Paul Gregory: How Eastwood and Strymon are shaping his sound

Paul Gregory: How Eastwood and Strymon are shaping his sound

Lanterns on the Lake formed in Newcastle Upon Tyne back in 2007. They’ve continued to record through the good times and the bad, releasing music to considerable critical acclaim. They’re not afraid of ambitious projects either, their latest record was a live recording with the Royal Northern Sinfonia performing their music with full symphonic orchestration. We caught up with the band’s producer and guitarist Paul Gregory to find out where they source their creative inspiration.


MPS
You have recorded a total of eight albums and Eps since Lanterns On The Lake formed, how would you say the band’s sound has evolved over that time?

PG
I’ve never actually read it like that before, 8 records?! Bloody ‘Ell! Only three of them are studio albums though, we did a lot of EP’s in our early days. We’ve always had an idea of what Lanterns On The Lake should sound like, right from the very beginning. But we haven't always quite understood how to capture it; ‘Beings’ our last record is the closest we’ve come to making the record we had in our heads. Not that we aren't proud of the first two and all the EP’s, far from it, we absolutely are. They do feel as though we were just testing the water perhaps though, just finding out who we were, some bands record a debut record and it defines their sound and their identity, it wasn't like that with us. So the idea of the band hasn't changed as such but our confidence in who we are, how we execute our musical thoughts and what we want achieve musically has become stronger and clearer.

MPS
Where does the band draw its creative influence from when it comes to songwriting?

PG
There isn't anything specific, we certainly don't reference anything or anyone when we start something new. I guess subconsciously everything that is currently going on in our lives impacts the mood and tone of the music, when it comes to music we all wear our emotions firmly on our sleeves.

MPS
Your last record was a live album recorded with the Royal Northern Sinfonia, how did this project come about?

PG
Our label mate John Grant had worked with Royal Northern Sinfonia and it worked out a treat. They were interested in doing something similar with musicians in the North East and Simon Raymonde (Bella Union boss and all round legendary human being) suggested they try working with us. We met up and talked about how it could work and then things began motoring from there. The show at Sage Gateshead was the priority, the recording was more of an afterthought but I’m so glad we did that.

MPS
What challenges did this present in preparation?

PG
Fiona Brice was called in to write the arrangements, she’s amazing and she’s already worked with RNS previously on John Grants music. The arrangements she wrote were just perfect, we’d rehearse them with RNS at Sage Gateshead and then we’d make amendments. In Lanterns world only Angela (our violinist) understands correct musical language and theory, so she was the interpreter, the rest of us have made up our own musical language over the years...

MPS
Can you tell us a little bit about the experience of playing live with a huge orchestra behind you?

PG
It was mind-blowing to be honest, we are very lucky, it’s something we always wanted to do. It was quite an incredible thing to hear and feel the orchestra, especially when things got loud... orchestras are LOUD, and push a lot of air, it’s a highly immersive experience.

MPS
In general, do you prefer gigging or do you find song-writing and studio work more satisfying?

PG
They have different rewarding qualities. I really do absolutely love being on tour and playing live, if I could do that for the rest of my days I would, nothing on Earth compares to playing a gig I think. Song writing can often feel a bit like climbing a very steep, dark and misty mountain, I’m not sure I could say I ‘enjoy’ that aspect, its sometimes a struggle and can leave you feeling a bit lost. Then you get a song which appears from nowhere and everybody gets really excited by it, especially when it’s one of those songs that just seems to write itself. It’s always very interesting to see how a song can grow into something over time, it’s a strange process. Studio work I like certain aspects. I love mixing. Currently my day job is a mix engineer, I much prefer mixing other peoples’ records than mixing ours though!

MPS
Can you pick out a favourite gig?

PG
So far, my favourite gig has been the Sage with RNS, just because it was such a unique event for us to do, and we have a recording of it. It’s been the absolute highlight of our career so far. I also remember playing in Toronto, our first time in Canada and I just fully expected the place to be empty, I mean who’s heard of us in Toronto, then walking out to find the place was full of people, a humbling experience.

MPS
As a guitarist, who do you count among your musical influences?

PG
Kurt Cobain, Nick McCabe, Johnny Greenwood, Ed O’Brien, Rat from Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, Jeff Buckley, Sigur Ros, Explosions In The Sky.

