“It’s an album full of life and adventure” - hmv.com talks to Feeder
It’s been four years since Feeder’s last LP Generation Freakshow, a time which has seen members Grant Nicholas and Taka Hirose enjoy a well-earned rest as well as pursuing solo projects. They’re back now with a brand new album All Bright Electric and to celebrate we caught up with Nicholas to chat about making the LP, their fluid approach to recording and why he’s still ambitious nine albums in...
How did making this album compare to Generation Freakshow? It’s your first album for four years and your first since you put out a solo LP...
“It was very different to Generation Freakshow. The way I write is the same, it all starts with an acoustic guitar, but making my solo records and having that break did change things. There was no argument, but we’d have 20 relentless years and it was important to stop. My plan originally was to write for other artists, but I got too attached to the songs and that became my solo record. Writing with such a blank canvas did change how I came back to Feeder, I worked a lot of my own, no record company pressure, it just came together and connected. I didn’t think the break would last four years, but it’s been great for us. This record would be completely different without my solo album.”
At what point do you take the songs to Taka?
“They tend to pretty much done. I don’t go in there with the bass and drums made up and ask them to copy it. Taka lives up near Leeds now so we don’t get together that often and he pretty much leaves me to get on with it. Sometimes he’d just work at home and we’d send tracks back and forth, but we did work together in the studio too.”
And Karl Brazil’s back to play drums? He’s not your full-time drummer is he?
“Karl did all the drums. He’s Robbie Williams’ drummer, that’s his main gig, but he does other stuff too, he’s still the drummer for James Blunt. Robbie pays most of his bills though. It’s annoying having to share him and there are clashes, but he’s on a retainer with Robbie and that comes first so we won’t have him on tour. We get on really well and we’ve always had great chemistry, he’s very fast and he knows what I want. I’d love to make it full time, maybe if we’d met him after Jon (Lee, former Feeder drummer) died then he’d have been able to be with us all the time, but he makes a very good living now and you have to accept that.”
Does having such a fluid line-up bother you? Or is it just what you’re used to now?
“We’ll be a five piece on tour and if it finishes and we think it’s the perfect band then maybe we’ll stick with that, it could happen. After we lost Jon it felt a bit like the chemistry was broken and we’ve worked around that. Working on your own pushes you harder too, I’m not a great keyboard player, but I can get a sound out of it and I’ve been able to come up with some quite interesting stuff.”
You produced the album yourself, was that always the plan? You didn’t fancy giving Rick Rubin a call?
“It was more that we didn’t know we were making a record and I just kept collecting songs. I’d love to work with someone like Rick Rubin, I’m not done with producers. We’ve worked with people like Gil Norton and Stephen Street and I’ve learned so much. I think the next record would be a good time to get a producer again. I don’t just want someone to record with, I want a producer to help with the songwriting, so it’s something we’ll definitely go back to.”
What kind of album do you think this is lyrically?
“It’s an album full of life and adventure. I lived with the words for a lot longer this time and it’s a real broad range of emotions. I wrote ‘100 Liars’ after all the stuff happened in Paris, that song and some of the others you could even say touch on the Brexit debate. Ideas come from strange places, they can come from anywhere. I do find lyrics hard, but there has been plenty to write about in the world and I’ve not had to force anything. My songs have to have relevance to me to really work.”
Are the lyricists you look up to now the same ones as when you were first getting started?
“I still love Tom Petty and Neil Young, John Lennon too. Nick Cave is a favourite, he’s so dark and out there. I don’t think you listen to lyrics much when you’re young, you get swept up by the melody. When you notice lyrics it’s either because they’re really good or really, really bad. I’ve been guilty of writing a few throwaway lines myself, but that was the time I was in.”
You’ve got a lot of songs to choose from now, how will you go about putting your live set together?
“God knows. You always want to play as much new stuff as you can and not rely on your past. But I know we’ve got fans who’ve been with us for a long time and will want to hear the hits. We played Isle Of Wight Festival last year and having had a break meant it was quite fun to play some of those songs again, even ‘Buck Rodgers’, that song still has such a connection with people. I want to play more early stuff on this tour, even if it’s just for the diehard fans, I love playing the heavier stuff, like ‘Descend’ or ‘Sweet 16’. It’ll be a real mixed bag.”
You’re on a new label this time with Cooking Vinyl, why did you decide to go with them?
“It’s weird. It’s half our label and half Cooking Vinyl. I don’t think I want to do a deal with a major label at this point, we’d have to give so much away, I want to keep a lot of the people who we’ve worked with for a long time around, but also partner up with a label who are passionate about the band.”
Are you more cautious about dealing with bigger labels now?
“The bigger the deal the more cuts they want of everything you do and for so many bands, including us, it’s all about live. We’re lucky because we’ve got such a great fanbase, but it’s very difficult to have a long career now. I know so many successful bands who’ve got part time jobs, they have to, that was unheard of in the 90s, once you were signed that was it. It’s odd, there’s so much more opportunity to get your music heard now and so much cheaper to record, but it’s very hard to have a long career now.”
Do you ever get jealous of seeing bands who came up when you did break up and then reform in much bigger places? Rather than bands like you and Ash who have stayed together...
“I know what you mean. It is weird watching these bands reform and go straight to the top of festivals. We’ve never split and I’d never stop unless it was the end of the band. I don’t think the likes of us and Ash have had the breaks we were due, you do see some bands come back and you wonder how they’re that. Bands like The Stone Roses left such a massive mark, who I remember seeing at Dingwalls back when they were in the heyday, they’ve only got two albums, but it’s such a mark. Look at Pixies, no hits, but three nights at Brixton this tour.”
Will you do much beyond the UK and Europe now in terms of touring? Are the days of getting in a van across America over?
“We’ve got little pockets all over the place, but you have to keep going back to keep it up. I’ve toured those little places for so long I don’t know if I want to do that anymore, we couldn’t do the show we do now. We’ve got a good fanbase in Russia, in China and in South America, we’d still love to make all of those happen. I want to get back out there, there’s a lot for Feeder beyond the UK.”