Parkway Drive’s Winston McCall was the latest guest to appear on Full Metal Jackie’s weekend radio show, to discuss the band’s latest album, even darker. The new album challenged the band in a way the band had never been challenged before and McCall reveals he “almost broke” the band’s internal dynamic in the process.
That said, the album pushes the band’s sonic palette in ways they haven’t gone before, due to the influence of the pandemic lockdown, according to McCall. The musician reveals that they took on a no-holds-barred approach, thinking this might be their last outing with fears the music might not return.
The pandemic also had another effect on the group, causing them to take a closer look at how they communicated with each other and realizing that a change needed to be made. This led to a canceled tour earlier this year, and McCall explains how they have since adjusted to hopefully make their future healthier.
Check out more chat below.
We’re here to celebrate the release of Parkway Drive’s new record even darker, which is out now. Winston, what is different about this album in terms of challenge with higher creative expectations?
Oh Lord. (Laughs) Where do I start this one? Basically, this album pushes the boundaries of what we’ve done as a band and what we can do as a band further than anything we’ve done before. I’m sure all bands kind of say that every time they make an album, but for us, we started writing this in the first year of the COVID madness, and when all of that was happening, basically we shut down the whole music industry. We couldn’t tour. Basically, the whole world thought this could be it, like it could literally be this for the whole world. So when it comes to writing, we’re like, ‘Well, if we’re just writing one more album, what do you actually want to write?’
Now it turns out that everything is in place and rolling again. But when we started writing, we approached it with no restraint [approach]. It might be the last thing you do. So how far do you want to go with it? And for us, it was like, “Well, if you’re not going to get another chance, you might as well go as far as you can in terms of sound changes and whatever you want to do.” This translates into a very varied album in terms of sound palette. What we’ve tried to accomplish, the types of songs we’ve tried to write and put on an album and the scope of all of that is much broader than anything we’ve done before.
This is your seventh album in a period of nearly 20 years. What have you done to cultivate creative spontaneity in such a familiar environment?
Yeah, it’s interesting because you’re trying to walk that line of familiarity and knowing what works, but also trying to push yourself into more uncomfortable places to try to expand what you’re doing. I think whenever you get a little too comfortable for us, we get a little bored. You do one thing and play a thousand gigs of a song and you kind of decide you want to do something else to add to what you’re doing.
For us, it’s just a constant back and forth between the three main songwriting members, which is myself, Jeff, our lead guitarist, and Ben, our drummer. And we kind of push things and we push each other with basically whatever influence we have or whatever we want to do within the band itself. And we all have our own very varied places that we draw influence from and train from, that no one else in the group hits individually. So when it all comes together, we find that it always increases regardless of the individual goal in the first place, which is great.
It’s just trying to ride that line of no [pissing] other people, but at the same time, making sure you’re pushing them enough by saying, “No, not far enough. We have to keep pushing. We have to keep pushing on this. It’s too safe.” So, that’s kind of it for me, to be honest, and we pretty much got it. This album, I’m not even going to mince words, but it pushed us way further than we ever would have in terms of friendship to the point where it almost broke the whole band and that dynamic in general.
Parkway Drive, “Glitch”
The latest single “Glitch” is about night terrors and sleep paralysis. What intrigues you most about the subliminal function of the human mind?
Oh man it’s such a fascinating thing because when you witness these happenings or it’s part of your life in general you realize how powerful the human mind is and how much it controls the very fabric how we perceive reality. It is something that is not only fascinating, but also terrifying to people. It’s for me. It’s something that I find captivating in its unknown. The fact that you can always be at the mercy of your own body and what that can actually do to the concept of fear and the concept of terror in general is the ultimate existential fear, which I think any good film about horror or anything to do with the human psyche is still trying to capture.
It’s that feeling of helplessness and the small nature of what we think of as our little slice of reality, and as soon as the barriers come down and the mind goes wild, it’s truly terrifying.
