Parkway Drive’s Winston McCall on shutting down the elitists: “I don’t deal with metal gatekeepers at all”

Parkway Drive
(Image credit: Dave LaPage)

Love ’em or loathe ’em, Parkway Drive are the southern hemisphere’s biggest metal band. New album Darker Still has reaffirmed the Aussie metalcore brutes as arena-level stars in the UK and Europe: a seismic achievement considering the band almost broke up while making it. In answering your questions, singer Winston McCall delves deep into Parkway’s three-year hiatus. He also ends up chatting about surfing onto a shark, making his crew throw up and how many infants he thinks he can pummel in one go…

Metal Hammer line break

How do you deal with the hardcore and metal elitists/gatekeepers? Chris Parker, Facebook

“I don’t. Ha ha! I don’t deal with them at all. My only interaction with anyone in this world is when they come up to me and say hi at a gig or a signing or something. I have genuine human interaction and it’s only ever been really nice. I’ve never had someone tell me I should go die in real life or that my music sounds like donkey shit. Elitism and all those things only exist online, and I don’t associate with that stuff.”

How much fire is too much fire? @Dai_Robot, Twitter

“All of the fire buttons at once. We tested it. We were like, ‘What if you pressed all the buttons at once?’, and that’s when the true fear of what’s possible happened. It was terrifying enough to make all of us run out the venue. It burnt so much of the oxygen out of the room, it made a bunch of the crew sick. It fucked with their ears and they went outside and vomited.”

How many five-year-olds could each of you take in a fight? Charlie Hill, Facebook

“Is this guilt-free play-fighting or bloodsport?”

Hammer: Let’s assume these five-year-olds want to kill you.

“Hmm… [Winston mimes punching at waist height] Each person would be able to take several waves of 10 five-year-olds at once, I reckon. Five-year-olds are big enough that you could pick one of them up and use them as a weapon against the other five-year-olds. Between watching Step Brothers and playing Call Of Duty: Zombies, I think I’ve got enough strategy on how to beat a five-year-old with another five-year-old. After several waves we’d get tired and the balance would shift.”

Parkway Drive

(Image credit: Dave LaPage)

How do you cope with extreme depression and what steps can we take to stop the self-loathing? Zare Ralof Karadzin, Facebook

“That’s a great one. Talk to someone that’s outside of your family group and your support group, not anyone that’s going to lead you to continue the cycle you’re on. I can’t stress enough the value of a voice that’s outside the experiences you’re already having. Even with their positive reinforcement, the voices you have now will continue the cycle that’s going on, and that cycle needs to be broken. You need a voice outside to help you get a different perspective and provide you with new pathways. There are massive systems of wonderful people out there specifically to try and help with that. It’s nothing to be afraid or ashamed of. It’s like anything else in life: if something’s not working for you, bring in a new element to really make change. Otherwise you’re left with the same elements to try and figure out a new thing.”

Would you rather wrestle a bear or a shark? Chris Flynn, Facebook

“Bear, because you could at least hold onto its fur and won’t have to hold your breath. I’ve thought about the shark part many times. Their eyes are probably their weakest point but, fuck dude, if you see one of these things in real life, you realise how much of it is basically just luck. Imagine a car coming towards you that has teeth. You quickly realise how ill-equipped you are in that environment.”

Hammer: Ever had any close calls?

“Last year, on my birthday, I came off a wave [while surfing] and stopped straight on top of one. It was a juvenile white, four metres long. I got away from the head, thinking, ‘Please don’t turn around, please don’t turn around,’ and it started lazing its way up the sandbank. I screamed at the dude up the bank: ‘There’s a fucking shark coming for you!’ There were, like, 300 people in the ocean that day and nothing happened. Thank fuck.”

What’s so special about the road Parkway Drive? Alicia Rutter, email

“It’s where we started! That’s the street that our drummer, Ben [Gordon], his parents’ house is on. Thousands of street signs have been stolen from there because of us. It’s a tourist attraction to the point that our council tried to buy the name: they wanted to buy us out of our name many years ago. They stopped putting street signs up and started painting it on the road. Instead of stealing signs, people were lying on the road to get photos taken. It was so dangerous that now there are just no markings for that road whatsoever.”

Have you ever played knifey-spoony? Charlie Birchall, Facebook

“Ha ha! I’ve won it a couple times. It’s hard to master. If someone wearing a hat and with no sleeves on challenges you to it, they’re pretty legit.”

If you were forced to get one thing tattooed on your forehead, what would it be and why? Deshaun Smith, email

“I’ll take away ‘forehead’ and substitute in ‘entire face’  – I want my entire face to look like Darth Maul. Fuck it, I’d commit to the entire body piece that transforms me completely into him.”

Parkway’s had the same line-up for 17 years now. What keeps you all together? How helpful was the break before this album? Jane Mahon, email

“Survival and love are what’s kept us together. We’re great friends, but we’ve also within that had some quite toxic traits, in terms of growing up in a band and not learning how to communicate properly. All of those things led us to take the break. If we hadn’t taken the break, we would have imploded. The eureka moment was, ‘We’re not ready to come back.’ That was the reality of, ‘We have a tour in two months’ time’ – the US tour we cancelled – and ‘who’s psyched for it? No one.’”

Hammer: Did the new music get you back together?

“It’s what almost tore us apart! Creating new music in the environment that we did was what brought everything to a head and made us realise that the way we were operating wasn’t sustainable.”

What is the most useful thing you’ve discovered about yourself in therapy? Charlotte Amphlett, email

“That I’m a very intense person. I found this out from my bandmates. I always thought I was this fluffy ray of sunshine that had no effect on people. I thought the presence I give onstage is unique to what happens onstage, and that apparently isn’t the case. The rest of the guys were like, ‘When you change your mood to something more intense, it’s like the fucking weather has shifted in the room. You go into an intense mood so we try to give you space.’ But, at that moment, I really need someone to help me and I need some support, which is the exact opposite. The communication surrounding it has become, ‘Tell me that I’m doing it and I’ll tell you how I’m feeling.’”

Emotionally, what songs are the hardest for you to perform live? Ty Alvin Reimerink, Facebook

The Colour Of Leaving has been the only one. We did it for the Reverence tour in Europe and it is pure grief. That was a fucking massive challenge. I wrote part of that song when my dog died, part of it when Tom Searle [Architects’ guitarist] passed away, then part of it when my friend lost his partner. That all happened within the space of three months. It was a lot of losing friends and beings you’re close with. The lyrics very directly reference those events.”

Koalas: nice or nasty? Joy Morris, email

“I love them! Like anything in Australia, they’ll fuck you up, but they probably look the cutest fucking you up. They sleep for 22 hours a day but, if you’ve ever heard a koala at night, it sounds like someone getting murdered. They live out the back of my parents’ place and it’s like either a demon or someone getting killed in the woods.” 

Darker Still is out now via Epitaph. If you’re struggling with your mental health, call Samaritans on 116 123

Louder’s resident Cult Of Luna obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.