Artist: Paul Ablaze, lead singer for Blackguard
Label: Sumerian Records
Interview Date: 3/1/2010
Genre: Pagan Metal
I learned about Blackguard first from a noted scribe in Metal’s realm and then from Alissa White-Gluz, the singer for The Agonist and with such powerful believers in their camp I felt compelled to look into them. At the time the band was known as Profugis Mortis and they had never been over to this region, and since I had no direct contact with them outside of the Internet, I was left to enjoying their MySpace songs while maintaining a hope that they would one day embark on a US tour of some kind. Since this time the band had signed a US deal to Sumerian Records and a European one with Nuclear Blast Records and most important of all – had changed their name to the much more imposing “Blackguard”. The name change seemed to open new doors for them as we found the band appearing on the second go round of Pagan Fest and then on tour with bands like Ensiferum and Epica. PiercingMetal.com was able to sit down with the bands singer Paul Ablaze for a quick chat and here are the results of our discussion.
PiercingMetal: Let’s start with a very simple one. What made you decide to change the bands name from “Profugis Mortis” to “Blackguard” and how long has the band been together for those just coming into learning about you at this point in time.
Ablaze: We’ll the band has been together since about 2001. It started with Terry and juice and since then the band has developed into the line-up you see today. There’s only been one line up change since our first record “so it begins” and that was the replacement of our former Violinist for our current lead guitarist Kim.
As for the name change, it initially started before the first record. We tried changing it then but we couldn’t agree on a name. Then when we started talking with Nuclear Blast Records they were telling us that there were a lot of bands around Europe with very similar names, so they asked us if we’d be willing to change, so we gave it another go and decided on BLACKGUARD.
PiercingMetal: While I had heard the bands name from other media outlets, it seemed as though the States did not get a visit from you guys until the second Paganfest that had Korpiklaani and Primordial headlining. In your opinion, what were the reasons behind this being the case?
Ablaze: Touring the states is very; very difficult to do when you’re an independent band in Canada. The process to get proper work visa is mind numbing and many bands do it illegally which can lead to being banned altogether if you’re caught. Even if we had the finances and resources back then to do it I’m happy that we waited and got the opportunity to be apart of a big touring package to introduce the band on an international level. I definitely feel we were able to make a much bigger impact this way
PiercingMetal: Looking back on the “Paganfest 2” tour, what made is special for a band like Blackguard and how did you find yourself being received as a band since the larger public were still viewing you guys for the first time and taking this project as a “new band”.
Ablaze: Of course it was special for us primarily because it was our first major tour. And to be a part of something like the “Pagan Fest” tour was something we all had aspirations of doing, we just didn’t think it would happen as fast as it did. The line-up was so strong too it just seemed so perfect. We had already toured with Moonsorrow a few years prior so it was cool to be sharing that experience with them.
Overall I thought we were received very well. I don’t really remember a “bad” show from that whole tour although I’m sure there was at least one LOL. The crowds were great; we had awesome mosh pits and just overall very energetic crowds. I can’t think of a better first tour to be apart of.
PiercingMetal: That tour seemed to open up the door for Blackguard and then we found on you the Summer Slaughter 2009 Tour, the “Tour From Afar” with Ensiferum and most recently with Epica. Whew, that is quite the impressive run. What has all of this additional exposure done for the band in your opinion?
Ablaze: This past year we’ve seen ourselves become an “established” band right before our own eyes. Every tour we’ve done the crowds for us have gotten bigger and bigger and we’re staring to see some very serious fan bases in some cities now. Places like Seattle, Calgary, L.A, San Francisco…etcetera we’re getting some serious support in all those cities and more. It’s incredibly rewarding see the fruits of our labour and continuous touring.
PiercingMetal: Comparing the Summer Slaughter tour to the other big one, was their any concern performing with that many Death Metal and Extreme Metal bands since you have a totally different style. You have to agree that stuff like Suffocation and Necrophagist are not usually on the same playlist for someone who might enjoy Blackguard.
Ablaze:Honestly I wasn’t any more nervous about the S.S than I was the Epica tour LOL. Of course we knew that we were going to have a tough time with the Death metal / Metal-core / Death-core crowds but we just went out there and gave it our all as we always do. Some people dug it, and others stood and starred as us like we just ran over their overbearing mother in law. What made the summer slaughter so amazing was the people, all the bands and crew we’re the coolest people, it was like summer camp. Also what we put ourselves through physically on that tour is far beyond anything we would go through on any other “normal” tour, so in comparison everything is a cake walk.
