by Christine Leonard
When BeatRoute last touched base with melodic metal monarch John Dyer Baizley, the leader of Savannah, Georgia’s Baroness, it was mid-2016 and singer/guitarist/visual artist was in a warehouse in England, or as he puts it “an alternate universe version of preparing for tour by rehearsing a lot.” Having subsequently introduced Europe to their moody Grammy-nominated album Purple, the first release on the quartet’s newfound Abraxan Hymns record label, Baizley more recently found himself looking for another mountain to summit. That challenge unexpectedly arrived when longtime friend and member Pete Adams announced his amical departure from the band after decade of providing backing guitars and vocals. Fortunately for Baizley and remaining crew, bassist Nick Jost and drummer Sebastian, the next ascendant to the royal family was waiting in the wings, axe in hand.
“It was just one of the easiest and perhaps luckiest things that’s happened to us in our career,” says Baizley of Baroness’s acquisition of guitarist Gina Gleason. “We got really lucky, Gina is an incredible player and she’s got a great attitude. She is an incredibly diligent and hardworking musician. We have found yet another incredible musician to join the band and do what we love doing.”
Novelty never entered the picture according to Baizley, who perceives the recruitment of a woman to Baroness’s muscular lineup with an open mind and a discerning ear; just as he did for the ingestion of Jost and Thomson in 2013.
“Much the same as when Nick and Sebastian joined the band, our response time between members has been phenomenally fast and often seamless. I’m always afraid there’s going to be some extremely laborious process of integration and chemistry building, but it’s just never been that big of an issue for us. Her qualifications for joining the band and becoming a member of Baroness had nothing to do with gender. Anybody with her skill level that had shown interest would have gotten it. It just happened to be her. We couldn’t be happier.”
Baizley continues. “Additionally, I’d like to think that this band is now, and has always been, a place where ideas like gender or age or race aren’t significant to who we work with and how we work with those people. It is awesome. If I’m being honest, I don’t’ think we see enough of it out there in our scene. It can feel a bit male dominated, I’m might be the wrong person to even say that being a male myself, but she’s proof made flesh that your gender has virtually no bearing to what you’re able to accomplish and the way you’re capable accomplishing it. And I’m really glad that I can say this about this band and about this woman.”
Well-past the terrifying 2012 road wreck that crippled the band and effectively broke them in twain, Baizley is in a better place both physically and mentally. He explains that the group would have “more than likely” gone down an alternate path if destiny hadn’t intervened “had we not experienced what we experienced on the first tour for Yellow & Green (2012 Relapse Records) – which, of course, is when we had that flying bus accident off the cliff – had we not suffered that and lost members and had to rebuild and restructure…” It’s amazing how things can change in an instant. “When we were a younger band, we played seven days a week. After I was injured… I’ve got the type of injury where I’m a better musician if I get a few days off a week.”
Taking time to recharge and write has been beneficial and by Baizley’s estimates a “not uncolourful” release from the freshly-forged Baroness is lurking right around the corner. An accomplished painter and illustrator in his own right, Baizley was actually completing the artwork for their yet-to-be-unveiled album’s cover as this interview was being conducted.
“We’ve finished recording the next album and now we’re just in the process of figuring out how, when, where, why, what it’s going to look like. With each record we lean into something entirely different. We really pushed as creatives and as songwriters with this new record. We were without a doubt a difficult group of people to satisfy. We held ourselves to a very high standard creatively and wrote something that I think some people will like. I like the Hell out of it. I think it’s the best record we’ve ever done. I’m extremely excited.”
Baroness perform March 23 at The Palace (Calgary)