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The Weekly interview: Parkway Drive singer Winston McCall

The Aussie metalcore band hits House of Blues on February 3

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McCall (center) and Parkway Drive have eclipsed a decade as a band, much to their own surprise.
Chris Bitonti

You’re coming to the states on a West Coast mini-tour this time, why not a full U.S. tour? We have plans for later in the year, but that didn’t include all of the states, so we figured we would try to hit all of the places we didn’t get to come to on this little run on the way to South America.

From your tour schedule, it looks like you have an international appeal—you’re touring Asia, South America and Europe constantly. It’s weird. We’re in the lucky position where wherever we go becomes a market for us in that sense, but it also means that we have to spend a hell of a lot of time travelling (laughs). But it’s cool, this will be the second time we’ve been back to South America, and the first time was absolutely amazing. It’s great to be back on the West Coast, though.

How does the U.S. metalcore scene compare to Australia’s? These days, it is hard to tell from a Parkway show, because once you get to a certain level and you’re looking at, like, 1,000 kids a show it turns into chaos anyway (laughs). I’ll say the U.S. definitely isn’t lagging, put it that way. Every show we play over here is gonna be absolutely phenomenal and kids tend to go crazy. I think the Internet has broken down a lot of barriers when it comes to differences between different scenes anyway—everyone seems to look similar and dress similar and act similar. It’s just the accents sort of shift (laughs).

You guys have recorded all your albums in the states. Why is that? I think it’s simply the fact that experience comes into it, a history of making heavy records. We originally tried to do it in Australia, [but] because it was such a new type of scene, every band that was heavy there was really underground, so the quality of production you could get in Australia just wasn’t up to scratch. If you want something that is actually going to stack up worldwide, you better make something that is going to pass the test on a worldwide scale. That’s why we started doing it in the states—we started out with Adam [Dutkiewicz, Killswitch Engage] and we’ve come back here because every single time it’s always worked out being the best option.

Parkway Drive celebrated 10 years as a band in 2013. Is that at all a surprise to you? Yeah, hell yeah; it’s really, really surprising. It’s crazy, but I think after two years of being in a band we actually videotaped this weird little interview while driving to a show, and we were all asking, “What are you going to be doing in five years’ time?” And all of us said the band was going to be done and we’d all be doing other crap jobs somewhere else. Not one single person in the band thought that we would exist for longer than five years, so the fact that we’re still going is an amazing thing for us. And the fact that it still feels fresh for us is really mind blowing.

How has ten years of screaming affected your voice? (Laughs) Interesting that you say that. It hasn’t, but at the same time I’m starting to actually work on maintaining it. Over the last six months is the first time in 10 years that I’ve actually worked on trying to maintain things. I actually went and got a camera shoved down my throat six months ago to make sure I didn’t have something going wrong and my voice box falling out or something, but they said it was fine, which was surprising. So I’m making an effort towards preserving it.

With both your style of music and your band in particular, I feel like the screaming is used more as an additional instrument than lead vocals. We’ve been a band that definitely focused more on the music working as a whole. I guess it comes down to the way we wrote—we never had one person responsible for the sole writing of everything, and it didn’t have me coming to jam with a song saying, “Here’s my vocals, here’s the guitar going on with it, so you can just highlight the vocals.” It’s been a complete package. So I guess when you’re working like that everything just complements each other in, I think, a much more cohesive way.

Knowing that—and obviously, with the scream it’s hard to make out what you’re saying—do you spend a lot of time crafting lyrics? Yeah, definitely. I’m sure that pretty much 100 percent of the people who hear a song for the first time would have no idea what the hell I’m saying, and I still see so many misquoted lyrics online. [But] lyrics are definitely at the heart of what I do, and putting a message and a meaning in the songs means just as much to me as the actual performance of it. I like words and I like language, so [it’s about] creating something that looks well and flows well on paper as well as sounding good. It means just as much to me as screaming my guts out.

Your music is so heavy. Do you feel you’re able to write uplifting lyrics? That’s been a very interesting thing. Up until recently, I’ve actually found it really hard to write uplifting lyrics and positive lyrics. You’ll definitely find that most of the stuff comes from a negative standpoint, and it’s not necessarily me trying to match it with sound. I’ve found the outlet of this band has been a really wonderful thing for me to get the negative aspects of my life out. In everyday life I’m a really positive person, and I think that’s because onstage I can scream about all the stuff I don’t like (laughs). So when it comes to writing positive stuff, I find it quite a challenge. It’s actually been a challenge on the new stuff that I’m writing—to write stuff that is positive and not have it come off as straight up cheeseball. It’s not so much matching the music but finding that spot in your mentality where you can actually express yourself in a way that doesn’t come off as corny to you.

Parkway Drive With Upon a Burning Body, February 3, 6:30 p.m., $20-$22. House of Blues, 632-7600.

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