjoy it or do you regularly think: «Oh, I’m not totally happy with this riff, vocal line, etc.?»

Not very often these days. When I do listen to it, it is generally because I am in the mood to listen to it specifically, so I enjoy it quite a lot. Whether I get picky about details depends on my mood. Most times I tend to let the overall sound wash over me, rather than focussing on individual elements. There are probably things I could point out as not quite right on some of the records, but a lot of that is stuff 90% of listeners would not notice or care about. Overall I am pretty happy with the way we sound on record. Catch me on another day and I might not give the same answer!

Epic is a feeling, it can be hard to describe. You know it when you feel it.

Gareth Millsted

On our blog, we focus on epic metal and epic doom metal. How would you define the term »epic«? We received a lot of different answers regarding this topic in the last few weeks. 

Epic is a feeling, it can be hard to describe. You know it when you feel it. I guess there have to be certain elements there, the song tells a story or paints a picture in your mind. It takes you away to another time and place.

Are there, in your opinion, any epic elements in the music of Lord Vicar?

I would not describe us as an epic doom metal band in terms of genre but we absolutely have elements of epic doom in our sound! Some of our songs are very long and have elaborate arrangements, such as «Sulphur, Charcoal and Saltpeter», «The Funeral Pyre» or «Sign of Osiris Risen». They all tell a story that unfolds over the different musical passages. It is an immersive listening experience.

What do you generally think of the Finnish doom metal scene?

I am not personally very well in touch with it, so it is difficult but I can at least give an impression based on my past experience. I always love going up to the northern regions and whenever we play in Finland it is pretty much always good. There are some great bands and venues we have played with over the years. The crowds generally seem well into it and there is a good atmosphere. To be honest it is a good few years since we played so maybe things have changed? I heard a few venues closed and I guess during the Covid period the live music scene has suffered, like everywhere else.

Are there any young Finnish metal bands that you would like to recommend for our readers?

Well as I mentioned above, I don’t exactly have my finger on the pulse but I will give a shout out to Opium Warlords with our old friend and former bassist Sami Hynninen (who I think needs no introduction). Their recent album is called Nembutal and it’s really good! I also like Wolfshead, which features another old friend Vesa Karpinnen (of Fall of the Idols fame). They are a bit more on the metal/hard rock side of things but still relevant to doom fans I think. I’m not sure if you can strictly say that Mansion are doom metal, but I think they also generally appeal to doom fans. Great band, I love watching them live. Finally I think Cardinals Folly should get a mention, some Reverend Bizarre worship going on that I think a lot of doom fans will dig!

In 2019, I saw your gig at Hammer of Doom in Würzburg, Germany – front row, of course. A friend said: «Watching Lord Vicar live is like drinking a glass of amazing full-bodied red wine at the fireside» – I think many fans in Würzburg would have agreed that night. What’s your opinion on this particular festival? And what do you think of the German festival scene in general?

I love the analogy to a glass of full-bodied red wine, Kimi and I certainly like to have a glass after a hard days rocking! And I think it is very fitting for the feeling I get from Lord Vicar, I am glad that other people feel the same about the music we make. I love the Hammer of Doom festival and I have played in Würzburg on tours so many times over the years, it feels like a second home. Beautiful town as well, I can’t wait until I visit again. As for the wider German festival scene, well it is great and it has been very kind to Lord Vicar over the years. Stoned from the Underground and Hells Pleasure as well as many others have great memories. And who can forget Doom Shall Rise? That festival had so many great bands over the years and I have to say I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to play there twice!  

What are your favourite festivals outside Germany?

Muskelrock in Sweden is a good one, the venue itself is this very old and camp fairground and it has quite an interesting vibe to it.

Nearly two years ago, you released your latest longplayer The Black Powder. Is there a track on this record that the audience usually appreciated more than others when you performed it live on stage? And which Lord Vicar song would you generally classify as your own live favourite?

I don’t know if there is a particular crowd favourite from that album. The songs are pretty long so we only normally play 3 songs from that album so that we have space in the set to represent other albums. I am quite a fan of the song «Impact» which we don’t play that often, but it goes down pretty well when we do and I think it is a great short, energetic rocker that lives up to its name. But probably my own favourite from a playing point of view is «Sulphur, Charcoal and Saltpeter». It has some pretty interesting drum parts and I think it is a great statement to come on stage and just play that epic straight off.

Last question: What’s your favourite Black Sabbath record?

Never Say Die. I guess I am a bit weird!

Interesting pick, for sure! Gareth, thanks a lot, stay safe. And see you on the road soon…

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