MPS
If you could go back to any musical era what would it be?

PG
Probably 90’s Britpop, not to be in a band, but to be in the pub.

MPS
What was your first guitar?

PG
It was a right-handed Encore Stratocaster (I’m left handed). My mate gave it to me, it was an awful guitar, but I was just so desperate to learn, I played it upside down. My Mum and Dad then got me my first left handed guitar for Christmas which was a Tanglewood Les Paul type. I loved that thing, it became my whole teenage life. I still have it!

MPS
What guitars are you playing at the moment?

PG
My main guitar is an Eastwood Airline 59 Coronado, my absolute favourite guitar in the Universe, I still can’t believe it’s mine, it’s such a unique sounding thing, almost in-between a Fender and Gibson, yet entirely all its own. I also use an Epiphone Les Paul and an Epiphone Dot...both of which I’ve replaced all the electronics and pickups, tuners, pots...and stripped the finish down to the wood, I did that with a penknife, it took months, but was immense fun!

MPS
Tell us about your Timeline and BigSky, what made you chose them?

PG
I’d been toying with the idea of replacing some of my older delay pedals with a Timeline. A friend of mine was kind enough to lend me theirs so I could see if it would work for me and after 10 minutes I was 100% getting a Timeline. The sound quality of the delays is just outstanding, and the functionality, the amount of presets, plus the MIDI options for the looper, its going to be the centre piece of my pedalboard. Same with the BigSky, though originally, I was going to get a BlueSky, another friend of mine convinced me to get the BigSky and I think that was the right thing to do. I haven't tried that one yet but I already know I’m going love it

MPS
What else do you have on your pedalboard?

PG
My pedalboard is currently being completely revamped, my current thinking is the end result is going to look like this:

ZVEX SHO - Fulltone 69MK11 - Dunlop Volume x - Way Huge Green Rhino Mk4 - EHX micro pog - Strymon Timeline (with multi switch for the looper) - Strymon Big Sky - TC Electronics Ditto Looper x4 - EarthQuaker Devices Avalanche Run

(I think...)

MPS
You produced all the band’s recordings, do you think this has an effect on the way you approach finding your guitar sound?

PG
Yes it absolutely does, in that I get to do it exactly how I want and nobody can tell me otherwise haha! Ideally, I’d much prefer to record my guitars live with the whole band, but being the producer/engineer that isn’t always a practical way to do it, I’ve got my eye/ear on other things. We did manage it on our second record ‘Until The Colours Run’. For large parts of it the guitars are the live takes, and it really worked for us, we had this big old school hall to record in, tons of room, we were doing takes while I had one eye on my playing and the other on recording meters, it was all a bit hectic and a little amusing. For our last record ‘Beings’ we recorded it in our rehearsal room which is quite small, so we did bass and drums as one, and then Hazel and I added our guitars afterwards. My approach to effects and processing is whatever sounds we use live will be the sound that goes into the microphone, so we set up the guitars as live, pedals and amps, shove a mic in front of the amp and get it done. I really don't understand why it would be done any other way, we spend a long time working on our guitar sounds. To record dry and then ‘make the sound’ afterwards in ProTools is ridiculous to me. I might add the odd bit of delay here and there and some extra reverb in the mix if needed, but the core sound you hear on record is the one you’d hear at a gig, it’s the only way to get the right performance.

MPS
Is there anything you have parted with that you really miss?

PG
Yes....and even thinking about it almost makes we want to cry. I had a very old Boss DM2 analogue delay which I rather stupidly sold on eBay, believing I no longer needed it. I still miss that pedal.

MPS
Can you think of anything  that really changed things for you?

PG
Getting my first proper left handed guitar. I’d been trying to learn upside for about a year on a right-handed guitar, firmly believing that I might actually be utterly crap. Then playing an actual left handed guitar, I couldn't believe it, it was nice to play!

MPS
Is there any advice you can offer to people starting out on their musical journeys?

PG
I’m always full of advice but I think the most important one I’ve learned is have fun doing it, it’s supposed to be fun this music lark.

Find out more about what Lanterns On The Lake are up to: lanternsonthelake.com

  

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