PiercingMetal: Onto the “Tour From Afar” with Ensiferum and ExDeo. Were you fearful of this one when Hypocrisy had to bow out of the event? Give me a little personal highlight to that experience.
Ablaze: Ya that was a little nerve wracking. We were doing dates with Kataklysm right before “from Afar” and every day we were hearing one thing, then another, we were worried that the tour might get scrapped altogether. When they finally did jump ship it was right after ExDeo announced they would be missing 90% of the tour which only made matter worst. But in the end people still showed up to the shows and we made new friends with Lazarus A.D who jumped on last minute to replace E.D. The tour overall ended up being a really great experience and I think we won over a lot of people on that tour.
PiercingMetal: Tell me about the fans that you have met, in your opinion are you finding them mostly receptive to the bands live show or mostly giving you a “who cares, get off the stage” attitude. I am asking this since I have often seen the band down at the merch booth handling their affairs and I am sure that you get to talk to a lot of people.
Ablaze: Most people are very respectful but you get the odd heckler ones in a while. I almost got into a fist fight with someone in Anaheim during the Summer Slaughter tour LOL. Most fans we meet compliment the live show which is great; it’s always nice to hear that people appreciate the energy you give. I’ve been hearing a lot from people that they’ve never even heard of us before they saw us play, which is a little discouraging but also encouraging that the live show seems to be making a really good impression with people.
PiercingMetal: Having watched the band a number of times now, I can safely say how you are a very energetic guy up there in the front. What psyches you up before you hit the stage and what are your secrets for giving a full throttle show?
Ablaze:I give myself plenty of time to warm up and stretch before performing. Also eating the right foods before going on stage helps a lot. I’ll try to eat some whole wheat bread and a mini protein drink about 30-45 min before hitting the stage, as well as making sure I’m hydrated.
I get really psyched up when I’m warming up because I like to visualise the crowd and try to picture everybody having a great time. I think about all the best shows I’ve seen and try in my own way to recreate that energy for whoever we’re playing for that night.
PiercingMetal: Connected to what gets you excited about a show, what is it that you fear most before hitting the stage if anything.
Ablaze: Playing in front of a crowd that doesn’t care. You can only do so much to get a crowd into it, and sometimes they’re just not having any of it. Those are the worst.
PiercingMetal: It’s amusing to see the “synchronized hair spinning that goes on during the course of a Blackguard set. Is it safe to say that this is “one of your things” and how did this come up in the first place. Clearly some thought went into the manner in which you do this.
Ablaze: Well of course other bands do it but I’d like to think we do it more and better than most bands LOL. It’s definitely something we’ve come to be known for along with the high energy shows.
There really wasn’t that much thought put into it, it’s just head banging. When we’re rehearsing at home we practice as hard as we play our live show, that’s probably why it comes off more “polished” in a live setting because we do it all the time even when we’re not on tour.
PiercingMetal: The band hails from Montreal, Canada. What is different about the Metal scene in your region as compared to the things you are observing over here in the States?
Ablaze: I use to think growing up that Montréal had the best local bands, and now that I’ve travelled all around north America and seen locals from all around, now I can definitely say Montréal and Quebec in general have the best local bands ……sorry LOL
Quebec has and has had a very, very strong metal scene for close to 30 years and the calibre of bands that have come out of the region is a testament to that. I’m extremely proud to have come from here and try in our own right to continue the legacy that bands like Gorguts, Voivod, and Cryptopsy started.
PiercingMetal: The album you released is called “Profugis Mortis” and it comes care of Sumerian Records. What has the reception been for it so far? Are you finding more people aware of the band as time goes on or are the drastic changes in the way people get to purchase their music making this hard to find.
Ablaze: So far the reaction has been great. The record didn’t “take off” and make us a huge hit or anything but it did what it was suppose to do and that was put us on the map. That and the constant touring has helped build and maintain this momentum that we hope will follow into the next record.
PiercingMetal: Some might view this as a stupid question if they don’t see a lot of shows, but how much more important is the touring aspect against the actual sale of music product via an outlet for a band like this?
Ablaze: Ultimately touring sells records. Period. The best way to get your product out there as a band is the get in the van and play as much as you can. One directly affects the other, the more a band tours the more sales they’ll see via those other outlets. There’s always exceptions to the rule, some bands become fads on MySpace and can sell a ton of CD’s without hitting the road much. But I wouldn’t bank on that happening to us anytime soon.
