Baroness’ John Baizley: The Most Sensible Way to Move Onwards Is to Seize the Day
In this third and final part of our exclusive, hour-long interview with Baroness frontman John Baizley, we discussed his face-to-face encounter with the moment of death. Baizley shared his experience with what he perceived to be the absolute end, going into heart-wrenching detail about how his views of finality have been reshaped by the band’s bus crash.
We also discussed Baroness’ masterful double album ‘Yellow & Green’ with Baizley, who concluded our conversation with his hopes of when the band will hit the road once again.
How has that crash shaped your views on the moment of death or about any sort of afterlife?
Well to be brutally frank, it’s just shown me what is there. It’s given me a glimpse of what exists once you take that step and in my experience, which I will preface in by saying it’s my experience. I’m not trying to be philosophical or to dictate to anyone else how to think about this, but I felt it, I looked at it. I did everything but take the one more critical step that I would have needed to take and there was nothing there, that was what impressed itself so deeply in me; the fact that it wasn’t horrifying, it wasn’t comforting, there wasn’t any emotion at all. It was just very calm, very quiet, very calculated. I keep saying scientific, but I mean, that’s only to say it was very sterile.
Just another part of nature?
Yeah, and I was sure at that moment, had that whole thing ended differently for me, you just wouldn’t know. It’s like “poof,” gone, and at this point I’m still feeling fairly close to the accident so I wouldn’t say I’ve come to terms with this yet. But it would seem to me the most sensible way to move onwards is just to ‘seize the day.’ If there’s nothing waiting for you tomorrow and even if there is, who cares? But if there’s nothing tomorrow, if that’s one potentiality, then I’m not wasting time. I’m not wasting any more time.
I’ve effectively conquered any misgivings I had about pain. I think I felt it about as extremely as you can and it wasn’t impossible to deal with, it was fully possible to deal with, and I’ve dealt with a number of things over the past month which I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Things like being stuck in a non-native health care system that has no means or protocol in which to deal with you. I’m not even saying that the British health care system is bad, I’m just saying there was no provision for me. At some points, I felt like my paperwork had been lost and there were moments that I ran out of medications, and I’m not talking about things like pain killers, I’m talking about things like blood thinners and an anti-inflammatories and all these scary things I was on that I didn’t know if I could be off. I had to figure out a way out of the hospital because I got stuck there, and once I was out, I had to figure out a way how to get back in because there was just no protocol for me.
I’ll make a very long story short; so my wife and I spent a lot of days wondering what state I was in. Am I healing? Am I fine? One day I’ve got basically a nurse alongside me taking my blood pressure, checking my vitals and making adjustments to me as necessary, and then I’ve got nothing. I hadn’t seen a doctor or a medical professional for three weeks because I couldn’t get scheduled. I got moved around to three different hospitals while I was there. The first week-and-a-half while I was there was unbelievably good. The care I received was awesome and then after that it was kind of a nightmare, because I never knew what was going on with myself. As incapacitated as I was, there was nothing I could do about it. So, being wheelchair-bound and not being able to prepare meals for yourself, clothe yourself, all the basic functions of being in a state where you can’t provide that for yourself, and there was no medical professionals to weigh in on your situation. It’s wasn’t really scary, but it was just very, very frustrating. Since then, things have been beginning to normalize and it’s been great.
I’d like to just ask you some quick questions about ‘Yellow and Green.’ I truly love this album and it’s been out for a while now. Have you been able to gauge the reaction to the record from both fans and from yourself compared to your previous works?
Yeah, I mean, it goes without saying that it was a new type of record for us. Honestly, I was actually saying the same thing right after the record came out. I was telling people, “Well this is a new kind of record for us and a step in a slightly different direction,” but I know that I like it. It’s absolutely bar none my favorite record that we’ve done. It came out on the tour that we had the accident on. We were playing a bunch of the new songs and the crowd reaction seemed great to it and everything like that. At the time we were touring it was still a really fresh record, so I actually don’t have a really good perspective on things. I hope everybody likes it. The press initially was good on it, but you and I both know that doesn’t mean fans and audiences are going to lap it up.
Just based on the amount of support we’ve gotten since the accident; it seems great. I don’t know if we’re just a pity party now [Laughs] but I stand behind this work the same way I stand behind our past records, only I think with this record we’ve pulled the curtain back a little bit more. What we’re trying to do is we’re trying to write heartfelt music. We’re trying to find the core of what it is that makes our band special and unique and we’re trying to express who we are individually while at the same time trying to touch on the universal aspects of music that are so important to listeners. I think we’ve taken a step in the right direction. We’ve left so much unsaid at this point that I’m excited to see where it goes.
I think a lot of people love the record. My favorite ‘Yellow & Green’ song at the moment is ‘March to the Sea.’ I really love the lyric, “You tied yourself up and jumped in the sea,” and the whole ‘March to the Sea’ concept of a downward spiral from drugs. Is there anything you could tell us about the meaning of that song?
Yeah, not to get too specific, but the whole record lyrically speaking is based on parts of my life, people that I know, things that have occurred around me, experiences that I’ve gone through, and there’s some autobiographical content to that song. I think that the way that I’ve tried to raise it and frame that song is from older Baroness material in that it’s quite a bit more exposed in terms of its content. What I intend to do, basically what I think is the most moving and powerful aspect of music, is the fact that you can take one person’s individual idiosyncratic and unique pain and when it’s expressed in the right way, the whole world has the ability of connecting to it.
With a song like ‘March to the Sea’ and almost nearly all of the songs on the record, I’m not talking about things that are unique, I am talking about things that have touched us all at some point. Whether it was substances, the loss of a loved one, pain, anxiety, all of these things that I gravitate towards when I’m writing songs; they are things that I think I have in common with people as opposed to things I think that separate me from other people. These are, while it’s played out in a way for me, there’s actually nothing unique about it. We all will deal with these things and I try not to pass too much judgement on it. Just with that song ‘March to the Sea,’ it’s more like a question than an answer in every way.
There was a lot of time to reflect on the subject matter for that record. I wasn’t able to come up with any solid answers, it was just something where every time I wrote a song and I was thematically asking a question, it just gave me more questions, which gave me more songs, which in that way, has reflected something kind of big. It was 18 songs worth of material.
It may seem like a million miles away right now, but do you guys have a goal or a date in mind for when you’d like to start touring again?
We don’t have a specific date, but it goes without saying; the sooner we do it, the better. I think that every minute worth of space in between our crash and our next show makes things more difficult for me. I’m an eager person; you can ask the other guys in the band. I’m kind of antsy and jumpy. I just want to get back to it. It’s helpful for me. I’ll say that we’re better once we’re playing again. Put us in a rehearsal space and see what we can do. This accident will do nothing but challenge our notion to know who we are and what we do, and we just have to come out on the other side of this relatively as the same people with the same interests. The accident hasn’t deluded my passion for music one iota.
Thanks again to John Baizley for the incredible interview and we’d like to send our unwavering support to Baroness and the other passengers involved in the bus crash. Here’s to a speedy and full recovery.