Interview: Gary Meskil and Adam Phillips / Pro-Pain


Consistency – that’s one of the words, which defines the character of the band being interviewed. Many things have changed since their debut in 1992. MTV has pupated into TV, fans have gained wrinkles and lost hair, new trends and bands come and gone, many of which often have more tattoos than musical imagination, glaciers have melted, meteors have fallen. Everything has turned upside down and much has changed, but the turbulences of the external world has not affected the style of both Pro-Pain’s music and lyrics. Honesty, intelligence, conscious observation of the world, intransigence and explosive energy. All of that still characterizes this band, which on the 6th on the of March came to Wroclaw, where before the show I had a chance to talk to the band’s leader, bassist/vocalist Gary Meskil and guitarist Adam Philips.

Hi guys. Thank you for your time before the show. I wanted to start this conversation by showing you something, particularly to Gary. Do you remember these?

Gary Meskil – in the center

Gary Meskil – first on the right

Adam: Oh, Crumbsuckers (Gary’s band before Pro-Pain). Every time I see this picture I think of one thing (laughs).

Gary: I know, I look like my son on those photos. One of them was taken in 1985 and the other I think in 1988.

Long time ago. It’s been about 30 years of your career on stage so at the beginning I wanted to ask you – why do you actually still do this?

Gary: I ask myself that at least 2 or 3 times a day.

Adam: (laughs)

(laughs) But seriously, what drives you to still be in this?

Gary: I think once you have done this for so long it sort of becomes part of your being and you almost could not imagine doing anything else.

But it’s not a habit, is it?

Gary: I wouldn’t call it a habit. I think it’s a passion. People that are traveling musicians have passion for playing the music, for adventure, traveling and seeing the world.

Gary Meskil – Pro-Pain (03.2013)

(photo by  Piotr Tomala)

You’re currently on tour with your latest album „Straight to the dome”. It’s another great Pro-Pain record and when I was listening to it I was thinking about the character of your band. You’re an interesting case, because on one hand you are a very resilient, consistent unit with a distinctive sound. Your albums are similar, there is no big revolution on every record, but then there is always also something new to it, some new flavour or vibe.

Adam: I know fans do expect something to be consecutive, but if we make the same album 4 times in a row, less people will buy it each time. So we add something different, but at the same time, we can’t stop sounding like Pro-Pain, because that’s the way we are.

What characterizes your sound is the fact you’re your songs are catchy. I think it’s not easy to be heavy and catchy at the same time.

Adam: It’s not, it’s really not. With some of my favourite bands the biggest complaint I have about them is that they don’t have the songs. I like bands like Periphery, I think it’s great music, but their tracks don’t really have song structures. And structure is what causes the catchiness. It’s a foundation upon which the song is built.

So that is how you structure your songs?

Adam: Oh yeah. I think that gives song a character. Each song has its own character because of the structure. Even if it’s similar, every one of them is build differently.

Music is a very emotional thing. It involves and expresses a lot of different emotions, but within the heavy music genre I think anger is one of the main emotions present. However, when I listen to some heavy sounds, sometimes I think whether certain bands or music is angry or actually furious. Is there any difference to you between these two types of emotion?

Gary: I suppose those are two different levels of the same thing. From the stage perspective we can certainly turn the anger into fury and a lot of it comes from the subject matter. The world in general gives us a lot to be angry and furious about. Fortunately for a band like Pro-Pain, as they world gets worse, it gives us more things to sing about. On one hand, as a person you want things to change for the better, but again, there is no shortage of things for us to sing about. The world has created an environment for bands such as ourselves to thrive and speak about those terrible things.

Adam: I don’t know if I would say it’s either, but then at times it’s both. On the new record, a lot of Gary’s lyrical content is different than on previous records. On earlier albums there was a lot of political angst and he’s shying away from that now. In terms of the lyrics, the new record is more like our first album “Foul Taste Of Freedom”, where there were a lot of stories Gary sang about.

You mean songs like “Johny Black”?

Adam: Yes and on the new record in the title track “Straight to the dome” there is also character named Johny so there is reference right there.

Gary, was it your conscious choice to move away from the political content of your lyrics?

Gary: Yes. These days, especially with access to alternative media, the situation gives everyone a little bit of chance to be an armchair-politician.

That is a good term.

Gary: But it takes a bit of my forte away. When writing lyrics for the new album I no longer felt strong urge to touch on such subject matter. Although, I’m very news conscious and conscious of what is going on in the world. It takes up a decent part of my every day, to gather as much information as possible to make my own mind up according to different news sources I expose myself to.

Adam: Besides, in general lyrical content and musical content sometimes aren’t the same. Let’s say if Marshal, our second guitarist, writes a song and he feels a certain way, when he writes it and then Gary comes in and puts his lyrics on it, the lyrics might be different than what Marshall felt, but it doesn’t make it less of a song. Now the song can be about two things to different people, so I think the way the audience relate to the lyrics and the music, is what completes the work.

I think when a band puts a song out there, of course it’s always theirs, but once it comes out of the speakers or crosses the stage, it also starts to belong to the people.

Adam: That’s absolutely right.

For example there are songs that I feel are mine, but it’s not like I own them. I just connect with them emotionally.

Adam: That means the band have done their job.

And that kind of connection is one of the most beautiful things about music. Adam, you mentioned Marshall but I also wanted to ask about the guitarist you have filled in for almost 2 years ago – Tom Klimchuck. Are you in touch with Tom?

Adam: I spoke with Tom maybe 6 or 7 months ago.

How is he doing? (in 2011 Tom had to quit playing in the band due to health problems)

Adam: He’s doing much better. His health is improving. When I talked he sounded like he was in good spirits so we a good conversation on the phone.

Good to hear that. I ask about Tom also because I met him after Pro-Pain’s last show in Warsaw, which was about 3 years ago. It was the time when your previous album “Absolute power” came out and I remember when I was listening to the record and then looking at Tom’s performance on stage, I was really impressed at Tom’s technical skills. His, and eventually now your parts are really difficult to play and I remember saying to Tom after the show, that it’s a shame to me, that musicians from heavy genre are so underrated comparing for example to those of jazz or any other kind. I think metal or heavy music guitarists must have spent the same amount of time to get to a certain, high level of musicianship, but rarely do you hear praise about their skills from people from outside the genre who understand, that it takes as much time and effort to learn, as in any other genre.

Adam: You’re absolutely right about a lot of that. When I was asked to step into Tom’s shoes, one of the first things I thought when I was learning his parts was “oh crap, why does Tom have to be so good” (laughs). At the beginning it wasn’t easy for me to duplicate it all.

Did you learn anything new about playing guitar by learning Tom’s parts?

Adam: Absolutely. It forced me to think outside of the box. When you play an instrument and you speak through that instrument, that is your voice. But when you speak through your instrument with somebody else’s voice that’s a whole other animal.

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