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The Feeder frontman on eighties soft-rock, surviving Britpop not falling over on stage and his rock n’ roll excess

Your last album Renegades was a bit of a curve ball – how does new record Generation Freakshow compare?
Renegades was us going back to our heavy rock roots as that’s an important part of what we do but some people got a bit confused by it. If you have a few mainstream singles people think that’s what you are about but Feeder goes from headstand heavy to songs with beautiful indie string parts. It has always been quite diverse and the new album shows that.

You were a rock band starting out at Britpop’s height – was that difficult?
It was weird, we were outsiders. Rock had a bad name with the Eighties thing but Britpop was very media and fashion led. There were some good bands, like Blur, but a lot of hype meant bands were here one day and gone the next. People didn’t know what to make of us!

Yeah, you have often been called the UK’s answer to the Smashing Pumpkins?
We had similar backgrounds. Billy Corgan listened to a lot of the same music as me, American 70s and 80s rock and punk. A friend I met in Wales from New York introduced me to mainstream AOR stuff, some horrible, but it was very melodic. Hanging out with him had an influence on me.

Feeder songs have always been quite diverse though...
Yeah, I didn’t care if one song was heavy, one poppy, and then something else. Led Zeppelin had folk and rock n’ roll and bluesy songs. Not that I am comparing us to them though!

You toured relentlessly at the start...
We toured our arses off - we spent a whole year in America!

What was your favourite tour?
One of my favourites was the co-headlining tour that we did with Everclear. I spoke with Art [Alexakis - Everclear frontman] on the phone and said “It would be great to do some shows together, if you give us some in the states, we’ll do the same here,’ because at the time we were bigger over here. It was a co-headlining tour but with us going on after them which I don’t think Art liked much.

Did you ever think about calling it a day after Jon Lee [drummer] passed away?,
In some ways Comfort in Sound was the most important album we ever made. If it hadn’t worked we might have called it a day. Jon and I had been friends for a long time, ever since growing up in Wales. I convinced him to move to London. We did think ‘Would people want to see us without Jon?’ As a three piece it’s important, you’re like a family in many ways.

How did the album come about?
I locked myself away in a studio and put all those feelings into songs. Taka [Hirose – bassist] went back to Japan for a couple of months. When he came back I said ‘I’ve got some music,’ and the whole thing came together. Just The Way I’m Feeling [Comfort in Sound’s second single] was our biggest hit and really put us on the map. 

What was the first song you ever wrote?
Spotlight, probably when I was ten years old. I can’t remember how it went. I never wanted to be a singer, I wanted to be a guitar player.

What is your favourite Feeder song?
I love to play the Renegades stuff live, it is so energetic, and My Perfect Day, off our first album Polythene. It is a really great sounding track, but no one can play it like Jon did. The snare had that Jimmy Chamberlain [ex-Smashing Pumpkins drummer] slightly jazzy thing. Jon had that style and I have never come across anyone that can play it quite like he used to.

Have you ever smashed a guitar on stage?
Once when we headlined Download. It was a heavy festival and they were trying to make it more ‘alt-rock’ and we were the guinea pigs. We had to work really hard and the beast within came out - I had this beautiful metallic green Jazzmaster which got smashed to pieces.

What’s your most rock n’ roll moment?
Once, I had an Easyjet flight booked, so I could go home for a day. But I bumped in to Chris Martin [Coldplay] and he said, “Come fly with us.” And so I jumped on their private jet, which was a pretty rock n’ roll moment. And I once had a conversation with Bono [from U2] about not falling over on stage. His secret was to get some of that grip tape, like the one they use on skateboards, and put that on your shoes.

Feeder release single Borders on Jan 29 and new album Generation Freakshow on March 26 through EMI.

They play Koko on Jan 31. £19.50
Address: 1a Camden High Street, NW1 7JE
Web: www.koko.uk.com 
Station: Mornington Crescent


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Interview: Grant Nicholas on Feeder, eighties soft-rock, and surviving Britpop
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