Exclusive Interview: Parkway Drive’s Winston McCall on keeping it heavy, surfing and their new album

July 10, 2012 by Matthew Colwell

Exclusive Interview: Parkway Drive’s Winston McCall on keeping it heavy, surfing and their new album

It’s been two years since PARKWAY DRIVE reinvigorated the stagnant metalcore genre with their breakthrough album, Deep Blue. Now, the Australians have teamed up with producer Matt Hyde (Slayer, Hatebreed) and are heading back into the studio to shake things up again. Frontman Winston McCall checked in with AP to discuss Parkway’s most ambitious album to date and the band’s transition from Aussie slackers to international frontrunners.

Interview: Dan Stapleton
Photos: Jonathan Weiner

Where are you guys at the moment? 

WINSTON MCCALL: We’re at Sunset Lodge studios in Los Angeles. We’ve got six or seven weeks here to record our new album. We’ve almost finished tracking the drums and so far, it’s sounding absolutely amazing.

Matt Hyde is your third producer in the space of four albums. Why did you decide to change personnel again this time around? We had a bit of a different idea of what we wanted to do on this record–we’re not really down for making the same album twice–and we felt that we needed to switch something up in order to achieve that different sound. A friend recommended Matt to us, and when we met up with him it clicked straight away.

Some bands, especially heavier bands, tend to go into the studio with a really set idea of what they want to do, and they treat their producer almost like an engineer: “Just get the tracks down.” Do you take that approach or do you prefer the producers become more involved?
Well, this time we did want to have a lot of outside involvement. On Deep Blue, we pretty much wrote everything beforehand and recorded it exactly how we wanted it–which was great. But this time around we thought, “Let’s try to get outside opinions on these things.” We’ve got a lot of musical ideas for this record that are completely new to us, and we needed someone to help us realize them. Luckily, Matt has really come to the party with that stuff.

Your first three albums seemed like a natural progression – an ongoing refinement of the “Parkway Drive sound.” But from what you’re saying, it sounds like this next record could be a real departure.
Well, I think that out of all our records this one’s probably going to shock people the most, because there are some things in here that…[pauses] I don’t think it’s big changes to the Parkway Drive sound, but we’re going to add stuff to the sound that people would never expect. On Deep Blue, we experimented with a couple of new things in small doses to see if they worked–and they did. So this time around we said, “Okay, if that worked, we can do it to a larger degree, and we can do it in more places, and do it with more instruments and more voices.” It’s like the gates have opened in the creative department.

So we’re talking about a more atmospheric set of songs?
Yeah, those elements from Deep Blue will be present to a much greater degree. With the atmospheric stuff on this record, there’s so much more layering, and so much more depth to it. But the heavy stuff… I’m saying all these things about “new elements,” and people are probably thinking that it’s going to be soft, but the heavy stuff on this record is so stupidly heavy, it’s ridiculous. I think when the first single drops, people will realize that Parkway haven’t gone backwards in terms of heaviness. Our playing has improved, too. Even the simplest stuff—when it comes down to just the four elements of guitar, bass, drums and vocals—all of that has been taken to a degree that’s way, way more advanced than anything we’ve done in the past.

What’s been inspiring you lyrically this time around?
It’s a pretty broad base. I chose to write in the complete opposite way to how I was writing last time. For Deep Blue, I wrote in one specific voice from start to finish. This time, I wanted to be more blunt and to-the-point, and also a lot more varied. So this record doesn’t have one underlying theme; it’s more a snapshot of what’s influenced me in the past year.

Why did you choose to record this new album in the States instead of Australia? Does being in L.A. put you in a certain mindset? Definitely. It puts us into business mode. We’ve played around with the idea over the last couple of years of bringing someone out to Australia and recording there; doing it around Byron [Bay] so we can be near home. But I think doing that would lead to a more… relaxed atmosphere [laughs.] We’d say, “Oh, I’m gonna go for a surf now,” or, “I’ll worry about recording later.” When we’re recording in the U.S., as soon as we get off the plane, we’re like, “Right, we’re doing this record now.” You live it, you breathe it, for the entire time that you’re here. I wake up in the morning and my first thoughts are of what we worked on the day before and what we’re about to work on. We wouldn’t be able to achieve that mindset if we were at home, in our comfort zone.

But you’d still choose surfing in Byron over surfing in L.A.?
[Laughs] Definitely would, yeah. But I’d choose recording in L.A. over recording in Byron.

You guys tour a hell of a lot these days, and your career focus is international now rather than Australia specific. Do you still feel connected to the Australian hardcore scene or have you drifted away from it?
There is a touch of removal from that. Because we’re not playing as many local shows, we don’t have our fingers on the pulse quite as much, and we miss out on what bands are coming up. But it does lead to pleasant surprises in that regard. Also, we’re more invested over a larger area now. Back in the day, we had little to no idea of what was going on over in Europe or in the States, but we knew exactly what was going on in the Australian scene. Now that we’ve spread out, we know a bit of what’s going on everywhere. We still miss home, and when we play shows in Australia, it reminds us of that immediately. But at the same time, it’s pretty wild to be able to go overseas and play shows with crowds that rival the numbers we would get at home.

Can you recommend some up-and-coming Aussie bands to AP readers?
I’ll give you three: a band called Northlane, who we toured with on our last Australian tour. They’re just young kids, but they’re fucking incredible–amazing musicians and insanely heavy. There’s a great new band called Survival who are pretty much classic hardcore. And a band called I Exist, who… God, I don’t even know where to start describing them. If you like songs about wizards but played pretty much as heavy as possible, yeah, check ’em out.

When you guys are traveling the world, do people make assumptions about you just because you’re Australian?
To be honest, most people hear our accents and think we’re English. [Laughs.] Which is pretty fucking weird. What I find interesting is seeing what kind of things you can convince people actually happen in Australia. So many people think that koala bears are dangerous, that you can ride kangaroos to work… random crap like that. That’s the fun part of it. Other than that, we mainly get the standard “shrimp on the barbie" kind of things.

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