PiercingMetal: Looking at the album “Profugis Mortis”, would you say that it came out exactly as you had wanted it to in terms of production and the songs you wanted to present to your fans. Also what would you say are your three quick favourites from the album if you had to decide?
Ablaze: There’s always something that could have been better but I try not to dwell on that. Could the production have been better, sure? Could the songs have been written better, why not? P.M was the best we could have done with what we had at the time and I’ve very proud to be apart of it. My favs are probably: “This Rounds On Me”, “Allegiance” and “The Sword”.
PiercingMetal: From the recording which numbers are the most fun to play in concert and that you feel “affect the audience” the most.
Ablaze: The ones I just named. Any song that inspires a crowd to get into it are always the most fun to play for that very reason.
PiercingMetal: I just caught you with Epica and this time you were third band in and that much closer to the headliner. Are you fearful of walking under the ladder or having the black cat walk in front of you with all this good luck that is happening to you guys?
Ablaze: The harder we work the luckier we get so I guess we’ll just keep doing what we’re doing.
PiercingMetal: We’ve had the pleasure of talking in person a number of times now and I can safely say that you are a pretty funny guy who seems to find the bright spot in a scenario. Tell me one of the funniest experiences you have found happening to yourself of Blackguard on the whole over these recent tours.
Ablaze: when we were in L.A for this tour, after the show Willam (Epica’s tech) and Isaac (Epica guitarist) keep trying to get me to dip my dick in a bucket of ice water. Willam started off by betting me 10$ then Isaac threw in 20$. So I made a sweet 30$ that night. They would have given me more if I held out a little longer. That night was both funny AND weird.
PiercingMetal: I read something about a “feud” with Admiral Nobeard of Swashbuckle and I am unsure if this is serious or if you guys are messing around. If you guys were to duel it out onstage with swords (not real ones of course), who would win and how quickly would the fight be over?
Ablaze: We’ll fortunately the admiral and I have duelled before (with real swords) and I must say for a man of his size he’s quite agile. In the end I cleaved his penis in twain at 2 min into round 31 of the match and we really haven’t spoken since
PiercingMetal: What are two things that you want the world to know about Blackguard?
Ablaze: We’re not pirates – We’re hear to have a great time so get your head out of your ass
PiercingMetal: What inspires you in the world of Metal today, meaning give me a couple of bands that are the spinach to your own Popeye and give you the strength and encouragement to fight the battle?
Ablaze: There’s a band from Montréal called TheTrigger Effect( http://www.myspace.com/triggereffectmtl) , who inspire me constantly. They works 100x harder than any other band and makes far less than they deserve. They always remind me that this isn’t about being a “rock star” and the sincerity one should have when doing this.
PiercingMetal: Blackguard get the chance to pick three bands to open up for, who are they and please do not line out the obvious Metallica and Megadeth because that’s too easy an answer. Why would you pick these artists based on what you know about their audience.
Ablaze: Municipal waste : Because they rule and their fans are insane! Finntroll : We’ve played with them many times but always as one-offs. We’ve never had a bad show with them and they’re bad ass guys. Children of Bodom (kind of obvious) I wanna play in front a thousand+ people a night , seems like fun.
PiercingMetal: Through some amazing good fortune Blackguard finds themselves on a worldwide headlining tour. Who do you bring as your four opening bands and why choose them.
Ablaze: Hummmm you know I’ve always wanted to put together a “Canadian Assault tour” kind of like the “Montreal assault” that Despised Icon put together. I’d Love to have us , Into Eternity , 3 inches of blood , and Threat Signal do a full North American tour.
PiercingMetal: Are there any myths about touring that you want to address for those musicians out there who hope to get on an adventure like this?
Ablaze: ….You never truly know someone until you spend a couple of weeks together in a van sleeping in parking lots , playing crap shows and starving. Remember that.
PiercingMetal: Closing up what can we expect next from Blackguard?
Ablaze: We just got in studio this week to record the follow up to PROFUGUS MORTIS. Expect everything to be bigger, better and more Epic this time around. Expect to see us on tour A LOT this coming year , so get ready to come out and have a blast with us.
I’ve managed to attend every visit to NYC by Blackguard and can stress that if you see their name on the marquee and you miss them then you should question your ownership of Metal fan credentials. They deliver in full no matter how long or short their set is and as Paul mentioned, they will be back. Check your listings and hit their MySpace page so you are better informed. We thank Paul for his time and wish the band the best of luck as they invade city after city.
Official Website: https://www.facebook.com/blackguardband/