Winston, you canceled a North American tour in order to focus on healing within the band. What is the biggest health issue that endangers touring bands, especially yourselves?
Oh my, where do we start with this one? For us, it was essentially grassroots level communication. It was succumbing to the grind and not knowing any way out, including communicating with the people you are closest to, who are our band mates. Every day the work that we do and I’ll call it work because being a musician is such a damn hard and incredibly isolating job. Like it’s an industry where you’re in a constant ebb and flow between incredible ups and downs and massive connection with a lot of people at the same time. Then there is extreme isolation in terms of being able to communicate with another person about how you feel and what your existence is like. If you don’t have a team behind you that places you or helps foster a healthy environment, you kind of have no guardrails and that can send you way over the edge.
For us, it was as if we were responsible for the functioning of the team. When you start doing this as a kid and then grow up for 20 years in a group and you’re never taught how to communicate properly as an adult, or even function properly in terms of reaching out or being vulnerable or being open, and you’re going through 20 years of living in a touring band, it does a lot of damage. We never realized it until we started preparing for the tour that we canceled. It became apparent that many of the band members had major issues which only came to light when we stopped during COVID.
Once the idea of starting over came back, we were like, hold on to something, something is seriously wrong here. What are we going to do ? Once we started talking about it, we realized there were a lot of mental health issues we had to deal with. So that’s what we did. Playing catch up to 20 years of growth and communication, and basically going through counseling and group therapy and stuff like that to try to work your way through that and figure out how to catch up. It’s a really, really hard thing to do as a band.
I think the music industry is still catching up with a big toll, a sanity check, because there’s a lot of very unique stuff around it that provides very easy pitfalls for people who don’t are not in the most stable settings. of mind.
Like all other bands, the pandemic has effectively shut you down for an inordinate amount of time. How was starting the backup a full reset, like Parkway Drive 2.0, so to speak?
That’s it, like a complete reset for us. Basically, we haven’t even started yet. We’re still like running the engine. We played a show. It was a New Year’s concert this year. And it’s been like that since it all stopped. So being from Australia, first of all, suddenly imposed a huge challenge on yourself.
Even when it all started everywhere, we look at the festival season on your way and the festivals in Europe and the tours are happening, and we are just starting the shows again in our country. For a long time, our borders were completely closed. So even if we wanted to tour we weren’t even allowed to go out, which I never thought would be something I would see in my lifetime. I didn’t think it was possible. We’ve been through so many scenarios over the years where I’m like, “Nothing can stop the music industry. Nothing can stop this band.” We flew over volcanic ash. We have had natural disasters. We’ve had floods, we’ve had fires… nothing slowed this thing down. It’s not going to stop. And then COVID appeared. I did not think of a pandemic. have you?
For us, it was a chance to write an album and record it, almost self-destructing at the same time, and then figuring out how not to self-destruct to put it all together. So when we come back, it’s in a healthier, stronger place, which is really, really great. It’s just for now that we’re doing all the work on the back end, this plan for the release, the plan for the album, the plan for the shows, the tours that are coming up and doing it in a way that basically harnesses everything that is good we have within this group and leaves behind all the negatives, which is a good result in the end.
We kind of had to drag ourselves through hell in the middle of a pandemic to do it. But at the same time, I feel like where we’re at as a band is a lot healthier and probably in a better place than we’ve ever been, to be quite frank with that, which is sometimes just I have to walk straight through the fire. Not you ?
Winston, it’s great talking to you. I wish you the best of luck, and I’m really excited about this new record. And I hope to see you again very soon.
Oh yeah. We will return. That’s the thing. It takes time, but we’ll be back and if you step in a little and it self-destructs or you have to wait a little longer, we’re here for the long haul and we’ll make the long haul count.
Thanks to Winston McCall of Parkway Drive for the interview. The ‘Darker Still’ album is available now and you can order it via the group website. You can also follow the group via their Facebook, Twitter, instagram and Youtube accounts. Find out where you can listen to Full Metal Jackie’s weekend radio show here.
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